Thursday, December 30, 2004

2004 in Retrospect

Looking back into your past is far from the easiest things to do. Because along with the good times, one must also take into consideration the bad times. Personally, I find reflection very important, because that's the only time I really get to ask myself, what has changed, what has made me different? I've also made a lot of mistakes so I get to ask myself, what areas can I improve upon, or what lessons could I learn from my errors? And perhaps the beauty of looking back at the end of the year is that we get to guage the effects of our actions over 365 days; I mean if I said a wrong word to someone today, I might not notice its effects until a few days later, a few weeks later, or even a few months later. With a year's worth of hindsight, we get to evaluate the long term consequences.

For me, 2004 was like undergoing four phases of my life. When I was in high school, my entire four years there felt like merely one phase; there wasn't really much difference between my sophomore year and junior year, for example. I more or less had the same mentality, had the same attitudes, and had the same goals. Perhaps the only thing that marked the end of that life phase was when I graduated, since college was a different life altogether, at least compared to high school (and similarly, graduating from grade school and moving on to high school was also the end of a phase and the start of a new one). Interestingly enough, the phases I underwent this year could be divided into the four quarters of the year.

First Quarter (January - March)

I was still in college, finishing up my thesis along with my blockmates. So far, we were faced with the tallest order our school could ask of us: to come up with a book and with a play. Admittedly, I was reluctant to accept responsibility at that time. I wanted to be in my comfort zone, to do what I want rather than what I needed to do. But in the end, I had to act on my own and accept responsibility, because I knew this would be a group effort and that everyone needed to cooperate and exert effort if success was going to be accomplished; I wasn't going to get a free ride.

All the while, at the back of my mind was the fact that I was a few months away from graduation. I don't know, perhaps some of my batchmates were excited to be graduating. A part of me wasn't. I was afraid, afraid of what life had in store for me. I knew the life of a student, while it had its own set of difficulties, was perhaps much easier than what the outside world had to offer. No one told you what to do, no one handed you the formula for success. And if you thought enrolling for your classes was difficult, getting a shot at the career you wanted was infinitely more challenging, or at least I thought so at the time. As long as I was a student, I had an allowance, I had a curriculum to follow, and no matter how anti-social I might be, I'll always have classmates, blockmates, and organization mates to be around with. To me, you don't need initiative to make friends in college. They'll inevitably come to you (although it has always been my practice to exert effort in making friends, because that's the only way you'll develop genuine friendship and love). In all honesty, I didn't mind having someone run my life for me. All I needed to do was simple: to follow it. And so I dreaded graduation, since that meant saying goodbye a comfortable life, saying goodbye to a scheduled lifestyle, and saying goodbye to friends.

Not that I totally feared graduation. I also had a sense of pride in me. Unlike in grade school and high school were my parents loomed over me, for me this was a chance to be an individual, to be who I am. I mean my parents didn't really have a say in the electives I chose, in the friends I was with, or even the time I came home. I had the luxury of freedom... and responsibility. So when my graduation coincided with my sister's gradaution, I opted for both of my parents to go to the latter. Because I wanted my graduation to be my treasure, my own sense of self-worth. It was my feeble cry for independence; a futile gesture, but a symbol of who I wanted to be. At the end of the night, I'd still go back to my parent's home, depend on their generosity for my allowance, and go to sleep in a bed I didn't earn.

As for what my future would hold after graduation, I left it in God's hands ("Bahala na"). I didn't want to think about it. My only consideration was hopefully finding a job. Aside from that, I clung to illusions of richness and comfort some time in the future, although how I managed to fulfill that was something I didn't want to ponder on. I was still young, wasn't I? God will provide a way, God willing. But the real reason I didn't want to think about it was because I didn't know how to accomplish that dream. Why bother thinking about a bleak future, right?

Short Term Goals: Graduate and find a job.

Long Term Goals: none.

Second Quarter (April - June)

In certain ways, this was perhaps the most relaxing time of the year. Sure, I was out looking for a job, but it was at my convenience. There was no more school to dictate what time I had to go to class or what requirements I had to submit. Everything came out of my own initiative. And in other ways, this time was also one of my loneliest. I mean I was at home, without much access to friends. Everyone seemed to go on with their lives, pursuing their own dreams and careers. I'm the person that just wants to talk, to play games, and enjoy ourselves. Without the forced socialization that school gave, I was left with little.

Job hunting was also a good learning experience. I mean early on, I did have projects to work on. And while I did good work on the, the project didn't push through. But it was something I accepted from the start, and I think it's a healthy practice to train one's self in accepting risk. I mean I knew that despite the hours and effort I'd put into the work, there's a chance that it won't push through. And naturally, there's also personal risk when it comes to job interviews. You go to the meeting, submit your resume, and open yourself up to a complete stranger. And at the end of the day, you really don't know whether you got the job or not (in fact, you won't know until a few months later, and even then, the best you get is a "no reply" so you're left to surmise that you didn't get hired). But when you're doing things you're not used to, you start to grow and become a better person.

My own weaknesses also became evident when I was going through my job interviews. The common question was what I was looking for. My answer would be a stable job. And the next question after that would be what my long term plans were. I could only shrug. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't want to dwell on my long term plans, because I didn't have one.

