Discovery / Fulfillment

Beginnings From Seven Hundred Miles Away

Everyone loves a fresh start. It’s like a new scratch paper when answering a tough algebra question. True, you still don’t know the answer but at least you’re looking at a clean sheet of paper for your mistakes. Answers, I mean.

For a lot of us, our concerns have gone far beyond algebra. People call it adulthood. If you’re like me – a 24-year-old young professional asking crucial questions like “What is my purpose in life?” or “What will I eat for dinner?” –  then you’re probably a confused millennial struggling with adulthood.

A fresh start can be hard for a confused millennial. It could mean more mistakes than answers. Back in college, we used to get two of those in a year called “the start of a new semester.” Now, life is harder and we just get one new leaf technically every New Year.

Part of struggling with adulthood is building a career. A career makes parents proud and gives you something to talk about when you’re out with friends. I was an over-enthusiastic young gun at a startup social enterprise. I worked long hours for an organization with a cause. I drove from city to city engaging public officials to work together.

I was young, fast, and energetic. Apparently, I was also a walking recipe for burnout. It was not so much working that consumed me. It was working in the city. At every turn, we are reminded how we have planned our lives around inefficiency. We learned to leave the house by 5:30am to avoid the MRT crowd. We filed an entire day off work to process our license and registration. We laughed grimly at the sight of dark clouds, fearing a carmageddon after the rain. The city made it hard to feel fresh, let alone think of a fresh start.

Towards the end of last year, my boss talked to me about a possible re-assignment. The place was Siargao, a small island off northeast Mindanao known for surfing. Like Tita Alma’s stance on the RH Bill, I said yes with reservations. All my family and friends were in Manila. City life was all I’ve ever known. I was unsure if I knew enough about rural development to impact lives.

I’ve been told that meaningful beginnings are a little bit scary. Our most life-changing chapters happen outside our comfort zone.

I’m glad to tell you that I’m typing this at a seaside restaurant. I’ve relocated to a small coastal town on the west side of Siargao.  My first week working at this rural community has been a welcome change of pace. From where I’m sitting now, I can see mangroves that extend for miles.

Wherever you are, I hope you get the chance to book a one-way ticket for yourself while you still can. I wish you get the feeling of fear as you pack bags with a heavy heart and a heavier uncertainty.

But most of all, I wish you (and me) a homecoming with a clearer purpose. I wish you a new scratch paper with a willingness to answer tough questions about yourself, so you can answer tough questions in the world around you.

About the Contributor

Jake Rivera is currently deployed to a municipality in Siargao Island where he manages development education initiatives for agricultural workers. During his one-year assignment, he hopes to read more, learn more, and find the balance between his two passions — development work and writing.

This contributor is a customer of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®.

See all of Jake Rivera's posts →

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