When I was younger, I expressed often to my mom that I had no interest in having children.
"I don’t think all women are supposed to be mommies".
My mom would dismiss this idea quickly and tell me, “You’ll reach a certain age where it’ll just happen. It’s natural. All women want to have babies.”
I saw you smile in your sleep this morning. 3 consecutive moments where the right side of your mouth perked up into the upper corner and was suspended there for a few seconds. Then as if in conversation, your face quickly morphed into an active listener pose. Smiling and nodding. This happened 3 times in the span of 3 minutes. How I longed to know what you were dreaming about. The last smile faded and was replaced with a half-opened pout of the mouth, your lips quivering as if you were mouthing words to a song. The rising and falling of your chest, heavy breathing, and stoic face with a half-opened mouth, reminded me that you’ve returned to a place where I cannot reach you.
Far too often I dream of places I’d like to be, have conversations with people I’d like to meet, and write stories that haven’t been written yet. My dreams have enabled me to see beyond my previous suburban dwelling, and encouraged me to imagine a life that no one has dared imagine could be a reality.
I have unusual dreams. I dream throughout the day of squirrels scrambling around in a panic, clutching acorns to their chest, making sure that not one falls before they make it back to their home. My imagination allows me to inquire further about that squirrel - was he rushing to get food on the table (assuming that squirrels have tables) before the kids got home from school? Because I’m sure squirrels go to squirrel school, where they learn how to be squirrels. And you see how I changed up the traditional gender roles there? Male squirrels, female squirrels, everyone collaborates to make the family dynamic equal. That’s why squirrels have it together - I’m almost certain that’s why they rush to get through the mundane activities, to spend time with their squirrel family in order to do more important squirrel stuff.
Sometimes my dreams scare me, in which case they just seem too big, too grandiose, and too farfetched to ever aspire for. And after a night of dreaming these types of dreams, I wake up thinking - well, what’s the point of dreaming if you don’t allow yourself to dream big? As long as I have the ability to dream, aspire, and work towards something greater, then nothing is too childish to consider worth thinking about.
I don’t tell you enough but I am very proud of you. Despite the fact that I genuinely mean that, it also makes me feel awkward to express it. Probably because it’s rare in our family to express emotions of love and affection especially our adolescent years, and now as adults, it feels even more uncomfortable.
But what can I say to you that you don’t already know?
You two are a constant reminder of why I do the work I do. As a second-generation Filipina American, the obligation to make you two proud and to ensure success in this country for our family has always fallen on my shoulders, the eldest daughter. At times those obligations informed my decisions, in terms of what career paths I should follow, what I should study in school, and who I should associate myself with. Most of the time I didn’t agree with your recommendations and still to this day, I don’t. But I hope that you two understand that I am working towards my dreams, always to honor you.
When I think of the struggles of working and living within the working class to near poverty levels, I think of your first few years in the U.S. as recent immigrants. I think of Dad’s aspirations to pursue a creative career in performing arts, and I am reminded of the harsh realities of what a creative career can look like. I hear you, Mom. I hear your concerns of the longer I stay in school to pursue this potential career in academia or even pursuing a creative career in writing, that I might lose opportunities in practical jobs that will ensure a roof over my head. But I need you to trust me, that when I make these decisions, it’s always with the thoughts of how this will benefit our family in the long run. In order to break the cycle of poverty, not only do we have to analyze systems of oppression and how we fit into it, but we also need to be brave in challenging the system, to allow ourselves to imagine what life could look like.
I know this notion still carries an air of uncertainty, but the discomfort that comes with employing new ways of thinking is only the beginning.