On leaving

I always say this because it’s true: I am very lucky with my job—considering that there’s probably more things working against me than for me, as a humanities major who’s often given only a sliver of decent work in the real world. Or at least the advertising, copywriting, magazine publishing industries that accommodate you tend to make you feel like a sellout. I do wish I understood back then when people explained how hard it would be as a fine arts graduate, and as she certainly takes pride to hear, yes, my mother told me so. But I guess we were all self-absorbed in college—I still don’t regret it for one bit. I wouldn’t have gotten my current job had I not been a poetry student anyway; my managing director is my former poetry professor, and she happens to work in sustainability. And sometimes I can’t believe how much I’ve come to love what I do now.

Looking for opportunities elsewhere is a tough sell. I’ve realized that as cliché as it sounds, I do want to contribute to society, make some kind of difference in my lifetime. I want to do good beyond the classroom setting, beyond sitting in my room staring at a blank page—writing’s just not for me anymore, not in that way. My aim is to leverage what (I know) I’m capable of and, ultimately, affect change. It’s interesting: when I think about how much my values have changed since properly entering the workforce, I’ve sort of become someone that my college self really wouldn’t like. But until now, I had never found a sufficient answer to the question, So what am I going to do now? (It’s an isolated academia in the postmodern milieu with no practical applications kind of thing.) Also: There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a normal job.

All that is its own type of leaving—foregoing some big chunks of who I was, and failing to become the perceived ideal I held for myself, just less than a year ago. I organized a business conference recently (a research launch and workshop) held last week in Bonifacio Global City. Towards the end of it, our company’s Hong Kong consultant, who assigned me as the overall event coordinator, said to me, “I hope you enjoyed this little project. I’m trying to keep you from resigning.” And I’d had a feeling that I was being given more substantial work rather strategically (if not even manipulatively!) to keep me interested and to stay. She continued: “Because I know you’re going to leave. And you should. I just want to make sure this is worth your while.”

I’m still trying to figure things out. My short-term plan is to gain as much work experience as possible, then hopefully take a master’s degree in public policy, global governance or international business (to get better at it, also to make up for lost time) and make my way into nonprofit leadership. And for the next ten years, my dream job—which feels a bit like a confession to say, even though I know no one actually reads this blog—is to work at ADB. I’m only 23 years old. Already my life has gone much differently than I imagined. My goals, my values have changed drastically, and even though I would never want my poetry background to go to waste, I think doing something else is also very important to me. Perhaps some things are more relevant than others after all.

“Don’t rush leaving,” she also said to me. Don’t rush leaving.


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