NOELLE: Growing Where You’re Planted

This week’s Friend talks about one of the biggest realities that the coronavirus has brought — change. In one way or another, we all had to accept and address these changes, may they be related to career, well-being, or future plans. Always though, at the end of the day, it’s all about perspective.

I hope you all enjoy reading this piece, friends! 🙂

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Hi! I’m Noelle, a home – grown Baguio girl, small business owner, and (hopefully) a soon – to – be lawyer. I’ve always loved writing, but for the past years I’ve only written straight – to – the – point pieces like newspaper articles and papers. I was never really given the chance to write anything personal, so when Madeleine messaged me, I was ecstatic because I regularly read her blog posts, but I was also super hesitant and admittedly, a little terrified, since I had no clue what to write about.

During the span of the last 5 years, my only focus has been on one thing: becoming a lawyer. I honestly felt like law school took over so much of who I was and left me with a lack of interests and a bunch of abandoned hobbies, frankly because I had no time for anything else. I always felt like it defined me and took over my personality, so when I finally and thankfully graduated from law school I wanted to change that. I guess in a poignant and sentimental manner, the pandemic gave me the opportunity to do so.

The first and last time I wore my toga.

Last December 2019, I had finally passed all my classes in law school, and I was looking forward to what was supposed to be one of the biggest years of my life. I was scheduled to graduate from my dream law school last July, take the Bar examinations last November, and start my journey out of unemployment. But together with the entire world, all my plans were drastically put on hold. 

I spent the first few months of quarantine in a seemingly unending state of frustration. It was difficult to be a graduating student during this time, and as a person who had always planned out her life so meticulously, the built – up delayed gratification took its toll on me. I was constantly overcome with a sense of overwhelming sadness and vulnerability. All these moments that were meant to celebrate the last 5 years of sacrifice and literal blood, sweat, and tears were abruptly cancelled and everything was beyond my control. It was one of my lowest points.

Online Graduation

I felt like my life was forced into a halt and then thrust into a limbo of uncertainty, and I had to find a way to deal with it, so that’s what I decided to write about — how being in this limbo state still gave me an opportunity to grow. It took me a while to jumpstart the process, but my reflections during this period allowed me to feel a sense of acceptance and contentment instead of frustration and sadness. It made me realize that you don’t need to be constantly moving forward in life to grow into the person who you’re supposed to be, sometimes you just need to stay put and take a look at where you are and how far you’ve come.

 Back to My Roots

I’m a homegrown Baguio girl. I grew up riding horses, rolling around in pine needles, and being able to see my breath on those especially cold mornings. But for most of the past decade, I’ve mostly been in Manila for college and law school and only got to visit for Christmas and summer vacations. This is currently my longest stay in Baguio since I graduated from high school.

Being able to be home was a very humbling and nostalgic experience, mostly because I was at a very vulnerable mental and emotional state at the time, and it allowed me to look at my situation from a different perspective.

Spending time with my family, especially my Dad, brought me back to when I was still a kid building this dream of mine. I would pass by the Justice Hall of Baguio or have to drop by his office and remember the times when I was little that he would let me tag along while he attended hearings and met with clients. It was a flashback to my wide – eyed younger self and a reminder of why law school and becoming a lawyer were always the dream. Instead of augmenting the dread of how stuck I was in the situation I was in, I decided to look at it in a different way. Instead, I shifted my focus to how far I’ve actually come on the journey to reaching my goals and dreams and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

With my career ahead of me, I know I won’t have this same opportunity of staying home with family and spending time with old friends so I knew that this was something that I should cherish and fully enjoy especially once everything goes back to “normal” (whatever that even means anymore). I got to rediscover things that you only get to do when you’re home, like going to the places I’d always visit growing up and spending time with old friends. Being around old friends that knew you when you were still in grade school is always such a treat, they would always tease me about how they all knew I was going to make it as a lawyer one day, and I am reminded once again of my journey and my “why”. We’ve all come so far from our elementary school days and it felt like such a throwback visiting each other’s houses, but instead of playing hide and seek we’d be drinking wine and eating cheese, learning how to make waffles from scratch, and making home – made pizzas, among other things.

Being around the people and the places that were there when this dream started gave me a chance to take the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and the reason why I went through four and a half grueling years of law school.  

 Catching the Rain

Aside from embracing being home, one of the things that really helped lift my outlook on my situation was trying to find something that would distract me from what I like to call the “void” that the delayed Bar exam left in my life. The day that the announcement came out that the exam was going to be moved to November 2021, which at that time, was more than a year away, will never leave my memory. I remember feeling so lost and so many thoughts were running through my head. At this time, I had already established a schedule for my review and I had my daily routine down, so when everything became uncertain, it really left me in a disoriented state. I had no clue what to do, and for me, when I don’t have a plan or a routine or a certain goal to accomplish, I tend to just sit and be consumed by my thoughts. Hence, the “void”.

