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The Most Important Thing My Mother Taught Me | Isabel Marcelo

by Isabel Marcelo

Kinga Cichewiczwi



My mother is the most giving person I know. To this day, I’ve watched my mother put everyone else before herself. She’s always been like this. At a young age, she experienced one of the worst human experiences possible: the death of her own mother. The way my mother dealt with this is beyond me. Her resilience is something I’ve always aspired to attain.

Whenever I’d ask her about how she was when it all happened, she’d say, “I wasn’t going to let that affect me. What was I going to do? Go ‘WAHH WAHH’ and cry forever because my mother is dead? No! I took care of my brother and sister!” She was 9 years old when this happened. I know right, my mother is insane.

Growing up in the Philippines, she had one goal and one goal only: leave the country. She wanted a good life and she knew she wasn’t going to get it in the Philippines. After her mother died, she started hustling.

She’d go to the markets, ask the sellers if she could work for them, and when they’d agree, they’d give her handfuls of bags to sell and she’d go out, sell them all, then come back and ask for more bags to sell.

They’d always be surprised how quickly she could sell. My mother has always had this saying, “I can sell ice to an eskimo!” And I’m sure if she ever had the chance, she’d bloody do it. And she’d do it well.

Not only was she an excellent saleswoman, she was also a brilliant leader. In fact, she was kind of a gang leader (if one could be at a pre-teen age). Within her neighbourhood she was known as the Street Queen. She was like a young, female Godfather.

Kids would come running to her with their problems saying, “Bambi! Bambi! This kid is picking on me!” And she would round up her gang and go confront the bully. Sometimes it would end in a physical fight. Yes. My mother was just as insane back then.

When she was 17, she saw an ad on TV for a dance company that would be holding auditions for a European tour. She saw this as an opportunity to leave her home and finally build a good life for herself and for her siblings. She went to the auditions and made it into the company.

Soon enough, she was living her dream, touring around Europe as a dancer. It didn’t take long before she brought her younger sister out to Spain to be with her and experience this amazing life that she was now living. And as for her younger brother–she had made the decision to bring him to Australia when she knew she’d be moving there.

My mother’s whole life has been focused on building a good life for herself so that she could build a good life for her family. Soon after her mother died, she told herself, “Everything stops from me onwards. I will be the one to change things. Life will be good as of now. No one else will have to suffer.” I, along with many other people, owe a lot to my mother and that one decision she made.

My mother truly did build an amazing life for herself. She left the Philippines, moved to Spain, travelled around Europe living her dream as a dancer, married the love of her life, and raised a family in Australia where now–her son is a successful photographer/videographer/business man, and her daughter (me)–is living her dream, making a life for herself in London. As for my mother’s siblings–they are both happily married with their own families, living their own amazing life.

But my mother hasn’t only helped her family. She’s helped everyone that has ever come into her life that needed help. She’s helped her friends, and her kids’ friends, and friends of friends of friends…

Sometimes I would come home and she would introduce me to people she’d met that day and within a week, she’d have found jobs for them. Yes–my mother–despite being insane, is still the most giving and compassionate human being I know.

Through all of this, the most important thing she taught me was to put myself first. This is coming from one of the most unselfish people I know. But it’s true–in order to give to others, in order to love others, you must give and love to yourself first.

There’s no way my mother could have helped and supported all the people around her, if she didn’t take care of herself first. She made sure that she was always living a life first and foremost for herself.

Even when she met my father and they moved to Spain together, she still put herself first. She let my father live his life and she lived hers. She never needed anyone because she knew at the end of the day—she’d only have herself.

Since I was a young girl up until now, she’d always tell me, “Enjoy your life. Travel the world. Don’t worry about getting into a relationship. Don’t worry about settling down. All of that will come. For now–just enjoy your life.” And I’ve lived by those words since.

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