When I was younger, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. There was this passion within me, and somewhat a voice in my head. I knew from a young age that I wanted to either be a lawyer or a fashion designer. But did I really want that or was it just my parents and society telling me that I need to become that? At that point, I had no idea.
Growing up in the Philippines, the arts was not really encouraged. There were not enough funds to support the arts, because society and the government looked down upon artists. It is either you get a career in medicine, in law or in engineering for you to be respected. But why is that the case?
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer because I would see my aunt doing all these amazing things. She would give me mystery and law books to read during the summer holidays, and she encouraged this passion within me for me to actually see myself being a lawyer, just like her. All throughout my university years, people would ask me what I would do after finishing my undergraduate degree, and I would have one constant answer, “I am going to Law School.”
Let me give you the gist. I started school at three, yes, it was quite young. My mother had this preparatory school in the comfort of our home, so she would teach me all the basic things I needed to know in order to move forward to another school. By the time I was six, I entered first grade. I was enrolled at, what used to be, an all-girl’s Catholic School in the town next to ours. I stayed at a Catholic School up until fourth grade, I was 10. Then by fifth grade, we experienced a massive life blow, and my brothers and I had to transfer to a public school. I stayed there up until I graduated sixth grade, I was 12. Normally you would do middle school, but I skipped that, and went straight to high school. My dad enrolled me to a nice Christian private school with the help of some relatives, and I went on to study in two different Christian private schools for the duration of my high school years, I graduated at sixteen. Quite young, to be quite honest. But that did not stop me. I was so glad I was so young when I started university, because most of my classmates and friends in university were much older than me. I thought I would excel, but boy, was I wrong!
I started university at sixteen, and I had no idea what I wanted to study. Knowing that I would, one day, go to Law School, I needed to study something related to Law. But from one sheer trick of destiny, I ended up walking through my university’s Liberal Arts building and suddenly, I found myself enrolling to its Creative Writing program. Yes, I have enjoyed writing stories and writing in my journals in the past, but this was not my plan. Nevertheless, I pursued this course for three years.
Then on my eighteenth birthday, my mother wanted to do something special for me. She said, “Why don’t you go abroad for your birthday? I’ll book your ticket, then you just have to figure out how you’re getting your pocket money.”
I felt lost.
What? Why? I had never travelled alone before. Where would I go?
I took some days to think about this idea. It was appalling to me! Why would I do this? This will ruin all my plans! Because on the summer of my eighteenth birthday, I was doing my university internship at on of the best art institutions in the Philippines, the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This will ruin my plans of finally being done with my internship by the time summer ended and I would have to do my last year of university.
But a voice inside my head said, “Go. Your life will never be the same again.”
I am a firm believer of trusting your guts. No idea why, but I am. So I went. I did a month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Maybe you can call it a ‘gap summer’, since I could not afford to do a year-long trip back then. My life changed on that trip. Meeting people from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds just opened my mind to different things in this world. That trip ignited something within me, and I knew that I was forever changed.
To tell you the truth, I wanted to drop out of university by then because I just wanted to be one with the world. Although I also knew it would be stupid for me to do so, since it was my last year. So I went home, as broken hearted as I was for coming back home. I realised that there was something special about this world, and I should not be confined to seeing just one part of it.
I graduated university at nineteen, and after that, I knew that Law School was a no-go, and I just had to leave.
I was twenty when I decided I want to live in New York, and I begged my parents to let me go. Luckily, they were both very supportive. Honestly, I could not have asked for a better set of parents. My mother was the reason why I got out of the Philippines in the first place. My father was the reason I have the guts to go to unusual places. My brothers are the reason why I want to show the world that you can do whatever you want to do, if you set your mind and if you work hard enough for it.
For sixteen years, I was confined to the four walls of schools. I knew that, at least, for a few years I should be able to see this world with no barriers! This was what I did exactly.
After our university graduation, most of my friends went on to get ‘good jobs’ as per the standards of our society. Some of them even got married and ended up having children, which I am so glad that they did because I could see that they were very happy. But this was not for me. It was not like I did not try, because I did. I worked at a tech start up company a few months after graduation, but I had already caught to travel bug. So I left.
I told myself that I would take some time off, and just go back to school (yes, school) to do my post graduate degree by the time I am twenty five. But this was something that irked most of my older family members. All they see is a girl trying to waste her life away by going to dangerous places in this world. What hurts the most is that they do not see how amazing these adventures are, and that I am not actually wasting my life away.
I am now about to turn twenty four, and in the past five years, I have lived and worked in four continents doing all sorts of jobs. I was an ESL Teacher in Africa, worked as a receptionist for hostels in North America, had been a bartender in Europe, and worked at a tech company in Asia. Honestly, I can do anything I set my mind into. I know my limits, and I know my strengths. Knowing these about myself makes me as powerful as I can be, because I know what I can and what I cannot do.
Travelling has made me stronger, more adaptable to different life situations, more mature, more financially independent, and just more independent than I would have been if I had stayed behind in the Philippines all those years ago.
When people look into my life, all they see is this ‘crazy’ or ‘unusual’ girl who does nothing for a living. They see me as a waste, because I do not like to conform to society’s standards. It is true, I have not had a ‘proper job’ in years. Well, at least not a proper one as society sees fit. I do not have a ‘proper home’ like what society tells me I should have. Heck, I have been living in a hostel for the past three months! Guess what? I am loving every minute of it! I do not have a ‘proper family’ like how society tells me that I should have. I mean, I had been dating one guy for a long time but it just did not work out. I knew right there and then that it would take me a long time to dive back into the dating scene after that. There were so much more things that I could and would want to focus on, than finding a ‘life partner’.
Contrary to what people may think, I actually do still have a plan. I told myself when I was nineteen that I would travel the world and I will do what I want up until I am twenty five. I still have two more years. This is exactly what I will do. For the next year or so, I will continue travelling, and once I hit twenty five, I will go home and go back to graduate school. I do want to work for the United Nations in helping women, refugees, and children in countries that my family deem ‘inappropriate’ or ‘dangerous’. Why? Because I want to live and I want to make a change. I do not want to simply follow societal standards. I want to follow my life’s standards, because that is what makes me happier. You should too.
People should cut me some slack, to be quite honest. Ha! I am not wasting my life, I am simply living and enjoying being alive. There is nothing wrong with that, and there is no shame in following your dreams. So I urge you to do it, no matter if society tells you otherwise. Go do it for yourself, because you owe it to yourself to be happy. Do it.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 NIV