It was early morning that day. The sky was still dark when I heard muffled crying. I kept my eyes firmly closed. I had this horrible feeling deep in my gut, but I did not want to face any of it just yet. I heard more people scurry into the room, and on cue, more cries emerged. I knew I could not escape this scene any longer. I opened my eyes.
To the left side of the bed laid my mom, all thin and frail. I felt cold. But just as sudden as that feeling came a deep fiery warmth that enveloped my chest. I was taken aback by this and frantically asked my younger brother for a glass of water. I drank the water down and the warmth slowly subsided. That was the moment I knew she was truly gone.
My mom bravely fought and lost a long and painful battle with breast cancer. “You don’t know what you have until you lose it”, oh you don’t know how much these words ring true. She was my role model and my best friend. She has always been there for me, and even in her dying days I delusionally thought she would always be there for me.
With her sickness and death came a 180° shift in my life. My mom was without a doubt a big part of who I am, a big part of all my decisions, big and small. I am a middle child and a very indecisive kid. I asked my mom about her opinions on everything, from ‘should I put a comma here’ to ‘what course should I take for college’. I remember thinking since I was small that I will also become a doctor one day, so I can be successful just like my mom.
But of course, I wasn’t my mom. I wasn’t organized, I wasn’t conscientious or diligent, and I cannot stand science. I passed the exams but there was no way I’d survive medical school with my work ethic. And so when I ultimately did not pursue that path I sincerely thought I had become a total utter failure. My mom was the first to insistently tell me that not being a doctor did not mean it was the end of the world. I didn’t believe her. Being a doctor was the only thing I knew I wanted to become, what else was there?
Time went by and I would still wallow in that same sentiment. But now that my mom isn’t here, I felt like I lost a massive support structure. I still had the same misgivings, I was still lost, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing… but this time I had to fend off for myself. Now I didn’t have my mom to give me the ‘right advice’ all the time. I think since my mom was such a big influence in my life, I did not really have that ‘freedom’ to find out what I wanted to do outside of her. She didn’t restrict me of course, I was the one who put my own set of blinders.
As hard as it was, I had to find out who I was and what I should be doing with my life without her help. Looking back though, I think this made the whole process of ‘finding myself’ faster because I can no longer rely on her for my decisions. I tried different jobs, different courses, and I had a lot of setbacks, but this time, I had the chance to make my own mistakes.
Today, I’m happy to report that I no longer want to be a doctor. As cliché as this story gets, I want to be an ‘artist’ now. I’m currently doing my best studying illustration and I’ve come a long way from those days where I felt hollow and lost. I’ve slowly but surely started to find direction and meaning by tapping into my creative potential. This is me, for the first time in my life, really working on things that I searched deep down I really wanted to do, for my own sake.
If you have read this far, I’m sure you would have realized I’ve had my own struggles with denial and depression. It wasn’t the best of times, but looking at it now, maybe it was what needed to happen to make me the person I needed to become. For one thing, I probably wouldn’t be working on aproject that is close to my heart called “MuniReality”, where we hope to cast a light on mental illness by turning real personal stories into games. It has my passions of psychology, art, and fun all wrapped into one delightful concept. I’m not sure how the project will turn out, but I will do my best knowing that it is something I decided to do all on my own.
I’m kind of sad that my mom never got to see me digitally illustrating and doing all these artsy projects. But deep down, I think my mom knew this was my path all along.
In my college years, while I was still studying psychology, she gave me a drawing tablet for my birthday. I didn’t use this gift until 8 years later, long after she was gone. One particularly gloomy day, I just decided to connect it to my laptop and I was delighted to find that it still worked. I draw with this same tablet to this day, and I’d like to believe that where ever my mom is, that she is proud and happy to know that I have found myself, little by little, contentedly illustrating my dreams.