I am a junior in the University of the Philippines. I am fighting to maintain my magna cum laude standing.
Someone tags me in this photo. I realize that, holy shit, I am fat.
My uncle treats me and my sister to a trip to Singapore. Aside from a math competition in China in 2008, this is my first out-of-country trip since 2003. Until that year when my dad died, we would go abroad every summer vacation.
On the topic of travel, I recall feeling certain that I will someday be able to visit America… Maybe when I “get rich” in my 40’s. Sometime in 2030?
At the nick of the semester, after forcing my professors to tell me what I would need to do to get a perfect 1.0 in all my subjects, I graduate magna cum laude.
The first company I work for asks me to work in our client’s offices in Atlanta and Little Rock.
I set foot in the U.S. 18 years ahead of schedule.
During late nights in our hotel when we were supposed to be staring at spreadsheets, my friend Jezze and I dream of travels and create bucket lists.
Also, I stop being fat.
My office is filled with the smartest young professionals the best universities in the Philippines could offer. We are paid well, are overworked when business is good, and are happy to waste our days watching TV series when it is bad. I look at my boss and see who I do not want to become.
I quit my job, envisioning days living the life of a digital nomad.
The hardest year of my life ensues.
I try to make a living online. I do: SEO writing, freelance copywriting, independent marketing consulting, a productized travel service. The most I get paid is $100 for writing five marketing emails.
Most of my days are spent reading books and wasting time and money on online courses. I lie to myself that I needed to learn… Deep down, I know I am hiding.
I remember the terror of having to pick up the phone, do sales, and – gasp! – talk to people.
2014: the year I earn the least and learn the most. I learn: how to work, how to sell, how to network, how to write, how to learn, how to find a job, how to take responsibility.
I somehow stumble upon technology startups, remote working, and convince Kevin Dewalt to hire me as a product marketer at his startup.
With a full time remote job, I live in Saigon, Vietnam for 1 month just because I now can.
I agree to help organize and speak in Sebastian Marshall’s GiveGetWin Tour. To my disbelief, I visit the US for the second time. We ride the Amtrak from San Francisco to Boulder to Chicago to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, down to Savannah, then to Miami, doing talks in a different university every 1-3 days.
I cannot believe my life, but I also cannot believe my finances. At this point, I am earning little, spending lots, and am in debt of up to a total of 500,000 PHP (10,000 USD) to my mom, my sister, and my bank.
I somehow get it in my head to aim to qualify for the 2020 Olympics as a freestyle wrestler. I force my coach to let me compete almost immediately. Within 1 month, I win my first gold.
The startup I am working for shuts down. In between jobs, I take calls with everybody in order to find my next thing. I accept the offer to work remotely for a startup based in New York.
Still deep in debt, I manage to reach my first financial milestone of saving 40,000 PHP (800 USD) in an Emergency Fund.
I qualify to compete in a national freestyle wrestling tournament. The experience makes me realize there is no way I will reach the Olympics in 2020. I stop wrestling competitively.
Slowly, I pay off my debts.
– Jan 2017. Pay off PHP 100,000 mommy debt
– Feb 2017. Pay off PHP 50,0000 BDO debt
– Mar 2017. Pay off PHP 35,000 Atsi debt
– Jun 2017. Pay off PHP 70,000 office debt
I do my new job well enough for the CEO to invite me to visit the New York office. I travel to the US for the third time in a span of five years. I am being promoted.
I negotiate very hard for a 100% raise. I stand my ground to get compensated for what I think the CEO and I agree is merely a fraction of what I already contribute, and could contribute to the company moving forward.
I get daily ulcers for one month, feeling greedy, ungrateful, and anxious for risking an already well-paying job.
We come to an agreement. And “just like that,” I double my income.
My life is about to change.
I keep my end of the bargain and do my job well.
I save 20,000 USD in the bank and become a millionaire in Philippine pesos.
I decide my next challenge would be to try living abroad, in Europe.
Despite knowing zero people in Germany and having never even traveled to the continent, I successfully get a job with a German company.
In August 2019, I step foot in Europe for the first time.
It’s almost Christmas. Dec 24, ’19.
I am typing this in my apartment in Hamburg, Germany. It is hard to think… I only very recently dared to even dream of visiting this country. My 20-year old self, with her dreams not stretching beyond graduating with honors and maybe visiting America in 2030, could not have made this up.
It’s been a surreal decade… But, as always, the best is yet to come.
Bring it on, 2020.