Things fall into place

Sometimes, grand things happen like some unseen cosmic hand putting all the pieces into place for big transitions of my life, like winds blowing me a certain direction to where I am meant be. I would not refer to it as fate because I know I still have the power to decide. But sometimes chances and opportunities make the things you desire most be just within your reach with ease.

Last year, I had the great opportunity to be considered and accepted to work for USAID. Transportation and accessibility is one of the important considerations I always take when making transitions, but the universe just conspired to give me what I needed at the right place and time. My cousin was about to start in medical school almost the same time as I was to start, and the 2nd room in the flat where she was to stay became my home during the weekdays. The same place allows a 15 minute walk to and from work every day, instead of the 1.5 to 2 hours drive or difficult commute from our family house. If I started earlier with USAID, the flat would probably have been still occupied by previous tenants. If I started later, my cousin may have already found a different flatmate. It made a big difference, and I get my first chance to live on my own. Everything was just at the right time.

Perhaps its also like that this time around. I am about to move to Sydney, Australia soon. Earlier this year, I was able to get an invitation to apply for a visa just a few days after lodging my EOI, and then get my visa grant within three months after lodging my application. The timing of the visa grant allows me time to stay just to finish my initial one year contract with USAID. I am leaving within a few weeks of my current bosses’ transition to their new postings in other countries, just about the time that our team is transitioning to the new bosses arriving. I’m leaving just before my cousin starts the new school year in med school, and a classmate of hers will move in to my room almost immediately after I leave (and she does not have to transfer mid-school year). One of my kuya’s flatmate in Sydney is leaving just before I arrive there, and the vacated space/bed will be available for my use for my first few weeks (I would not need to sleep on the floor!). I also had just enough time to save some funds to use as I start a new life in Sydney.

There is no reason for me not to believe that things fall into place somehow, when it’s meant to be. Things will not be complicated, sometimes you find it served to you on a silver platter. All you have to do is not hesitate, get moving, and grab that opportunity. I was not meant to move to Singapore. I was not meant to take up my masters degree in Europe. Just when the time was right, I find myself drawn by the waves of this life to Australia.

I can’t help think that when I finally find the love of my life, things will just fall in to place, just like these other beautiful changes that came into my life.

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Health, above all else…

“Bawal magkasakit” is a Filipino phrase that’s pretty interesting and full of impact and sense. Roughly translated, it means “you’re not allowed to get sick”. It means so much, because there are so much bad things that one has to deal with getting sick – the actual feeling of being sick, the possible complications, side effects, and related symptoms; the hassle of not being able to work at one’s best, or not being able to work at all for some time; the costs required to get well, such as doctors’ fees, hospital fees, laboratory test fees, and the cost of medicine; the hassle of needing to go to the hospital, or not being able to go to or attend one’s typical activities. It’s hard.

I learned this the hard way about 4 years ago. I am known to be asthmatic but mostly only very mildly symptomatic before. In 2010, due to the ongoing construction on the museum I was working for, my asthma was triggered very badly. I dealt with it the usual way I knew, through oral medicine, inhalers, and nebulizer. However, although I was not feeling very well, I went on a day trip for work to Hongkong by my own. I drove myself to the airport, boarded a flight to HK, did my official business in HK, went back to the airport, flew back to Manila, then drove myself back home. That’s about 24 hours worth of travel time and active work, all the while I was terribly coughing already. When I got back home, I used my nebulizer, but my coughing could not be relieved anymore. The next day, I asked to be driven to the emergency room, and I was immediately attended to and admitted for treatment. I spent four days in the hospital, on IV, steroids, and regular nebulization. It was that bad. That was the first and only time I’ve been hospitalized thus far. Unfortunately, that was the moment I realized how much risk I’ve placed myself by not paying enough attention to my body.

Fast forward to current day. Unfortunately, I’ve been battling something similar in scale lately. I’m not quite sure what initially triggered it, but I know it started with a very mild sore throat, the kind that I know will eventually progress to a cough and/or cold. I paid attention to it immediately, gave myself enough rest, consulted with a doctor, and followed his prescriptions. However, my symptoms persisted for weeks, so I decided to see a doctor again. The second consult revealed that my persistent and increasing symptoms were due to a bacterial infection that was a little bit antibiotics-selective, I had to go through another round of antibiotics. The doctor actually almost ordered me for admission because of how bad my symptoms were, but did give me the option of just staying at home to completely rest while on medication for an entire week for my body to recover. Of course, I complied, although quite hesitantly because of all the pending tasks at the office. But this time around, I just had to prioritize my health first.

