Opportunity Cost


After five years, I started working again two and a half months ago, as a Community Relations and Development Director. Two weeks ago, my son who just turned one, stopped breathing for about a minute, and turned cold and blue. We brought him to a doctor, to several doctors actually, and they ran some tests. Turns out that nothing’s wrong with him, thank God. There are just some babies who tend to hold their breath when upset.

 I started to question my choices and priorities. I had, after all, been a full time mom with my firstborn. Why had I decided to re-enter the workforce and take on this position? To augment the family income? To fulfill my parents’ expectations that I become active in the family business? To satisfy my own need for personal and professional development? Was I being selfish by deciding to go back to work? 
Days after he lost consciousness, I could not erase the image of his body turning limp in my arms. I wanted to be with him every moment. When I had to go to work, I got stressed over what might happen to him while I was away. I got so stressed that I suffered from an upset stomach which triggered my hemorrhoids which got me even more stressed. I honestly didn’t know the right thing to do. Should I stop working? Should I focus on taking care of my baby instead? I had difficulty weighing the situation. What was the cost of working versus staying home? Which price was I willing to pay? Was I blowing things out of proportion?

I remember those choose your own adventure books which one could read several times and change the story depending on one’s choices. Sometimes I wish life were like that. And then I realize, it is. You are given different choices, and the outcome depends on the choice you make. Sometimes you can go back, choose differently, and change the outcome. Other times, you can’t. In my case, I’m grateful that my job allows me a flexible schedule and my office is literally a floor away from where we live. I wish it were easy to turn my back on projects and commitments involving other people, and that I could do it without giving it much thought, but I can’t. Does that mean that I love my child any less? That I’m a bad mother? I hope not. I have another child who just started school, and is very perceptive and smart. She is the reason I strive to be everything I can be, hoping that I can be a good role model for her. And she tells me, more than once, that she wishes I “stay home and take care of the children”. 

I didn’t know it was going to be this difficult. So far, I can still maintain this balancing act, but I don’t know how long I can walk this tight rope. My baby can now be left with the nanny and he won’t cry himself blue. My eldest child tags along with either me or my mom after her four hour class in the morning.

There will always be challenges in every situation, but there will always be something to be grateful for. I may think about the cost I have to pay or what I have to give up for the choices I made, like going back to work and living with my parents. Then I wonder what could’ve been had I chosen otherwise. 

And then I remember, I still can. Maybe someday, I will.

But for now, I choose to remain grateful for the struggle of achieving work-life-independence balance. And the convenience and comfort of my own version of “work from home” (because my office is in the same building as my home). And the love and support that only grandparents can give. And beautiful and brilliant children, thoughtful friends, a supportive husband, kind helpers, and God’s reassurance that everything will work out for the good of those who love Him.

Maybe instead of looking at missed opportunities, or roads not taken, I must focus not on the value of what I have given up, but rather on what I have chosen, and see the opportunities there that are either disguised or staring me straight in the face. 

It’s just a matter of shifting perspectives and changing focus. Which is easier said than done. But I believe that beginning with a bit of gratitude everyday goes a long way.

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The Prodigal Daughter

Today is Father’s Day, but instead of talking about my father, I’ll talk about myself instead. At the risk of sounding self-centered, I have always wanted to live a life of my own for most of my adult life. I valued freedom and independence and struggled to live out of my parents’ shadow. I didn’t see anything wrong with wanting to have my own identity, even if it meant making choices that I knew they wouldn’t approve of, exactly because I knew they wouldn’t approve of them. In my effort to define myself as different from them, I ended up in opposition to them several times. 

But life has a way of teaching its lessons, and I realized that no matter how far I thought I could go away, literally and figuratively, I would always end up going back. And for the nth time, here I am again, now married with children, still struggling with a lot of things, but no longer with going home. 

Years before I got married my father emphasized the value of interdependence, telling me that humans need and depend on one another in order to survive and thrive. It was his way of telling me that I needed him, and that he needed me too. Back then I just wanted to prove that I could make it on my own, because I wanted to be proud of myself, and I guess I wanted the world to see it too. But I don’t know what time and experience have done to me, because now I realize that that kind of thinking is self-centered and naive.

