Proud (adj.) – feeling or showing pride
About three years ago, I was helping out at a Gala for my school where I was overwhelmed from emotion at the gratitude I felt for those who got me to where I was.
I posted this photo and this excerpt to go along with it:
“In a few months, I’ll be the first person in my family to graduate from an American university. Without the courage of my family to make the big move to the United States from the Philippines, the scholarships I’ve received from gracious donors, and the drive to succeed from my incredibly hard-working parents, I wouldn’t be at the SeattleU Gala. Speaking to people that have made the opportunity to attend this private, Jesuit university was so humbling and made me so damn proud to be a Filipino-American woman who is gonna set the world on fiyaaaah!”
I’ve always been driven with a goal to succeed and create my path in this world. The values were instilled in me when I was young. I was 4 1/2 years old when my family decided to leave the Philippines and move to America with my Mom’s family for a chance of a better life and better education. I never forget my roots and the sacrifice it took to bring me to where I am.
One of the first things I remember when I moved to the U.S. was my Ninang telling me, “Raelene, you live in America now. You need to speak English so kids don’t make fun of you and you don’t have trouble in school.” So I learned to speak English, watched PBS in the mornings, met a lot of cool kids at school, and read a lot of books.
In primary school, my Grandpa Lu would walk me to school as I rode my pink bicycle with streamers and he’d always say goodbye with the phrase “Study hard, Raelene. Do well in school.” before walking my bike back to our three-bedroom house in Hawthorne, CA that sheltered 9 of my family members. So I studied hard, did well in school, participated in extracurricular activities my family could afford, and did everything I could to make sure I was a competitive candidate for colleges.
Eventually, after many years of hard freaking work and perseverance, all of my family members achieved their own version of the American Dream.
Boy, am I beaming right now as I type this. 🙂
Now, it’s my turn to live my life and make it known their hard work didn’t go unnoticed.
For the longest time, I knew what my purpose was and that was to make my family and my parents proud of me. For my little brother, it took him a little bit longer and little more pushing for him to get to the point where he recognized what the word “proud” meant and how powerful it is for a parent to say “I am proud of you.”
We are 6 1/2 years apart. I remember being in the gold Mazda minivan when my parents told me my prayers came true and that I was going to be a big sister to a baby brother. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night when my parents told me they were going to the hospital and the next time I would see them was when I was going to meet my little brother. I remember being in my 2nd grad classroom when my dad picked up from school and took me to meet my baby brother.
After all of the hardships my family has faced and worked tirelessly to overcome, I almost felt as if I raised this little guy. I call him my Little Man. In fact, his name is “Little Man” in my address book 🙂
He was always a shy kid, the kid that would cry when being held by people he didn’t know, and the kid that would rather hug his family member’s leg than play with other kids at parties. When he got to his sophomore year of high school, he started to blossom and become his own person.
He discovered dance and made friends from various dance teams. His personality started to shine and he started to feel a sense of belonging and purpose. As his senior year approached though, he still didn’t really know if he wanted to go to college and didn’t know what he wanted to study if he did go.
Coming from an immigrant family, this could be frustrating as you feel this pressure to know what you want to do and always play by the book. You seek a better life in America. You go to school. You do well in school. You go to college. You get a good job. Boom. Easy. Right?
Not so much.
When my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, I heard the news the week I was supposed to graduate from college. It was also the year before my brother’s junior year when students are supposed to start thinking about where they will be applying for college and start studying for the ACT or SAT. My mom gave me the task of guiding him towards the direction of pursuing a college degree at a four-year university.
At first my brother was doubtful of his abilities and lack of motivation. He didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t until his senior year when the pressure of applying for schools was right in front of him, did he start to seriously consider his future.
After three weeks of discovering the brain tumor that invaded my mom’s head, she started to show signs of improvement and was continuing her fight to live. Eventually she woke up from her coma, was able to breathe on her own, and start to talk but she was still in the ICU, being closely monitored by the nurses and doctors at Harbor-UCLA.
It was a miracle, really. She was in really bad shape but she made it another step forward. The first few weeks after brain surgery was frustrating for her. Her speech muscles weren’t firing when she wanted and it was difficult for her to form words. She’d furrow her brows and turn her head in frustration when she felt misunderstood and helpless–a look that I had become familiar with and have etched in my memory of the painful times my mother endured.
Around the beginning of November 2017, I was visiting LA for the weekend to check on my mom and see her progress. I also wanted to spend some time with my brother and see if he had made any decisions on schools or if he wanted to attend community college until he figures out his path.
