Hi! How are you? Happy New Year!
By now, most of us are “back to our realities” - whether at work, in school, or our regular routines at home. I hope you, too, had enough rest and joyful celebrations with your loved ones. I hope the break energised you for what 2020 will bring us.
The blue door
2019 was a whirlwind of events for me. I just left my job at the end of 2018, and was being interviewed by some of the companies I tried to join, as well as trying to win some clients for my own endeavors. At the same time, I was rebuilding my personal life - seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and spending time with the family. I was trying to put a sense of balance to things while our family was undergoing some challenges and major changes. It’s as if issues were piling up, if you prefer to see it that way. Nonetheless, the hope for the new year was there. So with clarity that I will be doing marketing communications either for a hotel or a company that I like, I tried to put aside any other invitation that came. However, a persistent opportunity arrived. Little did I know that it will somehow be my answered prayer.
In 2012, while I was working for a hotel, I was sharing to my friends the story of my thesis. How I pushed to do a non-traditional advertising campaign for an advocacy because I strongly believed in the project. I told them that if given a chance, I’d like to work for an advocacy again. Although I was still growing and having a great time with my employer back then. In fact, the learnings I got from that experience somehow molded my career path today, and I’m grateful to them. The study I did in college left a spark in me.
So I gave the opportunity a shot. In less than a day, I was able to think of ways how I can contribute and grow in this new company. The programs Meliomar shared and the presentation I prepared excited me, and eventually made me say yes to them. The company gave me the opportunity to study new things, as well as further what I used to do: carry out sales & marketing, share industry insights, conduct trainings, see hospitality from a different perspective, do creatives, and more. To top it off, the Meliomar programs resonated with me - preserving the environment and natural resources, looking after communities, and the list goes on. Somehow, I was part of an advocacy. But the doors to return to the hotel industry kept on presenting themselves. Some are even things I prayed for before the previous year ended. It broke me as I felt I was being pulled by two different poles. I can’t remember crying in front of a boss before, but I did when I was about to say good bye to this one. It’s easy to move on from a bad employer, but it wasn’t the case. It was a matter of what I really wanted from then on.
After some discussions with people I trust, I decided to stay. I took a leap of faith on something that I didn’t quite grasp yet. I think we grow more by doing things we aren’t sure of, from things we are afraid of, and by taking risks. More tasks came after I decided to stay. I’m glad I did, and although I still find myself asking what’s next for me, I’m taking things one day at a time.
I had three major realisations in the last decade. One is that everything grows at its own pace. Life is truly a journey and not a race. When we were younger, everyone says we’ll do great things when we graduate, and when we graduate people would say it’s not yet our time to do great things - we have to start small. When you’re at your 20’s you feel like you should already know things and achieve wonders - have your own space, visited several places, have your own business or be in a stable and reputable career, give a good life to your family, made some investments, etc. So the struggle between the realities of life and the storylines in our mind can give anyone anxiety and depression.
I’ve had hundreds of rejections from work applications, pitches, the chance to migrate or study abroad, and even friendships. I’ve been lied to, talked down to and got insulted even by those I truly trusted. I would get comments like “your proposal is great, but you’re too young for the role” or “thanks for the insights, but you’re just a designer here.” Then they’ll be using the idea you pitched to them or ask for your help when their method or the person they assigned for the task fails them. It was nerve-racking for the younger me and everything felt like a personal attack.
At one point, I believed all my critics. I doubted my capabilities, and second guessed every move I made. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I would cry in silence. Wouldn’t see my friends. Refuse to leave my room. Starve myself. Stopped trying. Then I grew up a bit more and realised that I’m not as innocent as I thought myself to be. I had my fair share of giving insults, being arrogant, snobbish, and what not. I realised that there were so much to learn and so much potential to harness along the way. That not knowing all the answers is alright. My true enemy didn’t lie in the circumstances, not even in the opinions that I received, but within me. I was my biggest enemy. I had so much expectation for myself and the world, nothing quite measured up. Nothing was good enough. But the truth is, greatness is measured by the metrics we dictate. We can be doing absolutely anything in life and feel great about ourselves. We have to ask ourselves whether or not the things we want to attain are things that truly matter. Will it make us better people? Will it give us peace and make us truly happy? Things that truly matter in life cannot be bought by money and fame. Getting more years, I learned that the important things in life are mostly intangible.
We also have to remember that great things demand sacrifices. It requires early mornings and sleepless nights, broken computers and missing programs, empty wallets and sometimes debts, senseless lines and numerous crappy drafts, rejections and failures. It requires patience and perseverance. Goals we want to attain are never meant to be easy, and the time to get to where we want to be is never short. In fact, the journey never ends - you get one thing and you dream another. The cycle never stops and that’s just how life is.
Vulnerability is strength, not a weakness. Freedom is the only thing you get from opening up.
