Memories of a Life I once Had

The past few weeks had been and still is excruciatingly hard on me. Last June, my roommate left to move back home and I was left to fork the bill of the house that I was living in.

The landlord though compassionate (and a distant relative of mine) have been very difficult when looking for a new renter. She only wanted females and she was easily afraid of people with several tattoos.  My landlord is an older lady who lived once in a very bad part of town in her early marriage and from what I understand was severely traumatized by the violence that at one point affected her own children that she has a almost fearful phobia of anyone with tattoo’s.

Several “interested” clients who looked at the place would show eager interest only to blow us off. But either way I had to fork the bill for a $1200 two bedroom home.

Many ask me why don’t I just leave and find a new place.  But things are easier said than done. before my mother passed away, me and my family live in this small two bedroom house since 2006 in National City CA.  To move to a new apartment would cost me around $1200 upfront.  As some places require first and last months rent plus security deposit. And my bad credit score will reject me from being eligible even for studio or one bedroom apartments which at the cheapest costs $750-1100.   There’s the issue of all the furniture at my current home and my pets which I was unwilling to give up to a shelter and the few mementos left to me by my mom before she died.

The neighborhood a decade or so was labeled as a ghetto area, has transformed as more families, mainly Filipino’s moved in due to the low housing prices. Crime rate has been low in the city for several years and is turning more into a suburban town with good schools, malls and a community center.

My mother filled the small home with furnishings, tended the yard and we even had cats from abandoned stray kittens born into our back yard.

After my mother passed away and we were swindled off significantly by a large amount of money by our insurance rep, me and my father were left with a debt from her medical bills and funeral cost.  My father decided to move back to the Philippines, as we still have a home there and escape the painful memory of losing my mom, while I had to pay off a massive credit card and renters debt we owed.  I did not blame him for leaving me, I was in my mid 20’s and my father was also in an advanced age was better off with his siblings in the Philippines while I pay the financial issues left here.  My father lived off the pension he received from his retirement from the Navy which gave him a somewhat comfortable income.

I was somehow able to pay off close to $5000 of credit card and other bills under a year, and how I survived the 2008-2010 economic downfall and several unemployment was short of a miracle.  I was able to find a stable job but am still living paycheck to pay check, but not before being laid off and jumping from several companies and working as a temp.

Even so, as emotionally, financially and physically exhausted as I am. I always told myself that I have been through worse and should be grateful of such experiences.

The life I had back in the Philippines was a privileged one. We were not rich but we were well provided for.  We had a maid and a driver which is typical even for Middle class Filipinos. My father’s dollar salary made us sure we weren’t scrimping for bills. I was enrolled in a good school and one of the top universities in the Philippines. Unfortunately my mother’s overbearing and over protective nature, plus the downsides of being an only child led me to grew up slightly spoiled, naïve, tactless and awkward social skills.  And we had several financial downfalls. My father was prone to being scammed of his money (even today) by so called friends, and my mothers life saving’s were stolen for her and we had to go back to square one. At least we had our home and that was all that was important.

When I moved back in the US around 2005, it was a punishment given to me by my mother. I was set to marry a  childhood friend who gained my mother’s blessing.  Around that time I had a successful career and just got promoted to management with one of the top media companies in Manila. However I realized my fiancée cheated on me and I broke off the relationship which also caused a huge rift between me and my parents. I was sent to the US in a matter of days, forced to leave my work, friends and loved ones.

It was me and my mom at first, boarding at a room with a family friend of hers. To the US workforce my 4 plus years of office experience from the Philippines was insufficient and I ended up working at Von’s as a restocker for the bakery department and a dishwasher. I would wake up at 4:00 AM in the morning for a 5:00 AM shift, walk to the store half a mile from the house and stand 6-8 hours a day over the counter or minding heavy and hot bakery equipment.  It was my first real taste of hard labor. MY personality changed then, I became less spoiled, I learned the value of money (even though I was already frugal to begin with), and resented attitudes of some of my friends who spent away their salary over unneeded luxuries. At the same time I was wrecked with envy as I wanted to enjoy to buy myself a nice dress. I was often laughed at by US raised Filipino’s because the called me a FOB – an almost racist term to call us Filipinos raised in the Philippines. Most Fil-Ams consider us Philippine raised Pinoys, as dumb, unclassy, uneducated and in severe cases just here to marry and get a green card. What they did not know I was already a citizen from birth, however I was still shunned especially at church.