To cheer him up over our new situation of coming home to a house without my mother’s presence while she’s in the hospital, I got Chickenjoy and spaghetti from Jollibee and had lunch with him at home. I asked him if he had given any thought to college applications and to my surprise, he said “Yes Ate, I think I know what I want to do.”
I was shocked but wanted him to continue opening up about his thoughts on his future. I asked, “So, what do you think you want to do?”
He replied, “I think I want to be a nurse.”
My heart was so happy at this news. I had my doubts as I knew how difficult the road would be to get there but I believed in him so long as he wanted this. I felt so honored to be the first person to know about my brother’s plans. It was our little secret as I patiently guided him towards possible schools and letting him know the journey ahead from experience of friends who had gone through it.
That November night, my brother and I visited my mom at the hospital. I shared with my mom that John and I just celebrated a year since our engagement and went to Victoria, BC to celebrate. I showed her our photos and she smiled and said “Ah-pee” and I replied, “Yes Momma, we are very happy.”
I appreciated that even though it pained her to speak, she mustered enough energy to recognize the photos and respond back. I remember looking into her eyes as she fought to keep her head turned to me despite the bulge of medical wrap around her head that protected her delicately healing skull and brain. Oh boy, it pained me to see her struggle like that. But I brushed that pain away and tucked it in so I can focus on the good and keep her mentally strong.
After sharing that moment, I looked to my brother, then I looked at my mom. I asked my mom, “Hey Momma, want to know a secret?” She nodded her head up and down. Then I took her right hand, motioned to my brother to hold her hand and said “Lanz shared something with me earlier that I think you’d like to know.”
So my brother and I switched places, and my brother told our mom “Mom, I think I know what I want to do with my life now. I want to be a nurse.”
For the first time in a long time, I saw tears from my mom’s eyes. She was crying. Up until now doctors weren’t sure if she can show emotion like this. She was fighting to speak but her mouth and tongue just weren’t clicking and she turned away in frustration, trying to gather her thoughts. I can see she was thinking how to tell my brother what she wanted to say. Then a few seconds later, she turned her head towards my crying brother.
He continued, “I want to be a nurse so I can take care of you and help you get better. I also want to help people like you Mom.” It broke my heart to hear that, knowing that we weren’t sure how long my mom would make it. But I let them continue having their moment, fighting back the tears welling up in my eyes.
For a few more moments, my brother continued to cry onto our mom’s fragile hand, bruised from all of the needles inserted below her skin.
Then, our crying mother started mouthing “Owww” and I can see her lips coming together to say “Powwww” then I helped her out, knowing what she wanted to say.
I asked, “Are you trying to say ‘proud’?” And she nodded her head yes. She then tried to whisper towards my brother, seeing that it was easier on her healing throat after spending weeks on a ventilator.
She said “Prow of you” to my brother and he continued to cry.
When my brother and I said our goodnight to our mom, we got back to the car and I told my brother that I was proud of him for getting to this point. He opened up saying he’s been feeling so lost and had no direction and that wanting be a nurse finally gave him a sense of purpose and belonging in the world. He was overwhelmed from emotion.
He had never really heard my mom say that she was proud of him like that. He felt relieved and supported and so, so loved.
Now, my brother is at a Cal State school, beginning his freshman year of school with plans to apply to the College of Nursing after completing pre-requisites. That experience as the three of us in that hospital room will forever be cemented in my memory. It was a passing of a torch from my mother to me and a stamp of a approval from our mother to her baby boy.
Whenever there are time I am uncertain with my life decisions in the past year, I asked, would my mom be supportive of this? Would she be proud of me?
I think most of us children, no matter how old, ask ourselves this question. Whether it’d be in my twenties or in my sixties, I am sure I will look up to the clouds and the stars in the sky and ask my mom what she thought of my decision.
Momma, I love you. I also want you to know that I am so proud of you, too. For fighting, for believing, for being such a great mother, and for being such a light that many of us look to in times of doubt. I am so proud of you.
Happy Wellness Wednesday!
I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts every Wednesday so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.
This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.
This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.
We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.
Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂
One thought on “I am proud of you. // Oct 2018”
Hi Raelene this has brought tears to my eyes again. I am tremendously proud of you and Lanz. My dear friend Levy may have lost her battle to cancer, but she has definitely won on all angles having Bombo as her husband and you and Lanz as her children I love you, truly