Friday, January 27, 2017

A History of Moving Forward

8:07 PM

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A journey through time, space, and careers.

During my first job, one of the most common phrases I have received in my work e-mails is “moving forward.” Back then the phrase meant taking the next steps for improving processes at work. Nearly six months later, the phrase remains relevant but in a different manner.

I have always seen myself as a writer. I was part of the school paper from grade school until high school. I enjoyed writing my journals for English class and even went through a fan fiction writing phase. I more or less joined every opportunity that involved writing. Despite these, I wasn’t confident enough about my writing, or showing them to the world, for I had a stifling fear of criticism. Years of bullying compelled me to be overly self-conscious to the point that it prevented me from producing actual written work throughout high school and in my first few years in college. But there are events I remember which opened me up to the possibility of pursuing writing again: I was an intern for my Public Relations class where I wrote press releases and did some creative work. Then there’s my introductory journalism class which exposed me to the ins-and-outs of journalism and the media industry in the Philippines, while a creativity talk from one of the women I admire motivated me to embrace the creative process.

These events led me to apply for an internship with a magazine editor, which I unfortunately did not get. He pointed out that I needed to prepare myself better and get more experience, and that I needed to dig deeper with my writing. He was right, and his words up until this day served as a motivation for me to keep on writing. After that obstacle, I applied as a content writer intern for a startup during the summer vacation before my senior year in college. During that internship, I did not only write, but I was also exposed to other online promotion strategies.

Eventually, in my senior year in college, I did three things that served as catalysts in my journey as a writer. First thing was my senior thesis. As clichéd as it may sound, my senior thesis was the biggest challenge I had to conquer in the entirety of my college life. It took so many moments of self-doubt and fear, but finishing it made me realize that I am capable of creating something that will potentially help others, and develop a discipline towards writing. Second, I joined my university publication. Applying for the publication was a grueling and intimidating process, but everything paid off when I got accepted. It was one of the most valuable experiences I had in my student life: It taught me how to work smarter and accept criticism a little bit better. Joining the publication reacquainted me with how publications work, and it also opened up to opportunities that I never knew I could do. The last thing I did was enroll in a Feature Writing class where I was able to write about topics that interested me, as well as topics that were outside of my comfort zone. With these three experiences in the bag, it motivated me to start looking for jobs and other opportunities related to writing.

I applied for writing-related jobs after graduation and found a writing position that seemed perfect for me. But an opportunity that was impossible to pass up found me. Being the fresh graduate that I was, I knew I had to be open to other opportunities, too, and this one seemed impossible to decline. It seemed perfect at the time since it involved being in a creative industry and getting mentorship from industry experts. It also required me to tap into my planning and organizing skills, which seemed to be two of the skills I’ve been struggling to develop. However, I had to take on this job because I was advised to be more practical and to be more “alluring” on paper. I also had to prove to my dad (and former detractors in school) that I can conform and pursue something that was deemed “normal” and practical by the society. My dad is old already and he wanted me to become more self-sustaining, so he thought that pursuing this job was the most viable option for me even if I knew at the back of my mind that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to create and conform less. Consequently, my dad and his friends told me that writing is an unsustainable career because they witnessed some of their friends go through financial difficulties while pursuing creative careers. I do understand where they are coming from, but I wanted to break this cycle where I feel like I only do things for the sake of proving my worth to others. I have already spent a great deal of my teenage life trying to do that, and it has made me yearn for external validation most of the time. Despite this, I still listened to my dad and got the job, telling myself that this wasn’t really a bad thing since I’m learning something new after all. Still, my heart was stuck with writing. To reconcile these feelings, I decided, at the start of 2016, to take writing more seriously—whether it’s updating my blog, contributing a piece to a publication, or creating a diary using a Microsoft Word file.

During the first quarter of the year, it was starting to become apparent that my job wasn’t for me, and the desire to pursue writing was becoming stronger and stronger. It started when I first contributed an old piece to a friend’s online zine, and that I was given some leeway at work to help with writing content. Those opportunities opened me up to the possibility that I needed to pursue writing as a career. At the same time, the universe was also pointing out that I needed to move forward already, and that I needed to go for what I truly want.

After five months, I decided to leave my job. I wanted to be able to practice my writing and eventually pursue a job that is actually related to the craft. The decision was a difficult one to make, because there were so many things to take into consideration. I had to take into consideration other people’s perception of me, personal finances, and other opportunities available. My decision to leave was met with mixed results: “Are you sure aalis ka? Sayang ka,” were some of the things hurled at me. I was called a coward for leaving and giving up, but I don’t really see it that way. In fact, there were even more people who told me that I did what was best for my well-being and they’re happy to see that I am pursuing something I genuinely love and enjoy, which was a radical turn from being told that I was someone who was lost and confused. 

Quitting my full-time job was a liberating moment where I took the first step to do something without being consumed by the desire to please others or prove them wrong. I’m happy to be doing something that I love and it’s helping me in so many ways: I write for my blog more often now and have started contributing and writing for other places, too.

I think I'm in a better place now, though there are and will still be moments when I’d doubt my capabilities as a writer. It may take a long time, but I know that I will eventually get through them one way or another. Moving forward now means accepting all parts of myself—good and bad—and taking steps to figure out what’s best for me without the pressure of others. This way I can move forward and get my writing going.

Article by Lea
Art by Berto
Lea Angela Bolante is a twentysomething who is figuring life as she goes along. She loves lipstick, reading, fried chicken, and almond-flavored Pepero. She is a regular contributor at Philihappy and dreams of owning a library-cum-pet café. You can follow her at @leabolante on social media.
Besides being an introverted young adult with a tendency to either be painfully shy or absolutely shameless, Berto is a Game Development student and a 'schooldad' to her blockmates. She is often strangely terrified of sharing her art and the idea of taking commissions. Her dream in life is to create apps or games that will improve people's lives, and raise pigs and live quietly in the province.