In the Beginning

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You could say I was your typical guy, going through life without a care in world. I went through high school and college without really exerting myself. I had very average grades and was a big underachiever.

Like all of you, I had the potential to be really good, to do really good. But instead, I spent most of my time in front of the computer monitor playing video games.

The thing is, though, I wouldn’t say my time playing video games was a total waste. To be honest, the ironic thing was that it was video games that really got me into storytelling and not books.

I’d read some books growing up, but they were mostly comics (Archie, Garfield and Peanuts). The first novel I’d read, I believe, was a young adult version of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

So when it was time to choose my college course, I applied for both Computer Science and Literature. Of course, because I had incredibly mediocre grades in math and science, I didn’t get into Computer Science, and instead landed on Literature.

By that time, I hadn’t read anything truly substantial to merit being there. All I knew of the classics were what they taught us in high school (which wasn’t a lot). I’d never read Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Whitman, Poe, or Steinbeck. All I knew about classic mythology was what I saw in movies-and I hadn’t watched a lot of films either!

I was clueless and ignorant. College changed that.

What it didn’t change was my work ethic.

Fear of the World

I spent 5 years in college when my course should have only taken 3. Those two extra years were mostly because I still had my creative writing thesis to finish.

Instead of working on it, I again spent most of my time in front of the computer monitor. Part of the reason it took me so long was that I was feeling lazy. Another reason I told myself was that I was having trouble writing my thesis. But looking back, I think the real reason I delayed my graduation was because I was afraid. I was afraid of what I’d do after college.

What does a Literature graduate living in a developing country do for a living? Teaching? Advertising? Journalism?

None of them appealed to me. None of them felt like something I’d like to do long-term. Perhaps the only acceptable career path for me was teaching. But really, I just wanted to write stories, and I was afraid that once I graduated, I wouldn’t be able to write anymore.

Then Came Life’s Little Push…

Just to give everyone some context, it’s pretty common in the Philippines for children to live with their parents even after graduation. The capital is small enough that one could travel to class and back home in an hour or less (a little more for those living in the metro’s outskirts).

Plus, Filipinos have a financial literacy of close to zero. Minimal savings, lots of expenses (mostly because a lot of families have an average of 3-4 kids, and send each one of them off to private Catholic schools).

Living with your parents till your 30, then, is the only chance for us middle class yuppies to save up for a house, a wedding, and a baby-because we start our careers earning an average of $300-$400 a month. Not a lot of us ever see more than $500 a month till we’re in our mid or late 20’s.

So imagine my dread when I found out I’d gotten my girlfriend of 5 years pregnant a few months after graduation.

Compromising for Survival

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My parents weren’t exactly thriving financially. They were in debt. I think it was because sending us to school was pretty pricey. My parents had 5 kids in total. I was the third. My two older brothers had already graduated and were doing pretty well for themselves. Me and my brother were studying in two of the top colleges in the country, and my sister was still in elementary.

But putting all 5 of us through school (all at the same time) cost a huge amount, an amount they had trouble keeping up with. Parents only want the best for their children, after all, and will do whatever they can to give them what they deserve.

So when I told mom and dad my girlfriend was pregnant, I didn’t exactly enjoy the thought of putting an extra burden on them when it came to paying for the hospital bills, and a wedding.

I swallowed my pride and was lucky enough to get a job, making $500 a month moderating blog content for an Australian-based company. Mine and my wife-to-be’s income got us through the medical bills for when she gave birth, and we were even able to pay for half of our small but intimate wedding.

Pretty much after that, we went on with life: me working for the Australian, she doing the one thing she loved best: teaching toddlers and pre-schoolers.

I was fine with what I was doing for a good two years, but I eventually got bored with it and wanted something more. I wanted to create something of value to myself, something I could actually be proud of. I wanted to make stories that would touch people, that would move them to tears.

Every time I watched a Pixar film, I kept wishing I could do what they do. Every time I picked up a book to read, I was envious. I looked at my wife and I saw how happy she was doing the kind of work she loved. Sure, it was hard. I could not imagine myself taming and teaching 3-4 year-olds every day of the week.

I admire her for what she does. I love her for it, and I’m definitely proud of her.

My only wish now is that I’d be able to make her proud of me too-that I would make something of myself, that I would change from the lazy, underachieving college student, to somebody that made a difference in people’s lives by being an example of success.

The Leap of Faith

Dissatisfied and bored with my work, I went to look for other options: freelance, work from home.

Travel in Manila is horrendous. You spend 45 minutes up to an hour on the road for a trip that should only take you only 15 minutes-provided there wasn’t any traffic. All that time, wasted. I could have been writing. I could have been working.

Plus, my work wasn’t exactly challenging, nor was it exciting. I felt like a robot pressing the same buttons over and over again for eight hours a day.

So I looked for work outside of the office.

Fast forward, today I’m working at home while looking after my son. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, I’m a stay-at-home dad. But I feel much more fulfilled even if I were to just spend the day playing with and caring for him. He’s a great kid, and I’m glad I have him in my life.

So here I am now, working part time while trying to build a platform for me and my brother to launch ourselves from.

It’s been a struggle, and it still is, but we both have the faith that one day we’ll get to where we’re going, and maybe we’ll take you guys along with us.