Dear Diary: Embrace the Grind

Dear Diary: Embrace the Grind

For context, my story begins at the end of 2018 when I left my job. After 6 years at the company, I was getting incredibly unhappy and unmotivated. The lack of enthusiasm was starting to reflect in my work and take a toll on my mental health and relationships. When I finally called it quits I had a huge decision to make. Do I go on a job hunt straight away to find a new opportunity, or do I change course and do something new, or do I take some time out, travel, or maybe just relax, and chill?

Chapter of my life #1: The Normal we once knew (at least my version of it).

I decided I was going to start afresh — I wanted to uncover my true passion and the fastest way to do that, I thought was to “taste things” or basically try/learn about new things out. After all, I reasoned, if I find another job in the same industry with the same mentality I have now, chances are, I will find myself dealing with the same stuff but with different people. I need to change and this is difficult to do if you don’t take some time out to do some personal reflection or a soul searching of sorts.

I took a break for about 2 months and bummed around. Read a bunch of books in my to do list. Slept a lot. Bonded with friends digitally and physically via social networks, eat-outs and online games.

March 2019 - "Sampling retirement."

I decided to join and attend a bunch of learning events (seminars, conferences you name it). These included looking for free ones, as well as some paid training. I also took the time to join a done-in-a-day volunteering event organized by one of my friends.

One of the many offline talks I attended.

The sudden freedom of time has somewhat overwhelmed me. It’s like I was “sampling retirement”, and at this stage I can’t say I like it. I have a business column in a local newspaper and I was thinking a lot about these things as well. If you are a person with a hobby or passion outside work, retirement frees you up to be able to do more of those activities, which is great, but for some, if your whole life and identity is linked to your job, this can be a huge shock and difficult to adjust to.

April 2019 - "Enjoy."

Went to the beach resort in Mactan Island and participated in a food trip-ish activity. I also watched Avengers Endgame (and other ones too) in Cinemas. I have also spent a lot of time consuming vast quantities on information online. Aaaaaand more offline seminars!

May - July 2019 - "Go with the flow."

These months can be summed up with joining media events, creating content, learning sessions and a lot of eating. Went into a cultural journey in Cebu through Gabii sa Kabilin (A night of heritage). I got a couple of project-based works on the side as well which was both interesting and fun.

August 2019 - "Stuck."

This month was like the previous months but with the addition of 2 speaking engagements. I thought to myself “I should start consolidating my learnings through all these events that I joined.

Talk above was about personal finance -
Talk #2 (about content creators) can be viewed here -
As I list down the things I learned, I became overwhelmed. As I see more opportunities and potential career paths, due to analysis paralysis, I am somewhat stuck in a rut.

Chapter #2: A series of unfortunate events..

Another month, with roughly the same to do lists and appointments (events, learning sessions, content creation, side gigs). But then everything suddenly changed in the middle of the month.

September 17, dawn

I slept late the day before around roughly 1AM. I woke up from strong banging on my door. “Manoy, manoy!”, my sister was shouting. I was groggy, checked the time and it was almost 4AM. Opened the door and was shocked to learn & saw my mom had an accident. She went to pee and then she simply slipped, fell and broke a leg.

For some context, she was a breast cancer survivor and due to chemotherapy had weakened bones.

September 19 - "Happy Birthday?"

My uncle stayed with my mom at the emergency room for about almost 2 days at the government hospital. Only when she was transferred to a ward that I became somewhat at ease. She even encouraged me to go home and rest for on this day was my birthday.

It was a very weird day, I had already a scheduled whole day learning event with Bangko Sentral’s economic learning session in the morning and afternoon. And at night, joined an awarding ceremony of Globe’s media excellence awards, in which I surprisingly won! My podcast on a mental health series was selected.

September 29 - "Another one."

Since the incident, my uncle, my dad and my sister took turns to watch over my mum at the hospital (VSMMC). My uncle’s health was also taking a hit and had to take him to a local medical and laboratory in the town of Minglanilla. We later learned that his blood results showed that he is now diabetic.

October 2019 - "Decisions."

Me and my sister talked and had to review our financial situation. I still had some savings and also my part-time gigs. At the beginning of the month, my mom was finally scheduled for her operation and it was my schedule to watch over her. That was the longest wait of my life. I sent her off at 6AM and only saw her again at 4PM. By mid-month she was finally discharged. The hospital bill was around Php110K. We were saved by Philhealth and Malasakit programs. Also, I’d like to thank once again all the people who helped us out during this period: the doctors, nurses, extended family, our neighbors and friends (mine, my sister and mom).

Despite all these, I was still writing, creating content as therapy

I had to stop using my credit card and also stop my donations to UNICEF’s child sponsor program. Then, I finally decided to start looking for full-time work again and finally decided to re-visit my resume after all these years. The first batch of applications was sent and got my first feedback about 2 days of email exchange, I was rejected.

November - December 2019 - “Day-to-day-to-day-to-day-to-day-to-day-to-dayto-day-to-day.”

