“You are young! You have nothing to lose. There is so much to explore. You are in your best years and there is nothing to be afraid of.”

I know, these words have been thrown at you. They sound empowering. They seem to assume in you the privilege of time, energy, and health, leaving you nothing but the confidence that you have everything you need to become fearless and successful.

Then a pandemic comes that changes the whole world.

Just when you thought you are invincible and unstoppable, there is now a reason for you to second-guess things or take a step back. Worse, it may even make you lose your sense of direction. You may reach the point when you begin questioning yourself: Is this all worth it? What am I here for again?

Whether you are the breadwinner of the family, or blessed to live your life without obligations to fulfill, please know that all your hard work and sacrifices are valid. Nothing is put to waste. Your family is very proud of you, so I hope you never discount your efforts, especially during the days when you may think what you’re doing, or what you’ve done, is not enough. Your future self will be grateful for the time you have endured adversities.

Whether you are single and looking for a partner, or currently in a long-distance relationship, please always remember that your worth will never depend on romantic relationships. While society and social media would endlessly pressure you to get married and have kids, I hope you will continue to fight for the things that really matter to you at this time, trusting your own pace, your own season. The world may frown upon the idea of growing old alone, but as threadbare as it may sound, focus on becoming the person you’d like to end up with instead of searching for him or her.

People around you will be very fond of asking, “Mayaman ka na ba?” “May naipundar ka na ba?”–because that’s how they’ve known OFWs in the movies and pictures. May you find the patience and courage to make them understand that working abroad is not an instant way to get rich. Some traditional beliefs don’t die easily. You were once a victim of this mindset. Now that you have experienced the real life of an overseas worker, you may now unsubscribe to the unrealistic expectations that you, and society, have imposed on yourself.

Ever since the pandemic came, your journey has become tougher. Your job is at risk, you worry for your family, especially your old parents’ health. You can’t help but miss your immediate support system, and the places you’ve vowed to visit have not been ticked off on your bucket list. You try harder to make ends meet, to hide the pain in your voice every time you talk to your loved ones, and to wake up each day and do the same routine all over again for survival. None of this is a joke. Be shamelessly proud of the fact that you are able to surpass the challenges on your own.

I know for certain that you are also disheartened with what is happening in our home country. It’s like it has been forever left behind in terms of laws, systems, crisis management, and good governance. You find yourself pained by a constant dilemma: to stay in the country for good, or to stay abroad. And things that will lead you to the right decision are yet to unfold.

May your strength never cease.

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