11 August 2009


I stood in line in Mini Stop Sunday evening to buy some salt-and-vinegar flavored chips, when I heard an acoustic song being played over the speakers of the convenience store.

The singer was a high school batch mate of mine, and her newly-released album was currently making waves in the local music industry. Even though acoustic love songs weren't really my thing, she sounded really good (just like she was back in high school), and I was proud of her anyway.

She was now enjoying stardom, and I was, well, leading a normal life.

Which is fine, actually. I've never been the limelight kind of girl, and I usually shy away from large parties and crowded dance floors. I don't like talking to so many people at the same time, or entertaining them for that matter.

So as I stood, waiting for my turn to purchase my chips, I was thinking, yes, I do lead a quiet, ordinary life, and it's okay. For the first time in what seemed like years, I felt a sense of peace and contentment with the way my life is unfolding at the moment.

At the age of 29, I'm surrounded by family and close friends, I'm in a job that I absolutely love (in spite of the high stress level, rigid processes, and workload), I am blessed with a healthy body and with a positive attitude towards regular exercise, I get to read and write (which are my small, personal joys), I'm still able to afford little luxuries in life even though I shoulder my younger sister's college tuition, and I get to travel at times and meet interesting people along the way. As my dearly departed colleague Ms. Leila had reminded me years before, I must count my blessings. And I do.

I enjoy a certain routine these days which is basically this:
- long, fruitful hours at work with colleagues (most of whom I get along really well with)
- my usual lunch with close office mates and my usual after-lunch Starbucks café mocha at my desk while I work
- poker with good college friends on most Fridays (there’s a lot of heckling that takes place, but you can generally feel the love)
- meaningful one-on-one conversations with close friends and loved ones
- an occasional trip to the book store or cinema
- regular exercise consisting of boxing and running (although my running sked is irregular these days because of the rains)
- and best of all, quiet weekend afternoons by myself in Starbucks just reading or doing stuff on my laptop

I'd like to think it's a small, regular kind of life (and I really do), but my sister once said that there are some parts of my life that aren't really ordinary. Like my work, for example.

Okay, admittedly, my work life is probably tons more interesting than that of the cashier guy at Mini Stop. In the two years and nine months I've been with UNICEF Philippines, I've raised so far--through my own campaigns alone--over 30 million pesos to fund programs for children.

Now that I think about it, that's actually not a regular thing, and I'm proud of my work. It's just that when you're in UNICEF, you're expected to be good and brilliant at what you're doing--in the same way that everyone else in that office is so good and brilliant at what they're doing. So basically one's 'awesomeness' at work is pretty much expected on a regular basis. And we tend to forget how awesome our work and our achievements are actually, because we're so busy carrying out the programs and operations and raising the funds.

It's only when I'm out on a site visit, seeing children smile when they receive new books and learning materials, or when someone outside the office tells me how cool it must be to work in UNICEF and save lives, or when the caretaker of this small temple in Bangkok comes up to me to shake my hand and to congratulate me for being part of the UNICEF staff (I am only 1 out of 600,000 worldwide)--that I realize, hey, my life isn't that ordinary after all.

And there isn't anything that super ordinary about my obsessive book purchases (small but frequent book-buying episodes), or my status as an extremely poor-sighted (‘legally-blind’ is the term) individual due to excessive reading, or my overindulgent habit of buying Starbucks coffee almost every day, or the fact that I can identify, say 8 out of 10 times, the exact Starbucks coffee blend by taking just one or two sips from the cup, or even my masochistic addiction to the long, semi-violent rounds of boxing mittwork that leave my knuckles all bloody and wounded. But I'd like to think that these are just the little idiosyncrasies that set me apart from the average Juan (or Juana).

Overall, though, my life is pretty ordinary. It's a blessedly regular life, and I love the way I am living it at this point in time.


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