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.

The stranger in a familiar place – Bangkok trip 2014

While in Bangkok for a one-week training for work, I remember one of the new people I met asking me, “so how do you find Bangkok?” My answer to that question was equally memorable. I think Bangkok is a lot much like Metro Manila, in so many aspects. Spending a week in BKK did not feel like I was in a strange place. It felt very familiar, for a lot of reasons:

  • Almost all of the locals look like Filipinos. If you would just pass them by and not need to talk to anyone, I could easily forget that I was not in the Philippines. Well, most southeast Asian people look very similar due to the fact that most have very similar ancestry. A number of times I was also thought to be a local.
  • Infrastructure, at least in the city area, looks very much like it would have been in Metro Manila. The only stark and obvious difference are the many ornate Buddhist temples and altars that are around almost every-other corner. Being where I was, the hotel that I stayed at and the training center nearby, it felt like just being in another area of Metro Manila.
  • The weather and temperature is almost the same, the tropical heat that I am very acclimatized to.
  • Money value and the cost of money is not too far to my daily pesos. Grabbing lunch for THB60-THB150 feels just so worth it.
  • Shopping. ‘Nuff said.

Well, aside from that, I still had to remember that it was my first time to visit Bangkok. However, most of my week was spent inside the training room, and I had very limited time to go around and see places. I had a few things in my list that definitely had to experience though:

  • Thai food. Tom yum, Tom ga, and what not. I was trying to avoid eating at fast food, other cuisines (e.g. Japanese or Italian), or at the hotel (except for the default free brekkie, of course). I was able to taste some local food ranging from the “turo-turo” (or side-street) eateries, mall food courts, and good restaurants. Would have loved to get to eat more though.
  • Thai massage. I am familiar with the style of Thai massage compared to other massage types, but I have only tried the “Manila” version of it. I just had to try the authentic Thai massage, the real thing. I was not disappointed.
  • Shopping. I had such limited time to go around to shop. I was only able to go to MBK twice, and once to Platinum, Pratunam, and Palladium (but just as the stores were about to close for the day, huhu).
  • Sightseeing. Of course, I needed to do even just a little bit of sight seeing. Fortunately, on the afternoon after the end of our training, I was able to go around some key places with our trainers and some co-trainees. We went to Grand Palace, rode a boat around the Klong (canal boat tour), and ended at the Wat Arun. There’s probably much more to see around BKK, and even in other places in Thailand, but that’s about all that I could fit in my schedule.

I must admit though that my BKK trip was really mostly about the training. I do wish I had more time to go around as a real tourist. Perhaps this warrants scheduling a trip to BKK next time on a personal adventure.

Some photos of the limited “touristy” activities below.

IMG_6217 IMG_6220 IMG_6137 IMG_6138 IMG_6142 IMG_6146IMG_6157 IMG_6159

IMG_6161 IMG_6155IMG_6160 IMG_6174 IMG_6175 IMG_6185IMG_6179 IMG_6183 IMG_6193 IMG_6205 IMG_6206 IMG_6216 IMG_6196

The Next Great Train Ride

In keeping up with my old post comparing career paths to a series of train rides, I shall write again about my next big career “adventure” in the same line…

I’m jumping onto a different train again. A grander one. Possibly the one that I have been waiting to catch for quite some time.

Soafter I’ve made myself comfortable in my most recent train for an entire year, it’s time to get off and move to the next one again. Despite the meager comforts of the recent train, it has challenged and improved me both professionally and personally. I have worked well and learned much in such short time that I spent there. I have met new people, have become well acquainted with a number of them. I have also encountered some “difficult” individuals that I never knew even existed, and was able to properly deal with them.

This time, the transition from one train to the next was quite unexpected but wholeheartedly welcomed, somehow abrupt and immediate. I did not need to wait for the next train, nor did it wait for me. I had to jump on it as soon as I can, my feet barely touching the platform.

I don’t know what to expect at this point. There’s mixture of both excitement and nervousness for all of the unknown. I’ll start discovering what this new opportunity has in store for me soon. I’ve heard this one moves at quite a fast pace, and I have to adapt quickly and be at my best to stay balanced and keep up with the pace. But I’m quite optimistic that this will take me places and possibly take me faster and farther than I can imagine. A move from a rickety steam train to a bullet train perhaps?

Wish me luck.

