Ikigai, success and why delaying something is okay

The year was 2013. It was Politics of Education class (one of my electives) with Sir Louie who became one of the closest professors I’ve ever had. We were discussing the works of Paulo Freire (The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation, 1985) when we touched on the concept of Ikigai.

Image taken from forbes.com.

This image represents the best way to describe what Ikigai means. It is a Japanese concept that means a ‘reasons for being’. It’s described as the value of being alive which makes one’s life worthwhile; it’s about finding satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. When we do what we love, we pursue what we’re good at, we get paid for doing it, and when we do something that impacts the world around us, that’s what our Ikigai means.

According to Freire, the oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption. Linking it to our Ikigai discussion, this means that people (in our context, the students) can make and remake themselves when they learn. When they find their reason for existence, not only they learn out of their struggle but they unlock the knowledge and realise the importance of finding their purpose and taking responsibility for themselves as being because everyone can know that they know and knowing that they don’t.

I used to think that my reason for existence was simple – be rich, live life to the fullest… all I wanted was to live in a nice house without the fear of not being able to provide for myself. I know most of us want to do this but I really wanted travel and experience adventures from time to time. When I started working and when this pandemic took place, what used to be important to me means nothing now.

I realised that growing my savings and earning money is okay but my personal time is more important now. I know it’s not just me when I say that there are days when I couldn’t get out of work on time because of overflowing tasks. However, on most days when I could log off work as soon as the clock hits 6, I find time to do things that are not work-related which includes a lot of sleep since I work night shifts.

Why is this important to me? I discovered that I feel successful when I make time for family gatherings and I never miss one. I am happy and at peace when I find time to play gaming consoles to end a long day at work. I bet if everything was still in the old normal I wouldn’t be able to find time to do these things. I was also determined to finish my goal of reading at least 50 books this year. The sad part I am nowhere near half of my goal.

These days, when things have gone bonkers because of the pandemic, I felt that it’s okay when all I ever thought about was my safety and of those people around me. Delaying something and adapting to the changing times is more important and that does not mean I failed (I still read books every now and then).

I still do not know what my Ikigai is but it now makes sense to me.

  • Things happen in my own timeline and pace and if I keep comparing my story to others, it will only bring more harm than good;
  • What once meant the world to me may mean nothing in future;
  • Changing priorities is okay;

When you found your reason for existence please hold on to it, defend it, and ensure that it gives a positive impact to the community that you belong to. If you haven’t found yours that’s okay. Things will fall into its rightful places to those who know how to wait.

A message to my readers (and soon-to-be-ones)

I lost track of time. I know it’s not only me when I say couldn’t recognise what day it was already. I forgot about my passion projects, thinking that the ‘lock downs’ were only going to last for a couple of weeks, if not three months max. When traveling and seeing my friends were my only refuge and escape away from my cloudy thoughts, I couldn’t do it because of the situation these days.

It’s been more than six months since strict quarantine measures have been in place. The situation has barely improved in my country and it feels like it’s getting worse day after day. I’m quite disappointed and I feel sorry for not being able to write the past months. I wanted to focus on how I can stay alive, and here I am!

Quarantine Series: Thoughts on how to connect to friends who are experiencing depression

Reminding you how beautiful the moon looks like.

I know everyone has plans once we’re done with this quarantine. Seeing some of my acquaintances create their own to-do (and to-go-to) lists is uplifting. It gives me an optimistic feeling about what lies ahead of us. I took inspiration from that gesture and so a few weeks ago, I wrote about my plans and what I have in mind once this situation is over and briefly talked about what my current situation is at home. We have every right to stay forward-looking and to keep a positive mindset about our future as a community. But it seemed like I was trying to forget about the ‘now’.

For weeks, despite having consciousness about what’s going on around us, I remained silent. My level of apathy was too much that I didn’t want to take part in any unnecessary debate, even if it concerns the right of anyone out there. My mind kept telling me to avoid everything that does not spark joy (borrowing this line from Marie Kondo!) and I have un-followed every news outlet on social media. I didn’t want this to be my norm. I did not obtain a degree in Development Studies to remain apathetic.

I did lots of introspection. I wrote everything down in my journal. I just couldn’t find the right words to share what’s on my mind. I was lost for words to explain things. However, despite constant denial in my head, I recognized there’s a level of sadness that I feel and these depressive episodes were brought about the prolonged limited human interaction over the last 2 months.

