A Letter to My Present Self

Dear Marj,

When I wrote a letter to you in 2015, I had high hopes for you. You were a ball of energy back then – filled with big dreams, grand travel plans, academic aspirations, and all. I have enumerated all the things I would have wanted you to accomplish in your twenties, even the crazy ones.

But the future I was looking forward to didn’t come into realization. The year 2020 happened. The pandemic put everything to a halt and like everyone else, I found myself in a fork in the road with seemingly dead ends on both paths. I no longer know where I was going and how to keep going.

The same month last year we were informed by the company I was working with that we won’t be receiving the other half of our monthly salary – and that the months that would follow would be dependent on whatever little the company can accumulate. Like many businesses, we too were not spared from the impacts of the pandemic. It was understandable. But when you’re the breadwinner of the family, it’s very unsettling.

On many nights, I found myself imagining worst-case scenarios. (Blame all those post-apocalyptic movies and documentaries I so love watching). Thoughts of death became inescapable. Back then, when these kinds of thoughts would cross into my mind, I would just simply go hiking or traveling somewhere to take a breather. But with the implementation of travel bans and lockdowns, it was difficult to escape my demons.

Hiking in the New Normal

Sadly, these kinds of battles are the most difficult to disclose. It’s easy to feel invalidated because these kinds of troubles do not seem as heavy, as struggling, as problematic as the others are going through. Many lost their jobs. Some lost their loved ones. ‘Others are having it ‘worse’ than you. You should be grateful you’re still doing fine. You’re still blessed.’

But what we fail to see is that we all have our crosses to carry. We should not use the same yardstick because we come at different levels, different journeys, different tolerance to pain. What seems easy to some may totally be emotionally and mentally damaging to others.

Every day I would ask God where all these things are going and why we have to undergo all through these pains and trials. I wanted immediate answers. I demanded an explanation. But the universe has its way of explaining its side – sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Spending more time on screen allowed me to find jobs online. Jobs that I never thought existed. Jobs that are literally not aligned with what I studied in school. Jobs that opened many more opportunities for self-discovery and self-growth.

In just a span of a year, I was fortunate to have worked with a mental health advocate film director, a health supplement manufacturer and philanthropist, empowered women business owners, cryptocurrency analysts, hobbyists, and many other clients in various parts of the world. I’ve learned various skills which I never thought would be income-generating and I’ve completed projects with people who inspired me to keep going despite all these things that we are experiencing right now (deadlines know no pandemic). Up to this day, the workloads pile up but I’m not one to complain.

Of course, the transition wasn’t all smooth sailing. There were days when I am very much tempted to throw away my laptop, when I would have wanted to get in conflict with my clients, when I could no longer sleep knowing there are so many things that I still need to do. But the better days always prevail. More than the monetary compensation, I am happy to share the little I have – time, knowledge, service – to other people.

Just recently, I’ve volunteered to help in one of the vaccination sites in the city, under the Project Balik Buhay, which aims keep to the workplace safer for workers and help start to recover the economy. There I’ve met people from all walks of life – from company heads to everyday employees – heard their sentiments, pacified their worries about the vaccination process, and learned how things have been outside the comforts of my work from home setup.

The interactions were short but the insights gained are sure to last. Those people may just have been strangers with registration numbers but in them, I found the vigor and dedication to continue working, the love for family, the wisdom gained through all the years of service, and even the battles that each one of us are trying to win every single day.

Truly, the universe will send the exact people you will need to learn from in the course of your life. Some to inspire you. Some to trigger the scars you’ve been trying to conceal. Some to remind you of the essential things that you’ve forgotten. But ultimately, without you knowing, these people will help you grow.

But Marj, I hope your concept of growth is not only anchored on reaching for top positions. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with aiming for greater things, I hope you also understand that not everyone is meant to live out this extraordinary definition that the world has marked upon people. It’s okay to remain simple and live out a content and quiet life with a little impact on the people and environment around you. It’s okay to keep your circle small and keep only those people whom you can be yourself with. No pretensions and all – that even the most uncomfortable topics become so easy to discuss when you are with them.

You see, Marj, you are not the number of years you’ve spent on this Earth. People the same age as you may have achieved much more or less than you but that does not mean you’re any better or worse. This pandemic has proved to you that no amount of planning can ever prepare you for the worst. But you can always choose to keep going. Don’t get so busy looking forward that you looked past the many beautiful things around you at present.

With so many things that you have to do, learn to be more selective with your battles. Isn’t it funny how you have narrowed down all those existential crises you’ve been battling for years into a simple: is this worth my back pain? Really, the signs of aging are making themselves known to you – reminding you that a year has already passed since the world turned upside-down. And yet, you are still here. You are still alive. We are still alive. You didn’t turn into a zombie (yet). And that alone is already a miracle.

There are so many things in life that you cannot fathom. Dare no more to question the universe for the things that you cannot reconcile. Because when the time is right and when you are ready, everything will fall into place. Everything will make sense.

For now, know that I am proud of you for what you have become. You have come so far and there’s so much further that you will go. You may not know where you’re going but you’ll eventually get there. Just keep going.

Always rooting for you,
Marjorie (2021 version)

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.

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