The movie was ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD and it's about how Leo DiCaprio's actor character laments becoming a "has-been" since he always plays the bad guy in movies and TV shows during the golden era of Hollywood TV. There's a storyline there where he accepted being the star of spaghetti westerns as a raket, the same move that made Clint Eastwood famous early in his career. Pagbalik niya sa Los Angeles, Leo's character didn't know what's next in his life after that Italian stint. He's not sure whether there are more roles available for him in the ever-changing entertainment landscape and such. So that's how his career discourses ended in that film.
The concept of the "has-been" has actually been bugging me for some time now. When my partner asked me recently "So ano ba talaga ang gusto mong gawin sa buhay now or next?" iisa lang ang lagi ko namang sagot diyan: ang magsulat.
Magsulat, meaning I'd really like to go back to doing literary stuff. My mind has been churning out bits and pieces of stuff that will enhance or end current unfinished stories in my head, things I jotted down a decade ago, or even more, mga obrang naiwanan na dahil kailangang kumita ng pera.
And that's always the rub here, di ba. May naiiwan talagang gawain, all for the sake of making money. 'Yun nga lang kasi, it's not really just about making money to pay the bills ang peg ng in-between writer life ko kasi. It's also about making a difference, no matter how minuscule.
And that has always defined my career choices, if ever you could call it that. Sometimes, I find myself in the right place at the right time in history. When Edsa Dos happened, I was having the time of my life as a legitimate newspaper section editor, working with hardened journalists who laugh at politicians' death threat letters. Before that, I was given the chance to bloom as a film writer/analyst of film-related collaterals and materials (AVPs, film scripts, PRs, etc.) and more, in a film and TV production company. Then there's this one gig I traded for a chance to be part of a "video documentary for social change" inter-country (Asian) workshop: being a section editor of the then newly established website of the Phil. Daily Inquirer newspaper. Well, little did I know that, years later, that time during Edsa Dos, my entertainment editor stint, the publisher of that newspaper is the one who established PDI naman anyway. So I was able to work with a legend pa rin pala! And then that docu workshop naman led me to meet people who would later intersect with my TV life when I transitioned to being a TV show director -- and not by my choice, mind you. I have two college barkada running a children's show, at nasita sila ng Siyete for also directing it. So they needed a third party outsider, and I was the best candidate they could think of -- kasi wala akong Dos ego unlike our other barkadas hahaha, and also keri ko ang low-budget indie-setup shoots (i.e. shooting with little budget on a very limited time frame, like 8am to 6pm lang then pack-up naaaa). And well, that truly worked for me, for a while. It's because it's a children's show, which also gave us the chance to teach kids on air. Moreso when I started scriptwriting the two shows after the one I directed.
Diyan pa lang, puno na ang plate ko e. If you ask me what did you do in your life and did you enjoy it? Ang sagot: E di ayan, ang dami, and hell yeah, masaya! Again, I was at the right places at the right moments, and with the right availability at that. Teaching was also like that for me, though that one I really pursued, unlike those that were offered to me for consideration. I never really thought of being a prof, a full-time one at that, kasi ayoko ring matali sa institusyon lang lagi. Kasi nga I'm not like that. I like to be in a company that lets me work on several things, too. And UP also gave me that, kasi nakakaraket pa rin ako sa labas and all, hindi lang ako tali sa loob -- kasi the innards truly suck, if you're just there. Either lalamunin ka ng sistema to be as corrupt as they are, or you'll get tired of it and leave (which is what I did).
|When a door closes, another one opens. |
Life is full of doors, that's why.
[Taken in Disneyland in California 2010]
So now na tapos na lahat ng mga ito sa buhay ko, what happened next? Well, the early to mid-2010s were as equally exciting, to say the least. I was part of a good media and gender women's empowerment campaign which I helped Rappler fly off the ground, then I was also tapped to teach media literacy modules for a traveling lecturer gig by DepEd-attached government agency NCCT. That was also wonderful; I got to travel the country for a while, to teach parents, teachers, and students about media and being literate about it. Saya lang. Sumasabay pa doon minsan ang isang teaching gig din sa foreign lands, where I was tapped by an international feminist NGO to do feminist digital storytelling lectures for their workshops din. And that was also meaningful work for me, even if they were all short-lived.
See, that's the thing with me. I don't mind doing short-lived things for as long as they are meaningful and worthy, and they help people gain insights about, well, being better humans, I suppose. All of my work stuff is advocacy-related, in a way, whether directly or indirectly kasi. Early on, alam ko nang ganun ang gusto kong puntahan kasi. Maybe I was burned by the idea I saw in my parents' generation, na they stuck to just one job and one company their whole life, and then they end up feeling bitter about it when it wrapped up.
So sa ganyan nangyayari ang ganap ng pagiging "has-been" for me: when you buy into one strand and then you miss doing it or feeling mo nalipasan ka na kasi hindi ka na tina-tap or ini-involve. I understand where the generation of my parents are coming from in terms of how they decided on career choices. Iba kasi ang panahon nila. Kaya bilang Gen X-er, we were caught naman in the middle of feeling guilty about not having one stable job all throughout yet at the same time we also relish jumping from one new experience to the next.
