I found myself sitting at the dusty pavements of a quiet street in residential Makati one night.
It was quite late. Almost 1 in the morning and there was barely any breeze. For a bustling city that never sleeps, it was fairly an uneventful evening.
The street lights flickered near me, flooding the spot with dim orange for a few minutes and then absolute darkness the next.
The moths living and dying by the light.
The sky was despairingly starless.
A man stood beside me sweating from the summer night. He wore a red stylish top, tattered jeans, and brand new leather shoes. His hair had too much wax. He was hurriedly trying to finish his stick, puffing at the empty space away from me.
His name is N. A stock broker and a friend. Young, ambitious, egotistic, and incredibly anxious. I could tell by how clipped his arms moved that his behavior was held back.
I let him be.
He grumbled an apology for having to smoke around me as he threw an empty box to the side.
“It’s biodegradable.”, he said, then winked. Obviously proud of how smart he thought he sounded.
I bit my tongue and said nothing.
“You don’t have to leave.”, he told me as he sat down on the ground beside me. “Why don’t you become a broker instead? Honestly, it’s advantageous for you being a girl and all.” He paused for a while and sized me up. “I can only probably count in one hand the female brokers in the country.”
I can’t lie. It’s not like I haven’t thought about it. It was tempting, quite appetizing. I watched them make money after money on one of the bull runs in the market.
I had considered myself penniless back then, even if my life was more than decent. I thought I have such a long way to go before I hold something of substance comparable to a life I envisioned to live.
At that time, I had just learned about the stock market. N and his friends were my first contact persons. It didn’t give me the impression of respectable dignity that I had imagined.
They were fast-talkers, loud-mouthed, and egotistic men. Often lying and cheating one another to win. Alpha against alpha trying to topple each other, not really friends but fierce competitors in a game only they made. Who bagged the killer wins? Who drove bigger cars? Who got the girl?
Asked about it one time, and of them replied with a sly smile, “This is business.”.
They were little boys and I was largely unimpressed. I couldn’t help but feel like I was another one of the trophies.
“Well,” I said, my voice traveling the silence of the night. “I don’t know how risky I can afford to be at the moment. I don’t know what can happen to me here. I mean, in my field, every thing is hard science. Cold, evidence-based, protocol-filled environment demanding for preciseness.” I grinned. It almost sounded like I was complaining. “But so… fascinatingly touching and miraculous at the same time.”
I grew up becoming something I dreamed of. My career was a passion project built entirely on the premise that I want to live a life of kindness.
It was such a harsh contrast from N’s world where everything and everyone seemed to be fair game, even his so called friends. And the personal knowledge of large money they’ve lost as well in some trades was certainly discouraging.
“It’s a gray area. You don’t really know for sure if you’ll be okay. Everything is tied to the money. You make money, you feel good. You don’t make money, you feel bad. In my line, at the end of the day, I think I might have made someone be glad I’m around.”
He soaked himself with my opinion, reaching now at his pockets for a fresh box of cigarettes.
One year after that night, I’m left to think about the possibilities again. Life happened.
In two words, I can sum up what someone who went through a radical change would say– “Life happened.” and I would completely understand what they meant.
Everything right now needs some kind of courage, but don’t we all? There is courage in waking up every morning for a job that kills you on the inside, when it no longer serves your passion.
But there is courage too in abandoning it, and wildly chasing after a dream. Most people die wondering “What If?”.
I was the kind of kid who planned everything down to a pat but they didn’t tell me that I’ll grow up and I’ll outgrow even the plans I made for myself. Not entirely different from that time I wanted to buy the Goofy sweaters from the store, and when the time finally came that I have the money to do so, I realize I don’t like Goofy that much anymore.
I have later on understood that if I wanted to serve and be kind, there are other ways to do so without making it my job. But what am I thinking? How can I be so risky? I haven’t even made myself a profitable trader yet, I’m still waddling my way out of the knee-deep mud of losses I got myself into and here I am considering the jump.
I’ll leave the thought to linger, and soon, one day, maybe I’ll live that life.
I was driving one time on New Years Eve, alone, listening to the radio. The radio jock announced that this was going to be her last song for the year, and it was wonderful. It stuck to me ever since.
I hope you enjoy this is much as I did.
original music video here: