So Thankful This September

Now whoever thought I would be writing up business plans in the shadow of my recent painting experiments, pinned up on the glass windows of our living room? Whoever thought I would be eagerly discussing supply, demand, finance plans and marketing plans by choice, on evening drives with my older brother? Or trying to convince community leaders, with decades and decades of experience over me, over coffee in teeny tiny mugs, sweetened with Bailey’s, in the shelter of a in a nipa hut, that they should engage in business with the social enterprise I represent? Or that a 62 year old priest named Father Boy would teach me how to shoot guns and nickname me Lady Bond after a long day of discussing livelihood initiatives for thousands of families?

Whoever thought?

Well I definitely did not see this coming, and I’m not just talking about this new experience with firearms. I will not write too much yet of specifics about my work, but it is hand down the best job I could’ve been offered straight out of graduation. And just in case your wondering or worrying, this new job does not involve any guns.

My actual Bachelors Degree as a Major in Studio Art (Surprise! Not many people at home have discovered that I love to draw and paint) and a Minor in Dance, does not yet directly connect to my work. But certainly all the experience I have had in the past six years of living, studying and leading away from home, has allowed me not to begin this new journey completely blind and unequipped. Even the experiences I took as on complementary to my education and experience have now become my primary to my performance and involvement today. There is so much room to learn and so much room to grow, and I look ahead with such anticipation! Not to mention, I am surrounded by people that are anxious to support me, cheer me on, mentor me and work alongside me.

(More about this photo here.)

Before I returned to the Philippines, all I had hoped for this soon after arriving (roughly seven weeks now)  was to be slowly plugging myself back into community and investing in new and renewed connections with others. But life is in full swing now and I can barely believe it. As usual, I have to work hard on slowing down. Just as some younger friends back at school begin a new school year, I’ve got a job I love, wonderful people to work with, a weekly Zumba class to teach and the non-profit organization I founded and continually direct is set to jump into a wonderful new phase of service and community engagement.

Whoever thought?

Dress to De-Stress

Looking at my closet (now pretty downsized thanks to the trans-Pacific move and summer-long purge of my belongings) I don’t think you can tell that I’m now a “working girl.” I can report for work at an office, have working lunch meetings and engage in other adult-like shenanigans. The social encounters of the past week or so have got me thinking about revamping my closet to better suit the world of desk jobs, conferences and other professional events.

BAH!! Who am I kidding?!

I am happily and pretty recently employed, yes, but currently boast of a flexible schedule,  more task oriented than clocking in hours at a desk. Thank goodness! Can anyone seriously picture me working out of a desk all day? My great schedule allows me to carve time for work with my non-profit organization, the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project Inc. (We’ve got a big annual event coming up soon!), for teaching Zumba classes, and hopefully soon to do some art and dance programming. It also allows me to be very involved with people and engage our workers, partners and potentially some new communities as well!

But yes, I’m feeling a little pressure to tone down my outfits. Just a little! I may slowly (with respect to my meager fresh-college-grad budget) acquire more “professional” articles of clothing. I figure I need a pair of pants that aren’t bright red, jaguar print, bright blue or severely distressed. Or shoes that aren’t bright yellow and tops that don’t have large, intentional tears straight down their backs.

Last week I went to a lunch meeting, (not directly for work, but for networking), and had no idea that I’d be at a place with a dress code. I maybe should’ve gotten a hint when I was told we were meeting at the “Executive Lounge,” but I guess I was in denial because I showed up in a pair of decent plaid shorts, but still shorts, and my trusty pair of barely-there, but very cute, turquoise sandals. When I arrived at the place I purposefully ignored what I think know was a large note about the dress code written in fluorescent pen. I think it may have said something about no shorts and no sandals… but I wouldn’t know, of course. I was ignoring it.

