Dusting chaotic ideas off my mind

Basically, I just want to write down my thoughts

Life after college

It’s been a while since the last time I posted something here. It’s been really busy. And chaotic. And overwhelming. I regret not being able to write about my wonderful experiences during my first work. I was a Science Research Analyst/Research Assistant in UPLB. I got the job weeks after graduation in 2013. I met some really awesome people in the office which I now consider as friends. Nearing the end of my contract in 2014, I decided to enroll in Graduate School. At first I thought about taking Masters in Environmental Science. But I changed my mind and stuck with Economics.

I crawled my way out of my first year in Grad School. Man! That was hard! I went berserk. Frantic almost everyday. I remember being tired. I remember trying to sleep only to be awakened by all my worries. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was losing control. I could not manage the stress I felt.

But I went through the process and survived.

Then came the comprehensive exams. About this time last year, I was busy reading a year worth of lessons. I pushed myself hard because I did not want to put all my efforts to waste. I did not want to fail. I did not come this far only to fail in the compre exams, I told myself.

I went on and survived.

Now it’s 2016. I am just a few steps away from graduating with an MS Economics degree. The only thing standing my way is my thesis manuscript. I have everything I need, the data, the software to use for me to run tests on the data: it’s all on me now. I have the resources. All that is left to do is work on it.

Tirelessly.

Incessantly.

Continually.

It’s been really hard. Especially because I have full-time work from 8 in the morning towards 5 in the afternoon. I come home from work, rest my eyes and mind for a while, sometimes succumb a little to recreational activities (for introverts) such as watching TV and scrolling through Facebook, help my mom and brother in doing some house chores, eat dinner, maybe wash dishes, and power nap.

Then, I scrape all the energy I have left to work on my thesis. I know it demands more time and mental energy than what I am giving it for now – and that thought is discomforting for me – but juggling among work, study, and play has its own benefits. So far, I am starting to develop self composure amidst all the tasks I have to finish. I believe there is merit in keeping one’s head together when all it wants is to explode.

It’s been really hard. Especially because I am not sure if my study is heading towards the “right” direction – you know, the direction towards my MS degree. I am not too adept in STATA and econometrics. Not to mention I have not mastered the underlying economic theory that encompasses my study. Organizing the data I need is also taking time. Apparently, I have setbacks in all aspects of my thesis. Yet I cannot push myself too hard, pull out an all-nighter every night, because I have to wake up and perform effectively at work. So I have to sleep at decent hours. But with all the madness, I hardly reach REM. So I end up getting low-quality sleep. I get to thrive the next day, thanks to coffee.

There is so much left to do. I don’t even know how I am supposed to finish everything by November, for my thesis defense. But I have to try. Because there is nothing worse than giving up without giving your all. I am not going down without a fight. Not after everything. At least that is one thing I am sure of.

Preparations

This post, together with the three previous ones, just made me realize how plans are just plans. And what happens in actuality tend to curve away from the supposed destination.

<Preparation> My hands smell of garlic right now after mashing cloves of them for our little gathering tomorrow. With it and other key ingredients, I made a special Vietnamese sauce which our family has been wont to make for various Vietnamese dishes. As what my father always says, the key is the sauce. So, there’s no way it could be messed up, especially the one that I just made. Because tomorrow will be the first – and perhaps the last – time that some of my friends would get to taste a Vietnamese dish. I just couldn’t mess it up. Well, I’m done; and I think I prepared a really good sauce for tomorrow.

Preparations: they are very important. A soldier heading for war needs to be prepared if he were to stand a chance, just as a promising worker has to invest for his future retirement savings if he were to enjoy his last years on earth. Preparations help us get ready for whatever the future holds. Preparation means being equipped with torchlight before entering a deep, dangerous, dark cave. Preparation provides us with a sense of comfort, that even if we don’t know what the future holds, we are somewhat set. We know what to expect, more or less.

For days, I’ve been in an internal conflict regarding what career path to take. I’m an Econ graduate and supposed to be very inclined in banking, or marketing, or perhaps accounting. But my heart, as I just realized a week ago, might never accept a job related to those above. It’s just not my thing, ironically. But I’m not saying this just because there aren’t many offers even after I gave away copies of my resume during the Job Fair. They don’t want my credentials, and that’s fine because I barely have any! And again, I’m not saying that I’m not into corporate jobs as a sour graper. I’m speaking rather as a frustrated researcher or writer. The thing is jobs wanting writers want applicants with a lot more experience than what I have. My course gave me some serious writing training, but it’s not enough for me to compete with Journalism majors, for example.

