Have you ever been criticized because of how crazy big your dreams are? To be honest, us dreamers are often called insane. For a little bit of back story, I grew up as a small town girl surrounded by poverty. I often heard comments from older people, often relatives, saying “Masyadong mataas pangarap nyan (her dreams are too high).” I didn’t understand what was wrong with dreaming of a more comfortable life, one wherein you don’t have to worry whether there will be enough money to buy dinner or whether you will have allowance for the next few weeks. I just simply wanted a better life for me and my family. I clearly saw how opportunities are more available for those who have the resources.
I also wanted to help people so bad. I’d get really sad when I see kids who are begging for money on the streets and I don’t have even a penny to give them. I see farmers who work so hard but still it’s not enough to provide for their children. I even had insomnia as early as fourth grade because I couldn’t fathom how hard life is for us, and worse, for the people who don’t have jobs and education and money to afford food. I am often heartbroken when I think of how to help when I don’t even have enough for myself.
I figured out that the only way to end the cycle of poverty is to break free from the boxes that I was put in from the moment I was born, if I were to elevate the lives of others who are in need. Here are the ten boxes that I was put in and how I constantly worked and still am working to break free from them. If you can resonate, feel free to comment below.
1. I will end up like my parents who married early and so they became poor.
First off, I do not judge my parents for marrying early. If not for their eloping, I wouldn’t even exist (lol). Do I support those decisions? No. But, change it? I can’t because it’s in the past. Even as a young kid, since all of my siblings are girls, we have always been given the golden advice, “Do not be like your parents who married early.” “Do not get pregnant early.” Okay, that’s fine, I appreciate the concern, but when you’ve been told these unsolicited advice from the same people ever since you started thinking, it gets really old. It gets too repetitive and it annoys you. My parents tried their best. They made a mistake, but then went on with their lives, and so people should move on from that. Just because their marriage failed, it doesn’t mean that those things will happen to us. So if you’re kids of teenage parents, who have been constantly bombarded with this kind of advice, just keep studying and learning and don’t mind them. You have the power to live the way you want to and actively chase a future that you desire. And besides, even if you make mistakes, you’re the one who will deal with it, not them. Just because these stories are repeatedly said to you, that doesn’t mean that the same thing will happen to you.
2. Girls aren’t supposed to be too smart.
It’s good when you are smart, but when you are too smart, you will be bashed. I have an uncle who consistently smart-shamed me and my siblings. For instance, he told me that just because my siblings and I studied in a top university that doesn’t mean that we are good people. It’s so toxic, right? I was even surprised that this patriarchal uncle of ours would even bring that up just because I was defending myself when he was about to physically hurt me. He gets so annoyed whenever any of us kids speak up because children, especially girls, are not supposed to say anything when the oldies are talking. I never heard them be proud of our achievements. Actually, I never even cared, but of course when they do things that would harm us, we have to speak up, and tell them a resounding, “No, you don’t get to treat us this way.” When girls start speaking up when they’re uncomfortable in any situation, or when they achieve a lot and have a mind of their own, why do they get smart-shamed? Why don’t we honor the hardwork and persistence of girls? Why do some men get threatened when a woman slays? You can be smart, badass, confident, compassionate, and kind at the same time. You can be relentless in your passion. You can and must speak up when someone threatens your peace or shames you for being a smart and hardworking human being. You have every right to soar as high as you want, so don’t let anyone take away that fire because that has a reason for existing, okay?
3. I should wear conservative clothes if I don’t want to be raped.
There’s a reason why we evolved as humans. We have the power to control our carnal desires. Sadly, I haven’t met a woman who hasn’t been harrassed ever in her life. We start getting objectified the moment we were born. I couldn’t wear what I want because someone would always say I’m too fat, or my clothes are too fit or too sexy. I’m constantly told that I will be harassed if I wear clothes that flatter my plus size curvy body. Why is it our fault that some humans are just pure evil? I will not stop wearing clothes that express myself and makes me feel powerful and confident whether it’s a sweater or sexy shorts. We tell the world that we are stopping this whole story of women adjusting to the preferences of men. We get to choose our clothes. We dress for ourselves and not for men. Fashion is our creative expression.
4. I should downplay my achievements.
As women we work extra hard because we already have to prove ourselves based on the biological sex we were born with. I didn’t understand why when I was dating, everything would be magical until they learned about my achievements and deep passion for tons of things. I have been ghosted and cheated on just because I was “too much.” And for a while, I believed these men. I thought I should be shy and quiet because I’m a woman. Somehow, having achieved a couple of things worked against my romantic relationships. It took a while for me to understand that there was nothing wrong with me, it was just that society has set a standard that men should be dominant over women. Wives must submit to their husbands and so women aren’t allowed to achieve more than their partners, because their ego will be crushed. We were told to please men and adjust to their desires even if it goes against our values. It stops now. Honor your hardwork and be proud of your accomplishments. The right partner will be proud of you and won’t shame you for your intellect and power. The right partner will support you to reach for the stars. Never play small, my love. Take space.
5. I am not allowed to have opinions because I am young.
Wisdom doesn’t always come with age. Just watch the news and look at the political circus. These are old people who clearly are allergic to wisdom or feedback. You will see five-year olds throwing tantrums and worse, these people are leading countries. So the moment that I realized that there are amazing adults and there are just terrible ones, I knew that age does not equate to wisdom. So even if I was young in my workplace, I suggested ideas, and expressed my opinions with utmost respect. It was not up to me if they will listen or not, but I have to share my perspective, because who knows who might need it? Practice your freedom of speech, but in a kind and respectful way. You are allowed to think and have opinions and express them. Just note that whatever you say would have consequences and you have to deal with them. Be extra brave. The world needs more of that.
