Unsent Letters

Dear Mama and Papa,

When I was still a young girl, you always told me to fight for what I believed in, to not be let down by the littlest of discouragement, and to have a stand in this world. For sixteen years, I was the headstrong daughter you raised me —until the time I was heading off to college and choosing my career path.

At the tender age of two, I began drawing on our walls, on papers, or on any flat surface I could get my hands into, without the both of you bothering to scold me because you were happy to have an artistic child in your brood. At the age of six, I began to read thick books and write poetry, and made up fairy tales in my head while my yaya listened patiently and laughed at all the right parts. Mama and Papa, how could you not see I was meant for the arts right at the beginning?

I understand that in 2006, the nursing profession was at its peak: nurses were in demand abroad, with a more-than-good-enough pay to help you provide for the family. From the moment I was born, I know that you love me so much that you want to give a good future for me. Of course, it was the most practical choice at that time, to send me to Cebu and enroll me at a prestigious university in the hopes of having a registered nurse in the family.

For four years in college, I was battling with myself whether I made the right decision: whether giving up my dream of being a writer and an artist to heed your wishes was worth it. But for four years, I ignored my dream and focused on the goal: be a dean’s lister, an honor student, a nurse.

And after four years, there I was: I graduated with flying colors, passed the board exam, and got my license—I became the registered nurse you dreamed of.

I was happy you were happy, Mama and Papa. I really was. But deep inside me, there was an emptiness that was screaming to be filled. When I started working as an actual nurse at a small clinic in the city, my heart just wasn’t there: I struggled to get out of bed every morning, dragged myself to work, and waited for eight hours until I could go home and began writing for my freelance job and filled my drawing book with sketches and colors.

Mama and Papa, at that moment, I hated myself for not fighting for what I wanted, just as how you taught me. But you also taught me to be obedient and respectful. It was difficult, really difficult, to live for someone else’s expectations, to ignore the gnawing feeling in your heart that you were meant for something else.

And I realized, I was not alone in my struggle.

Most, if not all, of my classmates in college were either forced to take up nursing, or were left with no choice: be a nurse or be no one at all. How many nurses have left the country and earned buckets of dollars abroad, only to nurse a yearning in the heart to have become an engineer, a doctor, an artist, or what have you? How many old people died, living their final years with regret that they did not do what made them happy?

I did not want to become any of those regretful nurses and old people, Mama and Papa. I didn’t want to lie in my death bed, thinking back to when I was sixteen and didn’t do anything to realize my dreams. So I made the choice: I quit my job as a nurse and took the risk of pursuing a writing career.

It was very difficult, I have to admit, to apply for a job without the experience and educational background required. It might have been sheer luck or by the grace of God that I got a job in a publishing company as a copy editor, and that freelance employers from different areas of the world trusted me enough to write for them part-time. 

From there, I began writing and editing and honed my craft. My portfolio went from nothing to a thick file of well-written published articles. From a nurse I became a freelance writer, to a copy editor, to a proposal writer, to a copywriter, and ultimately, to an information engineer (mind you, this is another term for a technical writer).

It was humbling to see you being nervous and apprehensive at first, when I became unemployed and was struggling to find a job as a writer. Eventually, your apprehension turned to pride as I entered one big company to another, and as many of my articles became published in several newspapers and publications. My heart surged with happiness when you saw one my pieces published in a national newspaper, to hear you both saying how proud you were to have a very good writer as a daughter. 

I know both of you are somewhat disappointed in me; many of your friends’ daughters and sons are in greener pastures in the US, in the UK, and in all other parts of the world. But I also know that you’re happy to see me happy, Mama and Papa. The pay isn’t that much, but my heart is filled with joy to go to work every day, knowing that I’m doing what I love to do.

I live with no regrets that I followed your wishes. You taught me that everything that happens in our lives contributes to what we are today, and I am thankful. Mama and Papa, thank you for teaching me to become faithful and true to myself. There is no greater fulfillment in this world than to sit alone and be contented with what you have, simply because you loved yourself enough to do what you think is right for you.


Your headstrong daughter


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