Feels like High School all over again

Almost one month into my new job now, and it’s been a challenge in all aspects. Well, aside from the standard “new work, new environment, new responsibilities” challenge, I am also on my toes struggling to make a lifestyle adjustment. My life this past month has been a lot like high school all over again… simply BECAUSE I have to wake up at 5AM and leave the house before 6AM each and every workday. I didn’t need to wake up and get ready that early each and every day for the last 12 years of my life. While in the university, I was free to choose my schedule, and I swore off 7AM classes after just having them twice a week for two semesters. When I started working, I didn’t have to wake up that early, since work started at 8AM or 9AM, and I hitched a ride to work during my first year and brought a car for the next few.

The entire game has changed this time. Everyday I have to commute to Makati, and the best way to do that is to take the same ride that my sister takes from the house to the northern end of the MRT, where she needs to catch a company shuttle at 630AM. If I don’t take that same ride to MRT, my travel would be a lot more difficult, or I will have a problem with arriving at work on time. I am not considering bringing a car again because of the traffic, and the expensive fuel prices and parking fees. Hence, the best choice was really to sacrifice that early morning comfort to wake up and get ready to leave very early in the morning.

It feels like High School again, only a lot more challenging:

  • in high school, I didn’t have to put on make up and set my hair, and choose what to wear early in the morning
  • in high school, my dad was still willing to wake me up several times to make sure I get out of bed early enough
  • in high school, I took a schoolbus and didn’t have to take the MRT or walk the busy streets of Makati to go to work
  • in high school, I could sleep in the vehicle all the way from my house to the school, and I could sleep in between my classes (and sometimes even during class hours)

I am definitely not a morning person. If I could choose a life to live, I would prefer one that would allow me to wake up at 10AM every day and accomplish everything that I needed to do. But I live my life the way I need to live it right now, and that’s by waking up early every day. I do hope that it grows on me eventually. Perhaps after doing this every day for a few months, I might be able to find myself automatically waking up and eventually having much more energy in the morning than I do now. I do hope and pray that this may soon come true, and that mornings won’t be as much a sacrifice or burden as it is now.

Well, that’s the semi-shallow part of my new work. Work itself is interesting, challenging, and inspiring, and it started on the fast track just on the first week… but that’s another story. 🙂

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.

No regrets

I have this one friend who I met as one of our exhibit designers for The Mind Museum. When I met her, she was still a student of UP Fine Arts, or perhaps just recently graduated then. Of course, a lot has happened since then, and she became a friend. She also now works as a professional makeup artist.

There was this one time I was out with her and friends, and I could never forget a thought she told us. She realized while working on designing exhibits that she hated doing technical drawings. She didn’t enjoy doing the CAD and 3D drawings needed in the process. She says she didn’t regret working on those exhibit designs, because it made her realise the things she did not like or enjoy doing. Because of that realization, she was drawn to what she’s doing now – makeup. She didn’t need to do all those orthographic, CAD and 3D drawings to be able to do her craft now, but she’s still creating beautiful masterpieces on her clients’ faces.

Her thoughts stuck with me much more than she may realise. It’s a wonderful way of looking at things, of dealing with mistakes, wrong choices, or undesirable situations in our lives. It’s an ingenious, “no regrets” way of thinking.

We make mistakes, make wrong choices along the way. Sometimes the “right choices” do not work out. But instead of feeling hopeless and negative about it, we can just take them as life lessons. Failed relationships teach us how we are in relationship, and a little bit more on the types of people who match or do not match us. We learn about the things that we’re supposed to do more of and what we should avoid. Wrong career decisions point us back to what we really want to do, and we will hopefully know how to make better choices the next time.

Perhaps the important part of everything is knowing how to recognize the lessons that each “challenging situation” pose, and keeping these lessons to heart. This ensures that we move forwards and onwards, make better choices along the way, and not make the same mistakes again.

Bubble

Create a membrane around you. Deliberately decide on what you will let in that membrane, and what you will leave outside to observe remotely from the inside. Be conscious and aware on the specific moments that you will need to open this membrane, and beyond this moments, stay within the safety of that membrane.

It’s not about isolation. The message is to be conscious of what really matters, and what are simply extraneous. There are things in this world that we should just learn to accept, and yet with the acceptance, we should not force ourselves to believe it or to settle with it. There is an emotional management needed here. It’s simply not managable to remain frustrated and hate the world just because so many things around are personally unsettling. That’s simply self-torture. I realise that now.

Imagine a scene in the MRT. If one does not consciously create and stay in one’s membrane, all the frustrating Joes and Janes on the train or at the platform will just piss you off. There’s the person who does not want to spare some space, another who skips the queue, and yet another who stinks like hell. If you let yourself be affected by all these, it will drain all the physical and emotional energy from you. Stay in your bubble and just laugh everything off. They’re not supposed to be your problem.

