On Determination

So the Universe is testing me again. Push and Pull.

Just when you think you know the way to go, something shiny and tempting is placed right in front of you before you make a turn.

Crossroads. One road with all the prestige academia demands from a faculty in engineering: a big project, international collaboration, a living legend in the scientific community as mentor, publications. I’m sure there will be lots of it if I choose to commit to this person. All planned out. Secure. Just say yes. “ASAP.”

The other road demands I let go much of the “power” I have now to make more time for what I believe matters to me. This road is not yet constructed. I’m still figuring out how to manage it. Sometimes I fail and stumble, but I’ve spent six years on this road already– as a side project. I’ve been considering flipping the picture this year, i.e. make this unsure path my priority and the established road the side project.

The heart already knows what it wants, but it’s terrifying nonetheless. I let go of a shiny thing last year around this time, too. I did not regret it. HEED was born because I chose to stay on this road.

Yes, I will let this shiny thing go… again. It will be alright. It will be alright.

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On Responsibilities

“More is asked of us than most people, therefore we must strive to be better than most if we are to prove ourselves worthy of that responsibility…” – Nasuada, from the book Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

2017 was about beginnings. 2018 will be about growth.

I am still not used to introducing myself as an executive director, but it is one I need to learn to embrace and live out together with all the responsibilities attached to the title. I will commit new mistakes along the way that will teach me new lessons about leadership, public relations, and life in general, among others. It is daunting, but also exciting.

First meeting of the year was successful and productive. May we face our responsibilities throughout the year with as much vigor as when we started.

Cheers to 2018! :)

On Learning How to Fly

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.”
― Kobi Yamada

It’s actually happening. When the first speaker pubmat was published this evening, when I read the answers of the people who registered for the event, when I looked at the HEED Facebook page and saw that the posts are reaching thousands of people now. I didn’t know how to feel. I stared at my computer screen for a long time. I couldn’t believe it. It was real. Suddenly, I found myself in tears. I cried because I was so grateful and happy and scared and excited all at the same time. 6 years. There is overflowing gratefulness in my soul right now.

I am grateful to the Universe for giving this opportunity. For giving me patience and stubbornness, because without these I would have given up on this advocacy a long time ago. When I was laughed at in front of 120 people for pitching my social enterprise. When some people close to me thought I was crazy for prioritizing community service over the more “prestigious” side of engineering. The Universe granted me stubbornness when I couldn’t find anyone (yet) with the same passion to support my idea of establishing a humanitarian engineering program in our beloved university.

I am grateful to UP students. They were the first ones who listened and took notice of my advocacy. It was my students who showed genuine passion for the idea of service-learning and humanitarian engineering. They showed their passion through fearless action. For every project they showcased to either a public high-school student or another college or the public, I saw how they went the extra mile by doing things beyond what was required of them. They owned each event. They owned each project. Even if the challenge was huge and it was their first time doing it, they faced it. And seeing that fearless passion kept me going. They gave me hope that HEED had a chance of becoming a reality.

Now, the tide has finally turned. The University heeded the call by granting us money for HEED 2017. A college (hopefully two colleges by next week!) heeded the call by endorsing the event. And of course, two student organizations also heeded the call, showing that signature Iskolar ng Bayan passion in making this event a reality.

My adventures for the past 6 years flashed back as my tears fell this evening. The long boat ride to Culion and its neighboring islands that opened my eyes to a harsh reality. The long bus ride to Penn State, the long train ride to D-Lab, the first GHTC conference I attended in Seattle, every interview I had with anyone who has done or is doing humanitarian engineering work to get whatever knowledge I can from their experiences. Every letter I wrote, every proposal crafted, every email sent. I remember how I used to do technically everything on my own for HEED, to protect my idea from being laughed at again. To prevent people from telling me to forget about HEED because it was too idealistic. But now, as I looked at each pub that comes out, each message in our HEED FB group, I tell myself, “It’s okay. You no longer have to do this on your own. You can share HEED with others now. There’s a big chance people won’t laugh anymore because circumstances have changed. Trust that they will listen this time.”

I know that we are just starting and there is still a lot of work ahead of us after the Symposium. It actually scares me a lot, what happens after the symposium. But seeing how HEED learned to fly when it took a leap 6 years ago, and with the people supporting it now, I am confident that it will continue learning to fly higher and farther as more people join the movement with fearless passion for action. :’)

#HEEDtheCall

On Focus

 

One of the things that stuck on me after watching the documentary, “Becoming Warren Buffet” was focus. Focus on what you want and need to do. Never mind what other people think. He learned from his dad that, “as long as you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, then that’s enough.” Focus.

This year, I told myself that I will focus on what I want to do. There are tempting offers to lead research projects and/or stints that unfortunately do not align with my goals and this week I have to say my “no” to them. It’s a risk, as it always is with life. We always lose a potential outcome when we make choices. But what is life without risks? We grow because of the risky decisions we make. I have enough on my plate for this year. I need to focus more on making an impact than making a name. As Mr. Khanjan Mehta told me when I interviewed him last year, “It’s all about impact. Impact. Impact.”

Another reason why I will say no to these other projects is because saying yes to them would mean saying yes to having a boss again. I have proven last year that I am not the type of person who wants to work for someone. God willing, I want my PI in the US to be the last boss I will report to. I will find mentors/advisors, but definitely not bosses.

Bottomline: focus on projects that will have an impact. Impact. Impact.