New

My new neighborhood, Kapitolyo, looks and feels like an upgraded Bajada. High-density, mixed-use development. A walkable mall in every direction. 24-hour fastfood chains everywhere. Shops of every conceivable enterprise are tucked away in the residential blocks. The place screams busy and convenience like a battle hymn.

From a studio apartment, I have moved to a one-bedroom condo unit. Feeling safer, yet lonelier. At least in Dona Vicenta, I could still hear my neighbors laugh or sing karaoke or quarrel. Here, only the swooshing sound of the cars can be heard from my seventh floor window. I have not even seen a soul walk along my floor’s corridors. First impression: it’s a cold and dreary place.

People always seem to appear busier than myself. Friends relegate me to their weekends. No one can be bothered. Do people here see each other only by chance? Lahat ba ng plano dito, drawing lang? In Davao, it’s easier to keep commitments, because going around is cheap and choices are limited. Here, life is less predictable. Something always comes up. And it’s almost always beyond my control.

It’s a transition. So I am giving every circumstance the benefit of doubt and hope. I will not resist the changes. I will embrace the discomfort. I will focus on what is important and blur the rest. I have been in this situation before. And as always, I will figure things out.

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Enough

I knew wrapping up my affairs in the office would be difficult. Call it separation anxiety, clinginess, or whatnot, but I take my work seriously. If I could complete all my pending work, I would. Not because I don’t trust that my successor can handle them, but because I don’t want the clients to pay extra hours for transition activities. So I waited until I have done everything that I could for all pending matters before informing the clients that I am turning over the work to another associate.

This morning, I informed some clients about my forthcoming resignation and was surprised, nay touched, to hear words of appreciation and encouragement. I am not good with receiving compliments, so I was more teary-eyed than thankful. One client said that I am one of the most efficient associates they have worked with. Another said that I have always been on top of things and that I always know my facts and law. Another specifically requested that I work on their project until my last day (i.e., to turnover as few work as possible). These are fellow lawyers, managers, engineers, and HR people, all wishing me good luck and assuring me that I will thrive in my chosen area of practice.

During the interview for my new job, my would-be boss asked, “If we call the partners of your firm right now, what do you think they will tell us about you?” I have not anticipated that question (it was not in Glassdoor! LOL), so I just answered it by describing how I work. I said, “They will say that I work fast and I respond to emails and calls without delay. They will also say that I like getting clear instructions and I am very thorough with my work.” I guess most of the feedback I got today validate what I said. Now I am convinced that I have done enough for the firm.

Why concede?

A colleague asked me this when I told him that I had tendered my resignation. I have to agree. This job, for the longest time, felt like a battle. Every day, I would whisper to myself as I ride the elevator, “Make me win today, God.”

Some days I leave the office victorious. When I speak my mind and feel that my thoughts matter. When I see an “F” in my draft pleading (“F” means finalize). When the client says “thank you.” When I beat a deadline. When I receive a favorable decision or order. When I come across the perfect jurisprudence or law provision for my case. When I get to work with lawyers who I idolize. When I find and/or secure the last missing document or requirement. When I meet the required hours of work for the day.

Other days, I wallow in defeat. When personal affairs distract me. When I let myself get bullied. When I have to accede to underhanded ways. When I fail to reason out when I am accused of something I did not do. When I allow someone to take credit for my work. When I prematurely judge people. When I turn in a work late. When I lose composure when pressed for time. When I lose someone’s trust.

To others, the struggle to balance these two emotions is all in a day’s work. Indeed, I could work anywhere and still wage the same battle. So, technically, I am not conceding. I am just moving to a different battlefield. I am not giving up on my dream to engage in international legal practice. I just know that staying in our branch office will not get me there. I am still looking for my unique niche in the profession. I just realize that Davao is too small a pond for what I have to offer. I have not lost hope in finding a good mentor. I just believe that I would have to search far and wide to find him/her.

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.Sun Tzu

Family reboot

Just got back from my 3-week vacation. After years of estrangement and drama, I got to celebrate the holidays again with my folks in the US. The experience felt familiar and strange at the same time. We still laughed at the old jokes (i.e., special bulalo, orange na talampakan, Manfa) and made new ones this year (i.e., fake wines, Tetris queen, souvenir program). My mom still cooks the best pancit and my dad, the best sinigang. It’s amazing what 14 years of separation could do to a family. It felt weird to have new members in this once exclusive circle in my life. I now have a 35-year old dog for a niece. I have a nephew who loves movie villains more than heroes (adores Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda and Darth Vader in Star Wars) and another niece who could watch Paw Patrol and Monster Machine episodes over and over every single day. And how do you deal with brothers-in-law when you only had sisters growing up? Awkward and TH, I have to admit. But I have come to accept that our lives are like a Venn diagram – we define what we put inside the intersection (what is relational and logical), so that other parts of us may exist. Meaning, I don’t have to know and understand everything about them, only those that they are willing to share and I am willing to accept.

Updates

So I have not written for a while. Okay, a long while. Sometimes, life is better lived than blogged. Sometimes, you come up with some profound philosophy shit to justify your laziness to blog. (Truth is) I just wanted to keep things that happened to myself when they happened. I also got conscious of the little traffic that this blog had for a time. Geez, I’ve got followers! Or stalkers! Or prying partners who think I have too much non-billable time on my hands! I mean, you never know.

What happened during my blog hiatus? A lot. I joined races, most of which I DNFed (no shame in that). I quit running, started swimming, and continued mountain climbing. I learned how to cook and create recipes (mostly vegetarian stuff). I learned to speak Spanish. I went back to teaching. I traveled a lot with friends. I made a lot of friends in my travels. I visited far-flung barrios to voluntarily campaign for our current President (and never regretted it one bit). I’d say it was time well spent.

