The thing called “Passion”

It’s Saturday. It is the time of the week when I have my “me-time”.  I woke up late and had coffee and watched makeup tutorial and vlogs. Then I started to worry  for my upcoming advocacy event but decided today should be all for myself. As an introvert, a time alone is  very sacred. So  I paused and made my month-long reflections.

Looking back, my dream job had always been to be Ms. Saigon in West End production. My  other  dream was to be a Disney princess. I wanted to be the character voice of empowered women like Princess Jasmine and Mulan. Obviously I am a fan of Lea Salonga. The funny thing is  I always thought that these childhood dreams can happen in my lifetime. Later on, I realized that these childhood dreams of becoming international (charot) were  beyond my reach, I had downsized my dream from a Broadway star to a media personality/ TV reporter. Eventually, I took speech communication in college because I thought this was a step to fulfill my dreams.

Fast forward, none of these bizarre dreams ever made to reality. I had experienced the uncertainty of a fresh graduate, the mid 20s’ quarter life crisis, and my gradual transformation to adulthood.  These have led me to where I am right now. I had experienced not just the quarter life crisis but existential crisis.

I did not become Ms. Saigon or a Disney Princess  but what was clear to me I wanted  have a  purposeful life.  If I had to un-filter my words, I wanted to do “something big.” This narcissism which is partly a mixture of self-love and self-loathing  is one reason why it took me years to think like an adult.

I may have never become a performer in Broadway  but I have found a stage  where I can move an audience, influence their values, change their opinions, and even appeal to their feelings, just like a theater actress. Like Mulan, I have become an advocate for women empowerment.  I am quite thankful that I have found a space where I can speak, share my principles, and fight for the rights of others.

Working in the development sector has provided me a platform to propose solutions on the issues faced by the vulnerable sector of the society, especially women. I get to advocate reproductive health, violence against women and other pressing issues faced by women and children.

When you read self-help books or  hear motivational speeches, they always tell  you that you should follow your passion.  But the question is: “What is your passion?”

For me, I discovered that singing is not my passion (hehe). I thought it was. Acting is not my passion. (Akala ko rin haha) Writing is not exactly my passion, just a tool for my real passion. My passion is to serve others: to think of ways on how we can help those who are vulnerable, neglected, and forgotten in the society.

jackie at Nov21

discussing policy issues on sexual abuse and exploitation of children

And my dream is no longer to be Ms. Saigon but to have a more caring society where everyone is treated with dignity  and respect and every place is a safe place for women and children so that there will never have to be a real life Ms. Saigon, an Asian 17-year old girl who was forced to prostitution and ended her life eventually.

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I remember when I was still working for a corporate, I tried to audition with a theater group, and eventually got accepted. I tried for three nights but I realized  I just could not balance my regular job with my so-called passion. Then, our preacher said to me. “God  will find a way to use your talent.” The next day I quit. And continued with my corporate job after a few years, I became interested with advocacy work.

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advocating reproductive health with local officials

How do you find passion? Passion from its original meaning is suffering. Find something that’s worth the suffering.  At the same time, it should be rewarding. I love singing but singing did not love me back (hehe)

You can never go wrong with helping others as a motivation. My generation is always fond of recognition and accomplishment as a yardstick of their personal worth. If you put helping others as an inspiration in what you do, you are no longer living for yourself but living for others.

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While writing this reflection, I know there are many people out there who are thinking about  how to be productive and make meaningful lives.

Here  I am saying it’s okay to be idealistic and to set high standards for yourself or to keep principles. I became an advocate because I strongly believe in justice, compassion, equality, and empowerment.

We are the authors of our lives. It is up to us to make it interesting, worthwhile and meaningful.  Perhaps what I am trying to say there is a place for those who are idealistic and visionary. Go and find it.

 

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Why I said “Yes”

Why I said “ Yes”

“Kailan ka ikakasal?

This can be one of the most annoying questions, especially when you’re a woman.  It can be irritating for single women who are  enjoying their life with success. It can be uncomfortable if you are in a steady relationship and your partner is just not ready. It pressures adult women to get a life and jump into marriage.

I have received this question even before I was in a relationship. When I turned 26, it started to become a common question in my social circle.  I never really get offended because I believe this is a conversation starter for most Filipinos. Sometimes it’s just tempting to banter. “Please understand. I don’t need a man to define me.”

I’m such a  positive thinker. At the back of my head, I am thinking at least people care about me, my well-being, that they even bother to ask about my personal life.

