More than two years ago, I applied for a job in a local NGO. Fresh out of the dazzling and glamorous world of the media, the experience is similar to moving in a quiet, pastoral town after spending most of one’s life in a thriving, noisy city that’s always on the move.
My career-driven aunt was against my decision. And until now, she is. I was on the right track prior to my resignation from one of the biggest newspaper names in the country. Why didn’t I stay in my career path as a journalist and a writer? Why did I make a drastic move in my early years of being professional?
The closest reason I can think of is Supertyphoon Yolanda. It wasn’t the main reason but it certainly played a major part. Back in 2013, I remembered sitting in the cold newsroom that smelled like coffee and old cigarette, monitoring the news and weather updates as the hulking beast of winds and gusts cover the entire seaboard of Leyte. I remembered receiving text messages and photos from our field reporters of the damages and deaths the supertyphoon has caused, how the government and the community were left in tatters in its wake of destruction.
It was the NGOs and foreign organizations who first gave the relief and the aid all those people need. Don’t get me wrong; the media has played a vital role in consolidating information for places that need help, maintaining that momentum of urgency for assistance the victims need. It was thrilling to work in the media but journalism is not for me, as I have belatedly realized. I don’t dream of becoming a reporter with the camera focused on my face. When I first saw my name with a ‘writer’ attached after the comma next to the headline, elation and pride don’t quite describe it. I feel relief that the story was published and I don’t have to look forward in answering any of my editor’s calls.
But now you ask, did I find my calling in working for an NGO? Not quite, either.
NGO presents many ways and opportunities for service and ideas for serving. I think the three years I spent working here is not a waste but a roller-coaster of achievements and disappointments, same as in any career. People often ask me if I feel fulfilled in serving others, in traveling to places I never dreamed of going or meeting other people who lived a completely different life from mine. Yes, I do. I was quite happy with the experience. Only that you won’t always feel fulfilled. Actually, you will feel more frustrated than fulfilled lots of times.
When you consider working for an NGO, you have to assess yourself and study your motivations. Because if you just wanted to feel fulfilled and useful for others, you’ll find yourself looking for another job after one or two months. Yes, there is joy in serving, in teaching others how to fish rather than giving them all the fish they would need, in envisioning sustainable development in a community, but there is also disillusionment in many areas. Why did the project fail? Why did the donors want to fund this and not this? Why are people always looking after their own self-interests? Why do morons in the government outnumber those with good sense? Why can’t people just go out there and fish?
There is joy and sacrifice. You will feel inspired and at other times, jaded. You will learn from others as well as from yourself. At the end of the day, it is your choice to feel fulfilled in whatever you are doing, whether you’re in the corporate world or in an NGO. It all boils down to priorities, really. Most people around my age prioritize career growth and prefer a fast-paced lifestyle; I like to slow down every once in a while and meet new people, be in different environments and plan my own schedule to explore other options in my life.
If you don’t feel fulfilled anymore, and your career feels like it’s going nowhere, it’s perfectly fine to leave too. To feel cynical or disillusioned. To feel disappointed. Because ultimately, apart from helping others, you have to help yourself too.