The truth is I find it awkward to talk about my feelings, most especially if I were to tell it to those people that are close to me. My fear is not being able to clearly express myself and end up getting judged. It’s not because I don’t want to open but it’s more of the lack of ability to properly communicate things that hinders me to strike a conversation with anyone. I also know that not a lot of people are trained to easily connect when someone’s experiencing depression. That’s why instead of starting an odd conversation with anyone, I end up writing things down, hence the reason I always resort to publishing blog entries every now and then.

Some people might ask “Why you got to be so depressed?”

Well, I don’t know either.

When you have already accepted sadness as your default feeling, you end up not doing anything about your episodes. For others, they think that’s weird because we should be happy most of the time but if you would understand where somebody is coming from, it’s actually not a bad thing to recognise that it’s okay to be sad most of the time.

To help us manage and get through the global pandemic situation, my company has put together a series of webinars we can all join in. Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of blog entries to share more about my learning and Aha! moments.

Here are some of the amazing things I learned when dealing with depression amidst isolation due to quarantine:

Let them be heard, never forget to ask

If you’re experiencing depressive episodes and would like to let out some of your thoughts, please consider what the receiving end would feel. Consciously ask about their bandwidth to listen before you share anything. In that way, you find a common ground and adjust to each other’s level of emotions.

On the other hand, if your friend, who’s experiencing depression, would like to share what’s on their mind, and if your hands aren’t too tied up, please make time to listen. The simple yet powerful act of listening, even without offering any advice, helps reduce what we feel. By giving affirmation that you are listening to what they are saying makes them feel valued.

The greatest lesson I picked up during the webinars I’ve attended was breaking the bad habit of listening to respond. Instead of listening simply to respond or retaliate back, we have to listen to understand. Communication is a two-way street and it’s not enough that we listen to what they’re saying. We have to understand what they’re telling us and remain engaged.

We don’t want to shame ourselves when someone asks questions about what they’re saying and we wouldn’t be able to respond back because our mind is somewhere else, do we?

We cannot “just get over it” and that’s okay

It’s easier said than done. If we’re going to have it our way, we could’ve eliminated depression a long time ago. If ice cream could cure this depression away, I would’ve consumed more than what my body could hold but it doesn’t work that way.

Remember that we do not need any saving. It’s not your duty and it will never be anybody’s responsibility to fix anyone. Refrain from pressuring someone to feel normal. When someone’s having their episodes, we have to eliminate the feeling of disappointment simply because they cannot be normal.

Moreover, un-learning the idea that being sad and being OK cannot co-exist is difficult but it must be done. We were taught that when we experience sadness there must be something wrong about us. In reality, it’s healthy and natural to accept that it happens even to the best of us.

The best move you can do is to remind yourself, whether you experience depression or you’re helping out someone, that it will not last forever.

Connect wisely

The easiest way you can earn somebody’s trust is by establishing clear boundaries about how much you can help someone. When you give an idea about what you’re planning to do and when you outright ask for their consent in advance, you are empowering them by building confidence with you and giving them a sense of control so they wouldn’t overreact.

For example, instead of vaguely saying “you can reach out to me anytime,” you can say that they can reach out to you anytime through call or text but it might take a while for you to respond back. Instead of assuming that it’s okay to instantly call someone to check on them, why not message them ahead of time and remain sharp about your plans: “Hey, I want to check in with you. Do you think to call you every day is okay? If not, we can text every day and get on the phone sometime later in the week?”

Never take things personally

Here’s the thing: you can offer your advice as long as it’s solicited. Avoid the habit of taking the spotlight away when somebody is sharing something because you want to inject your idea. We have to recognise that there is no definite way of dealing with depression. What has worked for someone else may not be applicable to another person.

Please do not get discouraged to help when someone turns down your advice.

This home quarantine is not easy and I’m celebrating each day I’m able to pull myself out of my bed. During our work last week, my colleagues and I had an information-sharing session on how we’re coping up with this. After learning about everybody’s unique way of coping up, I felt insecure because I had nothing extraordinary to share. I said that acceptance was my coping mechanism – I go on with my day, do my very best at work, and accept that things won’t get any better soon. I thought they were expecting something out of the ordinary but really, there’s nothing special with the way I handle this. They were encouraging me to start a new hobby. They even shared some amazing movie titles and series to watch. Some of them introduced some new books to read. But I told them I’m fine and I’m glad they respect my take on this.

My learnings aren’t a one-stop-shop and should not be taken as the only. I’m sure many of you have more amazing things to share about this topic. These points are based on my principle of inclusion: each one of us has a voice and it’s meant to be heard; that all of us are connected in one way or another and we should never leave anyone.

