WARNING: This is a three-part year-end post condensed into one. I’ve never written a post this long, and I believe it’s justifiable this time around.
2014: HONOUR THY CALLING
How can someone who studied liberal arts survive the technical corporate path? I still can’t answer how I did.
Admittedly, this wasn’t intentional. The plan after Political Science was this: either go to law school OR work in a research firm or an academic institution while taking master’s degree in Global Politics. Yet none of this materialised as I found myself in the world of basic accounting, technical objects, and business solution design – all while facing the laptop for extended periods.
I had been a misfit for three years – and that was my exact source of pride.
Whenever people ask me, ‘So how did you get into HP given your course?’, I couldn’t help stroke an internally-shaky-but-externally-intact ego. Imagine staying at par with colleagues speaking the same language on evaluating business solutions and analysing supply chain structures, then taking a smooth transition to politics and the economy without putting an effort.
I’ve been walking through an opportunity only the brave can. Unconventional, thrilling, and highly complex. Pretty badass.
Those years in Hewlett-Packard as a Technology Consultant have presented viable career opportunities for me. The amount of learning was enormous, particularly on communication and project management skills. I’ve learnt dealing with diligent workmates, assertive clients, and even the not-so-good teammates.
Plus I’ve already taken and passed a standard certification exam for IT professionals. I could have continued working on my roles, get a promotion, and become a Senior IT Consultant who can handle larger accounts and be sent on regular business trips. Or a Project Manager reputable for efficiently handling complex projects and demanding clients. Or even a People Manager who can shape careers and decide for the team.
I do cherish every learning moment from HP coming both from understanding technical concepts and working with different people. In the process, I have observed myself becoming more detail-oriented and somewhat organised. Communication skills have greatly improved. Meaningful relationships have also been built with people I’ve engaged with on certain projects and passion-driven initiatives like HP Football Club. And I’ve learnt to love IT due to these precious takeaways.
However, a voice was extremely compelling – and I felt it must be honoured.
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
That felt to be right thing to do. However, the starting point looked bleak. I found my heart aching to fulfil that inner push. Yet with the eternally occupied nature of my work and fears encroaching, I never asked for signs.
The universe supplied enough – in form of an extremely intricate project engagement, football championship, losing a prized possession, and the 25th year of The Alchemist. I thought, ‘Those are sufficient prompts giving me no reason to seize a calling long overdue.’
Would my credentials fit in? How would academic institutions reconcile an IT professional teaching Social Science? What would be the best first step to penetrate the academe, taking a master’s degree or securing a teaching position? How would I get considered without a master’s degree? More importantly, how could I finance a master’s degree without landing a job?
Those questions were confusing.
Intuition told me to give the greatest risk of my life a go – at all costs. And interestingly, without a backup plan if everything fails.
2015: BURN THE BOATS
PHASE 1: SAIL ALONG THE SEA OF UNCERTAINTY
I finally rendered resignation from HP even without the safety net of a new job. That move ended 2014 with a clear depiction of where I want to be, yet without a road map for 2015.
The spontaneous in me, however, nudged me to keep moving forward.
There’s nothing to lose and more to gain with this gamble. Career shift isn’t new given the leap from liberal arts to IT. Now, what’s holding back that jump going to the academe?
Think about risking a few years from now. Can you still take that when society expects career stability at that point?
VSO, through its International Citizenship Service (ICS) programme, offered an answer.
Our lead facilitator during the Assessment Day on November 2014 shared how life-changing ICS has been for many volunteers given the peculiar characteristics and challenges inherent to the programme. Frankly the thought seems exhilarating. As someone who never left family for twenty-four years, I did wonder how it is to live away from family for an extended period and wake up every morning with a foster family and a British counterpart.
In addition, ICS spans for three months to support a local community and their goals in collaboration with other Filipino and British volunteers. There might be tons of work waiting for us to hopefully make a difference. But strategy-wise, how would this volunteering stint stir me close to my goals?
