Monday Musings: Choice

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Helplessness and hopelessness, all spring from the perceived absence of choice.

For years, I’ve resigned control over my life to a lot of external factors. I grew up used to an oppressive culture that has long pervaded my country. It is the worst kind of poverty. Poverty of the mind robs you of the opportunity to live fully. As a victim of your own thoughts, you end up closing more doors than opening possibilities.

We were not well off when I was a kid. We had instances where we only had rice mixed with soy sauce. I could not get the toys that I wanted each time, I had to wait for birthday and Christmas. We were not extremely poor but back then even having a meal in Jollibee was already considered a luxury. My parents were earning just enough to sustain three children.

I had big dreams as a ten year old kid, I wanted to own a social enterprise so I could employ people and be able to support their children to get good education but to me it would only just be a distant dream.

The bullying during elementary also did not help either. It greatly affected my confidence and stopped me from taking a bunch of opportunities. I would always tell myself, “You are not good enough and you will just mess it up.” I kept on telling this regularly that it became a daily negative mantra.

It was not until I reached breaking point when I reached the age of 22. Yes 22! I was already a thesis away from finishing my masters degree in Medical Surgical Nursing and had just quit my mediocre job working as a company nurse where I got paid a measly net pay of P 7,500 per month. This job required me to spend almost 20 hours of my day including 4 hours of travelling back and forth without travel allowance.

I got tired of the repeating ordeal. I did not love what I was doing and it felt very much like being alive and yet dead. What I did first was go for event modelling, I remember by first gig in Bantayan where I got paid about P 6,000 per day, it was not the best promotional work either as it was for a cigarette company but this small change influenced me a lot. I started gaining more power on my own life.

The biggest decision came when I took the time to think about my past as a kid and constantly saw that I always had a knack for seeing opportunity and making a business out of it but I thought to myself that enrolling again in university is not only costly but also time consuming with this I came up with my own hack. Learn business in real time and in reality. I luckily managed to get a position for a start-up run by three expats and this has helped me gone from just another victim to someone who actual had control over her life. I stopped being influenced by circumstances and started creating my own realities. It is not a perfect journey though but I am glad that now I know that I always have a choice on whatever happens to my life. Getting much inspiration from the first few people who believed in me, led me as well to pay it forward to others. I am glad that I have also given opportunities to others to be captains of their own fates. I am nowhere near my biggest plan but I am moving forward, no longer a victim but a victor.

When did you last made a choice for yourself? Are you still a victim or have you already converted into a victor?

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Monday Musings: The Three Provincial Ladies

When I moved out of our HR officer’s flat, I ended up renting at Kalayaan area it was basically the outskirts of Bonifacio Global City.

Just a couple of meters away from the posh bubble lies a cluster of houses clumped together. This is where the middle class and slum people mingle by day and stay at night.

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Me with AJ, my HR Manager, at Karpot Office

My office, about 300 meters away.I rented a bunk bed in small room about 15 sq.m. Inside this little wooden room were three other girls. They, like me, were also starting out their careers in Manila. I would like to think of us all as predominantly provincial and naive girls, what we had in common though, is the need to change the course of our lives.

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Timid Jenifer!

 

Jenifer, was a working student from Bulacan, she worked for GIZ in the morning as an office assistant while taking up night high school in La Salle as a scholar.

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Ma ann

Meanwhile Ma-ann, a Bicolana accountant from Sorsogon was just starting out as a bookkeeper in Ford while saving up to afford finishing her course and licensure examination to be a certified public accountant. She stayed in the room together with her cousin, Elvie, who was also working for a different company.

I was the last addition to the group. It was my first time renting out a small bed in a humid room without any real windows. Smaller than 22 square meters, I remembered feeling still claustrophobic though lesser than the past year. See it was finally a month since I ended up living with our human resource manager after my talent manager deserted me in the apartment all alone in Quezon City. I doubt that I could get any more concerned about space after literally sleeping in one bed with our HR manager. She was the only person I knew after the only people I know left without telling me. They did not even give me the talent fee for the beauty competition. After finding this out, indeed, as a girl from a smaller city, I worried. I worried not only a little but a lot! I swore to my mother that it would be a great idea to learn business in the craziest city in the Philippines.