When we talk to someone experiencing depression, we have to speak to that person like they were OK. Talk to them as if your life depended on them. Converse with them without hesitation. Keep in mind that their life is as vibrant, important, and amazing as yours. If you do that, you might just empower someone without you even realizing you did that.

(2020 v.2) What I have in mind once this is over!

To brighter days ahead! – here’s a photo of what the sunrise looked like last Saturday morning, 18 April 2020 at 06:03 AM (GMT+8)

 

Oh, girl!

I don’t usually complain about staying indoors because I’ve always been built for it. However, cabin fever is really creeping in with the limited human interaction I’ve got. We simply don’t have any choice this time. We cannot go out as we wish to and we have to stay inside our houses to avoid contracting COVID-19. It’s the best that we could do to follow the government’s orders and to remain healthy during these trying times.

Our prayers and thoughts go for all of our front liners – healthcare professionals, law enforcers, people working at the groceries and food outlets, the maintenance folks that keep our surroundings clean and orderly… you’re our heroes! Thanks for everything that you do and now, more than ever, we will all get through this!

With that, I would like to encourage everyone who has some more resources to spare to continuously give and help amidst the pandemic. Your donations, regardless of how big or small it may be, will create an impact. Whether you donate for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of our front liners or spare some cash and in-kind goods to feed our community, it can go a long way.

But what comes next after this?

I don’t know, really, but hey! I don’t want to get stuck thinking about what I cannot do. I want to focus on what I will do. This entry was inspired by Victoria’s post (she’s an awesome writer, please follow her!) and now that I have some time in my hands, here’s what’s on my list:

Adapting a new work set up

I don’t see any problem with my work set up now. I’m extremely thankful that I work for a company that allows us to be agile; that we’re not seen as a mere seat-warmers. And so, once the situation is finally over, I’m thinking about the potential of limiting the days I’ll be reporting to the office and simply work from home. I also hope that work-from-home folks now and their companies realise this and the potential to minimise, if not solve, the Metro Manila traffic.

Travel, travel, and travel!

I have not traveled this year. My cousins and I were supposed to head out-of-town for our beach outing but it went down the drain because of the quarantine and lockdown situation in the Luzon island. Here’s what I have on my list:

  • Assuming that the quarantine won’t get extended, a visit to Baguio with my partner this May for his birthday;
  • Assuming the COVID-19 situation gets better, I want to celebrate my birthday out-of-town this June;
  • Rescheduled beach trip from April to August;
  • Assuming the COVID-19 situation gets better, I will head to Japan for a week this September

The rest of the days in between, I’ll make sure to dedicate some time for my long, out-of-town drives. I honestly miss driving and I can’t remember the last time I used my car!

Have some (amazing) food

Whilst I’m lucky that everything we need is right within our reach, I still crave for some good food outside. I know, this will sound whiny, but dining in a restaurant (or even getting some take-away food) has been part of my routine and I cannot even do that not simply because we’re not allowed to leave the village anymore. I’m craving for some good Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese food… you know, anything Asian. But my first order of business is to get either a McDonald’s or Burger King fix!

Continue my passion projects

For a long time, I’ve said a lot of excuses to start my passion projects. This time, since I was able to start with some of it, I’ll make sure to continue doing it even when things lighten up. It doesn’t help at all when you have to worry about deliverables for work, about the global pandemic situation that’s getting worse day after day, and the incompetency of our government. Now that I’m getting the rhythm, aside from using more of my camera, I will slowly but surely start reading books again and make sure to hit my target number of books to read for this year. Moreover, I’m revisiting all of my notes from my language classes and will hit the ground running once I have sorted out my schedule, too.

Meet people and tell them how much I missed them

Aside from dedicating more time for myself, I want to make sure I meet some important people in my life. I realised that whilst messaging them and having a video chat with them is important these days, it cannot replace the warmth you feel when you see them in person. Even if I rarely say what I have in mind, I will like to take time to meet each one of them, thank them for holding on and keeping it together.

I miss my dad so much. He couldn’t fly back here in the Philippines because of the lockdown. He’s still working abroad but was supposed to be with us this April.

I miss seeing my cousins, aunties, uncles and my grandma, and by the next time we meet, I’ll make sure to let them know how much I missed them and that they’ve always been on my mind.

