Love Yourself First
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
| This is the 352nd story of Our Life Logs |
Tim Han, my mentor and savior, taught me that “Our mess is our message.” So, I guess I have a big message because my life has sure been a big mess. Let me explain.
I am the youngest child of my dad and the firstborn of my mom. I know. It’s a little bit confusing. My dad was a widowed man with four children when he met my mom, who was 14 years younger than him. Three months after I was born in 1988, a heart attack took my father, and since my older half-siblings were already adults with families by then, it was just me and my mom to take on the world together. And so, my mother raised me by herself in a small town known as Lucena in the Philippines.
Growing up without a father, talking to guys was always weird for me. I only knew a mother’s love, but I felt comfortable in that. Perhaps this is what led to me questioning my sexuality as I became an adolescent—well, that, and because I secretly crushed on my female schoolmates.
I was desperate to find love, thinking I wasn’t complete without it. I fantasized about becoming a boy so I could love girls openly. As a teenager, I began adopting a boyish style. I don’t know how my mom didn’t get suspicious of my sexuality when I was wearing loose, ragged shirts and baggy pants most days. Because I was shy and often bullied for my style, I never successfully found another gay woman who liked me back in high school. Life was quite lonely.
As I began university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I was in search of a community I could be a part of as I began adulthood. An international religious group was in search of a guitarist for their band, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to meet new people. However, lesbians weren’t exactly allowed to join. Because I was desperate to feel accepted in any way I could, I convinced myself that I was straight. I pushed myself to crush on guys and tried to forget about my interest in girls. But, since I wasn’t really interested in guys, I ended up being both NBSB (no boyfriend since birth) and NGSB (no girlfriend since birth) until I graduated college. I spent so much time searching for someone to love that I forgot one of the most crucial components to finding true love: loving myself.
Despite knowing that I was into women, I continued to hide it from my family. In the Philippines, many people carry traditional Christian beliefs so few people here openly come out of the closet. One of the only places I was open about my sexuality was through a closed Facebook group, and even then, I used a fake profile to cover my tracks. I mostly observed at first, but in November 2013, I developed a connection with a woman in the group who lived about 170 miles away. She messaged me first and we soon realized we had a lot in common. She was closeted like me and we were both part of the same international religious group. As we became closer and more romantically interested, we decided to both leave the group.
Fast forward, we texted a lot, grew closer, and little by little, we showed each other our true identities. Eventually, we met halfway between our provinces. From there, we spent more time together in person, and she stayed at my mom’s once for five days. To my mom, she was just my “best friend.” After seven months of courting, we officially became a couple.
Life became rocky in May 2014 after my drug-addicted aunt and her stubborn son moved into my mom’s house. She was running from her abusive, drug-addicted boyfriend. My mom had no choice but to take them in because our house wasn’t really our house. It was owned by her siblings. I began to feel trapped and wanted to get away from my aunt. The stress of it all made me decide to run away from home and quit my job as a pharmacy assistant in January 2015. I told my mom I was going on a month-long vacation when I was actually moving in with my girlfriend. She was my savior, my escape. I was so thankful that she let me come stay with her during such a difficult time in my life.
I wasn’t really sure what my plan was. I’d either be there temporarily, stay and get a job where my girlfriend worked, or I’d just go find work in Manila, a bordering city.
Three months passed and I still didn’t have a job. My mom texted me to visit home, but I was so stressed by everything, I didn’t even reply. It soon became one of my biggest life regrets. Not long after, a hospital guard called me saying that my mom was sick and asked for me. Frantic, I rushed home with my girlfriend, praying she was fine.
I never got to say goodbye. As I sobbed, my auntie told me that she had a heart attack, taking her last breath in the church. Kind strangers carried her in the hospital. That was one of my lowest moments. I felt so guilty, so selfish. I had abandoned my mom when she needed me most, too busy and too afraid to answer a simple text.
Now I was an orphan, and I knew my life would never be the same. My girlfriend promised me that she wouldn’t leave me, seeing how broken I was with this new fate. In that moment, I hated myself for being a lesbian. I felt worthless, like a curse to the world.
