This is not a ‘self-help’ post

I am not a Marxist. I think that a classless society is a fairy tale. I am a regular citizen of a developing country in an extensively unequal Asia. The world is unfair but I don’t want to direct all the blame to capitalism. Maybe that’s just how the world is designed.

Because everyone wants to “live,” we work hard to get all the money we can earn. Without money, we cannot enjoy life and do what we want in this commercialized world. You want to travel? You need to get yourself a ridiculously expensive plane ticket and book a ridiculously expensive hotel room. Once you reach your destination, you still need to buy yourself ridiculously expensive food, especially if you are in inflated Singapore (unless you decided to bring some 555 sardines and tuna cans during your trip). That’s just how it is. It’s money that makes the world go round, a cliche goes.

The curse of being too existentialist in a highly commercialized world is that we often get disappointed when we’re not “rich enough” to “live life to the fullest.” But who is to blame? Our bosses who make us work more but do not pay us enough? Our forefathers who invented this very practical yet really exploitative economic system called capitalism? I think it’s too late for that.

So should we just shoot ourselves now?

That really depends on how you see life. If you see it as a banquet exclusively for enjoyment and fun, then I’m sorry but you’ll definitely get disappointed. Life can be sad and happy, unfair and just, sick and healthy – it depends on your idea of it. If you think life is about luxury shoes and bags, then you will really need to slave yourself off at work to earn gazillions of money to afford your kind of life. But if you can learn to understand that more than the money, the expensive clothes and gadgets, life is all about self-discovery, establishing your role in the world and leaving a mark, then the whole experience can be more rewarding.

I do not want to sound all self-help-ish and preachy but there are principles in life that I try to live by everyday to get myself to my final destination: self-actualization. These principles have gotten me through Guillain-Barre Syndrome, the challenges of puberty, adolescence and college, and my first two years in all-consuming UP graduate school. I am not compelling you to follow them but I am hoping that you can extract lessons from them that you can enrich and use everyday.

Save but do not forget to treat yourself. It’s never wrong to be frugal or kuripot as long as you allot money to reward yourself for doing a great job at work or at school. One thing I’m thankful for for not being a Bill Gates is that every time I spend money for something I want, I tend to appreciate it more, knowing that I worked super hard for it.

Honestly, this is something I still need to do and work on. Living from paycheck to paycheck is not good because it could take its toll during emergencies.

Compete but never compare. It’s a capitalist world. If you do not know how to compete, you’re out. A healthy competition is always good as it propels us toward self-growth and self-discovery. The more we’re challenged, the more we test the borders and exceed our expectations. We discover beautiful things in us we never knew existed.

After college, I felt insecure with people of my age who have already made significant strides in their lives. Depression crept in. But I realized that one must not validate their lives by comparing themselves to others. No one is better than anyone else. There’s a good reason we’re called “individuals” – we are all unique.

As a nursing grad, I found it hard to find professional opportunities for me. So what I did, I decided to take a new path: I applied for a master’s degree in International Studies at the University of the Philippines. Luckily, I passed all screenings and I’m currently on my third year now. I also took a different career path. I applied for a job as an intelligence research analyst at a company in Makati, which I got. I can confidently say that I’m in a better footing now that I was two years ago.

Be who you are. I understand people who try to change themselves just to blend in a certain crowd. It’s like a role play and it’s exhausting. Doesn’t it feel nice when you can freely express yourself without needing to contemplate first what others would think? You’re you, if your friends can’t live with that, then they don’t deserve to be called your “friends” in the first place. Those people who accept you for who you are and love you no matter what your flaws are, these are the ones you should treasure. True friends are like polar bears, on the verge of extinction.

Indeed, it’s better to be hated for who you are than be loved for what you are not. So do what you want. Be what you want. If you’re gay, then be gay. If you’re messy and you’re cool with that, by all means be messy! Just as long as you’re prepared to face criticisms and remain sensitive, you should be fine.

“This is my life! I won’t be told what’s supposed to be right!” Word, Kelly Clarkson. Word.

Create your own opportunities. Set goals. Instead of waiting for the apple to fall from the tree, why don’t you climb it and pick the fruit yourself? Life’s too short to wait.

As a Filipino, I do not think this should be a problem for us though. We do not sit all day waiting for an opportunity to drop in our lives. Instead, Filipinos chase them, even if it means they need to go to Kiribati or some place no one has heard of. Creating opportunities is something we Filipinos deem necessary because we do not find a lot of them in our own country.

Recently, Singaporeans have been complaining about Filipinos taking their jobs away from them. That’s not true. We are not taking away their jobs; the employers are giving them to Filipinos because they know how flexible we are.

Also, set your goals so you’ll know which opportunity to chase. A year ago, I had a job in the IT industry but after deciding that I would like to pursue a career that is related to my master’s degree, I quit the job. Having a goal in mind allows you to focus on achieving that goal. It saves you time and increases your efficiency.

Know your life purpose and be it.  My life’s purpose is to become an educator, preferably a college professor. I am sort of a constructivist who wants to help better the current state of the Philippines. I realized that in order to do so, I will need to educate young minds who hold the future of the country. This is what I want to do.

Know your life purpose and set your goals based on it. Know what kind of a mark you would like to leave the world. How people will speak of you when you go is the evaluation of your life. So make sure that your indelible mark is something you would like to be remembered for.

Finally, Love. A life lived with love is a life lived.



  1. Inspiring, Jan! I’ve always wanted to be an educator. I dream of building schools for the less fortunate someday. Let’s provide quality education! Sulat lang nang sulat. Inspirasyon ka sa marami. 🙂

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