Life-changing may be an unnecessary optimism, I thought. The negative remark faded immediately since rarely that I’ve been too sceptic of uncharted terrains.
I stripped off every expectation as days inched closer to deployment in Cabiao. Rather, I vowed to remain open to possibilities with brimming hopes of a worthwhile journey.
And even after nine months since leaving the placement, encapsulating our entire stay in Nueva Ecija remains hard! I’m still at a loss for words realising the extent and magnitude of life lessons acquired and relationships formed throughout the process of volunteering for a community.
Long walks led us in different places for a myriad of reasons such as surveying twenty-three barangays on Solid Waste Management, conducting workshops on proper waste handling and segregation, and launching certain community-centred events such as the Community Action Day.
Our free days cherished life’s simple joys – celebrating birthday parties with closest friends, making occasional trips to Gapan City to grab a Big Mac, sipping Pepsi Blue and pairing it with a cheap snack, hanging out at a friend’s house, gagging around with kids, exchanging stories and jokes with our host families, and riding the jeep to hear the British folks say ‘Para po!’ – all of which while sharing daily anecdotes on trivial matters. Never mind the striking heat at noontime!
Those three months were one of those days I can proudly claim of living in the moment without excessively worrying about what’s ahead. I’ve let life take its natural course.
Surprisingly, refusing to fully control life at some point led me to my heart’s desires. Community development loosely related with teaching? Not a problem, says destiny.
As if to reassure me I was on the right track, ICS gave me the chance to work with different schools for our waste management campaigns. Lomax and Michelle were my trusted partners as we visited schools around Cabiao to interact with students through catchy energisers, teach-ins, and workshops! Our trio was nothing short of enthusiastic to work and exert rapport with kids.
Personally, each workshop was a venue not only for kids to learn segregation – but also for me to learn and feel the vibe of an educator. Every first step inside the classroom served to reaffirm the desire to work within the academic fences. No matter how repetitive things could be, these moments were priceless.
PHASE 2: MOVE FORWARD
ICS swiftly flew by without preparing us for our departure towards the end of March 2015.
Many of us were never ready to bid goodbye. For me, it was beyond attachment to the people I’ve encountered and shared memorable feats with. It was also about snapping back to normalcy – a sea of uncertainty, imagined opportunities, and no backup plans whatsoever.
Given the situation, how would I re-adjust to the usual life? When should I resume applying for teaching positions? How would schools consider me (at the very least) for teaching positions? What credentials should I highlight?
These dilemmas were further complicated by time constraints and personal finances.
I need to secure interviews and be hired by a school on or before June. Otherwise, since personal finances have been running out (and my pride remains intact to ask money from parents), I have to forego teaching in the meantime.
Uncertainty in excess poked back the rational IT guy in me.
Man, backups always come handy when initial plans don’t work. Your IT career should have taught you well.
What if schools didn’t consider your application? Time has been ticking and you’d be left with nothing before you know it. For the sake of practicality, why not reconsider shortlisting multi-national companies to seek corporate positions? Or swallow my pride and return to HP? Stay for around a year, save, and enroll in a master’s programme. Then teach.
That must have been the most structured and logical plan I’ve ever thought of during those months. Worth taking a shot? My intuition fervently opposed this idea.
Burn the boats once again. Continue sailing into the vast sea of uncertainty. Weather the storm.
Every day, I kept listing down schools and universities with potential vacancies. Relentlessly. Even when the only responses were limited to automatically generated emails and trite replies.
Xavier School was the first to contact and invite me to undergo the end-to-end hiring process. Out of high hopes tinged with hints of anxiety and exasperation, I’ve entrusted this budding saga back to the universal force.
Days went by after another. At times, significant progress occurred. School A replied and asked me to submit additional requirements. School B, on the other hand, already scheduled an interview date. Other schools looked as if they have never checked an email. Bump up the list of schools to send credentials to. Back to square one.
Amusingly the universe employed implicit techniques to guide me through.
