When I was young, every time I went to fetch water from the neighbors, borrow groceries from the local store, or borrow money from relatives, I promised to make a better life for myself and my family. And by better I knew it meant big house, nice cars, and enough food and cash for everyone. I thought I was going to solve all of my family’s problems and provide for all their wants and needs.
Moving to America has challenged that promise and altered my notion of a better life. Having had my own personal hardships, it dawned on me that a better life is not always in terms of material and temporal things. While trying to rise above these hardships and challenges, I have discovered the best version of me: one that is not afraid to sleep on the floor, walk and take the bus, cook my own food and eat it over and over again, and be genuinely happy doing so. It is in essence, the life I’ve had back home. I have learned a multitude of life lessons and developed skills and traits I didn’t know I have during these lowest points of living on my own. It made me clamor for opportunities to grow not just financially but in all aspects of life. I learned to take on challenges and advocate for myself to design the kind of life I want to live.
I am still finding a balance of both: the American idea of success and individualism and my Filipino sense of family and community. Sometimes one overtakes the other, and so I have to constantly find ways and experiences that allow me to not just tread both waters, but more so to harmoniously thrive and come full circle.