And so, since I feel that I am of a light calibre, I decided last night to finally settle for a decision. Well, I always want to learn and discover new stuff so why not pursue another degree? This time, though, it will be an MS degree! Yes, still in Economics. Being an economist has never been a dream of mine. It’s some light years away from what I want to be. But then pursuing MS Economics might just be the most appropriate step towards my dream of becoming a writer. What I lack right now is enough credentials for people to actually read what I write. So I’ve actually started to be more serious in this field. I will keep on watching Fox News, CNN, BBC, and the like to increase my awareness in what’s going on around the world. These channels are also very nice to watch especially since I have a background on what they are talking about almost all the time. And that is Economics, the economics of everyday experiences and situations. Right after Graduation, I’ll be starting to review my past Econ courses as well so that come June, I’ll be ready to take yet another journey. When that day comes, I should be prepared. </Preparation>

Right now, I am a Research Analyst. And next year, my plan is to take on an MS degree, not in Economics, but in Environmental Science. Let’s just see where that plan goes.

Ningas Cogon

I can’t believe I failed in this endeavor. Well, I’ve got to try again soon! I copy-pasted this from my previous journal.

 

<ningas cogon>

When I was in elementary, the curriculum made sure that we tackle Filipino values. I’ve learned to accept both the negative and the positive values that we discussed, although I’m having a problem now on how they were agreed upon. For example, whoever decided that Filipinos have the so-called Crab Mentality? I don’t recall my teachers saying anything about the statistics of it. Is there a 90 percent chance that a randomly-selected Filipino citizen actually possesses such a mentality? Another thing is hospitality. Even in media, I recall hearing that hospitality is one of the greatest values of Filipinos, like somehow it is uniquely a Filipino characteristic. But I find that rather unbelievable. When I watch, say, a Hollywood movie I see that Americans are also a tad hospitable. In fact, Anime also show that the Japanese also possess hospitality. The thing is, the Filipino youth is told of Filipino values as if these are a matters-of-fact. I don’t know. It’s just that, looking back, I don’t really see why they had to instill to us how xenocentric Filipinos are. Or, how Filipinos are so fond of the manyana habit – that is, of procrastination.

Anyway, my point actually is that I’m very dedicated in removing one very nasty, disgusting “Filipino value” called ningas cogon from my system. It’s all about how a cogon burns. Initially, the flame is so alive and furious. Then suddenly, after a short while, it dies down. Filipinos are said to possess this kind of attitude. They start so willingly and lively, but end up not finishing the task. My mother told me once how I never finish anything I start, that I always stop at the homestretch. It hurt a little for two reasons. One is that mothers often sugarcoat their children’s ugly characteristics with whatever is good about them. They see the best in us. But this time, my mother didn’t. The second reason why it stung is that I think she’s right. I often do my best on everything I do up to the drop before the very last drop. And that’s the problem. I don’t give everything all the time! Sometimes, I don’t even finish what I start.

Today I’ve made a progressive start on this endeavour. I finished two laps straight in less than 24 minutes! I know, what’s the big deal right? Well I think before I could change the big things, might as well make changes on the micro scale first. Little steps bring us…well, somewhere. What can I say? I was short of breath already before halving the second lap! But I did not stop. I went on and on, step after step, left right left. And then I did it! It felt really nice. It feels nice to finish the target. Next time, I’d have to do the same. Hopefully I get to finish those laps with relative ease. Then after five repetitions, I would have to increase the difficulty of my goal. That’s it. I’m on my way towards a more driven and a more focused way of life. I hope I can maintain the flame.

</ningas cogon>

FIRSTS

I found a set of documents in my laptop and it turned out to be one of my attempts to manage a journal. It’s all about that chapter in my life (which was just last April) when I realized that I’ve finished studying. And I was to embark on the journey of an employee.

<FIRSTS>

Today I realized how I always tell everyone that I love writing, yet I haven’t really accomplished to make a journal for myself. So right now, I am going to – yet again – start my journal. This time though, I think I’m more determined than ever. Besides, I don’t have acads to worry about anymore. I have a lot of time to spare, finally.

I have just decided to write a journal entry everyday during nights. The reason for this is to capture the “theme of the day” which then becomes the title of the entry. The content does not necessarily have anything to do with what has occurred during the rest of the day. Instead, it could be just about realizations that transpired during the day.

And so, I’m calling my first entry “Firsts”. Our firsts mostly happen during our younger years. Our first firsts would be the ones we have forgotten, like the first time we spoke, or walked, or ate normal food. The most memorable firsts must be during high school years, when people start to develop deeper relationships, whether platonic or romantic. We have a first crush, first love, first date, first dance, and for some, perhaps a first kiss.  I would be glad to enumerate them all, but, you know what those are. Besides, high school firsts are treasures forever imprinted in our hearts and minds.

