Taking Back My Corner on the Internet

A while back, I first posted what my blog title and tagline mean. I always wanted my blog to be a bank of my reflections, a space where I can express myself without being interrupted, which is always the case whenever I talk with somebody (except for my SO, who seems to wait for a few seconds after I stop talking before he replies, which I find endearing).

However, one big obstacle in running a personal blog is how to make it appealing to others while still using your own experience and thoughts as fodder for your posts. I mean, this is no longer the early 2000s when online journaling was popular and everybody was interested in what everybody is up to. Now, the Internet has spared a small percentage of bloggers who can still pull this off; the rest of us now seek our audience on Twitter and Facebook. I, however, am staying in WordPress, where there are many personal bloggers who are doing well.

Another thing I’m struggling with, though, is accepting my story, all the decisions I made, and all the events I’ve encountered that led me to who I am and where I am today. Because here’s one big disclaimer: my life is boring. I know this fact and I am trying to accept it, and I also know how this came to be. So why am I still adamant about putting up a personal blog, when I can barely find time to write and I don’t even have a good enough topic to write about? Well, I have one reason:

My life is not over. I don’t think it has even begun yet. I am in my 20s, I should have more control over my life by now. I have the power to make it more interesting. And I thought writing about my journey towards interestingness can resonate to those who also feel stuck. This may be my writing space, but I am hoping to be read and to engage in conversation with other people, too.

I hope you join me on this venture and share your thoughts on whatever I post, even if it’s bad–even if it’s so terrible that your comment might make me quit blogging for good. I promise I will make this worthwhile.

Let me hear your story

What made you start blogging? How long ago was it? Do your motivations back then still drive you to keep your blog alive?

What would your mental checklist look like?

This post is a (late) response to the writing prompt Connect the Dots from The Daily Post:

Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.

The book I am taking the sentence from is 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide To Insight, Survival, And Artistic Fulfillment by Stefan G. Bucher.

Photo by Nelle Z. 2015.
Photo by Nelle Z. 2015.

What would your mental checklist look like…

I do not trust my memory, so if I had to make a to-do list in my mind it would only say one thing: “TYPE WHATEVER YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT ON YOUR PHONE.” If you check out my phone’s Notes app, you will see it filled with random stuff that were important to me when I logged them but makes no sense to me now.

I like how the quote fits in with today's theme.
“Funny how sometimes you just find things.” – Tracy. I like how the quote fits in with today’s theme. By Nelle Z. 2015.

However, I do not rely on my phone for my daily to-do list. Despite being technically inclined, I still prefer to write by hand all of the important stuff, such as schedules, meeting notes, ideas, and checklists in my notebook planner.

Even though putting all of your notes in your phone is more portable, my writing on a paper is more about experience:

  1. I love the smooth texture of high-quality paper;
  2. I love the soft scratching sound my pen makes while it glides on the page;
  3. I love marking my notes with colorful markers for annotation ; and,
  4. I actually like my teeny handwriting.
A sample of my writing, also weak evidence that I may have mild OCD. By Nelle Z. 2015.
A sample of my writing, also weak evidence that I may have mild OCD. By Nelle Z. 2015.

So no mental checklists for me, thank you, unless you want me to forget what I need to do after 5 minutes.

…with no budget?

Keeping myself organized with lists is one thing, but with budget, it is a separate issue. Since I am currently unemployed I do not have any source of income, but I still have bills to pay. Fortunately, I still have some savings that can tide me over for up to six months, but I hope to have a new job (part-time or full-time) before my balance reaches zero. Without a budget, it is no longer a matter of staying organized; it becomes an issue about surviving.

But this question is about work…

I am not an artist, nor have I had any clients that give me a budget to finish a project for them. Right now, my client is myself, and my project is to get a job that can pay my bills or, even better, I can stick with for a long time.

Do you make mental checklists? How do you envision them in your mind?

What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up vs. What I Am Now That I Have Grown Up, Part 2

I went to college with the dream of one day becoming a CEO. To make my dream into a goal, I drafted my planned career path:

  1. Become an account executive, preferably for an advertising firm;
  2. Get promoted to supervisory/managerial position;
  3. Get promoted to directory position; and finally,
  4. Become a CEO.

However, because I did not do as well in school as I should, I could not get a job for the account executive position without any prior experience. After six months of fruitless applications, I decided to widen my search. That was when I landed my first job as a web copywriter for an e-commerce company.

While this position was under the company’s marketing department, its job description was not as “social” as an account executive’s. Also, we were not expected to dress up and wear high heels or anything, which was a bummer. But I still accepted the job offer because:

  1. After being jobless for six months I was desperate to start working; and,
  2. The pay was pretty high for a fresh graduate.

