The past year has made us all too familiar with putting life on hold — from canceled plans to screwed-up timelines, we’ve all had to deal with disappointment way more than we could’ve imagined.
I, for one, haven’t had the courage to follow my original five-year plan of studying abroad and seeing where life takes me from there. I used strict lockdowns as an excuse and blamed online fatigue for my frequent need to disconnect.
Yet I find inspiration from those in my close circles to make the most of what we’re given. And I hope, through their stories, you do, too.
Since her study semester in France, Marika Dayrit had always wanted to live abroad. In 2019, she was living her dream: based in Madrid, immersed in the Spanish culture that fascinated her, and in love with being an English teacher under Spain’s Auxiliares de Conversación program.
Going to graduate school was always part of the plan, but she was never pressured to pursue applications until she got some push from her family. While still in Madrid, she was accepted into a business school in Singapore. But the pandemic happened, and the unavailability of flights made her defer her studies to the next year.
She looked back at the past year: teaching English in Madrid, coming back to Manila to work, and having to leave again for Singapore to study... It was a lot to take in, and to say she was terrified with how quickly things were moving is an understatement.
All the uncertainty made her want to come back home. Her last months in Spain heavily involved flight searches and job hunting. Two months after starting her search, she was able to get a seat on a repatriation flight and a business development role at a Manila-based e-commerce company.
Her job in Manila was a one-year stint. She was good at what she did, but she couldn’t help but wonder: “What’s next after this?”
She looked back at the past year: teaching English in Madrid, coming back to Manila to work, and having to leave again for Singapore to study... It was a lot to take in, and to say she was terrified with how quickly things were moving is an understatement. Because of all the changes she had gone through in so little time, she didn’t have it in her to deal with the unfamiliar all over again.
The pandemic made her realize that “while time is frozen, it also flies by quickly.” While Singapore was waiting, her gut told her she still had unfinished business in Spain.
Now, after much contemplation, she’s back in Madrid to continue the life she started there — this time, through further studies in business, to better herself in a job she learned she was good at.
From frustration to focus
After several rejected scholarships and finishing her communications degree here, Kyla Gancayco finally moved to Italy to pursue a course in fine arts. Her desire to be more independent, plus the country’s incredible art and culture, made it a no-brainer for her to study in her favorite city, Florence.
When Italy went on lockdown, the homesick side of her was excited to come home. But the part of her that waited for years to fulfill her dream was heartbroken.
She was discouraged and distracted herself with new hobbies, but the lack of art in her life reminded her that things were beyond her control and that this was not her fault.
At first, she was enthusiastic about working on her art at home: she did her homework, kept a strict schedule, and held on to the hope of flying back soon. The days turned into weeks, months, and even a year, and Kyla grew more and more frustrated by the day, so she stopped. Making art without knowing what she was doing, right or wrong, didn’t feel good anymore.
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She was discouraged and distracted herself with new hobbies. But the lack of art in her life reminded her that things were beyond her control and that this was not her fault.
“Being away highlighted what I didn’t have anymore,” Kyla shares. There was never a point where she didn’t want to go back to Italy; it always was and still is a matter of when.
The dream of one day having an exhibit of her own paintings pushed her to pick up her brushes again. By a stroke of luck, her program started offering online sessions, which she’s now doing. While she admits it’s not the same, she’s finally getting some of the guidance she sought.
She waited long and worked hard to get to where she wanted to be, yet circumstances didn’t favor her. So until then, she’s focusing on what she can control and takes things day by day.
‘Little girl, big goals’
Martie Bautista was only seven years old when she fell in love with football and everything about it — from working as a team, to reaching a goal, to doing whatever it takes to get your next win, even after a succession of losses.
When the pandemic struck, her training transitioned online. From being coached through a screen, working on drills alone at home and on concrete, and not knowing when she’d set foot on the field again, nothing was the same.
“When I was in the third grade, I wanted to play for the National Team,” said Martie. Her bedtime prayers consisted of this wish and, after lots of hard work, she locked in a spot at the Under 13 division, moved up the older age brackets, and eventually got a callout for the Senior National Team.
Prior to the pandemic, she would train with Ateneo in the morning and with the National Team at night, squeezing her studies in between. While it was hectic, she loved every bit of it, and continued her jampacked routine with Kaya Football Club even after she graduated from school.
While she was living nine-year-old Martie’s dream, she couldn’t help but think about the future and what would become of her lifelong goal.
When the pandemic struck and fields and tournaments were shut down, her training transitioned online. From being coached through a screen, working on drills alone at home and on concrete, and not knowing when she’d set foot on the field again, nothing was the same.
Disheartened but still determined, she eventually stopped attending her Zoom sessions and started to focus on other things. While keeping fit has gotten her out of bed every morning, what keeps her football dream alive are the opportunities that came to her during this time.
She got into the pandemic-born talk show “So She Did,” which highlights stories of female athletes; and is now part of the Philippine Women’s Football Association (PWFA), a group of women footballers and supporters who work towards providing opportunities for young girls and helping fund the National Team.
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Despite her hiatus from stepping onto the field, Martie realized that there’s so much more to football than just playing it. Her ultimate goal of growing the sport in the country is now, more than ever, being actualized.
Marika shared that “things would’ve been so different without this pandemic; but all of these wouldn’t have happened, either, if not for it.”
I couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s going with your gut, taking things slow and steady, or channeling your desires into something more — pandemic or no pandemic, I hope you have it in you to dream, and dream big.