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Why I Don’t Lend My Books Anymore

Reading has always been a part of my life, and I thank my parents for encouraging me to enjoy it with the encyclopedias, comics, and short novels they left hanging around the house. I admit I was a bit slow in catching up compared to my elementary friends who were reading The Prince and The Pauper when I was still stuck with Sweet Valley Kids, but I kept on. I had a dictionary in tow to help me out with words I didn’t understand. And I kept on reading although that meant missing out on my favorite after-school “merienda” (snack) time, or sitting by the beach when everyone is enjoying their swim.

My collection of books

Through the years, I’ve kept books that made a significant impact in my life, and I’ve given away those that I’ve outgrown (so, yes, I gave away my Sweet Valley Kids collection a long time ago). The book that I’ve kept with me the longest is The Handbook of Dog Care, given to me when I was eight years old by my piano teacher. I was also handed the Elementary Spanish Book, published in 1901, owned by my great-grandfather. I’ve won a small trinket back in grade school because of this when we were asked to bring the oldest book we have at home.

I have the complete Harry Potter collection, with every book bought year after year as each is released. I remember the third book, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, as a “pasalubong” (souvenir-ish) from my dad from Manila. It was special in that it was the UK edition when all my classmates had the US version. Price-wise, there was no difference. But it was nice to be asked around in school where I got it from. For that one week since the book was released, it was nice to be that “popular kid” with the “other edition” in hand.

HP books

My Harry Potter collection, with the first book bought back when I was in Grade 5 (1999).

I’ve also collected nature-related books through the years, starting with my mom’s Geography book when she was in elementary, a geology book, astronomy books, bird watching books, and, as any aspiring pseudo-archaeologist would have, a dinosaur encyclopedia.

Books that have helped me thread through my darkest moments include Reviving Ophelia and Generation Me, which both allowed me to understand as to why I feel confident yet vulnerable, entitled yet broken.

I have collected language and travel books that have gone passé these days with the rise of language and travel apps. However, I still keep them because I have notes written all over the place. And in time, I intend to give them away to travelers who would want to keep on adding to these notes.

I also keep my law books although I did not even go through one full year of study. I just can’t throw them away because it’s my first biggest investment in my life, and I failed miserably by realizing too late that law school is not for me. I kind of wasted all my savings from my day job by enroling, but every book is a reminder that, thank God, I did not continue pursuing something “just because.” It was a costly “just because,” but so far, it is the last “just because” decision that I’ve ever made.

The value of lending and borrowing

I used to lend my books to family and friends without hesitation. I was happy in doing so since I value the book borrowing-lending dynamic more than the idea of simply purchasing the book. There was one event, though, as you will see below, that changed how I viewed lending. It made me realize that there are memories, emotions, and histories attached to borrowed and lent books. And so, if I know it is an important book for someone else, I must purchase from a store rather than borrow. The responsibility is heavy if taken seriously.

I was once an I-don’t-care borrower

I learned this the hard way. I have a friend, K, whom I’ve borrowed George Orwell’s 1984 book from. This copy was her mother’s. It was torn, sinking in yellow, with pages so brittle they can get scary to touch. I still borrowed the book although I knew at first glance that this copy went through so much. I was still in high school then, and I wanted to have something to read through the Christmas break.

Fast forward to the start of classes. My friend was asking for the book back. I got shocked because I totally forgot about the book. I told her I was not yet through with it, but I was scared as hell. I had no idea where I placed it. It took me weeks to find it, and I found it in our house’s laundry area. Apparently, I left it in my canvass bag, the bag was washed, and the book was placed somewhere “dry.”  The book was torn into pieces, and the cover was missing. My heart sank, and I seriously did not know what to do.

The next day, I gave the book back to my friend. I apologized and said that I will replace the book. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but it was along the lines of “You must not worry about it because this book can never be replaced.” She looked disappointed, for sure, but as a good friend, she tried to understand me.

