Saturday, March 31, 2012

When you're 21 and a minimum wage earner

There's a place in the world where being 21 and being ass broke is cool. And it's not Manila. Here it's just lame, and pitiable.

There is nothing cool about opting out of Saturday night outs because you're broke, and observing Earth Hour not because you're environment friendly but because you have 2 months worth of Meralco bills sitting on your table threatening to plunge you to the dark ages.

It's also the thing about being 21 and earning minimum wage. You have to pick priorities: when the bills come pouring in, you have to ask yourself: what can you not have? So you pay the internet bill because your job (or life) sometimes depends on it. You pay the water bill because how else are you going to take a bath? You pay the building monthly dues because you cannot be homeless. And you're left with electricity - you figure you're just at your place to sleep, you don't need light when you sleep and you can charge your gadgets in the office.

A little extreme thinking but if there's any notices of disconnection I would rather see in the mail, it's electricity.

But that's not to say you can't have fun. Of course you can, but only twice a month. And that only lasts a few days. This month, mine lasted just one.

I had to have a root canal last week and the choice was either to be be poor or to die. I chose to be poor. I visited the dentist on payday so after I had it done, I went to a restaurant and ate my self to death. I figured, I should be able to eat everything I want on that day because God knows when I'll be able to eat again.

Another thing about being 21 and being a minimum wage earner is that, there's never enough money to spend on health and well-being. Visit the doctor? Nah, just take paracetamol. Buy paracetamol? Nah, just drink water.

And of course you cannot ask your parents for dole outs unless it was a matter of life and death. You're 21. That age just screams pressure. Prove yourself. Be responsible. Live alone. Be independent. You cannot just call your mom and say, "Hi Mom, you were right, I can't do this." Of course you can't! You tell them you can and you don't need their money……….anymore.

And that's one of the perils of being 21 in Manila. You lived in a country where parents are expected to fund you for as long as forever. The system doesn't allow for student loans and housing plans. The society surely doesn't allow for waiting tables, mowing lawns or doing paper rounds to sustain you.

We have no choice but to live and loot off our parents. That's why when you're finally done with school, it's just too embarassing to continue being their responsibility.

And for that, you accept that you're never going to be able to buy a house or a car in the next 10 years. There's just no way to. So you start lowering your standards. Maybe a phone, a TV, a laptop. In my case, my phone, my TV, my laptop were all courtesy of my mom. Allow me to feel pathetic.

But there are still things you can pay for yourself. Like Holidays. Because if you don't travel, and get days off from your job and have that moment of total disconnection, you're gonna lose your mind.

It's cheaper to travel than pay for a shrink.

The saddest thing about being 21 and earning minimum? You are kind of stripped of the right to be outrageous, be irresponsible and take risks. You literally cannot afford to.

"Times are hard for the dreamers," I read somewhere.

It is. It's hard. Not knowing when you're gonna be able to finally pay that electricity bill, or if you're ever gonna have enough to replace a shitty phone. Or if you'll ever reach the period of not living from paycheck to paycheck.

But being 21 and earning minimum and sticking with it? When you can fly to the UK and earn crazy there or sell your soul to corporate robots and get paid shitload, is maybe another way of being outrageous and being irresponsible.

I know for sure it's taking a risk. Wondering, hoping and waiting for that risk to pay off - that's where the fun comes in.

It's just a scary, unstable kind of fun and you would have to have a dark sense of humor to find it funny. Thankfully, I'm a little twisted, because being 21 and earning minimum wage and being broke is kind of my thing right now. And I've never felt more alive.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


(If I may make a suggestion: listen to this while you read:

It's out there. #TeamAwesome original is splitting up.

Well actually, I wasn't really part of the original; just came in early enough to make the claim a little valid. There were four of us then, me, Stacy, Neil and the brainpower that is Sir Josh.

We used to occupy a dainty little table at a corner in the newsroom's technical hub, and we would have our own world and live our own little lives despite the noise and the constant tension that is news production.

Sir Josh would occupy the end part of the table, facing us three. He would have his face buried on his macbook most of the time except when we need questions and other situations that really require the Josh intervention.

And it worked, freaking brilliantly. We had our own system. Of taking little breaks to relieve frustrations, of playing good music, or taking pauses to surf the web for pleasure, just to get the engine going. Of eating good food, or bad food, constantly throughout the day.

Of taking trips after office, on the weekend; of having midnight snacks around Timog. I cannot remember a milestone in the time we worked togther that it wasn't marked, or accompanied by food. We just hit 100,000 followers: get burger at Johnny Rockets. We need to prepare for a coverage: order in Pizza. Post-mortem: buy chips from 7/11. We collectively had a bad day in the office: get ice cream.

The first day News TV was launched, Sir Josh bought us all coffee. I'm not a big fan of coffee, but it did stir us to the right direction. Not because of caffeine, or that we are energized solely by food, but that we have a common goal and we have a common drug, and that drug was simple: food. And it has resulted to so many amazing things.

When Sir Josh migrated to the 2nd floor where he had his own cubicle and left us three in the table, I suffered from terrible separation anxiety. It felt like losing a driver, at an express way, at 80 kilometers per hour. So imagine the feeling when he left the company. I was scared shitless.

And there was a period of needing to talk to him constantly over GChat just to kind of regain balance. But sad to say, I never did.

Then we started shifting schedules. I would be in the morning, Neil and Stacy would take the night shift and at one point, I would just feel..alone. I think that's what happens when you work so closely together with someone, when you build habits and plan routines and sync your movements with the other person. The machinery collapses when you take away one.

I'm not saying this is the reason, but I think it makes sense to disassemble the triumvirate. Especially when Neil left. It was just too unfamiliar without the boys, like there is perpetually something missing.

And I feel bad because the team's eventual additions need not suffer the consequences of our domino effect. For the past months, it has brought me guilt to know we may be contributing to a rupture. And it needs to stop.

I just woke up one day and I knew something had to be done. A decision had to be made. To continue, or to stop. And I guess people have always known; I probably have known on some level that I was also going to leave the team not much later.

I found out Stacy had pulled the plug days before I did, and it just hit me; some kind of clarity that maybe our fate was meted out together that way. It was the plan; and we carried out a destiny for one and a half year before we had to separate ways and make our own.

This - us four taking different roads - this makes sense. If not together, then maybe not at all. And we are branching out happily, breaking apart but not really. We're all happy, each of us finding the decision quite liberating actually, like this has always been the endpoint of this chapter of our lives.

Like a goal that has been accomplished; and like any other mission, it is time to move on. But not without looking back and saying, fuck, we were truly awesome together.

Awesome enough to manage and weave magic seperately. And every time I think of it, of us going our separate ways, I can hear Sir Josh's voice, asking: "What is your takeaway?" (Sidenote: He loved asking "what is your takeaway"? I think "takeaway" is his favorite word)

And you know what? My takeaway is this: that I was given some of the best months of my life with the best people. And that alone is a victory. We won, guys, we really, really did.

It's just the reality of life. It goes on. To Gayna, Justin, Marj and Audrey: Kick some major asses, guys! You are #TeamAwesome, remember that :)

So it's out there. #TeamAwesome original is splitting up. So from your bunso, I love you three. When you have time, there are four champ burgers reserved for a reunion.

From the words of Steve Jobs: Stay hungry, literally and figuratively. Stay foolish.

Stay awesome :-)