The career front had been unremarkable though. After four years, I’m still with the same firm. Actually, it felt like the learning curve has plateaued. It must be why I ventured into other life roles and somewhat made them my priority. But I try my best to avoid falling into a routine in the office. During down time, I do some legal aid work to keep me grounded and connected with social realities. When I get jaded with the practice, I turn to teaching to remind me of what is right and ideal. It is hard when you are in an environment where everyone wants to get ahead and you don’t share the same measurement for success.

Right now, I want to revive this blog. I want to put my opinions out there. I don’t even care if someone reads or gives a damn. I think certain skills are developed when a person makes a stand or forms her own views or speaks her mind. And I’m all for building skills.

Lessons I learned in ultra running

  1. If not now, when?

Some say racing should be a progression. In fact, there are ultras that require you to finish certain distances before you can join them. 42K before 50K. 50K before 50 miles. 50 miles before 100K. In my opinion, ultra running is not about timing or muscle maturity. It’s about heart and commitment. In the last few kilometers of the race, you won’t be thinking about cadence or heart rate or footwork. All you’ll think about is finishing the goddamn race! So why wait for someone to tell you that you are finally ready or qualified to run that ultra? Besides, last time I checked, craziness and suffering is still something personal. There is no perfect time and conditions, only a moment of unbridled enthusiasm.

  1. Take it by feel.

When I downloaded Sage Canaday’s 50K training program, I took comfort in the fact that despite the prescribed miles and workout, I can always go “by feel.” I think essentially running is supposed to be that way in order to be enjoyable. I think what attracted most of us to this sport is the freedom that it offers. We do not have to wait for teammates (or have them wait for us). We do not have to wear a uniform. We do not have to maintain any equipment or reserve a venue/court/field. We do not need an opponent. We run because we just feel like running. So, it is really important to listen to your body and to pursue running only when it is still pleasurable. My favorite ultra runner, François D’haene, said it best: “Motivation and performance, for me, is linked with pleasure so I don’t abstain from things that I enjoy. Let’s take pleasure in our activity, our life and our few guilty pleasures, too.”

  1. Simulate.

It’s not enough that you log in the hours that you are on your feet or increase the distance that you cover. Preparation for a race, especially an ultra, is all about race-specific training. You must simulate race day – course, food, hydration, even the outfit and gears. If it is a mountain race, find a mountain with a similar altitude and trail. If it is a road ultra, run the highway stretch with the same undulation. If it is a night race, run at night. If you expect scorching hot temperatures on race day, run at high noon during training. Aside from increasing your confidence, simulation will make certain skills instinctive and certain instincts controllable.

  1. Slow and steady finishes the race.

Arguably, no one wins a race by being slow, but definitely, one can only finish an ultra by being persistent. The basic element of running is movement. No matter how excruciating or gradual, you must move. Put that foot in front of the other, because every step counts. At 50K, you will thank your 30K self for being deliberate and motivated. This also goes for all other aspects of ultra. You must steadily nourish and hydrate yourself. You cannot wait for a stimulus. Be consistent. Be relentless.

  1. Runners are kindred spirits.

Runners toe the ultra line for the same reason: they trained and believed that they deserve to know if every minute of their preparation is worth it. There is collective respect and empathy among ultra runners. If misery loves company, suffering breeds cooperation. In my first ultra, I was handed a banana and offered a bowl of porridge (by another runner’s crew) without my solicitation. I, in the same vein, gave my last energy gel to a fellow runner who I thought needed it more than I did. It is this sense of community that makes runners return year after year to races which they have already finished or won.

  1. Appreciate the lowest low and highest high.

They say ultra goes beyond the capabilities of the flesh. It is in the realm of the mind that one’s endurance is determined. If marathons give runners the “wall,” ultras will give runners “delusions.” Initially, the delusion that you will be able to finish the race as strong and good as you started it. Then, the delusion that you can still make up for the time you spent at the aid stations or over-thinking the race. Eventually, the delusion (or truth) that you have not prepared hard enough for the race. The pits of sadness and self-doubt are so strong that others may not be able to recover from them. But there is also the promise of the “second wind,” that moment of complete commitment. Ultra runner extraordinaire, Jared Campbell, perfectly described it in this wise: “Once this state is reached, one can focus on moving through the motions and not get stressed by the minutia, knowing that stress won’t render anything constructive. Find the silver lining and press onward.” It is this feeling of extreme depression and elation that makes ultra so alluring, empowering, and addicting.

  1. You could get hurt, so what?

Sure, you will be sleep-deprived, develop wrinkles, get dead toes, experience chafing, sunburn, muscle pain, blisters, bonking, hypo- whatever, etc. The suffering is infinite and diverse. But those are certain and foreseeable in what you have signed up for. If you have anticipated and prepared for them well enough, you may be able to avoid them, but the likelihood of that is nil. I suggest that you don’t fret about it and just suck it up. Besides, all wounds heal and leave a scar. It’s up to you if you make it a badge of honor or a sorry remembrance of your craziness.

  1. You don’t need a race.

Ultra running is basically running more than 42K. That’s it, pure and simple. Whether you achieve that during a weekend fat ass run or in a lottery-based, elite field race, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be “officially” an ultra runner to run ultras. Ultra is just a distance, not a status to be conferred or a position in the hierarchy of runners. You run ultras because you want to and you can.

NOTE: As I run more and longer ultras, I know I will learn more lessons and will probably change my views here. For now, let’s pretend that I know what I’m saying. LOL