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. 

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”

Forgiveness and the Fool

How do you forgive someone who is unaware of hurting you? How do you forgive someone who loves you so much but has hurt you without even knowing how?

How? You just do. You make a decision to forgive and let go of the pain you’ve held on to for so long. Because by holding on to the pain, you just hurt yourself even more. By keeping grudges and hanging on to resentment, you waste so much energy that can otherwise be redirected towards something positive and productive. If you’ve ever felt stuck in a rut, and unable to move forward in different aspects of your life, it is because so much of your energy is wasted on anger and bitterness. Do yourself a favor. Forgive those who hurt you. Focus all that energy on creating something good instead. 

I’ve forgiven my parents for loving me too much to the point of hurting me. Of course, they are unaware of that, because they do what they believe is best for me, and continue to do so. But I’ve held on to my resentment since I was an adolescent, and magnified it in my mind, that it has hurt me through my early adulthood and until recently. I realized that I have been trying to get back at them through self-sabotage because I know that hurting myself meant that I hurt them, too. When I realized that, I told myself, if I was angry at them, I didn’t have to harm myself in the process. But later on, what struck me was that it was exactly my anger that was hurting me. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you,” but the reverse of this is also true: what you do to others, you do to yourself. I was angry at them, but I was inevitably hurting myself. The negativity I was sending out would just boomerang at me. That was the real self-sabotage.

Growing up means that at some point I have to stop blaming my parents, or other people for that matter, for my troubles, and start taking responsibility for myself. I don’t want to have to say that if I am ineffective as a parent, it’s because of too much or a lack of something in the way I was raised. But I have observed that my relationship with my parents affect the way I relate to my children, and I have to let go of the pain, anger, resentment, grudges, bitterness, if I want to have a healthy relationship with both my parents and children.

I have been a fool all this time for hanging on to all of that. And I am an even bigger fool for not seeing that it is myself I have to forgive, for thinking of my parents that way. 

I may also be a fool for exposing myself like this, to be scrutinized and even criticized for being ungrateful, etc, etc., but I risk the vulnerability, thinking that if there is even just one person out there who can relate, and then decides to do herself a favor and forgive another, then it will have been worth that risk.

A caveat, though: should you decide to forgive, ask for forgiveness as well. Be humble and wise enough to realize your own faults and imperfections, before you expect the other to own up to his. And in case he doesn’t? Forgive anyway. 

Someone has to go first. Believe me, it is for your own sake, and for the good of everyone, that you do.

In Defense of Sadness

I’ve seen the movie “Inside Out” several times already, but it still makes me cry each time I watch it. I think it’s one of the most intelligent and insightful animated movies ever made. 

Everyone wants to be happy. The pursuit of happiness drives people to do what they do. Much has been said about the subject. That happiness is a choice, a decision, a state of mind or being. That it is independent of circumstances. It seems to be the goal, the motivation, the reason of our actions. We just want to be happy.

I love “Inside Out” because while Joy is the obvious protagonist in the story, it reveals Sadness as the not so obvious hero. Nobody wants to be sad. (Unless one finds happiness in it. In which case, being sad is one’s twisted way of being happy.) Sadness seemed to ruin things in headquarters, whenever she touched core memories, or wanted to assert herself. She didn’t seem to have any place or function; she didn’t seem to belong. Who in one’s right mind would want to be sad? For most of us, it is an emotion we despise, try to avoid, and would rather get rid of altogether.

But what happens when Joy and Sadness disappear, and Fear, Disgust and Anger are left in charge of one’s life? 

We have always known the importance of having Joy in our lives, but we realize the part Sadness plays, and what a very important part it is. 

For those who have seen the movie, remember that scene when Bing Bong couldn’t be consoled by Joy, and only felt better upon talking with Sadness? How about the part when Joy realized that it was Sadness who reached out to Riley’s parents and friends, after Riley missed the shot in the hockey game? And that part when Riley returns back home, after attempting to run away? It was Sadness who made her open up to her parents, and tell them… “I know you want me to be happy… but I miss home.”

We usually don’t just ignore Sadness, but try to fight it, get it out of our system, not knowing that it has a place in our lives.

I love “Inside Out” because this was one of its most poignant messages that I got. Sadness has its purpose. So instead of treating it like a villain, it might be better to welcome it like a friend. Just like Joy did. It was only when she allowed Sadness to take charge, that things started to get better for Riley. Each emotion has its own place in our lives, and the same holds true for sadness. There’s a happy kind of sad, a sad kind of happy. Our multidimensionality allows us to experience a whole range of emotions at the same time, without necessarily going crazy.

So, the next time you find yourself facing a bit of melancholy, it’s okay. Accept it. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. Don’t invalidate it. Just let it be. Because if you let it, it will eventually lead you where you need to be. And in this world of duality, where Joy and Sadness go together just like in the movie, we can take comfort in the knowledge that where Sadness is, Joy cannot be far behind.

Pregnancy, politics and the Philippines

Election period in the Philippines has always been colorful and circus-like but it has become even more controversial this year. The use of social media to campaign for and against candidates has reached epic proportions, and has blurred the lines between the political and personal. I, however, made a conscious effort to be apolitical on social media, because I don’t want to be confrotational towards anyone who might oppose my views. I have to say though, that I am more nervous than excited about the results of the elections. I try to be nonchalant about politics, but deep inside, I know that I am affected more than I let on.  Or else I wouldn’t spend so much time online, reading and searching, and trying to decipher truth from propaganda, fact from fiction. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for, it seems (at least for us consumers of social media) that more people are involved, or want to be, in deciding the future of our country. It may be a bandwagon, but it’s one that I welcome, even if I chose not to be part of it.

I did choose to exercise my right to vote, and it’s my second time to vote while pregnant. Some people say that everything – thoughts, emotions, hormones – are exaggerated during pregnancy, but somehow the future seems more immediate when one votes thinking of the baby inside her belly. Three years ago, when I was four months pregnant, I was chastised by many for coming back to the Philippines from the US. My child could’ve been a US citizen, they said. I don’t really consider myself to be nationalistic, but for some reason, other than the convenience of having a lot of physical and moral support when I give birth, I wanted to give birth in the Philippines. Last month, I went back home to the Philippines again, and now, I am almost seven months pregnant, and I also wouldn’t want to give birth anywhere else. I sometimes kid that my child might be the next President of our country.

Whoever wins in this election, and whatever impact this may have on our lives, on my family, I refuse to believe that the future is brighter and life is necessarily better elsewhere. Maybe I AM nationalistic. Some might even call me idiotic for saying so. I am nervous, yes, but I am also excited to see what’s in store for us in the next few years. I have hope in uncertainty; I have faith in the unknown. Pregnancy has taught me to trust and be patient, then to push and let go. Similarly, the birth of a nation does not happen without labor pains. Especially now that Filipinos seem to be more politically conscious and ready to take action. We push if we must. We labor, we push, we push some more, until we see and hear and breathe the kind of life we hold dear.