Once upon a time, an idealist ended up looking for a full-time job on the internet, feeling guilty about the things that he had done recently. He dropped this thesis entirely. He broke down in text messages. He compelled his frantic mother, a judge, to send the police in his boarding house to see if he was still there. He had to face his mother’s arrival, something which he always dreaded. He could not bear to face the distraught ambivalence of his feelings towards his mother, who currently had an eye surgery and was not even ready for travel. He couldn’t decide well with her, and thus ended up choosing to transfer rather than extend for a year. And he and his mother had to ride on a van of one of her friends. He, his mother, and her friends: an encounter that was not designed to go well for him.
This combination gave him awful memories of helplessness, embarassment, and loss of self-respect, and it slowly caught up to him as they arrived in the smog and heat city of Quezon. He cannot endure being dragged around to meet with her friends and broke down nearly with every encounter. It always felt like a bomb activated remotely by a button. It was a bomb designed to destroy the dignity of accidentally deviant people. It was a bomb he first felt when he had to sit down for hours doing nothing as his mother dealt with powerful people. There were no children or teenagers around in that grand hall of Chinese and European design. It was the restaurant owned by the friend his mother is currently talking to.
There was no place where he could be himself. There was no place for him to be himself without humiliating his mother, there was no place for him to be himself without avoiding his mother’s conforming commands. None but outside. This, like other moments when he had to run away out of the parties where his mother was invited. There was really no place for him in the places where his mother is truly happy.
He knew his jumbled self sought a psychologist, a therapist perhaps, to help him sort through his problems. His mother brought him to another friend of hers, a clinical psychologist. She brought him to a man with a gentle voice and soft eyes, who listened as he sorted out his problems in a chair. But he only resolved the conclusion that he figured out a long time ago: that he can only face his demons himself. He also came back to the same state he was before he left for college. He still hated the immaturity his parents had dealing with their marriage. He hated the way his sisters complain when he chose not to follow their orders. He also hated having to use aggressive tones to get his message through, and hated hearing their complaints. He hated a lot of people around him, people who judged him, who were only lacking in meaning and drowning in misery. He had enough of the outside world then.
He had also enough of talking too much. It was too exhausting trying to be interesting to other people when he himself has nothing interesting to share. That’s why he tried to make himself interesting again and this time, for people who he could also be interested. That’s why he tried to study online, write, and learn.
But things were not working out well for him alone in the condominium where he ended up staying. He wasn’t making a consistent progress. He would wander around in the middle of a study, or indulge himself with the endless distractions offered by the Internet. 9gag, reddit, porn, or even the news reports caught on to him, indulging him with nearly meaningless chemical floods. So he tried to find a job on the internet.
And when the freelance work he applied wasn’t confirming his application, he tried to apply in the real world. You know, the one outside the absurdly safe havens of your parent’s house or of your university, yes, the place that was supposed to prepare you for real world? Yes, that place. It came in a search engine he subscribed to, in an ad that offered ready opportunities for the inexperienced individual— like an undergraduate him. It was on Makati, a gold mine of jobs for desperate Filipinos. After getting an surprise allowance boost from his parents, he decided to grab on to the mobile number he texted.
And it wasn’t what he expected. It was unlike anything he ever thought to face, but it was something he should have anticipated if he had used his reason over desperation. It is useless to decide what kind of work they do there. He knows it is some form of outsourcing company, mining inexperienced job seekers to feed off to different companies.
But sadly he wasn’t ready for the wait, nor for the fact that in front of him were dozens of people, both drop-outs and graduates, who were also desperate for jobs. The one who waited beside him was also a drop-out, and he only knew about that upon their group interview with their ‘agent’ (although they themselves claim that they are not an agency, he doesn’t know what word he can use to call the one he talked to). It surprised him to get through without lunch; he, a spoiled son, who never deprived his high metabolism of lunch. It did not brought down his body like he expected, but it was gnawing on his mind.
He was also never prepared for the sordid meaninglessness of a life as a drop-out. He won two national literary awards. These were not recognized well, sure, but he had impressed people he never thought would be impressed. And he could not bear the possibility that the hard work he had invested in his skills would be wasted to what– a life dealing daily with irate customers? Was this the life most Filipinos had, a life driven by dissatisfaction, insecurity, and survival? Sure, survival is a necessity, and it is essential for the most fulfilling self-growth. But it is hard to deal with the sense of survival corporations created with the easy offers of outsourced jobs. It may be a battlefield, but it is a war that can only be handled by the most mediocre.
No matter how hard he tried, he could not be one of these desperate ones. Not even the gamers, hooked on their fantasies of war supplemented by assembled codes of skilled programmers, offered the opportunity for world-changing challenges. They may have the one skill he doesn’t have– the ability to talk fluently, to wage tactics through speech, but he have a lot more they don’t have. He just wished he dedicated more time to crafting them. He never felt more helpless.
Pride slowly won him over as he waited for five hours on that stool with the other job-seekers. Listening to a mentor who taught them about winning an interview. It was an amazing talk, and it opened his eyes to the minefield his old course did not show him. There will be solitary souls, charismatic women, and friends who stick together. There will be profiles that will intrigue more people over others. There will always be successful people who will rise above like leaders, and disinterested people who will live a repetitive life of sustenance.
And there will be rare gems like him, our idealist, who can only gamble chances, praying against that slot that will devalue people like him of all their worth.
The wait ate through him. And as the hours stood by and afternoon came, he knew that he could not handle facing the hiring managers, who will only call his name by surprise. No rehearsal can prepare him for his first mistake, of resisting the interview that he might never pass in the end.
He immediately refused the first job interview he got after five hours of waiting. He left, untying the necktie he bought for that moment.
He lingered in Cubao in the new suit he bought yesterday. Wasted money buying a book, a shake, a Flashdrive and card reader for his sister with the allowance he recently received from his father. Bought a hefty ticket for a movie he did not care to finish. Took a cab home. Wasted money loading his broadband and phone. Masturbated. Slept.
The real world and its mediocre citizens horrified him. And by the end of the day, he finally decided to continue his studies, work better, and become a person advertising and publishing companies hunger for. As of now, he hopes his immature ass in a state of melancholia.
The gnawing feeling still remained within me and I decided to get through with it. Perhaps it may help me face much more difficult problems in the future, problems that I might encounter once I face the real world again. I certainly will not return to sordid jobs such as BPO nor be enticed by easy promises of money. I should have recognized the fact that they have mentioned bloggers and journalists rarely, and focused on call center agents and technical staff.
And I will be more aggressive. For the sake of saving both of my younger sister’s futures in the long run, I will be more aggressive.
The prose was a challenge too. For too long I have been accustomed to writing my experiences in the first-person. This shift of POV was a way for me to see if I can detach myself from the things I experience. It did surprised me. Not only was I able to get through with the details of the day so quick– a feat I was not able to achieve in the first person, compelling me to linger with the sensations for too long, but it also allowed me to focus on necessary details. I only ended up falling into first person in the rising action and climax of the story. These were thoughts that involved me the most.
I also saw that I was not taking risks with my language. Only in the last paragraphs did I deal with fragments. My sentences were too soft. They weren’t daring. They didn’t have enough character. Just like me.