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.

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.

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.

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 fitness bug

I think the museum team may have caught the fitness bug. A few people from the team have already started attending fitness camps after work hours. More than 20 of us got a 15-day pass to a yoga place that is opening soon. Small groups have been running or swimming once a week. The office fridge is now filled with a number of milk cartons of all types, and the pantry cabinet filled with different kinds of cereals.

I must admit, though, that I sort of started the milk-and-cereal trend in our pantry. I have a carton of non-fat high-calcium milk and a box of high-fibre cereals in the pantry (with my name written all over it, literally). I also try to go brisk walking at least once a week, though I don’t usually do it with other people. I’m back to yoga too, and hoping to stay active in yoga at least once a week. In short, I am one of the people in the museum team with the fitness bug. It’s good though. It’s good to be in the company of health enthusiasts, not to mention, a group far from vices (unless you consider Jollibee Coke Float a vice, hehe).

I have a long way to go in terms of fitness. My heart does not allow me for high intensity cardio workouts (and even mid-intensity would still leave me knocked-out), and so I have to find a good fitness regimen that has low-intensity cardio but will still help me reach my targets. I’m hoping that regular brisk-walking and yoga would do the trick. I also need to find a diet that I can stick to, hopefully something that won’t leave me hungry or craving, but satisfy my hunger pangs without the excess calories. I still have to lose N lbs. (where N>10).

Well, we are all hoping for the best. 🙂

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.