To say that I did not have a normal college or high school life is an understatement. I was already working as early as the age of 17. It was only a part-time stint for a publication but it helped me get started with my writing earlier in life. That was not really my first experience with having some form of enterprise. At age 15, I was selling food or baked goodies done by my mom to my classmates and teachers before flag ceremony because I liked the extra income and I was really proud of my mom’s empanada and pastillas. It was an odd thing to do as a private school student because most of them were well off, but I did those even when other girls laughed about it behind my back. Maybe that’s why I never really returned for high school reunions after graduation. There was little to go back to, except for a handful of friends I have made. I would, however, do my best to go back and judge events for my teachers who have been most kind to me that time.
Those things did not make me cool enough for my status-seeking classmates, but that’s fine. My mom was happy and I had extra money to go by per day. It is quite challenging to study in a place where all your peers have everything they need easily and more, and then you have to work for every centavo. Once, I won in a regional writing contest and my father, instead of being proud of me, did not allow me to go!
He opposed my writing interest saying that “There is no money in writing.” and he urged me to take Medicine. My aunt and I ended up doing some form of fundraising activity in high school just so I can buy my plane ticket to General Santos City.
I passed a pre-med course in UST but I did not tell my father. He likewise rejected my preference to take Creative Writing in Ateneo de Manila. I had a full scholarship in DLSU for Computer Science but I let go of it thinking that in the event that I lose my scholarship midway, I will not be able to enroll myself for the next trimester.
When I first got published in a lifestyle magazine four years after that episode of being stifled of my writing passion, I was able to prove my father that I was right about fighting for my right to write.
I started having a mind of my own, which brought them a lot of pain while I was growing up but a lot of happiness when I started working.
Things, this hard life had not given me so easily. But my situation has taught me to be creative and resourceful, and insightful in a way that a comfortable lifestyle can never give a person.
I think I never really flinched with humbling types of work if it means that it’s noble and if it means that it will help me accomplish something that will help me improve my situation. I have a pretty submissive personality so I do not see myself aggressively doing those door to door things that involve inviting people to attend seminars or making something useful like unique items that will sell like pancakes. I do promote products if I am genuinely convinced that it’s good stuff. I hate exploiting people especially when they deserve to get paid more.
I just pretty much used what was there while I was growing up. Once, I was even talked into doing cashier work for a supermarket during Christmas season. It was really hard work. I remember distinctly that unlike in office work, you have to have a very strong bladder to be able to survive this job. You cannot pee instantly as a cashier. There is this elaborate ceremony that involves closing the cash register and passing through those vegetable stalls and frozen food stalls before you get to the bathroom. You count every centavo in your cash register before you can lock it and go to the bathroom. Also, peeing comes in shifts. If another cashier is in the bathroom, you cannot go. You have to wait for her to return to her station before you can do your thing. If peeing is like a frigging wheel of fortune at 50 pesos per hour with zero benefits, those cashiers deserve more respect than those well-fed drones in air-conditioned cubicles who whine about not having their own computers or what-nots. I have never looked a cashier in the same way again after what I went through during that short time that I worked as one.
For almost a year, I taught English writing and speaking to Koreans and most of the students assigned to me were extremely hardheaded. I also experienced working in a call center where I gave up my hours of sleep to listen to irritated customers from the other side of the world who refuse to pay their bills and are questioning every extra cent on their billing statement. I deluded myself that night was day and day was night by shutting all my windows and painting the walls with darkest shade of hue. The bedroom was frigging sauna.
Some people who do not know me well may judge me to be a difficult person to deal with. But what can I say? Should I care about what others think of me with all these life considerations I had to take on early in life?
Life is already too difficult as it is. If someone thinks I’m insufferable, they can just deal with it. 🙂
Most of the time, I had online rakets duing college days to help me have extra money while I am completing my degree in engineering. In retrospect, I think I was able to maximize the college life experience, although it did not involve me participating actively in organizations or having carefree moments the way other college students have.