Sometimes this also applies to more “personal” situations other than in public places. This can apply at work, in organisations, in social circles, or maybe even online and in social media. That’s what the “unfollow” and “hide” buttons are for, or the “unfriend” and “block” button for more extreme cases. We don’t have to react, comment, or be affected by all and anything that other people are saying or doing, even if it’s about you or about things related to you. Most importantly, if it’s something that you can’t change or if it’s realistically beyond your power or influence, better to just leave it alone or accept it as is, and just work around it.

Back to (a different kind of) normal

My life is back to normal. At least, it’s an entirely different kind of normal from the normal I’ve been used to for the past few years.

I’ve somehow chosen a different kind of life to live now. I’ve given up the luxury of driving to and from work five days a week. Gone is the 1.5++ hour drive (one-way) to and from work, and the thousands of pesos spent monthly on gasoline charges and other car maintenance expenses. I am back on the daily commute. I’m back to working in my comfort zone, my timezone. It’s about two-thirds of the distance I used to travel every day. My new work is a short walk from the MRT station. I take the MRT everyday now, going to work in the morning and coming home in the evening. I then take a shuttle after MRT in the evening, and take a leisurely walk (under the stars) from the village gate on my way home.

I try to pack my lunch everyday too. I make myself a yummy sandwich, enough to fill me at lunch. When I don’t get to pack my lunch, I buy a sandwich at a nearby convenience store. It costs a lot less than what I used to eat for lunch, and has a lot less calories too.

Work is both something old and new. I’m starting to get into the groove again. The project I’m doing now is pretty interesting and challenging, enough to give me just the right push to give my best, as I always would like to do with whatever I do.

My personal life is also warming up too. No lovelife yet, though. I’m just loving the time I have on my hands to write blogs, do errands, read books, study/review on some topics and interests, pamper myself, relax and meditate, and opportunities to do many other things.

There’s just something that feels really nice about the new kind of normal. There are less expenses, less calories, more walks and physical activities, more time to just look around and observe the real world, and more time to be me again. I guess I really needed this change.

A better me everyday, that’s the goal. Sometimes it happens in small moments, in baby steps. Sometimes it happens with long strides, or with some jumps. This time, it was a leap for me again. I’ve landed, and am back on the ground, but this is an entirely different land already. Time to continue walking.

The “Graduation”

Four and a half years. If you think about it, it’s like the typical length of stay of a student in college, or a little bit more than the duration of one’s high school life. I have spent the last 4.5 years of my life doing something really amazing, and that’s being part of the creation of The Mind Museum.

It was an adventure and a different kind of experiential education, more than anything else.

On the first few months, I had to report to two separate offices (BAFI office in BGC and ALI office in Makati). I reported to and learned from different bosses from both sides. I already assisted for an event on my first week, and then thrown into a meeting by my own on my 2nd week. I learned Project Development 101 as a crash course. I had to attend 6-hour technical meetings once a week (which always left us so tired and hungry). For six months I carried all my documents and my laptop between the two offices, as the number of documents slowly grew in volume and mass.

Afterwards, I was based solely in BAFI office, which was a small, L-shaped, white-walled office with NO WINDOWS. Everyone in the office were within eyesight, and you don’t even have to stand up or shout to talk to the boss. I still remember that small magical office which was able to mysteriously expand with every new person in the team. From just 5 people, it was able to accomodate up to 10 people after 3 years, before we were set to move to the museum.

In the first and second years, everything was just on paper, on a powerpoint, or on excel. There were so many orthographic and perspective drawings of the exhibits and the exhibition spaces. There were endlessly evolving timelines, as well as pro-forma financial runs that contained overwhelming amount of information. There were countless project meetings, and at every stage slowly changing and shifting in terms of contents and manner. There were the Project Core Meetings and Project Technical Meetings related to the building and facilities planning and construction. There were very specialized exhibit design meetings.

After the planning stage came the dreaded execution stage. Our focus was shifted to the construction of the building and facilities, and the fabrication of the exhibitions. There were the tons of blueprints and construction contracts that we had to prepare, and so many requirements for various permits. We had a lot of challenges just to be able to start the construction of the building, a number of external things that were out of our control.

