Changing the world
Manila – One of my friends quit his job as I was about to start mine. His quitting was the end of an incredible career in international relations and development work; mine was the start of a regular day job as an editor for a newspaper.
I found it a bit nostalgic and wistful that three decades ago I started my professional life in a newspaper, as a journalism neophyte ready to point out the warts of the world.
I couldn’t figure out what I was going into but I didn’t want to call it coming full circle. Some friends who witnessed me doing a bunch of jobs, some simultaneously as I’ve been freelancing and traveling most of the time, tell me it may be too late in the game for a fixed five-day, eight-hour or more job, and handling the daily news at that.
Friends know that I wish for the freedom to have coffee, read a book, or leave a place and go somewhere else anytime I want, and a regular day job just isn’t me. They also know that after three decades I have come to despise the news, and that it’s ok if I’m the last to know that the world is ending.
My friend who quit abruptly was a few weeks away from his 60th birthday, known universally as the retirement age. He has friends asking him the whys, but he just wanted out — quickly. Well-being, mental health and just wanting to leave were among the reasons. Having done this a couple of times myself, I figured there was no reason to ask him more questions.
When we got together, he was into a calming-down mood, inquiring about where to buy a place to settle in, as we talked about our work overseas and having the time of our lives – freefalling, walking through fire, facing our fierce battles, and the times we ran away because we couldn’t take it.
In between checking our career paths and life plans, we have had our share of shine, but, on the other hand, we thought we should have handled things differently. With our experiences in both the most toxic and kindest work environments, were we unprepared for a lifetime of challenges? Or were we so serious that we left our lives unlived?
At the end of these paths and plans, we still think we have no way of knowing it all as we strive to be flawless. I am like that too. I still commit mistakes at work and in life. When I reach 60, also bruised, broken, hopeful and happy as I see it early on, I told my friend that we have to stay lost because that is how it should be.
We entered each other’s jobs in the hope that, despite its occasional unkindness, we can change the world; him by helping people improve their situations, me by telling the stories of people.
Maybe we changed the world in our own ways, or possibly made it a better place. After all, the world is, and remains, our oyster.
Diana G. Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.