At this moment, I am, as the song One Last Time says “at the threshold of a new life”. And yes, “life is about to be different” again. I remember the night before my first day in high school. I couldn’t sleep whatever I do. I had the rush. I was so excited to finally be a high school-er. On the contrary, the night before my first year in college was just like any other night, which was great because then I was able to sleep and prepare myself for the forthcoming day. College never really bothered me back then. I knew I was prepared since I came from a college preparatory high school.

Fear and worry are products of uncertainty. And for that reason, I do worry and fear a little about what awaits me. It’s no longer about classrooms and sections and subjects and grades and classmates and teachers. As a new member of the Unemployed Club, now it’s about being good or great enough to be accepted by a company. And it scares me a little. This is the “real life” as they say it. For nearly fifteen years of my twenty-year life, I did nothing more than to sit down– sometimes with proper bearing, but most of the time slouched – and listen to the instructor in front of me. But that is about to change.

Well, I hope that some years from now I get to laugh at this entry. You know, I hope I realize how I don’t actually have to worry, and that there’s nothing to be worried about. Well, I also hope that I can get myself out of this U-Club right away!

</FIRSTS>

Who would’ve thought that I’d be getting off from the U-Club early? Thanks to a professor of mine who offered me a job as a Science Research Analyst. And really, even looking back this early makes me smile at this journal. I feel like the 3 month-immersion on this job had already changed me. It’s a nice thought. 🙂

Found this from an ancient treasure chest.

I copy-pasted this from a previous blog that I had.

STUDENT LIFE

Recently, I received a certification from the University where I study, recognizing my accomplishment of having to reach a certain grade last semester. And of course, I am very grateful of what I was able to do. But at the same time, I’m not too crazy about it. Some students strive to be “excellent” by aiming for the highest grade possible, and there’s nothing wrong about that. What bothers me is that it feels as if getting that grade is the most important thing in the world. It’s as if they study to achieve that mark. As if getting 1.0 (highest grade) is everything. As if they wake up each school day thinking of all those quizzes, examinations, and reports. As if they wake up each day just to get through those requirements. How stressful must it be for them, always striving to be the best, always trying not to succumb to pressure. And for what? For higher future income? For self-fulfilment? For recognition?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t abhor the idea of striving for excellence. But I do believe that we must reflect upon ourselves what the purpose of this excellence really is. Or more concretely, why are we trying to study so well when we could just lie low, have fun, and just, well, have fun?

As for me, I actually derive satisfaction from studying. The level of satisfaction that I get would, however, depend on the subject matter. The more interesting subjects would obviously give me higher utility. But unlike the others, I don’t study to get that grade. When I study, I just try to process everything. Try to understand everything, as much as possible. As for where I get the motivation to keep on studying during my lazy hours, well, I try to imagine how lucky I must be to be chosen to study in the University of the Philippines.

UP is a state university and as such, it is subsidized by the government. A portion of tax collections from the whole society is allotted for the school’s operations and would mean relatively lower tuition fees. Therefore, I owe these people a lot. I owe the society a lot. It’s not really about the grade that I get – grades are supposed to be the effect of comprehension – it’s about what I really learn. I have to learn. Then I have to learn to apply what I’ve learned. I feel like this is the only way for me to pay back to society.

Whenever I see those muddy, tattered shoes, or loosely-fit uniform blouses, or those worn off pants of some public school elementary students, I feel like Poverty is really trying to catch my attention. And that as a scholar, I have to help in some way to improve the condition of my country. As a scholar, I don’t have an excuse to just “enjoy.” I have to study well so that when I graduate, I can use the skills that I have learned to help the country in some way.

When I study, my aim is to improve my skills and myself as a person. I study to broaden my bounded rationality. I study to remove my biases. I study to better understand the things that are happening around me. I study to help in finding better solutions to problems. I study to grow as an individual. I study to be a responsible citizen, and not to gain the highest grade possible. I mean, come on. We should study to learn. Grades are but crude estimations of the measurement of how much we have learned, subject to those things that our teachers feel we should’ve learned.

Anyway, I’ll end it here because I feel that mind is starting to slow down. But yeah, how about you?

 

Why do you study?

Relatively True

I remember waking up one morning from the piercing noise of chirping birds. As I opened my young eyes, I saw the crucifix of Jesus Christ that was hung in our old wooden wall. My eyebrows met midway.

“Ma, why does Jesus cry?” 

My mother was perplexed. She had just finished her first morning stretch and yawn. She doesn’t recall mentioning anything about Jesus crying. But I insisted.

