Dear younger self,
Four years ago, you made the decision that altered the trajectory of your life. A month after turning eighteen, you moved to the United States from the Philippines to pursue a dream that seemed much larger than your frail body. You have always been interested in politics, and you wanted to incite change on an international scale.
You knew what you were getting yourself into. Moving whole countries meant starting anew. The baseline was zero, and you were faced with an undeniable truth; the world you leave will still move on without you.
But that did not stop a woman like you. You were passion personified. And although the risk was high and the future did not guarantee the reward, you bet your life in pursuit of a dream. Although the numerous voices surrounding you stood as an anchor that repeatedly hindered your ship from sailing, the current of determination and devotion was strong enough to break the chains.
I recall the day you stepped foot on San Francisco’s concrete floors. The first wave of wind gushed your skin as you stepped into the cool, crisp air. Your skin was rising as it came into contact with the cold, an awakening from the hot, humid air of the Philippines. It did not hit you until the first night you crept into the bed; you looked at the ceiling and were met with a flat beige surface, a foreign sight. You took a deep inhale, and as you drifted off to slumber, your voice creaked what your heart sang, “you have made it.”
That was just the beginning. The months following consisted of tears stained pillows and peculiar emotions. For the first time in your life, you felt “alone”... because you were. Timezones were an international student’s enemy. Everyone back home went to sleep when you awakened, leaving you with your only companion: your thoughts. As you entered college, you began to notice how you were different, how things as simple as how you enunciated a word labeled you as “different.” Every time you spoke, the voices inside you begged your accent to be unnoticeable. You desired to achieve a high score on the TOEFL to prove that you were worthy of being there. Even if English was not your first language, every word you typed on the electronic TOEFL exam felt like a desperate plea. You thought, "if I could not prove my proficiency in English, how can I change the world?” However, taking an English exam was an experience only international students go through; it further reminded you of your “otherness.”