An essay on awesome moms, awful comparisons, and gaining perspective.
Written by Max Capili
Featured Image by Benju Evardone
Just a disclaimer that it’s been a long time since I wrote for non-academic purposes and even then, I don’t usually choose to talk about *feelings.* Please bear with me.
My mom is, for the lack of a better term, halimaw. Whenever I would tell my friends about her, the usual reaction would be “Daamn tita. Ang halimaw ng mom mo.” And I can see why. Here’s the thing. Mom was actually a year younger than most of her peers in school. Why? Well, her parents – my grandparents – wanted her to start school earlier and so they faked her birth certificate. In spite of that, she was consistently the top of her class and was always part of the cream-of-crop section in high school. My mom did well enough that she was offered to finish college in three years as long as she continued on to take medicine in UST. My grandparents apparently accepted for her without her knowing. She told me that given the choice, she would have wanted to take journalism or creative writing, but life had other plans. She finished biology in three years, going to school six days a week with classes from 7 am to 7 pm, and graduating with honors. Instead of UST Medicine, however, she ended up going to UP. Jokingly, she would tell me that it was her form of rebellion against her parents. From then on, she specialized in pediatrics, and further specialized in neonatology (which had her spending three years in Canada), all the while taking care of her three kids. Some years later though, she had to stop practicing. Cancer is a bitch to everyone. To think that it came at a peak in her life, it really doesn’t discriminate. It just takes and takes and takes. First, it took her mom. Then, it took her time. It went on to take her health and a portion of her life. But she survived and with the battle scars to prove it. Nowadays, you’ll find my mom thriving – working on public health policies with NGOs and getting contracted by the UN and the government.
Amazing, right? Here’s another thing my friends (and people) would tell me, “You know? You look like your mom.” And for some reason, this little fact has people expecting that I’m exactly like my mother in terms of pretty much everything, but especially regarding profession. If I was given money for every single time that someone would ask me, “Kailan ka magsisimula/kukuha/magtatatapos ng med?” or “Why aren’t you taking med like your mom?” I would be sooo rich. Anyway, a lot of people did get disappointed when I said that I will never become a doctor. My lolo (my mom’s dad) actually told me that if I’m not going to be a doctor, at the very least I should become a lawyer and that he wants to see me become an attorney before he dies. As someone who admittedly relies a lot on external validation, that was crippling.
But I digress, where exactly am I going with all this? Well, my mom went and is going through life so fast, hitting milestone after milestone after milestone. And when people start comparing me to her, I feel like I just can’t keep up. And that keeps me up at night. It’s a feeling that’s honestly been eating me up a lot, especially since I’m not even sure where I’m headed right now – what I want to do and where I want to go. So, here’s a final little thing. I have this immense fear of being left behind. And I know I’m not alone in it. At one point or another, I feel like we’ve all thought of life passing us by, of being left behind when it seems that all your friends are doing so great. Your best friend finally got that dream internship. One friend has tons of gigs lined up while another is travelling to all these exotic places. It gets even worse when you look outside your immediate circle. You hear about kids your age (or even younger than you!) pretty much rocking the world with their ideas and inventions. They’re changing the game and making their mark. So, everyone is doing exceptionally well while you’re pretty much just like:
I mean, it’s not like you’re useless and doing absolutely nothing with yourself. Definitely not. You’re actually doing pretty well in your classes, maybe even getting some high grades. You might have some side gigs to earn a little money and you might even have that special someone. Except, you’re not exactly where you want to be (maybe you’re not even entirely sure on where you want to be) and you’re definitely not anywhere near where your friends are. The more you hear about them and their successes, the more you ask yourself,
“Why wasn’t it me?”
“When is it gonna be me?”
or even more common,
“What the heck am I even doing with my life?”
You just feel so left behind and stagnant while everyone else seems to be winning in life. It’s not that you’re not happy for them. You’re also not ungrateful for what you’ve been given, but you just don’t think that you’ve done anything worthwhile. It’s that awful feeling of inadequacy, of constantly questioning yourself on where you’re going wrong, what are you doing wrong, and why are you not enough. It’s a difficult place to be. Because you feel like you’re going nowhere while everyone else is on the top of the world. It’s so easy to spiral and twist yourself into knots. And when you get stuck on being stuck, getting yourself out almost feels like an impossibility.
So how do you cope? Well, the answer is simple. First, you keep things moving. I know. I know. Hear me out okay? I know that it sounds like such an easy and clichéd answer. Like, how exactly is that supposed to stop the feeling of not being enough? How is that supposed to stop the fear? But here’s the first step. You need to learn to put things into perspective. In particular, put success in a different perspective. Like, think of your best friend who got that dream internship. You know how hard she worked for that and everything else she had to go through to get it. Your friend who has all those gigs lined up? Blood, sweat and tears, man. The thing is, success is so relative. It’s so different for everyone that there shouldn’t be any comparison. Which brings me to my second point.
You need to learn to wait for your moment. Yes, it does sound contradictory to the first step. Move but wait for it? What? Okay. It’s weird, but here’s the thing. If things go right for someone, it doesn’t mean that things will be going right for you. It sounds sad, but not really? It just means that you’re doing your own thing and therefore you shouldn’t expect the same outcome as another person’s endeavors. You’ll do things in your own time and they’ll do things in theirs. You’re going through a different journey and taking diverging paths and so difference in timing shouldn’t really be a surprise. Also, no one actually gets things right the first time around. And your time may be taking a little bit longer than most, but trust me, it WILL come.
Personally, this is still something that I’m learning to deal with. Much like anyone else, I’m actually very bad at taking my own advice. I’m not over my fear of being left behind. I see my friends doing way better than I am and it honestly hits me in the chest, because it gets me thinking, “Why am I not there yet? Is there anything I can even do?” When people would ask me why I’m not in medicine like my mom, I try to laugh it off but in the back of my mind, I question, “Is that where I went wrong? Is that what I should have done?” I still get those bouts of jealousy, those feelings of inadequacy, that anxiety on whether or not I’m doing things right. I’m still learning to put things into perspective and to wait for my time. If there is anything that I have learned though, it’s that it’s not the end of the road yet. Not for me, and not for you. There are still so many possibilities to discover – so many things you can do and be.
P.S. The title was totally taken from one of my favorite Hamilton songs (and it’s arguably the best one.) You can listen to it here! https://spoti.fi/2OCkXmR