No way to go but up
Change, the universe dictates, is inevitable. My life is a testament to it. That I have had my ups and downs is definitely an understatement.
I’ve always believed that nothing is permanent in this world and that for as long as I live, change will have its means to remind me of its unrelenting existence and its formidable power to create a revolution.
For a time change intimidated me. Much as I welcomed it, my history with change had shattered me from within.
The riches-to-rags story is the one less told because it is uninspiring, sad, and for the most part, frowned upon. But I experienced that story when I was 13.
We used to live in a compound owned by a company that was then run by a majority in my father’s family. We lived in comfort. Rent was free and we did not pay a cent for utilities. Food was never an issue, because aside from the grocery store, the appliance and jewelry shop, and a small lending company, we also managed the company’s cafeteria. We had a five-member household staff that included a nanny.
During my childhood, instead of playing patintero or piko, I busied myself with my Lego bricks or my Sega. Life was easy. Throughout grade school, I always had someone to carry my bag with thick books in it for me. I had the best hospital treatment that anyone living in the province could require. Suffice it to say that I had a comfortable life.
That was how it was, until I turned 13. That was my family’s life for 22 years, until change happened and transformed everything. Change, unannounced, came and conquered. It made us experience the miseries of living below the poverty line. From then on, every day seemed like a test of survival. It brought fears we never had before. It brought struggles beyond anything we imagined. The life that we used to know became a mystery we tried to unravel day after day.
I thought it was the most poignant life experience I could ever have. But I was too young then to worry. It’s said that such a riches-to-rags story is one of the “best” experiences a man can have to be inspired to work relentlessly and become resilient. Again, I was too young and ignorant to do anything. I thought it was enough for God to see the sincerity of my prayers and the pain my family was enduring to produce a miracle and change our lives again.
My father worked harder than ever. My mother tended to our household. My sister faced the repercussions of teen marriage. My younger sister and I gave our best, and seized every opportunity in school to prepare ourselves for the future.
I thought our efforts were enough to make a positive change in our living conditions. But these efforts seemed futile. When I was 19, a few days before my graduation from college, my father died of cancer. He didn’t see his greatest masterpiece, the fruit of his hard work and dedication: my college diploma—and incidentally the first college diploma in the family.
My father’s death changed almost everything about me. My dreams collapsed. I had to set them aside, including my plans to become a lawyer and to save up to see the world, because I had to prioritize my grieving family. I had to spend my youth taking over my father’s role and providing for my family’s needs. The cancer was fast and aggressive. We had debts and had to sell our house. People started avoiding us because of our debts. Even some of our relatives mistrusted us. At that time I felt like I was to blame, because I was not the person that my father raised me to be. I lacked the courage to face the challenges of time.
I tested the waters. In a span of four years, I have been employed by five different companies in varying lines of business. As the years passed, my needs, coupled with my family’s necessities, grew. My contentment and patience were put to a test. I was always on the lookout for a better opportunity, which could mean higher pay. I felt the need to rush to lead my family back to a comfortable lifestyle, which I believed we deserved more than anyone else. This desire eventually pushed me to make wrong decisions. Our lives took a turn from bad to worse.
Change is imperative. It compels one to rise from the cinders of despondency, and thrive. Time and again it is said that we shouldn’t fear change, that we should welcome it with open arms because it drives us to ascertain the very essence of our being. But the events that transpired in my life led me to fear change. That fear hindered me from becoming a better person. I wallowed in depression and fretfulness. Simply put, I became too hard on myself. I became insecure and self-absorbed. I forgot to look ahead.
But I pulled myself up, and introspected. I prayed for strength and clarity. For months I stayed at home, and bonded with my family. I went back to my old school and caught up with old friends. I tied up loose ends. I looked back and tried retracing my steps so I could figure out what went wrong. I then realized that it wasn’t really change that created miseries in my life. It was how I perceived those changes that eventually paved the way to acceptance and self-realization.
There’s a line that goes: “And from those ashes, a fledgling phoenix rises—renewed and reborn.” That’s admirable, and I believe now that the transformations brought about by the choices I made in my life can lead me to emerge like a phoenix. I don’t fear change anymore. I cling to it now, to realize my dreams and desires.
I have hit rock bottom, and simple economics says there’s no way to go but up. Change is certain. I have learned to go with the flow, make the most of what I have, pause and see where my next stop is. Despite the odds, all I know now is that at this moment, I am working in a building in Bonifacio Global City, between and the 12th and 14th levels—and constantly changing.
Paolo Jeffrey Gan, 24, holds a bachelor’s degree in development communication (major in development journalism) from Batangas State University. He works as a process and quality officer in a global law firm.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.