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. 🙂

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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.

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.

What Monday means…

Why do most of us hate Monday so much? Perhaps it’s because it marks the start of the workweek again. To the typical worker, we toil from Monday to Friday and rest Saturday and Sunday. Although to a lot of other people in other professions, this do not necessarily apply.

The weekends would never be enough, right? But maybe we can try to not blame it on Monday. After all, Mondays always mark beginnings. And with every new week we start fresh, we start anew. We leave whatever good and bad happened in the past week and start over again, a new week to hope for everything to turn out well.

I’ve also learned a few thing about Mondays from colleagues. Always wear red or something bright on a Monday, never black. I guess it’s a Chinese Feng shui thing, but come to think of it, some bright clothing can indeed bring a brighter outlook to the start of the week. Another Chinese business practice I learned is to never make any big spending on a Monday, so that the week will not be all about spending.

The message I want to get across is maybe we should appreciate Monday a little more. Beginnings should be enjoyed and seized, and Monday should not be an exception.


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. 🙂

Obsessive-Compulsive

I wouldn’t say that I am a clinical obsessive-compulsive case. But it does strike me now and then, and when it comes, it comes like a storm. Been having my OC-ness going on again. It manifested when I started cleaning up and organizing my desk at the office. I should warn you that it was not the typical “put everything in the correct box and tuck it away” thing. I had the neatness that was beyond my normal thing. I rearranged the stuff on my desk, and marked areas on my desk that can contain stuff, separated from the surface that should remain clear. In a way it was the IE in my trying to fix my workstation.

Over the weekend, my OC-ness also did it’s job in my room. I took out all the clothes from my closet and rearranged them. This not being enough, I put post-its indicating what kind of clothes should be put in each space, a kind-of guide for our washer when she puts back the clothes he just washed. More room cleaning happened over the weekend, including my side-table drawer and other document containers in the room. I also boxed up some 28-years worth of little what-nots from my trunk that I intend to sort in the near future. I am now using the same trunk to keep away all the bags that I am not currently using. In the next few days, I will probably continue with sorting all the old digital files and scanned old photos for uploading on my cloud.

Oh yes, post-its are the OC’s ultimate tool. The inventor of the post-its should be thanked wholeheartedly. And being my OC self, I bought a few packs of fresh post-its (yes, the brand itself, because others can never get as sticky as the original one).

I am also trying to maximize the powers of my OC-ness in the office. It’s about time to close-out all pending contracts and organize all exhibit info. I’m making sure that our daily and weekly reports are efficient in terms of preparation and distribution. We are also already working on the operations and maintenance manuals for our exhibits, which is one gargantuan task on its own, even for an entire team of six (6).

In a way, this OC streak of mine is working positively for my sake. I’m just hoping it won’t go over the top.

Has any of you had OC streaks like these?