6. I should tolerate being abused.
This box has haunted me for so many years and until now, I am still healing from the wounds of childhood trauma. When people, especially kids, experience abuse, it distorts their soul. For a long time, I didn’t know that I was abused until I stepped back and totally disconnected myself from this person. Always remember that love is supposed to make you feel free and safe. No one deserves to be shouted at, thrown objects at, and get physically abused. If you are in such environment, please be brave and have courage to ask for help because there are people who will help you. If you find yourself walking on thin ice, and rationalizing abusive acts, that is your sign to walk away and do everything to make your heart feel at ease. There are safe places for you.
7. I should dream small.
Success means different things for everyone. To some, it would mean, tons of money or a thriving career. Others would define success as having peace and being with the people they love. Bottomline is, we have different definitions of success. However, one message that I heard as I was growing up was not to dream too much because you’ll end up disappointed when you don’t get them. I totally understand these sentiments. But please hear me out before you decide on not pursuing your dreams. You only have one life. Who knows what will happen to our consciousness once we’re gone. So, isn’t it exciting to spend that short life, chasing and living your passion? Would you be happy on your deathbed with a long list of what-ifs? So no matter how big or small your dreams are, that’s not the point. The question that we must ask ourselves is are we willing to be brave enough to work hard for that thing that makes you come alive? Always remember that you don’t need to have it all figured out to move forward, you just have to take one step and then another and then another. It’s also not about the end goal my love, it’s about the journey, and how you are evolving along the process. Spend your short life, wisely.
8. Medschool is expensive, a poor girl can’t do that.
This is a story that I have repeatedly told myself. If you have been following my blog, you would know that I gave up way before I knew what God’s plans for me were. Everybody said that it will cost a lot, and I realized that it’s true because our family’s drowning in debt, and I couldn’t just let them starve so that I can pursue my passion. I lived in a lack mentality back then. However, the moment that I surrendered control and just let things flow, blessings just kept on coming. I wrote a pact with the universe and it goes like this, “Hey universe, I have these big dreams deeply planted in my heart and for some unknown voodoo reason, I just can’t shake it off. But the thing is, there are bills to pay and siblings who are in highschool and college. I did my best already and I will keep on trying, so please, if you can’t stop this inner voice that wants me to be a doctor, then I’ll just trust that wherever you are taking me, is where I’m supposed to be. I’m okay with whatever the outcome is.” I prioritized our needs and just surrendered everything to a power that is way bigger than my circumstances. And just like that, the right people came. A person approached and volunteered to pay for my tuition fee and my siblings got in good jobs which is enough for our famiily’s basic needs. When people learned about my story, help just kept on coming, and that started more than two years ago. Again, I used to be a cynical person who didn’t believe in genuine kindness, and who grew up in a situation of lack. But my inner child just kept on whispering, and I now can finally say, “I do believe in magic.” There are stars which are seemingly to high to reach, they burn so bright and it will scare you. But good people exist, even in this unfair and confusing world, kindness and humanity exists. Medschool is expensive but a poor girl can do that as long as she keeps on working hard and trusting the process.
9. When dating, choose men with money.
Again, this belief is an effect of being in a patriarchal society. Money is a tool. It can buy you a house, some nice shoes, and a beautiful car. I was a big fan of working hard in order to get rich. Again, please, don’t get me wrong, I love money. However, I guess many of us women, have been taught that we should look at a man’s wallet when entertaining a potential partner. I think this is such a messed up belief. I think we should be a financially thriving woman on our own and if a man pursues you, look at his values. Does he respect you? Does he have goals? Is he lazy? Is he kind? Does he believe and support you not just in words but in action? Does he add more fulfillment in your life? Is he open-minded? Does he inspire you to be the best that you can be? And the one big question, “If I run into an accident and I become quadriplegic, will this guy take care of me?” Look at the end game. Choose someone that can weather the storms with you, someone who will not be disgusted to change your diapers when you’re old. Choose a person with a genuine soul because you can earn money through hardwork but you don’t just bump into good men. Treat men as icing on a cake. You are the cake, you’re sweet and yummy on its own, the icing and cherry on top just makes it better.
10. I am not enough.
Have you ever been to a family gathering and suddenly you hear an aunt say, “Hey, you got fat.” Maybe someone commented on your physical appearance, or how you dress. I know some women who are pressured to look good even though they are tired because of academics or child care. Maybe you’ve even counted calories to the point of insanity or tried fad diets that ended up making you sick. Why do we even do that? It seems like there’s a looming voice that tells us that we are not enough, that we need to buy this to look pretty or take this pill to lose weight. Where is this even coming from? It’s high time that we break free from the impossible standards of being a woman with a thriving career, a perfect body, a beautiful family, and all that bullshit of balance. We are enough just by being who we are and we are allowed to be a work in progress. We are allowed to look unpretty. We can admit that we aren’t the perfect daughters or mothers, or that we have it all together all the time. We are enough. You are enough. I try my best to be more self-aware in instances wherein I start retelling the story that I should be good at this by now, I should have done this. I should be prettier, smarter, or more balanced. I try my best to unlearn the stories that I have absorbed from the environment that I was born in. So, it’s okay. Being flawed is okay. You are amazing, exacly as you are.
Let’s break free from the boxes that we initially had no control over. Let’s trust that our heart is leading us to the right place because maybe when we are free, that’s when we can move from a place of authenticity. I know that you probably have different boxes. But together, we can break free from them, or even better, forget that they exist in the first place.