Karma getting back to me

In college, I have a friend who borrowed a collection of my favorite books. She wanted to read through the summer break, and so I allowed her to choose books from my shelf. She borrowed all my Ayn Rand books and a treasure trove of other copies. Basically, she borrowed all of my favorite books. I did not hesitate one bit because I knew she will take care of these copies as much as I took care of them.

Six months later, she told me my books got infested by termites. There is no way my books can be saved, and she had to throw away everything. I was left in pieces. I did not know how to feel, but I knew I was not angry. I just knew that the experience left me sad because I value every underline and every note I’ve written on those pages. It made me sad, too, to know that there is no way for me to spring back to life these copies ever again.

Why I now hesitate to borrow books

These experiences made a lasting impact on my life. It made me realize that a torn and yellowish book, while an insignificant piece for me, means the world to others. I may not appreciate its value, but if I respect its value beyond its materiality and what it means to me, then, for sure, I will never even think of borrowing something that I choose not to be accountable for.

A book is a collection of memories, and it holds personal value beyond what its owner can express. For every page, there seems to be an experience that falls into place once I revisit the copy– a blot of ink, a drop of oil, or a splash of water. These things make a book completely my own, and indeed, no other copy in the world can replicate that.

And why I now don’t lend my books anymore

The experience of my favorite collection being lost forever was traumatic for me, and I’ve since hesitated to lend my books. I had personal attachments to my copies, and I was afraid that the borrower will not hold much value on my copy as much as I give value to it.

In time, though, I saw beyond this attachment. I may have stopped lending books, but it’s not because I’m attached to them anymore– it’s because I choose to take control of my decisions. I know that it takes two in the borrowing-lending dynamic, and if I allow someone to make the decision for me, then I’m allowing myself to thread along the consequences of saying “Yes.”

So far since I’ve gone beyond my attachments, I’ve only ever lent my books to my grandma and brother. I don’t consider this “lending” per sé since I get to check on these copies in my grandma’s home and my brother’s shelf.

It’s been six years since I lent my copy of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake to my grandma, and four years since I lent Elie Wiesel’s Night to my brother. The former hasn’t been read by my grandma and is currently stuck on her shelf, and the latter is nowhere to be found. But do I feel regretful? No. Because I’ve chosen to lend these books, and with this decision, I’ve also decided to let them go.

It’s weird that I have been using the word “lend” all this time when, in fact, it is not appropriate any longer. I don’t lend my books anymore because I choose not to “lend.” I now choose to “give” and “share.” Books and their memories are impermanent, and I’ve since chosen to keep it that way.

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Why I Started Unfollowing My Favorite Travel Bloggers

I used to look up to travel bloggers. How can they amass such a large following, given that all that they do is travel, eat, drink coffee, and take photos of their adventures? I would scour page after page of travel blogs, drooling over the places that these lucky few get to visit. How I wish I were like them, I thought to myself. Who wouldn’t want to travel the world for work, right?

Where it went downhill

But as time went by, I noticed the trend of brand hashtagging, wherein as the blogger is soaking under the sun (with sandy toes in tow!), he/she will thank the sponsor with the brand’s hashtag at the end of the post. I noticed this trend on almost all social media influencers, and then I realized how mainstream this strategy is.

Turns out, as I read this article, partnership with influencers is now a new marketing tactic that many companies have started exploring. It works in many ways, although how to determine its reach is still being fine-tuned, so companies do not end up losing their investment.

Travel bloggers, therefore, had to upsell themselves to companies for an exchange in the form of products, services, or a fee. It can work both ways: (1) If you have already established your brand online and you’ve gained lots of followers, companies will approach you; or, (2) You will approach companies and market your brand.

Going into this partnership takes a lot of responsibility from the blogger. Can you really stand up for the brand? And do you agree with how the company operates? Some influencers may take ambassadorship lightly, but there’s a whole lot of responsibility that goes with this role.

