On Dreams – Bangkok 2016

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Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. My copy came from the trash as someone from my High School decided to throw it out on our locker-cleaning day in the final days of school. Indeed one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, ha!

The book follows the story of Santiago as he crosses the Desert to reach the Egyptian pyramids where treasure is supposedly buried. This was revealed to him through a dream, and he decided to follow this dream with burning passion. In his journey he discovers the Soul of the World and meets an Alchemist who teaches him how to understand and be one with this timeless truth. As expected, his journey was anything but smooth and there were moments where he lost sight of his dream (his personal legend). In the end, he achieved his personal legend but not in the way one would expect.

There are two truths I learned from the book, and these two will continue to guide me as I go about life.

There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.

When you’re on a journey to fulfill your Personal Legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.

Ever since junior year of college I knew that I wanted to work on an international capacity. This desire stems from a mixture of loving travel, exploration, and photography, and also wanting to do good in the world. I wanted to join either the United Nations or National Geographic, and just travel and explore frequently. I envisioned myself getting lost in foreign lands whose language I don’t speak, and whose people look drastically different from me.

I was ready for it, and after graduation I was determined to get a job at an international NGO. I blindly applied for various positions even though I was aware that I’m incredibly unqualified for all of them; and as expected I never got a call back.

Life happened and I ended up in a soul-crushing job at a BPO.

At that time, I sincerely thought my dream was dead. Life was a hard teacher and I wasn’t prepared for all its lessons. I’ve always seen the world as very Disney. My innate optimism has made me naive and the heartbreak became overwhelming.

I had given up.

But Life has other plans, and it brought me to my current job which has strong ties to various UN agencies and other international governing bodies.

I remember my interview vividly, especially the part where my current boss asked me if I was okay with traveling. I remember answering YES with a gigantic grin on my face.

Last year I was given the opportunity to visit Bangkok twice to represent the country, and our organization, to two meetings. It’s a great honor as I’ve only been with the organization for a few months.

Here are some of the photographs I took when I explored during my free time.

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leaving to live

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Today was the first day of my last ten days in the CBD. The feelings I have are quite new to me: a mixture of both relief and sadness. There were times when I wanted time to move a little bit slower so the end would be delayed, but there are also times when I just want everything to be over and done with, so I need not feel confusion anymore.

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I am leaving because I no longer feel alive. I allowed myself to be turned into a cog that fits perfectly in a machine I knew I did not want to be part of. I have always had a soft spot for development work as I witnessed my mother dedicate decades to an INGO while I was growing up. This desire has transformed into a passion when I entered college and was nurtured by volunteering in an organization for street children. There is a more permanent sense of joy in doing work that transcends one’s own needs and helps advance a cause that is otherwise ignored: work that saves lives.

It was lovely while it lasted though. I met people, good ones as well as Regina George-types whom I thought only existed in movies. I learned that professionalism goes beyond politeness and diligence, and that it’s actually more about delivering beyond what is expected. I learned that performing well and liking what you do are not mutually exclusive, and there are more important things to take into consideration aside from how and what one feels.

However, I know it’s time to go, because I’ve been changed into someone I know I am not. And when we let ourselves be changed, we lose not only our distinctiveness, but also the little things that make us, who we are. For me that was photography, exploration, appreciation of the little things, being one with nature, spending time with my nanay, and being mindful of my health. For a while life revolved around chasing numbers, being relentless in the chase, winning the chase, needing to chase them again, and again. But for what purpose that has long-term implications?

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I had to leave because I was unhappy, and I could die any minute, and I cannot die unhappy. We are young, and driven, and full of energy. If our sense of self tells us that our success is different from what the world deems as successful, it’s okay. If our heart tells us that our success will not be found in the birthplace of wordly success, it really is okay.

The most noteworthy people are those who are stayed true to themselves despite opposition, judgement, and ridicule. The most noteworthy people are those who were relentless in their pursuit of an authentic life, despite all the difficulties that came their way. If we let ourselves become just cogs, cogs that look like every other cog, and can do what every other cog does, we become easily replaceable, for another cog of the same appearance and of the same abilities lay readily available at the next hardware store.

Ensure that you are happy, for at the end, you only have who you are. In my last ten days, I am both excited and scared, for the world is once again an unclear haze of possibility. But I know greater things will soon come, because it always does for those who chase greatness, and those who trust in His promises.

Photos taken using by BlackBerry Q10 (which broke, btw).