As much as my heart was open to many possibilities, I put in my mind that relationships can take the backseat. Instead of dreaming of a lost boy who would find his way to me, I just wanted to explore the world and make an upgraded version of myself. I had thought that there were so many wonderful things that could happen in my life aside from marriage.

I can be happy without a husband and a child. I have survived life alone. And perhaps, I can survive the next chapter of my life alone. I can live with that for a long time.

Call me selfish but I am scared at the thought of sharing myself to someone else. I love myself too much that giving a portion of me is just unthinkable for me.

Fast forward, I am engaged. I find it ironic that I was in Congress last week to advocate in ending child, early, and forced marriage.  I witnessed the Divorce Bill passed on the second reading at Congress, which is a milestone for women’s movement in the Philippines.

Marriage means many things to many people. We associate marriage with spiritual meaning, our personal meaning, and our realities.  It can be a legal contract, a covenant to God or just a label. What’s in a name anyway?

When I think of marriage, I look up to my parents.  It is a picture of two senior citizens eating breakfast at McDonald’s.  It is a relationship that goes beyond grey hair and memory lapse. Sometimes, I think about my  dad who professes that he want to live longer for my mother. Sometimes, I think of my uncle who constantly helps my aunt walk.  Sometimes, I think about my sister who reminds my brother-in-law to watch what he eats. Sometimes I think about couple I met on my trip to Sagada. They travel together with their son.

This is a sample of the couples I know but I’m sure they do not represent what most married couples have.

I am getting married soon not because I believe in forever but, because life is just too short. We only have limited time on earth. I want to spend the remaining years of my life with the things that truly matter to me and with the people who are special to me. Time becomes real as you age. Time becomes real when you learn about the death and illness of others. I just want to cherish each moment as if it is my last breathing moment. I want to share my time, my dreams, with my significant other.

Though there is no assurance that any marriage will last (even the most promising marriages fail), I can’t let go of something beautiful just because of the probability of failure. It is just one of the risks we take in life. Having said that life is just too short, we make choices not only on how we use our time but we choose the risks we want to take. We choose the ones that are worth the risk.

When my aunt talks about relationships, she tells me: Try. If it fails or succeeds, at least you have a story to tell.

Some people marry because they want to build a home. Honestly, I don’t mind not having kids of my own in the future even if it’s my dad’s request. If I can’t bear children of my own, I’ll just adopt homeless children. I am not obsessed with my procreative powers.  For me, anywhere is home when there is love.

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We were trained by the world that ‘true love’  is  out there, beyond our reach.  We chased for unknown feelings and call it “true love” but real love is a familiar feeling we have known all along. Love feels like home.  Whoever gives you a sense of home is a gem.

I found home in my fiancé. Home is a feeling of a toddler who rushes towards his dad as he opens the door.  Home is the feeling when you find relief over dried fish and tomatoes even if you have tried different cuisines. Home is a place where you can  hear your mother’s sermon, your brother’s fart, the television on the living room. Home is a place of equally flawed people who find refuge in each other.  Home for me is a place where you can be yourself and where you can grow.

I have always been fearful of married life but I am thankful that I have a fiancé who tries to understand  my hidden anxiety, who gives me confidence that I can, we can navigate life with all uncertainties.

I have changed my perspective. Now that I am engaged, I think marriage is not a death of many dreams but it is a birth of many dreams.

Anybody  can argue it’s just a piece of paper. Why let a piece of paper hold so much power over your life ?It’s just a ritual that you can choose not to do. But when you love someone, you will do whatever it takes to show how much you love that person.

Whether it will take so much of your time, so much of your energy

whether you will have to give up a portion of who you are…

Whether it will require you to sacrifice more than you can

and whether it will just take a piece of paper, a ring, a ritual, you will do it willingly and proudly.

If you are not with the one you love, “all the shines of a thousand spotlights, all the stars we steal in the night sky will never be enough “(Greatest Showman)

I have used so many words just to explain why. It all boils down: There is a man I choose to love everyday and I cannot afford to lose him. I look forward for the world we are going to make.

Letting Go of Quarter Life Crisis

Ever since I hit my twenties, I had been reading all kinds of articles online on how to move forward from quarter life crisis. I had been confiding in Google all my apprehension because the internet was nonjudgmental in giving advice. I tried to research more on quarter life crisis not only because I wanted to know how to survive but I wanted to know if I was the only one stuck in quarter life crisis, and most importantly, I needed affirmation that quarter life crisis (QLC) was really a crisis and what I was feeling was valid.

