You’re the pencil of your life

By Yuna Lee for Kathlyn Bacani

A heartfelt conversation with her mother inspires Yuna to pen her own future no matter the obstacles.

Many people believe that your family is the pencil that writes your future. If they’re well-known and have dollars-a-plenty in the bank, the pencil is sharp, and can probably write up until the end of the page. But if yours is drowned in poverty instead of riches, hah, don’t even bother, people would say. The lead in the pencil will easily break, and it costs to find a reliable sharpener. But there are people out there in the world who have written their own future, and I’m to tell you about one of them: my own mom.

One day, while feasting on a pot of nilaga, basically savory goodness in liquid form, she had once told me a story. Not about how much did the gas prices went up in the past week, or how we should get one of those “continuous” spray bottles for disinfecting surfaces. It was a story about her…

“Here,” I said, handing her a close-to-overflowing bowl of our ulam. “Is that enough?”

My mom covered her eyes as if the soup was blinding her. “Too much!”

I ladled a few spoonfuls back into the pot. “Better?”


I joined Mom at the dining table. A few feet away, a new episode of the latest Masterchef Australia season was airing on TV.

“I’m seriously worried about my dish. The parfait hasn’t set yet, so I just hope I have something to present to the—”

Mom turned the TV off.

I raised my eyebrows. She loves Masterchef, what could be so important that she’d pause it?

My mom turned to look at me. “Could I tell a story?”

“Um, sure,” I said.

She took one more bite of potato and began.

“Growing up, we weren’t exactly what you’d call rich, ” she said. “My dad was an OFW, an overseas worker, so he was never in the house. Sometimes he sent us stuff, like shoes and backpacks, that kind of stuff. I even remembered him sending us leather jackets that smelled like garlic for some reason, once,” my mom chuckled. “But there were also times where we didn’t have anything to eat. Dad also died, and we were barely hanging on. I didn’t even think that I could finish school anymore,” she said quietly. “But then that’s when I decided that I should get a move on. I realized that my life was now in my hands; I could simply let it slip from my fingertips, or I could nourish and care for it nicely as if it was a baby.

“So I began working hard. I won a few scholarships, and I was at the top of my class. Now I work for a successful company and I am an outstanding alumni at my university.”

Mom grabbed ahold of me and stared into my soul with her piercing, velvety brown eyes.

“I hope you learn from my story, Yuna. I’m not trying to take control of your life, I’m trying to help you. Trying to help so that your future won’t turn into the life I could’ve had if I didn’t pull myself together after Dad’s death. So please, I hope you understand why we lecture you and tell you off from time to time.”

She let go of my shoulders and grabbed the television remote.

“Now let’s see who’ll get eliminated today, shall we?”

I grinned. “Hope it’s Montana.”

Mom gasped. ” You did not!”

“Just did.”

…and that’s my mom’s journey. Take her words, and take it seriously, because you’ll never know. Maybe this story is the reliable sharpener that can make the pencil sharp. But just remember this, the pencil isn’t a pencil that you can let someone borrow in class.

It’s yours and always will.