For the most part of my life, I’ve always watched people come and go…and there’s nothing I can say or do about it. I don’t want to sound like I’ve been abandoned many times in my life and being whiny about it, but I often pause and wonder how it would feel if it’s the other way around. What does it feel to be the one who’s leaving, instead of the one left behind? What does it feel like to be the one pushing the luggage cart to the terminal reserved for international flight instead of the one waving goodbye through glass doors?
Last January 18, a dear friend of mine left for the States for greener pasture. She wasn’t the first one in our immediate circle to leave the country for a job. Another friend also left the country two years ago, but she’s in contract and she’s going to return every four years. Now this one, she left for good. She’s going to apply for an American citizenship. She’s the good, hardworking daughter who wants her parents to grow old in the States. And frankly, her decision has left me questioning my own life choices at this point.
My life choices are determined by what I want, not what I should do. I know there’s no problem with this. What’s wrong with pursuing what you love? Still, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m the first born of the family. I graduated college first. My grades were okay. I’m burdened by the knowledge that my mother placed all her hopes and aspirations, all these expectations of being the future breadwinner, on me. Better pay, better job security, and definitely a better life for my mom and two brothers.
To be fair to my mother, she has always supported me in whatever I want, despite the shortcomings and failures. I guess she is just worried I haven’t decided a proper course of my life yet. Perhaps, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m making her worry. She has supported my decision to stay here and not go abroad. She is now supporting my decision to go back to school.
I wish I can give her a better life in just a snap of a finger, especially after what she had gone through in the past years. The thought of going abroad crossed my mind many times and even my aunt overseas offered to take me in. In the end, I decided to stay to pursue law school but the feeling of guilt remained. It would take another four years for me to have a proper job, and I would have to endure another four years of watching my peers build their career, go overseas, get married, have a family or just travel around the world for fun.
Making a decision is like popping a gum into your mouth. Sticking by it is chewing it for many years to come (gross – but it depends on how long you should chew it) and NOT wondering about the flavors of gum the others are chewing, then spitting it out before you can taste the real flavor of what you chose. If you can have one gum or more, that’s alright but remember that you cannot just bite off more than you can chew.
I made a decision and that is to stay in this beleaguered country of ours. I’m open to studying abroad but I will always go back here. You may be thinking, ‘You’re still young. Your decisions may change’ and I guess I’m a fool to declare avowals of love of country at the prime of my youth, where I’m unabashedly thinking I can grace the world with my passion and drive for social change.
And that’s the point: I’m still young. I’m still in the intersection of choosing what path should I take to serve my country. I still have the energy to do what I can and I’m still brimming with the prospect and ideas of contributing to the change. It might not be amount to much, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?
A day before my friend left, I told her that our country isn’t as hopeless as she think it is. That when day, when she decided to come back for vacations in-between applying for her immigration status, she will see the change, eventually. It’s not about having foolish expectations or having blind hope, but being optimistic to what lies ahead, to what this generation can do. And yes, the ones left behind, the ones ‘foolish’ enough to stay despite the system, the burden of making it possible falls mostly on our shoulders.
While our modern heroes are working hard on other countries, ploughing through the loneliness, homesickness and discrimination just to send money here, it’s up to us, the ones left behind, to make their sacrifice worth it.
Because we ourselves have sacrificed comfort and security, the pleasure of having turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day as snowflakes dance outside our windows, the efficiency of medical services provided by other countries we cannot afford here, and the overwhelming difference of earning dollars instead of pesos, we might as well be all-out in making this country worth returning to.
If we’re going to stay here for good, we might as well change this country for the better.