Detour

It has been more than six months since the day I took a lewindmill 1ap of faith.

Like other millennials, I romanticize quarter life crisis with existential questions, and empowering quotes. Quotes like “It’s never too late to change, to try, to be what you are supposed to be” were very appealing to me. And if you’ve heard that outrageous advice: “Quit your job and travel the world”, you are truly a millennial. I once thought that  that was a good idea but realized  later on that  it sounded too middle class.

I was contemplating hard on my desk.  What should I do next? I constantly felt depressed and I could not focus on anything. I kept asking, “Were my feelings valid?” Perhaps God was just so good to me that he only let me problemitize how was I going to survive adulthood. I did not know what I wanted to happen in my life. I tried all the options I had. I wasn’t complacent at all. It was just that my heart and mind were floating somewhere. I questioned the choices, the circumstances, the philosophies I had in life. Do I want to focus on career? Can I see myself getting married? Do I really want to study? Can I just be carefree forever? Do I want to have lots of money so I can do this and that? Am I productive? Useful? Is this all I’ll ever be? I’ll ever have?

Sometimes the choices I made were quite absurd, such as living alone,  taking master’s degree in women and development, to be temporarily unemployed and the choice to be indecisive and free. At times, it is a choice to be indecisive. I want to keep on experimenting my life and wait till everything falls in the right place. Some people would probably think that I did some pointless and useless things in life.

I am quite fortunate that I had the privilege to make drastic changes in life. I quit my job without any backup plan. I then thought of studying full time while I was still figuring out what I wanted to do next. The first three months after my resignation were a major adjustment. I was anxious all the time.

Minimalist lifestyle experiment was not just an idea but it was a conscious effort for me. Later on, I made an effort to cut down my expenses. Right after  new year, I tried to track my expenses. I wanted to know where most of my money went. I stopped going to the laundry shop, and opt to hand wash my clothes. Back those days, I was willing to spend a lot on food just to satisfy my adventurous palate. I eventually stopped taking food photos for instagram because I was no longer having special meals. Though I miss the comfort of coffee shops, I stopped thinking of coffee shops as best escape. The coffee Americano, worth 50 pesos in the nearest convenience store was already expensive for me. My grocery list became shorter than the usual. The only time I spend a lot on food and drinks is when I am with other people. Was I depriving myself? No, because it was a consequence of the choices I made.

As what I always I believe in, I’d rather be broke than be brokenhearted (cheesy?). No, I’m not yet broke. I am still surviving. What I can’t bear most is receiving unsolicited advice from different people, that I have to answer the existential questions: What are your plans? And what do you want to do? Those were like birth pains after I decided to make a detour in my life –  from a stable life to a more unpredictable one.

I felt like I was immobile not only because of my expenses, but also because I lacked routine and a regular set of people to meet. I then decided I could not be just a full time student. After I enrolled for my MA, I  immediately took the job of an English teacher. I must say it was like a spare-of-the-moment decision, just like all the decisions I made in life but it was worth it, just like all the major decisions I had to make in life. It’s quite odd that my spontaneity was always my compass in making life changes. If I have to be sexist about it, women are just naturally intuitive.

I am enjoying the process of getting to know myself all over again. Teaching English was somehow part of the process though it was not really planned. It did fill in some empty spaces. I realize that even if I am an introvert, I like to be with people. I like to have an audience (how narcissistic!). And I like the feeling that at the end of the day, I have shared something. Maybe it’s a piece of information or just a new word.

I like my life now but I know this too shall pass. I like that I don’t have quiet time to analyze my life, to reevaluate my mistakes and imperfections. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to repair and upgrade my life with career choices, relationships, and lifestyle. What matters is that these changes are aligned to my interests and values. And that these changes are not too far from who I am.  A line of a Broadway song goes likes this : “Don’t lose sight of who you are.”

I also change my perceptions on weaknesses. For me, weaknesses should not be viewed as something to be cured or impairments but these are maps that guide us to what we should do and have in life. It guess it’s part of growing up to realize that I can’t have everything or try everything in life. If I keep on focusing on what needs to be improved, I’ll lose significant amount of time and energy, which could have been used in cultivating relationships and on things that can truly make me happy.

Would I recommend the choices I made? No.

Would I  give an advice: “Quit your job when you just feel you don’t like it”? The problem is not your job. As long as you can find meaning and purpose in whatever life conditions you have, then what you have is a well lived life. Fighting for your principles such as fighting for your country or women rights per se are indeed noble but fighting for your family and living for your family are equally worth fighting for.

Would I recommend to quit your job and experiment? If you have a lavish lifestyle that you can’t just give up, no. Though I did not have a backup plan, I was quite prepared. I had foreseen that I was going to be anxious and restless.

As long as you are accountable and responsible for the decisions you make, you have the right to do so.

Live your life. It’s your life. Define happiness in your terms and conditions.

Worth Begging

TN14When I was in grade school, I wanted to join our speech choir. More than half of the class were part of the speech choir. I would watch my classmates rehearsed every school day. I did not understand why I wanted it so bad. All I could remember everyday I would ask my teacher if I could join. I was very persistent like a die-hard suitor who would never let go until there was a finality of no. My teacher would reply, “We’ll see.” And my hope grew big that eventually  I would be part of the speech choir. I had no memories of being disheartened or discouraged.

