02 Oct Practical impracticality
It was the recession once again.
He had to be practical.
So he set aside his dream of writing a book.
His best seller can wait he says.
First he took a job as a blogger. He was tasked to write all kind of things; reviews for movies he had never seen, songs he would never have bothered to hear, even cars he had never laid eyes upon.
He was paid less than a peso for every word he writes, but on the average, he earns thirty five pesos every one hundred words, that’s five hundred pesos for every 2,500 words
He knew he was being underpaid, exploited even. He knew that at the other side of the globe, those with freckles, and sometimes, even those with the same Mohave color as he does would get paid 75 percent more of what he is earning now.
But the times were hard, he had to be practical.
Where else will he paid the same amount without slaving eight hours each day? And even then, he would be lucky to earn 375 pesos for his labor.
Writing was the only trade he knew that fared better than others, so he chose to stick to it. Even if it meant selling his skills at 75% off.
So he slaved away for a few hundred pesos to get by, while his clients earned top dollars for his work.
Sometimes he would get a break from local magazines through the editors he knew. He would write travel accounts and even sports articles, this time at a fair price. But always, money would only come after publication, and this could take as early as one month up to as late as seven.
They did not have any opening in their staff box for new writers they would tell him, but they would surely let him know if there was any vacancy. In the mean time, occasional projects are all he could hope for.
Realizing that he could not depend on local writing projects to sustain his daily needs, he had college to pay for after all, he chose to stick to blogging.
Every night, he wrote for clients who would never pay him what he’s worth. Every night he would lament on his faith, and wonder how long the situation would persist.
He did not plan to do this all his life. “Only until college was over”, he consoles himself.
No, he had much better plans for himself and it had nothing to do with blogging his hours away for online readers who would not know the difference between a review and a conjecture.
He had a book to write after all, and he knew, and how he did he did not know, that his book, would change everything.
His words will inspire communities, maybe even nations. He would leave the imprint of his name in every academic text book. My, they would even be studying him in college. That much he was sure.
But first he had to write the book.
The book which, for the time being, had to wait.
He had to be practical after all.
Days passed, and the inflation rate continued to soar. College was getting harder and harder to sustain with all the books and projects he had to spend on.
It was now more than ever that he could not afford to quit blogging, in fact, at this point, he even took on a night job as an English tutor to Koreans.
They were beginning to match the country’s bloating population by the day he notices. He realizes that, he did not like Koreans all that much, they were mostly imposing and rude. They acted like they had a right to be in his country when in fact, they were just parasites trying to get their hopeless English right. Education in Korea was too expensive he hears, and seeing as how it was so much cheaper to study here, Koreans have deemed it practical to migrate in the Philippines until such a time that they sound American enough to go back to their English obsessed land.
The government said Filipinos were lucky they could speak English like the Americans, unlike the Chinese and the Indians who would never be able to get their accent right even if they spend two years perfecting it.
He would have bought it too, if only China and India, and even Korea did not rank better in terms of economic development than his American accented country.
While writing one of his blogs, he realized that a year has passed and he has yet to start his book. So he closed the document to start a blank page. It shouldn’t be difficult, he had the story neatly pressed into his mind. He only had to find the words to lay them down for his future readers to read as they pleased.
He stared at the blinking cursor and realized to his dismay, that he could not find the words to tell his story.
He attributed the peculiar phenomenon to writer’s block. In a few hours, days at most, he would be inspired enough to write the words he needed for his book. It was not the first time he was hampered by the common cold of writers after all, and always it would pass to make way for the stream of ideas that would flow endlessly until such a time that his eyes would burst from the harsh glare of the screen and he would be forced to rest them lest they actually do blow a vein.
He spent the passing days waiting for the flow but it did not come. So instead he wrote the blogs.
Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months and still, every time he tried to start his book, no words would come to fill in the blank spaces of Microsoft Word.
It was as if he had lost the ability to concoct something that isn’t based on another piece. Every time he tried, the sentence would either sound forced or fake.
There was no rhythm in his words. It refused to evoke anything out of the reader—dead like texts on manuals.
No use trying to wait for something that’s unlikely to happen. He had to be practical, so he resolved to writing his fake reviews to pass the days.
At least with them, he did not have to try and be original.
One morning he got an email from his employer. It said that his writing was no longer adept, and with it came an attachment of how a review ought to be written.
Do not go in circles over the same point, it ordered. Use titles that are enticing, angles that would interest the readers.
Stunned, for no one has ever complained of his writing before, he proceeded to write for his next blog, this time taking care to adhere to his employer’s demands.