The beautiful and wonderfully accomplished women I had lunch with temporarily appeased my under-dressed woes by saying, “Enjoy the tropical weather!” knowing that I had sort of just returned from a country with four seasons, or “It’s okay, you just graduated!” But it certainly got me thinking about better dressing “the part” (whatever part that may be)– at least on the days when I am having important meetings! I should maybe stop showing up to things in sneakers, shorts, or happily faded and oversized tees.

I did ask one my bosses, who also happens to be someone I am related to – Do you care what I wear to work? No, he said, with an expression that seemed to think I was asking an odd question. This also happens to be the brother that both semi-scrutinizes and  semi-enjoys (I think) my outfits, articles of clothing and accessories by commenting that they are “interesting” or “strange.” Tee hee!

I’m an artist! It’s fine!” is what I’ve always reasoned for my choices of mismatching but matching ensembles. And I insist they always work. Often there is something colorful or loud about what I’m wearing, even if it’s just a pair of slender earrings that fall longer than my hair, or the vintage fork that is wrapped gracefully around my middle finger as a weapon ring.

I work with communities, non-profit organizations, foundations and communities that serve the less fortunate and people at risk. So it’s less about dressing professionally, but more about dressing appropriately and comfortably.

After moving back to Metro Manila, I was a little taken aback to rediscover that  life is a little more… conservative over here. My short jean shorts and torn up shirts have their place and I can’t just walk around the city, especial Makati, in whatever I please. College was such a tease! I felt like I could get away with wearing whatever I wanted! I’m now trying to discover ways to still use the clothes I have (since I don’t have the means or the desire to just shop shop shop for more), but show less skin, and at the same time not completely melt in the Filipino heat.

Yesterday I invested in two new pairs of pants, of the more basic persuasion. I found a simple pair of black skinny pants, but with super awesome but subdued leatherette detail running down the outer legs, and patched into the inside of the knees, like riding pants. Yup, pretty basic. I also love the men’s section and found a comfy pair of dark jeans, 50% off! (These purchases mean no more shopping till November, at least!) And here’s a new pair of boots I scored with a pair of gift certificates that I was given. (Couldn’t resist wearing my funky and bright flowery tights today! My idea of toning down my outfits??)  Glad to have another pair of shoes that allows for hours of painless walking, and even dancing too, if necessary! 😉

I think every morning my mom enjoys and possibly partially worries about what I might walk out of the house in. She lets me be since she knows that with the loss of many hours that I used to spend in the dance studio and the art studio,  the way I dress is one of the primary ways I am currently able to express myself.

The new year begins at Wheaton this week. For the first time this fall, I don’t have to think about new classes, I’m not thumbing through a syllabus or getting my work shifts sorted around my class schedule and dance rehearsals. I’m no longer a student for the first time since I was two and a half years old!

However, this is a great time to be home and a great time to be working- I’m busy, I’m doing things I enjoy and I’m beginning to get plugged into community. Not to mention, the Philippines is finally getting some positive reviews in the news! Despite another devastating season of rain and flood, the forecast for our economy is bright and flourishing. Read more about it here. Below is my favorite chunk of good news:

“Times are pretty good in the Philippines if you are young, skilled and live in the city. Young urban workers are helping to give the country its brightest prospects in decades, economists say.

With $70 billion in reserves and lower interest payments on its debt after recent credit rating upgrades, the Philippines pledged $1 billion to the International Monetary Fund to help shore up the struggling economies of Europe.

“This is the same rescue fund that saved the Philippines when our country was in deep financial trouble in the early ’80s,” said Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento, a congressman from Western Samar.

The Philippines has certainly had a steady flow of positive economic news recently. On July 4, Standard & Poor’s raised the country’s debt rating to just below investment grade, the highest rating for the country since 2003 and equivalent to that of Indonesia.

The Philippines is the 44th-largest economy in the world today,according to HSBC estimates. But if current trends hold, it can leap to the No. 16 spot by 2050. The Philippine stock market, one of the best performers in the region, closed at a record high after the recent S.& P. rating upgrade, and the country’s currency, the peso, reached a four-year high against the dollar at about the same time.”