31 January 2012

Stuck in transition


Philippine Daily Inquirer

January 25th, 2012

When I was much younger, I thought I had my future figured out: poetry writing in grade school, a student council seat in high school, theater work in college, and then law school. What came next in this simple yet ambitious life plan was no less than a successful law practice (much like my father’s) which my parents had imagined and hoped for their unplanned little bundle of joy.

Fast forward to today. After two resignations in a span of one year and six months, I must admit that my dream, which was greatly influenced by my family’s achievements, is nowhere near getting accomplished. At least the greater, more crucial part of it.

I told my parents that I would apply to law school only if my survival depended on it. I also told them that I intended to become a journalist (in which medium it didn’t matter at that time) and work my way into earning a much-deserved byline. But since no life-or-death situation came, applying for admission to law school was out of the question.

Fortunately I was born into a family that values personal goals and believes in dreaming big. When I finally decided to focus on breaking into the publishing industry, my parents expressed their approval and delight. I was finally making progress.

My first real job saw me working as an editorial assistant in a business magazine. But after only nine months, I realized I wasn’t cut out for the job. I loved my former boss and had a very high regard for the team I worked with, but I was robbing someone of his/her dream job. While I was learning a lot about such things as business trends, local franchising and the country’s economic climate, I couldn’t deny that something entirely different appealed to me. Or so I thought.

A combination of good timing and luck led me to my second job in a high society and lifestyle magazine. I knew that my new job was much different from the previous one—from the dress code to the connections it opened for me to a whole, new and distant concept of luxurious living. There my resourcefulness, and not my writing, was recognized as my greatest asset. Not that it was a bad thing, but I had looked forward to practicing my chosen craft.

Another nine months passed before I woke up one day feeling at peace with the decision to turn in my resignation letter primarily because I wanted to write again about topics that are closest to my interests (read: teens, DIYs, etc.). This was met with an unexpected and generous offer, to which I responded with gratitude. Even when I was given two weeks to “thoroughly consider it,” I was certain about leaving to rediscover my love for writing.

To be honest about it, I wouldn’t say that my writing is among the most brilliant when compared with those of my contemporaries. In fact, a colleague whose command of the English language is commendable said that my pieces read like they were produced in a “mediocre writing summer camp.” According to him, my writing does nothing for no one. “Flush your ideas down the drain, where they belong,” he wrote in an angry e-mail.

To this day, I still cannot comprehend where his hatred for my writing style comes from. His opinion doesn’t count and I doubt that jealousy is driving all his attempts to get me to stop writing. We haven’t had any face-to-face interaction since college, so I find his anger intriguing.

True that my use of an optimistic tone in my compositions isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I must say that my words, however raw and unpolished, always strive to inspire hope, channel positivity and most importantly encourage readers to take risks. What I lack in terms of mustering big words I make up for by my honesty.

Perhaps this encounter with a successful yet miserable fellow has made me a little concerned about getting left behind by the rest of my generation, the ones who have settled in their jobs for life. The good things began for them while I was still keeping my fingers crossed, patiently waiting for my turn.

I am aware that 22 seems like a young age to be so confused but I have reached the point when I feel that I must break free from the clasps of transition and be where I am supposed to be. Many of my friends are convinced that I give up easily. Some however say they wish they had my guts. Some batchmates who have managed to stick to one job since graduation told me I am lucky to be able to prioritize my heart’s desire over securing a source of stable income.

I have my parents to thank for not rushing me into anything I cannot be 200 percent committed to. Despite my choosing not to follow in his footsteps, my father remains confident that I will be able to figure something out (“like you always do”) eventually. My mother believes that the beauty in not knowing is that endless possibilities will keep coming my way.

Of course I won’t have this privilege forever, so I constantly remind myself to grow up because my parents are growing old.

Throughout all these, I have come to accept that quitting isn’t always a sign of weakness and that being stranded in limbo allows time for reflection. To keep on doing what everyone expects me to do is the genuine symptom of weakness. It takes real courage to leave a job that pays well, knowing your heart is invested in something else.

Right now none of my back-up plans have materialized yet, but I will be fine. I will get to my destination someday, somehow.

Portia Silva, 22, graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a major in communication. Part of her New Year’s resolution is to stay for at least one year in her next job.


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