Monday, December 13, 2004


A few days ago, I met up with an acquaintance from an org I was part of in college. She had been living in South America for more than a year, teaching, traveling, and enjoying herself throughout the entire time she was there. Perhaps what fascinated me the most was the fact that when I was talking to her, she knew what she wanted for her future, thanks to what she had recently experienced.

I remember that for most of the year, I was aimless myself. Before I graduated, I already knew I was going to leave the confines of comfort. Let's face it, in college, the rules were simple: they were dictated by the school officials. You either submitted your requirements or you didn't. I had no illusions that upon graduating, forging the right path for me would be difficult. For one thing, I didn't know where to start. As someone who graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, employment opportunities were far from easy. But perhaps thinking in that way was a pit trap in itself. I mean upon graduating, there was one thing in my mind: to keep busy and earn money. That usually meant a job. And I honestly don't know what job I'd like to pursue, much less actually qualify for.

I failed to differentiate vocation from a job. The first one is what you really wanted to do, whether it was to travel, be a philantrophist, or perhaps even be president of the Philippines. The latter is just that: a job. They pay you well, and if you're lucky, you get treated right and obtain a lot of benefits (such as travel). But that doesn't change the fact that a job is a job. You're working for someone else. Another person is benefiting from your labor. Some of us are lucky to find a job that's our vocation as well. For example, there's teaching. A number of people I know like to teach. It's their calling, as some might say. So even if the financial rewards aren't that high, they still pursue teaching as a career.

I know someone who's working as a highly paid consultant. But what he really wants to do is go back to Manila and teach in the public schools (because he himself was a public school student). The former is his occupation. The latter is his vocation. Right now, he's making plans so that he can pursue his vocation. Perhaps the biggest mistake a lot of people do is box themselves, limiting what they can actually accomplish. Many people subscribe to either overspecialization ("I can only do one thing") or too much focus ("Right now, the only thing I want to do is this"). They fail to see that they're human beings and as people, they're actually capable of a lot of things. You don't have to just do one thing and focus on it. You can do several things at once and be successful in all those areas. Of course having said that, doing so would not be easy. It would take some planning and forethought. The consultant I know is making plans so that he has a business running to support his finances, so that he can pursue teaching.

My biggest disappointment is when I ask people what do you want to do. More often than not, they don't answer me with what they really want, but rather what they think they can land as a job. For me, employment is merely a stepping stone. Yes, it's good to be employed. It puts food on the table, after all. But that shouldn't be the be all and end all of your life. What do you really want to do? Don't be afraid to ask that question.


Working as a call center agent, as short a span of time that was, gave me the opportunity to reflect and explore what I really wanted to do. Adversity, taken in the right way, makes us better people. Two months ago, I discovered what I really wanted to do. Unfortunately, that was just the first step. Once I realized what I wanted to do, I knew thing wouldn't be easier but rather, they would prove more difficult.

It's good that I now have a goal. But the question I'm asking now is how do I achieve that goal? How can I accomplish my dreams? Unlike school where you have textbooks and teachers to guide you in your endeavors, when it comes to real life, there's no perfect answer for every problem. One has to explore how one can fulfill their goal. I mean we're all born with different skills and talents. While we might have the same dreams as other people, the methods we choose will not be the same. Some are suited better for others. So realizing what I really wanted to do or be in the future was not an easy thing to do. I did realize though that if I were to fulfill my dreams, I'd have to be a better person than who I was now. I mean if the "me" right now was good enough, then why aren't I fulfilling my dreams? I need to grow, learn, and be a better person. That might mean doing some things I haven't done before, or going out of my comfort zone. It might also mean being more humble on my part, and realizing that things will be more difficult to accomplish if I merely do it as an individual. I have friends and my parents. Because perhaps of my pride, I've neglected them for so long.


While they aren't necessary for success, it's always nice if you have someone like mentors to guide you in whatever exploits you have. I really didn't have mentors at home since my parents were often tight-lipped and refused to answer a lot of my questions. Rather, my parents were more of anti-role models. I learned more from their mistakes and wrong attitudes more than anything else to mold me into the person that I am today. But even then, anti-role models can only go so far. Even until now, I'm looking for mentors whom I can learn from.

One such person is my friend Dean Alfar, a talented writer who has won seven Palanca awards and even had his fantasy short story published in this year's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. I often look up to him and perhaps the only reason I'm not trailing him left and right is the fact that he and his lovely wife smokes, and I'm far from someone who has perfect health. The other day, stayed up until the wee hours of the morning as Dean talked about writing and his goals in life. I was in one corner, near the door (where I can get some fresh air), and even though my throat had lots of phlegm which prevented me from contributing to the conversation, I listened attentively, marveling at his insights and beliefs (not necessarily agreeing on all of them).

Several years ago when I was still working in Comic Alley, Teddy Sy also proved to be a valuable mentor to me. He taught me a lot regarding business and dealing with people, and he was always kind. Perhaps right now, my only regret is that I wasn't able to fully maximize the opportunity to learn from him.

Right now, I'm still searching for other mentors, whether it's in writing, business, or anything else that piques my curiosity. I'm always open to new ideas, and in the end, it's probably ideas that will pave the way for my future.


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