I used to look up to these travel bloggers, and how I envied the lifestyle that they had. However, many bloggers these days do not offer anything of value any longer. Many simply talk about the things that they did for the weekend, thanks to XYZ company; or how they celebrated their birthday, thanks to their hundreds of sponsors.

I used to love reading these bloggers work, but advertising has increasingly taken over. Not only do brands overpopulate their blogs, but more so their social media platforms.

I don’t mean to judge bloggers for being at the mercy of brands. We all have to make money somehow, right? I respect the fact that it takes a lot of courage for these bloggers to do the things that they do. I can never in a million years flaunt my body and pose in front of a camera. So, the level of confidence that they exude is just incredible.

However, I still believe in the value of a blog, which is, simply, a journal. Anyone can put up a blog these days and share whatever they feel like. If the blog gets too staged, though, I unfollow immediately because I’m so overfed with advertisements online, on TV, on the radio, and along Philippine highways. I see a blog as an extension of the blogger’s self, so to get even more ads on blogs I follow is something like irony when all I want is to detoxify my online life.

Why I choose to keep my blog the way it is

I have been keeping a blog since 2011, but it is mostly for personal use. I don’t do for-profit brand ambassadorships and marketing. I simply write, edit, and hit publish. Thanks to WordPress’ auto-post feature, I also get to automatically publish my posts on my social media pages. I don’t have a wide readership, and it’s in my wildest dreams for companies to even consider approaching me.

Raizel in Ilocos

The perk of blogging for myself: I don’t have to pose for a brand. I can simply choose to be me. (Taken while traveling around Badoc, Ilocos Norte)

I admit I’m also guilty of this brand partnership trend when I accepted affiliations from Booking.com, Languages 101, Onlinejobs.ph, and Zalora and started blogging about them. At that point, I wanted to get brownie points from these brands so I can reach the point of where I can get invited to their events, or I can start receiving more other than from commission links. But it didn’t feel right, and I stopped doing this immediately.

I see this blog as an extension of myself. I only wish to share what I see, smell, hear, taste, and feel. Even though I don’t receive as much compared to other bloggers, I don’t get the pressure of doing this and that post for a company that I am not sure I would want to speak for.

I foresee this blog staying as a personal one for a long time. And in the end, my only readers may only be my family, friends, and their friends. But that’s fine. In this online world full of BS and false advertising, at least I know I can still speak from the heart.

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Why I’ve Said My Goodbyes to Office Work

There are some things better left in the past.

Office-based work is one thing that I could never picture myself going back to, and something that I will continue to strive not to go back to.

A brief background

Since 2011, I found myself succumbing to office work whenever recession hits. Who can blame me, office jobs comprise almost all jobs available in the market! I never really liked the idea of being stuck in one place for the rest of my life, so the life of a researcher where I had the challenge of getting new and renewing my current contracts has always suited me. Sure, there were bouts of insecurity where I felt like I could lose my job anytime. However, looking back, I will never trade the freedom of time and space for the short-sighted idea of economic stability.

Having a permanent 9-5 job sounds stable; but, will it give me the time to explore the world, to book a flight on a whim, to enroll for language classes whenever I feel like it, to visit my grandma in the province on a weekday, or to strum my guitar in the middle of the day? The freedom that remote and contract-based jobs can give me is incomparable to any hierarchical title available out there.

Trying out jobs? Why not!

I’ve held a hodgepodge of jobs since I graduated in 2011 as an office-based researcher, editor, field-based researcher, thesis writer, events gifts supplier, travel agent, security camera dealer, truck investor, and stock trader, among others. To others, it may seem like I’ve been running around in circles; but to me, the process makes perfect sense. For every single job, I’ve learned a lesson that I otherwise would have known being stuck in one post. Experience is always the best teacher, and no amount of schooling or advice can cover for that.

I don’t think it is healthy for anyone to feel like they must be stuck with one job for the rest of their lives. I think the only thing stopping people from exploring their options is the fact that others can be so judging when we start becoming kids again wanting to explore the world. Changing grounds is now correlated with fickle-mindedness and lack of focus, instead of this being seen as a sign of growth.

