Having a job affords one to be an existentialist. The realities of work, and the inherent responsibilities which come with employment, often serve to focus-sharpen the senses. You tend to be more tuned in to matters you once disregarded as a privileged, university student – from taxes, public transportation, economics, to governance, politics, and commerce. In essence, work is both empowering and humbling. It affords you purchasing power but it also ties you up to a tremendous amount of time spent outside the home. The hard work is certainly better than being unemployed and plagued with uncertainty.
I, for one, am quite glad to have a job. It’s not the best one. I’m not sure I’ll even stay in the position for as long as I hope to be (for selfish reasons of boosting my resume). But I’m grateful to have it. The salary is not as glamorous as I want it to be, but it pays the bills, finances some of my vanities, and secures me a future. How dare I complain, right? Of course, like any middle-class person with middle-class angst, there are the other components of the job including the daily dance with Manila’s horrible mass transportation system which agitates me. Overall, however, I am able to wake up and deal with the everyday challenges of my job with the fortitude of routine.
There’s much to improve in the organization I am in. It’s not a well-structured one, to be honest. There are kinks here and there which have to be ironed out. I got spoiled working in multinational organizations run by capitalist Caucasians and Indians, with their ISO certified business standards, their professional environment, and their wide array of fringe benefits. The processes in the companies I worked for ensured efficiency and a relative ease. Filing for leaves, making recommendations, and meeting deadlines were easier with the orderliness that was so highly-valued in the organization.
Perhaps, the chaos of my current job is what I love and hate the most. It’s nice to be that go-to-guy who has to be on top of everything, and who has to restore order in a sea of chaos. But cleaning up the mess can also be tiring, daunting. It’s quite discouraging when you try to do your job the best you can only to be discredited by higher-ups and their failures. This is the main difference I’ve observed between business run by foreigners and those headed by Filipinos. While the foreigners ensure a professional working relationship which values detail, efficiency, and work-life balance remaining accountable and transparent, Filipino management tends to disorganized, frivolous, and with an inclination towards ad hoc systems and micromanaging.
My biggest challenge is to keep up with the never ending last-minute change of minds by my supervisors. They seem to enjoy giving instructions on short-notice, and so I’ve had to adjust my work ethic and keep in mind nothing is final. This tentativeness keeps a person on his toes. But it’s also draining, wasteful, and inefficient. A tangible example of this wastefulness can be seen in the countless papers littering the office – supposedly final, printed documents reduced to scratch paper after one of my bosses decide, on the last minute, that a sentence has to be revised, or the information provided has to be taken out, despite a prior review online.
While re-printing, re-writing or revising might seem easy, the work I do entails communicating with internal and external stakeholders, most of whom I cannot always trust to accommodate the changes that would ripple across. One of my supervisors would often remind me not to worry about them because the higher-ups would take responsibility; however, I’m the one who literally takes the brunt of any untoward reactions, and obviously, it’s my reputation on the line. The higher-ups, too, rarely take responsibility and are quick to dismiss my explanations, citing they “forgot” certain instructions they gave me, and turning a deaf ear whenever I make suggestions to make business processes more efficient.
It’s a tough job. But like I said, I am glad to have it. I certainly don’t see my future staying in the position. But with no fallback, I don’t have a choice. All I can do is to try and do my work well. The discomforts and inconveniences of the job are like sandpaper – polishing my edges, refining my persona. You aren’t supposed to escape them. The good always comes with the bad. How you respond to these pinpricks is how you develop character. You either break apart or you succeed, there really is nothing in between.
When I finally call it the day and leave the office, the commute home provides enough time to think about how I’ve spent my day. Sometimes I get anxious about the work tomorrow. Sometimes I can’t help but wish I could just take a vacation, maybe take the whole year off, and be free from the almost “workaholic” attachments I’ve developed. A trip to some remote island off the coast of the country; a dream cruise in Europe or South America – a change of scenery, away from the city, away from the indecisiveness of Filipino management; away from having to think about thinking – a time to reflect while absorbing the new visions of the horizon. Work makes you wonder about your purpose. It also makes you yield to the romance of wishing you didn’t have to work.