Things got worse after my mom left back for the Philippines to tend to our house and my father. I left my job at Vons and received an offer to work Sony Playstation in San Diego. However my mother’s friend whom I lived with and I had a falling out and accused me of tapping her phone line with my cellphone (which I have no idea how she concluded to that), called me a whore and many more profanities and attempted to call the cops on me. The weeks leading to me leaving her house, she has made very rude remarks towards me and I tried to avoid her as much even not eating for certain days and lock myself up in the room.

I still remember that day, it was a Tuesday and it was cold and wet. I excused myself politely from her home and gathered my clothes in boxes and my luggage and left her house.  I was homeless on the street for that day. I also recently got laid off from Sony due to lack of projects.  A distant relative wont be able to pick me up till late that evening or the wee hours of next morning , and even they were apprehensive to take me in. And like in a movie drama, it started to rain.

I was out, in the cold, my former landlords son even saw me outside on a sidewalk and barely acknowledged me, I had nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and only $700 in my bank account, yet no job. I was drenched and so where all my belongings, I was glad the rain was able to hide my tears.

I ended up living first at my distant aunts home. Which was 30 miles away from my next employment prospective. I first slept at her couch then she finally offered a room. I would again wake up at 4:00 AM to take public transportation- I did not own a car then nor knew how to drive. In most days my commute would take me 2 hours on the road. I would try to catch sleep at the bus. At one point I would arrive an hour early at the building and I would fall asleep at the restroom in side a handicap stall. In all those time I would sob and cry, I would think of the life I once had back home in the Philippines as compared to the one I lived now. I questioned, how did it ever got this bad. Yet in front of my colleagues I always stayed cheerful and positive.

The  experience was humbling and life changing however my lack of a support system, family and real friends left me feeling so alone. There was a year I would do this tango, sleeping in the bathroom of the building I worked till the offices opened. To leave any later means I’ll be stuck in the morning traffic Jam so I had to leave early. The daily exhaustion took a toll on my physically. I was sick a lot, I gained some weight, and aged significantly since. My financial status at one point became evident to one coworker as she noted how ragged and worn my clothes are. A ruder HR personnel that hired me in a new company said on my first day, my salary should allow me to buy decent and nicer clothes.  I even resorted borrowing money from some friends (to this day I slowly am paying them off) and one even was kind to gift me a laptop that helped me find a job when I did not have one.

One of the sons of my former landlord took great pity on me, and added me to his carpool since we had offices close by. I just needed to pay him lunch and gas. On some days he would let me nap at his car when I was exhausted from commute (sometimes we would meet halfway).

Eventually my parents came back and had some finances to rent my current home and in time was able to purchase a 2nd hand car. I learned to cook, learned to drive, do many things for myself and appreciated a lot of things in my life. My friends here and the Philippines often think I’m too negative and I need to socialize more. For me it was a matter of saving (I still have $3500 of debt to pay), and I was always tired from work I was content to snuggle at my bed than do the bar scene. As for unwinding I turned to video games or walking in downtown’s gaslamp district.

I would tell a friend of mine who grew up spoiled  by his enabling parents that he is lucky he has a family that provides for him as compared to me who has been on my own for several years now and often depressed over the death of my mom. Unlike me, the only bills that he pays is 2 cards and a phone. I remind him that I pay for a house, gas, water, car, food, rent and many more.

The memory of that night out at the sidewalk in the rain still haunts me, yet I am grateful for the learning experience. I always say that my life somewhat turned around for me on that evening, that though I still make mistakes I am a better person than I was before. Today Im again scrimping for food and budget to maintain the roof over my head. I keep telling myself that the worst has already passed me then and that I am stronger than this.

Just persevere and pray.


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