I followed what most millennials do to surpass quarter life crisis:  take a break and travel, take a master’s degree, relocate, and to make a career change.

I’m not an expert and I believe no one size fits all. Here are just my realizations in my journey towards surviving QLC.

Travel?
I used to entertain the idea of traveling the world as a life calling as many travel bloggers would claim.  There are tons of articles that tell you that you are wasting your life if you have not traveled much. On my previous job, I took my vacation leaves seriously. I made sure I traveled back home or travel with friends. I was happy because it helped me escaped my frustration in life. It helped me forget how I loathed myself at times.

Looking back, I realized travelling  was not and should not be my  aspiration. Instead of dreaming to be a full time traveler, dream of a job that can take you to many places.

Note to self: You can be as happy in your own home doing the things you love, and hanging out with great company inasmuch as you can be happy going to a new island or an amusement park.

Wherever you are, learn to be happy.

Study again?
A lot of people I know took the route of studying again. Some would go to law school or take an entirely different degree. I took my master’s degree while I was figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I look at it as an option of what else I can do in my life. I did enjoy studying. Probably, I just had the endurance for long readings. It did work for me. It did ignite my interest to work for women’s rights which is quite relevant with my current work.

Like I said, no one size fits all. Some just wanted to study to escape the emptiness they felt inside, like those who wanted to travel. In the process, they do not necessarily desire to  finish grad school.  That’s totally fine because to keep on trying is the way out of quarter life crisis.

Make a career change?

If you are going through quarter life crisis, this is the best time to make a career change. If not now, when would be the best time? I am a late bloomer. For my age, I stayed long in my first job. Millennials usually are job hoppers. I think those who tried different kinds of jobs earlier in life achieve greater success. The vast  variety of jobs you take helps you grow professionally, and emotionally. You’ll get to know your ideal workplace and you learn to deal with different kinds of people at work.

For the longest time, I had a stable job in an international company. I quit my job. I accepted jobs from small organizations. People might think this is crazy but I have learned a lot from this. I took a temporary job of an English as a Second Language Teacher. The next job I worked for was a membership type of trade organization. At present, I work for a nonprofit organization whose main focus is policy advocacy. I get to meet many people and advocate for the rights of women and children, which I am most passionate of.

Here’s my takeaway message:

Quarter life crisis is just a transition to adulthood. It is a period when you give up your ideals and replace them with practical yet fulfilling goals. It is a time that you realize you can’t stay in Neverland forever. It is a time when you resolve your “what-ifs” in life. You have to grow up. Instead of dreaming of becoming a TV reporter or Broadway star, I just limit my aspirations in three things: To find a cause, to fall in love and to write a book.
I found a cause. I fell in love. And the only thing left for me is to write a book.

It is not about finding something you do not have but it’s about discovering what you already have.

Don’t be eager to get everything. You don’t have to figure out everything. Allow yourself to be crazy and stupid at times.

The goal in life is not contentment because you will never achieve that in this lifetime. I think we need a healthy amount of insecurity and dissatisfaction in life to strive harder.

The goal of your journey on quarter life crisis is to achieve self-assurance. You should know in your heart that even if you can never see all the places in the world, and even if you can never please your peers, your family, your boss, or your friends, you are okay!

Lastly, a lot of inspirational and motivational speakers will tell you that you have “a calling”. I believe, we don’t have to have one calling. You are capable of changing! You can be a successful doctor today but be a missionary by tomorrow. You are not meant to do just “one thing” for the rest of your life.  You are meant to do many things. So stop being obsessed of finding the right job, or knowing what your passion is.  Do not put yourself in a box. As long as we live, the possibilities are endless.

How do you know if you have surpassed quarter life crisis?

……if you are starting to lose the fear of missing out (FOMO) and replace it with optimism for the future.

Why study women?

I was about to give up on my master’s degree on women and development. Not entirely. I was visiting back and forth to UP, just so they would accept me again. For complicated technical reasons, I was not eligible to enroll this coming semester.

I pleaded, persuaded to give me a chance to process my documents. I was way passed the deadline.

It takes a lot of determination to pursue and continue higher studies. It’s always tempting to question the value of master’s degree and make a mental cost and benefit analysis. Do you really need it for your career or for your well-being?

How much more if you are taking women studies? There will be doubts along the way over your academic life choices.

Why study women? Why take women’s studies? These questions lead to a bigger question: Why should we take gender issues seriously? Is there a need at all?