I would like to meet my friends once again and say how much I missed them. As a huge fan of hugging, I would like to hug them but that’s not what social (and physical) distancing meant – see the change in the mindset of people? It has started!

What other interesting things do you have in mind that you’ll do after this quarantine? I’m sure most of you have already planned how they’ll spend their time once this is finally over. To everyone who needs help and is fighting to survive, please know that you can reach out to us and to anyone who can offer help. We’re here for you and we’re all in this together! xx

What is Happy Hour and why is it important to our company culture?

Getting stamped to claim free food and booze.

According to a study, 79% of people who quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation’ as their reason for leaving. This claim backs up our quarterly Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) surveys at TaskUs when we asked teammates about their reasons to leave the company and their top five (5) most common answers were: (a) unmanageable workload; (b) undefined metrics and goals; (c) incompetent salary and benefits, (d) lack of opportunities to grow, and; (e) change in the workplace culture.

This is where the idea of Happy Hour comes in.

The history of Happy Hour at TaskUs

Some lovely Mexican treat for everyone.

TaskUs started hosting Happy Hour in 2014 where we allow our colleagues to down a bottle or two of booze, serve some healthy snacks and encourage everyone to bring their ridiculously good self to work. A little caveat that TaskUs has other rewards schemes, such as the group-based and individual-based referral promos, and LizardBear Club for our top performers, but the goal for these Happy Hours is to extend gratitude to everyone who has been consistently performing and to recognise people who have significantly contributed to the development of their team and helped the company reach its goals for a particular timeline.

TaskUs’ 11th year x Fort Excellence’s 1st year

Last Friday, we celebrated two anniversaries at our office in Bulacan. We celebrated TaskUs’ 11th year and the 1st year anniversary of Fort Excellence, our Bulacan site’s moniker. It’s my first time attending Happy Hour in the office this year and I was able to witness and capture on photos how talented our teammates are!

With the help of our HR team and operations leaders, we commended those who joined and represented Fort Excellence at the LizardBear Cup, TaskUs’ annual sports fest, last month. Everyone who participated was recognised and applauded by the team, whether they made a podium finish or not. They all got exclusive TaskUs merchandises and the winners received more.

Special thanks to our lovely hosts that day, Barbie and Daisy, for making sure everyone’s engaged and welcomed throughout the program! We look forward to many more Happy Hours with you. Thanks for sharing your time and hosting skills!

Some more photos from the event…

Why Happy Hour?

The good thing about hiring outstanding people is we could always expect high performance from them. In order for colleagues to stay engaged at work, the business should help colleagues unlock their true potential and never see them as dispensable resources of the company, and this is where I’m proud of TaskUs.

I like how Jaspar Weir, the President and Co-Founder of TaskUs, explained our greatest commitment on this article. By promoting a good employee experience journey, we uphold the People-First culture of TaskUs. Hence, we are rewarded by over-the-top performance from our colleagues and we are confident that our clients are in good hands. By creating a culture of collaboration, we are encouraged to treat everyone with respect and to listen to crazy but amazing ideas which will help us disrupt our current processes and discover new ways to do things.

We do not see the ideas of working hard and having fun as mutually exclusive from each other. Through Happy Hour – a simple, cost-efficient and engaging way of recognising people – we’re able to keep our employee satisfaction high, our attendance have drastically improved and voluntary attrition has went down. In turn, more teammates are producing more quality outputs through increased productivity at work.

There is no hidden formula and no perfect way to do employee engagement. The thing that sets TaskUs apart from the competition is how our team was able to realise what works best for the business and how the leaders pushed the limits and boundaries for us to remain a ridiculously good place to work at.

closing chapters

IMG_1832

It wasn’t my feet that I buried in the sand but my feelings. The glistening sea water washed away the hurting. The humid breeze carried all my last thoughts about you and cleared my mind. The waves weren’t high but it was strong enough to push me back, which reminds me of my love for you – it wasn’t something others would notice at a first glance but it was strong enough to keep me coming back to you. The marvelous sunset filled my heart with so much joy and hope. I didn’t know anyone around that’s why crying was too easy for me.

The first thing that came to my mind was to share to you lots of things: how my day went, a photo of the beautiful beach, my getaway experience and what I’ve noticed so far, my plans for the week and invite you over for a dinner… but I know it wouldn’t make much of a difference now so I resisted doing so. Knowing you, I know you’d say and insist that it’s fine if I talk to you but I also know that the dynamics have already changed it wouldn’t be the same as before.

