Sunday, July 27, 2014

On doing what you love and loving what you do

This morning, while I was in the shower (home of all great ideas and deep thoughts), I found myself thinking of the work I need to do later, and how blessed I am to be making a living out of writing, reading, and editing. I remember that my childhood ambition was to be a librarian, because I thought it meant I'd have all the time in the world to read all the books I want. Even when I was already working and would seek solace in a good book, I'd find myself thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if I could just read books all day and still get paid?" But I had always been afraid of turning that wishful thinking into reality because I thought that getting paid to read or write would diminish my love for it. But the Universe has its way of working things out, and here I am, doing what I love.

And yet, many say that this is actually bad career advice. It leads to discontented spirits who flit from one job to the other, thinking to themselves, "This isn't what I love to do, so this isn't for me." It's almost like being in a relationship (and how many times have I likened a career to a relationship), where you keep finding flaws in the person you're with and concluding that he's not The One. And so you move on to the next, and to the next, and to the next, convinced that The One person or job is just out there, waiting for you, and you'll live happily ever after. It sounds romantic and idealistic, but in reality, all you get is a resume that shows you can't hold down a job and you can't figure out what you want, or the realization that you've been labelled a commitment-phobe. Hardly the characteristic that will attract an employer looking for someone with a sense of loyalty to a company, or someone who's willing to grow with a company for a substantial amount of time before moving on to the next. Even with relationships, it's difficult to grow and move forward when you're too worried about whether or not this person will leave you at the first sign of struggle.

I also read an article before that pointed out that only a select few can financially afford to follow this career advice. Really, how many times have I taken a look around my place of work, zeroed in on certain individuals, and thought to myself, "This person obviously does not need to work for a living, so this really must be his/her passion." But now that I'm in this situation, I'm realizing that this is not true at all. I'm doing what I love, but I'm hardly swimming in money. On the contrary, I find that I have to work twice, three times as hard just to make what I used to when I had a regular job.

It seems that the flip side is the secret. It's not so much about doing what you love. You're very lucky if, like me, you have the opportunity to make a living out of your passions. But not everyone in life is as lucky. Think of security guards, salesladies, janitors-- all thankless jobs, it's difficult to imagine them as a child's ambition. And yet these jobs exist, and we see people who go about these jobs with a smile on their faces and a genuine care for those that they serve. The secret is that no matter what job you're in, be thankful that you have a job at all. And then, fall in love with it. There's always something good about whatever job you have, whether it's the things that you learn, the day-to-day experiences you have, the people you meet, or the kind of person you become because of it.

What a happy coincidence that for today's homily, the priest was talking about the need to be excited again about life and its blessings. His anecdotes were about how people lose their excitement over things --relationships, jobs, studies-- as time goes by, and how important it is to realize that life is not always happy. Life comes with its ups and downs, triumphs and struggles. So when you're down and struggling, it takes a lot of faith to just hang in there and find it in yourself to be excited again.

Truth be told, now that I'm nearing one year in this freelance life, it hasn't always a bed of roses. Sure, there's a rush that comes with seeing your name in a byline, but behind that byline is the stress of finding interview subjects, the difficulty of transcribing interviews, the challenge of powering through writer's block because the deadline is the next day. It's meant days of working in a digital advertising agency during the day, then going home to get more writing and editing work done when everyone else is probably resting already. It's meant weekends of working instead of lounging around. So no, it hasn't been all fun and games. But at the end of the day, I am thankful for the struggles because I know that there isn't anything else I'd rather do. And I know that each struggle will pass-- once I hit the "Send" button to submit my pieces, it's over until the next project comes along. It's faith that keeps me focused on all the good parts of this job. It's faith that keeps me going.

My final thought in the shower was that life is like a game of cards. You're not always dealt a winning hand. But if you already know that you've got a losing hand, you still have two choices on how to approach the game: with a defeatist attitude, sulking all throughout; or with a cheerful spirit, enjoying the game and deciding that you're lucky you got to play at all.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On never being too old for first-times

Now that I've been working in digital advertising for 10 months, I've gotten a bit used to having to say goodbye to some clients and saying hello to new ones. The job has required me to research on many different industries, which is great for someone like me who just loves learning new things.

My latest account has to do with hair treatment. This is a big deal for me because *confession* I have virgin hair. Even if my suki hairstylist always asks me if I want to get my hair colored, I always just opt for a haircut. The most I've gotten is a hot oil, and that was just recently.

That is, until this account came along and our clients offered free treatments for the team. I was apprehensive, of course, but M said, "Go. There's a first time for everything."

With his encouragement and the realization that if I was going to do this, it might as well be with a very reputable brand, plus it's for free, I took a deep breath and told myself, "Okay. Let's do this."

Final selfie with my virgin hair!
Aside from wanting to say farewell to my virgin hair, I realized that it's good to take a Before photo so that you can easily compare it to your new hair! At this point, I'm excited but very scared.

I was shown different hair samples --all of which, honestly, looked the same to me-- and then I told them to consider these two things: 1) it's my first time, so please be gentle; and 2) I'm getting married in six months (!), so I want a color that's not too drastic so that it doesn't grow out too ugly. The stylists decided to ease me into it by choosing a shade of brown that they promised would give a subtle yet noticeable change. In particular, my stylist Donna told me that dark brown was actually preferable because if you have fine, thin hair like me, choosing a light shade would kind-of reflect on your scalp, making the thinness more obvious.