Since the day I have studied women and development, I have heard these criticisms. There is no need to advocate for women empowerment and gender equality for the following reasons: The Philippines is a matriarchal society. Women have more jobs than men. Women “can” get jobs. Women are more educated. No one is stopping a girl to go to school. Women are already empowered.

I don’t want to go on detail and debunk these with statistics. What makes “truths” valid if they appeal to our realities. In a practical sense, maybe we need to examine our society by what is actually happening within our own neighborhood and our social circle.

Maybe it’s best to have a reality check through the following questions:

  • Do you think it’s not safe for a girl to walk alone at night?
  • If you are a parent, do you worry when your daughter is out late night?
  • Do you think there are places where women cannot travel all by herself?
  • Do you know a friend, loved one, or acquaintance who has experienced violence?
  • Do you receive cat calls?
  • Have you experienced being intimidated with a group of boys?
  • Do you find the need to constantly protect yourself? How often do you find the need to protect yourself?
  • Are you judged by your virginity or sex experience?
  • Are you judged by your relationship/s?
  • Do you think you are deprived of opportunities because you are a mother?
  • Have you ever experienced a stranger touching your body parts without your permission?
  • Do you get conscious when you wear short shorts?

If you have answered “yes” to more than two questions, then there exists a gender issue.

Unless every girl in this world feels safe, there remains a gender gap that needs to be addressed. Women are not totally free at all times. Some have enjoyed certain extents of freedom but there are always restrictions and limitations set by social norms.

A person with gender lens will tell you how facilities can be sensitive to the needs of women, that the comfort room should not be far from women and girls, that a breastfeeding station and daycare center at offices are needed so that women can enjoy working. And most importantly, a person with gender lens aims to change behavior in society. Through this, we want to reduce street harassment, catcalling, and teach the value of consent and body ownership.

So, why study women? Or why take women’s studies? Because we have to care for people, especially those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized. On my part, I specifically choose women because it is a vulnerable group whose angst, struggles are those I can validate with my day-to-day experience. Sure, there are many more specific, and marginalized groups but we find our own space to create change from where we are and from where we have stories.

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Dear Overthinker

dscf0815Dear Overthinker,

I know you are tired. You are busy. You worry too much. Overthinking has become your hobby. When you are quiet or just having a break, you just cannot not think. You wonder, “How do I stop myself from thinking?” The only positive thing you get from overthinking is that you are able to validate that you are smart. Smart people make simple things complicated. Then, you will overthink about this and you will conclude you are not.

Your mind is like a forest. Your thoughts grow like wild trees with too many intertwining roots. They form too many branches that break, fall, and rejuvenate. Your seeds of thoughts are scattered everywhere. You are always panicking and you are always noisy in your head.  You worry today and I’m sure tomorrow you will worry again. Once you solve your problems today. You will have a new set of problems tomorrow. It never ends.

Reduce your fear of deadlines. Finish what is urgent, what is more important. Do not think too much on those deadlines that are set ten months later or ten years later. I know you have heard you only have 11 productive years.  But what does it mean to be productive? Is it by how much work you have done? Is it by the number of goals hit and miss? Or by the quality of life you have?

Renew your passion of the things you once love. As you grow old, you realize passion is just a feeling. But if it is a feeling that excites you and boosts your energy, you just have to keep it going. It’s the kind of feeling that lets you live in bubbles, walk in clouds that all you see are rainbows and cotton candies. It’s a feeling of grandeur in the most mundane moments.

When you work, think of it as a passion project or a personal hobby. Through this mindset, it lightens your workload and brightens your day. Have this in mind so that you will never think of the hours you spend or the energy you give. All kinds of job can be exhausting.  Find a purpose and accept the little sacrifices you make to get it.

But remember to unwind. Entertain yourself with whatever you have. Watch a Youtube video that can make you laugh. Go to a movie house. Read a book that feeds your soul Have cold drinks to calm you. Eat well. These little things can keep you sane.

You glorify busyness and you commend those who can multitask. But you, my friend, know your weakness.  You will think too much over a single task and you will think much more over many tasks. Take one step at a time. Make your own system of doing things.  This is how you fight the impulse of your brain to think big. Don’t let anxiety rule over you.

List down everything you will do.  This is a little trick you can do to organize your thoughts and to prevent your brain from wandering.

Take note that life is not a race. It just has many phases.  And you have to  deal with each life phase with your own pace. Be patient yourself. You just can’t force a flower to bloom if it is not  yet its season.

Focus on what you have control. Always remind yourself that you have no control on what people will think of you.

