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XOXO: A Confession

We all have stories we won’t ever tell.

But, have you ever imagine how liberating it would be once we let that story out into the open?

It was February 26, 2009. A year after my college graduation. I had to miss my nephew’s first birthday. It was my flight to Doha, Qatar. I left my beloved Philippines and put all my hopes in the bag. Hope for the brighter future.

I boarded the plane. My flight was luckily upgraded to business class. It was a comfortable and fancy journey. A good start for my brand new start. It was like an affirmation of what awaits me.

After nine hours, I finally reached my destination. I was greeted by my brother at the airport. The weather was amazing. It was winter. There were flowers everywhere. We headed to a famous shopping mall. I bought the essentials; toiletries, food, etc. After dinner, we went to this Venice, Italy – like spot. We rode the gondola. It was fun.

We headed home just in time for sleeping. Reality sets in. My brother’s place was like a slum. Tenants had to share the toilet and kitchen outside the compound. We lived on the second floor. So we had to go out of our house if we want to cook or use the toilet. It is cold during winter. Taking a shower is a challenge. It is still clear to me when I washed my clothes for the very first time. Our family is not rich but I don’t do my laundry. The washing machine in our compound is not automatic. I had to manually rinse and dry my clothes. I was crying while doing my laundry. But, I told myself to get used to it because I would have to deal with it for quite a while until we transfer into a more decent house. Right there and then I knew my journey won’t be easy and I was not even close to the end.

I came to Qatar on a tourist visa that is valid for a month. I had a hard time finding a job since I had no working experience. All I wanted that time was to work in an office and decorate my little cubicle just like what I see in movies. I sent my CV to every possible company, I ask referals from people. A week before my visa expires, I received an offer letter from a luxury department store. I was offered a sales job. It means I would have to let go of my goal to work in an office and do paper works; I will fold and arrange clothes instead. It was a make or break decision. Decline the offer and go home or accept the offer and stay. I have always wanted to give back to my family. But, I can’t swallow my pride. I may not be the best one in school but I did great during my school years. I studied in a good school. People believed in me. I believed in myself. My hopes were high.

I sighed. I cried. I prayed. I signed the job offer.

April 4, 2009. I removed my shoes. The pain was unbearable. I can’t even feel my legs. It was a gruesome first day of work. I never wanted to come back. A year later, I was still standing on the same spot, greeting customers, assisting them while trying on shoes and clothes. It went on for another year. I swallowed the last bit of pride, it took all my self-esteem. But, not my tiny bit of hope. Two years later, I decided to pursue my goal again. I tried to enter the corporate world. Luckily, I got a job offer. I immediately resigned from my job in sales. To my dismay, I was scammed. The offer isn’t legit. The company just closed. I had no idea why did they have to offer me a job if they knew that they are closing. Oh well. I was crushed. I watched my dreams die right before my very eyes. With nowhere to go. I just cried out loud. I was jobless for 2 months then I was told that if I will not find a new employer, my visa will be cancelled and I would have to go home. I had nothing. I wasn’t even done paying my loan from the bank. I didn’t know what to do. I only knew one thing; I can’t go home. I prayed for wisdom, for opportunities, for help. Then I got a call, the department store manager gave me an option. They will not cancel my visa if I will decide to work for them again. I tried my best to escaped that work and now I am being asked to come back. Maybe that is where I was really supposed to be. Maybe I should forget about my goals and just accept my fate. So I did. Same story. Same hardships. It turned all my self esteem into dust. I continued working without any goal but just to support my family and survive. I can’t even count how many shoes I have removed from people’s feet or how many hours I spent standing even if my knees were trembling and my feet were in pain. I lost count of the times when I had to hide in the fitting room, talk to myself in the mirror just to remind her that there is more to life only if I will give it a try.

By God’s grace, I was able to continue working there for two more years. Those years were hard. I was too proud to admit to my friends the kind of work that I do. Whenever I go on vacation in the Philippines, I would tell them that I work in the sales and marketing department. Only few knew my real work. I had to hide the truth from many people because I just can’t tell them. I was too scared to be judged, to be looked down, to be compared, to receive pity. I remember some of my friends in Doha would often invite me to go out during weekends but I always say no. I would tell them I had prior commitments or I was busy but the truth was I work on Fridays. I only get a day off in the middle of the week because the store is usually busy during the weekend. I often get invited to church activities and I couldn’t go even if I wanted to. I would make up excuses. I kept that as a secret for years. I lived with a fear in my heart that soon they will find out.

It was year 2013 when I had courage to try again. A friend referred me to a contracting company. I applied as an admin assistant and I got in. I permanently left my sales job. I will never forget the things it taught me. It was truly a humbling experience. It humbled me so much. But at the same time, it destroyed me. I was scarred. It left me strong but broken. I started having inferiority complex. I was overwhelmed with insecurities, self-pity, and self doubt. I always think that I deserve less so I always sell myself short. I never ask for more thinking that I deserve less. It still affects me up to this time. I know I have to set myself free.

