Barely Legal

Today marks my sixth month at my current job. That means my probationary period is over and I have health insurance again. Yay! ūüėÄ

Some people were shocked when I left my previous workplace. “It seemed all so sudden,” they said. No, it wasn’t. The decision to leave was something I had dilly-dallied with for weeks even though the need to do so was as obvious as a muffin top after a three-day fast food binge.

So I left my research post and as if on cue, my friend from college told me to email him my resume as his mom’s office had an opening. He did not tell me much about the job. He had no idea how much they were offering for the position. He did not even tell me I’d be working directly for his mom if I get hired.

I went in with zero expectations. This was the first interview I would be having in three years and I figured it was just an opportunity to get my feet wet in terms of job-hunting. I was surprised when they extended an offer on the spot.

A former boss once told me “You have to let go of big things to make room for something bigger.” She was right. Working for a non-profit employer organization had been amazing but this gig turned out to be better than I imagined. I like what I’m doing, I enjoy the company of the people I work with, I love the company culture, and I admire my boss (not re-posting this blog on my social medial account as I don’t want to seem like a kiss-a**).

So what is it that I do for a living? I’m a legal assistant by day, writer by night. Tumatanggap din ng labada tuwing Linggo. ūüėČ

 

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Spring Cleaning

My voice echoes in our two-bedroom home. My husband and I are busy sorting through stuff we have accumulated over the years. Trash bags are piled on the sidewalk, waiting to be picked up by garbage collectors who do show up sporadically. Our dogs stare at us, wondering if they’ll be thrown out next. It’s been three weeks since I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I have no plans of stopping my purge yet.

Kondo’s been popular since 2015 after she broke through the scene with her eclectic way of blending efficiency with shades of Shintoism. I have been a fan of the Japanese culture ever since I went to Tokyo for a two-week study program on Industrial Relations (incidentally, this was also in 2015). I loved how the Japanese people seemed always on the go but never forgot about their manners – even the simple act of wrapping an item bought at a convenience store was done with utmost respect. I was amazed at how much they got done in so short a time without compromising quality. And I was really fascinated at how content they were with their compact houses.

Flash forward to April of 2017. I was on the verge of a meltdown because I could not seem to keep anything in order. I didn’t know what was wrong.¬† I felt empty working at the office and going home didn’t feel like, well, going home. Both my house and my mind felt cluttered. I’ve read articles about Marie Kondo before and her tips made sense to me, but it wasn’t until I read the book that I realized that this lady knows her sh*t.

Devouring the pages in a few hours, I immediately declared Kondo’s book as life-changing. I mean it. It’s right up there with The Stranger and The Bhagavad Gita. Some people find her pieces of advice kooky and obsessive-compulsive in nature, and I can’t blame them. She’s pretty ruthless about defining what stays but she also recommends¬†saying “thank you” to what goes. It seems strange saying farewell to an inanimate object yet and this is where you see the magic of the Konmari method. So many of us hold on to things because of the memories they represent but that’s precisely the reason they’re called memories, they belong to the past. Expressing gratitude shows that you honor the part they played in your personal evolution and that you love them enough to be of use to others.

The funny thing is after I KonMari’d my stuff, my husband followed suit. This is a guy who’d hold on to receipts and would wear ratty shirts that look like they’d do a better job of wiping up dog pee so yes, seeing him put his crap away was nothing short of magic. Marie Kondo got my hoarder-of-a-husband part ways with his college f*ckboy wardrobe. He even said hugged some of the clothes. Yep, I am ready to worship at Kondo’s feet.

After we were done schlepping our stuff to junk shops, my mind was clearer. Answers to questions I’ve been ruminating on for days just came out of the woodwork. Decluttering has always had a calming effect on me but this time, it was more powerful. Decision-making got easier. It dawned on me that aside from my home, there were other areas of my life that needed decluttering: health, career, personal relationships. Perhaps they can all benefit from getting the Kondo treatment.

The best thing about getting rid of things that no longer “spark joy” is that it gives you space for things that actually do. So the idea of moving residences, quitting work, or cutting off people no longer fills me with dread but with a sense of excitement and gratitude.

