Crazy Julie

The Heroic SpiritAwesome Moments
Artwork by: Vidushi Sharma

I was a very shy child. I never talked to adults, and I did not socialize with children who weren’t my classmates. Julie slowly changed all of that.

I met Julie when I was two years old. Julie, a twenty-two-year-old native of Bacolod City, Philippines traveled all the way to Metro Manila after my mom hired her to be the family’s caregiver because she didn’t always have time to care for my siblings and me. As the youngest child, I clung to Julie all the time. I pulled her hand when I wanted to play, and I took siestas with my head on her lap.

Throughout my childhood, I only knew Julie as an old friend who had the weirdest dance moves to the most annoying radio jingles. She was crazy. We climbed trees to pick fruits, she taught me how to cook Filipino food, and she rode my bike downhill while I, holding on to her shoulders, stood upright on the seat. She gave me fun; I gave her word search puzzles, memory games, and spelling lessons. Without Julie, I would not have become adventurous and independent.

When I entered my freshman year in high school, she decided to resign. I was old enough to take care of myself, and she had recently discovered DXN, an international company that offered their distributors a percentage of their sales and a commission for every distributor they recruited. Even before my freshman year, she had become a distributor for this company and had absorbed all the rags-to-riches stories from seminars and newsletters. She felt that she needed to exert more time and effort to be the next model of success, and she could only do that on a full-time basis.

At first, she was very involved in being a distributor. She attended many seminars and talked to strangers to promote the products. But, after a few months, she realized that recruiting new distributors and selling the products was more difficult than what was projected. Her parents moved to the shack she was living in, and, in need of money, she decided to sell food and the company’s products in the “wet market,” an informal establishment characterized by stalls stocked with fresh food. Eventually, she became a street vendor because the rent in the market had increased. The spots on the streets operate on a first-come, first-served basis. As such, she needed to guard her spot 24/7 in order not to lose it. Her mom was in charge of the morning and afternoon shift while Julie, who continued to promote the company’s products during daytime, took over from night till dawn.

The next time I saw Julie she was laughing at all the weight she had finally lost. But, her jokes couldn’t distract me from the dark bags under her eyes and her calloused hands. With each visit, she began to talk to my mom more and more about her two incompetent brothers in front of my presence. During these visits, Julie changed — or rather my perception of her became more holistic than my childhood impression of her. Although she continued to joke around, her preoccupation with her problems was evident in her hunched shoulders, withdrawn stares and her train of thought that began with, “When life gets better…”

I already had a little background of her difficult family life, but her conversations with my mom unveiled a more serious and problematic life. Aside from her parents, she seemed to be the only other responsible adult. The reason that she had chosen to work for my family was to pay for her youngest brother’s high school education. She didn’t even think of continuing her own education. After her brother graduated, he told her that he wouldn’t follow the example of his older brother. He was going to Metro Manila to work and help the family. A few months later, he found himself a girlfriend and they decided to tie the knot. On behalf of Julie, my family and I were all annoyed at her two brothers. They had gotten married at a young age and were incapable of taking care of their own families. They established their homes beside Julie’s, making it impossible for her to evade their cries for money and food. They owe her thousands of pesos, which they have made no effort to repay. Instead, they spend their money drinking with friends. Sometimes, Julie leaves her meals in her cooking pot only to find them gone after a few hours. Of course, her brothers make no effort to apologize for snatching her food.

When Julie resigned, her upbeat energy plastered a smile on her face. Over the past years, I have glimpsed her vacant expressions. And, yet, she continues to work even when she has earned enough for her basic necessities. Despite her troublesome brothers, she continues to help them not because she is weak but because she remembers them as they were when they were children who used to play together. Julie will have endured nearly 40 years of hardship soon, but she clings to whatever dreams she has. This changes everything. It saves her from coarse apathy. It is responsible for her decision to change careers and for her ability to crack jokes until now. She wasn’t content with just being; she wanted to do more. This makes her a hero, and it’s all because she’s crazy Julie.

Montse Ticzon is from the Philippines, was a high school senior when she wrote this piece, and is now a first-year college student studying Biochemistry.

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