Yes,  my experience didn’t turn out the way I pictured it to be when I left for Doha. I have never met a strong person with an easy past. I lost a part of myself in the process. But, I gained so much more. I learned to be strong when it was my only option. I learned to survive when there is nothing left to do. I learned that the effect the past has on me isn’t something that I want to carry to my future; even to my present. I want to let go of it. I want to empty myself so I can be filled again with so much greater things.

I have a habit of comparing myself to others. It is tiring. I don’t want it anymore. It’s tiring to please the world. It’s tiring to live a life of proving yourself to the world. It’s tiring to want less than what you deserve because you set limits to what you can achieve. It’s tiring to be trapped in a shell when you are meant to experience the world.

We all have stories we won’t ever tell but sometimes, sharing it no matter how ashamed or afraid you are can result to a beautiful thing called freedom.

Today, I am free. I am loved in spite and despite.

What’s your story?

XOXO,

The Comeback

“Thank you for flying with Qatar Airways. Local Time is 11:20 in the evening…”

The pilot said his final announcement in a very monotonous voice. No sign of excitement for making it alive after a nine hours direct flight from the Philippines to Qatar. This best describes my feelings at that very moment. My cousin who traveled with me brought my carry on luggage down and I dragged it out of the plane.

Arrivals  —   Transfers

<———             ———->

That sign welcomed us at the airport. It means my cousin and I had to part ways. My final destination is Doha while my cousin still have to wait for his flight bound to Oman. We stood under the sign and said our goodbyes then we turned our backs and went our separate ways. That’s it. The last person who makes me feel closer to home was out of my sight. Reality set in. I had to walk out of the airport alone. I am really back. Qatar and I have this love-hate relationship ever since. It has cradled me for the past nine years but it broke my heart countless times. But, I am here and I am back whether I like it or not. I stopped by a rest room to put on a red lipstick. I feel stronger when my lips are red. It hides whatever anxiety I am dealing with. The airport corridors were clear with people. My co-passengers are probably waiting for their luggages while I am walking alone on my way to the immigration. I appreciate that tiny moment of solitude. It helped me sink in the fact that I have to spend another year before I get to go home to my family again. I was staring blankly while walking until I reached the conveyor no. 3. I watched the luggages and boxes go round and round. I have been staring at the conveyor for a very long time and I didn’t get a sight of my boxes yet. I waited a little longer before I approached an airport officer to ask if the check-in baggages for flight QR 931 is in conveyor no. 3. Then he said, it’s in conveyor no. 8. I laughed at myself and started walking towards the right conveyor. My boxes were there enjoying their time circling around. I was the last one to get my baggages. I felt like I own the place. I took them out of the conveyor. I saw what my cousin wrote on my box before I left home. She wrote: #YourMomNeedsYou. Right there and then, I was reminded of my purpose. I am so ready to work harder and endure lonely days and nights again.

Okay, so I can no longer prolong my time. I pushed my cart out of the airport. In a big crowd, my eyes went looking for a familiar face. There he was, with shining eyes and a bouquet of flowers in his hand, greeted me with a big smile and wrapped me around his arms; the most comforting embrace. I told myself, “I am home.”. Being back doesn’t feel that bad anymore. The end of missing someone. And I am so proud on how we managed to endure two months of being away from each other. Thank You, Lord, for the grace.

The Bouquet

A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken was waiting for me when we got home. This made my comeback even more real. Haha!  I came home to a messy (this is an understatement) house. I didn’t even know where I can sleep. I couldn’t stand seeing the house like that. It’s not very comforting especially when you are so tired. I put on new sheets and rested on the bed. I was so tired but I couldn’t get myself to sleep even though I was wide awake for the entire 9 hour flight. I got up and tried to declutter the house a bit. I tried to unpack some of my stuff. It was already six in the morning when I felt the need to go back to bed. I think I was able to sleep for two hours before I woke up chilling. I felt cold. Yes, I was right. I woke up with a high fever. Maybe I was just tired but I was sick for three days. Thank you for a very sweet welcome, Doha!

Well, being sick extended my vacation for three days. I never got the chance to enjoy it though because I was in bed feeling cold and sickly. I couldn’t even eat properly and catch up with people. After three days, I resumed to work. It’s not my favorite thing in the world. But, it is something that I will have to eventually face no matter how long I prolong it.

I have been here for two weeks now. I couldn’t believe it. A lot has happened over the past two weeks. I am back to dealing with lots of issues and anxieties. I have to face the same struggles at work. I have to keep moving forward no matter how much I miss home. I have to overcome challenges and inner battles. Did I mention that I have made Sesame Street’s “Elmo’s Song” viral in the office? I told them that that’s our happy song and when things get a little harder to bear in the office, just sing it and they will be happy. I can only hope that it’s effective because for me it is. (La la la la, Elmo’s world! La la  la la, Elmo’s world!). I have also tried singing that while stuck in traffic with windows down just in case someone on the road is having a bad day. I just love being a wounded healer.

