Five years ago my father asked me to write him a letter, explaining to him how I see my professional life in the next ten years. He requested this from me after I confessed to him about the two-relationship I was hiding from him and the rest of the family, and he wanted to make sure if I had given my future a good and clear thought. Back then, it was all about convincing him, my mom and my sisters that I’ll be okay and I have not lost sight of my dreams. With five years left on the ten-year vision I elaborated to my father, I realized I haven’t even achieved what I’ve told him I wanted to be. It is pretty upsetting now that I think about it. Time has been flying by very quickly and I’m no longer that fresh college graduate who can’t wait to take over the world with my bright ideas. I’m now in my late 20s, unemployed, and confused.
I remember when I was still a kid, I asked my dad if getting rich was the most important mission in life (of course I asked this in a manner a five-year-old would) and his words still echo in my head to this day: “It’s not if you are rich or poor that matters, it is your happiness that counts.” Three months ago, I told him I was getting frustrated with my job and that I was ready to resign. He told me to weigh in on the situation first, and not let my feelings get in the way. However, if I feel like my well-being is at stake, then I should resign. My happiness, he said, was more important to him more than anything else. I did resign, and I apologized because I felt like I have disappointed him. His response was still the same. My happiness is what counts. It was only a few hours ago that I fully understood what he was trying to say, and that it wasn’t him that should be disappointed with me. I must admit that this process of self-discovery is pretty depressing, but it is necessary, and has brought me back to basics.
Fairy tales are a big part of a child’s life, most especially for little girls, for it is their dream to become princesses one day. A princess has everything–Prince Charming, the castle, the beautiful gowns and shoes, lavish parties, and the admiration of people–the happy ending. The complicated thing about life is that as we grow older, getting the happy ending seem more important, and oftentimes we tend disregard the moral of a story instilled in our minds at a very young age. Cinderella for a time, had to endure a miserable life with her stepmother who despised her not only because of her beauty. Moreover, it was for getting the love and affection she wanted for herself and her children from her new husband, Cinderella’s father. We get stuck with the scene wherein she already had her gown and glass slippers on, and was already dancing with the prince. Or perhaps the ending, wherein the other slipper was found nonetheless in Cinderella’s hands, concluding the story with her marrying the prince. Defending her right to attend the ball because she is after all, a member of the family, seemed light years away. We forget that she did her chores as promised, no matter how extreme they were. The injustice she felt when all she provided was obedience and respect, only to get her gown ripped, became nothing to us as we all knew that her fairy godmother will make things right. To be saved by someone became more ideal and virtues such as patience, faithfulness, hard work and perseverance were nothing more but mere options.
I have always known that my father was right. But just like reading a favorite book (or watching a favorite movie) for the second (or more) time, there is a deeper understanding that ensues. Happiness is not the reward Cinderella got in the end. Happiness was there the moment she woke up and started singing about believing in dreams coming true. It’s not completely a love story nor a rags-to-riches one. It’s also about creating a future you believe in, not losing your way, and allowing time to be your friend so long as your happiness is still intact.
Should I be given the chance to have moment like that with my dad once again, I would tell him to stop worrying about me. I would tell him that I was shortsighted and that I didn’t mean to make him sad. I would tell him that I have not let go of my dreams and that there is more that I would like to share with him. I would thank him for his patience with me and for his love which I’ve taken for granted most of the time.
In the five years that remain, the future I have laid out for myself has now become quite clearer. Although mine is still unwritten, the dream is not to survive but to live. Not to be the victim but the victor. The dream is to not mind the ashes or terror that may come along the way, but to trust the burning light inside of me, guiding me through my darkest hours. The dream is to make ideas come to life, and bring out happiness instead of taking it away. Ideally, it is distinguishing the good from the bad and how you would want to be remembered: the wide-eyed cinder girl, or the evil stepmother (or either of her two daughters.) Dreams may be as vast as the means in making them a reality, with some people ending up sizing happiness with a pair of glass slippers they hope they could fit into one day. But there are those who don’t mind breaking theirs, as they discover that happiness is actually free of size.