Spending time with my family over the holidays has been of both wonderful comfort and fascinating enlightenment to me.
As I get older, I seem to be discovering more and more about my family’s history, namely, what it was like for my parents growing up and living in the Philippines, and how life has changed since migrating to Australia, raising my sister and I.
We seemed to have opened up a whole new dialogue between us, whether or not it’s the stories now enriched with greater detail, or my matured understanding of the stories now heard with greater clarity and resonance. Or perhaps it is both.
Comparatively, to most of my peers, my childhood was a very humble one. We lived on the second level of a very small apartment flat up until I was 15 years old. The idea of renting and being without certain luxuries was something I wasn’t bothered by back then, mainly because buying a house just wasn’t a possibility and therefore, not a priority. I still remember us all sleeping on a mattress laid out on the lounge room floor before we were able to avail of adequate bedroom furniture. That was just the norm for me, not a result of the hardship that my migrant parents had to face whilst settling in a new country.
I just didn’t know any better to feel hard done by. We would still celebrate every birthday, every Christmas – in fact every weekend, when my parents would take me into the city just to have a look around at the toy stores even though they couldn’t always buy what I wanted. I just hoped but never asked, and they surprised me whenever resources allowed. Looking back now, I can say that I was certainly spoiled – with the greatest love that parents can give.
It was late in my teenage years that I started to grow weary of my circumstance. I began comparing my life to those of my high school friends, and then later, my university peers. I began to realise the things they had that I didn’t. The regular holidays overseas, nice cars, big houses. Augmented by low self-esteem around my body image and skin conditions, I started to feel deep embarrassment and became very guarded.
But I found ways to relieve myself from those insecurities and it was through writing, music and performing – gifts that my parents had nurtured.
Conversations over the last few weeks have taught me that despite what I feel I may have suffered (perhaps just common symptoms of puberty and teen angst), I have lived (am living) a pretty blessed life. That which I attribute – with deepest gratitude – to the wonderful, strong people that raised me.
My Mama and Papa sacrificed so much to get here, to provide my sister and I with amazing opportunities to learn, grow and realise our dreams.
They were the ones whom truly went without as children, experiencing and learning to survive through poverty, hardship, adversity and distress.
In order to have something to eat for lunch whilst he was in college, Papa helped drum up business for a man selling food from a cart in front of his school library – in exchange for one free piece of banana cue.
A first-time mother, Mama raised me alone in a new, unfamiliar country in the first year of my life, whilst working out finances and paperwork to get Papa back to Australia when his visa had expired.
Those are but two brief examples, but two of remarkable determination and sacrifice.
It goes without saying therefore, that the woes of my life are incomparable and insignificant. That the material things I may have missed out on are really, just things, and unnecessary ones at that. That the sufferings I seem to experience through my insecurities are merely self-inflicted, that they stem from the internal conditions I cultivate within, and not of an involuntary environment such as poverty and depression.
Mama and Papa, they didn’t become victims of their circumstance. They worked hard, fought, dared and let faith lead them to a better life.
And that’s what I’ll do too.