“Gap Month” Part 2

30 Days Earlier

I cannot believe I just graduated. Again. The sheer pleasure of earning my Master’s degree is creeping in my veins like vodka shots after another and then some. I can’t wait to board my flight to Vientiane and meet-up with my good friends, devour Lao cuisine I missed so dearly, check-out the new places that were built–or finished–since I left, and rest. Finally, clear my head.

Vientiane is my second home; after all, it is where I started as a professional and the opportunities that came along with the whole experience. It is where I started blogging, ventured into photography and travel writing, served as expat, among other things that turned my life around in four years. I looked forward to this trip ever since my Mother broached the subject of tagging along with her–yet again–since I just graduated and she also felt I needed to rest even just a short while. When my name has been approved as a candidate for graduation, I was on my toes sending out my CV to prospective job posts. But then, I thought, the whole thing would be just as the same four years ago when I found myself working as an expat a week after my college grad. I had to make a choice. I needed change.

Stepping into Wattay International Airport feels like second-nature to me. No amount of uncertainty as to where I should go, how to hold polite conversations with the Immigration Police, fishing out our luggage from the carousel and booking a cab to our hotel. I spoke in my “get-by Lao” and was delighted that I can still talk as if I’m a local–at least with my mastered phrases and inflections.

Then the Month Went By Like A Tremendous Blur

Came Monday morning, my Mom got to work and my Dad, on his sabbatical, and I started with our respective ‘gap activities’. He’s writing and I was catching up on my reading and yes, soul-searching. It felt different experiencing Vientiane like I am a tourist as opposed to being part of the labor force. I was treading on a different world here, seeing Vientiane on a traveler’s lens. There was that element of peace and calmness in the air–characteristics known to tourists in Laos. I felt like all my worries and struggles in the past were melting together with the Mekong breeze. This is going to be an amazing month, I told myself.

Apart from weddings, parties, foodtrips and a long reading list I was able to fulfill, it was the soul-searching part that caught me off guard during the month. I busied myself with novels everyday, forgot a little that I am on a diet and ate whatever I felt like (only vegetarian, of course. Okay, not really), met up with my friends whom I dearly missed and above all, reflected on my next steps now that I am closing in to the legitimate age of adulthood. It’s crazy how worrying about absolutely nothing at all–after years of overthinking–can still drive one insane and restless to do something, hence force to focus on things that matter.

Now, I do have an idea what matters to me–and that is going after something real, something I created with every choice I made in the past. The only thing left to do is stand by it, hold on to it and fight for it. Whatever happens.

And before I knew it, I was packing again to go back to my hometown.

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“Gap Month” Part 1

gap year is time out to travel between life stages. It is also known as a sabbaticaltime offtime out and a year out, referring to a period of time (not necessarily 12 months) in which people disengage from curricular education and/or work and undertake activities such as traveling, volunteering or working abroad. –Wikipedia

What Now. While waiting for our academic procession.

What Now. While waiting for our academic procession.

I can’t do a gap year. Scratch that, I can’t afford to do a gap year–not only because of the money involved since I spent the last year in graduate school as a ‘full-time student’–but cos a year off worrying about absolutely nothing is just pure decadence, if you ask me. I could never have given up precious time to bolt off across the planet to ‘find myself’. It’s not my style, it’s not me. I’m the poster-child of a Girl-With-A-Plan. A career-woman developed during my teens, groomed to hold a ridiculously powerful position and married at 25. And I’m not even close to achieving both. So a vacation? Not a chance.

Present Day

I was already at the departure gate at 7 friggin 30 in the morning. This means I was already up at 5 packing my overnight bag because part of my ticket cost is accounted for an airport hotel, and then scrambling to my feet to catch the hotel taxi to the airport, then going straight to Immigration, and well, check-out the makeup counters for this season’s haul thereafter (don’t judge. I could have been a makeup artist. Could being the operative word).

A victim of early-morning flights, that’s me. Even if I do find a flight scheduled in the afternoon, living 60 km south of Manila also means I have to endure extra legwork to battle city traffic if I want to make it on-board. Okay, not me exactly, but the driver who’s been thanklessly tasked to do so. But I really don’t know what I did wrong in this lifetime to deserve flights that are powerful enough to turn a calm and smiley person to cranky and unpleasant by the time she has to buckle her seat-belt. In coach.

Becoming an expat at 19 was never on my To-Do List. But Life has its funny way of waving its magic wand but instead of fairy dust and happily-ever-afters, it throws a curve ball right in the gut. Case in point: A week into my fresh-college-graduate-elation, injected with mad doses of idealism and enthusiasm, I already started working in a different country.