“Ma, I hear it every time. Jesus cries. So, why is he crying?”

And that’s just as far as I can remember. The thing is, I wasn’t old enough to understand. Now I just laugh at the idea. I still grin whenever I recall how I mistakenly thought of the word “cries” whenever I heard “Christ”. 

Young people just have so many questions. And just like the force of water from a collapsed dam, children’s queries just go on and on once you let them in. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t wonder about so much when I was a child. I did. But I kept them to myself. 

I would try answering things for myself. When I fail, that was the time for me to consult the adults. But as a child, I learned that most of the things that bothered me didn’t actually have straightforward answers. 

I think you know those kinds of questions. 

“Why are we here?”

“It’s because God created us.”

“But who, then, created God? And how can we be so sure?”

“You know, there are things that should just be taken as they are. Things that should not be questioned. Just learn to accept them. There are things that the human mind could not comprehend. We do have limitations.”

Such kinds of answers are not really enlightening. But when I was young, I would just nod and say, “Okay”.

Questions related to religion and faith are quite sensitive. This is because they are also quite numerous. Even those who belong to the same, say, religion could have contradicting beliefs. And one big question is, are we supposed to question the beliefs taught to us?

As a Roman Catholic, I learned that we should not doubt the Word of God. And so, whatever is written in the Holy Bible should be taken as an absolute Truth.

But wait a minute!

Then again, no one can really say that what’s in the Bible is God’s Word. Okay, that just sounds pretty BLASPHEMOUS. 

My point is, it is possible to not doubt God’s Words while doubting what is written in the Bible. Why? 

Personally, I think that a lot of information do change via translation. And I don’t see why anyone would think otherwise. Also, the meanings of statements change from person to person. We can think of rumors as a very suitable example of such.

Even if individuals try to stick to the original story, the small changes in a message could result to a totally different message when these changes pile up.

Try to picture a game of Pass the Message. In this game, some five or more people line up with perhaps a meter of distance from one another. There should be at least two teams comprised of such. To start off, the person in front is given a message, this person relays the message to the one next to him. This goes on until the last person gets the message. In the end, the team with a message that is closest to the original wins.

The game would probably give us a sense of how information gets distorted as it is passed along. However, I can’t say that God’s message to us could be reflected by this. 

Why? First of all, it is not just about the statement as it is. It’s not about memorizing the message word for word, which is true for a game of Pass the Message. It’s about understanding the message itself. And as we know, misinterpretations are inevitable. From there, we already observe two dilemmas: one is that the exact statements could have been compromised already; the other is that the message is still subject to misinterpretations. And then, we have a bonus, which is the combination of the two.

I think the context could be thought of as the primary culprit in creating misunderstandings. The year of our Lord Jesus Christ had been long time over. So much of what transpired during that era are gone. Or perhaps are in museums.

Different contexts. Different meanings.

Also, the interpretations of the Holy Scriptures are not passed along linearly. So it is definitely much more complicated than the said game. Just try to imagine how many channels there are, possibilities for distortions. That, plus the fact that the context keeps on changing as time passes by. 

I know a lot of us may not be open to this. Since some of us are told that we should fully trust what is written in the Holy Bible. I am not saying that we should totally just disregard the information in the Bible. All I am saying is that we should be open to the fact that NOT ALL statements in the Bible are ABSOLUTELY true. And that we should consider that there is some degree of distortion in what has been written there. Plus, let us be open to different interpretations as well. That way, we learn to process what we know and contemplate on what we believe in. 

Anyway, without an open mind, Copernicus would not question the then-reality that the Earth is the center of our solar system. 

Before I forget, I just want to share this information. Some scholars believe and assert that there are sections of the Holy Bible that were actually omitted. I don’t know how true that is. But if that’s the case, then I can’t help but wonder why.

That’s all for now.

Something to think about

“The mass had been clamoring for nothing more than equality. Just to site one example, a lot of poor families have insufficient resources to sustain their meals. All they want is for the Government to help them so they could at least have full stomachs. How hard can that be? It seems to be very straightforward, right? Why can’t the Government and the politicians just give them what they want? It doesn’t even matter if the leaders have some other motives – political, that is. It doesn’t matter if they choose to do it just to get the votes of the masses.”

“But they don’t.”

“Why so? When so many Filipinos die of hunger? And if not hunger, malnutrition? If not that, then from diseases, diseases that aren’t even supposed to be terminal?”

“Well, it’s because we have limited resources in the form of funds. Of money. So, the Government has to prioritize. It’s a challenge.”

“How, when, and where should the money be spent? Most importantly, for whom should the money be spent?”

