Too many walls have been built in between us
Too many dreams have been shattered around us
If I seem to give up they’ll still never win
Deep in my heart I know the strength is within

— “Too Many Walls”, Cathy Dennis

Sometimes I wonder why I even bothered to be idealistic. I spent most of my college life marching around Metro Manila whilst shouting for the downfall of the government. I spent the better part of my so-called youth learning about poverty (others’ and my own) and the lack of empathy my fellow students had.

So many hours have been spent fuming at spineless student body presidents, ranting relentlessly and even falling apart from sheer exhaustion. All these have made my college experience in Ateneo two things: academically suicidal and borderline non-existent.

Again I ask myself; “Why did I even bother?”

I’m thinking about these things as I’m sitting here on my cushy chair in an air conditioned office in Ortigas. The irony of ironies never fails to present itself when I report for work each day. Why did I go against the corporate flow all my college life only to sell out and become a corporate whore thereafter?

The answer is frustratingly simple: I did this because I could.

After almost half a decade of being active in cause-oriented groups I have met astounding people who have lived out their life’s calling. These were not twenty somethings assuring you of their lifetime commitment. These were people who were jailed and tortured during Martial law, people who gave the prime of their lives to serving the people. These people, despite all their hardships are the lucky ones. They have purpose, their lives are meaningful.

A good friend once told me: “You’re lucky to have something to die for. The rest of us are just ambling along aimlessly.”

A few years after those fateful words were spoken, I found myself at a job interview. Apparently, I had enough qualifications to become a copywriter for a lingerie retail company. At the time, I was still very much active in the movement and I was a bit hesitant to try anything else. But I was also a firm believer in stretching my wings, trying out things I had never considered before. Needless to say, I accepted the offer.

And here I am now. Staring at underwire bras, soft cup bras, push up bras, Wonderbras, girdles, thongs, boy shorts and whatnot for eight hours a day while trying to amuse myself with more cerebral activities. Though I am far from being a jaded employee, I am still bothered that I am even employed at a corporation; albeit a small one.

After countless recounts of my college activist days, certain thoughts have come into play. I realize that all I needed was a change of scenery to be able to tell myself that I cannot turn my back on activism. I guess you could say that a step back is all you need to realize that you have indeed found your life’s calling. And that your calling doesn’t involve staring at breasts for hours on end.

Every time I am reminded of the sordid situation this country is in, I am appalled by the lack of response from my fellow yuppies. I cannot believe that people can just go about their business and not notice that our country is submerged in a political, moral and economic cesspool. Coming to terms with the growing apathy among young professionals is disheartening.

It is so disturbing to hear those Americanized twangs in Starbucks, talking about their iPods while the rest of our nation is in turmoil. I wish people would learn to be more proactive. Moreover, I wish yuppies would see that no matter how much you make; no matter how accented your speech is and no matter where you go: you will always be Filipino.

We should stop heaping thick unnatural accents on our heritage in an effort to hide it. We should stop playing the apathetic dunces who make money. We should stop because in truth, caring about the society we live in is what sets us apart from the other members of the animal kingdom.

Youth enables one to do so many things. Being young means having enough energy and gall to try and change the status quo. A young professional actually has more reason for rage when taxpayer’s money is pocketed by individuals. You actually pay income tax now. By virtue of shelling out money for the government every month, one should naturally be concerned where it goes.

Which all boils down to my daily question: why did I even bother to become a yuppie if I despise corporations and paying tax so much?

I entered the corporate world because I could. I am employed in an American corporation despite all my political convictions because I can be employed and also, because I am afraid. I am afraid to pass up a chance. I’m afraid that if all I do is march down streets, shout political slogans and discuss ideologies I will never ever learn anything else.

The dissipation of my lifetime learning curve is something that I cannot stomach. But now that I can say: I tried working in a cushy corporate job and it sucks, I can go back to my former life.

Now no one can say I never tried anything else but activism. No one can say that I never experienced a hard day’s labor or that I never paid taxes. I’ve being overworked for a measly pay.

One needs options in order to choose. And now that I’ve tried both corporate whore and militant activist, I can determine where I am called to be.

And you know what?

I’ve decided to turn in my resignation and return to the streets.

Tish Martinez

Atenista. Kwentista. Makata. Manunulat. Aktibista.

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