I was chatting with a friend just a few hours ago, catching up about our lives. She’s a mother of two cute/naughty little boys now, one is already in pre-school.
She is an ex-OFW, an ex-colleague of mine, one of those people that I used to admire.
We both moved to Dubai in 2006 and that was our very first overseas job. She just turned twenty and I was just turning twenty one that time. I was a fresh grad of a four-year HRM course and she just completed a two-year hospitality course.
While her confidence and wit impressed the big bosses on the first few days of our training, my introversion and incompetence led me to extended training days, reading the sequence of service, memorizing the menu and observing the trainers and the ‘advanced’ trainees move around the floor during the restaurant dry-run.
Not even a month at work, the bosses have already decided to include her on the list of prospective Trainers. Enlistment is almost an assurance of promotion.
After a month at work, I was still polishing cutleries at the back of house and was still being guided by our trainers and supervisors.
Not only did she excel at work, but in life matters as well. I thought I had enough hardships earlier in life to make me grow to what I was at that time but all my self-proclaimed maturity looked so childish compared to hers.
We all had the same amount of salary and we all send money back home but she always had extras. She, at that point, already had her own concept of saving money, investing, etc., which I have not realized till not so long ago.
Though she was the youngest in our team, everyone looked up to her, even the older ones. During those days she seemed like she’s going to have the brightest future ahead of the rest of us. I always thought that she had always been the tiger, while the rest including me were just mere stray cats.
But her bright looking future became bleak when she indulged herself into an illegitimate relationship followed by pregnancy.
She was forced to go home as she can’t give birth in Dubai without providing a marriage certificate. She used up all her savings, sold the land that she bought and ended up being buried deep with mountains of debts.
She took another overseas job, just like all the ex-OFWs do. She left her first born and headed once more to the Middle East with her partner and after two years, she’s pregnant with her 2nd child and she had to go back home again.
This time, she can’t leave the country anymore. Two kids are too much for her ageing mother to take care of. Her partner resigned as well and left his job in the Middle East as soon as she had given birth to their second son. He said he wanted to be with his two sons as they grow up which I thought was not the smartest idea at that time. They haven’t saved anything, or maybe they just have enough to cover her maternity expenses.
She was really broke to be desperate enough to ask money from me and from some of our ex-colleagues but we can only help her to a certain extent.
I felt sad for her but also a bit irritated by the way she had led her life, a complete turn from how she used to live. A complete opposite of what we thought she would be.
It was ironic though that we became closer at the time that we were apart. I used to admire her as a colleague but we were not the best-est of friends. We don’t even talk that much at work as I found her very intimidating.
A point in time came when I questioned her for all her wrong decisions. I pointed out her mistakes as well as her partner’s. I blamed her for all the opportunities that she missed and for choosing her illicit relationship over the decent life and job that she had. I blamed her for having kids when she knew that she won’t be able to support them financially. And I was really flustered when she told me ‘andiyan na yan eh wala na tayong magagawa.’
Earlier today I inquired about her well-being as well as their small street-food business and she said she was struggling to make ends meet. The business is at break-even. She’s just covering her costs. She wants to leave the country once more because her meager earnings won’t be able to support them further. She said, ‘magdasal na lang tayo.’
As she mentioned her daily life struggles, I remembered my mom. I actually saw my mom in her. I remembered the days when our debts were higher than we can imagine and our small RTW shop didn’t really do well. My mom had to deal with debt collectors every single day thinking of reasons after reasons to tell them as to why she can’t pay them on time. She had to deal with the debts as well as the collectors while finding ways to send her four kids to school. My mom used to ask my Tita, not her blood sister but a childhood friend, for money to pay our debts. Tita was living a decent life because her husband was working in a cruise ship back then. I just thought, did Tita ever blame my mom for choosing the life she led? Did she blame my mom for having 4 kids instead of just 1 or 2 knowing that she would not be able to support them? Did she blame her for selling RTW clothes in the public market while she could have chosen a more glamorous job? A high paying one? Did she blame her for sending her kids to private school knowing that she couldn’t afford the tuition fee?
I realized how mean I was to blame my friend for all her decisions. I was very ruthless and I thought I became so full of myself. I looked down at her and criticized her during the time when maybe, what she needed was motivation and encouragement.
Later on I thought, maybe her decisions were not really wrong. Maybe they were just made at the wrong time and a bit carelessly. Maybe they weren’t wrong decisions but poor choice. Or maybe what I thought was a wrong decision, the best choice at that time or maybe the lesser evil.
What makes me mad with myself more is the thought that I judged her and her decisions according to my beliefs, according to my mindset. But then, who am I to tell her what to do when I have not even walked in her shoes?
We all have different circumstances in life and we always have to make choices. And what’s wrong for someone could be the best choice for someone else. I always thought I’ve had enough hardships in life to make me and my temperament a lot better than the rest but I was wrong. I learned a lesson that I should have learned a long time ago and I learned it at the expense of a friend who is in a rough state.
To admit my mistake is easy but to apologize is difficult. All I can do for now is hope and pray for her well-being as well as her family’s and to at least be there for her at times that she needs me the most.
*sorry for the English. I’m panic.