Then, now, later

It’s been a habit of mine to visit the “Appearance” menu option before the “Posts” link on my WordPress dashboard. The task of projecting a certain image, a specific look is much easier than considering, writing, and editing the details this personal blog had once intended to reveal. A few months back, I looked through my archives and read that my first ever post declared that this would be my practicing ground-slash-link to the changing world of digital news and media.

It’s funny just how fluid such misguided, ideal declarations can be.

A month or so after I began “pursuing” this path, I attended a magazine writer’s workshop all the way in Ortigas. The positive comments from an editor I continue to admire boosted my ego, and kept me fueled to continue improving my chosen craft. But it was the blunt, honest advice of a lifestyle editor that warned (and scarred) me for the rest of my life: (paraphrased) “What matters the most is who you know in this industry. Your impressive resume will just be ignored if they don’t know your name.” The speaker himself got a lucky streak while persisting endless applications. The ring of his name is what caught the editor’s attention.

This is a surprising truth if you consider the writer stereotype: reclusive, socially awkward (daw), alcoholic, brooding, eccentric, etc. At least, that’s the stereotype created from the images of the world’s renowned literary genius. But for those without the genius that could get them immortalized in death, we only have our reliable skills, connections, and attempts at charm to get us through each job and to another.

Unfortunately no one had warned me about another harsh truth: working hard, building credentials, and having the impressive titles aren’t the only tickets to getting that career start or even that paid gig. Choosing the right credentials, hence good (or the best) connections, is a surer way to a better career.

Not that I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I wouldn’t have learned more about the “ins and outs” of the “industry” and maintained my vigor to keep writing had I not taken on the multiple responsibilities of my job. But I know there were serious lacks on my personality–the stressed importance of charm–to extend my network. The last job never gave the opportunity to meet people on a regular basis, but I had met enough at least to keep the bills paid now and for a few more months. There was also the constraint of being a full time writer/editor, thus my limited (hah! never thought I’d see the day I’d use that word) commitment to their publications. The advantage then of course was a regular salary, which I wouldn’t trade then for the so-called freedom I have now.

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of discerning choices. My lack of foresight held me back, and led to my uncertain state today. Not that it’s completely bleak–but I know it could have been better. I could have entered this uncertainty more prepared, with a temporary itinerary rather than a completely blank page for me to fill all by myself. Slowly but surely though, the lines have been written out and some of them crossed out in accomplishment. I may not be where I envisioned myself 5 years ago, but I am in a good place. A place that’s still close to what I want to do–write and find the real purpose for such (because that never ends)–and work several “jobs” that not only widen my skill scope, but also maintain the semi-independence I set out to since I graduation.

There’s also the absence of unnecessary stress, stress that can only come from the endless politicking, bickering, and bitching in a small, enclosed, “company” environment. As much as I love alcohol (there, I said it), I’d rather drink in celebration and actual career frustration, rather than waste that extra shot on some middle-aged bitch still stuck in high school. I’d pick figuring out my next pay check and cooking up new ways to market myself over such an immature worry any day. The toxicity of such immaturity even took a toll on my relationship; one I only realized when I stopped talking about it with the lover.

“Didn’t I tell you about Person A? That she had so and so problem X?”

“No, because you only talked about Bitch X and Bitch Y.”

I had stooped as low as X and Y, wasting precious saliva, time, drinks, and dates on people who don’t even deserve the time of my day.

A younger me wouldn’t agree with such temporary satisfaction, on “settling” and being appreciative of these seemingly trivial blessings. But a younger me had no idea how unready she was back then for the bitches, bills, and booze. Because a younger me was too concerned with labels, with what a job title could show off to strangers. But I grew older and realized how ridiculous it was to let one label, one formal title define who I am and what I want to become. Plus, the last and only time I used my then title to impress someone? I immediately took back his impressions after he was wowed by the publication I worked for. “Well, I’m at the bottom of the food chain,” I went from overcompensating to frustration sharing. Blame the tequila and its ability to illuminate the truth.

We look at the past to understand the present. Or do we look at the present and find clues from the past? Wherever my ruminations decide to go, these different points stretch across to define all kinds of journeys. But that journey, where I jumped back and forth between dissatisfaction and compensation is over. I’m more than glad it’s over because I wouldn’t have grown wiser…or at least smarter. Maybe I can’t take back the choice I made to stay longer. But I can come out of it as the kind of person who looks back and laughs. Laughs at my stupidity but doesn’t regret. Because no longer do I have to impress myself or anyone. I simply am this writer, daughter, sister, friend, drinker, baker, whatever. And I’m just happy to be here in one less stressed piece.

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