One wistful summer afternoon, I came across a group of university girls in their preppy summer dresses, and I realized that my prospects looked very dark.
The “summer girls” were on one side of the pedestrian lane, and I was on the other. As we crossed the road, a gentle, sweeping gush of wind blew past us. Their dresses fluttered with the breeze, and the girls emitted youthful giggles brimming with the summer spirit.
This scene of youthful enthusiasm, energy and hope under the fading glow of the summer sun suddenly made me acutely aware of my own bleak-looking future.
The summer girls were on their way out of our residential building, probably off to some hip, summer weekend party with friends. I, on the other hand, had $23 in my pocket, the only money left in an otherwise empty bank account. I had exactly 15 days left to muster enough funds to pay my $250 rent (while feeding myself at the same time); otherwise, I had to move out. The countless job applications and freelance project proposals I had sent all over were either rejected or ignored.
In contrast to those girls in their designer summer dresses and carefree days, I was broke, unemployed and alone. I reached home and ate rolled oats with dried fruits, raisins and milk for dinner. At least dinner tasted nice.
I was suddenly hit by the realization that I might have to move out soon. I packed my bags, not leaving a trace of myself in the unit. The reality started to set in deep. I could already imagine myself having a difficult time with my heavy luggage, applying for local meager-paying jobs back home, and missing my own apartment. It all felt inevitable.
It’s been almost a year since I moved out of my parents’ home. I was very scared, yet excited to finally be independent. I got a job at a startup in the capital, moved out, did amazingly well at my job for the first three months, stagnated for the last two — and then got fired.
In the three months that followed, I went through different phases of self-discovery, took online skills-enhancement courses, built and published two websites, started writing again, and pitched to and got rejected or ignored by countless employers and clients.
Writing all these now, I think to myself that maybe the past three months haven’t been totally wasted after all. Despite the lack of clients or jobs (and money), maybe I wasn’t exactly doing nothing. Still, there’s nothing in my bank account; I have nothing to show financially.
I was mooching off a coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi, searching for articles that can give me a better perspective, when I started typing: “How to fix a failed career.” Immediately, Google provided suggestions: “How to fix a failed career at 30… 40… 50.” It was both scary and reassuring.
It was scary, because it felt that my failure was all too real; and reassuring to know that so many people out there were experiencing the same thing (or worse).
In all honesty, my current worst-case-scenario (living with my mother) is not all that bad. Sure, there’s the humiliation and inconvenience. But thankfully, my family is not experiencing any major bad stuff like illnesses or accidents. We’re still poor, but I think they can accommodate me. Besides, there’s also a chance that I can find good opportunities and clients in my hometown.
I have two main options: get a job and stay, or go back home. For other people, they may use their connections or status to keep themselves afloat, but I have neither. Getting a job in order to stay is highly dependent on my abilities. So I’ve made a new option for myself: Get a freelance project.
I’ve learned that successful folks have gone through very erratic and epic low points in their careers and businesses. But what made them stay and eventually become successful was their grit: their persistence and ingenuity in making and finding ways to survive and grow. It’s like a sword fight: parry, feint, slash forward, slash back. Your opponent might overwhelm you, but you have to keep on fighting, deferring blows to beat the opponent back.
Right now, being broke and being unemployed are my main opponents, and I’m losing badly. I’m gradually being overwhelmed. My guard is slowly breaking. I try changing tactics with my proposals and applications, but the constant rejection I’ve been receiving has made me lose my footing.
I’m worried that if I lose to this opponent now, I would spend the rest of my life fighting an uphill battle, struggling day in and day out to make money and keep a decent job. I’m afraid that Fate, seeing I can’t handle it, would eventually hand me less favorable options in life.
If I live long enough (this is already my “third life” after two near-death experiences), maybe life will give me another chance. Maybe, with all the lessons learned, I can have a better shot at succeeding with that new chance in the future.
But the Now is very important to me. There are many factors present in my Now that I may no longer have in the future. I have my Now dreams, my Now desires. I don’t want to forfeit them in the hope of a future chance.
I wonder what the summer girls would do in my position.
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John Ray Pucay, 23, is a Google-certified digital marketer providing freelance services to small-medium enterprises. His portfolio is available online at: www.johnraypucay.com
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