After my grieving period, I realized that one of the things that affected me the most was the fact that I was unemployed and at my age, looking at my other friends already working and supporting themselves, it ate away at my self – esteem. My life plans being forced into a halt brought with it a lot of insecurity about unemployment. Dealing with the prolonged lack of work was one of the most difficult things for me to process because there was a constant feeling of being a failure. Since I was not able to take the Bar, it would eventually delay my becoming a lawyer and applying for a firm, which was my original plan.

So instead of continuing to wallow in my sadness (after almost a month of doing so), I decided to find myself a productive distraction. This is how Drip It Like It’s Hot came to be. Drip it Like It’s Hot is a small online business that I started, I sell coffee beans and premium instant coffee drip kits on Instagram and Facebook.

I’ve always been obsessed with coffee so I knew that if I were to put up a business it would be something coffee–related. Since I was in Baguio, and surrounded by an endless source of good quality highland coffee, I decided to take advantage of that. I knew that the coffee bean market was saturated because during quarantine everyone was into brewing their own coffee, so I tried to find something that was different, and that’s where I learned about drip kits.

It started out as a way for me to earn money for my Bar review funds but became so much more than that. I thought it was going to be simple but I think every small business owner will tell you that it’s a lot more work than you expect it to be. It was fun at first then it became super tiring really quickly, but I loved the experience because it really brought out a side of me that I didn’t know I had in me. Being a humanities – centered person in college, I knew nothing about business, so I had to constantly ask help from my business–minded friends if I was earning money, if this was a viable investment, and things of that nature.

My favorite part about the whole experience (aside from my room smelling like fresh coffee everyday) was the marketing aspect of everything. Producing content, designing logos, choosing packaging, and managing the social media pages of my businesses was the best part for me, it got tiring and repetitive, but it was still super fun. One of my most memorable projects was when I was able to be a supplier for a wedding in Ilocos. I love everything about weddings, so being able to design giveaways was such a treat for me!

Aside from having a tiny source of income, starting Drip It Like It’s Hot finally gave me a sense of normality and purpose in the mundane life I was living, and it brought me out of that “void.” It was and continues to be a very refreshing experience because I was finally doing something productive that wasn’t sitting around and reading and the best part about it was that I learned so much. It isn’t anything like working in a firm, but it made me happy and taught me a lot. Currently, I’m juggling running Drip It Like It’s Hot while studying for the Bar exam, so it’s been a bit hectic and busy, but it’s a good kind of busy.

Letting the Light In

Earlier, I mentioned that I felt like law school consumed my personality and that I wanted to change that, and although I still remain extremely career-oriented, this halt to my plans made me realize that I was capable of much more than I thought and that there is a joy in just embracing the present circumstances. Things can’t go perfectly all the time, and although it took me a lot to be okay with it, I’ve accepted the change of plans now, and if you told me that in the beginning of quarantine last year, I wouldn’t have believed you.

I really feel like I learned so much about myself last year, and I feel that a big chunk of that is because I was finally free from the shackles of law school and the focus of building my career, albeit temporarily. The rollercoaster of emotions of the last year ultimately led me to fully embrace my situation and the path that my life was taking. Being home and learning more about myself and my capabilities gave me the opportunity to realize that growth doesn’t always mean moving forward, that even if I’m not moving forward right now, I grew so much just staying put in my hometown.

Despite the extremely low point of having no career, no graduation, and no concrete plan, I decided to just embrace my situation and let it lead me and allow me to learn more about myself. Although as of this moment, I’m knee – deep into Bar review, I feel like I’m diving into it with a completely different perspective compared to when I was reviewing last year. This fresh outlook on being home and remembering why I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place, made me look at studying in a more positive way (I mean, I’m not smiling while my nose is buried in my books but I’m definitely more motivated now than I was before.)

My whole situation last year when everything was just falling out of place reminded me of a quote from the movie ‘Someone Great’ on Netflix (I know that she was talking about a break – up, but let’s just say I’m likening my situation to a break – up with my life plans and career trajectory): “When something breaks, and the pieces are big enough, you can fix it. I guess sometimes things don’t break, they shatter, but when you let the light in, shattered glass will glitter.”       

Even though this pandemic completely derailed my career trajectory and life plans, I was able to take the “brokenness” of my situation and grow where I was, despite the circumstances and the mental and emotional instability in the beginning of it all. I realized that I didn’t need to keep moving forward, sometimes you just need to go back to your roots, catch the rain, let the light in, and grow where you’re planted.

By Maddie

Hi! I don't know what to say -- I'm not a big fan of introductions and the whole "tell people a little about yourself" thing sort of keeps me on edge so.

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