“What I know for sure is that you feel real joy in direct proportion to how connected you are to living your truth.” — Oprah Winfrey
Joy Page Manuel’s story begins with love and loss: a love discovered overseas and the loss of all she knew she had to leave behind. The next stage of her life would present challenges, not just of being an immigrant, but also of motherhood and of drawing closer to an authentic sense of self in spite of society’s unspoken pressures and her own.
The Truth About Responsibility
In the Philippines, where Joy was born and raised, she had a clear identity. She was an academic, a sociologist, and a university professor. Life was comfortable and predictable, but it wouldn’t be for long. “For most of us, we are rarely aware when changes are about to happen,” Joy comments as she reminisces. During an innocent summer trip to Chicago with her sister and mother, she fell in love. “He ended up proposing within three weeks of my arrival,” she remembers. “Instead of going back to the Philippines, I ended up at a Denny’s diner, agonizing over my sudden decision to just stay and let the plane go without me. That remains the most impulsive and dramatic decision I’ve ever made.”
For a self-admitted over-analyzer and decision-avoider, Joy left family, friends, and coworkers in utter shock as she informed them over the phone about her abrupt marriage and that she would be staying in the United States, forfeiting her teaching position. “In my mind, the only thing that made sense was that deciding to stay and be with the person I love was the only risk I knew I would never regret taking,” she reflects. “Perhaps for the very first time, at 30 years old, I was being genuinely responsible. It is only when we take risks and then choose to stand by our decision, facing head-on the consequences of such choice, that we can truly say that we have acted responsibly.”
The Truth About Our Roles in Life
Four years ago, Joy became a new mom and quit her corporate job to take on the life-changing venture of raising a child. The transition would beget an entirely new challenge: owning her occupation as a stay-at-home-mom. Joy described her fear of misinterpretation: “I imagined people thinking that I’m unproductive and lazy, a good-for-nothing person who is simply unable to qualify for any challenging jobs out there, and has therefore chosen to just stay at home and do menial day-to-day house chores.” But Joy would come to know the true worth of her role as a mother and the hard work, dedication, and skills required for the position. “Most importantly, I now realize that it is really not so much my issue with other people as it is my issue within myself,” Joy admits. “I should not need other people to give value to what I do and to who I am now. My contribution to society needs no further validation from the outside world. Besides, no corporation would be able to afford adequate compensation for mothers given what we do and are capable of.”
Not only do we have expectations about our roles in society, but there is also a subtle expectation that we should have our roles all figured out by a certain age. “There’s an unspoken assumption that a woman in her late 30s should either already be certain of what she’s passionate about or be in a profession that’s reflective of her answer,” Joy observes. Instead, she reveals that she’s still not sure what she wants to be or do. It’s a question that currently preys on her mind as she prepares to potentially reenter the workforce. “I think a lot of us are burdened with such expectations. Realistically speaking though, how many of us have our deepest passions align with what gives us a salary?” Joy asks.
“It’s a false notion and expectation that your employment should necessarily reflect your deepest passions. Let’s all disabuse ourselves and accept that sometimes, we just have to learn to compartmentalize and not obsess over finding deep joy and meaning in every activity we engage in. It sure is something to endeavor for, but not achieving it should not cause us deep dissatisfaction or depression over our lives either. I think what is important is that, in spite of our jobs, we find the time to engage in that which nourishes our spirit and genuinely satiates us.”
The Truth About Joy
Joy’s journey toward discovering what “nourishes her spirit” took various twists and turns. “It reached a point when it became a necessity to find my passion or acknowledge it because my sanity was on the line,” she recalls. Despite the delights of motherhood, Joy found herself enveloped in an inexplicable sense of unhappiness that became unbearable. Diagnosed with clinical depression, she sought support and through psychotherapy was able to discern the source of her low spirits. “Amidst migrating to a foreign country, changing statuses, losing all that was familiar, and then becoming a mother, I felt some loss of control over my own life and saw that I also had self-assertion issues,” she explained. “I needed to assert my self not only to stay afloat but also to feel alive again.”
It turned out, an effective way for Joy to fill this need was to call on a long unrecognized passion: introspective writing. “This has nothing to do with academic or practical writing. It was plain introspective, soulful, personal writing…things that flowed from deep within,” she clarified.
“We all need to know what fills and fuels us, what manifests our sense of self. Each of us has an innate desire to be heard, be seen, be acknowledged, and be relevant. My ‘cry’ unto this world just happens to be coursed through my writing and it is my simple hope that somehow, somewhere, I am and will always be heard and that my ‘voice,’ through my words, will always be a welcome influence (albeit faint) in people’s lives.”
Joy soon discovered that blogging was an ideal outlet for her passion for writing. Since starting her blog two years ago, she still finds that “with every word I type, I affirm my sense of self.” And ultimately, that’s what she feels passion is all about. “Your passion not only speaks to you, but of you…it’s something that allows you to leave your true essence and imprint on this world.”
Find Joy and relish in more of her musings at her blog entitled “Catharsis.”
How are you living your truth? Tell us in the comments below!