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful.” – Marie Kondo

The Hesitant Mother

The world just celebrated Mother’s Day last Sunday and I enjoyed every bit of pampering I got from my husband and took pleasure in responding to every greeting that was sent to me via Facebook and text messaging. But let me confess one thing: I have not always enjoyed motherhood.

I was not ready when I had Josh. I was angry, depressed, hurt, scared – I was a lot of things but happy when I found out I was having a kid. Motherhood was something I had never envisioned for myself. My goals were to graduate with honors, get a masters degree, get a law degree, be a polyglot, and travel the world. I did not see myself saddled with domestic responsibilities. One moment. It only took a¬†moment for my life to take a 180-degree turn. As I saw the two strips turn bright pink, I cried knowing that things will never be the same again. The entire nine months went by in a haze of crying fits and bouts of morning sickness. I was miserable. Even more so when I gave birth to my son after 10 hours of labor. The minute Joshua was placed on my stomach, I tried hard to look for that spark of maternal instinct but there was none. I felt alienated from my own child. I did the things that were expected of a mother – staying up late, anticipating bottle feedings and diaper changes, working while studying to make sure he has milk and nappies – but I did them out of a sense of obligation, not love. I thought I was a horrible monster to not be as attached to my son as other mothers are to their own children. Looking back, wish I had been easier on myself. Truth is, the bond between children and mothers doesn’t come immediately for everyone. I blame Johnson & Johnson’s commercials for feeding us with the idea that mothers automatically turn into Donna Reed the minute their child grabs their pinkies – that carrying them in your womb for three trimesters automatically ascertains your falling in love with them. In my case, it took about six months for me to appreciate the little creature who inherited my eyes and my temper, and another year to realize that I love him. The bond doesn’t always come instantaneously and I’m sending a big digital hug to mothers who are in the same place as I was back then. Forgive yourselves for not being the perfect mother that society expects you to be. It’s okay to feel sad, to feel different, to feel tired.

Motherhood is exhausting and scary, yes, but it also opens you up to the idea that no matter how long it took or will take you to get there, you are capable of loving someone other than yourself and your shoe collection. Prepare yourself for the toll that it will take on your physical and emotional well-being but also be ready for those times that your kid will you with gestures that make rethink their age. I was fortunate to have such moment this morning when my son sidled up next to me, intertwined his fingers with mine, and whispered, “Nanay, I love you.”

It may have been six days late but it was the best Mother’s day greeting I’ve had so far. Some things may take longer than usual but it doesn’t make the result any less beautiful.

MLM Mayhem

The message came from a high school classmate I have not talked to in years. “Free ka ba ng Monday?” she typed. Thinking it was a message meant for another person I replied, “Wrong send ka yata?” She said she wasn’t mistaken, that the message was meant for me and that she wanted us to meet for coffee. Being burned one too many times by invitations such as this, I bluntly asked her “What for?” to which she answered, “May ipe-present kasi ako sa iyo baka magustuhan mo.

Just as I thought, another Multi-level marketing (MLM) pitch. I graciously turned down her invitation and resumed my office duties.

Two things can be taken from the paragraph above: One – I should not be opening my Facebook account while in the office and two – MLM is a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing down. I am pretty sure that one in three of my Facebook friends have been propositioned for a coffee meeting and perhaps some of them¬†might have even been gullible enough to take the bait. I can’t blame them, these people seem pretty sincere when they’re asking you how you are and telling you how they are excited to see you after all these years. You might even enjoy the conversation, but then comes the sales pitch and you find yourself¬†doing all sorts of diva hands just to reinforce that you are not interested. “But it’s a pretty foolproof way to earn money!” they argue. “I have not even been doing this for two months but I’m earning thousands of pesos per week.” For chrissakes do not, under any circumstances, give in to the get-rich scheme.¬†If that person really has been earning tons of cash per week, then he/she should be inviting you to a steak dinner and not to measly cup of coffee with no refills. I do not blame the Juan de la Cruz who gets sucked in to MLM scams. Every one of us dreams of being able to¬†pull in millions without so much as a sneeze. But you have to draw the line between dreams and reality.