I spent a lot of time in various job platforms such as Mynimo,, Kalibr, LinkedIn and so forth.I crossed paths with a lot of headhunters & company HR in both online and offline settings. It was stressful to say the least. I had to spend to travel to sites that require physical presence for initial interviews. And a lot of waiting time happened too.

I had to revise and customize a bunch resumes and modify my approach during interviews after engaging in online learning via blog articles and Youtube. I still had some scheduled learning events in these months in which I managed to still join. I also managed to secure some project based and part-time writing online jobs in the mean time.

January 2020 - "A new beginning?"

January was literally a series of unfortunate events around the world. Week after week, I was reading one disaster after another. The Australian bush fires, a new SARS strain called COVID-19, earthquake in various part of the world (Turkey, Cuba, Jamaica, Caribbean & Puerto Rico), Yemen famine, locusts in Africa and PH volcanic eruption.

It’s supposed to be “New year, new life, new beginnings,” but I had to to go outside just for the sake of my sanity. I felt guilty spending some of my savings for relaxation and pleasure a.k.a food.

I reflected on my current approach. I was applying everywhere and ask some friends for referrals. I have found more success in the gig industry but my priority was stability. I was having a difficult time due to my job fitting - location & time preference, compensation, and job grade.

I was applying for roles within my comfort zone and also beyond that as I was keeping my doors open to a potentially new career path. For the most part, recruiters prefer those with specialist experience.

February 2020 - “Mundane.” “Banal.” “Humdrum.”

I don’t feel the CNY celebrations and love month enthusiasm at all. In fact, I feel numb at this point. I was getting more and more anxious with my situation as well as the world. I manage to sell some stuff online, my gift certificates that I don’t use especially. This is also the time when my internet connection was intermittent and my 1/4 of my laptop screen decided to slowly die.

Another interview process came, I didn’t want to be over excited but I felt warm about this interview, I enjoyed it and I was ready for the job I believed. I thought the recruiter & hiring manager was really impressed by my skills. I was even given a tour of the production area and introduced to the team. But I was rejected once again. This was a bitter pill to swallow.

Add to that, I kind of lost my motivation to create videos and podcasts. But writing still remained.

Chapter #3: “The Great Lock-down”

March 2020 - “Enhanced Community Quarantine they said.”

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. On March 16, the Philippines is under state of calamity and NCR was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine. And then by March 25, the Cebu province declares the same and is under ECQ.

I jokingly whispered to the universe, "I'm struggling here and now you increase the difficulty level by throwing a pandemic? And based on history, a second wave of economic crisis is sure to follow and perhaps a third wave of mental health crisis as well." I know, I tend to overthink things.

Getting ready for a supplies run... on foot. Traveled about 5km back & forth.

I took a pause in my applications and took a wait & see approach. For the mean time, I decided to take some free online learning for various topics to take my mind off of the global health crisis. But I was still receiving rejection emails. I’d rather have these than wait for nothing. In fact, I even memorized the standard rejection email.

“Thank you for the time you have taken on your application and in our company. Although your experience and qualifications are impressive, we regret to inform you that we will not proceed with your application for this position.”

Aside from that, my routine has also changed. I cycle between yoga and core exercises every other day. I watch learning videos and take online courses for subjects of interest. Write cover letters. Search for open roles matching my generalist experience (in operations, HR, marketing & project management). And keeping up-to-date with current affairs.

April 2020 - “Paranoia has become my friend, my mistress.”

It is now 6 months down the road and the difference? Panic. Despair. Dread. Watching the digits in your bank account during quarantine & unemployment is like saying farewell to friends who are leaving the country “I will miss you and hope you are well wherever you go!

I am worried about our community, our front liners which includes my cousin who works as a nurse and other family members in the provinces.

I am also torn between the goals I had set a year ago & the present. As I get discouraged, I compare myself to a year ago who was full of enthusiasm on pursuing something different, a new journey, an adventure! I am contemplating discouragement, settling for less, and idiocy. I know I’m being stubborn here even if the situation has drastically changed for the worse?

Nearly 60,000 Filipinos have lost their jobs after thousands of businesses here in the country ceased their operations due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has added to the millions who are already unemployed, I'm part of a statistic now. I realized I had to switch gears and I had to re-game plan. Remote work opportunities are still there but the competition has increased as well.

2 of our dogs decided to make 4 more and was born during this month

At this point, I am taking every positive thing I could find, trying to keep some form of optimism, finding a silver lining and just focus on it.

May 2020 - "The Fool."

The past few weeks have been absolutely demanding and devastating, both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Government response is not the best, more people are arrested than being tested. Science denialism, even within my family is disheartening, I’ve had a few arguments with my mom and dad regarding fake news.

Learning and reading stories of friends experiencing death in their families and some government fiasco has become the norm. On one hand you want to be updated about the current state of affairs but on the other hand you want to protect your mental health as well. And then, I got news that a friend who was living and working in Japan had died due to an accident. We held an online memorial for her. I'm still shocked about the whole situation.