I’ve always had my doubts with myself, thinking whether my decision not to hold an office-based job, in contrast with the status quo, is the right choice. People never really understood what I was doing, thinking that I was an unemployed and unfocused kid for some reason. But then eventually I thought, should the lack of understanding really be an excuse for judgments?

How I felt at peace with my decision

Instead of hiding away, I’ve learned to stand up for my career decisions, not through words, but through actions. Since then, people started seeing through how happy and satisfied I truly am with my work. When people realize how flexible my work is, they always mention that they want to switch places with me. The first time I heard this comment, my heart almost melted. Never in a million years would I think that a hippie-like lifestyle would be a career goal for others, just like how it was for me.

How I am doing today

Right now, I hold two remote jobs (one as a Research Editor, and another as an SEO Writer), and one field contract is coming. I manage a small dealership company with my partner, and I also get the time to help out my parents with their business. Despite the many misconceptions about my career choice, my partner and I got to purchase a condo unit, too, as we get ready for the next step of our relationship.

Bourbon and ice cream

My career choice allows me to travel with my dog (and eat ice cream while at it, too!)

During the week, I get the time to groom and feed my dogs, play the guitar, drop by the grocery, clean the house, read books, learn to code (something that my partner and I look forward to taking an exam in this year), and curate content for my blog.

And what I love the most about my choice

The best part? I get to watch the sunrise and sunset, listen to the birds, gaze at the clouds, stand by flowers as they get ready for the season, and feel the wind on my face. I get to bask in nature’s gifts not because I live in the province, but because I made this choice. I chose my freedom over the status quo, and I could never be happier with my decision. The road to get here was winding with lots of “ifs” and self-doubt, but I can only look forward now. I’ll never go back to an office job because I choose life—the breathing, growing, shimmering kind.

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Why Are You Studying in the First Place?

Every so often I find myself looking for freelance writing jobs that I can add to my day job, especially for when I need to save up for an upcoming splurge. I never like the idea of purchasing something when I cannot afford it, so instead of using a credit card (which I’ve given up in late 2015, thank God!), I find ways to earn more when I need a bit extra.

As I was searching on Onlinejobs.ph, my go-to for when I’m on an online gig hunt, I came across this job ad which to me was disturbing at best:

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Screenshot of a thesis writing gig post

For one, this person is offering a mere $50 for this job. I’m not sure if there is anyone THAT desperate to want to accept this lengthy and challenging job for a few pesos. Secondly, I’m not sure, too, if this person has any idea of the task he/she requires from the contractor. To research + write an entire thesis for $50? If he/she made the fee more acceptable, I’m sure more people would have wanted to take the job.

But I don’t take these kinds of jobs. I don’t like it when the client doesn’t give at least a 5% effort on what is required on an academic requirement. I don’t like it when all the client does is to take a photo of the assignment, to have you, as the contractor, figure out everything that he/she might want you to do, and for you to negotiate with the fee suggested. Based on experience, these super lazy clients never negotiate their prices and would be the first to ghost you out when you start asking for their data input. They simply go to school to get others do the stuff for them, something that I don’t want to support.

When I started out taking online jobs in 2011, the market was dominated by clients who wanted to pay a cheaper fee to do technical and blog writing for them. It is disturbing that these days, more students are willing to shell out a chunk of their allowances to pay people to do the job for them.

Back in 2013 I had a client who was a Ph.D. candidate at– gasp!– The University of Chicago and she hired me to help her out with her thesis. I was happy to accept it because she did all the data gathering and analysis; all I had to do was to weave together the information since her notes were all over the place. She was very hands-on throughout the entire process. And although I have no way of verifying if she indeed was busy with her full-time job that’s why she needed help, she knew the ins and outs of her entire research. Working with this client was a great feeling because it felt like I was graduating, too, from one of the world’s top universities– too bad I’m still stuck with being a Philippine graduate which translates to less pay 😛

Sadly, I never come across a client like this anymore. From typing their assignments, lazy students are now just taking photos of their homework, sometimes even straight from the whiteboard! I’m not sure if this trend is due to school being increasingly passé with now self-learning made easier by the internet; or, if it is because of students getting more distracted. Whatever it is, I hope these students don’t make a habit out of it. If they think they can get through life by paying someone, then we, contractors, also have a role to play by choosing not to accept these kinds of writing gigs.

