By Grace de Luna. Illustration by Asia Alcid
I come from a not so well-off family. No, this isn’t one of those melodramatic tales of life. And trust me, this is not even a rags-to-riches story. I could be a rags-to-rags story, or worse, even rags-to-none at all.
Like I was saying, my family is not really well-off. My mother had to work two to three jobs just so I can go to a nice school, be surrounded by nice people, and learn nice things. Nice. She did all those with the idea that I’d be able to make a better living for myself in the future.
And trust me, this is not even a rags-to-riches story. I could be a rags-to-rags story, or worse, even rags-to-none at all.
During those years, I would always be that one friend who can’t go because her mom won’t give her some mo’. So what I would do is save up money from my daily allowance of P100 (which I didn’t get until I was in high school) just so I can come and see a movie and eat dinner with my friends over the weekend.
From this allowance, I would also save for load so I can text my friends and stay in the loop. I didn’t get my own computer with an internet connection until I was in third year high school, so I would save some money to be able to pay an hour at the internet café, where I would keep up with people’s lives on Friendster (and eventually, Facebook), do my homework, read up on things that I was into then (probably films or Harry Potter), put songs on my phone (I had “Mrs. Officer” on repeat), and maintain my super-cool Multiply site (all graphics made in MS Paint, then upgraded to Adobe Photoshop 7.0).
In the process of all this saving up for a lot of things, I would end up skipping either recess or lunch, and walking long stretches instead of riding the tricycle home. So the question here is, why go through all this trouble just for that, right? I didn’t really know then. But I do know that I have to be in good terms with people, and they have to remember my name and what I can do.
I had my first taste of the “real world” when I had my summer internship. It was for another magazine revolving around youth culture: photography, art, music, films, actors, lifestyle, fashion, etc. I was so into that magazine that I would buy it monthly from newsstands, and read it from cover to cover to the point where I had already memorized who their staff was, even the contributors. Yes, I know I’m weird. Don’t ask.
I was so astounded with the fact that this 140-page magazine manned by a small group of people get to say what’s in and what’s not. And they were—for the lack of a better word—legit. They were even cooler than the coolest people because they get to say what cool is! There’s all three degrees of cool right there, all right? I was so excited to meet them. But I was scared that I might not be cool enough.
Others were saving their money in bank accounts. I was saving my money in people.
So I told myself, “Hey, you have to look the part.” I knew the cool things they were into, and I like those too! But I felt like that wasn’t enough. Thus, my saving up began once more.
This time, it was for bigger things: new clothes, new shoes, a dope new bag, lunch meals at an ultra-hip Mexican cantina, cab rides, and rounds of beers and shots on an occasional Friday after-work night out. And in order to save up for all of these, I have to make little adjustments, like cutting my commute cost by going down on a stop not too far, then just walking off the rest. Sometimes, I would eventually be “on a diet” so I could pass from a lunch out and just eat when I get home instead.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m totally spending way beyond my means. It’s a different case. Others were saving their money in bank accounts. I was saving my money in people. I treated meeting people and networking myself as an investment. The more people I get to know, the more opportunities there are for me out there. And in order to meet new people, I had to go out and actually meet them (in respectable threads, of course). The opportunities will come, and so will the money.
I would always tell myself that a little sacrifice wouldn’t hurt; it would be for my own good anyway. And I would replay that in my head every time I feel my empty stomach or my sore feet from all the long walks.
But it really took longer than expected. I would always tell myself that a little sacrifice wouldn’t hurt; it would be for my own good anyway. And I would replay that in my head every time I feel my empty stomach or my sore feet from all the long walks.
I know it sounds hard and impractical. Yes, it was hard. But you can’t really go all the way up if you don’t start from the bottom, right? Eventually, all these sacrifices started to make sense. I was meeting people whose names I thought I would only be reading in a magazine—and they were learning about me too. I was building relationships. Eventually, I would start getting freelance gigs here and there. I would get recommendations for jobs from these people I got to know. It was working, slowly but surely.
Fast forward to today: I’m still not that hotshot creative I was (and still am) hoping to be. I’m still working my way up there. I’m earning my own money now. I’m still saving up for my so-called “investment,” and in a savings account, too. I can say that I’m kind of living from paycheck to paycheck, and there would be times when I’d be broke as fuck. But at least now I can manage to not miss a meal or not take long walks going home.
Every success story comes with a bucket of sweat and tears (and just a little blood), yes. But for the validation of an industry, do you really want it that bad?
Okay, now I’m talking to you. You, the young one who, like me, doesn’t have the same financial advantage as others. The young gun who’s thinking of putting up the same sacrifices just to try and make it.
At the end of the day, it’s always up to you. Every success story comes with a bucket of sweat and tears (and just a little blood), yes. But for the validation of an industry, do you really want it that bad? You can go on, or you can just stop. After all, what really matters is your own happiness. Your own validation. Your own fulfillment. With whatever you do, always ask yourself, “Am I going to hate myself for this?” As cliched as it may sound but do whatever makes you happy. That’s all what it takes, really. Everything will just come along with it.
Hey, we all have our Cinderella story. In mine, I’m just about to sew my ball dress with my little animal friends. Really, I’m just waiting for my fairy godmother to arrive. Any time, now. Any time.