When I was in college, I joined a prestigious choral group that gave me an opportunity to travel around the world. I was 19 years old when I went on my first international tour and took a leave of absence from the university for one semester. We were sponsored by Filipino communities in the United States and by local families in Europe. This meant staying with our hosts and we were part of their families for the short period that we were in their homes. A lot of the families I stayed with in the US were second generation immigrants. Their parents went to America in the hopes of building better lives.
When I got back home, I asked my mom if she ever thought of migrating to the US when we were young. Young meant the 80’s when the American Dream was selling like hotcakes. She said, “No. Only rich people did that.”
That conversation left me with so much regret at the thought that we missed out on a big opportunity. I could have been an American citizen now. I could be holding one of the most powerful passports in the world and did not have to apply for a visa every time I wanted to travel to Europe. The conversation happened almost two decades ago. Things have certainly changed and I myself did not pursue the American dream. A lot of my friends have moved to different parts of the world and here I am still very much grounded in the Philippines. I still think about the possibility of moving, but with travel now so much easier, I just see other places as temporary homes. I go and immerse and I come back to my beloved, comfortable, familiar homeland, the Philippines.
I sometimes ask myself if I’m crazy to not have this drive to go abroad and find a new life. But then, what is crazy about living in the land where you were born and raised? What is crazy about not wanting to be too far away from family? What is it about the comfortable and familiar that makes us want to stay? Maybe it is precisely because it is what it is. Comfortable and familiar means it is less scary. After all, fear always accompanies the unknown.
About two years ago, I had a rather horrible experience at work. It was a situation where I feel I never stood a chance of getting accepted no matter what I did. Still, I weathered it out, but it made me sit down and start thinking about a hiatus. I worked out a list of my current financial obligations and what cost it would take to be free for a year. That list was originally on paper, but it eventually became a working spreadsheet. The situation at work eased up a bit for a few months, but it turned into boredom. This was when I had time to google “prawns vs shrimps” – a phrase my friends now use when they want to say they are bored. LOL. Eased up, however, did not mean happiness nor peace. I still did not stand a chance, but I guess I just accepted that I have to live in misery until one of us gives up and leaves.
The universe decided to humor me. One fine day in August, I was told I was losing my job in three months. I was prepared to go through the different stages of grief, but that did not really pan out since I got a new post two days later. I still had the option to leave and make my hiatus dream come true, but I knew I was not ready financially. I took the job and finally, all of us can stay and at the same time be away from each other.
It’s been a year since I took that new job. The people surrounding me have been great and I could not be more grateful. But…the seed that was planted two years ago took root and it was only a few months ago that I realized it has grown.
I am not surprised. I have always been curious about life outside the corporate world. I have friends who are freelance musicians, writers, make up artists and business owners. They are all living great lives. I have always wondered what it would be like to try and be part of that non-corporate world. It’s all rose-colored glasses until I think about the income stability that my current job provides.
My current job provides me a steady source of income. It is an enabler to so many things I currently enjoy in my life, including getting to travel often. This job creates for me a predictable day to day life and suggests there is an upward career path for me if I just play my cards right. I learn a lot; not just about the world we live in but also about myself and the people that I get to interact with everyday. Sounds to me like a dream job. The thing is, it is probably someone else’s dream job now. I have known myself to be highly driven and always had eyes on that vertical career path.
One day, I caught myself looking elsewhere. At first, I thought I was just tired. It will pass. In the meantime, let me take on a hobby other than going to the gym and singing. What else do I like doing? Oh, I like looking at jewellery and coloured gemstones. Art deco jewellery particularly fascinates me. And so the reading and the research began. The more I learned, the more glued I became. I started learning the business side of it and I eventually opened my own Instagram jewellery blog. A little voice started telling me this is what I should be doing.
At first, the thought shocked me. Am I crazy? This is just nuts to be thinking about myself as a business woman. Maybe I am just burned out and really need a break. Yup, ignore the voice.
How timely is it that one of my friends has just left the corporate world to start her own yoga studio? As I follow her amazing journey, that little voice became louder too. It became so persistent I had to stop and listen. The voice said, “Why not? Remember when you were 8 years old and had this little candy store by your bedroom window? Remember how you felt when someone actually bought a candy and you receive their coin and put it in a little coin bowl?” Coincidentally, I also sang at radio station contests about the same age, so I also earned money on the side for these gigs. It made me laugh to think that after a long and winding road, I would end up the adult version of that little girl in retail and singing at events. I laughed, but my heart was bursting with the possibility.
I think I have finally befriended that little voice. When I did, I told my good friend about it and she laughed and introduced me to a book called “When To Jump”. She said, “You are describing exactly what other “jumpers” have experienced in their journey towards a life of their dreams.”
The next day, off to the bookstore I went. There was one copy left, tucked between other books, it could easily be missed. This one book was meant for me. I just started reading it, but it has helped me a lot to recognize that what I feel and want to do is not that crazy. A lot of other people have done it and made it. If they can, I probably can too.
I will end this post with a quote from Jeff Arch’s story in the book and so far my favorite. Jeff Arch went from being an English teacher and Karate school owner to being nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for writing “Sleepless in Seattle.”
“…when you know how to listen and know when your heart is really speaking and know when your heart is telling you that the ground you’re standing on just isn’t enough – then the only thing left to do is jump.”