Housebreaking The Cat

CaptainMeowAfter working the field as a journalist for more or less six years, I thought I already know all there is to know about humans and myself. I was so wrong.

Some seven months ago, I gave up my job as a correspondent of Philippine Daily Inquirer for a desk job in a government agency. It was a drastic but beneficial move.

I have to admit I didn’t think things through as much as I should but it was a chance I could not pass up. I am already 29 but still single and working in an industry my family do not entirely approve of considering the dangers it has for a woman. To their eyes, I am getting old in a job that does not promise me prospects of wealth and security.

I gave up free travels, the glory of the byline and editors for a desk computer, a boss and Monday flag-raising ceremonies in a military base. I closed my eyes and took the jump in my pink doll shoes. At the background, I heard the relieved sighs of my mother and siblings who believe that I have settled down finally to a sure path of stability and benefits when I retire.

To me, it felt like breaking up with an aimless but much beloved boyfriend to marry a sterling and stable man I only need.

Letting go of my lone cat tactics to adapt to pack (or pride or glaring, since this is Stray Cat) life was probably the most difficult thing I had to go through. It was tedious, long-drawn and stressful. It made puberty look like a walk in the park – a relaxing walk in the park.

Natural introversion also added to the agony. My introversion can manifest itself with blushing shyness or total grumpiness. Whichever the reaction, the causes are the same – crowds, too much human interaction, noise and people, in general.

Going home to a  barracks with the same people I work with also made it harder to adjust. But I was thankful for free lodging provided by the office courtesy of the same boss who believed in my abilities and talent. This same boss betrothed me to this sterling and stable profession, something I would always be thankful for.

I was used to working alone on my stories, without having to talk face-to-face with anyone for hours, sometimes even days. You can only imagine how maddening it was for me when I was ushered to a workplace where I had to juggle listening and talking in person to people with writing while being surrounded with voices and noise.

It was during this phase that I realized we never really graduated from the high school anxiety and pressures of trying to fit in. The Filipino culture of “pakikisama” is both a blessing and a bane. It is beneficial as it is essential to one’s survival and well-being but it is also burden as it at times slows down individual growth and may not get things done immediately, or efficiently. It nourishes social interaction and the community but it has brought trouble in many cases.

I immediately got a taste of how people in office environments initiate the newbies. For some three months, most people were either difficult, too lazy to help or just testing you. Some of them were unforgiving and inconsiderate of my situation as someone who is still learning the ropes. There were also those who sought to intimidate.

Yet, there were some who diligently and tirelessly guided me through the steps. They were well placed angels in my path. I am lucky enough that they recognize my need for assistance.

Hard as it were, it was all part of the process (Damn you, society!). It taught me a lot about how the human mind works. I was a late-bloomer with my limited people skills but these experiences gave me the necessary insights on human nature and interaction.

I have to admit that I also gave these people a dose of my “maldita” attitude. I cannot help it. I have such low tolerance for poor slow work, small talk and having to explain things that I deem easy to understand. I was transitioning from the mindset of “taking care of self” to “minding others”.

Up to now, I am still unlearning some of the skills I sharpened on the field because they are no longer necessary in this garrison. Alongside this, I am also learning new things about life here, living away from home and myself.

It’s a long dragging journey but I am willing to keep dragging.

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