I had this conversation once with a former UP classmate who didn't finish his degree here kasi na-petition na sila sa USA. He told me how he sometimes envy us na ka-batch niya kasi we were able to pursue at least one clear linear career na media-related. Kasi nga media majors kami (i.e. masscom-film), na-pursue namin ito in bits and pieces. Siya daw kasi, sa natapos niya sa US, ang nangyari is paycheck-to-paycheck ang career movement niya, tatalon siya kung saan mas lucrative, and secondary concern na lang 'yung kind of company/job it is. Tinanong niya ako if may "dollar-sign-eyes" na daw ba ako kaya ko tinatanong ito. Kasi that time, I surveyed a handful of my peers, mya kaibigan nga from media school, to see if they are doing well abroad. I was also considering that back then, 2010 to be exact, thinking na baka nabigyan ako ng chance silipin ang New York at California for enticement baga. Pero iba-iba nga ang nakikita kong kuwento ng mga peers ko sa iba't ibang parte ng mundo. Iba-iba rin ang nagiging life choices, of course. 'Yung iba nga nahihiyang mag-share ng real score, kasi taliwas sa training namin. 'Yung iba naman, proud kasi hindi ka dapat tali sa training para umalagwa ang buhay mo doon (speaking to a fellow masscom grad na naging news reporter pa nga dito pero moved to New Zealand to be with the jowa so she worked sa retail daw doon). Meron din naman akong naka-chika na fellow writer here na nagturo sa UP then umalis o inalis dahil nainis nga sa politics, pero lately she went back in naman, probably siguro nag-retire na kasi o wala na 'yung mag asungot doon sa kanya before.
Ang daming kuwento, ang daming trajectories, mga kahenerasyon ko lang ito, at iilan lang ito. Kaya nga pakiramdam ko, 'yung sinasabi nilang "has-been" ay hindi applicable sa amin. Sa akin, at least, kasi nga, I was always what I now call as a "passer-through" or someone who passes through work stuff but also gaining much from it, hindi lang 'yung dumaan ka lang without stopping by, or without making a dent in people's lives. I believe naman I did, and don't take my word from it. Hear it from the people who come up to me, who message me, who send me greetings long after the gig has wrapped up, those who have been telling me that what I taught them or our work together was meaningful even if it was brief, etc. And I think I've collected enough of these sentiments to pull me out of ruts most times lately, lalo na't nag-iiba na nga rin ang temperament ko on what I want to do for work these last few years of this decade.
Nag-iiba lagi ang mundo, nag-iiba lagi ang kalakaran. May mga nananatili pa ring gawain, pero mararami pa ring puwedeng gawin at maaaring puntahan. 'Yan ang maganda sa buhay ngayon. You can also create your own ways. Nabababad ako lately sa LinkedIn kakabasa ng stuff doon. At isa sa mga tumataginting na suggestion nila ay: "find your niche" o kaya "develop your personal brand and stick to it." Eh pucha if I did this pala eons ago, ano na ko ngayon? I'd rather be this hyphenated working person rather than being known for one thing and one thing only. Kaya hindi ako maka-fully agree dito sa personal branding shiz eh. Kasi my brand is eclectic, much like my faith, my beliefs, and my principles. Hindi kasi ako monolithic, eh, I'm not one sole structure of this or that alone. If we're talking about buildings, I'm probably a sprawling resort with various areas of interest, at hindi ako 'yung hotel lang o pool area lang o garden lang o cottage lang. You know what I'm saying? It's like that, eh. I'm like that. A freaking resort, preferably beachfront lol.
They used to have a different term for this kind of mentality decades ago, when I was starting to become a professional. "Jack of all trades, master of none." And you know what? As I worked on many fields and things and domains, hindi ako nananatiling jack, eh. Pucha, queen ito, pare, queen! 'Yan ang alas ko hahaha! Hindi naman "expert" level ang aim dito eh, kundi acquiring multiple skills that will make you flexible to face anything. Kasi I also believe that those who self-label as experts are partly ego-driven na rin. Case in point: this former prof-colleague of mind who kept on harping na expert daw kasi siya sa documentary films kaya siya ang na-tap mag-judge ng isang docu video competition ng isang student org. OMG paulit-ulit niyang sinasabing "expert" siya sa docu sa isang meeting lang na 'yun. Naloka ako. Nasubukan na ba niyang umakyat ng rice terraces to shoot IP people, mingle with displaced farmers and farm workers, talk with HIV-positive people, interview abused children or descendants of Philippine heroes, to make documentaries? I have! Ang konsepto niya ng docu eh mga AVP, and that's effin' different no. Naloka ako sa "expertise" niya at nahiya naman ako sa mga nagawa kong docu in life grabe sorry eclectic ako eh. (/sarcasm if you don't get it LOL). Pero go, siya ang may tenure at ako wala hahaha. Such is life.
Well, 'yun na nga. Past na kasi. Sabi nga ng isang Og Mandino piece, "What is past is dead. Let the dead bury the dead." Very applicable for the negatron portions indeed.
So this is where I am right now, within the intersection of varied realizations that:
a) Ang dami ko na palang nagawa sa buhay potah hahahaha!
b) Maganda at maayos naman pala ang mga naiwan kong "trail" sa buhay, at
c) Gosh ang dami pang puwedeng gawin sa life.
Pero 'yun na nga, mabalik tayo sa isang universal concern: ang kumita ng pera habang ginagawa mo ang gusto mong gawin. Well, nandiyan pa rin naman tayo sa estadong 'yan. Pero now that I was able to clear out my mind about the streak of relevance I have in this vast universe, I guess I am more at peace with what to do next.
Never a has-been, always a passer-through. So I'm very open to the next stages where I will be passing in this lifetime.
|This is me being eclectic. Story of my life, eh.|
[Taken in Disneyland in California 2010]