Esther-Marie, or how most people call her, Babsie, is a 4’11 filipino girl living in Vienna, Austria. The first time I met her, she was very kind yet very shy. She hardly spoke another sentence with me after she introduced herself to me. That felt strange because it gave me the feeling as if she didn’t care at all. So before I made the effort to actually get to know her, I just observed her. I figured she was the kind of person that would rather hang out with a book than actually hang out with a group of people. But the moment she had to talk in front of people, she did really well. She had a lot of knowledge about all sort of things and that made sense cause she was always with a book in her hand. Anyways, when time had passed I kind of lost interest in getting to know her more because quite frankly, I wouldn’t know what to talk to her about. Besides, the other crowd was so much more fun hanging out with and I didn’t feel like using up my time to take care of an outcast.
Another few years had passed and suddenly I found her hanging out with the bunch of people I hang out with. She was so different. It just felt like she came out of her shell. She was still shy, but she would talk a lot more with you than actually just leave it at ‘Hi, my name is Esther’. That was the time when I got to know her a lot more. Before I even started to talk to her properly, I actually just kept on observing and I realised she had a huge heart for doing service for the community. Later, she also told me that it was the community and the people who made an effort for her, made her come out of her shell and comfort zone. And she also apologised for not making an effort back then to actually join me and my friends at some activities. She explained that she was very shy and that she didn’t really feel comfortable around us. But she was happy that it changed. She also explained that it takes her a bit more time than usual to open up to people because she’s been disappointed a lot in the past. At that time when we grew close she confessed, that her supposed-to-be friend left her for more popular people in school which made her feel even worse about herself. That’s why she was very careful with who to trust and who to open up to. I felt quite honoured to be a person she trusted. I also learned that she was quite an introvert due to the fact that she wasn’t really outgoing since her parents were quite strict and she had to babysit her younger siblings. It amazes me how well she handled three younger siblings even though she could have rebelled against her parents and made them let her hang out with her friends. “Nah, there was no reason for rebelling out at that time. I didn’t have a lot of friends anyways and the few ones I had, understood my circumstances,” she told me.
The more I got to know her, the more I started appreciating her. She never liked the spotlight. She always felt uncomfortable when she was the centre of attention. I am glad I was a witness of her transformation within the community. It really did help her a lot and you would often see her messing around with her friends. She liked to have fun times and to laugh about anything. During the time in school, she told me, her classmates didn’t know what was up with her. They though she had gone crazy because she was always super hyper, but in fact, Esther said, it was just her being really happy and appreciative of her life. “I’ve always struggled with fitting in and finding the right people. Hence, I’ve always felt I wasn’t good enough for everyone and that’s why I tend to draw myself in, a lot.”
That’s when I finally understood her character. One time she invited me over to her place. She has an adorable family and you can really sense their tight bond among themselves. Her respect for her parents is unconditional, so is her love for her siblings. When I visited, you could really sense that she was the older sister and you could really see her maternal instincts. Then she also opened up about her family life and that it wasn’t easy at times but she has learnt a lot along the way. I know that private stuff really stay private stuff to her, that’s why she never really talked about her love life to me. I didn’t sweat it because I could see in her eyes that it was something she really held dear in her heart and that she didn’t want to make a huge fuss about it. As I’ve mentioned, she avoided the attention. However, she really was in love and was really happy. That was all that mattered to me.
We sort of built up a relationship that would let us give each other space, yet we wouldn’t really forget about each other either. It was casual and chilled and that’s what I love about our friendship, that she can one on hand be very judgemental about things but on the other hand, she would give you enough space to figure difficulties out on your own. Of course, she would always give her opinion on things but she would really leave the execution up to you. But back to her being very drawn to herself and very cautious about people: Her time in high school wasn’t the best she had. By the time she completed her sophomore year, things just went down hill. Friends betrayed her, the pressure of her teachers got to her and her lack of self-confidence didn’t make things any better. What I’m proud of to see was, that she pulled through regardless the hurts she had to encounter along the way. She knew she had to graduate and make her parents proud. Yes, it has always been about her parents. I was never the same opinion with her when it came to parents and their way of drilling their kids to become straight A-students. But she always argued, that it’s the best present to give your parents, who have migrated to a totally different country to give you the best opportunities and a brighter future. That statement made me think and I realised, she was right. After everything our parents had to go through, we have to be grateful that they’ve worked hard to give us an opportunity of a brighter future than they had.
Her faith helped her to graduate from high school, however, Esther couldn’t quite get over the fact the the real world and the real reality started for her. It took her a long time to deal with disappointments, let-downs and other difficulties of starting and building up her future. But all these obstacles just made her stronger. Even though she often tells me she still struggles and her fears get the best of her, I never see her not striving to be the best.
The things that I’ve learned from her is to never give up and to always have faith. Just like it’s stated on a poster in her toilette:
“Disappointments are like road bumps, they slow you down a bit but you enjoy the smooth ride afterwards. Don’t stay on the bumps for too long! Move on!”