For most of my adult life I have been trying to separate and differentiate myself from those who have given me life. And while it may be the way of the world to consider that as growing up, maturity has finally caught up with me in another way. Not in escaping my parents’ expectations, but in embracing them. I am no longer running away from my father, but facing him head on. I am ready to be part of his legacy. There is nothing wrong with sharing someone’s legacy especially if it benefits not only the family, but the community. Just because it didn’t start with me shouldn’t make me feel any less proud.

Because I AM proud of my father. He is flawed, just like anyone else, and is difficult to understand and talk to sometimes. Growing up, I felt small and incapable around him because he was overbearing, critical and expected only the best. Sometimes I still feel that way around him. But in spite of all our differences, it is a fact that he is a visionary and it is a fact that no less than a great man is able to bring his vision into fruition. No one really knows how old he is, but I don’t think it really matters as he still works, still plays, and generally still enjoys life. Aside from fulfilling his duties as president of Atheneum and vice-president of the UP Alumni association, he still has the time and energy to party with his high school classmates, and UPSILON, play tennis with the Noveleta Tennis Club and horse around with his grandchildren. He is always busy, but always makes it a point to spend time with the family. Maybe that’s what I am most proud of. Certainly that’s what I am most grateful for. 

I know that we will continue to have our differences, but that’s okay. I know that I will continue to strive for my own identity and wish for my own home someday, and that’s okay. I know that there will be new challenges as we once again, live and work together. But for now, in my father’s house, I am home. 

My mother, the survivor

I used to wonder why my mother seemed to be angry most, if not all the time. She would shout and sigh, and sometimes even cry. Now that I am a mother myself, to an infant and a toddler, I realize why. It’s a cursed fate. With everything that has to be done, the truth is, motherhood isn’t all fun. It’s challenging, it’s painful, nerve-racking and exhausting. I remember asking my husband and my mommy friends, is being masungit and constantly angry part of mommy territory? I want to ask my mom how she did it. How she DOES it. Because I realize just now that a mother is a mother forever. Even when there are grandkids. Especially when there are grandkids. The telling you what to do and what not to do will never stop. The worry and concern, the love, no matter what has been said or done, will never stop. How do you survive, Ma? Someday I hope you’ll share your secret with me. I have no delusions of becoming even half as beautiful as you are when I am your age, but hopefully at least half as strong and resilient. And even a quarter as able to endure hardship without others knowing. Love you.

Don’t leave me

Alone with my thoughts

They take me to places

Where I often get lost

In a maze of dark places 

I see familiar faces 

That take me home 

Where the shadows swallow the light

Where darkness becomes very bright

It shines 

On everything in sight

Here I am always home 

Where I am alone 

To the little person inside me

There is a little person 

Sleeping inside me

Whaaaaaaat?

It’s not what you think hahaha

It’s the child within

That longs to be a giant

It’s the volcano that has long been dormant

It’s the flickering flame

Waiting to be stoked

It’s the laughter that got caught

In one’s throat

The years fly

Time goes by

The little person dies a little bit inside

She’s no fairy tale princess

Who needs true love’s kiss

Because the spell she’s under 

Can’t be broken by a lover 

She has to listen closely to the voice

inside her

Though it may be softer 

than a whisper

Saying 

“Wake up…

Open your eyes and see

It is not too late 

To be all that you want 

and everything you’re meant to be”

Four years to Forever

Four years ago today, I got married. Today, I have a toddler, a 35 week old baby on the way, and a husband who works abroad. On some days, just like this one, I feel more than ever just how far away he is. Today is also his birthday, by the way.
There have been ups and downs in the past four years, and I am grateful for how we have been able to overcome the challenges and cope with the changes. Sometimes, however, I feel that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Our relationship developed in spite (or because?) of the long distance, and after four years, it seems that we have spent less time together than apart. My parents still take care of me, and now also my toddler, and soon the new baby. I have lived abroad with my husband and his housemates for five months in 2012, five months in 2015, and four months in 2016. Sometimes, he’d be in the Philippines for a few months, too, where he would stay with me and my parents. Since I got married, it’s like being suspended in time, being neither here nor there, sometimes playing the role of wife, oftentimes still being the overprotected daughter, but always, always, learning to be a full-time, hands-on mom. Going back and forth the US and the Philippines, sometimes I feel that I have been on one long vacation for four years, enjoying a lot of perks like travelling, and also enjoying a lot of privileges, living with my parents. When I was still working, I used to imagine my dream life or perfect day as one that is spent reading books and catching up with friends over coffee and bonding with my family. There are times when it seems that each day is a perfect day. There are also days when I feel frozen in time, unsure of what exactly it means to move forward.
My husband has his fair share of troubles at work but I admire his quest for self-improvement and personal development. He is ambitious and driven and determined to reach his goals. He has changed and grown up a lot since I met him in 2011. I, too, have changed a lot but can’t say exactly how much growing up I’ve done since then. Lately, I’ve just grown bigger. I want to be a hands-on mom but I want to have my own income too. I want to see my children growing up, but I also have my own growing up to do. But now, really, I just want to give birth safely to a healthy baby boy, with my husband beside me. If he isn’t, well, my parents are here to take care of me. And it’s great that my in-laws are very supportive, too. Even if life doesn’t turn out the way one plans it, there’s still so much to be grateful for. I only wish my parents knew how grateful I am that they continue to provide for me, even when they are no longer obliged to.
So what happens next? God only knows. My husband wants one or two more children, and I have to ask him if he’s kidding. I just want a happy, loving, peaceful, God-centered and complete family, and a home of my own. Hoping that the universe delivers, and praying for God’s guidance each step of the way, I look forward to happier anniversaries and birthdays ahead.

