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For Kuya Guard

I get out of the house whenever I can. Being cooped up at home can drive someone crazy at times. My building security guard is always there to accommodate me and the rest of its tenants. He helps me with my bags, opens the gate (not that I need any of that, nor require him to carry or open anything for me).

Before I left the house to go for a walk, I struck a conversation with him. He was quite open and candid to my probing. He talked on and on for a good 10 minutes, given that he had such an eager listener.

He is a young father. At 25 years old, he now has a daughter with his 24 year old girlfriend. Elaine is now 1 and a half years old. “She’s already walking” he beams.

He mentions to me that he might only stay with our building till January 2014 only. I ask him why and he mentions the night shifts are taking a toll on his body. The lack of sleep gives him shakes. I have witnessed him actuallly sleeping on the job a couple of times before and most of the time, I don’t wake him anymore because I’ve also seen how hard he works. Being a security guard is a hazardous job in itself.

Since both are working, he tells me that he might send his little girl to live with his wife’s parents in the province because no one can take care of her here in Manila.

My building has had its share of revolving security guards, and this particular person I’ve always liked. He has always been helpful and respectful towards me, my family, and the rest of the tenants. He seemed competent, smart and most of all, he was a simple hardworking guy with simple needs.

His story just struck a chord in me. I felt sad for his circumstances. Deep in my heart, I wish I could help him: give him a job, a referral, whatever! But as it was (employment-wise) I was already in dire waters myself, but that’s another story.

He said that he has done construction and mechanic work , a bit of sales, repairs and other jobs that required physical labor.

I took a long hard look at myself. Who am I to complain? Things may not be perfect at work now but some people have it worse, much worse than me.

God bless his heart. He was willing to do all sorts of odd jobs (some even detrimental to his health and safety) just to put food on the table and care for his young family. My heart just ached. What can I do for this guy and his family? I want to help him somehow, but instead all I could do was buy him a burger 😦

Sometimes, I get so caught up in my own little world that I fail to notice the honest and hardworking people in my neighborhood. Regardless of background, everyone wants to enjoy the fruits of their labor but in this situation, what if there was not enough “paying” labor to go about?

Give a person fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

People need more opportunities. I wish I could be that person, to give individuals like him, a dignified, decent and safe occupation wherein he could enjoy the company of his wife and daughter after a hard day’s work. But what can I do?

If you know anyone who maybe needing the services of an all around security guard, preferably with free housing where he could bring in his family, please let me know. Thank you.

No Longer Home

I was practically brought up by my grandmother, well, the formative years part atleast. Coming back from abroad, my parents decided that my paternal grandmother was the best person to look out for me and my brother.

Grammy is the best. She was and still is the peg of what I want to achieve in life. A hard worker, intelligent and money-savvy, Gram also ran a beautiful, comfortable home which was the envy of the neighborhood.

She held little lunches for family and friends and believe me, it was always done with taste and a touch of elegance. Because that was how she was brought up and I have to thank my great grandparents for that.

When my parents finally came home from abroad and we moved into our new house, I was already in my gradeschool years. Basically, what I learned from my grandmother was enough to mold me into the person I am today. Thus, the formative years in a child is vital. It will set them for life.

My life started out comfortably. We had a car, a huge property, two stay at home helpers, had vacations, went to a good school. Everything was good.

Then my parents separated for reasons I will no longer divulge in this post.

When you are a product of separation, it will always be a chip on your shoulder. You feel that everything is unstable, unreliable and unsafe. You are unable to trust, to give love and accept love in return.

Everything became “official” when I was in my college years. I was forced to leave the expensive ladies dormitory I was staying in for economical reasons. I felt humiliated and beaten down.

I only felt shame for my family. How can we start out so well and end like this? If my parents really did love us, how can they let me and my brother suffer so much? To be gossiped in family circles, etc.?

I was even branded by some family members and family “friends” as anorexic and ungrateful while my brother as a withdrawn drug addict. Yes, some people go that far. No one was there to protect me and my brother from such attacks. Weren’t we the real victims in this story?

And because of that, I grew up fast.

Me and my brother didn’t like attending those lunches anymore or any gathering for that matter, beacause my family’s present circumstances was jiucy gossip. Our struggles were fodder and at times, a source of amusement for their “perfect” lives.

