“When do you plan to enjoy your life? Remember, we work to live and not the other way around.” This was the message that I gave during the interview for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Work-Life Balance (WLB) Project last April 2016. The ASEAN WLB Team searched for work-life balance practitioners in the Philippines, and I am proud that I was among those who were selected. I hope that through that opportunity, I was able to inspire other people to practice the message I sought to communicate, and to start to value what is really important in life.
Work-life balance has various definitions. I define it as managing one’s time at work well, so that a person can still enjoy the fruits of his labor and pursue his passions. By doing so, he can be truly happy. After all, isn’t happiness what we all seek in this life?
However, while I am practicing work-life balance now, I was different 10 years ago when I was just starting my career. I used to be a workaholic employee for all the wrong reasons. I was the first one to arrive at the office, and the last to leave. I even worked on weekends! While I thought that I was doing a good job, I often felt tired and burnt-out. Worse, when I failed to deliver at work, I took the disappointment seriously for days and I was really devastated. Work was the only thing I did then. It used to be my life. Thus, when I fell short of my expectations, I did not know where to draw my strength from. It affected my health, and stress made me anxious, which resulted in frequent palpitations.
It was in 2010 when I tried to break my monotonous life. I decided to join a six-month long poetry clinic under Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA), the oldest organization of young poets writing in Filipino, founded by the National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario in 1985. The workshops were held every weekend in UP Diliman. With that experience, I learned how to use my time efficiently and productively. During office hours, I would ensure that I followed a schedule so that all the outputs expected of me were delivered on time. By doing so, I would not be forced to render unnecessary overtime work. Therefore, I could focus on writing poems. It was in the writing of poems that I was able to release stress. I felt happy whenever I finished a piece. Finally, I could say that besides work, there was another aspect of my life that I was good at: poetry. I finished the workshop and got accepted into the organization. Since then, my poems have been published in poetry journals and anthologies.
Aside from poetry, I became interested in stage plays. Just recently, I have been attending playwriting workshops with The Writers’ Bloc, under the tutelage of Palanca Award-winning writer Rody Vera, conducted every first and third Sunday of the month. Every time I leave the workshop, I take with me fresh insights about life that shape me to become a better human being. Whenever I report to the office the next day, I am always excited to share the stories that we discussed from the previous workshop with my officemates, hoping they will be inspired as well, the same way that I was.
I extended my love for sharing stories to performing the stories myself. I have been attending various performance workshops to improve my storytelling skills. In addition, I have been an active member of El Presidente Toastmasters Club, a public speaking and leadership organization, which has helped me further develop my confidence as I face people from all walks of life. Just last November 2015, together with my friends, we held a story session for kids in Mt. Timbak, Benguet, as part of our yearly outreach program.
Aside from being a volunteer storyteller, I have been a part of ALAB, an organization of artist-volunteers that my friend founded in 2015. In ALAB, we raise funds for select beneficiaries by organizing events (such as Open Mics featuring Spoken Word artists, poets, and musicians), and workshops (such as Calligraphy and Baybayin Writing Workshops). In a span of one year, we have raised funds for various beneficiaries, like The Storytelling Project, iReach, and The Green Itch Project, among others.
My work-life balance activities have not only honed my skills, but have enabled me to reach out and inspire other people as well. I get the fulfillment that no amount of money can buy. Most people wonder why despite all the things I do, I don’t lose energy. Instead, I feel enthusiastic. I tell them that it’s because these are my passions. Doing this makes me happy. I believe that a happy employee is a productive employee. Pursuing my creative passions has inspired me to work more efficiently and effectively, thus, contributing to my career growth. As proof, from being a Brand Manager, I got promoted to Marketing Manager, and then to Project Director, just recently.
Truly, there is more to life than work. What is the essence of working if you cannot enjoy the rewards of your hard work? Start your journey to happiness. Go out of your cubicles. Explore the world. Experience what life has to offer. There is no better time to do these than now.
Please click this link if you want to see my interview for the ASEAN Work-Life Balance Project.