By Cecil Laguardia
Never settle for anything less than what you love doing and do well. – Colin Powell
I have almost done it all. I got pregnant and was prematurely married at 18. It may not be that shocking today, but in the 80s and on a quiet Filipino family, it was like a whistle bomb dropping in the middle of a family lunch. It broke my parents’ heart big time.
Doing this after finishing valedictorian from high school, my reputation took a nosedive in a small village where my mom was a respected public school teacher. I stopped university for 2 years, tried full-time motherhood and worked in the farm. I admonished myself I can’t be doing it forever!
I eventually picked up the broken pieces to finish a degree in Public Relations. My dream was to become a writer but I can’t remember how I ended studying PR. A year before I graduated, I gave birth to my second daughter.
I had 3 children in all at 27, a single mom at 28. To survive, I juggled on 3 jobs – day job at an electric company, a weekend job at an export business and a Thursday night job as secretary for a Rotary club.
These were apart from accepting writing work that burned too many night candles. But that journalism dream didn’t fade away. It blazed quietly, finding a way out. It didn’t quit on me and I gave it its due.
For 6 years, I was freelance correspondent for a national newspaper writing stories from Mindanao. I suspected my stories got published not because I wrote them well but because I send them the earliest ahead of competition.
Every published story gave me fireworks. Remember I was still having those 3 jobs on top of this one. I took every excuse to be able to write. No work was too small or boring.
When I landed a communications job in World Vision, it felt like I won the lottery. I can do what I love and get paid for it. It was normal for me to do 20 stories in a week’s assignment. I rode motorcycles to my interviews, braved floods, climbed mountains, took slow boats at muddy rivers and slept in gecko-laden guesthouses.
But in every assignment, I woke up early – no matter how late I slept – excited to go for that next story. I cried, felt sad, angry and scared, drained and exhausted. But the next day, I’d be like the phoenix rising.
I was raising 3 growing children on a meager income. But that didn’t stop me go for that dream. I worked hard and played harder as a mom. I slept and dreamed and woke up writing stories. I must. I often wrote about the “nobodies”. Their stories must be heard.
I didn’t accept “Oh, there are no stories here” comments. Every person has a story. Millions are waiting to be written. I will never run out of work.
Things got more challenging. I covered relief work during disasters, armed conflicts, famine, a civil war and more. All through these, I never gave up. I almost did, but I know I won’t.
It would have been unfair to my children if I didn’t pursue what I want and tell people I didn’t because of them. At 49, I saw them complete university and pursue their own life’s dreams. Their dreams are fast becoming mine.
I can’t explain how I got lucky. One thing I am certain is – when you have a dream, never give them up. Don’t quit. Don’t trade. Don’t say you can’t. Just don’t.
Kathryn Stockett wrote her bestselling book The Help for 5 years and wallowed in 60 rejections for 3 and ½ years before she got it published. She chased her dream like mad.
I’m no Stockett but I am like her. My persistence gets me sailing through the rough seas but I can’t imagine living any other way. Who knows? I might end up doing a bestseller and beat her to the draw by having 200 rejections. Watch me. Yes, I am on to my first book!
So dream away. They come true. It may take time, but they will. Trust me, been there. It’s far sweeter if you do your best for it. I know I made my father proud before he died.
You see, I’ve done it all but I am still at it. I’m not dropping out of the game. No one’s too old for another dream. Winners never quit. Keep telling yourself that. I do!
So the pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges. When faced with a challenge, evaluate or assess the situation, gather the good things in sight, abandon the bad and move on. Focus on the positive. Stay in control and never panic. – Martha Stewart
Cecil is a communications manager in an aid agency in Southern Africa based in Mbabane, Swaziland. On weekends and work breaks, she writes for her upcoming book, blogs and edits for istoryya.com, reads the piles of books she hoards in bookstores from countries she visits (currently its Bill Bryson’s hilarious The Road to Little Dribbling bought in Cologne, Germany) and explore God’s amazing creation.
Click to read some of my published work:
Premier Christian Radio interview: Aid workers urge churches to engage
Time Magazine interview: They’re walking because there’s nothing else
World Vision EU: The communicator as a humanitarian
The “Dream” Blog link-up:
We believe dreams are made of the same filling as hope, joy and love – the things that give us breath to run, faith to believe, and a heart to sing. When we dream, nobody imposes limitations on us, and that which can be imagined and hoped for can be so.
We’re writing about dreams this month because we believe when we share our dreams, we are dared to chase them. These dreams have inspired us, changed us, and fuelled our love for life and God. They’ve moved us jobs, continents and through relationships. They remind us that everything is possible.