The only respect I have learned growing up was respecting people older than I am. A few things my elders taught me were: a) Do not meddle in other people’s conversations; b) Say “po” and “opo” to those who are older than I am; c) Never answer your parents (or grandparents in my case) when they are reprimanding you, and probably the silliest but true that I know of — d) Never debate about what is wrong and right. Because hey, most elders think that they are always right because they had way more experience than the younger ones. No buts, no ifs.

We were never the kind of family that had everything we needed in an instant. Here is a quick backstory: When Papa died and Mama remarried, I lived with my grandparents together with my two cousins. We did not receive any other allowance from our parents except the school allowance given every week. Our food and bills at home were paid and provided by my grandfather, who was then working in a small rice mill company nearby. He earned minimum wage, and it was just enough for us to have what we need to get by — a sack of rice, a tray of eggs, hygiene stuff, a few canned goods, and a pack of hotdogs if we are lucky. Every Saturday night, there are a few hundreds of pesos that he’ll give to my grandmother. Because we were barely surviving, there were many years that we did not have electricity as well. That was around my high school years and ended when my cousin and I secured a job. It was sad, but experiencing these is the exact reason why I really work hard in the first place.

The only thing I wanted after I earn a degree is to get a job and earn money. I wanted to be in a home that has electricity, a water supply, and enough food for all of us. I dreamed of providing everything and be able to live comfortably. Perhaps we could say that I had an extravagant and ideal dream. I had no idea that it would be hard to live like that without the possibility of destroying myself in the process.

When I Was Young

Wayback, I would say I was pretty thoughtful and kind. As I said, it was ideal of me to think that someday, I would provide everything. When I got my first job, I made sure that all my hard-earned money goes to the right places — groceries, bills, my siblings’ school allowance — and I would not lie; I barely had something for myself. Six years of hard work, yet up to this day, I still have nothing except for the gadgets that I currently own and the debt I am still paying.

When I love someone, I love them a lot. And when I say a lot, I give almost everything I have and do everything I can to make their lives happy. All I wanted was to give back in whatever way I can and I did not realize early on how stupid of me to do all these things without thinking that I have to save some for myself. After every shit that has happened — I can totally relate to Ed Sheeran’s song that says:

“I gave all my oxygen to people that could breathe

I gave away my money and now we don’t even speak

I drove miles and miles, but would you do the same for me?

Oh, honestly?

Offered off my shoulder just for you to cry upon

Gave you constant shelter and a bed to keep you warm

They gave me the heartache and in return, I gave a song.”

What Really Happened

There have been moments where my kindness has been taken advantage of and betrayed a couple of times by the people close to my heart. That literally wrecked me inside and out. I will never lie — I am still recovering from all the stress that those moments have brought me. I guess some people are just plain abusive, manipulative, and egotistic. Taking advantage of the kindness — or compassion at least — that you offer willingly while they are talking behind your back and create non-sense issues. When they cannot manipulate you any longer, or when you stand for the things that you believe in, they will gossip about how selfish and arrogant you are, just because you were able to secure a job or get to live in the Metro. I never asked for anything in return, yet I received nothing but bullshit from most of them. These, my friends, are just the tip of the iceberg.

In the past, I would not have minded it and just let them be. Actually, that is how my Mother used to be (which, by the way, I hated so much), and I guess it was something that I got from her. I used to believe that there is someone up there who sees what these people do and will give the judgment they deserve at the right time. I wanted to let destiny be in control and correct their actions, and I shall continue being who I am in the corner. But now, things have changed.

What Has Changed

I realized that I was not the kill-them-with-kindness type of person. I have learned that I am the only one who is in control of how people treat me. That everything is a choice. If I am no longer appreciated and more likely taken advantage of, I shall walk away and never let them do it all over again. I have also allowed myself to consider my future in the same way that I think for the future of those I truly love. Right now, I feel like I am still the same person I used to be — thoughtful, understanding, compassionate, and kind at times — but only towards the people who actually deserve it.

It was a process to realize, learn, and allow myself to do these things and it was never the best phase to go through. It was as if you are breaking yourself into pieces and determine which parts you would rather keep or throw away. Could you imagine that? Apparently, I needed those moments to see what works for me and what does not.

I reached a point where I know who I am — what I want, what works for me, what I deserve — and I will never want to go back to a situation where I sell myself short again. I am my priority and I will never be sorry for choosing myself every day.

To continue learning more about myself, have room for mistakes, stop any abuse or manipulation that is about to come my way, and give myself some space when needed, is the kind of self-respect I have learned over the past few years.

More so, I am in control of what I allow into my life and my choices every day. And most importantly, I shall love and save myself, too.

PS. If you do not agree with me or are about to call me entitled, stupid, or selfish — please give me a chance to let you see the whole picture. It would be my pleasure to have an open-minded conversation. I could tell you why I think this way, and you could probably tell me which regard I am wrong. I am still learning, after all.



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