I might be terrified, but I’m not alone.

At around noon on August 9th, at Yonge-Dundas Square, I found myself scanning the crowd for Kenneth, my best friend. I had been given the chance to be the Lead Festival Coordinator for the 10th Annual Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, and today was the day that all of my hard (and sometimes clumsy) work would pay off: it was the Festival Finale, and so far, so good. Things were going well.

I was looking around and feeling good about the morning — the Marketplace was bustling, the Kain Kalye lines were loooong, and the volunteers were all in motion — when all of a sudden, I was seized by a terrible feeling that I needed to apologize to someone for feeling remotely proud of myself. And so I did. I went to Kenneth, and to one or two other people close to me and apologized. They all had the same core reaction: to engulf me in a hug, and remind my damaged self that there was nothing wrong with being proud of yourself for doing well. And they reminded me that they were proud of me, too.

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Photo by Romeo Candido

It’s a bit hard to reconcile how I feel about myself right now with how I used to feel about myself from age 11 to about 22 or 23. So much has changed in the way I treat myself, and yet some things have stayed the same. One of my defining characteristics is that I don’t think I’ve achieved anything of note, and I never will. This is partly because I was brought up to think like this: a decade or so in an extremely religious, conservative household, with a woman whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make people feel bad so she can feel better. Also partly because I am a perfectionist.

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This was taken super early in the morning — the lines were already incredibly long, and it didn’t stop until we ended!

In the past year or two, however, I’d come to make decisions on my own, for myself. I chose to major in something I wanted. I chose to take the summer off last year to intern for Kapisanan. I chose to cut my hair really short last Spring. I chose to make a majority of my life decisions based on whether it’d end with me being happy. I chose to leap, so many times, and the net has always appeared. But I still can’t quite shake off the feeling that I’m not doing enough.

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About a month ago I posted this on my Facebook page:

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I’m not very popular, so 25 people interacting with a status is pretty good. :p

And while I wrote that out of a really honest, if terrified, place in my heart, what stunned me was the response. It’s not a solitary thing to be immersed in, this inadequacy. And although many of my friends and I may have arrived at the same dark crossroads of feeling useless and inadequate through very different paths, we are all familiar with the venom of ineptitude.

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These are my closest friends. And the pretty man is Mikaius, who is the prettiest man that I ever did see.

So when the festival had wrapped up and the team and I were at the K headquarters sprawled on the floor and exhaustedly laughing about the day’s events, I allowed myself a few long seconds to feel proud of myself.

And I felt so happy, because I’m finally letting myself heal. I think it also helps that the way I think of myself isn’t one-dimensional anymore. I wasn’t just Danielle, a member of x-church. I was Dani, UofT student, community member, Kapisanan staff, lover, friend. To remember that I wasn’t merely one, but a sum of many things, helped me stay grounded.

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Most of all, though, I want to thank Kapisanan for finally allowing me to feel good about myself, for the first time since I was a child. Being trusted with helping Kultura come together means hell of a lot more than I have the ability to express, with what few words I have. I was on my way to healing, but being in the presence of this warm, loving, supportive community broke a wall. I finally permitted myself to heal, and more importantly, to succeed, not running on white-hot rage as I have for the past few years, but running on the hope of working towards a better future for the community and the next generation.

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