Weeks ago, I was talking to a co-worker who said she has joined a lot of networking businesses. I almost fell out of my seat laughing when she said that one of the products she had to sell¬†were special sanitary pads. Now I’m a person who hoards sanitary pads and I use three types per cycle so you can say I have no problems¬†doling out¬†cash for breathable covers and wide wings,¬†but the product she mentioned was ridiculous. It claimed to regulate hormones, prevent pimples, and all sorts of stuff. Maybe it even prevents cancer, I can’t be sure as I was too busy laughing. On a more serious note though, the extent in¬†which some people stretch themselves for multi-level marketing has gone borderline cult-like. My co-worker was lucky to have snapped out of it early enough but others are not so lucky. Here are people who do not care if they burn connections as long as they tell anyone and everyone on Facebook that their brand is the holy grail of health/weight-loss/skin-whitening/vagina-tightening products. They’ll even cite celebrities to back up their claims. Though I do not doubt that these celebrities use, and at some point, endorse their products I don’t think they do it as zealously as some of our Facebook friends. To be fair, the products these people are selling are quite good (hence, the expensive tag price), but the manner in which they are distributed is kind of shady if you ask me. Instead of focusing on selling the products, the heads of MLM schemes prioritize the recruitment of people who need to cash out for membership and training. Then, when they’re on the inside, they are also tasked to recruit other people who, depending on the program, may or may not contribute to the upline’s (recruiter’s) income. This system really perturbs me, what happens when they hit market saturation?

Is this really the way to earn money now? By being “exclusive distributors” and by building pyramids where only the people on top get to enjoy the riches? Should we dedicate an entire business program in colleges to study this format? Is it just a fad that will¬†run its course or is it something we will all catch, one coffee cup at a time?

First of Many

My son just confessed that he has a crush on someone. I don’t know how the topic came up. We were just watching episodes of 7th Heaven when I suddenly felt the urge to ask him if he liked someone in school. A sheepish smile broke across his face and my heart stopped a little. “What’s her name?” I asked. “Or his name”, I added for good measure. He replied that the girl’s name is Zayna… or maybe it’s spelled Xena as you know parents cannot be trusted with giving their kids uncomplicated names.

So kailan ko siya makikilala?” the nosy mother in me asked. “Punta ka ng school para makilala mo siya“, he answered. Poor boy, he doesn’t know what he is suggesting. He went on to say that we should keep it a secret and I agreed.

Some secret it was, he told Aaron and Mama five minutes after. I asked if he already shared his “secret” with any of his classmates and he nodded his head… there’s that coy smile again. Drat. He told Zayna/Xena herself. “Anak, wag ganun. Girls like it when you keep things cool.” I advised my son. Just then, my mother piped up, “Hindi, okay lang. If you like someone, you let that other person know.” I looked at¬†Aaron to back me up but he was engrossed with his tuna carbonara that time.

Man, I wasn’t ready for this. I thought he’d start having crushes while he’s in grade school but the heart wants what it wants eh? Oh well, in a couple of years we’re going to have “the talk”, whether he’s ready for it or not.

Oh, and Zayna/Xena? We shall see each other soon.

Ten Signs You’re Getting Older

 

I just celebrated my 28th birthday and while everyone was reminding me that I am two years shy from hitting the big three-oh, I kept a demure smile and told them that I still feel 23.

At times though, certain things remind me that I’m not as youthful as I would like my cells to believe. In my opinion, the following items are experiences familiar to people inching towards their 30th year:

1. You can no longer pull all-nighters.

Remember when you crammed a semester’s worth of lessons into three hours of rapid studying and memorizing? Yeah, so do I. You probably had time to party after the exams. Try duplicating that while you’re making a presentation for your boss and see if you’re not asleep after the first hour of cramming.

2. You get exasperated at kids who don’t dress their age.

My eyeballs immediately roll at tweenies dressed like twenty-somethings, forgetting that at one point, I also tried to pull off the party girl look while waiting for puberty to hit.

