In the first week of the year, I found myself digging for something worthwhile to do. Or maybe a goal I could set my mind to. Because time is something I have in abundance as I now qualify to be in the ranks of the unemployed.
I have been doing a great deal of thinking. Questions like where I’m heading have lingered in my consciousness for some time.
I worked as a nurse in a government hospital in the northern part of Saudi Arabia in the past two years. I’d say it was truly a blessing because the offer to work there came just in time. The job has stirred my interest in the management aspect of my profession. I became aware of how policies help shape the way people behave in an organization. Though it’s far from the ideal, at least it has somehow translated what I’ve been reading in management books into something tangible, something that I can grasp.
Contrary to popular belief, working and living overseas is no bed of roses. Every penny you earn is shredded from hard work and blood. You have to be on duty on your on-call days. That means one day less from your rest days. Sudden changes of schedule will test your flexibility, adaptability, and patience; often you have to scrap a planned activity to meet a staffing need.
Your assured rest day will require much energy from you for it’s devoted to household chores. Your jam-packed activity list includes and is not limited to: wash laundry, iron uniform, shop for groceries, clean your room, and prepare your baon and other food for the week. And above all, don’t forget to rest, for this day is meant for pampering yourself.
If it’s the end of the month, you must make time for long queues to get your hard-earned salary at your nearest friendly ATM and remit it to your dear ones back home. Never mind if you have just come from a 12-hour night-shift stint, as long as you are able to send the money on time. A four-riyal, microwave-heated shawarma and a can of soda may temporarily banish the stress.
Those details make up real-life anecdotes as to why our beloved overseas Filipino workers are our modern-day heroes. Those details make up the untold stories behind billions of pesos in remittances.
But looking back, I never regretted anything in my heart. I even regarded the hardship as my for-real learning experience. It was like on-the-job training, except that what I learned were life’s lessons. It has inculcated in me valuable lessons in independence, taking responsibility, and maturity at a level that no classroom instruction can provide. It was scary at first, for I had no idea what I would encounter along the way. But it eventually liberated me from my shell, from my fears, most of which were unfounded.
My biggest realization is that our worst enemy is our own selves, and that our own prejudices and pride ruin our relationships. I haven’t been able to mend a misunderstanding with a friend whom I even considered a mother figure back then. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to gather the courage to apologize, or at least initiate communication. Failed relationships are the costly damage made by egoistic individuals.
Leaving my job was a tough decision, especially because at one point, it became my security blanket. My job provided me the means to perform my obligations to my family, afforded me things, and gave me pride for holding a position others may envy. But as they say, security and stability do not necessarily go with fulfillment, much less happiness. The impermanence of material rewards and the belief that seeking our own happiness is something that we owe ourselves eventually made me call it quits.
Truly, waiting can be so agonizing, but sometimes it’s the best option left. Hopefully, my upcoming interview with a prospective employer will work out. If it does not, I guess everything happens for a reason.
Rica Guimalan, 27 and unemployed, once worked as a nurse at King Khalid Military City Hospital in Saudi Arabia.