When I started transitioning from graphics to marketing, I would usually find myself busied by my desire to make everything run smoothly. Though we were doing promotions, tours, interviews, dinners, I’d usually have minimum interaction with people and more on ticking off every detail on my lengthy, sometimes imaginary, list. Not that I didn’t know what I was doing or what we offered, but more of overthinking if people wanted to talk to me to begin with. I hid myself under the administrative tasks because I wasn’t well-travelled, haven’t read a bunch of notable books, and don’t know a lot of famous personalities. I convinced myself that being the “Emily” to someone is enough. But at one point of my career, I was alone. If I didn’t do the talking, no one will so I took all my willpower to interact to a person I just invited to the property. I then remembered the times when I was still a junior designer, also alone entertaining guests, and I was fine. I understood that in communication, listening is key. One answer to a simple question can lead to another and another, until you realise that the night is over. You had fun and gained a new friend.
My rawness became my asset. Everyone wants to be heard, and I love to listen and learn. A nice match if I may say so. From then on I no longer cared if I don’t conform to stereotypes. That I was more into fashion and interior design than into sports and cars. That I only knew about Lebron James a day before we assisted him to his hotel suite. I cared less that my skin isn’t “perfect” and that I can go from a blabbermouth to a Buddhist monk in a split second. I embraced my uniqueness rather than denying it. I’d share my misadventures and enjoy laughing about it. The more I opened up, the more I was able to find my truths. And the more people knew about those truths, the greater the feeling that I was actually welcoming them to my world. I was able to establish stronger bonds based on understanding and acceptance rather than just shared experiences.
I didn’t become a complete extrovert after. I’m still very much an introvert who values his silence, and appreciates those who respect it. But what changed is that I’m no longer my thoughts or my feelings. I do not wait for everything to be perfect before I start sharing myself. Even if it means accidentally spilling a 100 point wine (sorry, Ben) across the table and having the courage to entertain the guests right after.
Acceptance is an outward process. We should love ourselves regardless of what’s happening outside. Our flaws are just as important as our strengths. They both constitute to who we are as a person. By gradually opening up to the people around me, I invited them to open up to me as well.
One can only give what one already has. So by not declaring what we lack, we deny ourselves of being able to fill up our glass and getting the chance to overflow it to others. By accepting our flaws and vulnerability, we allow growth to flourish in our lives. Everyday we get a chance to learn something new and to reinvent ourselves. We should embrace those opportunities and continue to be better versions of ourselves.
The world can use a little more courage, faith, gratitude, humility and kindness.
I always say take risks. Don’t be afraid to commit a mistake. Life is not an exam that we can’t retry if we fail miserably. Don’t blindly follow trends, but trust our gut even if it means starting on a completely new landscape. In the last 10 years, I had 5 different jobs and a couple of freelance gigs. Starting out was never easy. It’s not like someone will hand us a book of instructions on how to do things the right way. We have to try something in order to understand it. I didn’t become wealthy by doing freelance work nor by switching jobs. I can’t count how many times I had to close my bank account. But I regret nothing for I am who I am today because of those crazy choices I made. My pocket was empty but my heart was full. Without the experiences, wins, trials and defeats, I wouldn’t have learned valuable lessons that I hold on to now. I wouldn’t have met some amazing souls that changed my life for the better. The fact that family will always have our back will not bear much weight to me than it does now. That no matter how many fights and misunderstandings come, our families or chosen families are blessings to us. That everyone is truly fighting a battle we know nothing of, and yet people would choose to offer a hand when a situation arises.
And by trying a variety of things, we can learn that people are innately kind, we just forget it sometimes. We sometimes succumb to our emotions, needs and desires, to pain or fear, and to other circumstances. But life will always offer us help if we learn how to ask for it. There’s generosity and kindness in colleagues who became friends, in friends who referred me to their colleagues, and in friends who became family just because they can. I pray for them everyday. These realisations make me thank God when I wake up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.
When asked by younger friends and colleagues what it feels like being in my 30’s, I would usually say “calmer”. Seriously, 20’s is a mess, being extra dramatic or overly serious. I wanted the world like an entitled brat. But of course things didn’t always go my way. My family and close friends endured unexpected losses. At some of the lowest points of my life, I found humility. I was reminded that I’m just another speck in the universe. I remained hungry for growth, but I also learned to be content. I learned to look at the little things and realise how blessed we all are. That there’s so much more to offer to others, kindness to pay forward than expected to be received. I learned to ask for forgiveness for the mistakes I’ve done and did not do. To forgive even when no apology is given, but most importantly, I learned to forgive myself. I do not force myself to be positive all the time, but I also gained new strength to not wallow on what is temporary.
Everything is temporary, including our worries. Our struggles and setbacks produce patience, perseverance, and strength. They make us resilient. A wise man once said, all problems have solutions so we should not worry. If we can’t solve a problem, why worry? It’s beyond our control anyway. Over the past years, I learned to be more faithful to the higher power, knowing that God is always in control. Having the understanding that the fruits of our labor are greater than the challenges we have to endure, I learned to hold on to His great plan for all of us. I also learned that everyday we have the option of being confined in the trivialities of this world or surrendering ourselves to a higher purpose. We can waste our short time on earth nitpicking, living in the past or being anxious about the future. We can also be grateful for everything and start working together to make life worth our while. Life is short, meant to be shared and enjoyed so I hope we find more reasons to smile.
Thanks again for reading, and I wish you a well-lived 20’s.
Stay inspired and later days!
Niguel is an experienced creative and marketing professional pursuing his dreams while growing with infinite possibilities.