3. Sunday is becoming your favorite day of the week

I used to hate Sundays because they herald the coming of busy Mondays yet now I appreciate the sense of laziness that comes with this day.

4. Fast food is something you avoid as you can immediately see its effects.

Don’t you just hate that you can no longer eat a burger without it showing on your gut?

5. You forego the hip and trendy club for something more relaxed.

Who cares if they are offering beer at 50% less? Well, I don’t drink so this never mattered to me… but yeah, I want to be in a place where I can actually hear the other person talk!

6. You take more chances…

…because you’ve seen people your age die and you realize you’re lucky to be alive, you should be making the most out of life.

7. You begin to realize that your parents have their own life stories.

I went through the whole “My-mother-does-not-understand-me-at-all” phase too but now I am beginning to see that my mother has her own history – her own reasons for being who she is, for thinking what she thinks, for saying what she says. I used to respect her (grudgingly) for being my mother but now I respect her as an individual.

8. Your role during the holidays has changed.

The feeling of¬†¬†getting excited over Christmas Eve dinner and opening the presents¬†are now distant memories of your childhood. You don’t know exactly when or how it happened but you suddenly¬†became¬†in charge of cooking dinner and shopping for presents.

9. You don’t feel the need to read every book that is trending on social media.

Who cares if the author is being touted as this decade’s Dan Brown. If it isn’t your genre, you pass up on buying it and letting it collect dust bunnies on your bookshelf.

10. There’s a particular thing you spend a lot of money on.

For others it’s shoes, for me it’s perfume. It’s not about being pasosyal, it’s merely realizing there is one thing in your life that you won’t make compromises with, even if it means shelling extra dough¬†.

Yes Joshua, There Is A Santa Claus

We were at the mall and he was asking me to buy him something. I told him I will check if the budget will allow it. He then said it does not matter, he will just ask Santa to give it to him this Christmas.

I lightly chuckled and told him Santa does not exist, that he was a character made popular by people to so that they would have a cute symbolism for consumerism. My son stomped his foot and told me that Santa did exist and that he would get him the toy he wanted for Christmas. I was just about to issue a retort when Aaron reminded me that I was arguing with a preschooler and that he was probably too young for my lessons on reality. I told Aaron if they are old enough to ask or make assumptions, then they are old enough to know.

Turns out my tyke did not just get my eyes, he also got my stubbornness. In no uncertain terms he told me that whatever words I use, he still chooses to believe in Santa. I was fuming on the ride back home. My dislike for Santa comes from my belief in the principle of giving credit where credit is due. It just did not seem fair to me that a fictional figure gets all the gratitude when in fact it was the parents’ hard-earned money that bought the gift. But then I look at my son and his furrowed eyebrows and I see we were seeing Santa Claus from two very different perspectives. Me as the mother whose wallet would be opening up for his gift of choice and he as the kid who wanted to believe in something, anything. I could not believe how petty I was being. I guess I was not as tolerant of other’s people beliefs as I thought I was. Briefly, I had a flashback of my five year old self insisting to my mother that my lesbian aunt was indeed a man. Exasperated as she was, my mother kept explaining that biologically my Aunt Bobot was born a woman but had the “heart” of a man. I was too young to comprehend it and at that time, the simplest explanation appealed to me. Mama had all the time in the world to argue with me but she told me “Fine, if that is what you want to believe right now.”

I asked Josh one last time, “Gusto mo talagang maniwala kay Santa?” (“Do you really want to believe in Santa?”) and he nodded. I kissed the top of his head and decided to let the argument go. Maybe when he is a little bit older, I might open the topic for discussion again – that is, if he has not figured out the truth for himself. For now though, I will give him this. After all, this is just a preview of the things to come when he becomes a teenager and begins to form his own set of beliefs. There will be times I would have to step back and let him think for himself. So long as he does not choose to run off with a cult or harbor hatred for those who believe in other things, I should be at peace with his decisions.

Yes Joshua, there is a Santa Claus. A tooth fairy even. They can be married to each other if you want to. And somewhere in between the lair of the Sandman and the land of Oz lives a wizard who just cast a spell on your rigid mother so that she would be more tolerant and patient with her little prince.