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Day 19: Full pockets and empty smiles

Wed, Jan 25, 2017 | Read in 4 minutes

Full pockets. Less stress. It’s not because I love money—I find it important but I don’t love it. I love my family and my partner. I would go through anything to keep them happy, safe, healthy, and well-provided. For as long as I can remember, my family has almost always faced financial difficulty. It’s a common thing in my country. But that didn’t stop my parents. That didn’t stop me. And that definitely did not stop millions of Filipinos from working hard, going to school, traveling abroad in order to provide (or one day provide) for their family’s needs.

Word for the Year

My word for the year is productive. I know, for most bloggers, creatives, and online entrepreneurs, this word has been specifically overused. But not for me.

I grew up succumbing to the fact that waking up late is not normal but I do it anyway. Aristotle calls it akrasia, which is acting against one’s better judgement.

I have gotten myself in A LOT of trouble for waking up late most days both in school and at work. I was almost not able to graduate high school because of getting late. Although I never had an employer terminate me due to lateness, I resigned from each job because my conscience got the better of me and because it often spirals down into depression, which made change even harder. Though I was duly deducted for the number of hours I was not at work, it wasn’t fair that I was not putting in the same hours as everybody else.

In writing, I struggle with the same problem of un-productivity.

Now that I have more time as a freelancer—now more than ever—it’s more possible and convenient for me to sleep in some days or slack off on whatever I have to do.

But strangely, I find myself doing otherwise.

For a start, I find myself wanting to be early. I find myself looking for ways to be early and forcing myself to be early.

It’s not because I want to prove that I can pursue what I want and be good at it. I like to think it’s because I love what I now do more than I love being late or sleeping in. I have a sense of purpose. Today, I am going to write! And no one can stop me. 🙂

The Curse of the Full Pocket

You know how they say that rich people sometimes feel empty? I can’t attest to that because I’ve never been rich—not yet anyway ;). But somehow, in some way, that might make sense because all the money in the world can surely not buy genuine companionship, trust, or love. Someone once said you can measure the true value of a man by what he does for someone who can’t pay him back.

Full pockets don’t seem to guarantee happiness after all but it does guarantee safety and stability.

And if you are a little bit materialistic like most of us, it will guarantee very nice things—things that sometimes make us happy if only temporarily.

Overcoming Empty Smiles

So how do we overcome empty smiles and what is an empty smile?

An empty smile is when everything seems to be flowing according to plan–you have money in your pocket, your family is well taken care of, you can eat whatever/ whenever/ wherever you want, and the world generally applauds you for being a good daughter/ son, mother/ father, sister/ brother, friend, worker, etc.–but still, you know there’s something missing. And, when you look within yourself, you find that you can’t identify who you are despite receiving all the accomplishments that society praises you for.

You know it’s not you. And you know it’s just not the same. And despite being in a roomful of people or in a crowd, you are alone… and empty.

When someone finally asks you what’s wrong, you smile and say, “Nothing.”

Because how can you explain that you’re not happy while everyone expects you to? And how can you complain when everybody else is happy for you?

So you succumb to what others expect of you… until you can’t do it anymore. You can pretend to the world but not to yourself—not anymore. You need to pursue what you love. You need to be you.

So you decide.

You decide to let go of everyone else’s expectations in favor of your own. You choose yourself first before you can serve others.

That’s important. And that’s not being selfish. Nobody has the right to tell you that you’re being selfish for being you. Nobody. And that’s how you overcome empty smiles, full pocket or not.

I always love hearing other people’s stories. Maybe that’s why I read more than I write. Someone once said that to be a good writer, you also need to be a good reader. I’m not claiming to be brilliant at writing (or reading) but I find that words flow freely when I’m able to read or listen to others. So tell me your story. I’ll be glad and privileged to listen. 🙂