Goodbye to That

Hasmeyya Tiboron

One of the mixed blessings of being in your twenties is being old enough to take action on your goals but still young enough to take a different route in case you don’t want them anymore. I was twenty-one when I had the urge to pursue what I wanted to do, twenty-two when I found out I couldn’t, and twenty-three when I realized that the goals I set in my teenage years no longer matched the person I’d become.

We stopped at Bihing Tahik Resort one Saturday morning to pass the time. Our original plan was to hike to the peak of Bud Bongao but the sun was too intense for a hike and we were concerned more about Doc’s hypertension than the exhaustion and possible reptiles we might encounter later that day.

I was wearing a niqab but the salty air got through my nose I could feel it in my throat. We settled at the cottage at the far end of the resort. It’s so peaceful here. The ocean waves hitting the shore offer more than the relaxation we need.

“Banghunting banan sa trespasing.” Kuya said, referring to the sea vehicles in the distance. Those guys are looking out for trespassers.

“Katawan ka siki Rahma (not her real name) na sumyung samba, gyuto den mambo su mga wata, daden a mga kalek iran.” Doc said in a high-pitch outsounding the boat engines nearby. Did you know that Rahma and others went there once?

They exchanged stories about people who crossed the island adjacent to where we were. I wonder why it was such an issue. Is that a haunted island? Or a subject of mysterious urban legends we often see in movies?

“Di taw blu Doc?” I asked.
“Ababa mapya babay.” Doc said in her signature sarcastic Iranun tone.
“Malaysia den man anan Ma’am Has”. Kuya said. There were only three of us throughout our three-week fieldwork and if there’s something I learned about them, it’s that they can tell a joke and still maintain a poker face.
“Benar.” Doc said.
I pulled out my phone and checked our location and they were not joking. We were facing the sea borders with the Malaysian State of Sabah and North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, and the sea vehicles Kuya pointed to a while ago were Coast Guard vessels protecting territorial waters from trespassers and intruders.

The blurry outline of Malaysia harked me back to how I mentioned it a lot in my college days. My degree in Philosophy tweaked my outlook, and to put it in an Islamic Perspective, I wanted to advance it in a Master’s Degree in Malaysia. Or at least that’s what I told people when we talked about my plan after I graduate. But deep down, I had this aching desire to run away. To go anywhere far from where I grew up. The world is so big and yet I have contained myself in the small city at the bottom part of the country. I promised myself I would pull myself out of that container.

I was twenty-one when I got married but my new responsibility as a wife didn’t decrease that desire. It strengthened it. I shared my idea of studying abroad with my husband and it resonated with him and we agreed we’d go there together. He would take Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and I would take Master of Arts in Islamic Thought and Civilization. We were young and newlywed and full of dreams. I knew things were getting serious when we drafted our admission letters and started sending e-mails for scholarships. But just when our actions matched our optimism, I got pregnant and it was nerve-wracking.

I should be happy because I also dreamed of being a mother someday, but I should study abroad first and then become a mother second. I came from a dysfunctional family and growing up, I made a pact with myself that I’d build a home where my children can safely return to and launch from. I swear I wanted to be a mother. But I was only twenty-two. I should live abroad first and be a mother second and not the other way around. This single switch in the order of things would change a lot of things and I didn’t know what to feel about it.

I stared at the outline of Malaysia softened by the haze. I wondered how things would have turned out if I only left no stone unturned when I still could. But thinking of my baby back home and the lazy movements of his small limbs, I’m grateful for how my fate has turned out.
I was twenty-three when I gave birth to our firstborn. His coming made me appreciate life more and I want to immerse myself in every moment before it passes instead of rushing to crash off the next line on the list. According to conventional wisdom, you should take over the driver’s seat of your journey. The best way to predict your future is to create it. We live in a time where people put so much emphasis on having control over things. But having control over things is a heavy characteristic that only God can have. and I felt so relieved when I stopped trying to have a semblance of that characteristic. I am human, I am flawed, and I make imperfect goals.

They say that only dead fish go with the flow. But I don’t think going with the flow is a problem if it heads in the direction you want. I am learning to lean back and wait for what life has to offer. I still have goals but I no longer hold onto them like a lifeline so that when things don’t go as planned, I could easily bid them goodbye. Of course, it’s not all roses. There are still times when my heart aches for the things I wish had turned out differently but I wouldn’t trade them to what I have now. Because in the delivery room when I gave birth to my son on September 9 at 4:15 am, a large part of me, too, was born.