Time to get back to work | Inquirer Opinion

Time to get back to work

/ 04:10 AM March 06, 2023

“Should I join a cult?” I asked my friend a few days ago. I said this while laughing, the way I always talk about uncomfortable topics. She laughed, too, thinking it was a joke. She told me: “Why not? What else is there to do?”

My other friend who I told this to in a more serious manner asked me why I needed to. “I don’t need to,” I told him. “I want to.” He sighed into his microphone: “What’s the difference?”

This was on Feb. 28, the final day of my two months of rest and relaxation. Or maybe it’s more apt to say that I’d gone insane the past two months.

Last year was pretty hectic. In the span of 12 months, I partook in three internships, a national writers workshop, a daily blog leading to the elections, the process of moving to Manila and abandoning everything I know in Cebu to attend school, and a digital book release. Even with that, I somehow managed to publish nine songs on Spotify, squeeze in a social life, and fall in love.


So, at the end of the year, I firmly told myself that I needed a break.

“Are you lonely or something?” another friend asked me when I told them about my cultish fascination. I didn’t really know what to say. Whenever I’d flirt with the idea that I am, I’d remind myself that I have friends and family here and back home. True, they all have their own friends, their own struggles, their own educations, and, sometimes, when I need someone, everyone is preoccupied—but doesn’t that just make us all lonely? So I came to the conclusion that I’m not lonely. I’m unfulfilled.

I learned in class that the origins of the world and man are indistinguishable. That somewhere in this body of ours is a longing to be a part of the greater scheme of the world — the universe, rather. Last year, I felt like I was constantly a part of something that was in touch with the world, may it be journalism, literature, or music. I did not do any of these in solitude. Even if I didn’t make lasting connections with my peers, they helped me feel as though I was part of something bigger than myself.

“So why a cult?” a fourth friend asked. “Why not just join a club or something? Expand your network.”


The word network is what irks me. I’ll be the first to admit that I have selfish tendencies, but the one thing I’m not willing to compromise is that I want to be a part of something selfless. We live in a world of great pretenders. One time in a group project asking us to list down the pros and cons of our goal to get a successful job, I posed the idea that networking might put at risk the human aspect of friendships, making people just a means to some end. I received a resounding “So what?” from one of my group mates. “That doesn’t stop us from our goal.”

God knows I’m no advocate for cults, but I see their life of complete, selfless commitment as fascinating. Social media has kind of convinced us that we are bigger people. For every post we make, we pat ourselves on the back for sharing a bit of our lives with people who’ll swipe across it mindlessly. For me, what we don’t share online is what makes us who we are.


But it doesn’t stop me from getting jealous. People going out when I’m sitting at home, taking active roles in organizations when I’m about to sleep, smiling for the camera when my face has oiled up staring at the screen. In my two months of rest and relaxation, I’ve developed an itch to go back to being busy. I developed an itch to complain again, to explode in my own stress, and to tell people that my life is so exhausting.

I wanted to commit to something destructive, as all my peers seem to be doing.

Rest has become such an underrated activity in this world of hyperproductivity. We live in a panopticon, an age of cellphone screens and CCTV cameras begging us to perform. We have the ability to consume so much that we convince ourselves it’s only necessary to produce. I know my body will thank me later for these past two months, but God the itch is growing. I only wonder if the ointment is in getting busy again. Or joining a cult.

On the last evening of February, I applied for any and everything I could get my hands on. I woke up the next morning and thought: Well, there’s the end of my two months. Then, I entered my physical education class where my teacher tasked us to float. “Imagine yourself in a swimming pool,” she said, “where your limbs are not moving on their own but following the current.” She told us to use only 10 percent of our energy.

I closed my eyes, levitated my arms, unbuckled my hips, and swayed. I smiled. For all the hate and complaints I had in the past two months, I was grateful for that 10 percent. That chance to be motionless, feet on the ground, obedient to the rotation of the earth. That chance to float.

But now it’s March. February is a stranger.

Let’s get back to work.

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Aidan Bernales, 20, is a Cebuano writer currently studying communication at Ateneo de Manila University. He also makes music that can be found on all streaming platforms.

TAGS: Productivity, working, Young Blood

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