Growing up, I never learned how to choose friends.

In the province, the sense of community– of just accepting the people I meet, be friends with them by virtue of the fact that I trust in their goodwill– is deeply rooted. The word “trust” here is defined as faith in a person based on he/she growing up in the same town as I did. Trusting them in good faith.

In good faith.

The past years, particularly the past months’ events, changed that. Drastically.

I learned how to do “levels,” a mindset with a pattern of actions that I employed whenever I meet new people, or even get to know one person deeper. It was a method summarized by one goal: be mindful in who you reveal your heart to.

I learned that not everyone who comes close to your heart can be fully trusted. And not everyone you share your story with are actually genuinely sympathizing with you.

I learned that some people are concerned primarily of what you can deliver, and not on how you are doing. That some people can be downright insensitive of the treasures you value the most, and still try to proclaim that they value your welfare. I learned that some very intelligent people can be manipulative, and in subtle dominance, impose their own will on you.

I learned that, in the midst of all these, it is my decision to accept or allow them. That it is in my control on how I relate with them. That in the end, it is still my decision, to follow or assert my own voice.

In the end, I learned that it is my choice to be silent, and I was silent for a long while. That is not good for me.

I learned how to recognize, assert and value my own voice.