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February 16, 2012

I found bliss in a penniless life

A freelance writer shares how it took being broke and unemployed to make her realize that money isn't everything. By Lorela U. Sandoval

Despair, for me, is a gift rather than a debilitating condition in life. Somehow, in all its ironies, I found joy and contentment instead of pessimism.

Years back, I was in dire desperation: I blossomed into unprepared motherhood at 31. My partner had left without a word even before our son, Tarko, turned one. I was jobless and, thus, penniless. I was torn between wanting to be a hands-on mom and returning to office work to earn a decent living. I had not prepared myself for single parenting.

Those desperate years were almost crippling, but I was never the type to give up. So I moved on.

My only-human nature was pushing me to get back to real work so Tarko and I could have more, buy more, and live with more. My maternal instincts, however, suggested that I should spend more time with him. But I felt a certain void, a hole somewhere inside me, when I had almost everything. That experience made me follow my instinct: I stayed home with him, engulfed myself in motherhood, and sought freelance writing work online.

My first year as an online freelance writer was not very lucrative because I had to juggle parenting responsibilities and household chores. I hardly had restful sleep or an enjoyable bath; everything seemed to have a deadline. And in spite of all the hard work and sleepless nights over heaps of paperwork, I was living a hand-to-mouth existence with Tarko. I sometimes even sought financial assistance from my parents when work payments were delayed. I was tempted now and then to chuck freelancing, but I managed to keep my faith, believing something good was going to come out of this. As long as my son didn’t starve, it was all good.

Eventually, I realized that working from home so I could see my son grow every single minute of his early life was, in fact, the best decision I’d ever made. Living a penniless life with him, I learned the value of little things and appreciated them. I was surprised by how such minute details could actually give you absolute happiness and meaning. And most of all, his presence tugged me closer to my faith and dreams.

Money, of course, is a necessity, but now I don’t let it run our lives. Instead, I am a mother and father to Tarko every moment of his life: we watch kites fly in the summers, jump at the sight of airplanes hovering above us, dance in the rain, goof around on lazy days, run to the beach when we feel like it, and snuggle at night in prayer.

Today, I am no longer interested in the glitter of money and fame because I am enjoying a simple life with Tarko—all that I really need. You could say he revived my passion for writing, and then I made despair my creative engine. Although lucrative writing assignments have been tossed my way lately, I have become a bit wiser, not losing sight of what’s essential in life.

With my son, there is an entirely new meaning and purpose in life. We don’t have much, yet we are happy. And when you don’t cling to fleeting material indulgences, you learn more of life. I realized all I needed was a son to show me the way. And that beneath my despair and destitution actually lay my life’s real gem.


Lorela U. Sandoval writes for print and online magazines, provides Web and e-book copies to freelance clients, and is a happy single mom to Tarko, a hilarious and hyperactive boy.


(First published in the "Blessings" section of the April 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines; adapted for use in Female Network. Photo by Christopher Dannug via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only.)

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