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After making myself comfortable in the small room, I started talking more to Jenifer and Ma-Ann. Since we did not earn much, we would spend our nights buying a small serving of friend noodles. I would get the one that comes with two dumplings and save the two dumplings to pair with rice the next day. As a new employee, I had a smaller salary which was just enough to pay for everything.

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I remember those times that with them, we would pretend to make it big. We would just spend our free time jogging around Bonifacio Global City, a bubble like no other in the Philippine. This place feels like Singapore to me always. I started founding groups that would give me part-time job as an event model. I tried to do as much side gig to supplement the income to cover all the expenses I had. The other girls were the same, we would do our own laundry and look for the cheapest meals.

 

Sometimes we try to imagine how life would be once we become successful. We went on sharing so many moments together. One day, I got tickets for a fashion show and knowing how extremely timid Jenifer and Ma an we’re, I knew it would help them be extra confident and courageous so I let them wear some dresses and made them all up. It was such a fun night with them. We felt like we were the girls from Sex and The City and I thought Carrie Bradshaw would’ve been proud of me.

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After all the bonding time and Ate Elvie left, we decided to rent a different place because we became fed up with the landlady. We all slept on the floor with mattresses that were too thin just like having a thin sheet of cloth over a wooden floor.

After a couple of months of living in one small room together, we parted ways. Ma Ann found a place with a relative, Jenifer continued her studies and me, after being robbed by a guy with a knife near the area, decided to move with other friends from Couchsurfing.

Fast forward to 2018, Ma Ann got married last 2017 to her long time boyfriend and is employed in a good company. I met Jenifer over coffee in Cebu, she is working for GIZ the German organisation who also got her to fly to Germany for some training. I on the other hand, ended back in Cebu running a coworking space.

I still get updates from them over FB, I haven’t seen Ma Ann since we partied ways while Jenifer have gone to Cebu a couple of times and we would play catch up on what’s new with her. It really is different when you live with people for quite sometime, they also become a part of your history and these two girls will always be part of my motivation and a daily reminder that ambition with passion can really get you far. It is always interesting to see people evolving and how persistence is paying off for those with dreams. We were just a bunch of naive girls who were brave enough to go after our dreams and rewrite our story from victims of scarcity to victors of opportunities.

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Monday Musings: An Open Letter to the Silenced Ones

Break the silence.

I know you think that keeping your secret is the best option. I know it is hard to take a stand. Do not be afraid of what people will say. They will judge and blame you for everything. It was not your fault and you should not give in to what they say to you. You already lost when you trusted the very person who inflicted abuse.

Please do not give them more power over you. Do not let tthe public break you down. You should not burden yourself with ignorant people’s judgement. You did not asked to be taken advantage of. You just wanted to be you.

Do not listen to them when they say that you were asking for trouble. That claim is far from truth. You did not make the conscious choice, the abusers did. You were young and unaware of what the situation was.They saw it as an opportunity to force you, like vultures waiting for their preys.

Avoid thinking that they will not believe you if you voice out what really happened. Be brave enough to fight for what is right and just.

I know it is hard to go against family but real family would never hurt you. They will support you through your battle.

Do not devalue your life just because a guy told you that you are no longer a virgin or that you are damaged, that no one will ever love you for this. True love heals and does not scar.

They could be doing the same thing to someone else with each day you keep quiet, do not allow them. Do not think for a second that speaking up will not change things. It is your first step to say to the abuser that you do not accept what they did. Challenge them.

It may not be easy and the world does not understand the young more than the adults. The crowd will insult your being. They will degrade and call you names like slut or whore.

You are not one.

You are not alone in this.

I share your heartbreaks.

Silence will not help.

Let’s break silence together.