In one university (De La Salle Araneta University), I presented a teaching demo in front of my grade school teacher fourteen years ago. Providing affirmation on my teacher’s contribution was one thing; validating that I’ve been taking appropriate steps in reaching my goal through meeting a former teacher was another. It felt invigorating, especially when another teaching demo came.
Two other schools screened the application. All of which resulted to serious job offers.
Under two weeks before classes started, Xavier School formally asked me to report to work. And as they say, the rest is history.
Three quarters have already flipped off the academic calendars. In such a short period, I can attest to the ginormous chunk of learning I’ve gained teaching both Economics and World History. I have completely immersed myself to the educator’s actual life, its struggles, highs and lows, and fleeting realities.
In high school, pedagogy and classroom management are both as important as content mastery – which is already expected of teachers. Lesson plans, approaches to teaching, and assessments should be well-deliberated to suit learning needs and reach learning objectives. Adjustments must constantly be done on the fly to adapt with diverse personalities and changing classroom situations. Teachers must know when to interact with students, knowing the appropriate time to fool around and exert authority.
And (please allow me to state this) checking instantly transports me to hell as a teacher. No kidding.
Apart from workload adjustments, events such as the National Youth Congress, Hatid-Kapatid, Bilibid service interaction, G9 recollection, and our Social Entrepreneurship venture for H4 students also took place and filled the schedule packed with school-wide celebrations such St Ignatius Day, Appreciation Day, Teen Read Week, and St Francis Day, among others.
Hats off to these students who have represented Xavier School in this year's NYC! Our delegates performed well on all events (Economics Quiz Bee, Sparkonomics, Model Congress) with their commendable application of economic concepts in small group discussions and contests! Thanks to Chino, Jerome, Johann, and Lance for accepting the challenge and living up to the XS standard by exhibiting Competence and sharing a sense of Community with the rest of the delegates! 👍😀🎉
Include the daily routine of waking up as early as half-four in the morning, racing through the streets early to avoid traffic, amplifying the voice box at least two hours a day in a classroom where students either simultaneously discuss with classmates or never give a damn, and checking assessments. Then students page in the workroom to pass requirements, to consult, or to simply have a chit-chat about how their assessments drive them absolutely mental.
And that’s EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Exhausting, if I have to physically complain. Teachers in reality only possess a limited bandwidth to attend to the demands of work and personal life – and remaining sane at the end of the day is a skill.
Yet like any other profession, teaching is a career package one chooses to receive in entirety. I need to welcome the obvious perks and positive emotional highs that come with it. More importantly, emotional punishments, inevitable stressors, and the dull, boring, and repetitive details that characterise the profession must be accepted and endured.
2015 was indeed a walk in Jurassic Park. Still I can still say it’s the pill I’m willing to swallow with how the year fared.
In 2015, my ship has passed through Uncertainty Sea and withstood the occasional turbulence.
Indeed my silver year on earth was not just second best. It may even be my most outstanding year for the record: for taking meaningful risks as a test of character and burning the boats to propel me towards a calling, to what I regard as victory.
The ‘burn the boats’ strategy – that is, making failure to achieve a desired outcome more painful – is an effective way to ensure victory because it eliminates an important obstacle to accomplishing your goals.
That obstacle is a thought. The thought that if ‘things don’t work out’ you always have an escape plan to fall back on. Knowing you have an escape plan will prevent you from giving every ounce of effort needed for victory.
When you burn the boats, you are also igniting a burning desire to succeed. You have no choice. You win or you perish.
Having gone through a memorable, triumphant voyage, I hope to apply vital lessons from the past, maintain open-mindedness in learning new things both from people and situations I deal with, and function the whole year filled with renewed hopes to keep moving forward and make an impact beyond myself.
This 2016, I feel fully equipped to sail along the walloping, rich ocean of learning opportunities.
Three months. Two different cultures. One placement. Still amazed at how time has swiftly flown to this day. Perhaps the journey has been both meaningful and enjoyable despite the challenges we had to face as a group. Cheesy as it sounds, but I'd never trade this experience for anything else. Thank you, #TeamCabiao.
The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us.
– Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage