A Letter To My Future Self

Trust your Struggle

My dear future self,

This evening, I am writing  in typical fashion a blog of life lessons. I have purposely stopped myself from writing for the last few weeks because I felt that I might end up regretting what I write because at a certain point, you, my future self will look back and say, “Wow, that was really a difficult moment, huh.” But anyway, another voice in my head has won and now I am here, typing away some blah blah blahs to provide self-therapy. The thing is, I have somehow officially graduated from my masters degree. “Hooray, hooray…” True to form, I have done my masters degree some justice and I am graduating with grades that I never thought was possible. If I were doing it in UP, my final graded average will be considered “summa cum laude”. I have also become president of the World Heritage Studies Student Council, leading around 130 people for their social, academic and cultural integration to Cottbus and the World Heritage Studies Programme. I have also been involved in many heritage conferences and activities that my brain is saturated with knowledge, like a sponge almost leaking with mental juices because it can no longer contain any more liquid. My mind is at its saturation point and I believe that I am able to see heritage connections to everything, like Neo in the Matrix.

At some point in the beginning of 2014, I embarked on a journey of looking for the possibilities of the future. It is something that I usually do, as you may know and I currently call it, “The Six-Month Rule.” This rule possesses me to turn psychic and see where I will be six months after, and in a sci-fi kind of sense, I project myself there forcefully, and in the next six months, voila, I am there. There has always been a certain sense of security in my life, a sense of confidence and a sense of understanding where I am and where I should be going. For the last few months, I have tried to find jobs that I believed would be the next logical steps. However, as I now found out, the world is telling me that this ‘Six Month Rule’ needs to be shattered. I have come to a point that I no longer see the future, and that tomorrow is a day that may bring about new changes in my life in which I will be catapulted to places I do not know.

I have undergone so many different permutations of almost solid directions / opportunities but it seems that at the last moment, these options become meaningless words. I have almost gotten three jobs, and have been considered in several more but there always seem to be something that goes off tangent, like those photon torpedoes missing the targets. Piccard will be very disappointed.

Here are some basic concepts I have learned recently:

1. There are global policies that define who should be prioritised in employment. Here in Europe, its the Europeans first, and in specific countries like the UK and Switzerland, its the British / Swiss first, then the Europeans and then others. I have a proper name here, “third-country national”, sounding more like a third class citizen and probably that is how I am perceived. The world that we live in is unjust and it is not just about talents or desires but we are defined by our ethnicities, our nationalities and perhaps our identities and this is written in our faces at every moment of our lives. We think that we live an a just society when in fact, the society discriminates from those who fit the mould and those who are at the outskirts. Hegemonic culture dictates that there are those who will be meant to be minority, because they are not part of the greater definition of society.

2. More choices do not necessarily lead to better life satisfaction. We have often been told that anything is possible and that the world is our oyster. It was engrained to us when we were kids that if we work hard enough, then the things that we wish for will happen. To be honest, when I first had my classes for my masters, I thought that I will carry with me the knowledge that historic places are important, we should appreciate the past that we have and we have to protect it for the future generation. What our younger, 2012 version realised is that this also implied that there are deeper meanings that needs to be discussed about historic places, like the rights of local people and minorities, politics of heritage and identity formation, management realities and so on and this dramatically expounded the knowledge that I wanted to get. Indeed, knowledge itself is good to acquire but this new knowledge has also made me see the world with multiple facets, where there are so much more connections than I ever though possible. For example, the english language that I normally use for the last 8 years away from my country, this has been a tool of oppression for my real language and it has in some way, diminished my own national identity. It has on the one hand allowed me to communicate with my colleagues here, and them thinking  it is my native language,  but on the other hand, I realise that Filipinos are not internationally considered as native speakers. We are treated as second class english speakers. Why is that?

This new knowledge of my self, my identity, and the possibilities of my own career has allowed me to see that there are so much more that I can do. However, it also has disabled me, wherein I no longer  feel satisfied to just do my landscape architecture career. I now believe I am so much more than a landscape architect. There is so much a part of me that is not defined by my profession, my race and my background. I want to believe that I can be the best human being that I can possibly be, just like what Oprah has mentioned but by removing myself from my own niche profession and perhaps plunging myself to the realities of the world, I feel that I could do so much more. I now do not know what kind job will fulfil my own personal longing.

In looking at heritage, I have come to the chasm that I can see into my own culture, my personal experiences, and the places I have lived and I am left wondering what kind of future I can help shape. It seems like this dilemma is also seen in my own convictions and CV that possible employers no longer know where to place me in their traditional structures. I am a Filipino landscape architect, who practiced primarily in Singapore, was involved in one of the biggest urban development projects in Asia, studied culture and heritage in Germany, lived in different parts of Europe and would like to find a job in a possible field that I can be useful and personally satisfying. There you go. In the pursuit of knowledge, I have broken free of the chains of my own background but  I no longer know where I fit. I have strengthened my voice but I don’t know who will listen.

That is the reason why I write here today. I have gone beyond my own expectations and yet, I have a feeling that the world will be the same place where I left it. I am going to be defined by the same rules as before and I can only laugh or get depressed by it. What is out there dear future self? Because for the moment, I really do no know. Perhaps one day, you can tell me. Let’s exchange notes at some point.

 

Regards,

Gabriel of the present time, as of November 2014

Advertisements

The world needs people who have come alive

After sending emails to relevant individuals before I plunge into an intense 10-day UNESCO conference, I again felt the need to to sit down and be in my paradise zone. Today is another last day in Singapore. Like many other last days before taking a plunge for adventure, I am in deep thought, being fully aware of my emotions, hoping to decipher the meaning of these few seconds. I again will embark on a journey, or rather continue one as I see the fulfilment of a dream.

In 2012, I decided to take a journey to quit my job and fulfil a long time yearning for a masters degree and with that decision came the embrace of new ideas, experiences and seeing life in a different perspective. I initially felt scared leaving my comfort zone to decipher who I want to become. However after sometime, these emotions settled down and I became comfortable again with my own skin and I moved forward the connecting with people who are just like myself, passionate about the cultures of the world. Along the way, I have gathered new skills, for example, reading dense books on culture and sociology, discussing how local people adjust with challenges of the modern world, academically debating with international students from parts of the world I can’t even pinpoint in a map, learning to research more scientifically and lastly, becoming comfortable living in places where English was not the native language.

I spent almost two months here in Singapore at our lovely home with my partner and our two dogs, with my days filled with readings on cultural, historical and landscape matters for my final academic work. Hours pass with me huddled in a corner and all that I exercise is my brain and my fingers, churning up data on possible strategies to make historic places more relevant to people. You might think, that is such a boring life! but you know what, I feel that learning about heritage and culture actually makes me sharper, makes me look under the surface and it makes me connect far better with the people around me. I now see that everything has a certain meaning, our buildings, our traditions, our clothing, our language, our politics and all that we see are linked to something intangible. I feel more mesmerised with the world than ever before.

By tomorrow I will be in the middle east, in a dessert city I have only visited in transit to Europe. I will be going to a political and cultural conference on heritage, the biggest and most important one there is, and I will be part of a delegation advocating the conservation of nature. I would never have dreamed being in such a situation before my World Heritage Studies. It seems to me that the world has revealed something that I have never admitted, the world chooses where one should go. I try my best in what I do but it is fate that moves me forward and my life, dreams and future are dependent on so much more forces than myself. I am happy to now believe in such philosophy. The last few months have been such as a blessing to me and I am honest enough to say that I don’t know where life will take me. My task for the moment is to do “my job” everyday, maximising the capacity of  fate to pick the best choice.

As Oprah Winfrey rightfully said to the graduating students of Harvard University in 2013, “You will find true success and happiness if you only have one goal, and that is this, to fulfil the highest, most truthful expression of yourself as a human being.” She yearns students  to maximise their humanity by using their energy to lift themselves up and the people around. She also quoted the theologian Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I believe that this masters has made me feel more alive.

This is me: in an alternate reality, captured by an artist

I have recently come across a video that fully captures the essence of my paradise, the blog I have written in different forms since 2005.  Its surprising to think about it, almost a decade of thoughts scattered in cyberspace, not really physical in form but still alive, all  the same. You my dear readers, are seeing my thoughts and not merely shadows of memories. They are alive as if they happened just minutes ago and some of these ideas are questions I still ask myself up to this day. These are ideas that I have transmitted through my fingers to a device that forms another language, unknown to most of us but they are converted to binary symbols that you see as letters. Those letters are the specs of black dots in your screen and you understand my thoughts (even unspoken by myself), although most of you do not know me.

I am in world of my own creation, quite separate from the physicality of my own life, but probably mirrors its existence with a certain narrow lens. I am in a universe of emotions and thoughts which may be real or imaginary, yet in this world that I create, they are as real to me, like the breath that I take every second of my existence. I ask myself sometimes, why not discuss things that would gather people to look in my blog? Why not aim to get a bombardment of hits? Why should I? In a world evolving so that blogs are forms of money, I refuse to believe that my thoughts are made of gold, my thoughts are fuelled by likes or ratings. My thoughts, I believe, are simply an expression of my quiet paradise. So dear readers, I hope it brings you comfort that I am just like the man in the video, walking through the magnificent sceneries of my mind and looking at the face of the earth with longing and a certain sense of exploration to uncover the mysteries of life.

Believing in Great Things for 2014

December 31st, 2013. Today is the last day of this magnificent year. I never really expected it, but I believe this year has been one of those wonderful years which I am extremely positive and at the same time, extremely … Continue reading

Rate this: