Failing is probably the best thing I’m good at. In life, there is never “right” or “wrong”. Those are just value judgments (opinions) that people give. But there are ways to do things more efficiently and I am probably the most inefficient, lazy person out there.
Why yes, I LOVE bragging about how much of a loser I am!
My #1 failure still remains that I live in the Philippine slums. It’s not the worst slum. Not the kind that’s near dirty water sources that make it vulnerable to flooding. Not the kind that’s built on wood scraps and stilts and other odds and ends but something sturdier and more concrete. Like concrete. And not even the kind with drugs and violence because it’s safe and besides a group of shop lifters and hackers, virtually low crime.
It’s the kind of slum where neighbors have yelling matches at 3am in the morning. Or the kind where your cat catches three cockroaches around the house and plays with it until it dies. The kind where I have the most classiest open-air balcony bathroom. The kind where people use fire and charcoal in a kind of urban campout. Where Gangnam Style plays 24/7 on New Years Eve and dodging shit and flies and stink is an every day fare.
I’ve lived here for almost two years.
It’s taken almost two years for me to realize where I’m at, get over the shock, disbelief and denial and do something about it.
In the denial phase, there have been many nights curled up in a ball and sobbing on the floor (because I didn’t have a bed) crying myself a river. During those times, there was always a glimmer of hope to give me a sign that would test my most Buddhist sentiments of impermanence. This too shall pass.
Many rounds of questioning my faith and testing my faith and ultimately, having faith.
One night, I was literally crying about my pathetic situation in the most pathetic stupor and wishing I had money in my $0 bank account. I made some emotional tweets (in my earlier days, my moniker was TheEmoEmu, after all) that had nothing to do with my financial situation and all of a sudden a random twitter reader I had never interacted with before just decided to gift me $50. A small but amazing gesture with impeccable timing that made me believe God/the Universe really does talk to me through technology.
Despite my circumstances I am happy and blessed. Hardly poor at all.
Within these last two years I have grown proud of where I’m from. Yes, proud that a Western Filipino-American could endure a cultural immersion that not even the most elite Filipino would dare experience.
Which goes to say that I know the Philippines underbelly in an intimate way and I jump from social class and distinction; from upper-class to lower-class whenever I go meet a potential client or go to a free surf retreat I won or go to some Facebook event.
Poverty is my friend. The kind of friend that invites you to a gathering and then pretends you don’t exist when you show up late. The kind of friend who ditches you and tells you you’re a stupid airhead and then gets everyone to gang up on you and agree, even though they don’t know you at all.
Which is to say, poverty is a fall out.
I’ve manifested this. These fall outs keep repeating. I’m resting in my fall out shelter. I’ve known pain in an intimate way in many forms. But in that pain, always a glimmer of hope. Always faith that you will overcome and do something better.
There’s a certain kind of pride for enduring pain, like a badge of honor. Courage.
I am the underdog and I will do all it takes to prove myself, for the sake of proving myself. There’s meaning in pain. At least, the meaning that you assign.
Everything is meaningless, the existentialists would say. We choose the meaning we choose to interpret. (I got the crash course to Existentialism 101 not in college, but through dating.)
This is my meaning.
Poverty consumes me more than most, to the point of physical example. I’ve spent years thinking about how I can help. I’ve considered joining Peace Corps and then got shot down by a then-boyfriend who wouldn’t let me go, not knowing I could make my own mind, and no one was stopping me but me. To culminate my last goodbye when I left Portland, Oregon in 2010, I watched a movie called The End of Poverty. I was sickened and angered and deeply touched. Then silently vowed to myself that I would figure out a way to do something. I would make it my mission.
Two years later, I’m still here, in my fall out, waiting to assign meaning in this conscious choice to “do something”.
Being here is a humble lesson. I can look at it as a dumb decision, one of complete broke despair. I wanted to make a life in Manila growing a freelance business without friends or family and was willing to do “anything”. The universe gave me a slum and a native boyfriend. When you’re not specific with your intentions, you may be in for a few surprises.
This is a test. The very issue I wanted to help solve is staring me in the face every day. Its in my own backyard. The meaning I’ve subscribed to this is that it’s my chance to help. Keep on digging and eventually I’ll dig myself out and help people along the way.
This is my Peace Corps. This is the Western Woman changing the world, as Dalai Lama recently mentioned.
This is my mission.
Doing my own social outreach by teaching creativity workshops, personal development and mentorship programs for kids in poverty has been calling me for two years. Now it’s time to do something about it. I won the $100 Change scholarship and was awarded $500 to help implement an idea in the next 90 days that will be life changing. I will launch an e-shop with my own stationery designs, inspirational prints, greeting cards, etc. and use a percentage of the sales to go towards my social outreach initiatives.
With my graphic design and web design tech skills, I can literally create change.
Life is meaningless until you subscribe meaning. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But you’ve got to make a decision. This is part of it.
Dealing With Doubt
I’ve dealt with doubt all my life. Who am I to make a change? I’m not perfect. I don’t even like kids. I’m not even sure if I’m into it. Why does my heart want things my mind doesn’t want to do?
What else would I do? How else am I going to make a change?
So the next time you feel worthless, give yourself worth. You are the only person that has the incredible power to do something and be something.
Turn your worst failure into the best success. It’s possible!
Do you have a start-up or a screw-up? Care to share your sob story? I dare you to top mine. Bonus points if you literally end up sobbing like I did as I was writing this. What are you waiting for? If someone like me can find meaning in failures, screw-ups and pain and learn to overcome it then you can too.
Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. Twitter • Facebook • Google Plus
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