The next morning, he got another email from his employer. The clients did not like his recent works it says, they can no longer afford to keep him with his current status as a writer. At the end of the email is a link to another website which is in need of writers.
He shut down his Acer notebook and stared at the chapping walls of his studio. He was fired.
Even blogging was too good for him now.
He thought about taking time off to give his writing a chance to replenish itself. Maybe he over exerted it. Like the singers who strain their vocal cords to the point of losing it. He had exhausted his writing to the point that no more words would come out.
But he could not afford to slack off now, he was a senior at his University and it was now more than ever that he needed the funds to sustain his schooling.
One more year and he would have got his degree in Communications. He would no longer have to slave his hours away perverting his writing skills by making up reviews, or wasting his speech away teaching Koreans how to say “Hello” right.
In a year he would be free. He would secure a good paying job in a publishing firm, Mega publishing or Summit Media most probably. And after he has gained enough experience and funds there he would apply at Readers Digest in Singapore.
Then he would be at the Times…
And his book, who could forget about his best seller? He would finally be able to write it.
But for the time being, he had to be practical. He needed to concentrate on acquiring the funds to sustain his last year at the University. With his writing racket gone, he could not afford to keep tutoring as his only means anymore.
College was expensive, he needed a better paying part time work.
He chose to apply as a call center agent, or an outsourcing representative as they would prefer to be called.
He had a perfect American accent so he had no problem getting hired. Like his previous jobs, he was paid 75 percent less than what his American counterparts earn in the States. At this point, the fact no longer bothered him. He had to be practical after all. He had to make do with what he has.
In the office he met all kinds of people; certified Accountants, nurses, teachers, engineers and even Doctors who, like him, had to resort to being a call center agent to make ends meet.
They all agreed that their job now was just temporary, their office, a waiting room until such a time that they would be given a chance to pursue their respective careers.
Their shift started at 11 in the evening and ended at 6 in the morning. Some of the people working in the company had shifts ranging from 8 in the evening until three in the morning. Others had a normal Clark Kent routine, but for most employees, it was the graveyard shift.
It was not easy, each day he was lucky to have at least five hours of sleep in between work and college. He barely had time to eat anything aside from burgers and donuts much less sleep on a proper bed. Most days he would content himself dozing off in the bus or catching some shut-eye in the company’s pantry.
He did not have time to do anything else aside from pretending to be an agent who is only too happy to attend to the complaints of his “fellow” Americans and a college student who is only too eager to get his diploma. He did not even have the time to shave his thickening mustache.
Writing his book no longer crosses his mind—his tired, disoriented and foggy mind.
He had more important things to attend to, there were so many more practical things to invest his time on. Writing a book was a dreamer’s fantasy. Who was he kidding? He couldn’t even sell his write-ups to blogs anymore, why would he think that publishers in a country full of Palanca winners would so much as bother as to even consider signing him up?
No, he had to be practical. He had to concentrate on finishing his degree so that he could have a chance as a broadcaster in the future. Maybe he would even have the chance to be a news anchor.
Reporters earn a stable income, they had bosses and did what they were told. It was the kind of life he was best suited for.
He did not have what it takes to be writer anyway, he was no David or De Quiros to make a living out of it. He was most definitely no Coelho to make a fortune out his books.
Best accept what really is while there’s time.
A year passed and he was finally able to claim his diploma. He sent his resume to all the broadcasting companies in the land. When he did not get a response, he tried applying in every Public Relations firm he could see in the classified ads. He even ventured in productions to see if they were in need of an extra hand.
Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, and still, his mobile did not ring for the interview he was sure would keep him occupied for weeks.
So he kept working as a outsource agent. He stayed there with the certified accountants, nurses, engineers, and teachers he had been with from the beginning. Only the Doctor left, off to medical school to take nursing courses so that she would be able to work in Canada as an old people’s help.
Soon the nurse they were with got a call from a hospital in Dubai, and she left too.
The teacher was able to secure a job in Korea as a full pledge English tutor.
The accountant availed of a care giving training on the side, she wanted to take advantage of an opening for nannies in Hong Kong.
Only him and the accountant were left to pin for local opportunities. He realized that the accountant had been there for three years without going anywhere. He did not want to be a call center agent forever. He had to be practical, so he re-enrolled as a nurse in his alma mater.
In the mean time, he would keep his job as an agent to sustain his schooling. Nursing was five times more expensive than Communications. He had to work overtime to keep up with the expenses.
A year later, the news would report a freeze-hiring on all nurses in all hospitals.
He decided to be a full time agent.
Times were hard.
He had to be practical.