My Life Verse on my desk

Until I came across the THE POWER OF NOW in the internet. It says, in our current situation, if we can do something about it, we have to do it now; if we can’t do anything about it, we have to let it go. I am still trying to figure out what to do. Sometimes life is just so confusing. I am still trying to sense where God is leading me. For now, I will just rest on God’s promise of a future full of hope. If I survived two weeks, I think I can survive more.

Will you pray the serenity prayer with me?

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

In Christ,

 

That Place Called Qatar

“Kapag nagkapera ka eh gusto mo na lang gumawa ng pera tapos marerealize mo eight years na ang lumipas.” – Anthony to Mace, That Thing Called Tadhana The Movie

(When you make money, you’ll want to make more of it. Then, you’ll realize, it has been eight years.)

In my case, six years. I celebrated my 6th year anniversary in Qatar last February 26. I can’t believe it has been six years since I left my country with high hopes for a greener pasture and a brighter future. It is more than the years I spent in college. I don’t even know how it passed. It’s like I just woke up one day and I am not as young as I was before. Here I am now. Living on my own, paying my own bills and working hard to get what I want. Yeah, total independence. It’s funny how we rush into growing up believing that it is more fun and fulfilling not knowing that growing up means stepping out of your comfort zone and dealing with every cruel things this world has to offer.

“Aren’t we supposed to be great by this time?” Mace to Anthony. After watching this romantic comedy film, that line got me thinking. Am I really supposed to be great by now? Am I supposed to be successful? Am I supposed to be living the dream? What is greatness anyway? What is success? And yeah, what are my dreams? Or…do I even have one?

Six Years ago, I remember the first time I left. I had a bag full of dreams which I carried with me. The 30 kg baggage allowance isn’t even enough to bring all of them. But, I carried them all in my heart and they survived the 9-hour flight from Manila to Doha. At that time, I felt like I can conquer the world. The independence is quite liberating. It makes you believe that you can do everything you want. But, I was wrong. It wasn’t a walk in the park. It wasn’t as easy as I believed it would be. In fact, it was harder than I thought. My first year was filled with problems. The struggle in finding a fulfilling job, frustrations, homesickness all rolled into one. The succeeding years didn’t get any better. I still have to deal with same problems plus more. The struggle in staying in a job that I hate, frustrations, homesickness, money, family and relationship issues. Things are just falling apart one by one. I have told myself for so many times that I don’t want to do it anymore. Every time I will go home for an annual leave, I always tell myself that I will not be coming back. But, every time, I always find myself inside the plane going back to the place that I ought to forget. With tears in my eyes, I always watch the Philippine lights until they disappear from my sight.

It has been six years now. It’s amazing how I got this far. I don’t know how but I am glad I made it this far. I have always thought that I put my life into waste by staying here. I guess I became too busy making money to buy superficial happiness without noticing how time flies. I was too busy making money that I can’t enjoy. I was too busy making money not for myself but for those who are counting on me. It was a fulfillment for me to give back to my parents. But, as time goes by, I realize that I am losing my dreams. I don’t know how to dream anymore. I always imagine how my life would turn out if I didn’t take that flight to Qatar; if I didn’t agree to come here; if I gave up on my first year; if I didn’t do the things I did. Would I be happier? That will always be a mystery. Because this is where I am now, this is where I’m supposed to be, this is where God intended me to be. Yes, I spent six years of my life here. I still don’t own a house or a car or anything grand. I still fall short sometimes. I don’t have a career that I can proudly tell the world about. I haven’t done anything extraordinary. All I have are experiences, insecurities, learnings, realizations, triumphs and failures.

A friend once told me, “If I will be miserable, I should at least be miserable in a place that I like.” Friends always ask me why I keep on coming back if I don’t really want to. Why am I staying here if I can choose to go back home anytime? It’s true. It’s so easy to take the last flight out. To turn my back on this country and just leave everything behind and to never look back again. But, then I thought, Qatar made me stronger in every sense of the word. Qatar taught me many lessons, sometimes the hard way, that I will never forget. Qatar might have been tough on me but Qatar lead me to where I am supposed to be, to the people that, one way or the other, changed me. Qatar made me who I am.

I don’t know how long I would stay here. Maybe a year or two. Maybe another six years. I don’t really know. Would I do it differently if I could go back and rewrite the past? Maybe not… hmmm? On a second thought, maybe a few minor revisions would be helpful.

Are we really supposed to be great by this time? We are already great. We just haven’t realized it yet.

By the time I wave good bye to Qatar, God knows when, it will be bittersweet. But, just like before, I will  carry all my fulfilled, unfulfilled and even my forgotten dreams in my heart as I take that last flight out. With tears in my eyes, I will watch the Qatar lights as they disappear from my sight. I can’t wait for that day. Oh, I just realized, I never stopped dreaming. Because going back home for good has always been my dream.

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