Let me just get this out of the way: I’m doing this piece because the title was suggested to me by an online quiz that I took out of sheer boredom. Took it three times to see if it would give me a different suggestion. It didn’t — three times. I can take the hint, so here goes.
I resigned from the organization that I had been with for 10 years. After seeing colleagues leave one after another, I felt I had to take my turn.
As if by fate (or doom), I came across an SEO company while browsing online. It was just across the street from my old office, so I applied and was hired. After a little over a month, the hard-luck company shut down. Apparently, the American partners didn’t see eye to eye. Well, tough luck, I told myself. Now, what?
Financial meltdown, that’s what. Suddenly, I found myself putting my plans on hold. My birthday was in a few days, so I had to “creatively” turn down friends wheedling for a celebration. And Christmas would be coming soon, so there’s that.
Meanwhile, I had outstanding credit card bills to pay. I had to say goodbye to the downpayment I made for a new house. My life and car insurances were overdue. I had no dispensable money in the bank. I have my retirement fund, but there’s no way I was going to touch that.
It’s not like I could just as easily get another job. When you’re in your 40s and looking for work, companies seem to get choosier than a hot bachelor.
In short, I was as broke as a Hollywood has-been.
The next few months got me anxious, desperate, and depressed — in that order. I began to gain weight, making me sluggish and lazy. I never felt and looked so unhealthy in years. I did get a steady freelance project that got me through Christmas that year, but even that made me even more distressed. I knew I had to get something better real soon, or I’ll end up just another mouth to feed in the house. Eww. No one wants to get trapped as a dead weight around the house. Not this 40-something!
I was 44 then, turning 45. For most people, that would be the age when you’re already preparing for retirement (if not yet). You’re probably the president or CEO of a company. Or a successful entrepreneur.
But I’m not “most people”. I’m single; no family of my own, living off a daily wage. Carpe diem. Living for the moment is my thing. That is, for as long as I’m not raising a family of my own.
To be honest, I was hoping I’d die young so I don’t have to stress myself out planning and trying to sustain a financially stable life. Don’t get me wrong — I love my life! It’s just that money was never a source of motivation for me. Awesome to have, but not to die for. Unfortunately, money is important to get necessities in life. Hedonistic, I know, but I’m just keeping it real.
So, yes, this “storm” that I found myself drenched in had me rethinking about how I was spending my life so far. I had enough to sustain myself until my next job, but should I have had more? It’s not like I didn’t have myself covered. I mean, if I died right there and then, my family wouldn’t be left in debt — not even stressed out about my funeral and interment arrangements. I wasn’t rich, but I had enough.
I did, however, discover a new appreciation for the kind of love that my family and true friends (emphasis on the “true”) are capable of giving when I’m down — especially when my confidence and self-respect are batshit low.
Take Nanay, for example. During those months when I was taking freelance writing jobs — doing it from the comfort of my bedroom — she would still ask me from time to time if I have enough money. During the few times when I had to go out of the house to get my paycheck or meet with friends, she would hand over P500. If you know my Nanay, she needs it more than I do. But that’s what mothers do. Of course I wouldn’t take her money, not out of pride, but because I didn’t really need it. I didn’t know how to convince her that I was still (a little) okay.
Then there’s my ever reliable you-jump-I-jump best friend. We’ve experienced scraping the bottom of the barrel together when we were still roommates. We had the best and the worst of times. Needless to say, I got a lot of free dinners and movies from her during those dark months. I never even had to ask.
And mind you, I did get to celebrate my birthday that year through my persistent ex-officemates-become-closest-friends. They are the type of people I never felt embarrassed to admit I had no money for a birthday blowout. Not that I had to. Instead, they went out of their way to give me a treat.
There are other things, like my sister letting me use her foldable computer table. My nephews and niece turning down the volume of the TV so I could concentrate on my project. Even our two mini pinschers were strangely cooperative by controlling their temper against passersby in the neighborhood.
Simple things that mean the world to a distraught soul.
There is something empowering about knowing that there are people who got your back just when you need them. This storm? It’s not about losing what is not mine in the first place. Like Dido said, this life is for rent. Rather, it’s about recognizing the treasure that you have in people who care about you the most.
I was probably being unusually withdrawn and uncommunicative during those days, but that didn’t seem to discourage the people close to me. They stayed with me throughout, cheering me on with their grand intentions disguised as simple gestures.
I probably did something right to have them in my life.
Four months into my jobless state, I decided to pop champagne and throw confetti at this particular storm in my life. I cartwheeled myself out of my doubts and lit up candles of inspiration from everywhere. I kept my faith in God intact and used it as my party light. My mantra was, “the Lord always provides.” Today, I share that with anyone who find themselves in similar financial state of panic.
All because I have rediscovered my real wealth — my family and closest friends. I will celebrate the strongest of storms with them as my shelter.
By the way, I rejoined the company where I spent 10 years a little over a year after that storm. I came back stronger, wiser, better. The whole circumstance is another story, and has no space here. Suffice it to say, it’s been sweeter the second time around.
“The Lord takes care of those who obey him, and the land will be theirs forever. They will not suffer when times are bad; they will have enough in time of famine.” — Psalm 37:18-19