At the time, I never really thought I’d become an engineer at all. The odds of me dropping out of college were greater than the odds of continuing my course. During a phase of life when you are starting to earn money on your own, sometimes the quest for acquiring a diploma becomes more optional than required for your life’s success.More than once, I have asked myself: “What is this piece of paper I am slaving away for?”
And like what most successful undergraduates will tell you, success is not directly proportional to the number of degrees you have finished.
The ironic thing with my situation was that I was earning so much more with my part-time stints in college than now when I am working fulltime. It’s hard to take a paycut at this age especially when you know that you have more work experience than most of the fresh graduates.But the old experiences of doing odd jobs don’t count as a solid whole as added credentials engineering work because it was a sum of small and different parts of the work force.
As early as the age of 17, I know that everyone on earth who is employed is pretty much underpaid. And that I am part of that work force.
If anything, engineering work has provided me with a certain fulfillment that my other old jobs have not provided. The intellectual stimulation is good. I keep wondering what I have done in the past that made me earn twice as much. Since I got started in the work force fairly early, I learned about the harsh realities of the working world pretty early as well. But that did not make my adjustments after my license acquisition any easier.
I think that one disadvantage of working too early in life is that your tolerance for things lowers considerably. You had a head start, you get tired more easily later on with what you are doing because you feel the effect of prolonged use, of the grind… And you cannot “unlearn” things you have learned the hard way. As early as age 19, I got scammed with a few thousand bucks for an online writing project. It was a large sum considering that I divided my review time for my final exams just to do those articles for that client. I think by default I have come to regard most people in the work world with much suspicion. I tend to react when an HR offers you a ridiculously low job offer even when your credentials deserve more. I just tend to see things more than an average worker does, and I am surprised at how people underestimate the value of what they do.
I do particularly hate it when after you have earned your degree, some people think they have a license to treat you like a dog or puppy just because they hired you. I made it a point to evaluate the people I work for before I enter a job. And if there’s too much degrading or unjustly humiliating treatment in a system, I leave it without hesitations no matter how good it seems or how handsome it registers on my curriculum vitae.
So, given that all circumstances of life are so difficult and I sometimes feel like giving up, what gets me through? What got me through those incessant nights at college where I was awake and hateful, wondering what this engineering degree will bring? What got me through those lonely days in high school where I did not fit in but I had to stay on?
One of the things that got me through is those visits at churches at night when words are not enough and I only had tears for my petitions. That’s one. That’s one but that’s not all, because Christ is felt more on earth when He is personified by people who live like Him.
What got me through is not my 140+ IQ level.It was not the awards that I got, or the acknowledgment I had for my work, or the things you find in my curriculum vitae. Heck, it’s not even in those spa sessions I manage to squeeze in when I feel like all hell has broken loose with school and with work.
It’s just, really, a bunch of patient people who believed in me, and a bunch of patient people who are smart and who work with me.
And now that I am working as an engineer, I still find so many difficult things that make me want to throw in the towel. Sometimes I second guess myself and think that I can no longer go on.
The pay in this country is not something you can rank as something that can easily help you build a family. But God has been good enough to give me a place of work where my bosses appreciate what I can offer, where they treat me like a human being, where they guide me with their rich experience in the industry, and where they encourage me to be more autonomous take more risks in my practice. They don’t blame me when I need to go to the doctor, the way some other companies do. They don’t take it against me when I have new ideas in handling a situation. They just primarily accept what I can contribute and accept that I am a human with limitations and not a machine.
No job is perfect but it’s hard to find a job that has a built-in family in it, where you are not being exploited but instead being taken by hand as a respectable human being, or later on, as a partner. And I just spend this morning before I start working again to type that out so that job seekers who may be reading this post now will be encouraged not to settle for anything less when you are looking for a job.
You spend 80 to 90 percent of your life at work. You must make sure that you are happy at your place of work if you do not want to make your life a living hell.