“Why are you studying in the first place?” You may get into moderators’ and clients’ nerves but asking this question to a potential client goes a long, long way.

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Note: This post contains an affiliate link for Onlinejobs.ph. It does not cost you to sign up with them through this link, but it contributes to the upkeep of this site 🙂

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Saving a Date: Why I Choose to Keep It at 120

Why is it that people almost always correlate “adulthood” with distancing from one’s family? It seems to be a badge of honor for “grown-up” children to say that they are now living on their own (or with their partner), can’t attend family events because of personal or work reasons, or hardly ever talk with their parents and siblings? And why does it seem to be a badge of honor for parents, too, to say that they don’t give advice to their kids anymore because they now have a mind of their own, let them live on their own, or hardly ever talk with their children because they have their own lives now?

I accept all family dynamics and individuals in all forms and sizes, but what’s bothering me is the lack of appreciation for the “Other,” meaning, for whatever else does not fit into your truth. There is nothing wrong with being a 30-year-old living with your parents, not having savings, or not finding your path just yet. There is nothing wrong, too, with parents wanting to keep the camaraderie alive by going on weekends together with their “grown-up” children, or with controlling their children (I personally do not agree with this, but you will see below why I don’t push my truth so impulsively). On the same note, there is nothing wrong with an 18-year-old wanting to live with his girlfriend, wanting to take time off school to find oneself, or to choose to work early without getting into university.

My whole point is, we human beings tend to be so judging without intending to. We tend to believe that our truth is the ultimate truth, and anything that falls outside of it is “uncivilized,” “backward,” or point-blank “wrong.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with living by one’s truth. I personally strive to live day-by-day grounded on my truths, but I’m telling you it is hard work in the midst of this world of overinformation and overabundance of rules.

So to make my life a life worth living for me, I’ve said my goodbyes directly and indirectly to people who choose to run their lives around themselves alone. I’ve chosen to block people from my life who find satisfaction in stroking their superiority-founded truths at the cost of others’ freedom, integrity, and happiness. I am being judgmental right here– and I accept that– for I accept, too, that life is so fragile and short. Every learning curve causes a lot of pain and self-doubt, and now I’ve chosen to only welcome people who are willing to go through the fire with me so we can both come out better based on our personal standards.

And you know what, I’ve never been happier saying goodbye to these people. Nothing has changed, except of course that now, I invite less people on get-togethers. Happier times well-spent with people I love.

On my way back to the Philippines, I’ve made a list of people whom I would love to be with all the time. These are the people whom I would not second-guess being in a party or outing with. And these are the people whom I will not be afraid to say and do what I want to say and do. I ran through the list again and again and asked myself if I am truly happy being with these people. I’ve crossed out some people, and added some more.

My total list came to just 120. Imagine, I currently have 1,000+ contacts, and I truly enjoy sharing my life with only 12% of these contacts.

Life shouldn’t be THAT complicated, really!

cousins

The kind of happiness that you gain by surrounding yourself with people whom you love and love you in return 🙂 With my lovely cousins! Photo courtesy of Ate Aidni.

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Angeles City Historic District Walking Tour

Anthroonfoot is now an audio tour provider for Izi.Travel and Freetour.com! Yayyy, dream come true ❤

Our first walking tour focuses on the Santo Rosario Historic District, the oldest square in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines.