The color is in!
Before they brushed all the color into my hair, they had to dab a bit on the back of my ear to check if I'd have an allergic reaction to it. My ear started to itch a little, but I really think it was psychosomatic! So Donna proceeded with caution and would ask me every now and then, "Does anything itch? Are you still scared?" Thankfully, the answer to both was "No!"

It turns out that color for the roots are applied last because it absorbs color more quickly. But after around 10 minutes, Donna checked my hair then said, "Oh wow, you're ready! Let's go rinse it!" I didn't understand the big deal until she told me while she was washing my hair, "Your hair is one in a million. Usually it takes 35 minutes, but your hair absorbs color so fast, it was ready in 10." It's a good thing that she was on the watch, otherwise I would've had ultra-light roots!

New look for a new life!

So she rinsed it then blow-dried it, and I decided to take a selfie! It doesn't look like a big change, which I like because I feel like I'm really being eased into deciding if I want to go a bit lighter next time.

A big thank you to my stylist Donna!
I couldn't resist taking a photo with my stylist Donna, who really put me at ease by telling me that we have the same hair type, and she shared tips on how I could add more volume to my hair. Since it was based on her personal experience, I really felt like she knew her stuff! I'd love to go back and get my hair done by her again. It really pays to have it done by the experts and trust in their judgment and expertise!

So here's the Before and After shot, taken in the exact same spot under the same lighting conditions. The change isn't too obvious indoors, but I've been told that you can really see the brown shade in natural light.

With something just as simple as changing my hair color, I realized that you're really never too old to have a first-time for anything! :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On wedding preps and the importance of counting backwards

One of the very first things I did after getting engaged was to open up an Excel spreadsheet and make a timeline.

When July rolled in, I revisited my timeline and saw the note "6 months before - fix Church requirements". So M and I decided to dedicate a day to doing just that.

The Driver and The Navigator, ready for an adventure!

Here are some of the things I learned in the process:

1. It helps to call ahead.
In today's day and age, the landline is something anyone hardly ever uses anymore. But it was super helpful in this process.

Since I was baptized in the hospital's chapel, I had to call the hospital to find out where I could claim my baptismal certificate. Then, I also had to call St. Francis of Assisi and Sta. Maria dela Strada to find out if the confirmation certificates of those confirmed in Poveda and Ateneo (respectively) could be claimed there.

By calling these Churches ahead, not only was I able to verify that our records were indeed there, but I was also to get information that would help them track down these records quickly-- when I called Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Sta. Mesa for my baptismal certificate, the guy I spoke to gave me the exact book number, page number, and even line number where my record could be found.

After all the verification, we were ready to set our itinerary for the day. Which leads me to the second lesson.

2. Download Waze app and believe in its power to get you to places.
From old-school to modern! With my phone plugged into a car charger and armed with unlidata, we set out for Sta. Mesa, completely reliant on the directions given by Waze.

Even if both M and I drive and are knowledgeable of how to get around, Waze helped us navigate through side streets that got us from Sta. Mesa to Cubao in no time! But we arrived in Cubao only to find out that we would have to abort our mission, all because of the third lesson.

3. Learn how to count backwards properly.
As it turns out, I had only counted by month. So yes, July is six months away from January 2015. But what I failed to realize is that we're getting married on January 31, which means that six months before our wedding date is still... July 31.

It was explained to us in Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao that our certificates would only be valid for six months. So if they released M's baptismal certificate to us today, it would only be valid until January 8.

4.  Take note of the parish's office hours and days off.
While in Cubao, we kept trying to call our church to ask if they were super-strict about the validity period. But no one was picking up, so we decided to abort the mission and head to Eastwood to ask in person. Only to discover that the reason why no one was picking up was because the office was closed.

Some parish offices are closed on Mondays, others on Tuesdays. Some are open as early as 7:30am, others open at 8am. Some lunch breaks are only until 1pm, others are until 2pm. When I called Sta. Maria dela Strada for M's confirmation certificate, I was told that we should drop by after lunch because the priest who would be signing the certificates would be in by then. Knowing the office hours of each church you need to visit helps you make a more efficient and realistic itinerary.

5. Always look on the bright side.
Aborting the mission left me feeling very frustrated and disappointed in myself because, really, how simple is it to count backwards?!

We visited Eastwood and I tried to get a hold of myself by praying, releasing my tears of frustration, and basically trying to focus on this image:

We'll be standing here in 207 days!

It was here, in front of the altar we would eventually stand before by next year, that I realized how truly blessed I am to be marrying M. He wouldn't tolerate my little pity-party. He said, "That's the way it is. We'll do it in August. It's nothing life-threatening; no one has died. Now if our church tells us that they've messed up our dates, that's a problem. This is nothing."

So now, I'm just thankful that we had found out about the validity issue when we had gotten just my baptismal certificate, rather than when we had gotten all four certificates already. Imagine my meltdown if we find out that ALL certificates are invalid and we have to do everything all over again! So at least it's just one potential do-over. And now we know how to get to the churches, so it'll be easier to find them when we do Church-hopping 2.0 in August!

At the end of the day, we're still getting married. Like M always likes to say, don't worry because things will always fall into place. :)