“Then the Government should prioritize the poor families. Anyway, who wouldn’t agree that they are the ones who need the support the most? See, some are so unfortunate that they can’t even eat thrice a day! So, really, do we need to debate and argue about it when it is so straightforward? If children are not given enough food and nutrients, then they can’t absorb what they study. That is the case even if primary education is free. And so with that, the free access to primary education is compromised or worse – rendered useless. And then the cycle repeats when they grow up illiterate and when they get discouraged from searching jobs that won’t accept them. They would settle for jobs that pay much, much less. So less that the wage they receive wouldn’t be enough to sustain their needs. And the cycle of poverty repeats itself.”

“Yes, I get what you mean. But I refuse to believe that it is as simple as that. Remember that the fund used by the Government comes from taxes.”

“Yes, I know that. What’s your point, then?”

“The amount of taxes collected, they are not equal for all. Taxes collected from higher earners are higher. The higher the income of the individual, the higher the tax collected from that individual. ”

“I do know about that. And I believe that is just fair. Well, don’t you?”

“Yes, it is fair. Well, as long as the funds are used for projects that prioritize the higher income earners which are also the higher tax payers.”

“I’m listening.”

“Just try to imagine a simpler model. Perhaps a nation is too large for you to really get down to brass tacks.

Imagine a household with four members: a mother, a father, a daughter, and a son. Now, it’s Family Day. They do not have enough resources, so the mother decided to prepare a chocolate cake and nothing more. Her eldest child, her daughter, went to the mall and bought all the ingredients needed for the preparation. Meanwhile, her son, being only eight years old, stayed at home and played with his friends as he waited.

The daughter went through hell.

Since it was Family Day, the mall was really crowded. Some of the ingredients were already out of stock to make things worse. And so she had to go to another store to look for these missing ingredients. After everything, her patience gets tested by a very jammed traffic flow.

Finally, she arrives.

Her mother asks her to help in preparing and in baking the said cake.

Done. Now, the daughter just needs to do one extra assignment. That is, to wash all the dishes heavy with hard-to-remove icing.

The son is asked by the mother to wash his hands after playing outside with his friends. The father helped in setting the table. Now that everyone is seated, it is time to pray.

Now, it’s time to eat!

Their limited budget produced a quarter-foot radius chocolate cake. How do you think the cake has to be sliced?”

“Well, of course it has to be sliced equally.”

“Do you think that’s fair? No. That may be equal. But that is not fair.

The mother sliced the cake unevenly. Two were substantially larger than the other two. The bigger slices she gave to her husband and to her hungry son who was very tired from running a while ago. Meanwhile, she and her daughter got the two smaller slices.”

“I don’t see why the daughter should receive a small piece, after everything. If I were her, I’d be quite hurt.”

“Exactly. That is exactly why the Government could not just give priority to the poor. In the first place, most of the funds come from the sweat and blood of those who are said to be more fortunate, those who have more money.”

“But the son was too young to help. Moreover, I do believe a lot of ‘sons ‘do not have the capacity to contribute, even if they wanted to. In fact, a lot of them are not even given the chance to contribute more than what they give primarily because they do not have high-paying jobs. Do you think they would hate having higher-paying jobs? No. But they are left with no choice. As I said earlier, no food, no energy. Nothing fuels their minds. It’s hard to study. Also, secondary and tertiary education are very costly. Even if they get to finish primary education, that wouldn’t be sufficient to alleviate them from poverty. You know that. So the Government should help them to prevent the cycle from repeating.”

“I do get what you mean, and I agree. My only point is, it is not as simple as that. Let us not forget that the richer members of our society are the ones who create jobs. They are responsible for employment generation. Even if the poor finish high school or even college, the lack of available jobs will also hinder them from financially progressing. All I am saying is, there are other factors that have to be weighed before the Government could decide on how to allocate the funds. It’s not just about who needs it the most. It’s also about who have contributed the most.

Just try to imagine the behavioral response of the daughter after learning that the fruits of her efforts were given not to her, but to the ones who had little to give during the planting period. Do you think she will be inspired or motivated to help next time? Perhaps she will be coerced to help. But this time around, she might do things a little different. She’d be giving a little less effort.”

“I see…”

“And what about the son? Do you think he would be driven to help? When he could just play around with his friends and get the largest piece in the end? There is no way he would. Giving too much support to the mass may give similar results. It is a form of disincentive to work harder.”

“Then that arrangement can be a disincentive to work for both the rich and the poor?”

“Yes, in its extreme case.

Also, I think the Government can give support in other ways. You know, train them to fish and not give them fish. That will prove to be much more helpful, I believe.”

“Much more sustainable as well.”

“Exactly.”