Leave your Town

Imagine, for a second, if Frodo Baggins didn’t leave the Shire and risk his life to destroy the Ring.

For one thing, we wouldn’t have had the chance to see the trilogy. That is a big loss, entertainment wise. I still find myself re-watching the scene where the Giant Eagles came to the rescue in The Return of the King.

For another, if the story makes it to the production stage, it would revolve around Frodo doing Hobbit-sy errands, which are cool to watch, at least in the first 30 minutes.

Peter Jackson would’ve had quit.

Something must happen to advance the story. Leaving The Shire will. Look where it got us.

Whether to seek greener pasture or to find oneself, thinking about leaving your town, the place where you spent all your life, is nerve-wracking. 

Yet it is addicting; once the thought hits you, it will never go away. Until you act.

There was once a guy I knew from my town. He was arrogant, dismissing those who leave town as incompetent. For him, why leave town when you can be with your family and friends, while having a stable 9-5 career?

His arrogance was a mask.

He claims he enjoy his circle of friends, most of them he knew since the 4th grade. Yet, he was getting resentful of the familiarity. It was poisoning him.

He also claims he would never entertain the thought of being away from his family. Yet, he always goes home late, just to not sit with them on dinner. It’s always the same scene for him since kindergarten.

There was no chance of leaving town, though.

For him, as long as he have his job to finance his hobbies, he would be fine. For years, he lived this routine in a classic love-hate relationship. Some days are great, most of the time, he was feeling empty. But he got used to it.

He knows it was his fear of leaving his comfort zone that led him to the life he was secretly cursing.

And then, the day his only source of power was taken away from him came.

I heard he was demoted. Some of his colleagues said the department he was handling was dissolved, rendering his position redundant.

He resigned after a week. His ego was stronger than his arrogance.

For the first time, he was powerless. He was connecting with his friends again and was present during family dinner.

He felt the comfort of company. But it was temporary, and he needed to move on, for their ‘sympathy’ to his situation will expire soon.

He sometimes catches his dad throwing him a very worried look. At least, that’s what he wanted to tell the world, when it was, in fact, a look of disappointment. His becoming of a burden as an unemployed adult in the family is worrying indeed.

Being in his former company for four years, his pay scale had gradually increased, which the other companies he applied for a job wouldn’t match. The upshot of it all was he transferred to Cebu City.

I heard he just ran out of options in our hometown, had a very Oprah-like discussion with his mother, and packed his belongings and Cebu Pacific'd his way to the Queen City of the South.

I recently made contact with him, wanting to welcome him to the city as soon as his FaceBook feeds were full of Cebu City posts.

Truth was, it was my passive aggressive way of enjoying seeing him eat his words about people leaving their town because of incompetence. 

Who’s incompetent now?

We had a chat and I can tell he was genuinely happy, for the first time. He made lots of new friends, been to a lot of beaches, and his love for food has never been this pronounced.

As though they weren’t enough info, he went on to share these about leaving our hometown:

To taste the sweet, face the pain
Back when he was still at the top of his world in our hometown, he was residing in a dorm with architectural facade akin to Microtel’s. Dude likes his comfort.

On his first night in Cebu, he slept on the floor, which he covered with a ‘banig.’

He got so obsessed with saving that he went for the first cheapest ‘Room for Rent’ posting he could find. Not only did the room not have furniture, the common bathroom was shared by five other tenants. It wasn’t ‘common’ for nothing.

Work kept him occupied for the next couple of days.

He accepted that he would start at the beginning again and that his pay expectation remain as an expectation for now. That, or not having any job at all.

Three years later, and after transferring to three different companies, he can now say he’s living his dream profession: not only he’s alone in his posh office (He doesn’t fancy working with that many people; they always scream, he complained), he’s also ‘employed’ to do a 4-person job.

Looking back, he said if it weren’t for his facing all the pain of leaving our hometown, he wouldn’t taste the sweet life he’s enjoying now.

Ability is nothing without access
Legendary RnB singer, rapper, songwriter, philanthropist Lauryn Hill once said, ‘What distinguishes one child from another is not ability, but access; access to education, access to basic needs.’

It was her founding principle for her foundation for African children.

Now that my hometown friend has become one of the many folks who have migrated to other cities to find their sun, he said he’s now fully grasped what ‘brain drain’ meant.

Everyone back in high school agreed the issue of ‘brain drain’ was discussed with zero zest by our chalk-choked teachers (bless them). And so, we paid it with zero interest.

It was never about ability.

He experienced that himself when he was looking for a new job back in our hometown; even with his solid grasp of how the industry works, he was selling it to non-existent shoppers.

He needed to have access to his desired market. Cebu City is the access to where that market is.

Failing teaches humility
Not going to lie, at this point in our conversation, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. It was just too much cheese and Gandhi.

However, I can, indeed, attest he’s ‘humbled’ by his so-called ‘failures.’

For a second, I thought I was talking to an Evangelical stranger, not with an arrogant hometown friend, who used not to care what words he use.

He used to call everyone a ‘bitch’ because he thinks he’s black.

He said that if he hasn’t failed at his career back in our hometown, he wouldn’t have found his courage to finally get out of the lifeless self-made shell he’s brought upon himself.

Here are other things he was preaching me about failing:


Failing pushes you to the right direction. Tweet this

Failing makes you emphatic.

Failing makes you appreciate other people’s struggle.

Failing makes you human.

Success is a bunch of failures well-learned. Tweet this

The chat ended around 1am.

While my initial discomfort of having to chat with him for that long lingered, I feel there was something so liberating about my hometown friend that has changed.
He obliterated my former shady impression of him. All of it. Like mine, his life began when he left town.

By the way, the original title of this post was, ‘A Conversation with my 27-year-old self.’