Graduating from the School of Persistence.

Nothing could have prepared me for this moment. Ever since I learned the meaning of the word ‘development,’ it had always been married to another heavy word: responsibility. From this coupling emerged my consciousness about development. In the grand scheme of things, these words mean nothing unless the individual is part and parcel of the process. This kind of thinking brings me to government work and teaching–any area where I can apply myself best and flesh out the meanings of these terms makes my job feel less like one and more like a vocation (which is what work ought to be if we listen to Thomas Merton talk about it in Care of the Soul).

Lately, I’ve been under tremendous stress. Taking on a new job, having barely enough time to prepare for a mind-numbing exam for the foreign service plus making sure that ends meet so the moving out can progress has taken a huge toll on me. This past month, I’ve lost weight, ridden extreme emotional roller coasters and been on trains long enough for me to think about what this is all leading up to. What is a life in government really going to be like? Can I endure the pressures of work and come home feeling like I didn’t sell out any of my ideals or core beliefs? It’s a common thought I hold in the train every morning on my way to work. It’s very easy to think of oneself as special or privileged–at least in my office. It’s further up than I could have ever aspired for in terms of hierarchy.

It’s all a blur, really. It opens many doors and this past week I’ve shook the hands of people whom I’m sure I could have met under different circumstances but what you’ll see below is something I hadn’t been prepared for…I don’t think I’ll ever be prepared for moments like these:

[This photo screams graduation, doesn’t it?! Many thanks to Ms. Leah Caringal of GreenBulb PR who took this photo. She and her staff made the ADB Meet quite memorable for me and I couldn’t have had this moment had they not been so gracious at extending it. My sister should also get props for the beautiful coat she bequeathed to me. I felt less shabby and embarrassed on account of having worn it.]

Meeting people you hold in such high regard (Hello Manong Frankie & Mr. Gemino Abad whom I once asked: So, do you write?) will always bring out the equivalent of the inspiration they give in the form of your perspiration. In my case, it will also induce massive blushing. Because I know this, I try not to have a camera around when these things happen because documenting foibles is like having to write about them minus a poetic license. But whatever, it was an awe-inspiring moment.

I knew Jeffrey Sachs would be interviewed and I turned my shelves upside down looking for every known book of his that’s ever found its way to me. Unfortunately, The End of Poverty, which was the first one of his that I owned, made it’s way to some forgotten corner of the bookshelf. If you walked in the same shoes I did for those three days, you’d get why I just allowed this defeat to pass. On the up side, I found Common Wealth and it’s a fitting book to have him sign. The first book established his rock star presence in the world–I mean seriously, Bono does a foreword in that book and you think, “Whoa. Wow! He’s bridging worlds, isn’t he?” Though Sachs is an economist, it’s hard to imagine him the way we typically would remembering all the economics professors we’ve had in the past.

 In any case, I was taken by surprise. I knew the schedule of his press cons and had carefully rehearsed a line that was simple and sincere: I’m really inspired by your work, please sign my book so I can go out and die already. But it went down quite differently. His last interviewer wasn’t around. He saw me sitting idly in front of him and asked if he could sign my book…erm, his book which I happened to own? Or yeah, basta, he asked and I wasn’t quite prepared so I blushed heavily and said, “Really?” It’s a dumb blonde moment but I let it be as well because at least I got to tell him why this particular book means so much to me.

If you ever manage to read Common Wealth, find that portion where he speaks of how to be successful in terms of getting the wheels of development turning. He says: The key is persistence. You have to be a persistent go-getter to make stuff happen. Now if only I remembered that in a recent interview when I was asked if I was too driven. I should’ve quoted him and cited the page but as it is, his words give me quiet assurance. His actual presence also commands so much respect and it’s difficult to not hope that one day our common dreams might become real.

As for work–there’s no place like the government for me. Work here is really its own reward.

2 thoughts on “Graduating from the School of Persistence.

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