My 20s in a Nutshell


Alexander Duca

So there it goes. I just turned 30. Left the 20s and just stepped into to the realm of 30s a couple of hours ago. I felt the need of writing something. But I don’t know what or why. I just felt it. And for the last two hours, I was just staring at my laptop screen and a DHT version of Listen to Your Hear keeps playing in the background, on replay mode. It’s been a while since the last time I heard this song. Always sets me in the mood. But it actually doesn’t help, because I still remain clueless on what to blog about.

Oh yeah, turning 30. 30 effin years old. I have been walking the earth for 3 decades. Breathing. Talking. Thinking. Regretting. Achieving. Making mistakes. Loving. Listening. Laughing. Exploring. Wondering. And often, looking back. And worrying about the future. That’s the last 30 years of my life in a nutshell.

I can still remember vividly the time when I turned 20 in 2007. That was the time I decided to take a break from college and prep up for my voluntary religious mission. I have no confusions back then because I was only preoccupied with the thoughts of serving the Lord. I already got my mission call (official letter of assignment) and learned that I’ll be serving in central Luzon. I was exhilarated. And at the same time anxious. I just left my teenage years and was about to embark on a full-time volunteer work as I begin my decade of becoming 20 something. I was totally clueless. I knew what to do but I didn’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to be a 20yro, much less, becoming a missionary.

I was able to serve for 10 short and meaningful months. I returned home December of the same year. I can say, 2007 is the time of my life. Up until now, nothing can replace the days, weeks and months I have spent serving the people of Aurora province, Tarlac & Pangasinan through the work of Heavenly Father. Until this very moment, nothing is more compelling than that period of my life. I would probably write about it before 2017 ends, as this year marks the 10th year of me returning home from my mission. Life in the mission is a life that I’ll be willing to do for the rest of my life if ever I would have the chance. Like seriously.

I turned 21 in 2008. Instead of enrolling back to school, I chose to work in a BPO company. It’s actually my second BPO because I already made my first break in call center job 3 months before my mission commenced. My almost 2 years in Sitel Philippines is nothing but an enjoyable BPO experience. Met new friends. Learned new stuff. Worked on a couple of Christmas and NYE. And apparently discovered the reality of life in the booming industry of call center right in the middle of Ortigas Center. While working in a call center allows a person to earn a decent living, my interest to pursue the career slowly faded away. I began to get a feeling that perhaps maybe it’s not my call. That I wanted to do something more. Suddenly, usual customer calls became heavier to handle for me than before. Sad as it may sound, I slowly lost my appetite in taking phone calls. That’s when 2009 arrived that I enrolled back to college.

I was lucky though because Sitel lets me adjust my floor shifts in conjunction with my academic schedule. So from June 2009 to February of 2010, I was a full-time customer service representative and a full-time junior college at the same time. Sleep became a privilege. I was consistently looking for every chance of getting my rest. I decided to get a boarding house near PUP so it’ll be a lot easier to get to school and go to work. That was the fastest period of my life. I can hardly identify the days of the week. I was not seeing any TV shows. That’s the time Facebook is still very young and everyone was just beginning to adapt to what we call now social media. If there is one thing, being a working student has taught me, that would be the value of time management and the realization of the divine truth the no one can really serve two masters. Imagine having a shift at 10PM to 4AM and attending a class at 10AM-6PM on the same day. There were even cases that I needed to skip a class because I’m feeling so restless. I got difficulty catching up with the lessons tho I often get help from new college friends I found. Having reliable and cheerful friends at our class has helped me find my way of balancing school and work. Plus social & family life. Plus church life. Plus personal life. It was a fast-paced period of my 20s. My Team Leader back in the office was so kind and supportive that even though there were many times I came in late for work, or suddenly made a short notice of filing a leave to do a major school project, I didn’t find myself kicked out of the company. I remember having to replace my bed sheet only once for an entire semester. Yes, time was so quick back then.

February 2010 is the time I bid farewell to my fellow agents and to the BPO life I have learned to love. I needed to quit the job because major projects were piling up. I needed to be more focused that time. Admittedly, leaving call center was both sad and liberating. I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t have to rush nor to chase time. Suddenly I gained more personal space and become a young adult. I lost a source of income but I got more time and freedom to do things I really wanted to do. My ate supported my college educ after I quit my job. From P17,000 I am earning monthly from CC, I suddenly needed to survive with P6,000 worth of allowance for 30 days. Surprisingly, it was enough. Sometimes, even more than enough. I guess because I learned the secret of living like a true iskolar ng bayan.

2010 is the ultimate college year. I got involved a lot in the academic and curricular opportunities of our college department. I directed a couple of music videos. Learned new skills like video production, copywriting and photography. Became project head to several major projects and marketing presentations. Participated in a national student marketing presentation competition. Met new and valuable friends and became exposed to independent filmmaking in my internship. Spent sleepless nights with the team trying to figure out the most effective and creative advertising campaign with only pancit canton and RC cola on the table. Organized events such as short film festival, the staple marketing seminars and even conducted workshops about video editing. Survived challenges and multiple deadlines with very limited time and resources, lots of it. Dealt with absurd professors. Survived accountancy subjects. Built treasurable friendships with my board mates. Enjoyed 20-peso movies in SM. And made lots and lots of happy and precious memories. If there is one definition that I can yield for college life, is that college life in PUP Advertising is what college should be: interesting, liberating, ecstatic, clever, difficult to get over with and a period for a millennial which is worth telling over and over again as he grows old.