It was not my intention to leave. In my mind, I knew that it was okay to hold on; that I recognise I was in this phase where things wouldn’t be easy. I was mentally ready for the chaos but my emotions were too fragile to handle the situation. I was not able to see things through as I would normally do. My heart was not strong enough and my spirit was shaken. I’m sorry. I was in a sinking ship and I have no other option but to save myself.

When one chapter closes, another one begins right after. The reality is it will never be an easy read and we may not like everything about what we’re reading now. For sure, we will keep coming back to our favourite parts and that’s okay for that’s where we’ll draw inspiration from. Our journey will continue and we should not be afraid about the next parts because we’re all destined for something great; something magical and surreal. It might not be now but I am sure it will happen.

Travel Notes: 25 November 2018

Intramuros-Binondo, Manila, Philippines


My mum used to bring me with her to their office in Intramuros so it’s easy to say that I’m very much familiar with the area. Last Sunday, I went here with my brother to visit some of the old-but-reused buildings for their assignment. I’m delighted that I was able to go with him because it made me remember how happy my childhood was. It’s good to see that despite major developments here and there, the ambiance stays the same and that everything could still be reached easily by walking.

Head over to my Instagram and check out my new IGTV upload here featuring my weekend shenanigan with my brother!

Travel Notes: 1 November 2018

Cainta, Rizal, Philippines

On this day, when we remember what a great man my grandfather was, I’ve had the chance to be with my cousins, aunts and grandma. Finally, our busy schedules have aligned today, and as a bonus: I was able to speak to my dad on the phone albeit short. He’s travelling to France as of writing. I’m wondering what Tatay has been doing up there and whether he’s proud of what I’ve become today. I mean, who knows? X

Travel Notes: 26 October 2018

Pasay City, Philippines

The sun is setting

And you’re right here by my side

And the movie’s playing

But we won’t be watching tonight

I have no words to describe this week, but let me tell you than I am happy. I don’t think I am in the position to complain about anything, even though I feel empty; consciously know that there is something lacking in me. I am tired—beyond exhausted—but happy and content. To remind you how beautiful life could be, here are some photos I took on our way to the City of Dreams Manila in Pasay City for the #PFIP2018 5th Gala Night.

Have a good weekend, people! x

Travel Notes: 20 October 2018

Quezon City, Philippines

It was Becs’s idea to meet up here at Marindo, a newly opened restaurant located at the heart of Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. Conveniently located at the G/F of Manhattan Garden, it’s not that hard to find but caveat that there are no parking space available except the open parking outside.

They were operational since 6 October and serves Indonesian-Malay menu. I MUST try their Laksa, even if it meant skipping my diet for the night, and boy, it did not disappoint for something worth PHP195 ($3.61). I’ve also ordered Vegetable Fritters for PHP90 ($1.67) for everyone (not in the photos) which was surprisingly good and it reminded Japan’s Okonomiyaki but less savoury which is what I like. ($1 = PHP54)

The first I’ve noticed was probably the clean vibe that Marindo exuded and I have to give it to those white walls, clean utensils and Instagram-worthy lighting which only some restaurants have. They operate on a self-service set up and you have to pay as you order, so please do not expect this to have a fine-dining set up.

Some of the best people I’ve known for roughly 9 years, albeit my first time to meet Marvz with Kiefer today. Thanks for Jeric, too, for still going all the way to Cubao from Cogeo even if it was already late. If it wasn’t for Becs‘s business (go check @powercasesmnl!), this wouldn’t be possible. Look at what I’ve ordered from them too, and it costs way cheaper than your Starbucks Venti drink! It was seeing everyone last night, and I think I should do this more often now. X

Travel Notes: 19 October 2018

Makati City, Philippines

Let’s all admit it – we never like how bad the traffic could get on Fridays and how humid it could be in the afternoon, but there is something about Makati Central Business District (CBD) which makes you love it as it is.

I visited Makati today after attending some brotherly duties at home. I had this sudden itch to feel the city vibe that only Makati CBD exudes. Although I weren’t able to roam that much, I still found myself in awe whilst at the elevated walkway near Paseo de Roxas and Greenbelt. I think it was just a great timing as there were few to almost no passers-by when I took these shots.

I didn’t bring my camera with me because I want to test the camera of my new phone – and it did not disappoint at all! For edits and colour play, I have created this new orangey preset from Lightroom. I’m sure this will work on natural lighting and I will continue using this until my eyes could not take it anymore.

Indeed, it’s a good way to get my weekend started and to end a busy work week! X