I love sending letters to my loved ones as a sign of my endearment. While I have written a hundred letters in this lifetime, I haven’t tried addressing one to myself. I may have thought of it before but dismissed the idea of talking to one’s self. The truth is, although there are a thousand ideas floating in my mind in the attempt to speak of reassurance, comfort, praise, and even apology to myself, I don’t know where to start. The writer in me looks at it as a daunting task. Silly, as I may call it too.

I know that words have power. It decodes undeciphered emotions. It translates vague thoughts to defined concepts. But sometimes, the hardest is to make sense when words are uttered to one’s self. But I realized that coming in clear terms with your own self helps you to move forward especially during this pandemic when frequent bouts of self-doubt and fear loom over your spirit.

So, here’s a first letter addressed to a survivor — that with all the chaos in her heart and mind, she chose to be courageous and overcome life’s struggles with a streak of optimism.

Dearest Danica,

How are you doing? I can certainly see you are doing well. You might be surprised that I wrote you a letter. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do but I never had the courage for it until today. Everything moves in a fast pace that we’ve forgotten how to slow down to process things and express how we perceive and feel about them. But if you must, allow me to express with all honesty my observations and learnings about how you dealt life albeit its complexities this pandemic. If you don’t mind, I also have pieces of advices on my sleeve as we recall those challenges you surpassed over the year.

You lost your dad to cancer. Last year, a day after the announced nationwide lockdown, your dad passed away. Although you have anticipated the end game, you were never prepared for the emotional wreck of losing a father. Again, I would like to commend you for standing so strong during his last hours at the hospital. The scene where you witnessed how he struggled for his life is still vivid in your mind and it remains a traumatic memory to recall until today. It was a closure you have waited for, but still the final blow pounded heavily for you to bear. Danica, you have to forgive yourself for being powerless and weak to defend the person who stood for you since you were born. However, I am at peace that you understood that it is God’s perfect will. I would like to remind you that regrets are inevitable, but these would not change the past. Just remind yourself that you and your father lived a full life together so you can continue to live in the present. It is painful to be reminded that your number one protector, shield, and adviser is no longer with you to help you with life’s adversities. But you are still strong, nevertheless.

Your mom’s illness perplexed you. Not yet fully recovered financially and emotionally from your father’s death, four months after, your mother had to undergo an immediate gallbladder surgery. The sight of white-washed walls, silent corridors, and medical equipment gave you that eerie feeling and reminded you of old and familiar places of hurt and struggle of caring for a loved one with sickness. You dreaded contracting the virus from the other patients in the hospital. Holding a few cash in your wallet, some credit cards, and a health insurance card from your company, you braced yourself for yet another episode of a hospital sojourn. In You pushed for the availment of Makati Medical Center’s health services for the less privileged, the Green card. However, you had to sacrifice transferring her from a private room to a ward. Trying to exhaust all your mom’s benefits to help reduce the hospital bill, you bravely walked in the government offices of Makati under the sweltering heat of the sun. I remember that you had to endure an on and off fever because of stress, but still had to stay at the hospital to attend to your mom’s needs. While patiently waiting in queue at the offices and holding a folder of papers and IDs, you thought to yourself that you have no choice but to stand strong for your family in times like this. You are the eldest and you cannot afford to be weak. By God’s grace, your mom had a successful operation. She was discharged from the hospital through the help of different people God used as instruments of financial blessing. Again, God proved how faithful He is at the times when everything seems dark and bleak. In the abyss, you saw light. You felt warmth and love in His comforting hands. Your faith and strength are admirable, I would like to remind you of that.

Your health became a major concern too. Last August 2020, you had severe episodes of menstrual cramps after shifting to a new set of hormonal pills. You literally cannot move and function well because of pelvic pain. You were diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, and adenomyoma five years ago and the symptoms have worsened as you age. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Consider it as blessing that your OB said that you didn’t have to undergo surgery because the cysts are too small. However, this is a lifetime condition that you have to bear as there is no way that the tissue would exit your body. Monthly periods became your most dreaded days as you endure abdominal pain. Pain relievers and hot compress became your constant best friends. There was even one time you heavily bled for 20 days. You questioned yourself for past mistakes and wrong choices, and wondered if you are deserving to have a family of your own someday given your reproductive health condition. Isn’t it your ultimate dream to build a family someday? Questions and fears hounded you as you battle this illness. However, I would like to tell you that your worth is not defined by societal expectations. Your timeline is unique among the rest. Take this season of pruning, of self-improvement, and growth, and soon you will be ready for whatever God has planned for you. I pray that you will be healed from this sickness. I also pray that you don’t take those questions and assumptions too personal to rob you of joy and limit your self-worth.