I was just a kid.  I was too young to have puberty issues  on body image, allowance, crushes, honors. I  had no idea what self-esteem meant. I just wanted to be part of  the speech choir. I did not try to look for reasons  my teacher did not handpick me to be part of the speech choir. Maybe she thought I could not afford to buy the costume or she just did not like me. The reasons were not clear but I did not bother to know why. The only thing,  that was very clear to me, was that I wanted to be part of the speech choir. I kept asking my teacher until it became part of my school routine.

One day, my teacher got so annoyed. She did not give me the usual friendly reply “We’ll see.” My presence  felt like a  head louse thriving on her head.  It was as if she wanted to scratch her head and just get rid of me.  She told me she would let me join if they would be needing more people.

I waited.

And waited.

I forget how it happened. I just remember I was with my classmates performing the Frog Singing School. Our group won the interschool competition. I would not have celebrated the victory of my classmates if it were not for my eagerness to join the team.

Looking back, I can’t believe I have that kind of guts to ask my teacher everyday if I can make it. I find it embarrassing. I had no inhibitions and fear on asking my teacher. I did not even question if I really deserve to be part of the speech choir. I did not question the criteria of my teacher or did I have what was required. I just wanted it hard enough, the way a five-year old boy throwing tantrums,  forcing her mother to buy  a candy.

I wish I still have that kind of courage and determination that never doubts, never fears. It was not even a big dream or life-changing event to aspire for. I could have just let it go, the way we let balloons and kites leave us, the way we let our coins fall on a wishing well. But  I was just “makulit” and simply interested.

This reminds me of a blog I read days ago. In the blog of Mark Manson, he shared that instead of asking “What do we want in life?”  We should ask, ”
“What do want to suffer for?”

He wrote:

“A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”

He continued:

“What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There are some things we really like to have. It is not a question on how much we want something but it is how much are we willing to give up or to suffer. Sometimes, the question should be like, “What are things worth begging ?” What are the things you are willing to lose your pride just to get it?  When rejection knocks at your door, it steals your pride and sometimes gives you a token of humiliation.

Sometimes you just have to wear thick face to get it.

Invisible

 

“I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.”

These lines come from a classic poem, Invictus which I memorized for my English subject in high school. I used to like this poem as much as I liked the ideology of self-love.

osmena 4

Now that I have lived more than two decades of my life,  I realize I am not the best architect of my own life.

I have no control of the people I meet, the opportunities I have, what people think, what people feel. I may control time by setting a timetable or deadline but I cannot freeze moments, delay aging or speed up things in my life. Some things just happen, like storms and sickness. I have no control over many things but I can only control how I respond to given life circumstances. I can control how I feel and how I react, and how I would like these changes or lack of changes affect me.

I come to a conclusion: “You can only plan your life to a certain extent but there’s always a hand of God that leads you to where you should be.”

Destiny is real and it is inevitable.When I was younger, I thought believing in destiny was for people who were lazy and complacent. I refuse to believe in destiny because I do not like to feel defeated.

Destiny does not mean surrender. It just means humility and having awareness we have limitations. By learning to accept destiny, we become more forgiving to ourselves and  to others. If you can’t make it, forgive. If others choose to break you, forgive.

I am still optimistic about freewill and fate but now I believe fate is only kind to people who are kind to themselves.

osmena 3

I like nature trips because they help me realize how small I am in this universe and how narrow-minded I am to think that pieces of my life are not synchronous.  The hymn How Great Thou Art best describes how I feel:

“When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze….

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

I guess when everything is against your will, go to the mountains, wilderness, forests, not to meditate or not to be a monk. But go there to ask yourself, how can there be so much error in this world, when the trees, the skies, the mountains are perfectly colored, arranged and built as if there were too many engineers, architects, and artists who are responsible for these? There must be invisible hands working to make everything seamlessly beautiful. We are too small to fathom the mysteries of the world. Who are we to say something is wrong that the universe conspires to make us miserable?We need to be invisible to appreciate the divine plan set before us. There is always a plan unforeseeable.

We need to be invisible
We need to be invisible

Life events are like converging lines. They will lead you to one point someday.
Every long lost dream is like a Northern star leading to where you should be
Life is messy
Cupid is clumsy
For in chaos, there is calculation (Lorde, 2013)
For in battles we fail, there are newborn victors
For opportunities we miss, there are threats we dismiss

Similarly as what spoken word poet Ben Norris:

“For everything that crumbles, there are monuments erected in defiant celebration.
For every slip and broken bone follows four score epic baseball catches. It made the sky a place to aim for, made Buzz Aldrin and Felix Baumgartner not just normal blokes. It made a hundred kids look at the moon wanting nothing but to try it.

We need the speed of our flying dreams; we need gravity to defy it.

This is not about destiny. It’s  faith over fate.

All my life I sailed the sea of reason, I was captain of my soul…there was no need of my Savior, I tried to do it on my own…
Then I heard him speak the language of compassion, words of healing..for broken lives...

(From I Choose Jesus lyrics)

And we know:

“... that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8: 28

“God has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11