by Angelique Campo, FINDink Contributor

I spent a lot of my years trying to get to the bottom of who I am.

At a young age, I taught myself how to be small, in every essence of the word.

When I became aware of all my flaws, aches, and growing pains that I didn’t like about myself, I began to learn what it felt to be insecure and suddenly, being small became progressively easier.

There were parts of me I kept hidden away. I pushed everything I felt down, hoping that one day those feelings would disappear. I thought I was just being dramatic when I was younger. But then it started following me for longer periods of time. My mind took one, little thought and ran with it, and it wouldn’t stop until I was hyperventilating. It was such a stark contrast of what I felt versus who I portrayed myself to be to everyone around me.

You never want anyone to know, because it brings an onslaught of shame and guilt. Like I’m not allowed to feel this way. Because there’s no reason to. It’s not real and I’m not actually suffering.

You have this, and you have that. You’re so lucky compared to others. Stop complaining.

So, I stopped.

I made it so that it was small; so tiny that it was insignificant.

Because if it were small, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

If it were small enough, it wasn’t real. And if I brushed it off like I learned to, then I would be fine.

I hadn’t realized what a disservice I was doing to myself by invalidating my own emotions. I was shrinking myself to fit into an outdated cultural narrative that was brought down from generations before me. I didn’t understand it until I got to college. I couldn’t run from it anymore. I couldn’t ignore it when it started seeping into my life during the day and putting italics on my sadness at night.

When I finally got diagnosed with anxiety and depression, it was such a weird sense of relief. Like I could breathe now that I knew what was wrong.

But at the same time, it opened doors to conversations I still was not ready to have, with people I loved who couldn’t quite understand why, and trauma from growing up that I had to relive over and over again until I accepted it for what it was: trauma.

For me, healing meant having to peel myself down to the very core, everytime, in hopes to get to the bottom of it all. You make a valiant effort to explain it to other people, and yet, it still doesn’t get any easier.

That’s why this month in particular is very special to me. It’s the first one that’s allowed me to feel valid. After a year of not being able to recognize her, she was able to build herself back up.

Once I faced the fear that became my own truth, I made some room, instead of shrinking.

I finally felt the gravity in kind words. I started saying them to myself. I said it out loud. It was then that I decided this is where I begin again.

And I will start over every time if it means getting the opportunity be better than I was before.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Knot Who I am

by Carlo Arellano, FINDInk Contributor

A heavy knot weighs down in my chest, and it can’t be loosened or untied.

It was skillfully crafted by the hands of many Filipino men, passing it down as a family heirloom before they died.

My father wove his string into it, as did his father before him, and his father before him, and now this weight in my chest is my birth-righted inheritance, but I’m the first one to be born foreign.

I am a Filipino-American, spelled with a hyphen that is eighty five hundred miles long and having to face the realities of two clashing mentalities makes it hard to decipher right from wrong. cuz you see -

Growing up, grade school was a breeze, all As with not even a single B on my way to getting a degree, but it was my homeschooling that brought me to my knees, praying for mercy.

My homeschooling taught me that there is something in the water of those 7000 islands that make these men fall silent because they don’t talk about the knots in their chests without getting violent.

This same water distilled in every San Mig because why emotionally try and dig if you can just take swig after swig in between puffing pain out the butt of a cig?

That was the kind of communication imported to us from another nation but us Filipinos are a special variation of being Asian because we have own unique set of complications.

After all, we are as Asian as European, we have the whole spectrum of religions to believe in, but our region is mostly made up of God fearing individuals whose English is mainly biblical which makes this language barrier so formidable so I understand why us FilAms become so cynical when our parents “force” us into clinicals or any other field THEY deem profitable.

So please, listen to every word and syllable when I say that this hole in my heart, both metaphorical and literal, is simply unfillable because no matter how hard I try dad,

We are just not relatable.

That’s why I love hearing about your past, and learning what makes you laugh, so while trying to be you and find me, my heart feels torn in half even though i know that all you want for me

Is to have what you couldn’t have.

You gave up your entire life to be here, left your home with nothing but a suitcase and fear, yet the only time I saw your eyes bear a tear, was when lolo passed on…because he was there, and you were here.

You were here, giving the American Dream a try just so you can put food on my plate, and turn out the lights, working the full-time job of teaching your boys wrong from right, all while I struggle with the fact that I am the reason, you don’t sleep so you can work day and night.

The knot in your chest dad, is only getting tighter and tighter, and I wish it was me and not the alcohol that could make it lighter, so that’s the reason why I am here to pull these all-nighters in the hopes of being hired so I can finally send you back home to see lolo, and finally retire. But just like yours dad, my knot is only getting tighter, and i wish i told you sooner but you didn’t raise crier, you raised a fighter.

I love being your son, but I can’t be you. I know your love for me is true but when I have no clue as to what to do with my life, the last thing i need is a heart that is black and blue.

So when I raise your grandkids, I am going to love them with all of my being,

I am going to patch them up when they are bleeding,

And say “i love you” after I’m done with their night time readings,

And when I am old and my life is fleeting from a heart that stopped beating, they will remember me by seeing the truth behind the lies that the toxic parts of this culture’s masculinity was feeding and that life lessons do not have to be learned at the end of an emotional, or physical beating.

I love you dad, but I won’t be you.

And eventually,

I hope my children tell me the same thing too.


Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.