Wednesday, June 30, 2021

An Open Letter to My Future Self

Dear future self,

2020 was not like anything we planned. Neither is 2021. By the time you read this, you're probably in your bikini somewhere in the tropics or maybe halfway around the world whining about the despicable freezing weather.

Oh, how I miss traveling! It’s petty, really, to miss traveling when an unseen killer is on the loose. But that was my favorite and biggest form of distraction when things go crazy back then. And *deep breath* things are crazier the past sixteen months. I would have wished to trade places with you, but with the vaccines rolling out,  I can feel the end of this pandemic is already beginning and I don't want to miss it.

I know you can't wait to hear about everything that is happening. Well, let's start with something that is less shocking: I shaved my head. It rocks! And I love it—only if people weren't trying to pet me all the time. Kidding aside, what I am about to tell you is not going to be the most tear-jerking story you will hear. Not even close. But I promise you, it will be worth your time.

Annus horribilis

The two words that best describe 2020 and 2021. Save the trouble of looking it up because its meaning is just as nasty as it sounds. A horrible year. The year we are tested beyond measure. The year where stories of downfall and inspiration, trials and resilience, and death and hope are made. As for me, this is the story that I was so hesitant to share because, by standards, I have not suffered enough. 

You see, we are not wealthy to experience big losses. We are not poor to worry about where the next meal is coming from either. We are somewhere in between. Despite the crippling lockdowns, we had food on our table and we were able to retreat at the comfort of our home. We did not have serious health concerns. And god-forbid we experience grief and loss.

So on the surface, one could say that we are very much okay. But mentally and emotionally? I could not say the same, especially after having to deal with this nightmare for more than a year now.

Anxiety. Fear. Frustration. Paranoia. Demotivation. Guilt. If I had all day, I would name some more. 

I have been cycling through these emotions since day one. Even though I get all the love and support from the family, these unpleasant feelings weighed me down. And I don't know why. Maybe it's the movies. Maybe it's the cold coffee. Maybe it's the 4-hour sleep. Maybe it's a postpartum thing. I don't know. Maybe. 

It does not help that I am confronted with a reminder of my privilege every single day. The social media made sure of that. 

If I complain, what gives me the right? Others have it worse. If I show how I feel, I get dismissed because I am just overreacting. If I share my wins, big or small, I am insensitive. What I learned about human behavior is that when people see you in a better position than they are, they tend to invalidate your feelings or make you feel guilty. 

What comes next, of course, is a feeling of resentment—usually to myself. I don't snap. I don't displace my anger and frustrations on people. I get emotional. I do it quietly.

I stayed home along with my emotions. And it was not pretty.

But every day, I also remind myself that there are things I can and cannot control. How others react is way beyond me. What I can do with this privilege I was given is what I can focus on. I want to be the bigger person even if I feel aggrieved.

I unplugged to give myself a chance for self-reflection and rehabilitation. It was a vicious process—especially when I started to realize how self-centered I am. Acknowledging my feelings and weaknesses was the first step, and no doubt, the hardest to take. The next steps that followed were eye-opening. I never thought that self-awareness heightens our awareness of others, too. 

The more I think about me, what I have, and what I think I deserve, the more I recognize the difference between myself and others. It gave me a better understanding on how struggles and pain are relative. One can hold up well at losing a loved one while the other can fall apart just being isolated. One can joke about losing a home while the other can go ballistic over a delayed food assistance. Bottomline, everyone is fighting a battle we don't know about. And this is something I think everyone could be a bit more mindful of, pandemic or not. So if there's anything we can do, we can at least choose to be kind.

This has humbled me and gotten me out of the entitlement bubble that I was so oblivious of. This strengthened my emotional resilience in ways I could not imagine. It allowed me to prove to myself that I can be better. That I can be just like you, future self.

How does one become a better person in this global crisis anyway? Financially, I cannot do much. That's the truth. This made me realize that helping others is more than donating a hefty amount of money. The outbreak of altruistic community projects and the contagious solidarity have indeed shown the strength of the human spirit come together. 

Even the smallest act of kindness can mean the world to somebody.

I would say this is the time most of us grew up. As for me, I have been putting a bit more patience and understanding even if some people choose to act otherwise. It is not easy. It is doable, nonetheless.

Other than that, I have been sharing what I am good at. I made time and did consultations and mentoring to some people about writing and graphics design for free! The best thing about it? It opened opportunities for them to land their very first online jobs.

In a grand scheme of things, this is insignificant. But I hope you can look back and be proud that, somehow, I made a difference even if I am not contributing or volunteering to a cause or organization. The little things I do are helping me cope and rise above the situation significantly. I am reaping the emotional rewards tenfold! In other words, it makes me feel good to do good. 

And this is how I am getting by. I guess, we could say that this is how you survived. The pandemic is shaping me, molding me into what you are today. Much better, more optimistic, and kinder than you think you can be. With all the obstacles I went through and the insights I gained in this journey, I do have high expectations of you, future self.

I will be sharing this story to the world, too. I no longer want to keep these struggles hidden in the shadows knowing there is a truth in it that others could resonate or learn with. I want them to know that they are not alone. That we are cheering them on. That it will not be easy. That we will falter. But we will do our best.

Because one day, we will emerge victors with new memories, new stories, and a newfound appreciation for the people and things we took for granted. We will welcome change. We will see life in a different perspective. We will have a fresh start. We will be grateful. We will be healed. 

So, future self. Did we do alright? Tell me about it.

Love,

Your past naive self

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This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis.  The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.

P.S. All the illustrations/comic strips here are created by me (inspired by Cyanide & Happiness and SrGrafo). If anyone wants to use it, feel free to do so. 😊




14 comments

  1. Hi, Sarah! I just found out about your blog. I didn't know you have a talent for writing. Keep it up! This piece is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your struggles and victories.

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    1. Hello, maam Shie! I do hope it inspired a lot as much as it inspired you. Thank you so much for dropping by! :)

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  2. Tahimik na ako dito but still an avid reader. Napacomment ako ulit kasi napakainspiring nito. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much for always sticking around! :)

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  3. This is very well written sar! Ganda ng message. Parang coming of age na adult version. Love it so I shared this.

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    1. Hello, Anne! Coming of age nga. This pandemic really taught me a lot and opened my eyes on so many things.

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  4. "In a grand scheme of things, this is insignificant."

    You helped someone get a job during pandic. That is not insignificant.

    Good job sarj. Good luck!

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    1. Thank you! Small or big acts of kindness really does make a difference.

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  5. Nice to read something like this in a different perspective. I can relate to this, I think a lot of us can. Keep inspiring thru writing!

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    1. I've always thought that it's just me. But it turns out other people can relate to my story too. You know, mga nasa middle. Hehe. That's why I'm sharing this for those who are silently battling.

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  6. Amazing write up Sarah. I love it! Keep it up. Inspire more people with your words.

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  7. this is so relatable sarah. you got out of your shell and use that to empathize on others, i'm proud of that. keep it up. i hope everyone will also realize the same.

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    1. Thank you! Getting out of the shell is not easy, but I'm glad I went through it. :)

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© Life is so full of tae!
Maira Gall