Hope for beautiful things in the future. You, as an overthinker, are fond of predicting the future. You think of 100 possible scenarios of a single action. You always have a Plan B. That’s a good girl scout trait. But don’t waste too much of your brain cells on trying to resolve imagined fears. You just  have to be flexible with whatever life  throws at you.  As you constantly ask yourself,   “What if I  fail?”  This should be your default answer, “So what?”

Know you limits. Listen to your body. Sleep when your body asks for it, even if your mind tells you not to. Don’t say “yes” to every opportunity. Rank your priorities accordingly.

Never forget the people who love you. Send a message. Make your presence felt even if they are  miles away. Overthinking will take them away from your thoughts.

Even if things don’t work out as planned, even if you miscalculate risks, life will always compensate you with new wisdom and renewed strength.

And even if you will not be the best or have the best, you are still living a life worth living.

Feminist Lens: What dreams are made of

I’m not the right person to talk about goal setting. I am just good at dreaming. I personally advocate to make your own dreams, follow your heart’s desire.

Dreams don’t only talk about the future but they also talk about our existing values, our interests, and our priorities.

I read an anecdote of a mother having a conversation with her son. Her son wrote in his homework that he wanted to be the driver of a train. The teacher corrected her son’s homework. She wrote : “To be a manager of the train station.”

Should the teacher correct the little boy’s dream? What if being a train operator is what the little boy really wanted to be?

I have heard many stories on how parents would like their children to be doctors, nurses, lawyers and how students struggle to finish a degree they don’t like.

If ever I become a mother, I will not insist my dreams to be my children’s dreams. They will be what they want to be.

This leaves me with a thought that we are not entitled to impose what people should aspire for. When people tell me what I should be and what I should want to have, I silently respond:
“Who are you to tell me what I should be?” “What do you know about my dreams.”

If I am not happy receiving unsolicited advice on how I should live my life, why should I do the same to others?

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A month ago, I facilitated a short activity for a group of women in the community. In our activity Buuin Natin Ang Ating Mga Pangarap, we ask each woman to make a vision board. The group was composed of full-time mothers living in Brgy. UP Campus. They cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers and put them all together in a cartolina. Some dreamed of having a business, owning a landline, and serving good food for their family. I take it as a sign of hope that somehow they have aspirations that will eventually make them entrepreneurs in their community. As expected, everyone mentioned having a good life for their family.

If you belong to the first wave of feminists, you would preach that you have the choice to work outside home. Do not let yourself be confined to the four corners of your home. You can be so much more than be a mother and a wife.

I was supposed to end the activity with the women by saying, “Have a dream outside home, outside family. Have a dream that you can call yours, not your husband’s dream, not your parents’ dream, not you family’s dream. “

But I just couldn’t remember if I really said it. Maybe I did not say it at all because deep down I questioned my position to encourage women to aim a little higher and “dream for yourself.” I had some introspection. Maybe these things are easy to say because I am young, single, childless, and middleclass.

I have enjoyed my single life and perhaps my motivation of the things I do is to reach self-actualization. Like other millennials, I constantly question my purpose in life. Sometimes, I subconsciously equate purpose with profession, paycheck, or any validation from the society. And again my formula is about me and my dreams.

But for some people, family is a strong motivation to keep a job, to get a promotion, to start a business, to take risks, to keep your momentum and zest in life. I rationalize this by saying,
“You make the most of your ability when you know that there are people around you who depend on you, like a captain of the ship, like a pilot, like a CEO.” For me, that is a form of empowerment. When you are able to produce milk for your child, when all the members of the house are well-fed, when you ensure accessibility and availability of resources not only for your family survival but for the development of their capacities, motherhood becomes a serious endeavor that requires management skills, with targets and deliverables.

If we ask most mothers what they dream of, the answers will always be about family. Should we as feminists, dream of enhancing and strengthening our personal relationships? Should it be part of our agenda to make better mothers and wives in the world?

Without being too theoretical, feminism wants women to be their best version of themselves and that covers many facets of a woman’s life

The purpose of the vision board activity is not to promote a new set of values but to find commonality in our dreams as a women’s organization. Because within these similarities, we draw strength from one another to reach great heights.

From a Ted Talk quote:

“Coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can do that for you.” – Lisa Bu

Why should we deprive ourselves from the joy of dreaming? Whether it’s small or big,for work or better life, whether it comes from a selfless notion of motherhood,  a dream is a reminder that we can be so much more than what we are today.

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