This is why I left
It has been more than a month since the southwest monsoon rains raged. The floods have subsided, the rainy days are gone, and the glorious sun is once again out and about.
But here I am still trying to explain to everyone who asks — even though I really don’t have to — the reason I left.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about being valued.”
This line from Doug Stamper of “House of Cards” caught me off guard and stormed the peace within. Even in my dreams, his words haunted me. The line kept ringing through my ears for months on end.
What does “being valued” mean? I stared at the mirror and affirmed myself: “You are valued. Look at where you are right now. You are valued. I am valued.”
But was I?
My decision wasn’t conceived overnight. It wasn’t me being impulsive, or getting carried away by emotions, or trying to flee from the pressure and stress. It was because I had decided to take a step back, not to check the figures in my bank account, but to weigh how much I truly valued myself.
After the bar exams, I landed an impressive job in a distinguished law firm in Makati. I wasn’t only doing perfectly fine, I was exceptional.
Or so I believed. I got promoted ahead of my peers and was constantly lauded for how much I was growing in terms of work ethic and quality of output.
I was mediocre all throughout law school, but somehow, suddenly, in this firm, I became the standard.
For two and a half years, I was living the dream. I lived alone in a pricey condo unit, ate in fancy restaurants and hotels, spent my Friday nights drinking and wishing the night won’t end.
I planned to see myself climb the corporate ladder, earn the respect of notable persons in the field and live a comfortable lifestyle.
Behind all the glamour, though, I was dead inside. I pushed myself to the limit and took more work than I could handle — similar to forcing myself to eat every serving in a buffet to the point of puking. My parents had to set an appointment three weeks in advance just so they could spend time with me.
I ditched my loved ones to fix the mess done by someone else, but ended up getting blamed for an adverse assessment or a run-of-the-mill paper.
I got fixated on counting the cigarette butts, the beer bottles, the piles of documents, the unread e-mails and the number of days that I dragged myself to work.
I started to rot, and feared the thought of people beginning to smell the stink.
In my attempt to rescue myself, I cried for help, only to get slapped in the face. Everyone said it was just a phase — me trying to be a millennial — and that it would pass. I was advised to go on leave or think it through.
I tried to kill the thought, but Doug Stamper’s voice kept echoing in my sleep, and even more so when I was awake.
I am not sure if it was the recurring thought or the bottled-up, undefined emotions, but one day I made up my mind, and, with the little courage I had left, walked away.
Was it worth it? Do I regret my decision? Am I happier now? I’m honestly not so sure. Leaving my cocoon behind was the most painful decision I had to make, and starting a new career is not without birthing pains.
From someone who was used to staying up until 2 a.m. to waking up 30 minutes past my usual bedtime just to catch the shuttle bus — it wasn’t an easy transition.
From being the go-to person in the team to becoming the one being managed humbled me. I used to be confident in knowing all the ins and outs; now I stare completely blank for hours on end, and it bothers me.
I’ve gone from being at home with people who shared the same sentiments to opening up to strangers, and it bewilders me.
Surprisingly, though, I feel my best. I get to enjoy my morning coffee while listening to Auli’i Cravalho’s “How Far I’ll Go.”
I cut down on cigarettes and alcohol, and have completely forgotten how documents pile up in my drawer.
Weekends feel longer and work hours feel shorter.
It’s the “honeymoon stage” once again, I suppose, but I do need this to feel alive, to earn back my self-respect and to truly value myself.
Earlier today, the weatherman reported a forecast of isolated rain showers and thunderstorms. I didn’t bring an umbrella, but I am completely at peace within.
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Kristalyn Karen B. Remigio, 27, is a lawyer.
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