Fast forward to my university graduation. This is when things really got hard! Traditional Filipino culture demands that a university graduate support their parents completely - as though I hadn’t done enough thus far! Suddenly the pressure was really on to find a job - immediately - that would not only support my family but also start to pay off our by-now very large debt. Fate bought Sharesource and I together. All employers require a ‘ToR (Transcript of Record of your final university grades.) This takes a month to become available - and I didn’t have a month - the need to start earning was more urgent than I can describe. Unlike other potential employers, Sharesource was prepared to hire me on my semester grades - as I said - it was destiny! With enormous relief, I told my parents, borrowed money to buy clothes and other necessities and moved to Manila to stay with my cousins whilst I waited for my first salary. Whilst it was fantastic to be earning an income, it wasn’t enough to rent my own apartment, so for eighteen months, I kept moving from cousin to cousin. It was hard. I didn’t have my own space or room. They often had children. I wasn’t given a key so couldn’t get in if I needed to work late. I moved from couch to couch - oftentimes from day to day. I could, at least, start paying off my family’s debts - and there are no words for how grateful I was for that.
Eventually, I had to move home to my parents in the countryside as the constant moving just wasn’t sustainable. Depending on traffic it could take up to four hours of commuting - one way. I would wake at 2 am to leave at 3 am. I had to leave on the dot of 4 pm when my shift ended to be home by the earliest 8 pm - sometimes it might be 11 pm or midnight. I managed six months of this - until I got my first salary increase in late 2018. And you know what? I got to move back to Manila - and rent my own apartment - close enough to the office to be able to walk to work! I cannot begin to describe the relief this bought. However, it came with mixed emotions - a part of me felt guilty for no longer living with my family - as traditional culture dictated. My responsibilities to them still weighed heavily on me and I was torn between my new found freedom - and feeling bad for what felt like turning my back on them. The pressure from relatives and other debt collectors to pay back what we owed them grew stronger now that I was employed. It felt like everyone wanted a piece of me - the stress and pressure of it all just never seemed to let up. Thoughts of not wanting to live hounded me - but then I thought of my younger siblings - and my parents - who would support them if I wasn’t around? I pulled myself back from the precipice - ultimately my love for my family was what kept me going.
Mostly I managed to separate my personal and professional lives - and I’m proud of myself for this. Despite my colleagues becoming friends, I kept everything to myself for the longest time. However, from the moment I graduated, I felt like Sharesource was my saviour. I’m so grateful that I work in an environment that allows us to grow and have autonomy. We’re given meaningful work with a sense of responsibility and accountability. We are mentored, involved in what’s going on and know that all of our concerns will be addressed. This develops our potential both as individuals and leaders. We have a fun, open, caring culture - full of welcoming and happy people - we’re given everything we need to thrive. Not only did Sharesource take a gamble on me without the necessary documentation when they first employed me, but this supportive and caring culture has literally saved my sanity during my darkest days. Our People Manager has supported me like a mother, sharing her own personal stories of challenge and hardship. She has been my go-to support - I don’t know what I would have done without her.
My colleagues now know I have had dark days - there’s no shame in this - I think we all do. They have slowly become my wider support group - I can tell them when I’m not feeling good and need some time out and they’ll understand and respect this - and be there for me if I need them. They’ve noticed of their own accord when I’m not in a strong place and will reach out to see if I need them. I can’t imagine not having this kind of supportive work environment. It is honestly a very large part of what held back the darkness from completely enveloping me.
I’m learning how to prioritize myself and change the way I think about myself and my life. I’ve learned that alcohol or obsessively playing games on my phone is not the way forward - there’s only so long they can numb the pain. I’ve started to realize that the key to coping with whatever life throws at you is to learn how to really - and I mean really - love yourself. Who even knows what this means? No one ever talks about it - and we’re certainly never taught how to do it. If you can truly - and I mean truly - love yourself - no challenge will ever be insurmountable.
If my story is hooking you in and you’d like to hear more (super succinct!) first hand tales from some of my teammates, click here for more #unleashinghumanpotential stories.
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