Overall, my experience at my first job was much better than I thought. On my first day, I gathered my courage to introduce myself to another new girl, and we became office best friends. She is still one of my closest friends today. I also adapted to the workload pretty quickly. It was there that I learned I can write 2,000 words per day. Our office encouraged a fun working environment–there was a game room where we can watch TV, play XBOX and foosball, or just lounge on the comfy chairs. Often after our lunch break, I and some of my teammates would head there to play a round or three of foosball. Our boss did not mind if we take long or frequent breaks as long as we reach our weekly quota. We also had company- and department-wide events such as scavenger hunts, karaoke nights, and parties.

Still, I have not given up on my dream of getting on top of the corporate ladder. After 4 months , I started to get bored with my job. Writing about cars and car parts for 8 to 9 hours got me wishing to be on lunch meetings, sending and receiving important emails, basically anything else other than writing my fifth article on how to troubleshoot your Toyota HiLux.

Before I got the chance to leave on my own terms, however, we received bad news: the company suffered some huge losses because of inventory that weren’t sold. In order to make up for it, they had to lay off almost a majority of their workforce.

All I felt that day was confusion and shock–I had no idea what happened, everything was a blur, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. Even though I was thinking about finding a new job, I wanted to take my time searching. After all, I loved that company’s environment and culture. I wanted to find another company that is similar to them–minus the massive turnovers and layoffs.

After getting home, explaining to my parents what happened, and getting a good night’s rest, I came up with a plan. All I could think of during that time was I did not want to be jobless for 6 months AGAIN. So I sent out applications more often and more diligently, but this time I focused on sales and marketing job openings. In less than a month, I got a job offer for a marketing assistant position at a small systems integrator company.

Getting back on track

Despite wanting to accept the job offer on the spot, there were two things that concerned me:

  1. When I sent them my CV I expressed interest in the account management position. However, because of my lack of experience in the field as well as the urgency of the position, they asked if I would like to take the marketing assistant role instead. Because the marketing assistant worked closely with the account managers anyway, I figured that this would be a stepping stone to learn the ropes about sales and other stuff expected from my desired position.
  2. The salary they offered me was significantly lower than my first. But that wasn’t a big deal to me back then. As a fresh graduate, learning came first to me before earning. What mattered most to me was that I will finally be able to pursue my dream.

My first month as a marketing assistant filled me with adrenaline rush and I loved it. I got to do different stuff every day, compared to my first job where I just wrote articles 5 days a week. Also, I did not just stay in the office, we also conducted meetings elsewhere and went to trade shows. I also got to go out of town to assist in a training we gave to one of our clients. Soon I was assigned more tasks such as channel sales and bidding for new projects. When our marketing associate left the company, I was given her responsibilities as well.

After a month of working solo in the marketing department, I started feeling spent and demotivated. By that time I was already working in that company for 10 months, but I never got a reassignment to become an account manager, a pay raise, or even a promotion to regular employment, which would entitle me to enjoy company benefits. Feeling taken advantage of, I resolved that if I don’t get a promotion or a raise within a month, I would quit. A day before the month was up, however, I was given both a raise and a promotion to regular employment.

Still, I wasn’t as happy with my job as I was before. Although I did not actively look for other opportunities, I started responding to invitations to job interviews from employers. It wasn’t until August 2014 when, after reaching out to a LinkedIn contact and going to two interviews, I got an offer for the account management position at a startup company.

Achieving and living the dream

I finally did it. I finally achieved the first step towards my dream, and I was on my way to the top. Because it was a startup company and I was one of the pioneer employees, I thought that I had the chance to climb the corporate ladder faster than I expected. My inspiration was our own CEO who is only in his late 20s.

On the first few months, I lived my dream. I was out and about meeting with our partners, my phone glued to my hand because of the nonstop calls and messages, and my inbox filled with new work-related emails each day. I loved it. I relished the attention by both my boss, my colleagues, and our partners. I felt wanted. I felt valued. I felt important.

However, you must know that I am an introvert, and it is common knowledge that introverts get overwhelmed when thrusted into too much social interaction, which was what happened to me. While I do enjoy meeting people and get excited when I receive a call or message, I also needed a lot of time alone to recuperate. Unfortunately, my job took this away from me. I kept getting phone calls and messages as early as 6 AM and sometimes until midnight. My weekends and holidays were ruined by more phone calls and Skype messages. Heck, I even had to make some more calls on Christmas Day while I was on a road trip with my family.

When I got back from our Christmas break, I was exhausted. I started to dread Mondays, to the point that I get panic attacks the night before. I started to get tired of hearing my phone ring. I started to get annoyed having to go through 50+ emails every morning and getting more messages the more I reply.

My sad epiphany

After working in the startup for almost 5 months, I quit. I do not want to constantly think about work. I do not want to answer calls early in the morning. I do not want to be an account manager anymore or be at the top of the corporate ladder. After obsessing on my dream career for so many years, I realized I don’t really want it that much.

Now I’m back to square one.

What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up vs. What I Am Now That I Have Grown Up

When I was a kid, I never thought much of the future–of my future. For 5-year-old me that was just a dream, something I did not want to deal with until it was actually there. Sometimes, I thought about what I would do when I grow up, but it was more as an angry reaction to my parents when they didn’t want to give me what I want, such as:

“When I grow up, I will buy all the toys I want!”

“When I grow up and live on my own, I will never eat vegetables, and I will eat all the chocolates and ice cream I please!”

“When I grow up, I will go to the mall every day!”

But when I was asked what I want to be when I grow up, I was stumped. 20 years was too far away for me to think about. I could not even imagine what I would be like when I turn 8 years old, much less what I would be like when I am 25.

What do you expect to hear when you ask a 5-year-old what they want to be in the future?

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Daddy Dearest

I was catching up on my favorite bloggers when I came upon Casey Alexander’s post entitled, “Favorite Meal, Part 2 of 2” (Look at the date of her post and you will see how far behind I am). I suggest you read it in full, it’s a lovely story about her childhood. What particularly struck me the most was this:

He asks about our week, apologizes again for working so late all the time. We don’t mind, not tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll play quietly inside or go to a friend’s house, so he can sleep.

It reminded me of an assignment I did for my feature writing class in university, circa 2011. While it is primarily a travel article, you will see how it is connected to Casey’s blog post in the end.

I believe that travelling isn’t all about the destination; it is also about the journey, and the people we journey with. Cliché, I know, but it’s true, and every time I travel I appreciate it more and more.

Because my parents are both Bicolanos and most of our relatives still live in that province, we always take time to visit them on an average of three times a year. My parents think it’s impractical for 5 people plus 1 dog to take a 50-minute flight and spending at least Php 10,000 (~200 USD). Instead, we travel by land, specifically on a trusty SUV suitable for driving off-road, going to high terrains. Even though this means my parents have to bear with three pseudo ADHD-afflicted “children” (I was 17 years old when this happened) from raising hell. Here are some sample scenarios:

  • “Mom, the leather seats are too hot!”;
  • “Mom, I can’t feel the cold coming from the air conditioner!”; or,
  • “Oh my god, Kuya (“big brother” in Filipino) is going to puke, somebody pass him a plastic bag before he throws up on me!

Also, because we usually travel on days when all the other Filipinos are also going home to their respective provinces, my parents always plan to leave as early as midnight. In reality, though, we leave at four or five o’ clock in the morning.

However, last Christmas, though we left at the usual time, we had to go back simply because Mom forgot her false teeth (as embarrassed I am to actually share this with anyone, I’m honestly including this for the grade–and now, for page views). No, it wasn’t my mom who persuaded my dad to turn back and return home for her false teeth, it was actually my dad who insisted. “You don’t spend Php 50, 000 on false teeth that you’ll only forget to bring. Of course you have to show them off to your family,” my dad argued. Since he was behind the wheel, and the rest of us were too sleepy to object, we drove 30 minutes back home before driving one-and-a-half hours back to the South Luzon Expressway along with other Filipino families going south of the country. It was obvious we were already late: for several years we had had our breakfast in what I think is the only Jollibee branch in Gumaca, Quezon. This time, though, we had breakfast in one of the Jollibee stores along the expressway. Amidst the teasing that our relatives, who we consider veterans in road trips, will award our current travel as the one with the latest departure yet, I couldn’t help but think how long we are going to be on the road.

I believe that there are three clocks in this world:

  1. The biological clock, which tells our body if it’s time to sleep, wake up, or eat;
  2. The physical clock, which is the actual time we set in our watches, mobile phones, computers, etc.; and,
  3. The emotional clock, which doesn’t tell the actual time, only for how long whatever we’re going through is currently happening.

The third clock is usually dictated by how we feel, like, “The movie is finish already? It felt like we only sat down to the trailers showing a few minutes ago!” or, “This is only a one-and-a-half hour class, right? Why do I feel like I’ve been sitting here listening to the teacher for almost the entire day?” or, “Are we there yet? We’ve been inside this stupid SUV for hours. My butt hurts, I’m smelly, and my dog hasn’t taken a leak yet!” which is exactly what I said once I woke up from my post-breakfast sleep. I dozed off wishing that when I come to, we’ll be halfway to Camarines Sur already, but alas, when I looked out the window five hours later I saw a sign that says, “Pagbilao, Quezon.” We haven’t even gone past the town of Gumaca. Dad was already looking for a place to eat lunch at.