´╗┐Missing Ms. D

My baby girl is turning three soon. I will be giving birth in about three months. God is great and I am grateful. I have prayed for this kind of life – to be a mother and a wife, and there was a time I thought it would never happen, that it probably wasn’t for me. But it happened when I least expected it, and now four years later, here I am, living the dream. 

Or am I? 

Sometimes I ask myself, is this what I really wanted? And I remember that I used to write about it, pray, cry, and wonder when, or if, the dream would ever come true. Now, I find myself looking back, and admitting that yes, while I am happy and grateful that my dream came true, a part of me misses the time when I was young, wild (?) and free.

What exactly do I miss? I miss me. I miss who I used to be. I had a lot of angst and drama in my life, which I channeled through taking on different roles on stage, or dealt with by going on adventures and doing things for the first time, like scuba diving, joining a marathon, hiking, or camping on the beach where there were no toilets. I was sheltered and overprotected as I was growing up, so in my late 20s, I tried to compensate for that by going out, not really to party, but just to expose myself to different kinds of people and experiences. I joined an indie film, took on small roles in some teleseryes, and obliged when friends in the industry needed a talent for a video or their thesis. It got tiring, but I had fun. I also gave workshops on using theater techniques and principles to different groups – teachers, sales people, managers, and went to Shanghai, representing the Philippines in a theater festival. Theater seemed to be a big part of my life, even if it was something that I did on the side. I was a teacher by profession. An actor, by passion. But I believe that this passion spilled over to my teaching and the other things that I did.

I was “Ms. D” or “Ms. Laserna” to my students, and I was friendly (mostly) with them. I wasn’t the type who hung out with them after class, but we enjoyed our time inside the classroom (mostly) because it was a non-threatening environment where they were encouraged to express themselves. I would plan activities that would engage them, and I honestly looked forward to our classes not only because I was excited about what I would share, but also because I learned a lot from them. They sometimes had insights which just blew my mind. It wasn’t always fun, and there were also challenging times that tried our love-hate relationship, but in the end, it was fulfilling, and I honestly loved them. 

And I dare say, they loved me too. Some might have hated my guts, or style, or despised my rules, but I know that they admired me for my energy and passion. This is what I miss most. Not the admiration (well, okay, that too, to be honest), but the energy and passion, the anticipation (both theirs and mine) when I enter a room. Each session was different, and we were always ready to be surprised by one another. I was always on my toes. 

Now, the days blur into each other. But though they may be long, the years are short. My daughter is my only student now. She is my only audience. My husband works abroad, but I also subject him to my monologues sometimes. I am pregnant and usually moody. I am no longer the bubbly, cheerful, Ms. D. But I know she’s still somewhere there inside me. It’s difficult to find her when most of my time is spent with a toddler, but when I look at my daughter and see how she has grown, my heart swells with love and gratitude. I may no longer feel smart, or sexy, but when I behold such beauty, and realize the part that I play in it, in the way she gazes at me, and puts her dolls inside her shirt, saying there’s a baby in her belly, I relish the fact that I am mommy. Then she calls out to me, “Ms.D!!!” and I can’t help but laugh.

“Who is Ms. D?” I ask her.

And she says matter of factly, “mommy. My mommy is Ms. D!”

I smile, and I thank God for her, and I thank her for reminding me.