In terms of the fabrication of the exhibits, one of the biggest challenge is coordinating a number of different fabricators to do exhibits as designed by a number of different designers, while being supervised by a number of different scientists. By this time there were already two other exhibit managers with me, and we worked together to make things happen. There were numerous site visits to the workshops of the fabricators (near and far) to check the progress of the exhibits. There were so many things that we had to reconsider, to adjust, and sometimes to scrap altogether. It was a loooooooong and tedious process.

Add to this the process of preparing the content write-ups for each and every exhibit. In terms of nose-bleed work, we probably were able to accumulate a gallon of blood each week from our noses, ears, and eyes while preparing the write-ups.

The fourth year was the time of reckoning, like a final year in the university doing thesis or dissertation. But it was far more difficult than just writing a thesis. The Mind Museum is the biggest project of my life yet, a real, larger than life project for which you do EVERYTHING just to make things happen. EVERYONE did EVERYTHING humanly possible just to be able to make everything work. There were months of fieldworks and site works. We constantly traversed the building construction under the heat of the sun, in safety gears. We had to manually draw exhibit locations on the raw slab just to make sure that all our exhibits would fit. There were exhibits that were much too big to transport, sometimes too massive and difficult to move around. There were mega-problematic fabricators that gave us more headaches. There were all kinds of delays and unexpected problems. We just had to find ways to get through those.

Across those four years we also did a number of major and minor events. There were also many different “launches”, donor recognition events, exhibit design Powwows, cafe scientifiques, and exhibit testing, among many others. These events were also a lot of work in terms of time and effort, but through the years we slowly got used to working on the details, especially for recurring events.

Our committed soft-opening was December 15, 2011, for which we moved mountains to make happen. There were many weeks of non-existent weekends, and days before the soft-opening date when we did not go home anymore. The event started at 6pm on December 15, 2011, and I still remember being stinky and messy running around and rolling around the galleries just to make sure everything is in place, up until 530pm. We just had enough time to tidy up and look human right before the main program started.

Seeing the building finished and all the exhibits coming to life was priceless. To be able to see everything come from ideas, to written words, to drawings, to prototypes, to the actual thing is a pride and a blessing for me. A name engraved on the founders’ wall is just icing on top, because my entire heart and soul is part of The Mind Museum now.

If I were to remember those 4 years, I would remember a lot of learning and growth. Most of all, I will keep and value all the friendships and relationships found and forged in the team and with external contacts in the past 4.5 years. I owe a lot of my learning and growth to my two bosses, Maribel and Manny. I laud the entire Mind Museum project team for a wonderful job well done.

I would like to consider this stage as a graduation of sorts. I have accomplished what I have set myself to do the past 4.5 years. The Mind Museum is now up and running, giving a chance to all its guests to learn and appreciate science in a fun and interactive way. It’s time for me to leave now, because the pond is getting smaller, and there is such a big world out there that I have yet to discover, and so many opportunities and possibilities that I will be chasing after.

Off to a new adventure now.

The Crossroad

I may have been standing at that crossroad, unmoving, for the past few months. I’ve spent four years of my life toward one single goal, and after that goal was achieved, I was not quite sure what the next move was. Hence, I remained in my comfort zone, in what is already familiar. I stood at that crossroad for the longest time, until something hard hit me in the head and I was brought back to sense. It was time to move on.

Everyone is asking and wondering why I am leaving. Everyone thought I was happy where I was and I loved being there. They were NOT wrong. I loved the project with all my heart. I don’t think I can ever point to one single reason why I have decided to leave. Perhaps the best explanation I have is that everything in life has a beginning and an end. The stage of my life has brought more than four exciting, challenging, and fruitful years to my quarter-life, but now I have come to its end and it’s time for me to move on to my next adventures.

What do I do now? I can’t jump into specific details yet. I am cherishing the time for myself, and re-experiencing the outside world that I have almost forgotten of these past few years. I have two travels scheduled in the next few weeks to two new destinations, and will definitely immerse myself in that. Christmas season is also approaching, and I do have the option to get into some money-making schemes like I used to back in college. There’s a chance to revive the entrepreneur in me.

I have a new ultimate goal for next year, and I have sworn to give all the needed efforts for that. I’m crossing my fingers and praying to the highest powers to grant me that.

Maybe love too? They may have been joking or serious or both, but everyone’s wishing for me to find a lovelife now that I have moved on (from work). I’ve been single for the last five years, and everyone around me is dying to see me finally be with someone. I am ok by it, but I am in no rush. We’ll get there in time. 🙂

All I can say is, these are exciting times. I am brought back to life again. Wish me luck. 🙂