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.

Interest in Women

I really don’t know how my interest in women studies started. I don’t have enough drama in life to fuel sentiments against gender stereotype. I come from a loving household. People don’t describe me as an activist. I have nothing against men.

It is perhaps my vulnerability that shaped my ways of thinking. I may not experience the pain of motherhood, forced marriage, abusive relationship but I know how it feels to be an outcast, to be treated unfairly, to feel less. I do not like to describe these feelings in details because this is not a competition of who experience worst in life. What matters most is that through our small life experiences, we can empathize, reflect on other people’s experiences.

When I was in college, I learned to appreciate feminist material. My subject Theater 100 made me appreciate women’s theater. It was probably the first time I learned that there was such a thing as women’s theater. My group was assigned to perform For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntzoke Shange. I also prefer feminist material for my monologues, such as those taken from RAW, Cause I’m a Woman

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Then, a jerk/s came along in my life. Just like all epic heartbroken stories, I kept reminding myself that I didn’t need to have a relationship to gauge my worth as a person. I then wrote essays for women. I told myself “I will work hard and rely on nobody but myself.”

Things have changed in my life and I realize we all rely on a system of dependency. I need others and others need me. I also learned that from the same university who taught me self-reliance. I am currently in my second year on women studies. I may have changed some of my ideas in relationship and marriage into something what people may consider ‘less feminist’ but I have developed a better understanding on human conditions. And if I meet a young girl who gets rejected, I can honestly say to her, “Heal your wounds with new learning.”

At present, I immersed myself into the community of women in the informal economy. These women have needs and wants different from my peers. It is wonderful to see the world with multiple lenses and to reflect on life with other people’s wisdom.

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In Buddhism, there’s what we call nirvana. It is the highest state that someone can attain, or a state of enlightenment. I believe I am getting closer to nirvana. For me, nirvana is a place where you embrace everything that defines you. If asked, why I am interested in pursuing women studies, my reply: I come to a stage of my life where I learn to embrace everything that defines me. And I can’t deny that being a woman is a large portion of who I am.

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Notes to my ever-changing self

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Photo taken in Isdaan, Laguna

I hear many voices in my head as I move forward from quarter life crisis.  These voices come from social pressure, unachievable ideals, and  unsolicited advice. To keep myself calm, I come up notes on how I should improve myself.

  1. If you’re not ready, then don’t
  2. Buy happiness if you can
  3. Gain survival skills
  4. Follow your heart (Yes, it works!)
  5. Forget others’ and your expectations
  6. Focus on improving yourself which means find fulfillment
  7. Include others in your journey
  8. Be useful
  9. Lend a hand
  10. Give your time to others
  11. Learn from others
  12. Build connections
  13. Share your dreams
  14. Avoid negative vibes
  15. Watch cartoons
  16. Listen to good music
  17. Focus on your strengths
  18. Count your blessings
  19. Instill faith and hope in others
  20. Never deny feelings
  21. Be vulnerable
  22. Be flexible
  23. Be open
  24. Never limit
  25. Never regret
  26. Keep values
  27. Enjoy liberty
  28. Pray
  29. Satisfy your inner being