So, where to now?

Posted on October 31, 2008

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Four months ago, I wrote a blog entry on the Young Public Servants website, entitled “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” I wrote there that “I thought of getting out so that I would get un-stuck from the intellectual rut I was in and learn to think out of the box, out of the Universe, all of the time. I remember thinking, I cannot learn to innovate and develop creative solutions to today’s problems if I myself do not get out of my comfort zone and become exposed to an environment that nurtures innovation.” I shared my acceptance into a university in Sydney, Australia for a one-year masters program and said, “Everything pretty much fell onto my lap and fell into place (with the help of a lot of continuous discernment and ‘listening’, intuition, and good ol’ impulsiveness), making me believe that ‘this is where I should be.'”

Fast-forward to today, just a few days after getting a letter from Australia’s Endeavour Awards committee, informing me that my scholarship application has been “unsuccessful”, primarily because my proposed program “did not match Award requirements.” I knew it was a shot in the dark when I applied for the Endeavour Awards, knowing that my program would be in International Communication when priority programs were in international trade, security, environment, and other more urgent fields of study, but I wanted to take a chance on my dreams anyway. Now that my dreams of studying in Australia are rapidly evaporating in front of me, I can only ask myself (and the Universe): So, what now…?

And I’m writing this and sharing it with everyone here not because I want to rant and sour-grape about this opportunity I did not get, but because I wish to process my thoughts and emotions, knowing that others might feel the way I do.

* * *

Right after getting the acceptance letter from Macquarie University, I felt empowered and emboldened to go for my dreams and pursue paths that have always been close to my heart: social entrepreneurship and media. I used my talents and skills to be more deeply involved in campaigns and causes that mattered so much to me, and I grabbed opportunities to expose myself to other forms of media work. I knew that I had it in me to share positive messages with others around me, and I poured a lot of time and energy into everything that I really believed in.

But, somewhere along the way, I forgot that I had an obligation to myself and my family, first and foremost. Most of the activities I took on were pro bono, purely voluntary activities that drained a lot of time, energy, and resources from me. Because I enjoyed them all so much I failed to notice that I was getting fewer and fewer paid projects, and that my bank account balances were teetering so close to the black hole. When another opportunity arrived–this time to go to Athens, Greece for the Euro-Mediterranean Journalism Institute–I couldn’t even put together the funds I needed to pay for my air fare. And that was the only thing I was supposed to have paid for; everything else was to be provided for free.

It’s not anyone’s fault really, except my own, but it leaves me to wonder: why must it always be a CHOICE between (unpaid or pathetically paid) work that “makes a difference” and the kind of work that pays the bills and affords some luxuries, but for which we must always apologize for? To put it more graphically–and I exaggerate to drive home the point–why must work here feel like you have to choose between being a social worker or a prostitute?

Case in point: even our government officials, who ought to have public service first and foremost in their minds, are prostituting themselves for the sake of taking care of their families. And, really, even those who don’t have greed in their bloodstreams somehow feel like they need to cheat a little just in order to survive.

When you feel that you can’t even take care of yourself or your family to do the good work that needs to be done–or when you feel that you need to swallow your ethics in order to feed your family–then something is very, very wrong.

* * *

And yes, I generalize; I exaggerate. Clearly, there are many Filipinos out here who are doing decent, honorable jobs, and they’re able to keep their families afloat. But these Filipinos account for just about 3 percent of the population, which constitute our classes A, B, and upper C combined. What about the 97 percent who live below the poverty line–or the roughly 9 million Filipinos who have had to give up the security of their family relationships in order to put food on the table? Don’t patronize them and call them heroes because they are not out there serving their country–they are out there because this country cannot afford to give them jobs that will put food on the table!

And so I ask myself once again: Should I stay or should I go? I feel that I have already given up so much of my time, energy, and resources to help this country, and maybe now I need to focus on myself and my family’s needs first. Get a great job that I’ll enjoy, and one that will compensate me properly and fairly–according to my very marketable skills and talents. Enjoy whatever is left of my youth, and get exposed to more efficient systems and structures that will inevitably improve my productivity. Stop short-changing myself, and take better care of my needs so that I will able more able to give back to my country again. Someday.

When I wrote that other piece I’m referring to now, I gave myself six months to decide. Now I don’t think I can wait that long to find out. And it looks like all roads point outward for me–no apologies, no regrets.

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