But all this free time also gave me the opportunity to read more and to write more. Eventually I'd get in touch with some friends, but close relationships was something I really didn't develop. There was less stress for me at this time compared to my college life, but it was also a taste of what real life had in store. Thankfully, my parents was financially supporting me which is why I was able to live a comfortable lifestyle. But I knew I didn't want to depend on them forever, and would pave the way for my initiative in the next phase of my life.

Short Term Goals: Enjoy one's self and find a job.

Long Term Goals: none.

Third Quarter (July - September)

After a few month's of idleness, I wanted to work. For me, the call center was a last resort, but an option I nonetheless considered. I previously couldn't find a job on my own that involved writing, so now I was going to pursue a job that wasn't in my field of expertise, but was open. Unlike most people from my batch who loathed the idea of working for a call center, I embraced the idea. I mean I haven't experienced working for a call center, so why should I have a bias against it? There's also been this talk of a call center having "no growth" but I immediately saw the fallacy in that: career-wise, promotions are faster in a call center; as a person, something that trains you to speak better, empathize with other people better, and train in you other skills is always a good thing. If you're uncomfortable with all of that, then that's good. It means you're growing. No one ever said taking your medicine always had to be pleasant.

When I resigned myself to working for a call center, I got just that: I was hired. The first month was pleasant for me. It was like going back to school, and you got paid for it. There were new people to meet, new lessons to be learned, and more importantly for me at that time, money to earned.

The second month was work. It was everything I feared it to be, and more. Not that it didn't have its own rewards. But my mentality at the time was still be the best that you can be in whatever field you're working on. I didn't really have to like it; that's why it's called work. Of course since time suddenly became scarce, I learned to lessen my procastination. And if there's anything that made me think about my future, it was my work experience. What did I want for myself? How would I accomplish that goal? What are the steps I can take to achieve it? I was growing, not just because of all the training, not just because of all my fears that were threatening to consume me, but also because I was starting to think, starting to plan.

Short Term Goals: Get promoted, or failing that, find a way out of the job.

Long Term Goals: Find a business/career where I can maintain my lifestyle.

Fourth Quarter (October - December)

The latest turning point in my life, the last phase of my life this year was full of excitement and change. Despite my best efforts to motivate myself to continue my job, my subconscious couldn't take it. I was fine during my waking hours, although it was a different matter altogether when it came to my dreams. And so I made a decision I never thought I'd make: I quit my job. And along with that experience came a lot of soul-searching, therapy, and support from unexpected sources.

Perhaps what surprised me was how supportive my parents were. In the end, they were my safety net. Whatever pride I had was stripped of me when it came to quitting the call center. Whereas before I was intent on getting a job through my own skills, now I was willing to work elsewhere, even if that meant the family business or through the connections of my relatives (not that I see that as something bad, but rather I was hoping to get a job on my own initiative rather than depending on someone else).

I also came out of the experience learning how to manage time more successfully. Whereas I didn't have time for friends before, now I found ways to make the time (time is merely a matter of priorities). And in a certain sense, I also developed responsibility because I realized that my life was not merely my own, and I was accountable to a lot of people. One would think my life was easier ever since I quit my job. It wasn't; there were more appointments to keep, more people to meet, and timetables to keep up with. I grew and matured, for the better.

In certain ways, I also went back to my roots. I came back to my alma matter a stranger; the place had changed. Yet the people inside it haven't. I met up with old friends, doing the best I could do to cheer them up. In the process, I also made a lot of new friends. And perhaps that's also what has changed significantly about me. Right now, I'm perhaps friendlier. It's not because I'm more eager to befriend people than before, but rather because I was able to learn a lot from the experiences the past year has taught me. I really value the empathy and leadership program I was able to learn from my call center. Applying it to real life only made me a better person. And in certain ways, I was also able to communicate more. I broke down personal barriers. And even among my blogs, there isn't much difference between them anymore: what's featured in one is most likely featured in the other. It helps my readers. It helps my friends.

New options were also open to me right now. And whereas I previousy shirked from personal development and responsibility, I now embrace it. I'm not saying I enjoy it; I mean given the chance of shouldering the burden of responsibility or not, I'd opt for the latter. But I've come to realize that if I want a lot from my life, I have to expect a lot from myself as well. No one gets ahead by remaining who they are, or worse, regressing into their infancy stage in which they're not responsible for anyone and merely concerned with themselves. If I want to be a better person, I have to go out of my comfort zone. That means volunteering, being accountable for one's actions, and being more sensitive to the needs of others.

I have a long way to go to be the person who I want to be. But what's significantly changed is that now I know who I want to be. And I see trials and hurdles everywhere. But rather than run away from it, I know I have to face them. I don't expect to get everything right all the time. Failure is inevitable. What matters is if I get back up and retain my attitude. The last quarter has been a soul-searching experience for me. But it's only possible for me to come to that realization because of the previous experiences I've faced.

Short Term Goals: Make more friends, develop assets, and find ways to fulfill long term goal.

Long Term Goal: Set up my own business so I can live a comfortable life, pursue gaming and writing, and help my friends and those in need.


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