Thursday, October 16, 2008

of small salaries and personal fulfillment

yesterday, a friend from the court of appeals who resigned a little less than a month called for a short hello-how-are-you-let's-catch-up-on-each-other phone conversation. after we've shared how happy we both were at work, the inevitable was raised.

her: "do you know they're getting a bonus this friday? one month daw."

me: *grumbles*

her: "that's on top of saj"

me: *grumbles some more*

now, before you go on and lecture me and say "you knew this before getting into it" and "it's just money, and money doesn't buy happiness", let me tell you a couple of things.

i have never had a high-paying job. i graduated from a good school, got honors and what i thought then was a prestigious award, so i sort of expected ("hoped" might have been more appropriate) that i'd get a job which pays buckets.

my first teaching job sort of did. 10k a month plus overtime. not bad, or at least i thought it wasn't. after all, it was infinitely bigger than the allowance i was receiving at the time i graduated from college. plus, i learned it was bigger than what bank tellers were earning at that time so i was happy. it meant - at least to me - access to as many shoes i wanted.

six months into it, i left the job - a problem with my boss - and jumped at the chance that was offered to me when i graduated: a scholarship for a master's degree in education. it paid a stipend - 10k - but it meant commuting all the way to ortigas. i was young, i was 21, distance and money didn't matter. all i thought of was that i was getting my master's degree two years ahead of schedule.

apparently the problem with a stipend was that it doesn't grow. and it doesn't come with benefits. or bonuses. so i said, what the heck, i'll apply for law school. and i did. and i passed ... right about the same time they were ready to make me into a full-time faculty member.

needless to say, i had to wait another full year or so after that before i became a full-time faculty member. translation: my stipend remained pretty much the same for a couple of years. and when i became a faculty member, the people i had started graduate school with were so far off that all i could console myself with was the thought that hey, it's okay, you'll be a lawyer soon.

i eventually became a lawyer, except i got a job with the government which paid less than your average law firm. we did, however, get bonuses. for some reason or another though, when i became entitled to them, the bonuses sort of dwindled to a trickle. G and R commented that i might have balat insofar as money is concerned.

you know what? maybe i do. because a couple of days after i passed my resignation, they increased the salaries of government personnel.

looking at me, very few would believe that i actually work for peanuts. i attribute it to the fact that i know every nook and cranny of most malls in metro manila and know where to get things on sale. i guess only tita mayu knows exactly how much i make and how much i spend for things like meralco, water, insurance, titheing, gasoline, and car payments. and savings? let's not even get into that. i love bo sanchez, and would love to save like bo sanchez (he saves 30% i think), but if i did, i'd probably walk from the house to the office. that's how exact things are.

and if the abovequoted conversation wasn't enough to make me feel horrible, this did: my cousin's gf who just graduated last march earns only 1k less than i do. phooey. ten years of working experience, a master's degree and a law degree is apparently translated to 1,000 bucks more each payday.

of course how much i make and how happy i am are two things distinct and separate from one another. all i have to do is to remember the fact that this life i'm living now is the fulfillment of god's promise to me. i am happy. i wake up smiling. i look forward to work. i feel like this is what the last couple of years (not to mention those sleepless nights spent studying at starbucks and the agony of waiting for the bar results TWICE) has been all about. i wear a suit at least once a week. i write and sign pleadings. i have a PTR number. people call me ma'am and attorney. i am able to testify to others of the joy of trusting god and living out the joy of his plans for his children. these things validate the decisions that i have made throughout the years. this is it. i am exactly where i've always wanted to be.

except that there are days when all you have in your wallet is three hundred pesos, your gas indicator tells you it's only a couple of kilometers away from being empty, and your refrigirator has nothing but water in it. and you tell yourself, why, why, why was i not the one called to have the big salary?

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