I focused all my energies in school. I became part of the debate team, made it to theatre arts, had good grades, etc. Partly because of my desire to get out. I said to myself that if I make good, me and my brother can start all over again. This time without our unreliable and unstable parents and the people who “wanted what was best for us”.

Things didn’t go according to plan. I graduated, yes, but I was miserable on the inside. I got my first job in a reputable company but I was unhappy with work. I moved from one job to the next. I messed around with men (regardless of the age and marital status), I excercised too much and ate very little. These were the things in my life that I thought I could control.

My view of marriage was that it was rubbish. If I could get away with the things I did, marriage didn’t mean anything. Commitment didn’t mean anything to me because my concept of family was non-existent.

I looked gaunt. My brother even told me one day that he didn’t recognize me anymore because I was so thin. He called me a walking skeleton. Some good friends mentioned that they were worried for me. I brushed it off and said, I ate. I showed them I ate. But after that, I excercised like there was no tomorrow and my guilt was just to big to swallow.

I have graduated from some of my struggles, but there are still some things I still have to deal with everyday. Simply because hurt people, hurt people. In my case, I wasn’t only hurt, I was a broken person.

So for all parents out there, let me give you a word of advice: never fight in front of your child. Never talk bad about your spouse. Never belittle your spouse, after all your child is also a part of them. If divorce or separation is inevitable, explain to the child why. If its not too much to ask, be civil with each other.

My point of the story? Being a product of a dysfunctional home is no laughing matter. In fact, it will be a spiral down for some people. I was able to get away from some horrible things I did by the skin of my teeth. It was that bad and they still haunt me to this day.

In the end, the life you bring into this world, your child and his/her future, is all that matters. Why would you even be a parent in the first place?

Personal and Professional: The Big Difference

For me, there are fat months and there are lean months.

Obviously, for the fat months I make sure resources are utilized well: saving, investing, and sharing.

What do I do with the lean months? I stay at home and take the role of a hermit.

Paula the Hermit, now that’s a sight.

Kidding aside, I have always been a staunch believer in putting my money where my mouth is.

Truth: Money comes and goes. For me, money has always been a tool, a resource, if you must. There is also truth that money puts food on the table, pays the bills, etc. But as much as possible, I don’t let these things get to my head or it will consume me.

If I can’t afford it, or if there is inner turmoil from my end, I don’t pursue a money-making endeavor anymore.

I believe I am quite generous with my time and resources. I try to share them as much as I can, sometimes even at a loosing end. There also comes a time that my generosity results in a deficit by the end of month. But I don’t regret my actions as long as they foster positive relationships as a whole.

I invest not only in monetary vehicles but in people as well. My biggest asset? My relationships. I make sure that my relationships (professional or otherwise) are all well taken care of, after all, they are the very people who bring me opportunities.

So sometimes, it just burns me when a good client or potential prospect deems me unreliable or unprofessional. I really take it to heart. If I can’t deliver, I might as well end the professional relationship there.

I can be very hard on myself sometimes, especially if I get a disappointing email from a valued client/colleague.

I make it a point to walk my talk. However, especially for the recent weeks, there were circumstances that were beyond my control. Currently, I am working on four separate accounts, all in four different industries!  One of them holds the biggest part of my income. But nonetheless, I try to be fair to everybody, giving them my time, resources and talents. But sometimes things don’t work out, even if I work till the wee hours of the morning, things will not always go according to plan.

More than the fear of loosing potential income, I am also scared of loosing the confidence and trust people have in me. My name is one of the things I highly value in this business. Aside from my relationships, my professional reputation is one of my biggest assets.

So what’s the difference between professional and personal affairs? For me, there is none.

If Only To Be Still

I was talking to a good friend earlier today and I mentioned that I have a boredom issue.

I easily get bored.

I easily get bored with things I routinely do, bored with the same conversations, bored of the same people (and I don’t mean this to be dismissive or unloving of my friends/family, it’s just that my attention span wanes after a few hours).

(Probably this is also why I love reading so much. It makes me just sit down and focus on one thing.)

My friend says it can be a complex.

