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Why Work Gives Me a Sense of Purpose– And I Think It’s Kinda Wrong

Imagine a world without work.

Can you take it?

Can you see yourself being in one?

What do you do (for a living)?

On any party that I go to, the first thing that people ask after asking my name is, “What do you do?” It is not like a question of “What do you do?” but, in fact, of “What do you do for a living?” So, imagine people’s surprise when I told them I was unemployed a month after graduating from university.

Of course, there is this “saving face” sort of attitude ingrained in Filipino (and Asian) cultures; so, instead of asking me the question of “Why,” people would go to my parents instead. These inquisitive souls would then bugger my parents, and my mom and dad, unfortunately, had the sore role of wanting to be in my defense. “She is still job hunting,” was their usual answer. And I was being blatant with saying, “Yeah, I’m unemployed.” I did not want to explain myself because, really, what was there to explain about? I just got out of university, and it is unfortunate that I did not think of applying for jobs before I graduated.

Thankfully, after that one month of unemployment, I got a job– as a freelance writer. So, here we go again, people asking me the same question of “What do you do?” When I tell them I am a “freelance writer,” the reaction I get is even worse than telling them I am unemployed. Going freelance always has its share of misconceptions, and one of them is this being another way of saying that, indeed, you are unemployed.

Anyway, after five months of doing writing gigs on Upwork, from writing theses, online articles, and e-books, I got my first legit office-based job at IRRI. IRRI, with all its standards and good name, pulled me into its fame, too. All of a sudden, people stopped probing me and bugging my parents on the question of “What do you do?”

(Side note: But to be honest, I had the least stressful life during my time at IRRI. I had a lot of free time to go to the library, with permission and encouragement from my boss since there was not much work to do. In fact, I was more agitated during my freelance days.)

Impostors galore

I used to be so agitated when I have free days on a weekday, or when I have short work days. I used to feel useless to be sitting and reading when I know I should be working. Even though I usually finish my work before 5 pm, I will not go out, afraid that people will think of me as “unemployed.” I used to bother because I cared so much about others’ opinion. I didn’t want to be probed any longer, so I would rather wait until 5 pm when all working people are out so I can join in the pack. I thought I will not stand out so much.

Utterly stupid as I look at it in retrospect.

Work? What Work?

After all the hustle and bustle in finding flexible work, I am now happy to say that I got what I’ve always wanted: work that will not control my time, and the opportunity to choose what I want to do with my time. I only achieved this recently (to be exact, this January 22), when I got a better post in my current jobs. All my work is now deliverables-based, so I am not constrained by time to accomplish what I have to do.

Surprisingly, I now work even harder. I don’t want anything like this to pass my way, so the more I treasure and enjoy it while it lasts.

This schedule is still taking me a bit of getting used to since I never before had the chance to be in full control of my day. I would occasionally rummage through my list of tasks and do my work in advance. To be honest, I felt a bit iffy at the start to be having this much time in my hands. But the more I live my every day based on my own terms, the more I choose to let go of my fears and to just embrace everything in my way.

And what has this new schedule brought me? Weekday hikes, weekday birdwatching sessions, weekday running sessions, time to clean the house every day, and time to learn new skills. I haven’t felt this time-strapped than I’ve ever been, but now, it’s the sort of “busy” that I choose to be in. I put “busy” in open and close parentheses because I’ve always hated the word; but now, I want to use it because, well, I want people to leave me alone 😛

Superblood moon-min

Enjoying the sight of the super blue blood moon with a glass of wine. Thanks to R for the photo.

… So this is what it feels like when you feel like a kid again enjoying this new-found freedom!

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Why I Deleted My LinkedIn Profile

I used to check my LinkedIn profile at least once a week, scanning for updates and looking into connecting with people I might have good partnerships with. It was like an “adulting Facebook” sort of platform where people did not post their recent vacation photos, but their updated work status, certifications, training, awards, and projects.

What headline?

It’s all good until I realized I missed putting a headline on my profile. The headline is what people see first when they view my profile. I can put in anything that I want, but usually, since this is a “professional” site, it is in my best interest to put my current position.

I thought long and hard about what to put here. Am I an anthropologist? Of course, no. I haven’t spent at least one decade on one field site to proudly say that I am. Am I a researcher? Sort of, but not really, because I also do writing and editing, and the term “researcher” usually connotes someone stuck in the office doing online research. Am I a writer? An absolute no. Everyone is a writer in their own way, and to say that I am one means I can assert that I could write for a living which, unfortunately, is not the case. I’m not good and if anything, I am only most comfortable with journal writing. Am I an editor? Sometimes, but I can only edit specific articles, and I absolutely do not have the confidence to proofread academic journal submissions.

Where am I good at, really?

I’m not very good with labels, and it’s hard for me to assert that “I am this and that.” Although I do apply anthropological, writing, editing, research, and entrepreneurial techniques on my work, I cannot say that I am this “-ist” or “-or” that can be that sort of authority in these fields. In reality, just like any of us is, I am forever a learner of this world who is constantly on the lookout for what, where, when, and from whom I can learn from. Therefore, I find it uncomfortable to force upon a single title when I know there is no appropriate title to write in the first place.

My solution

So, what did I place instead? Simple: Human Being. This is the most appropriate title that I could think of and sums up everything that I want to say about myself. I am no anthropology practitioner, writer, editor, or researcher. I know I am more than these titles, and to say that I am a “Human Being” was the most comfortable thing that I did on this platform.

But why did I delete my profile?