Access the tour here: Angeles City Historic Walking Tour. It’s best viewed on a smartphone through the Izi.Travel app. The tour is free for the first 50 downloads!

anthroonfoot tour-min

Special thanks to Santo Rosario’s residents, local officials, and library and museum staff who have made our work easier 🙂

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My First Job after University: Desperate Freelancer

A professor once told me that “While the body is shared, the mind is ours alone.” It didn’t make much sense to me back then, as a freshman caring more about my free time for reading and running over acing my classes. I went to classes taught by my favorite professors, missed classes that didn’t interest me, and made up for the absences by doing extra readings. I loved working towards my anthropology degree because it’s a subject that thoroughly interests me. We were only eight in our batch, with almost everyone believing that a good and stable future awaits upon graduation.

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I had such high hopes after graduation, only to find out… (Photo Courtesy: Jefferson Villacruz of Diliman Information Office)

Two weeks since I graduated, I still couldn’t find a job. I’ve applied to 25 jobs at this point and couldn’t get past beyond the first screening. I graduated with good grades and was pretty active outside school work. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I left job search websites and gave Upwork a try. Being a freelancer was something that I never thought I’d pursue as a career. Signing up for Upwork was clearly out of desperation.

Since I was new to the site, I was desperate to get clients as fast as I could. At this point, I was a month into unemployment. So, I browsed through other freelancer’s profiles and checked their rates. I placed mine at a measly $3 per hour since getting my first client was the top priority. Not surprisingly, I immediately got an offer to write a 10,000-word essay on acai berries. I was to deliver the paper in two weeks. Health topics interest me and so I wasn’t fazed at all.

Now as an alumna, I did not have online access to academic journals any longer and so I opted to reference from what I could mine from the internet. There are over 20,000 articles written on acai berries, but sifting through all these pages was more difficult than I thought. For one, it was quite difficult to verify information since I’m only basing my understanding on secondhand information. Trained as an anthropologist where living in subject communities for as long as it’s needed is the norm, I certainly lost confidence in what I was doing. After every sentence, I would cringe and think, “Is this even accurate?” I kept on questioning my work up until the moment I handed over my final work.

After a few days, I received a complaint from the employer saying my work is full of erroneous data extracted from non-academic journals, and that my work is plagiarized. Therefore, this person is demanding a full refund. Of course, I stood up for myself saying that I referenced my sources well and my work has passed Copyscape. Sure, I had doubts with the information I was putting on the work, but proper citation is something that I value highly. My aptitude for referencing is something I never question.

The complaint got escalated to Upwork and the employer wanted to bring the case to court. That seriously scared the hell out of me as I could not even afford my own rent, let alone court fees. I decided to just back down and give the full refund of $300 which was such a huge amount for me at that time. I knew I should stand up for myself until the end but with financial constraints, I chose to back down.

After that experience and a negative review on my profile, it got difficult for me to get clients. It took at least six more months since I got my next client, but this time I was already employed and so landing contracts sporadically wasn’t a problem any longer.

Although my first writing gig was traumatic, it taught me such valuable lessons for my professional and personal life. For one, shortcuts don’t work well in life in the long run. Although it was so convenient for me to source out information from online resources, I would have saved more time and energy finding the best journals even if that means going to public libraries or asking for a one-off access from my former professors. I could have looked beyond the confines of my laptop, but I got too comfortable working on my parents’ couch.

I’ve realized that plagiarism is not just about violating citation rules, but also about not giving justice to the importance of quality sources when picking references. When I source out from unreliable sources, I become an accessory to plagiarism by supporting content that is unfounded, erroneous, and most likely reworded from someone else’s work. Plagiarism is not just about stealing ideas, it is also about not being conscientious enough to know the difference between reliable and unreliable sources.

I’ve grown so much since my first job after university. I haven’t run away from that experience, and I am still working in the research industry. Every time I have a paper to write or edit, I look back on that first nervous attempt to finish a 10,000-word essay in two weeks. It’s a project that isn’t that difficult to complete as it seemed back then, after all. And I’m happy because I can now say with full confidence that it’s a job that I can fulfill without self-doubts and inhibitions.