It’s been a week since I finished my second round of antibiotics. I do feel better, but not yet back to tip-top shape. Some symptoms still have not gone away after the many weeks that I’ve been battling this. It’s starting to get frustrating. I may need to get the advise of my doctor again.

I learned four years ago never to take my health for granted. When one’s health is at risk, it’s best to prioritize it above all others. I’m not taking any chances anymore.

Taxed, but not complaining

Hello payslip, we meet again. Once again I see my gross and net salary for this pay period, together with the corresponding taxes and deductions. I don’t think I have the right to complain about my taxes though. After all, it was the government who funded my education for 10 years, through high school and college.

Indeed, I was blessed and privileged to be a government scholar in the premier high school and premier university of the country. I had the opportunity to take one of the best educational tracks possible locally, and I do not think the financial value of that would every be equivalent to the actual benefit and learning I had in all those 10 years.

Now, I’m paying back with my taxes. I’ve been working for more than six years, but I don’t know how much longer before my taxes offset the value of my education. I dare not compute. But beyond my income tax, I believe that I have already contributed my time and talent for the betterment of the country when I decided to work on The Mind Museum project a few years ago. It probably should not end there though. I wonder how else I can give back.

I am back working in the corporate world again. I may not be one for paying back with charity and generosity because I’m more of a brain and talent person. I have some specific ideas on how I can contribute to the society eventually, but I’ll stay mum and brew on it in the meantime. While that’s in the pipeline, I’ll be paying my taxes eagerly and imagining another generation of scholars being funded to benefit the future.

The lessons of 2012

The year 2012 is another landmark in my 28-year life, because of achievements and travels, but most of all as a significant transition stage in my life. So many great life lessons were learned, and not the easy way.

I finished one of the most challenging goals of my recent life – to finish and open The Mind Museum to the public. But somehow, I had to move away and move on, because I am still meant for something else, possibly something grander than the world I moved in while still with The Mind Museum. My career was to take a big leap forward, towards where I ought to be.

However, I had to go through a rollercoaster, just to find the guts to keep on moving. At first I resisted the change. I was personally committed to the project until we finished. Everything after that was already a bonus. Then, something really made me decide to leave. Whatever that something was, it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in disguise for me.

I had about four months of “soul searching” after my resignation. Those four months involved a lot of staying at home, freelance work, travel, and job-hunting. The most challenging was the job-hunting, because there was so much possibilities, and I had to narrow down the choices and “sell” myself properly. At the end of it, I found what I wanted, and a company who seemed to want me for who I was and what I am capable of. Big career leap, I may say. We’ll see how it works this new year.

I got to travel around in 2012 too. Twice to Boracay for vacation, to Bacolod for a wedding, to Singapore for a conference, to Malaysia for a personal adventure, and to Australia for a vacation with the family. The Malaysia and Australia trips were after I resigned, and in a way it was good because I got to spend three weeks in Australia and go around a bit. We mainly visited my brother in Sydney, met up with a lot of extended relatives, and went sight-seeing. We also got to experience Canberra, Gold Coast, and visit other relatives in Melbourne.

That’s a gist of what happened in 2012. Some important realizations and lessons:

  • I am lucky to have a wonderful family who I can always rely on, and I am quite sure they will always have my back no matter what. And I also now fully appreciate when they say “mother knows best”.
  • Introspection is very important. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks about you. You can never please everyone. Just focus on the things that are important to you, and just be the best version of yourself. I am who I am. I cannot be someone else. There are parts of me that I cannot change, and I would like to be accepted the way that I am, fluff and stuff.
  • We should be careful who we trust, even with the “good friends”. Be careful how much you share with them. I’ve been burned twice before, by two people who I thought will have my back no matter what. Seems like they were the ones who judged me the most, perhaps because they knew too much. They thought they knew who and what I really was, but they were already blinded by their prejudice and their own biases.
  • Boys will be boys. I can never understand how some of them are so willing to cheat on their wives or girlfriends, but I have no plans of getting involved in such. I can’t stand to be someone’s number two or someone’s mistress, and I do not want to be the cause of hurt to spouses, partners, and children.
  • I’ve completely closed and abandoned my “hope” for my first love. Finally, first love “dies”, after 15 long years. I now understand why it was never meant to be. It never was, never is, and never will be. The book is closed.
  • I’m bankrupt. I’m almost done paying-off my liabilities though. I’m now learning a better way of managing my finances, saving on basic expenses, and eventually putting something away for the rainy days. The credit card is taking the backseat from now on.
  • I’ve found myself into Twitter. It is indeed one useful tool of communication.
  • Home is where the heart is. It is not a single place, but rather, wherever love (and family) resides.
  • Simplicity and calmness. Two wonderful things I’ve learned from yoga and meditation.
  • I know now where I want to be, and what I want to be. I’m going after that now.

