Back to square one
So I’m back to square one. Roughly two months after living the dream, I resigned. I resigned from a job where I blogged about fashion and beauty, witnessed exciting photo and video shoots, and attended glamorous, by-invitation-only events with Dubai’s elite.
Yes, I am the new face of crazy. (I hear there’s an ad coming out about this soon.)
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my work. I just couldn’t take, and I quote my boss on this one, the nature of our business. To explain, the nature of the business in its imaginary manual demands that:
1. We condone white supremacy.
2. We are quick to demand but slow to pay.
3. We cover our asses at all times, trusting no one.
4. We lie and manipulate to get to the top.
5. And (this is the part that pushed me to my tipping point) we had to be indispensable at all times, weeknights and weekends included.
The last item hardly sounds like a sacrifice for someone with no commitments whatsoever, but to me, it was unacceptable. I could not wrap my head around the idea that at 22, single, and fabulous, I had to surrender all of my time to a job that made so many demands on employees and did not compensate them well for it. This was not what I had signed up for.
Making the decision to quit was not easy, but when I finally made it, a feeling of momentary peace and clarity washed over me, and I knew I did the right thing.
Dealing with the consequences of my decision, however, was an entirely different story. For a time I was a total wreck.
Resigning from a job in Dubai is a tricky business. The country has laws and corresponding penalties to regulate job swingers and absconders. In my case, I am getting a six-month ban from employment imposed by the Ministry of Labor, meaning that over that period of time, I cannot work in Dubai unless I work in a place called a free zone.
As straightforward as that penalty sounds, ambiguity still surrounds the matter. Dubai, contrary to first impression, does not operate in strict black and white terms. Laws change as often as the average person changes clothes. The media are as closely watched and censored as Arabic women. And the government is as susceptible to corruption as Windows is to viruses.
It was most important that I understood all of this and then some because my company, as expected, did not make resigning easy for me. Boy, did they prey on my ignorance and inexperience!
I rendered my last day of service on the 13th of June 2011, my belated Araw ng Kalayaan celebration. I still need to work on the cancellation of my visa (another hurdle this one), but the worst, I would like to think, is over.
I have a chance to start over and I am grabbing it. But of course, that comes with complications. I have finally figured out a game plan, but here’s the catch: it does not make sense. Nothing radical, mind you. I will still be doing writing, photography, and reception work, but this time around, I intend to establish the correct parameters. I won’t say anything further on this subject, but I will keep both my fingers and my toes crossed.
I was a fish out of water shifting from the Philippine freelance scene to the Dubai corporate world, and my ordeal has struck me to the core, leading me to question everything I know to be true about myself. All my life, I thought I just needed something to be passionate about. I did not foresee that my value system would be turned upside down.
Confused and frightened, I drowned myself in misery. I made paper snowflakes to remind myself of Christmas. I scoured YouTube for the saddest song I could find, settling on Kindred Garden’s “Pangako.” And for many nights, I longed to wrap myself in that ridiculous blue blanket I left at home.
I felt like a complete ingrate for wasting what could have been a stepping stone in my career; a nutcase because of my reasons for leaving; and a scum, for knowing that other people are going through tougher trials and can’t do anything about it.
Inflated sense of guilt and self-loathing aside, I found myself in a crossroads, unsure about how I, with my unconventional principles and aspirations, fit exactly into this world that demands that I reach out for so much more than I aim for.
Is there a place for ideals in any of this? I wondered bleakly.
But you can only be down in the dumps for so long. With the help of family, friends, and some insightful books, you decide to keep moving forward. And eventually, things come into focus.
I am going through a phase that psychologist James Marcia described as an “identity moratorium.” A moratorium, in the legal sense, is a delay granted to someone who is not yet ready to make a decision or assume an obligation. In the psychological sense, it is a period characterized by an exploration of alternatives before commitments are made.
Now, an exploration of alternatives comes, more or less, as a foolish luxury from where I’m from. Where I’m from, every day is a struggle to make ends meet and the only course of action is to maintain a daily dose of “No Pain, No Gain”— and take it with a smile. Pinoys, we tough it out, imbued with the idea that the best way to live life is to live it nobly, with sacrifice as the fuel and with the end goal of giving back.
This is all well and good. However, it slips many minds that this ideology does not, and should not, translate the same way to every single Filipino. Some Filipinos find it essential to explore alternatives in the pursuit of finding themselves and their place in the world, and ultimately, in the pursuit of living a life worth being told. I am one of those (although we are a rare breed, I hear) who believe in living a purposeful life and establishing my identity.
Pamela Grace G. Lico, 22, is a photographer/writer born and raised in Cagayan de Oro City and now currently based in Dubai, UAE.
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