Small Steps Every Day Saved My Family - And Gave Me The Best Gift (part 1)
01st April 2021
I didn’t have a childhood of any kind. I am the second of four sons, born into a rural and traditional Filipino family and from elementary school I had to cook, clean, look after my brothers and supplement our family income by helping with other kids’ school projects. I learned responsibility very early - my parents picked me out as the child that was going to look after them and all of our family. I’m 24 now and a Project Coordinator for an international fibre optic network design and optimisation team - and it’s been a long, hard ride so far. But you know what? I know now that my family was sent to teach me the importance of loving, valuing and believing in myself. Focusing on solutions rather than problems. Living in the present moment rather than worrying about what the future might hold. Living my best life, no matter the external circumstances.
It’s taken me a fair few years to come to these - and other - conclusions though. Years of resentment, dark depression and pain, dabbling with various vices, not wanting to live even. From the age of ten, it was clear that I was the one who was going to graduate with a high-level degree, get a good job and support my parents, pretty much for the rest of their lives. There was no choice in the matter - the responsibility for dealing with our money struggles fell squarely on my shoulders. I just accepted this - it never felt like there was a choice. Whether it was helping other kids with their science projects, or tutoring maths or science, my school days - from elementary through secondary - were always about making sure I had income-generating side-hustles. If I wasn’t paid in actual cash it would be in food - or tuition fee discounts.
By the time I got to university to do my Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, I had to take a break from earning for my family. There simply wasn’t the time anymore - for four years I commuted up to four hours a day each way from home. Despite ensuring I got a scholarship to go to uni, our family debts continued to spiral - we survived on rotating the debt through various microfinance schemes. My older brother was also in uni and my younger two in high school. The meagre wage my Dad earned as a Jeepney driver was never going to be enough to survive on. Luckily I had a grandfather living in Germany who helped us out monetarily at the time. Somehow we were sent what we needed at the time to keep going.
As a young kid, I watched my brothers playing outside whilst doing the household chores and wondered - many times over - why me? I’m not even the oldest! I know now that it was because I showed no resistance - I accepted this mantle of responsibility without question at the time. A lot of this came from not knowing my own value. Not understanding what it meant to truly love myself. But then how could I? I was just a kid after all.
If my story is hooking you in and you’d like to hear more (super succinct!) first hand tales from some of my teammates, click here for more #unleashinghumanpotentialstories.
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