My greatest dream in life was to become an artist. I already knew this when I was still in my adolescence. In High School instead of doing my homework I would write my own rap songs and sing them at school in front of my classmates. Sometimes I would drum the table with my hands and they would dance to the beat. I never was a good student. I had few friends and oftentimes a victim of bullies. I always hated school.
I didn’t finish my college degree because of my goal to become a musician. After eight years of singing live and recording songs, my band hadn’t progressed to be a source of living. That is why I’ve decided to leave my band. My mother was also the reason for the break up. She never liked my ambition to become a musician. Mothers always know what’s best for their children. But it didn’t work for me. I was stubborn. I had always been pompous and vain. I always thought for myself and not for my family. But being the eldest of three siblings, I realized I had to look for a decent job.
Luckily I landed as a product demonstrator at a music store. After I finished the six-month contract, my mother wanted me to earn more than with my previous job. Since she was a real estate agent, she had me engaged in the world of real estate. She taught me how to convince clients, the proper grooming and all that.
But still it wasn’t the job that I had always wanted. Although I realized that I had to subordinate all my wishes for me to earn, it still won’t do me good. It won’t make me a good real state agent. That was why during those times at Filinvest, I had already been thinking about applying in a call center company. Call center, I thought, was close to what I wanted to be: a customer service representative of musical instruments or a technical writer perhaps. I had already begun to write essays and short stories when I was still in the band, hoping to win a Palanca award. But, of course, it didn’t happen. I was an amateur. I needed more years of experience to become a seasoned writer. Maybe if I’d be hired in a call center, with my knowledge and skills in writing, I would be promoted as a copywriter or an editor, a kind of job that I had always loved and paid well.
I had always thought that applying in a call center was as easy as speaking English. I had but experienced countless rejections. I believe it was because of my personality. Call centers are simply looking for applicants who can easily be exploited, people who don’t think much about the things around them; people who are not principled and can take things as they are; mostly fresh graduates who don’t know the truth about the job. That is why call center agents do come and go. That is why call center companies always have a slogan printed in bold letters in front of their buildings: “Always Hiring.” At those times I was not one of them.
The first call center company that hired me brought me to Cebu. I remember I was so excited about the new culture I was about to assimilate. Cebuanos, especially the women, are known for their liberated demeanor and self-confidence. But due to my idle months of being jobless before setting my foot on a modern city, I was startled by the fast pace and pressure of the training. Since we start in the evening until the wee hours of the morning, it was hard to summon sleep. It was a strange feeling to get out of your office seeing the sun about to rise in the horizon, and hearing the early cockcrows in a nearby village. I was beginning to feel that this was not the job for me. The stress was too great to handle. My blood pressure went high. I lost hundreds of hair strands. I have to drink a bottle of beer or two just to hit the sack. After a month of training I was not endorsed to take calls. I failed, not only to myself but most especially to my loved ones who had high expectations on me.
But it wasn’t that bad because my blood pressure decreased as my score cards have. It meant that all I have to do was to fail the training in order to bring my blood pressure back to normal. I didn’t have to be harsh on myself. I didn’t have to put my health in danger just to earn a living. I didn’t have any choice then. Maybe call center was not really meant for me.
But the aftermath changed everything. I had regrets. Had I only been serious about the training, I wouldn’t have made my pockets empty. I would have paid my rent. Again I didn’t have any choice but to look for another job. There was nowhere else to go but in those buildings that say, “Always Hiring.”
I landed at a market research firm called Western Wats. This time we didn’t take calls but we would be calling the households. It was fun at first. Western Wats had a strict standard for pronunciations. I had to make my accent as American as possible. I had to sound like a CNN reporter when I talk over the headset. With my gifted accent (as my friends would compliment) and training, I was beginning to sound like a real American. I was doing well until the Quality Assurance let me do the hard way. QAs who don’t like you will always find ways to get into your nerves. They hated my guts maybe because I was too good for them, or maybe because agents should experience the hard way before getting endorsed to the floor. They envied me but they were trying hard not to show it. So again I failed. Not because I didn’t do well but because, as what I chose to believe, I was too good for the job. Like I’ve said, you had to do it the hard way.
What followed was a series of rejections and terminations. It was perhaps the outcome of my frustration and persistence, desperation and pride. I wouldn’t stop until there was something for me to prove. I worked hard. I practiced everyday in front of a mirror like an actor. I was more and more improving. I had learned how to control my emotions in everyday situations. I was near to perfection. The problem lies not within me anymore. The truth was, I believe, either they didn’t like me or I was too intelligent for the job. But again it wasn’t that bad. Every termination and rejection was a good inspiration for me to write again. I became pompous again. Writing was a good therapy.
Applying in call centers was some sort of a habit that was hard to break, like I was addicted to it. I did it with such enthusiasm and zest of having to be grilled from their interrogations, questions that test your patience and attitude towards work. I had always been prepared. I had made myself a script as a weapon. I always had the fascination of having to outwit the Human Resource, tell them lies that sounded like the truth. I wouldn’t stop until one company hired me for training, and then have me terminated again. These companies had cost them a lot of money from my addiction. It was like, if they can use me in a humiliating way, then why on earth can’t I use them? A month or two can earn me substantial amount of money to pay my rent.
After I left Convergys for the very last time, I ceased to engage in call centers. I was getting tired. Everything I saw didn’t make sense anymore. I became cynical. I resented all the people I saw everyday. I became frustrated and dismal. I locked myself in my bedroom for weeks. I drank and drank and drank. But then I was writing again. As what I’ve said, writing was a good therapy. After a few weeks I got out of my box. That was me. I’ve gone through it so many times. I always knew what to do next. The frustrations were temporary. It didn’t stop me to find what I was really looking for. I was a warrior. I had to find what suited me.
Out of pure luck and determination, I was finally hired as a content writer in a Search Engine Optimization company. I was happy because I have finally found what was really meant for me. I have finally reached my destiny. I had met fellow writers whom I can share my passion with. My peers were nice. My boss was approachable and comfortable to be with outside work. I was doing fine. But then again things started to go bad. I had thought that it was finally a dream-come-true. I had thought it was God’s gift after pains of rejections and discrimination. I had thought it was a reward after long, great sacrifices. I failed again. This time with great disappointment that it almost made me break down in despair.
This, however, I realized maybe the corporate world was not meant for me. I had to settle for less. Maybe it was better for me to get back to my pompous life: writing fiction and making music. There’s no one on earth that could change me. There was no teacher who taught me how to reach my goal. No one taught me how to survive. If there were lessons I’ve learned from my journey, it was I who taught them. It was I who made me right now. This doesn’t mean I am responsible for my actions, reasons that didn’t make me succeed. But this simply means that it was I who had the power to master my destiny. I’ve been told from a book that to reach your goal in life is serving no one but ambition. True enough. I have reached the fate that I had always wanted. At least, not the fate of humiliations and disappointments, but by reaching the fate of being a legitimate writer and a better person; after I left the company, I still continue to write as freelance. But it’s not enough to pay my rent. That is why I came back.
I’m writing this piece comfortably from my laptop here in my big bedroom. I have the time to relax and cherish the moment of being back home. I have the right. I have had a long journey. After all, I’ve just been rejected yesterday by Sutherland, a new call center company here in Davao.