On leaving jobs and the illusion of greatness

Posted on May 3, 2016

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“It is the phenomenon sometimes called ‘alienation from self.’ In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”

Joan Didion

I left my job last Friday. Rather, the job left us. Either way I, along with my millennial coworkers, were left without a job.

Technically, we didn’t lose it since we were offered a job at the company’s new office. The company wasn’t exactly closed down, it just decided to move its operations to the metro’s north.  The work is pretty much the same as the one we do now. As majority of us come from the south, majority also refused to accept the offer – no matter how promising the future was according to our employers.

Some would see this as an unfortunate event fueled by capitalist greed and support for cheap labor. I mean, maybe it is, but I also saw it as a blessing – a sign that maybe there is a higher entity telling me to get my shit together and start an actual career. Maybe that’s just the optimist in me talking.

To be honest, I hated my job since month one. It’s so dull and repetitive. I almost feel like laughing at the faces of those who say there is “growth” in the job. I mean sure, I have learned a variety of text comprehension skills, but this isn’t exactly the kind of job people would even stick to in 10 years’ time. It’s the kind of job people get as a stepping stone. We work our asses off for 8-10 hours and for what? So some blokes in rich countries like Australia could assure themselves that their businesses/governments are doing well. We’re just making the rich even richer. I don’t see the point of it anymore.

Just a disclaimer, though: it’s not a fucking BPO. I have nothing against that industry, I’m pretty sure it has helped many a struggling millenial with a family to feed and tuition fees to pay. I just cringe at the idea of foreigners looking at the country as a hub for cheap labor. We’re losing our national identities to earn money. These foreign companies have too-high standards for their Filipino workers – they expect us to be highly familiarized with the culture of a foreign land WHEN IT’S NOT EVEN OUR FUCKING COUNTRY. Isn’t it ironic? They want Filipino natives to act like foreigners in their own native land. What a joke.

And don’t even get me started on the treatment of employees. Sure, they’re nice enough people I guess. They refer to us as a “family”. Right. They would deprive their “family” of holidays and double their pay as a replacement. They make their “family” come to work in a fucking storm and give them free stays in a hotel as compensation. Guess what? Not all of this “family” are money-hungry, desperate machines. Sometimes, when I’m really frustrated, I just want to throw the wad of cash to their faces. They have no understanding of how human productivity works. Productivity spikes in some hours, wanes at others. Rest is fucking necessary. It’s not a continuous cycle of (insert Rihanna here) work, work, work, work, work. This job has made me feel brain-dead, not just virtually.

But I don’t regret a single moment of it.

Here in my first job, I felt incredibly lucky to join an awesome team. We all belong in the same age bracket, we’re all millennials (well duh), we all thought of resigning at one point, we all fool ourselves into thinking our job is relevant, and we stick up for each other. I have felt an awesome sense of community. The company isn’t my family, this team is my family. They are pretty much the reason why I even felt sad for leaving. Misfit as I am, I rarely felt like that with them. I felt needed. I felt home.

In retrospect, I guess it wasn’t all that bad. I learned more about other countries’ culture, especially Australian culture. I learned a vast amount of information from the programs I’ve monitored. I learned more Internet research skills. I learned how to form grammatically correct and coherent sentences. I learned how to comprehend texts, and how to fake knowledge of a subject. I’ve discovered A LOT of sick beats.

I learned that being in large groups isn’t all that bad. I learned how to make instant coffees greater. I learned the value of initiative and volunteerism. I learned patience and how work can be used as a distraction for the shittiness of life sometimes. I learned that you can never really know someone. I learned how to deal with different kinds of people. I learned that there will always be assholes, you jut have to find the assholes worth being with. I learned that friendship can never really be measured by how long you’ve known someone. I learned that even the most professional people can have something bubbling beneath the surface, and I’ve learned that some people just burst. I learned that sometimes you just need A LOT of distractions.

So I guess I’m ready for the next chapter of my life. God, that sounds cliche. I don’t know, but I’m slowly getting convinced to go to law school. To be honest, I failed to get into my former university’s law school. I guess I just lost the will to review before the exam. I lost the will to do anything career-wise during those weeks, to be honest. I delayed answering probable employers and rarely bothered to look for another job. I was really tired. So yeah, I bombed the exam. But I’m thinking of taking another one, to a school in the country’s capital. Yes, it’s also one of the country’s top law schools but who knows. I’m going to review this time. I guess there’s still some part of me wanting to continue my grandfather’s “legacy” in the field. The apple isn’t necessarily the tree, but I can try.

This afternoon, the bar exam results came out. The fact that four(!) topnotchers came from UP made me a bit sentimental again about not getting in. But I don’t regret it. To be honest, I’m not even looking for greatness anymore. I just want to regain my self-respect and do whatever it is that I want to do. I don’t care about other’s expectations of me anymore, I just want to be contented in 10 years’ time. I want to be that adult who will look back at that messed up young woman and laugh at how she used to think that she should already be successful at 22.

Will I be a lawyer, a writer, a journalist, a koala impersonator, or a trapeze master? I don’t know. But I’m learning to accept that life is supposed to be a mystery, and we are the ones solely responsible for ourselves. I want to be that adult who got out of the mess and became finally contented.

I want to be that adult who ran back to herself, and found someone home.

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