When life begins with a “To be continued”

When I picked up my comicbooks yesterday evening, I didn’t think that I’d get more than comics from my comicbook guy. He made me think about what else life had in store for me.

Felix, as we would call him, started some small talk and mentioned that he had two new teacher customers come in the other day. This led from one thing to another, from how Pisay is underfunded — he proposed to supply graphic novels to our library — to how teachers are underpaid. I didn’t expect to hear what I heard next.

He asked me if I had thoughts of transferring and said that he has this good teacher friend from Xavier. Then I thought he’d offer to give him my name, but instead encouraged me to move out of teaching. Flatly, he asked me what my plans were and “I’ll be studying again by March ’08” was my reply. He looked at me oddly — like that look he’d give a guy who picks up a comic nobody else buys.

“Why not work?” And that actually stumped me; either I had no idea what he meant or that I was in denial. He then told me about his teacher friend and how once, he challenged him with the same question.

“I’d consider him that martyr type of person who wants to teach so that he can change the world.” In between I actually muttered, “yeah, like me.” Felix continued, “Then I said something that stumped him — ‘You earn what? 12K? 15K a month? What if I tell you that you can earn 200k a month and still change the world.'”

It turns out that Felix, before putting up his own comicbook store, was an owner of several restaurants. He built up his own meager fortune and being the Chinese man he is, racked up the profits through businesses.

“Back then, I’d hire people not because of their credentials. I’d steer away from UP, Ateneo and La Salle graduates. I took risks with people who came from ‘smaller’ schools and I chose them because of their character.

“The people in control of my businesses were people I could trust. These were the also-rans who nobody would take a second look at. I took a chance with them, and now they’re earning more than me.

“If you want to help people — change the world, even — you have no reason not to earn a fortune.”

Felix has always been one of those few people who I would be at a loss for words at and now I know why. His words made me feel small, and in a good way. I know for a fact that I could use a cup of humility every now and then. I’ve always been proud of my work and so from time to time I have to be reminded that I’m only 23 and that I have my whole life ahead of me. There is so much more I can do.

That is why over lunch at the faculty center yesterday, Arghs noticed that I had a different aura. On one hand, I was sick and on the other, I had a lot on my mind. And as I’ve told Camia just last Monday, “the body goes where the head goes.” I could also add, “and where the heart goes” to make it more accurate.

Then this morning, Citas and I chatted up and she helped me realize that nothing is stopping me from moving on. She always does that.

martb_perez:I’ve always had a deadline — March ’08 when I leave and study in Singapore. I went through the application docs lately and got excited again.
Citas Ele: so, what’s stopping you?
martb_perez: Nothing really.
martb_perez: It’s just a matter of deciding what’s best for me eventually.
Citas Ele: go na yan…. i think it’s a matter of when..

My brother also chimed in over dinner last night. He suggested that perhaps I’ve already reached my peak and that there is no other way to go but down. So it would probably be better to leave when you’re at the top of your game.

This echoes what my aunt — a fellow teacher in Pisay — told me when I drove her to Megamall last Tuesday. “Just think of it this way — you’ve already done the most good you’ve can. Our school is a good training ground and you’ve done your best. Now, you move on to do something greater.”

A part of me is eager to leave after this school year so I can get started with the next phase of my life. Another part of me wants to stay on another year, and graduate together with my dearest students. But come to think of it, there really is no point staying on another year besides me doing with what I really want.

And which is that? These are the kinds of questions which are better left unthought of. I know my deadlines and my points of no return, and like a river I will run my course. My priority now is to leave behind something good because it was an ending of something else that brought me here.

Only time will tell, and all of you will be the first to know.

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