I’m also starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me despite my efforts. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve become so blindly optimistic in this past year of self discovery and so out of touch with reality that maybe I need to lower my expectations. Although I worry and panic about the current situation, I also switch towards the opposite spectrum of emotions out of necessity. Because you need optimism when writing cover letters, taking tests, sending that job application, participating in interviews again and again.

At some point I was reminded by that scene in Lord of the Rings movie where Pippin asked Gandalf the White, “Is there hope for Frodo and Sam?”, and Gandalf responds, “There never was hope. Just a fool’s hope.”#FoolOfATook

A fool's smile with a bird also named 'Iggy' (my nickname)
 As much as I am panicky and a worrywart, I don’t want to give into the fear and I have plenty left of courage in me still. Perhaps I am a fool on a fool’s journey?

Unemployment has also led me into a bipolar situation as well. Some days I am sad, anxious and worried, and then there are days that I am enthusiastic, ready to take on the world.

"I'll be okay for a few days. But then it hits me. I stop functioning as if everything falls apart. And the cycle repeats again and again."

Do other people in a similar situation as me feeling the same? I think this needs a sort of support group or something.

Chapter #4: My discernment

So... yeah, today is the 87th night of quarantine. It was certainly not one of my best days today, but certainly not my worst. If you reached this part, thank you for reading. I know this blog is longer than usual. As of this writing, I’m still on the same journey, still trying, and grinding in my own way. Bidding for part-time work, while still hunting for a stable, full-time job. My story is not over.

What has life taught you?

I learned to respect my own process for what works for others might not work for me. This whole situation gave a lot of people a reality check on our lifestyles, and tells us exactly what we need to cut down. We have to prioritize, be practical and realistic in hard times. Even I managed to surprise myself and stretch my savings to this extent.

I was perhaps blessed or lucky to have enough savings (although dwindling as I write) as well as part time jobs to fill the gap, but many are not as lucky. So savings, emergency funds and personal finance in general are very important as well.

I have definitely learned a lot about HR recruitment “best practices” both good and bad. At this point, I am at version 35 of my resume, sent 107 applications, got 16 interviews & test series (online & offline). That is only about 14.95% response rate. Does having to deal with different type of HR recruiters & processes count as work experience? I wonder.

People will ‘Ghost’ you unfortunately, although unethical and rude, this is common practice now.
Found this via LinkedIn with various sources. Found this from a public post by Daniel Abrahams

This experience tested my mental health & inner strength which in turn has taught me many things about the business world, recruiting, and human nature in general. This is not an attempt to slander recruiters or HR professionals, this is just my experience.

It is said that Thomas Edison failed a thousand times before inventing the light bulb. I guess my “NOs” are simply leading me one step closer to success and that I still have a lot of “NOs” to go. Gotta keep trying, adjusting, and learning.

Also, I realize that sometimes we just have to learn how to selectively ignore things. Ignore our own apocalyptic-doom-and-gloom voices, that belittle us and lead us to believe that we’re not good enough. Ignore our own dreadful questions questions on ‘what-if’ scenarios, for life right now is already difficult as it is and we don’t need additional (mental) burden. The same applies to social media.

Social media platforms don’t show you random content that you don’t want to consume. They don’t push positivity or negativity on anyone. They just show you content that you (or people similar to you) respond to — either through its algorithm, or the topics / people you’ve decided to follow.

What makes you move forward?

I’ll be borrowing some words and values from Gary Vaynerchuk for this one as I watch his videos every now and again to keep myself motivated and re-tune my mind.

Positivity - That is the only course of action. Being frustrated will just exhaust you. Its okay to feel bad sometimes, allow yourself to do so, but after that jump right back into optimism. Hold onto that energy, it's time to show the world what you've got. No matter how many times.

Gratitude - I’m still alive, my family and extended families are okay. It’s another day. I’m grateful.

Perspective - No matter how bad you think you have it, there’s somebody that has it far worse. And of course, there’s people in this world that are going through some hard times now. I know the world is in a bad shape right now, especially my province. But perspective can help you go through a mental health rut (at least for me).

This journey, together with the pandemic has shown me and perhaps even everyone that life is pretty simple. In some way, we are reminded about the fundamentals. There’s things you can control and others you can’t. Everything boils down to your actions and your mindset. And remember, at the end of the day, all that we do is for the pursuit of our happiness — against all odds.

Whatever you are going through right now, here’s a little cheer for me and for you:

"You are amazing. You are kind. You are talented. You care for people. You like ice cream. You have dogs (or pets). You have a family. You have friends. You have failed before and you managed to get up so many times already. You are strong and you are loved, Always."

Life doesn't cooperate the way we want it. And at some point, everything is going to go south.

You can either deny or accept that, then you can get to work, that's all it is. Solve one problem and then solve the next one. You just begin, embrace the grind, and keep moving forward!

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us.” - J.R.R Tolkien

This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance.

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Dear Diary: Embrace the Grind Dear Diary: Embrace the Grind Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Saturday, June 20, 2020 Rating: 5

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