How to Live Your Truth: An Interview with Joy Page Manuel

Joy Page ManuelWhat 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.”

Joy Page Manuel Christmas

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!

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  1. Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    There is no question that people make choices. Motherhood is one of the most stimulating, growing, challenging and difficult choices. But we only live life one day at a time and regrets sap too much energy so Joy, enjoy blogging. Visiting you shortly. Thanks Samantha for another great introduction

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      I love how you were able to relate to Joy’s story, Roberta! Thanks for reminding me of the importance of living life to the fullest and of guarding our energy! =)

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Roberta! Writing/blogging has indeed been a blessing, something that has most likely enhanced my experience of parenthood. I hope to be able to do it for years to come. Thanks again for your support!

  2. Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful story and thank you Samantha for sharing Joy’s journey. It is amazing how we seem to figure it out even if we put impossible expectations of ourselves. Motherhood changed my life and wouldn’t have done it any other way. But I must admit, my previous marriage, I had no wanting or yearning to have children. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I knew it was right even though you think it is the wrong time. Our son is on his way to building his own life now by starting college this year. When we are living it, it is different than when we look back. But in either instance, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

    You bring out the inspiration in your writing Samantha, thank you for yet another wonderful article!

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Lynn! How interesting that you knew it was right to have children with your husband. Sometimes, there’s a lot of pressure to be a mother and I’ve seen various cases of unhappiness because of this feeling of being forced to comply with society’s expectation. Nevertheless, I love how Joy’s story and your own show the beauty that can come of motherhood. =)

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      I can only agree that Samantha is wonderful! Thanks for sharing your story Lynn and like you, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything!

  3. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Talk about “Living Your Truth”! What wisdom, insight and inspiration. Joy’s story and message drive home yet again that we can choose freedom or we can have our thoughts create a jail for us. It takes so much energy to try to please others. Thank you for sharing this post…beautifully written.

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      You make such a strong comparison, Tambre! Freedom v. imprisoning thought. Through both you and Joy, I’m also learning to live my truth, so thank you! =)

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      There’s so much wisdom in what you wrote there Tambre. I appreciate it!

  4. Vinn T
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow! what a thoughtful,interesting,and educational story. I’m delighted to know that such a nice person found her calling, defeated depression and is finding such satisfaction through her writing. I always knew that writing could offer great satisfaction, but never considered that it could be so therapeutic that it could overcome clinical depression and be the major means of providing happiness. I wonder ,Samantha, if you find this story so compelling because in many ways Joy’s inner needs might be a close reflection of your own? In my case, I think I am very much like Joy and have a similar need to write, albeit on different topics. Maybe if I write more, I’ll find more happiness the way Joy did. Thanks so much for this food for thought.

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      The power of writing is amazing indeed, Vinny! I had always known the therapeutic benefits of journaling, but it’s amazing to see the extent of its power in action.

      You know, you’re probably right that writing has played a therapeutic role in my own life as well. I hadn’t even thought of that! =) I’ve journaled throughout my life, especially through the difficult times, and I know that it has always made a difference. =)

      I’m so glad that you’re continuing to write too because you’re such an amazing writer, Vinny!

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Vinn, give it a shot. You seem to have the passion for it so just give it a shot. It REALLY IS therapeutic. More importantly, whether you discover that it really is your passion or you discover that it’s not, it’s still a step towards discovering more of your self. You can never go wrong with that :-)

  5. Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    Joy’s story is truly inspirational. It seems that every step of the way her life choices has brought her more in line with her true self. She also is a deep thinker and in her wisdom she teaches that although life has its practicalities, we can still find fulfillment.

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I love thinking of life that way, Adriene! Each step we take can bring us more in line with our truth, especially if we remain reflective and open to learning and growing. =) Cheers to fulfillment!

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Adriene, I don’t want to sound too Oprah-ish but she just makes so much sense when she keeps saying that we truly shine when we align with our true selves. I’m still in the journey and much still has to be done but slowly, with every step, I’m trying to find more courage. Thank you for all the support!!

  6. Posted October 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I can relate to Joy because I know I can be an over-analyzer and I can also appreciate how people judge anyone that works from home. Really, we have to follow our gut more or the regrets can consume us. This is a beautiful story – thank you for sharing it with us!

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Same here, Yomar! When I’m especially conscious about how I’m thinking too much, I usually make huge decisions like moving to Peru. =P And in the end, those instinctual decisions are the most fulfilling! Thanks so much for relating to Joy’s story!

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Yomar and I’m happy to hear that my story (the overanalyzing bit and even the self flagellation) is relatable. :-))

  7. Posted October 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Sam, this post is simply amazingly written and thank you for conveying Joy’s story in such a tactful way.
    As for Joy, what a journey! I am glad that writing is so therapeutic for her, and I also believe that there is much to learn about her experience -I especially like the fact that it was her judgment she was scared about.
    Life is about making choices, and it is not always an easy task. That being said, we can’t really know who we are if we don’t make choices…

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      You’re so welcome, Muriel! Joy’s story was a long time coming because I wanted to make sure to get her message out properly! =) You’re so right that life decisions aren’t always easy, but I love how you say that “we can’t really know who we are if we don’t make choices.” Wise words, friend. Thank you!

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Amen to that Muriel! And yes, Sam put this all so beautifully. Sam…WOW! :-))

  8. Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Joy has made some major life changing choices that many people would not understand or might even disapprove of. To choose what could have been a fly-by-night love over an important career and a secure life in her own country? Most would have chosen the latter and forever regretted it or have been left with a What if? question. I have to applaud her decision; it couldn’t have been easy either at that time or while she adapted to her new life. However, Joy seems to have discovered unexpected rewards and made another excellent decision to write, thus affirming her sense of self. She seems to be on track to yet another career.

    • Posted October 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, Pennie! I’ve seen so many people take the supposedly safer and more secure route while it’s usually the more risky route that is the most fulfilling — this is exactly what I feel Joy’s story shows! =) Thanks so much for commenting!

  9. Posted October 21, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    My was on the line too. I’ve also suffered from depression. Writing has saved me, but unfortunately my friends can not be spared the depression that comes with the burden of reading my posts. Now their sanity is on the line too…

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Haha! =) You’re so silly, Marie! =) But it’s honestly so good to hear testimonies of how writing can be therapeutic. I need to be writing more! =)

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