Twelve relevant lessons I learned this year.
- Alcohol is never the answer. Yes, this is surprising coming from me. But I spent 2011 drinking and dancing to escape the monotony of my job. Then I spent 2012 drinking (and with less dancing) to feel that “rush of happiness,” to escape chaos and the anxieties that I faced each day. The sometimes overpriced (but delicious) mixes never quite made them go away. Only your resolve, strength, and courage can make a problem go away. The alcohol just makes the stress slightly easier to deal with.
- Avoid being too nice. “Masyado ka kasing mabait,” was the main criticism I heard this year. And yes, that is a bad thing. I remembered the same thing being told to me six or seven years ago, when a “friend” took advantage of my ignorance and led me to believe she was on my side. Then two years later, neutral parties revealed the truth in regular conversation: she had been fueling the rumors against me from the start. So I let go of her, but never really learned. I continued to trust people too much and let my guard down when I shouldn’t have.
- Take a leap of faith. The ride and plunge down that deep but beautiful ocean will reward you with unexpected finds. A whole new world, as Disney’s Aladdin claims; one you will be a part of (ever Little Mermaid pun intended). Although I had been planning to take my masters some time in my 20s, it took someone who had actually been there to push me into the application. I had always been worried: “what if I wasn’t qualified enough?” “What if I am not prepared enough?” One and half semesters later, here I am, reading, writing, and yes, procrastinating my way through academics. But the cliché rings true—you will never really know until you try.
- Keep your friends close and your enemies at the right distance. The problem with Pinoys is that we’re too involved in each other’s business. To paraphrase a friend’s observation from living in Hong Kong: we’re quite relational, so the lines between a professional and personal relationship tend to be blurred. This can be a good or bad thing. It’s great if you end up finding friends you can keep for the rest of your life. My last job let me keep friends I can travel, drink, eat, and sleep with (literally, on the last item!). But if you’re not too careful, professional matter can be taken personally. Not everyone can redraw or assert that line.
- Never stop traveling. Three of my journeys this year came from my own pocket; the other two were part of the job. I’m thankful for all these opportunities, as it continued my affair with the rest of the world and the country in 2011. All instances also let me bond with some pretty amazing people. The next year will be part three of this mission. Hong Kong in March, the need to do Anawangin, and plans of Cambodia and maybe Thailand? Brace yourself savings!
- A job you love is a lot like a relationship. If it’s treating you well, then invest the time, effort, trust, and thinking into keeping your partnership alive and kicking. But if it’s beating you down, not reciprocating your dedication, or not treating you according to your rights, then leave. Leave as soon as possible. No amount of bargaining will ever change conditions that persist. To quote Anna Oposa, “The more time you spend with the wrong job means less time with the right one.”
- Invest enough in a job but don’t invest to the point you are left with nothing. Yes, you can love something so much you’re willing to sacrifice time, sleep, and money to make it work. But sometimes you have to follow the basic principle of investment: only spend all that if you have disposable income. Or in a job’s (note: job, not career) case: disposable emotions.
- Save money and spend free time wisely. The last quarter of my year wasted a significant portion of potential savings. My excuses? “It’s been a tough month!” or “I deserve it, I rarely treat myself!” These phrases usually don’t ring in my head, but I was too caught up in my stress. If alcohol wasn’t handy, there was the excuse to “treat myself” to things that didn’t last. Avoid the regret when there are bills to be paid or Christmas gifts to buy. Use those times of distress to get your shit sorted instead.
- Don’t ever regret a dance or risking that dice roll. Dancing and gaming is a lot like life: you put yourself out there, embarrassing (but laughing at) yourself with a few crazy moves and risking a win or loss on chance. But every turn or performance is always a memorable one, especially when spent with the right crowd.
- Don’t be afraid of the truth. I was bullied into not telling the truth of our story this year. But bullies are just, well, bullies. They don’t know the power of words because they only know them as threats. Writers, on the other hand, and their audience—well, let’s just say you can’t fool them and us. It’s a basic rule we’re taught: they know when they’re being cheated.
- Get a dog. Or a cat. Or a panda. Whatever animal you can afford to feed, house, and, most importantly, love. Our little—este, growing—puppy is one of the best things given to our family in 2012. Thanks for all the love, buddy. I wonder what shenanigans you have in store for 2013.
- There are many versions of the truth. It all just depends on which version you want to believe. Much of my readings and research on creative nonfiction have pointed this observation out. Any event will always be retold and revised by the different individuals involved in any incident. What’s your version of 2012? Is it more self-involved, emotional, and full of pride? Or is it distant, realistic, and accurate? Whichever you prefer, it’s still on you to live with the consequences of your truth.