Working from home took a toll on your mental wellness. It was the most ideal work set-up you’ve wanted prior to pandemic — no commuting in traffic, flexible schedule, reduced work expenses, and more time with your family and doing your personal interests. However, it’s not a walk in the park after all. Being cooped in your home for more than a year has caused you pressure and anxiety too. Daily interactions with family members alongside doing chores distracted you. You hardly differentiated the borders between work and personal life. You’ve lost balance every now and then, but still you’re holding the ropes to deliver the tasks expected of you. But hey, did you know that many are dreaming to be in your position right now? To have the luxury of working flexibly while watching their kids grow? To have short naps in between breaks? Appreciate this season, Danica. Enjoy the convenience while it lasts. Sooner, you will return to office and go back to that detached corporate life of feigning relationships with colleagues and being pressured to commute, dress up, and wear make up. Savor the advantages. Take time to talk to your mom and siblings while you still can.

You questioned and reflected on your direction. Spending more time at home this pandemic gave more opportunities for you to ponder if you are heading towards the right direction. You aim to have financial freedom, to clear your debts, to raise your own family one day, to travel the world, to finish housing improvements in your new home in Cavite, to build your emergency fund. However, as your finances are tied to paying utility bills, household needs, and providing almost everything that your family needs, would you even have the chance to fulfill your own dreams? You don’t want to embittered but sometimes, you feel like a robot who is destined to pay bills. When can we evade from a breadwinner’s responsibilities so we can chase after our own aspirations? You want to be eternally grateful to your parents for raising you and equipping you for a brighter future. But how does the feeling of being indebted differentiate from that desire to show gratefulness? How badly you wished your parents prepared for their retirement so you don’t have to worry about them. Or your mom wouldn’t complain if there is a shortage of her grocery funds. Or your siblings would simply understand that you cannot carry everything on your shoulder. Does it sound really selfish? Please don’t grow weary, Danica. Take a rest but don’t quit yet. Serving your family has rewards in the end. You are investing not just money, but on cultivating good relationships with your family members by helping them. Soon enough, you will reap them. By getting used to domestic problems at home, you will be trained more as you face bigger challenges when you raise your own family. I tell you, all that you are facing is just a piece of cake compared to having your own kids that you have to worry about their health, education, safety, and values.

Danica, while reviewing the lessons we have learned this pandemic from your challenges, let’s go back those things that kept you grounded and occupied. Traveling was out of the picture but there were other activities which provided you good leisure. Trips to the beach or the mountains were replaced with refreshing walks at the parks in BGC. Food blogging events were replaced with intimate restaurant dates with family and friends. You also enjoyed treating yourself to skin care products, make-over at the salon, or a good cup of coffee in Starbucks. You continued your passion for cooking and writing. You love playing with your dogs at home. You tuned in to relaxing music in Spotify or a favorite movie in Netflix. You found joy in these simple things just to get by, Danica. And I hope you continue doing them just to strike balance in between all the things that are stressing you out. Look forward to traveling soon to continue your journey as an explorer of this world. Don’t let the pandemic hinder you from doing the things you love.

Danica, in case you have forgotten, let me remind you of who you are. You might be entangled with routines, responsibilities, and the pressure to always step-up as the ATE in the family that you don’t know yourself anymore.

You may look quiet and reserved, but you take time to observe things and people around you. It takes a smart conversation to get you engaged. You can communicate ideas articulately either verbal or written. You are not afraid to speak what’s on your mind. Don’t withhold those sensible insights especially if it can be a medium for change. Speak with tact and respect, as you were raised to be refined.

You are a good sister and daughter. You may not be expressive, but you always look after them. You prioritize their needs over your own. You always choose to yield and understand. You are not perfect but you try your best to show your love for them. I hope that you don’t get too pressured if you can’t do everything to fix what is broken in your home. Please don’t be too hard on yourself for not meeting their expectations. Also, let loose of your expectations towards others too. That will always upset you.

You are a dependable colleague. You always do your best to deliver your tasks, sometimes even exceeding what is expected of you. You do not hesitate rendering beyond your regular working hours to meet the business demands of the organization. Danica, you make mistakes too. Your tenure in the company doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. You have more rooms for learning and growth. Don’t beat yourself too much if you fail people around you, much more if you fail your self-imposed expectations. You have proven yourself enough, Danica. Remember that not everything is about work. You still have a life outside office.

You are worth loving. Once you enter relationships and embrace friendships, you always give your best to show your loyalty and affection. Your attachment is drawn from your inner desire to maintain good, healthy relationships. Don’t fret if people come and go; it is a cycle of life. The right people will accept and love you regardless of your flaws.

Danica, you are in your early 30’s. It’s never too late to start all over again. Pandemic has taught you about grit, acceptance, forgiveness. It has instilled in you the importance of relationships. The value of communication. The price of time. The vulnerability of people. The strength of faith and prayers. The vanity of superficial things. While each one of us is beset with unique challenges, we are all given the equal opportunities to combat them in ways we can only discover if we open our minds and hearts for the purpose behind each falling. Never waste a day of learning that, Danica.

And while undertaking these pressures, you need to be polished and refined to reveal your true strength and beauty. In time, you will shine as a Diamond in the Rough.

This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis.  The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.