Although Laos wasn’t exactly a new territory, the professional arena was. Dealing with my expat life did require a whole rigmarole of adjustment to culture, language, attitude and professional behavior. It seemed like I have to change my entire being in a matter of days. Moreover, as a fresh-grad, I felt that I had to impress my superiors and work harder than any other to prove that I was worthy of a position and that I deserve to get ahead of my contemporaries.

For four straight years, I juggled work, graduate studies, extra-curricular projects that include blogging, hanging out with my newfound friends, traveling for projects and wishing life away.  And then suddenly, as if on cue the curveball of Life sucker punches from nowhere–I fell off-balance halfway into my graduate program and found myself lost, disconcerted, flat and confused. In the First World, people might call it Quarter-life crisis? In the real world, it’s a bad case of miscalculated decisions. And uhh, ungratefulness.

I then decided to pursue my studies full-time, and hopefully, return to where I was years ago and retrace my steps. Maybe, just maybe, starting over would help me figure out where I went wrong and fix whatever it was before it’s too late.

I didn’t exactly put my career on-hold because of lack of passion and motivation. It was because I had too much of them that I forgot to establish important relationships in my life and to set realistic goals. Working straight and building my life around an abstract image of the life that I felt I wanted that time did a number on my self-esteem and the strong sense of belief that I can take on anything this world has to offer. I was very blessed to have served supportive superiors but I did go overboard on trying to grow up and get ahead just a tad too fast. I didn’t realize that doing so, I lost myself even before I knew and accepted her completely.

That’s what’s been happening ever since I started chasing dreams that didn’t really mean anything to me. They are only happy, perfect and beautiful once they’re created in my head. But they’re no visions. They are pretty impressions and interpretations of a reality that I didn’t appreciate. Of a reality I completely ignored because of my vivid and habitual act of zoning out to create a world I thought I wanted.

Until I did my gap month.

I smiled to myself reliving the past 30 days of my life starting with the night of that I earned my Master’s degree and closing it with a decision that, for once in my life, makes complete and perfect sense.

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The World in Words: A Cole Walks Special

Today's Bloggers

Today’s Bloggers

I’m not exactly comfortable talking in front of crowds, which is why I am a blogger. It’s not you, it’s me. Don’t take it personally.

For someone who’s always been on the sidelines, public speaking feels like a firing squad. Your heart beats double time, your mouth goes dry, your throat closes up, fingers shaking, knees wobbling, your mind goes blank. The only thing left to do is to faint, if you’re lucky enough to get out of the room alive. It’s all a bad case of stage fright and let me tell you, the feeling is insane.

When I was a kid, I loved performing–singing, acting, and everything in between. But I guess it is way freakier to speak of your knowledge to an audience who are present to learn from you. Too much pressure, too much expectation, too much sweat and too much courage needed to make it work.

But like I said to the kids at the Blogging Seminar organized by the Youth Development Affairs (YDA) of the Provincial Government of Laguna, where I served as a resource speaker (for the first time ever in my life!), Blogging is Courage. If you have something to say, say it. I, too, should take my own advice. I advocate for digital tools as method and perspective for social transformation and if I want to be heard, I have to speak up. On and offline.

The YDA advocates social media awareness among the youth to encourage them in promoting the province and its culture, heritage and vision for a progressive province. I stood in front of a roomful of various youth organizations talking about one of the things that I just can’t articulate enough what means to me. It’s like trying to explain why you are on Facebook. Or why you belong to a particular organization. Or why you believe in a specific advocacy. You just do.

With Ms Pinky Villasenor, Head of YDA.

With Ms Pinky Villasenor, Head of YDA.

My presentation involved some guidelines in blogging, examples and how to reflect on the stories they (prospective bloggers) want to write about. Believe it or not, I didn’t crash and burn (or at least to me. I haven’t read the evaluation forms yet!). Instead, I enjoyed the session and transformed the experience from a terrifying one to an opportunity in extending my personal advocacy. 

The whole experience was fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Fulfilling because, in some way, I was able to relay my thoughts on how to start expressing their thoughts and feelings through blogs. Hopefully, the participants learned something. Even if it’s just stimulating their interest to venture into writing online or as huge as synthesizing our session and establish their own digital presence. Challenging, on the other hand, because I want to harness this skill. I wanted to discuss blogging in a very dynamic and relatable manner–in a way that the participants will find themselves motivated and inspired. Perhaps, this is the first step–actually putting yourself out there and learn from the experience.

I am already proud of the kids–the mere fact that they took time to attend this seminar already says something about their interest and abilities, and more importantly, their vision for social change.

Youth in Action. For A Progressive Laguna!

Youth in Action. For A Progressive Laguna!

I would like to thank the YDA for organizing this event in fostering the power of digital tools for social change among the youth of Laguna. Not only did you help the kids realize their potential as voices for social transformation, but you have also supported someone like me in championing my advocacy and conquering my fears. 🙂


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