27 April 2013

Letter No. 20

I have a striped green, black, and white dress with pockets that I like to wear only occasionally, when it's a particularly special day, when I want a little confidence boost, or when I have a meeting with a client on whom I want to make certain impressions: "I'm professional enough to dress well, but young enough to avoid anything resembling your suit."

I don't have a lot of clothes, so maybe that makes it easy for me to remember which shirt or dress I wore on a particularly memorable day. For instance, I can remember that the shirt I wore yesterday is also the shirt I was wearing when Cris first asked me out. It's also the shirt I was wearing two years ago, when my former boss told me that she was leaving, and I was going to take over (like I said, I don't have a lot of clothes).

I wore my striped dress the other day, on one of the longest working days I've had in a while. Something bad happened at work, it was nobody's fault*, but because I was the one who had to make the required emergency request, I felt burnt down. While heading out to meet Cris and smother my fatigue with Chickenjoy, I remembered that it was also the dress I wore on the day I described in this blog entry, which sounds like whining about Makati rush hour but really came from the middle of being burned down by everything at once.

I wondered idly if my dress could be cursed. But, I quickly remembered that I also wore this dress on my birthday last year, on one of the most magical days I've ever had.

Last year, after the last big fire, I also reacted differently. I wanted to leave my job and possibly even leave the country. This year, I just wanted to get some fried chicken and gravy and then go home.

Maybe it's because I was actually near home, and sitting in my office instead of slogging through torrential rain like last year. But for better or for worse, I've learned to care less.

There is only so much you can do when you're trying to do your job, and only so much you can control when, while you're a boss of some sort, you're not the boss of the unpredictable, unreliable factors and non-coworkers on which your team's final output depends. I've learned to set my jaw and just make sure no one can say we're not doing our job, even as everything around us is, well, on fire. And sure, I've made a few mistakes here and there, but nothing so disastrous as to merit punishment other than the mental beating I give myself. Nobody's perfect, and when you're juggling all kinds of demands, you're bound to drop something.

Maybe it sounds careless, but it's a result of having learned to care less. At some point, getting worked up about what's gone wrong is just beating a dead horse. There's a handy little diagram that I saw floating around the Internet a long time ago, and I printed it out and stuck it on our office door, right under a souvenir from a former colleague:

Over time, I've taken this to heart. You do what you can do about a problem, and then you don't worry about it anymore. It's kept me from losing my shit completely, especially on days like yesterday, which was even worse than the day before.

The people we couldn't blame* kept us at the office, fighting fires, till around 10 at night. I hung around waiting for Cris outside. For the first time, I was the last person on the newspaper staff to leave the building. Even the senior editors had gone home hours before our team did. The guard turned the lights out after I went outside. The wind blew cold and hard, and I played games on my phone. Then, Cris arrived, we got KFC drive-thru, and he drove me home.

It's no use letting some bad juju ruin a favorite shirt, or a perfectly good dress.

* It really was somebody's fault, but they got to wear the immunity necklace and could not be voted off the island.

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