It was 2011 when my block mates graduated. I was left with several subjects to take because the curriculum changed already from the time I entered and left college in 2004 and 2006 and to the time of my return in 2009. I am totally grateful to our chairperson for allowing me to pursue the course. I took summer classes in 2011 and enrolled in different departments where the subjects I needed to take were available. A student who is working on a few subjects left and does not belong to any class or block section is called Irregular Student. As an irregular student myself, I became acquainted and had developed friendships with fellow irregular students. I believe irregular students are fighters. You will have no class president to work with your class grades. You will have no group of peers to hang out with after classes. You will need to build rapport to different block section students where you are enrolled or else you won’t survive alone. You will need to establish your identity with your professor so that whenever a problem comes up with your grade or requirements, it’ll be easy for them to help you. When I was an irregular student, I usually found myself working on my tasks and requirements alone. And it’s nice. Silly thing in my irregular student life was that I was sometimes mistaken as an instructor (yeah.. ugh) because they were like 3-5 years younger. You know, there were incidents when students in the hallway would hurriedly go back to their seats when they notice me approaching. Both funny and awkward. And stupid.

Because I technically have a myriad of time for myself during those time, I decided to return to call center for a while as a Tech Support. I found a company in Gilmore with fixed weekends off and stayed there for almost 9 months. This allowed me to earn and finish my studies at the same time, but with very less hassle compared before. After a year of surviving as an academic nomad came 2012. The year when I finally completed my college effin degree arrived. It was an extremely satisfying day for me. I couldn’t be more thankful. The wearing of black toga while marching on stage to get your dummy diploma, while your parents were looking from afar, was such an esteemed moment. I can still remember the exact feeling of happiness that occurred to me that day. I didn’t cry for joy like some cliche graduation moment. I was just fascinated on my seat and kept thinking how thankful I am that the Lord helped me get through this. All of us who completed basic education has a meaningful college story to tell. Mine was not ordinary and most probably yours too. Whatever it is, it is definitely a story of survival, mischievousness, achievements, and discovery. It’s a hell of a roller coaster ride, but it is worth the ride.

2012, I graduated at the age of 25. I hope you’re getting it. Being an applicant at 25 and a fresh grad didn’t come easy. I didn’t resign right away at the BPO I was working with in Gilmore after I graduated. My fellow TSRs can attest. At the end of my shift, I usually go straight ahead to my job interviews, changing my outfit from smart casual to corporate attire on the way. Yes, right at the cab. I was looking for a marketing or advertising career while still employed. As a fresh advertising graduate, one major struggles is you won’t really know what particular job you are trying to find. Would you be a creative director, an account executive, a marketing assistant, a video editor, a freelance artist, etc. I realized that the creative industry is not a very hospitable industry for fresh grads. It is not like a one-way trip of student-to-employment shift (architecture graduates will become architects, accountancy majors will be CPAs, etc). Generally, the first attempts at finding a career for us is simply like testing the water, but you won’t be really sure. So you really have to try. I got confused. I am totally clueless to the position I would want to jumpstart my career with. I can do a lot. But I am not yet sure as to what field I should choose for Day 1.

Unfortunately, the struggle did not end there.

Anxiety crawled up on me. Whenever I attend a job interview, I normally meet fresh graduates in their early 20s. And for some reason, it became, theoretically, a concern. Tho I have some pretty strong foundation in the BPO, that doesn’t count as an advantage for a marketing related career. There came the ugly issue of age gap. I often get difficulty telling my story of how I ceased temporarily from college to do a volunteer work and return to school after and yet still took roughly 3 years to finish.

For more than 2 months, I went job hunting. Looking for the “ideal” career that I may fit in. Makati or BGC business centers were not on my list because they are too far from my apartment in Santa Mesa. It was frustrating.

Even without the surety of a new job, I took the risk of resigning as a TSR by July. The first week of August was my last day on the floor. But I still didn’t have a job. One day, an unknown company from Jobstreet contacted me for a job interview for a Digital Marketing Associate position. The job description looked interesting. It’s been a couple of weeks since I resigned. I needed a new job already, or else, I wouldn’t have anything to pay my dues. Luckily, I was absorbed by the unknown company where I applied which turned out to be a startup company of software business solutions.

When I joined MobileOptima, the term startup was not yet popular. All I know was that the company is just starting and trying to make a difference through innovative software solutions. It was at the height of our pioneer product called Perxclub when I gradually become more and more involved in the project. We’re a small team of mostly fresh graduates so being part of the workforce wasn’t tough. But because I was accustomed to a BPO setup, I still had to make adjustments and focus more on learning my role one step at a time. With the guidance of my then-supervisor, I began to gently appreciate this new phase of my life.

Working in a startup may require you to wear multiple hats. Since you are a part of a lean, spontaneous and dynamic team, sudden changes in company directions and priorities will push you to become more flexible. You will report directly to the founder regularly and sometimes be part of major decision making. You will be enlightened as to how a new business works. You will be in one way or another be “influenced” by their passion for growing the business. As I spend my first job in MobileOptima, I came to realize that a startup company like this is a great opportunity for first job takers to learn skills that cannot be easily picked up from working in a big or multi-national company.

From the launch back in 2012, the company continued to grow. And we, pioneers and new hires of this startup also grow as individuals and team members as time goes by, of course, with the leadership of our founders. When the company made some major organizational changes on late 2013, things were never been the same…

To be continued…



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