When I was starting out in the workplace about 7 years ago, I had this feeling that I was in one of those dreary, dramatic indie movies. I lived in a very small condo near GMA, sharing it with 4 strangers I only met online. We fit because most of them worked in call centers, and we had some sort of ‘shifts’ in the beds — they’d sleep during the day, while I slept at night. I’d be booted out of the bed some nights, because my housemates would have ‘guests’, and being the youngest and the newest in the condo, I had to give way.
If I had a choice, I wouldn’t have wanted to live there — but that was all I could afford.
My transition into the workplace from university was difficult. Honestly, my life in the Ateneo was a breeze — everything I needed (and somehow, wanted), was delivered right at my doorstep. Not to say that I had unlimited resources, or that my parents spoiled me too much, but I had more than my fair share. I never had a problem with money, nor were there any issues with where I lived. Which is why things became very difficult when I started as a Digital News Gathering Administrator.
Not only did I struggle with where I lived, but there was a time I had little money to spend on food, and every single cent of my meager salary had to be budgeted. My close friends would always hear about this story of mine about Kariman. It’s a P25 snack sold in Ministop, which is basically breading with little ham and cheese. It wasn’t exactly tasty but it was fulfilling and cheap enough that it makes a good meal replacement. My form of treating myself then was a meal at Burger King or the now defunct Baang Coffee.
The clincher in all of this was when I realized this contractual stint wasn’t going to lead into a regular position anytime soon*. How long will I need to put up with this before it gets better?
A few months after, I quit GMA, left that condo, and decided it was time to reset. I went home to the Nueva, while waiting for calls, here and there.
The months after weren’t easier either — I was met with a lot of application rejections, tons of flak from gossipy Titas. I even tried to apply in an ad agency where a couple of friends worked, which I thought would be easier since I had friends there, but the experience was the opposite. This ‘friend’ who works there called me, and started to quiz me on why I wanted to shift industries, and whether I was making the right decisions. “Is this was you really want? You have to be sure you want to do this,” she said condescendingly over the phone. I don’t remember everything that she told me, but I remember exactly how I felt.
I ended up so discouraged, and being a no-show in the interview. I think I also ended up being blacklisted in that agency.
The biggest rejection came from this big multi-national. I truly wanted it because it seemed to offer everything I wanted at the time — better pay, stability, and perhaps, prestige. I had gone through 3 rounds of screening, and I think I passed it with flying colors. Then came the final interview with the head of the department. I also don’t remember the details, but I remember getting a rejection email that afternoon. Guess where I ugly cried? I was alone in Baang Coffee.
And then weeks after, a random message from a good friend came. They were a small agency, but they were looking for someone who could be trained to do Digital Strat / Copywriting. Looking back, this opportunity from Mich Bugante (hi Mich!) was the kick-starter to my entire career in digital. I wouldn’t have been able to learn and jump from one agency to another, (and now in client-side), if it weren’t for her.
The rest is history, I guess. I now live in a condo twice the size of the condo I used to live at in college, I’m able to do a long haul trip once a year, and I never ever touched Kariman again.
It was when I saw this painting (Clairvoyance) by Rene Magritte last year in Centre Pompidou that I was reminded me of these experiences. Not to say that I’m an art connoisseur, but I read this as Magritte painting more than what was right in front of him — the possibility, the potential, the future. Thanks to real friends, and proper timing, we can all progress out of our own struggles.
*Props to those GMA employees who fought contractualization, by the way. Saludo ako sa inyo!