As straightforward as my headline sounds, I deleted my profile because, simply, I find no use for my account any longer. Sure, I have contacts that I’ve built over the years, and I’ve put in a substantial amount of time and effort in completing my profile. But why must I insist on pushing my way into something that does not make sense anymore?

In the past, I used to feel bad about saying goodbye to things that I have started. It makes me feel worthless knowing that I haven’t followed through with my decisions. But I’ve realized that the reason why today is different from yesterday, and tomorrow is different from today and yesterday, is because the world allows us to think and feel as human beings. This opportunity to grow is what makes us evolve in a way that is full of resilience and free of hang-ups that can be hard to say goodbye to.

So, today, I don’t doubt myself anymore if I want to turn my back. I have found a different meaning to the word “closure,” and with my LinkedIn profile down, I again feel another baggage coming off my shoulders.

Plant growing

What a relief to now watch this grow instead of my LinkedIn contacts. (Thanks to my friend G. for the photo)

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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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How I Travel with a Full-Time Job

*As featured on Rappler on July 12, 2017 🙂

From January 2015- January 2017, R and I have travelled to 35 countries across four continents. We had the chance to walk around the Acropolis, marvel at the wonders of Cordoba, do long drives around the UK, and do our weekly groceries at souqs in Casablanca. The travel bug struck R and I big time and since then, we’ve visited four more countries and have already booked our trip to two more countries for later this year.

You might wonder– and this made us wonder as well– how can we travel so much while working full time, able to save for our future life together (more on that on a later post), while earning just enough?

We receive a lot of questions from family and friends on how we get to travel the way we do. Here are some of our “secrets” that help us live a traveler’s life that we’ve always dreamed of:

1. We work remotely

Working remotely is the biggest gift that we’ve received in achieving this dream, and is the main reason as to why we can sustain our travels.

Let me give an overview of how we work:

As for me:

I work remotely 8 hours a day, 5 times a week. I am lucky because my schedule is quite flexible that I can spread out my 8 hours as long as I cover at least three hours of New York business time.

Aside from my day job, I also work as the auditor of two co-owned small enterprises, both based in the Philippines. I do daily and weekly audits, and dedicate at least one hour a day to communicate with the manager on-site. I’m just thankful for all the technology available today that I’m able to do this task even when out of the country.

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How we usually work, with a standing desk in tow so we can take a break from sitting for too long (Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire)

For R, his work schedule is more demanding. Since he works as a Support Engineer for an irrigation company, he has to work long hours and should be available for calls any time. He works 10- 12 hours a day for 5 days a week, then 5 hours for Saturdays. Sometimes, he also has to work for at least 2 hours on Sundays. The hours are really long. What’s great with his job, though, is he can work from his phone for some tasks so what he does is he purchases a local sim card and signs up for data. He does this for every country that we go to.

So, when we travel, we manage our day based around our work. Our work is top priority since without it, we cannot live this kind of life that we want. Usually, we only travel around on weekends; and we only go out on weekdays for dinner after all work is done.

2. Through research projects

As an anthropology practitioner (for I can’t really call myself an “anthropologist” just yet), I get to receive research contracts in and out of the Philippines. But these do not come to me as manna from heaven. I need to work for and apply for them. I’ve received more turned-down applications than accepted ones, so when I get them I make sure I give my best so I get referred to other projects, or I get to continue with the project when it gets extended.

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Who would have thought we will find ourselves staying in a container van in the middle of a moor for three months? (Kirkby Malzeard, Northern Yorkshire)

I would say the biggest factor as to why I got into research contracting is because of this UNDP research project that I luckily got accepted to back in 2013. More projects came pouring in after that, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity. There is a lot of room for improvement though since I only have a bachelor’s degree, and some projects are reserved for those with masters and PhD degrees.

It is through this job that R and I get to travel to off-the-beaten tracks including Itogon (Benguet), Kirkby Malzeard (Great Britain), Casablanca (Morocco), and Jaipur (India).

3. Through business trips

This opportunity is thanks to R’s company who is kind and generous enough to shoulder both of our travel expenses when R has a workshop, seminar, meeting, or conference to attend. He travels once a year in the US, once around Southeast Asia, and once in Europe. So in a year, we both get three trips cared of by R’s company!

orchidcountryclub

Staying in a country club: one of the many perks of R’s business trips! (Singapore)

And since R and I both travel smart aka within our means, it’s a great chance for us to travel beyond what we can afford. We get to travel on business class, stay at 5-star hotels, and eat in nice restaurants. Oh, why oh why do these kinds of trips have to end!

4. Through company trips

Once a year, in summer, our family receives a free trip thanks to a Philippine-based company that my parents are co-owners of. All the co-owners’ families receive this free trip, and so we all make sure we are available for this trip. It is definitely one of the rare opportunities for all our families to bond.

bustour

Traveling inter-country by private bus. Again, something I can’t afford without this annual travel opportunity 😛 (Cologne, Germany)

Again, for this one, I make sure I get to join because I am able to enjoy a kind of travel that I cannot afford. Traveling around in a private hired bus, staying in 4 to 5-star hotels, and having private guides– It is the kind of travel that I wouldn’t want to miss!

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These are the many ways by which R and I can travel so much for the past few years. When we set our sights three years ago into exploring the world together until we grow old, we did our best to achieve location independence with our work. It took us some years to get to where we are today, but it is not impossible to achieve.

We may not be able to afford many of the physical luxuries in life, but we definitely appreciate and are always thankful of the life we have today. We are now where we want to be, and we are forever grateful 🙂