We came upon this restaurant/mini-zoo/resort called Palay Isdaan, which was still in Pagbilao. The place was very Filipino, with cottages (some floating on a huge pond, some placed beside caged animals) seating customers. There were also caged animals–two tigers, one wildcat, some snakes of different kinds, and monkeys–scattered all over the place. My youngest brother who walked around said there were crocodiles on the other side of the area, but I was too hungry to explore. We took a cottage right in front of a huge cage that was divided into three containers with one tiger each in the first two, and the wildcat in the other. Because the restaurant is an open space, I brought my dog, Vera, along with us to the cottage. But when she saw the large cats, her canine instincts kicked in and barked furiously at them.

Vera, my 7-lb. ball of fluff. 2013.

It was quite horrifying to see a tiny 7-lb. ball of fluff that’s known for being cute and cuddly bark at animals that could probably sees her as a bite-size treat, but I can’t help but be amused at my dog’s ignorance. However, the amusement turned to annoyance when our food came and I realized I couldn’t eat properly without keeping her from barking and disturbing the other customers. In the end I ate half of my share and gave the other half to Vera just to keep her quiet. We immediately paid the bill after eating and left for the road again, but I slept long enough in the morning that I was much too awake by then. This was when I realized how long the rest of the trip will last since there will be no more long stopovers for us, except for restroom breaks and water and snack refills.

Sensing the doom and gloom of this remaining part of the trip, I tried to look outside the window to try appreciating the scenery, but there was nothing to appreciate. For several hours we either drove by untamed jungles in Bitukang Manok (trans. “Chicken intestine,” because of the curves along the road), which is also known as Quezon National Highway. We also passed by shacks that all look the same you would think you got cursed and have driven in circles. We also saw people walking under the sun, people fighting under the sun, children recklessly running across the road. There were also vehicles that got into accidents (which were usually close to “Accident Prone Area” road signs, very ironic), and poorly maintained buildings in their town centrals. I started to doubt my life-long belief that the Philippines is a beautiful country upon seeing these things, and came to an early conclusion that most Filipinos go on road trips across the country not because there are many things to see, but because it’s a cheaper way to travel. (Author’s note: I have forgotten about this “conclusion,”  and I still think that the Philippines, my Philippines, is a beautiful country. Its gems are hidden, though, but they are worth finding.)

My dad’s voice snapped me out of my reverie. “So, what have you kids been up to?” he asked. At first, I found the question ridiculous. He’s our dad; he should be updated about whatever’s been keeping me and my brothers busy. Then I remembered that my dad’s job requires him to be often away from us, only letting him see us on some weekends and special occasions. I also remembered that the last time we had our family road trip was…I actually couldn’t remember.

As we started telling stories about our own adventures, I dismissed my earlier thought about road trips. The reason my parents insist on this mundane-looking activity is for us to catch up on each other’s lives. Even though we still live in one roof, we always stay in our own rooms and do our own stuff. Even though we all have mobile phones, we only text when we need something from our parents or when we want to be picked up somewhere. Being stuck together in one car for one whole day allows us to be a family again.

I’m looking forward to our next road trip. And when that happens, I’ll ask Dad to not hurry. There is so much I have to tell.

A Mozzarella Orange: Nelle’s Writing Space

This should have been my first blog post. But just like the reason I did not put up an “About” page (yet), I never thought it was important because I did not think anyone would care. However, after publishing a few blog posts and gaining a few followers, I figured now is the right time to introduce myself a second time (the first one was explaining why I am blogging again).

Who’s Nelle?

It’s me. Nelle is the name I have answered to since my friends in college found out my first name. It is the name that my co-workers call me when they need something. It is the name that Jacob calls me when we are having a serious conversation. It is not the name that my parents call me when I am in trouble.

My writing space

This blog is my haven. It is a place for me to express my thoughts without being interrupted. When I get upset or flustered I tend to mumble, talk too fast, or choke on my words that the person I’m talking to could not understand a thing I say. With writing, I can complete what I want to say and be able to edit it before showing it to my reader–no mumbling or talking too fast. I still need to work on being more descriptive since I tend to be short on words sometimes.

Unlike other bloggers here who say that writing is their passion, to me writing is a chore. It is a daily exercise that I must do so I could learn to express myself better.

Even though I publish a new post every other week or so, I actually write every day–or at least I try to. I am just slow at outlining ideas and constructing them into an actual piece, and on some days I chose to sleep early instead of staying awake for at least 30 minutes to write. While I aim to publish around once a week, life won’t let me do that at the moment.

Why “A Mozzarella Orange”?

I’m saving the best question for last. A Mozzarella Orange is just an anagram of my name, though the phrase itself always makes me hungry for anything with cheese. I am having a hard time picturing its color though.

It’s your turn: what comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “a mozzarella orange”? What color do you think it actually is?