Paying the Bills

“What do you do?”

We cannot take this question out of a getting-to-know-you conversation, or the lets-catch-up-with-each-other-after-graduation chats. Not even when you meet your ninang for the first time in 23 years. This question has been the bread and butter of almost any conversation.

But it’s also the same question that can be hardest to answer. How can you contain everything that you’re doing in a single category or label? And how can you avoid being stereotyped in small boxes inside of peoples’ minds by giving out an answer?

I came to a point in my life where I was hesitant to answer this question. Maybe because I work for a small company, a small publisher, a non-profit organization. Maybe because I’m not part of any big company that you can think of. Maybe because we are only 5-6 in our office. Maybe because others have better labels, tags or position, or have been to other countries already. Maybe because my job isn’t as exciting as a Manager, a Sales Representative, a Web Editor or whatever jobs my batchmates now survive with. Or maybe I was thinking too much about what others might think.

I was at a party of my high school friend last month. One of our classmates that we haven’t seen for ages suddenly showed up. She kept on blabbing and blabbing (and blabbing and egoism blabbing) about her prestigious job: a brand manager for Asia Brewery. She had a five-year plan. And she considers herself structured, while she called me (and other alumni of my Alma Matter) “unorganized, happy-go-lucky and unprofessional”. Thank you very much.

This incident gave me new-found light. Let me tell you this: after a year of being with this company, four months of being with a BPO and another chance of being a writer, I now stand tall being the Associate Editor of Kwentong Negosyo magazine, and all of our special projects. Associate Editor is just a label – basically I’m the company’s slave, and you may find pile after pile after pile of paper on my desk. (Note that I am not bragging; I haven’t even told most of my friends that I got promoted; Facebook hasn’t even heard of such broadcast.)

Sure, I am entitled to a lot of privilege that goes after that label – I handle my own time, I have two desks, I have my own phone line, a computer, whole-day internet, travel money per diem, lot of meetings and field works, more people to talk to and interview (including famous celebrities), more advocacies to promote and live by, more lives to touch, more good stories to tell. The list is endless.

But that’s just it. What makes what I do different from that of my batchmates is that I am writing to create change. And this change can be seen/felt/is tangible at once. You can literally measure these changes by seeing bigger businesses, bigger houses, new equipment, new home appliances, college diplomas of children, new means of transportation, more employment, etc. Women cry during interviews – not because of loss, but because of overflowing blessings. And it feels good to be part of all these – not being constricted and structured by office walls to be able to reach out to more people, touch more lives, make positive change happen. The comforting thought that somewhere, a life is being uplifted because of what you do. This, my friends, cannot be contained in an office cubicle of Asia Brewery – where what they do is take a sip of sample products like Tanduay Ice to change the lives of the youth. What change you may ask? Judge for yourselves.

For at the end of the day, what weighs heavier is not the amount of money that you bring home, but the amount of money that you bring to other peoples’ homes. (Just for the record, I earn more than most BPO companies offer. I know because I’ve been through that). Not what you do, but the effect of what you have been doing to our country. If you’re an idealist and nationalistic like me, I’m sure you will give your thumbs up (or +1) for this.

Just to be safe: the next time somebody asks you what you do, give this safest answer – enough to pay the bills.





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