As humans we need community.
I grew up in the Philippines, where community is embedded in our culture. Whenever we’d host events we would always prepare food for an extra 20 people because you never know who’s going to show up and you always share with your neighbors. Everyone knows each other and sharing food is one of the many ways we support one another. Our events were always filled with music. My dad would play the guitar almost every day, my brother was in a band – singing and dancing was everywhere.
I lost all of this when I came to the US at 18. My grandmother had petitioned for me to immigrate when I was 8 years old. After ten years of waiting passed, I stopped believing that I would ever come to the United States. Then, when it happened all I wanted was to be back in the Philippines. I didn’t want to be here. I was depressed and homesick and on top of that I was expected to support my family back home.
In Filipino culture there’s an expectation that you help your family when you are making more money than them, which can be very stressful. It's a lot of pressure for a teenager, but because that’s our culture, I thought it was normal and that I had to manage. Now I realize that I grew up too fast. I was working two jobs and living paycheck to paycheck just trying to survive in the Bay Area. I had so many responsibilities at a young age and while it’s still stressful to think about, it’s influenced my work ethic and my mindset. I now know that I can figure out any challenge I’m confronted with, even if it’s something I’ve never seen before.