Years back, another friend recommended we go to the spa to relax, and my response was “but there’s nothing to do there…” (Of course, that is the whole point of getting a massage in the first place, but in my mind, I knew I would get bored just laying there). I still get massages from time to time, but I cannot sleep there. Some of my friends can relax and sleep, but with me, I try to relax, I try to get some shut eye. It just never happens!

I cannot sit still in one place unless I am really engrossed (stimulated) in what I am doing.

My solution? I look towards other things, places and people for stimulation.

I search. I ask. I meet. I go. I try.

I like to listen and talk to intelligent people (or at least people who I think who are more intelligent than me). Which probably explains why I tend to gravitate towards older individuals, because I know I can learn a thing or two from them and because of this, some friends laugh at me because I have eclectic and curious looking people surrounding me when I go to church or they catch me roaming around Makati with a new person.

I don’t mind hanging out with people years older than me or who have a different background than I have. Each person in my social circle brings something new to the table (or in this case, the table of my insatiable mind) and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

My restlessness could probably be also one of the reasons why I like to garden. I crave something tactile.

Gardening keeps my hands busy. I feel like I am creating something, or bringing something to life when my hands touch it. But after that, when gardening has lost its allure, I move on.

I cook, write, read, or maybe go for a run, if feel like it.

Bottom-line, I can’t sit still and it’s seriously becoming an annoyance.  I am annoyed with my own restlessness. Imagine that!

Despite my restlessness, I make it a point to focus my energies on productive endeavors. I make the most of the time given to me. Time is the only resource I can’t take back, and I make sure I make every second count.

Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:16

Financially Literacy is Peace of Mind

Financial literacy, unfortunately, is not taught in schools. Unless you took up financial management as a course or grew up with it, then probably you would have an idea of what I’m talking about. Other than that, we are left with the financial examples of our family and friends. And to add to this glaring lack, consumerism and materialism are continuously shoved down our throats every moment of the day making financial literacy a dying age.

With consumerism and materialism, there is this need to keep up with the Joneses. Then before you know it, putting on a fake life follows. But more of that topic on a later issue. Going back…

I am just fortunate that I have learned the value of money early on and what it represents. I have learned that money is only a resource and I want to make sure that I am able to fully utilize this resource for things/experiences/activities that are worthwhile and bring genuine happiness both for me and the people that are important in my life.

I have fully embraced the concept of living below my means. This minimalist approach has been going on for quite a few years now and for the first time in my young adult life have I been able to experience peace both for my finances and future.

On a personal note as well, I have never had this inclination for jealousy or envy most especially when it comes to material things. I was not raised with that kind of mind set. I come from a working class background, and my family always minded our own business. This is why the topic of comparisons was never brought up because everyone mostly, was busy working, doing or creating!

Why the emphasis on financial literacy? It’s because financial literacy is the path to peace of mind. As most of you know, a person who knows how to handle, invest and share their money is set for life.

Financial literacy also means having a budget. Here are the top reasons why a budget is necessary:

Budgets mean you have a plan — a budget frees us to tell our money what to do each month. I have a plan for every peso that I earn. I have lots of dreams for the future and know I will achieve them because I have a plan.

Budgets mean having peace — nothing is more important to me but having peace of mind. Things will happen outside of my budget: family members getting sick, retrenchment, etc. A budget takes the emergency out of these situations. It brings peace into the financial inconveniences of life.

Budgets will change your future — without a plan, you will wander aimlessly. There is this couple I know that is buried deep in debt but refuse to acknowledge their situation, even living above their means, essentially putting on a fake life with it. And you know what they say about marriage, money and debt, right?

Without a budget, couples (and single people) will spend aimlessly with nothing to show for their efforts. A budget puts effort behind dreams.

Budgets help you stay on the same page with your loved ones — I know how much money I have, where it needs to be spent, and what my financial goals are because everything is in black and white. If it’s not in the budget, it doesn’t get spent. If I want to spend money on something, I need to make the necessary financial adjustments and add it to the budget.

Aside from the above, my personal reasons for sticking to my budget and living my lifestyle are:

1.) It allows me to share and give generously
2.) It allows me to spend on quality items (food, clothes, etc.)
3.) It helps me save for my future
4.) I am more in control of my money

Running a tight ship, I call my financial life, has never been more rewarding.

How about you? Are we on the same page, here?