By: Jennel Paytone | August 14, 2020 |
Since the first time I found out that there are such things as work from home and freelancing, I’ve always wondered how it would be like to work remotely from the comforts of my very own home. The thought of no longer dealing with hours of heavy traffic to and from the office, the long queues at the elevator lobby, the polluted air of the Metro, the crowded office pantry or restaurants during lunch hours; the endless list of perks that come with it make it too enticing and surreal to not give a try! It’s like a dream that I want to become my reality!
The Great Walls
Just I’ve convinced myself to dive into the world of freelancing. I end up hitting the great walls of “Where do I start?“, “Can I do it?” and “Is it for me?” head on. This happened to me every single time the thought lingered on my mind. When I think of not having a long-term contract with a company, not going to a physical office where all tools that I need to work are provided, not having workmates I can chat with during breaks, not having HR officers who will take care of government-related stuff for me and most of all, not expecting and earning a fixed salary each month, I take a step back in a snap and erase the thought of freelancing off my mind. I couldn’t blame myself. Having a corporate job has been my comfort zone. Aside from somehow giving me a feeling of financial security, I’ve been on the same spot for the past decade and up to that time, I was never brave enough to take a single step forward. I was terrified; afraid of the unknown and frightened of failure and regrets. And in a blink of an eye, I was back to the same old spot where I used to be. Stuck in my spot in the corporate world where I felt comfort but almost never experienced real joy and fulfillment.
The Corporate World As I Saw It
Almost immediately after passing the board exam, I had my first job as an electronics engineer in a Japanese automotive company down south of Metro Manila. Though the salary is a bit low, I had great moments with the company and also had my fair share of opportunities. My team was sent twice to ”The Land of the Rising Sun” for training and we stayed there for a total of 6 months. The people at the office, both Filipino and Japanese, were all warm and felt like family. However, the work load and the micromanagement imposed on employees became too stressful and suffocating for me. I was unhappy and did not feel any motivation to be productive at work. I was also yearning to do something different. It was a very tough decision for me but I had to let go and move on. I tendered my resignation after staying for a good 6 years and 4 months.
I took a break for 4 months before trying to find a job again. I got hired in an American automation solutions company with an office in Ortigas Center. At first, I did not plan to take a role that was similar to my previous job. But when I was looking for job listings, I still sent my applications to related jobs because I don’t know where else I’d fit in. I did not expect that I’d even be shortlisted in the position because some qualifications were not in my resume but to my surprise, I actually got the job after a couple of exams and interviews. From then up to now, I’ve been with the company for almost 3 years. The people in my department are also nice but the bond I had with my former colleagues were notches higher. Now, I only have a very small circle whom I am close with but the rest are almost strangers to me up to date. But I’m actually not really bothered by it. My real worry is the fact that I’ve never felt the motivation to level myself up in terms of work skills and knowledge since I entered the company. Unlike before, I know have a very loose and relaxed work environment. Actually, a little too relaxed that I often feel guilty that I’m being paid without actually ‘working’. This had made me become kind of unmotivated and uninterested in giving my 100% in my tasks.
As the days went by, I began asking myself, “Is this is what I really want my career to be?“. Inside me, I know I want to do something else. I want to do something that would make me want to give my best foot forward at all times. My dilemma is I just don’t know when or how do I start. And so, I moved on as usual.
Along Came COVID-19
March 16, 2020 was one of the most bizarre Mondays I’ve had in my 31 years of existence. It was the first day that the country was officially placed under enhanced community quarantine due to the alarming number of individuals infected by the deadly corona virus. And I thought Mondays can’t get any worse! Our department, which never had the plan to offer a work from home schedule due dependency in laboratory equipment, was forced to have us work remotely. The managers let us take our desktop computers home. Yes, you read it right, some of us took home even their monitors along with the CPU. Luckily, we have recently upgraded to those tiny CPU units which are almost the size of a huge hand and weighs way less compared to the common bulky CPUs. And just before the chaotic lock-down began, I was able to leave the office and went to our home in Bulacan safely.
A Glimpse Of The Dream
Thanks to my ever reliable husband, my remote work set-up was in full operation the next day. The moment I turned on my computer, I thought I was having a glimpse of how it is like to work freelance (or at least the part of working while staying home). And inside my mind I was like, “Hey, this is not bad at all!“. That day, I was able to squeeze in some time for my little one during my breaks (and even on my work hours!). I got to eat my meals with my family. I did not have to worry about the weather or heavy traffic. I got to enjoy fresh air since I live in the province. It was just the first day and everything just felt surreal! Ironically, the only piece that doesn’t belong to the puzzle is the work that I’m doing. There’s just no spark left between me and my job and I want to call it quits, badly.
Walking On Thin Ice
Sooner than later, the trial period of the dream almost came to an and when my managers started to ask me to return to the office amid the pandemic. I understand the nature of my job but I also know that I have tasks that I could still accomplish while working from home. So, I had to request them to allow me to continue working remotely. I felt scared of my family’s safety more than mine. I have a months old baby and a senior citizen mom at home and I don’t want to risk their safety. The number of cases in Metro Manila is doubling in an alarming succession and that worries me a lot. However, I know I could only ask for their consideration for so long. Soon, I’ll have to return to the office even without any vaccine to protect myself and family. Another huge struggle I have to face is the fact that I no longer have passion for the job I’ll be risking my life for. I felt like I was walking on thin ice that could collapse anytime. I also felt like I was trapped inside a small box. That time I asked myself, “How long am I willing to settle on this uncertainty?“. That was the moment when I thought to myself that it is the right time to take the leap of faith.
Pursuing The Dream : Taking The First Step
I revisited the freelancing-related Facebook groups I am a member of and saw that I am part of FHMoms group. Another aspiring freelancer mom friend told me about it a few months back and I was accepted when I tried to join (Thank you, FHMoms Admin!). But at that time, I never had the chance to be really engaged in the group due to my busy schedule. I only got to see and read posts by fellow moms on my feed every now and then. I managed to watch some of the free webinars before bedtime. I completed the free webinars “How To Start Working From Home” by Mommy MK Bertulfo, “Introduction to Social Media Management” by Mommy Janelle Swing and “Introduction to General Virtual Assistance” by Mommy Christine Barraquio. I chose to watch these three since I thought the topics cover what interests me. I can see myself being a virtual assistant doing social media management because I am currently managing the Facebook page of a small business my husband and I started during the quarantine period. The videos were long but very informative! After completing the three webinars, I was finally able to completely convince myself to enroll on one of their online courses. I consulted my husband about it and he was very supportive of my choice as always. So, I signed up the enrollment form and I chose to be a part of the General Virtual Assistance class for August 2020.
Before the classes began, I took the time to appreciate the success stories of the admins and members of the group. The women of FHMoms inspired me to create a better me; to find in myself what I really want to do with my career. I’m grateful that I was able to stumble upon the FHMoms community. The group gave me the courage to take one step outside my shell. Their stories of failure and success made me realize that I have the power to take control of my career. And the best part is that they have the means to help me build my confidence to enter the world of freelancing and eventually leave my comfort zone! I was so exhilarated to learn and discover new skills and eventually get paid for something that I actually enjoyed doing!
Right now, I’m on to a fresh start. The beginning of something that I know I’m not going to regret. I’m now in full throttle in pursuing what I am passionate for and of course, earn from it as well. I know that it’s not a walk in a park and I am still miles away from reaching my goal. But at least I know and feel that I’m following the right path. I’m finally walking outside my comfort zone, one step at a time.