R E J E C T I O N S
Frustration is something that people feel when they want to achieve something but falls short. Rejection is something that people feel when they want to achieve or do something for someone, but that someone cannot appreciate it. The difference between the two emotions is their dimension. Frustration happens between a person and himself, while rejection always involves another person. But looking at literature when characters can talk or create conflicts with themselves, is it also possible that someone could actually reject his own character?
I was talking with a friend over French fries when a name of a guy suddenly surfaced. Quickly, I denied my liking for him and said that I wasn’t his market. Meaning, I concluded that someone like him cannot make himself available for someone like me. When my friend whom I was talking with over French fries told me to “just go for it and stop self-pitying”, I was awaken by his blunt honesty of the way he understood my attitude. He was right — I was rejecting myself.
Being aware of your self also means being aware of your frailties. Sometimes, when you know that you’re too scared to jump from a cliff, you prevent yourself from even looking at the blue ocean beneath it. When we know that the stairs are too high for us, we get scared of actually taking the first step. When we stop ourselves from doing things because of our knowledge of our weaknesses, those vulnerabilities become limitations. So if we are too afraid of being rejected, then why do we reject ourselves in the first place?
My boss quotes Thomas Carlyle in her email signature: “The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.” Just like my boss or my friend and the way he chewed on his French fries, many things remind us that our weaknesses can limit us only if we let them.
R E G R O U P I N G
Cannot be, the teacher would tell the class. In primary school, it seemed impossible to arrive in a difference when the subtrahend is larger than the minuend. But just like life, it happens sometimes. So we look at the adjacent digit and borrow a value of ten from it, thus the minuend would have enough value from which the subtrahend would deduct. See? Magic.
Before the X’s and Y’s came into the picture, I was fairly good in Mathematics. When things get tough I would scratch my head or bite the rubber eraser on the tip of my pencil, and my parents or my sisters would come and help me with my homework. Problem solved. But I was eight years old then. Now in our twenties, while we can still scratch our heads or bite pencils, we gotta handle things ourselves when they seem to cannot be.
Just like in subtraction, the rule of thumb when things get tough is to regroup, or to borrow value. Regrouping is stepping back from the chaos to allow wider perspective. It is looking at your hands and checking what tires you the most. It is weighing what is truly significant and what just wastes your time. It is to reach out to explore new sources of bliss. It is to drench ourselves in inspiration so that we could push through. Regrouping is essential, but it only happens when we let it.
As young people in this demanding world, things may seem complex and cannot be. But when we learn to borrow value from the persons and environments around us, perhaps that’s the time that we could make a difference. See? Magic.
Vagabonds — that was how our parents and aunts describe us as children. Our neighborhood is situated around rice fields and grass lands, and we considered that place our habitat. Before puberty had struck, my cousins (who were fortunately my childhood friends at the same time) would take me to the strange, enchanting places that surround our neighborhood. On these grass lands we would play until sunset, build makeshift tents, and cook our own snacks. Those summer days are the most idyllic parts of my past.
There are brooks to cross, I tell myself. My running shoes and my feet are prepared to get wet in case I couldn’t hop across those brooks. With little limbs and poor muscle coordination as a boy, I would shake in fear of not making it across. Help the kid! My cousins would yell. Sometimes, a foot would be drenched in mud, but most of the times, I would make it across and my cousins would cheer.
Today, I find myself in running shoes. With sunblock on my skin and a runner number on my chest, we wait for the gun-start as my colleagues and I cheer each other. We can finish this race, we should finish this race! Concrete race track is out of the narrative. Instead, we are going to conquer a five-kilometer trail of rock formations, shrubbery, inclined paths, tied-up carabaos, and brooks, plus the backdrop of the Mayon Volcano erected gloriously as we run.
As I was about to hop across the first brook of the trail, I remembered all the joyful summer days with my dear cousins. Jobs, bills, and priorities gradually came for us, and we might have outgrown certain things from childhood, but today, I realized that we really won’t be able to outgrow the bliss that we feel when we are one with nature.
Like Roman aqueducts, communication channels guide the flow of information to all appropriate receivers of it. From telephone lines to inside addresses, from email Cc’s to sticky notes on the desks, channels come in varied forms. They’re like arrows that go upwards, downwards, or sideways; arrows which ensure that the messages we want to give are delivered straight to where we want them to go. But channels shouldn’t be synonymous with straight directions. Sometimes, a communication channel doesn’t even have direction. It goes everywhere — scattered, messy, and very real.
Recently, as I speak to HR management students in Bicol University about the bitter-sweetness of corporate life, I told them a secret to understanding the social atmosphere of a workplace. I told them to observe the lunchroom. This I learned from the many lunchrooms that I’ve been to: where the bounds of corporate departments are surpassed by the physiological need of humans to be fed, there also emerges a communication channel that is a double-edged sword. It is called the grapevine.
Often regarded as a negative corporate trait, the grapevine is also as beneficial as it is fascinating. Feedback is the most honest when it is not formally asked for. Attitudes are more evident without the cubicle dividers. We get genuine results when we test the waters not from the aqueducts, but from where it is free and uncontrolled.
No place can more clearly exhibit the authenticity of human interactions than in spaces where there is food, such as the lunchroom. It is the Shibuya crossing of myriad messages and emotions. So the next time you enter a strangely new place, diligently ask: Where do you have lunch? And see where the aqueducts spill.
CROSSWALKS OF HUMANITY
It starts with one man. This man is naked. He does not speak nor read. He does not have a family. He does not have a permanent address. He just likes to… wander. Just by himself, this man wandered on earth’s earliest terrains to hunt for food and look for shelter. Eventually along the way, he meets a companion. Together they hunt, live and build a family. This family would turn into tribes, tribes into communities, communities into cities, and cities into nations.
Crossroads give me awe all the time. They are like the physically manifested forms of human interaction. Weaves of people with their own journeys and values create this chaos that soon has become a fundamental part of human existence. From that one man whose only concern was to feed and protect himself, there emerged one of the greatest inventions of the human race — the society. This beautifully chaotic society.
From every conversation, from every handshake, from every story told, from every smile or nod given in the crosswalks, we create these endless strands of human connections that make up the world. And that, for me, is fascinating.