My mom was cremated with her siblings’ financial help, and I brought her ashes with me to my apartment. To try moving on, I continued searching for a job. Finally, I found one as a sales agent in an internet corporation. Things seemed to be looking up—then my girlfriend applied for a job abroad. She said she wanted to financially help her family, but I knew it wasn’t just that. For most of our relationship, I was a hindrance to her progress in life. She’d never say it to my face, but I knew it was true.
When I expressed my concern, she began acting nasty toward me, even going as far as slapping me once in public. I can still remember the hurtful words she sputtered at me, “Who are you? You are just my friend.” From then on, all we did was fight until she left our motherland.
The plan was to follow her to Bahrain, but I couldn’t find work. So, even though it was far away, I tried applying in Taiwan and miraculously, I found a job there and packed my things. Before I left, I buried my mom’s ashes.
While I was working in Taiwan, I learned that my girlfriend was cheating on me, even though she refused to admit it. Desperate for her love, especially after losing the only other woman who loved me, I stayed with her until she finally dumped me in 2017.
The more time I spent in Taiwan, the better I felt. Here, I felt more comfortable coming out to my new workmates after one of them openly admitted that she liked me. We started dating in June of 2017. At first, we got along, but I soon realized I had found someone who couldn’t love me the way I desperately wanted her to. She liked hitting me as a “joke” and was quite sadistic. She got pleasure from hurting me, in and out of the bedroom. Hungry for love and broken-hearted from my last relationship, I felt that this girl was the best I could get and that I deserved this abuse. Most of all, I was afraid of being completely alone. With both of my parents being dead and my siblings living their own lives, I felt I didn’t have anyone.
Then, the worst happened. The girl I’d been seeing went back to her ex-boyfriend who she had two kids with. I knew about her past and had been denying that she’d ever go back, but a part of me knew this day would come. I was just a fun experiment to her. In that moment, I didn’t think I could sink any lower. I felt alone, I felt lost, I felt like dying. I began to wonder if this was all karma for not being there for my mom. Maybe this was the universe cursing me forever. Maybe I’d never deserve love.
As I was wallowing in how worthless I felt, I stumbled upon a motivational YouTube video in the recommended section. The mentor, Tim Han, spoke about how all people are worthy, no matter what they’ve done or endured in their life. He said, “Our mess is our message.” Suddenly, I woke to reality. He was right. No one deserves to be mistreated no matter what they’ve done in life. Just because I am a lesbian doesn’t mean I’m unworthy of love because all humans deserve love. And just because I made a mistake with my mom, it doesn’t mean that I should punish myself forever. I’m a human with flaws and regrets like everyone else.
Tim Han from the video had other courses I bought and his classes helped give me the confidence to build my career. He was also a shy kid who was a bullying victim. Hearing his story made me see that people like us could succeed. In the video’s description, there was a link to schedule an interview with their manager to join their Facebook group where I’d have access to a monthly course to help become successful. Feeling inspired and knowing I had a lot of life experience, I interviewed and got accepted in April 2018. Now, I’m helping others get to where they want to be.
Through both Tim Han and my experiences, I’ve learned to be vulnerable but also remember that I’m the one responsible for loving and valuing myself. Until I loved myself, I’d never find the love I was searching for. The purpose of entering a relationship is to extend the love that is already inside you. Love is giving, not just taking.
This is the story of Cris Ison
Cris is now in Taiwan, starting her career as a fiction-writing coach. Growing up, Cris hid her sexuality as a lesbian from her family. When the stress was too much to bear, Cris left home. In her absence, her mother died from a heart attack, sending Cris into a new wave of guilt and shame. For years, Cris tried to deal with her loneliness by jumping into new relationships, only to find out that she needed to learn to love and forgive herself first. Now, she isn’t ashamed to be vulnerable in order to warn others to avoid committing her mistakes. Her main purpose in life is to be a legacy for her mom. Cris is a feminist who is on a mission of giving charity and justice to women who are victims of rape.
This story first touched our hearts on May 29, 2019.
| Writer: Cris Ison | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |
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