Maybe the greatest lesson of the year is learning to let go. Let go of things that you don’t need anymore. Let go of things that do not work anymore. Let go of the negative emotions. Let go of expectations. When you learn how to let go of the right things, you’ll learn to travel lighter, with less baggage. Then, you’ll have more space for new things, and possibly for the best things that have yet to come.

I have all the space now for everything that 2013 will give me. I’m ready.

Credit card hiatus

I have put my credit card under house arrest. I have taken it out from my wallet and have kept it in a special place in my room. It will not be used for the coming months until I’ve been able to clear up my credit card debt and re-learned how to live on cash alone.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my credit card in the past five years. I love it when I am using it for purchases, but I hate it when the bill arrives. Are most of us like that? Perhaps I’ve developed a terrible credit card habit. I use it to purchase, and I purchase some more using my cash. Come billing time, I pay off my entire balance, but soon after I use my card again because I’ve ran out of cash after paying my credit card bill. The cycle goes on month after month. No matter how I try to get out of the cycle, it keeps pulling me back in.

Now I’ve really taken a drastic step. I’m separating myself from my card. Time to live again on nothing but cash. And time to get my financial freedom back.

Wish me luck.

On investing

I attended a talk on investing a week ago, the very first talk about investment that I went to, and it was well worth it.

I never had an eye for finances, accounting, and investments. I know the basics but I never had a talent for effective planning in this aspect. I had lessons on some of the computational aspects of it in before, but I never truly understood what it was for and how I could use it to my advantage. This talk was a big eye-opener for me.

The talk focused on how to invest with the goal of beating inflation. They say that the reason for investing should not be just about amassing tons of wealth. The first reason for investing is to be able to keep up with inflation. Since inflation means that the actual value of money actually decreases over time, we should make sure that our money is growing alongside inflation, so that we at least have the same purchasing power with what we have. The average inflation rate of the Philippines over the past years is around 7%, although last year’s inflation rate was just 4.8%. Of course, one should consider long term values when planning to invest long term.

Second reason for investing is to be able to achieve a financial goal. If we would like to retire at a certain age and sustain ourselves with interest revenue of our money by that time, there is a certain way we can save up and invest our current money to achieve an adequate retirement fund.

Further, they discussed the portfolio concept, and the corresponding risks of certain investment instruments. Basically, the higher the potential return, the higher the risk. Sometimes, the people who invest just because of the desire to earn lots and lots of money go for investments that bring the highest possible return but with very minimal “stated” risk. These are the people who are most likely to get duped by scams and questionable investments, again because high returns will always mean higher risks. If someone offers you a high return investment but with a very low risk, think twice.

In case you are interested to find out, you can try to find a financial advisor to give you more information about your options. You can also check online. Here are two sites I’m most familiar with:

http://www.philamfunds.com.ph/

https://www.bpiassetmanagement.com/

http://www.sunlife.com.ph

Out of the cave, into the light

I may have mentioned it so many times before – I was eaten alive by my work last year, and only recently did it spit me out. Oh yes, I almost had no personal time for months just to make sure that the museum actually happens. But now, after giving birth to a 12,000 square meter baby, I finally have time for myself again.

I am out into the light again. But what do i do now?

First answer: travel, travel, travel. This summer is probably the first in many years that I am able to soak up some sun and feel sand and sea at my feet a number of times for the entire season. I’m loving the tan I’m slowly developing. Aside from that, I’m also planning to explore more of the world later this year. There’s one scheduled trip with the entire family, and another trip that I intend to take just by myself.

Second on my list: back to learning. I have accumulated a number of books and modules that I am slowly returning to. I’m back to self-studying on different topics that interest me. I’ve started with it slowly and taking it in bit by bit. I want to get into the habit of feeding my mind something valuable every single day.

Third: getting physical. I must admit that it is partly my fault why I have had a falling out with my exercise habit. But I am having some physical difficulties too, which hinders me from exerting much effort with sports or exercise. I am now trying to solve that and also slowly trying to get mor physically active. I want to live healthy.

Also, I now have time to plan the next big things that I want in my life. One should never settle with what one has in the present, and should always aim for something bigger and better in the future.