Graduation can be a daunting time for students because it would mean having to face the future. There are the Tracy Flicks, those people who know what they want to do since they were children. But many of us blindly go through life, not sure where to go. There’s always that disconnect between pursuing one’s passion (with no prospects of getting rich), and landing an unexciting job that pays the bills. Post-graduation is a nebulous time. And you know what? It’s okay. I was stuck in limbo for three years.
Writing has always been in my blood. I fell in love with it after a 5th teacher praised a book report I did for Beowulf, but before that, I was already rewriting some of my favorite stories, like Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (which I still have today). In college, I was a writer for my college’s student publication, and when I transferred schools, I was already an applicant for the university’s student publication even before I was officially a student. I eventually became the editor-in-chief, and I was also the literary editor of my batch’s yearbook. You would think that I would pursue a career in writing, but no. There was a three-year period where I did the “practical thing,” because people insisted there was no money in writing.
After a week of soul-searching in Shanghai, I applied for a marketing job at a printing company. I hated it. The office was far, I was (and still am) shy, and I didn’t book a single client. Along the way, I became a contributor for a section for The Philippine Star, and I quit marketing after five months to work in human resources.
I moved to human resources because I studied Psychology in college. I still contributed to the Star, but on weekdays, I met and interviewed applicants for a BPO in Alabang. I was happy where I was, but I was also curious, wondering what would happen if I wrote full-time. Until then, my adult life was like a forest, where I was a lost explorer wandering in the dark. In a way, I knew the way out and what waited for me, but it seemed like I was struck with Stockholm Syndrome, content with what I had and never asking for more.
At the time, my sister worked in public relations as a copywriter. I expressed my frustrations at my job and she invited me to apply. Like Patty Hearst, the kidnapped heiress who eventually joined the cause of her kidnappers, I balked at the idea. I was scared. I hesitantly expressed my interest but got cold feet. My application became a five-month cat-and-mouse game where I alternately played both characters. I eventually quit HR after a year to work in PR.
Even if I was working as a copywriter for an agency, I still recognized that deep gnawing inside me that I wanted to work in publishing. I still wrote for the Star, but every day, the monster in me grumbled, a deep longing to really be a ~writer~. Tired of wondering “what if?” I resigned after 10 months and decided to work full-time as a writer.
You would think my story ended there. You would think that I would flourish as a wordsmith, and that I would be, like Hannah Horvath said in Girls, “the voice of my generation,” or at least “a voice in a generation.” I wrote for the Star, became a senior editor for WhenInManila.com, and I interned for Rogue magazine. I even started my own culture website. And yet, after pining for this lifestyle for three years, I was unhappy. I realized that it wasn’t for me. There’s this adage that says you shouldn’t meet your heroes because you often end up disappointed.
That’s when I realized that I belong in public relations. My editor at Rogue once told me my writing was too PR. And I remember meeting director Jose Javier Reyes, who told me I should work in advertising. I looked at my messy career and tried to connect the dots. I didn’t see a hyperrealist painting à la Claudio Bravo, but I saw that I was happiest when I was in PR. And so like the prodigal son in biblical times, the agency I used to work for accepted me with open arms and a bigger workload. I quit the Star and Rogue, but I’m still here at WhenInManila.com.
I bet many fresh graduates, or even those already working, can relate to my story. It’s this feeling of being lost, a state where you feel you don’t belong where you are right now. It’s an endless source of frustration, but it’s okay. Limbo is where you discover your strengths and weaknesses. Exploring means testing your limits. Experimentation means knowing what you like and don’t like. But there will come a day when you will have to go out of your comfort zone, face your fears, and take the leap. Trust me, it will be worth it. And sometimes, you’ll discover that your happiness lies somewhere else.
You know you’re home when you find happiness. It took me three years to find it. I hope your trip will be shorter. Better yet, I hope you find your home.