Change is an occurrence that I am well versed in. It was something that I needed to get used to immediately after so many unexpected turns. But what I didn’t count on was these changes shaping me and producing my very own superpower.
The first time I heard my dad say “we’re moving” was when I was five years old. My family and I were moving from the Philippines to the United States. This was a big change for me since I didn’t speak the language and I had only visited California once. As you can expect, I was scared but also really curious about how life was going to be like. Soon enough, I was able to adjust and make friends; however, that was short lived. Once again, my dad said, “we’re moving,” but this time it was to The Entertainment Capital of the World—Las Vegas. We lived in Vegas for three years and in those three years my family and I were able to make solid connections. I joined the local swim team as well as participated in many school activities. I had a schedule that I was content with. Although, that shattered when my dad monotonously said, “we’re moving.” Anger was my immediate reaction. I protested and fought with everything in me, but my efforts were rebuffed.
By the time I was eleven, I was back in the Philippines. The streets jam packed with traffic, the housekeepers following my every whim, and the inescapable noise further contributed to the feeling that I no longer felt at home in my native country. I was an outsider trapped in a local’s body. That feeling only increased once I started school and had no choice but to face the changes. Right off the bat I noticed three major differences: the teaching style was confusing, my school schedule was packed, and I had to wear a uniform. I quickly learned that in order to stay afloat, I needed to adapt. My learning habits changed, and I learned how to make use of my contrasting characteristics to connect with the students. Basically, I tweaked myself a little bit to fit in but without really losing the essence that was me.
I thought that was my last stop until college, but I was mistaken. Out of nowhere my parents decided I needed to go to an all-girls Catholic school. Ultimately, this was the biggest change I had to adjust to. I was thrust into an environment that I was unprepared for. I wasn’t ready for the immediate judgement and the petty arguments. Imagine, it was an all-girls school—emotions were volatile, and girls can be extremely vicious when threatened. In addition, I had to reel in my opinions in order to not burst the protective bubble the school had subjected the girls into. I knew I had to come to terms with my situation and I had to do it fast. By observing their interactions, I learned the dos and don’ts of the school. And once again, I was able to integrate myself into the class and form deep bonds.
At first, I didn’t realize that I was utilizing my superpower. My friends actually pointed it out to me while we were talking about friendship. When they started talking about past memories and I informed them that I was not present, they exclaimed astonished, “What?! You only transferred here recently? Man, I thought you’ve been here for a longer time!” One friend in particular said, “You were able to adjust to the school really quickly. I’m actually really surprised because I know how different it is compared to what you’re used to.” That got me thinking and questioning my actions. How was I able to orient myself to these circumstances? How was I able to reconcile my Filipino heart and my liberal mind to achieve balance? How did I become so immersed in their lives that it felt like I was always there? And I realized that I was just doing what I have always done—adjust and adapt.
Honestly, I was probably the last one to recognize my inner strength. Those around me were aware of it and I’m sure my parents realized long before everyone else. But with my parents’ awareness came an assumption that I was “chill” with everything that came my way, so they never asked me if I was okay with moving because they assumed I was. This became apparent when I overheard my mother talking to her friends. She said, “Ah, Langga? Yeah, she’s okay with it. She’s okay anywhere. That girl is super relaxed.” My parents had relied on my ability to be flexible that they never asked me how I felt, and I had become so used to it that I learned how to unconsciously repress my negative emotions. As mentioned in Fully Present, “Mindfulness is an accepting and kind attitude toward yourself and present-moment experience” (Smalley and Winston 16). Unknowingly, I had practiced that aspect of mindfulness before I was even conscious of it. With this outlook, I was able to face the challenges head on and with a clear mind in order to fully grasp the entirety of the situation. I was able to push past the negativity and seek out the positivity.
Naturally, the road to acquiring and developing my superpower was not a clear-cut path but, rather, forced me to make choices that I wouldn’t have made otherwise. I was pushed into situations that I was initially unwilling to overcome. Audre Lorde puts this into perspective with a quote: “to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength” (41). In particular, I had to face my fear of not fitting in constantly that I was able to understand that it was truly unnecessary. I would never be alone because I had those around me for support and essentially, that was where my super power stemmed from. As Atul Gawande explains, “we’re all so incredibly limited, and yet there are ways that we string together and are almost unlimited, as groups of people.” I owe it all to my family, friends, teachers, and everyone that I have ever encountered with in my life for helping me become my very own superhero.
With this new sense of awareness, I was able to realize that our childhood superheroes and maybe even our current heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were based off of regular people. Because in the end, it is the ordinary people that rise after the wreckage and start again. It is the ordinary people that spread love, compassion, empathy, laughter, care, realism, and many other abilities. It is the ordinary people that solve the minuscule problems that almost seem insignificant but are actually impactful in the long run. We each have our own special power that helps those around us. We are our own superheroes.
Gawande, Atul, writer and physician. “What Matters in the End.” On Being with Krista Tippett, October 26, 2017. https://onbeing.org/programs/atul-gawande-what-matters-in-the-end-oct2017/#commentform. Accessed 22 Aug. 2018.
Lorde, Audre. “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” Sister Outsider. Crossing Press, 1984.
Smalley, Susan L., and Diana Winston. Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness. Da Capo Press, 2010.