Cito, MScM ’14’s avowed man of mystery.
Cito De Leon is…late.
When he finally shows, five minutes after his text message of “On my way, just printing something.”, there are scarcely fifteen minutes left before our next class. “So, are we still going to do it?” he says, his tone of voice slightly tense, at odds with his usual aura of loose-limbed nonchalance. “Yep.” I say. He nods. As we leave our International Economics classroom–Cito prefers to conduct this “interview” in private; a condition I readily agree to, happy to avoid cat-called romantic insinuations from my less-than-discreet classmates–I notice that he seems to move quicker than usual, and for the first time I see a hint of his Brazilian Jujitsu training in his wary, restless energy. “Relax,” I tell him, as we walk around, in search of an unoccupied room, “This is nothing formal.”
Cito is an introvert, in many ways a textbook case of one. A newcomer this year to our batch–he is a Dragon U alum returning to finish his Masters–he prefers to stand apart from the rest of the MScM ’14 batch, not because he is anything close to shy (though he was reluctant, at first, to participate in my project), but because he is rather private, preferring to observe. Having recently joined the introverted fold myself (a fact many still find hard to believe), I’ve taken to doing the same, except that I haven’t exactly lost my need to talk. To Cito’s credit, he doesn’t seem to mind my intruding on his silence, though when we usually “hang out,” he prefers to ask the questions instead of answer them. The role reversal may explain his overall fidgety-ness, as well as the fact that, when we finally find a room, he prefers to pace back and forth in a capoeira-like fashion as he speaks.
The first thing I do is snap a photo; just the back of his head, as we’d agreed on Facebook. Then, as he shifts from foot to foot, he asks me what my first question is. I remind him that this is meant to be casual, more a discussion than anything else, but to be honest this isn’t as casual as I’d envisioned it to be–we’re running on a tight timeline, and with so much ground to cover it’s hard not to start peppering him with questions outright. Instead, I ask him what he’s been doing. He pauses, looks up, feet still doing their steady dance on the marble floor. “School…studying…” the look on his face tells me that he’s having a hard time thinking of a life outside of the two, a sentiment I can relate to, “…training for Jujitsu–I told you I did that, right?”
I nod, and prepare to ask a follow-up question, but before I can he says, “Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot. About the future, future plans…”
The transition seems too easy to be natural; “Is that an intentional segue?” He assures me it’s not, that he’s really had the future on his mind. “What have you figured out, then?” I ask. It takes him a few seconds to respond. “I definitely see myself traveling,” he says. As for the rest, he admits he’s “still searching.”
“Doesn’t it scare you?” I ask. “Not really.” He says that sometimes he senses a little bit of pressure–after all, Cito is twenty-five, and, like a standard master’s student, he’s already had a few years of solid work experience (unlike uncertain patchwork of volunteer assignments and extracurricular org-work that is my resumé)–but he makes sure not to dwell on it. In my past life as a type-A workaholic (or, rather, stress-a-holic), I might have dismissed him as being too “relaxed,” but after going through my recent roller-coaster of fear-and-trembling, his perspective seems to make more sense. “Of course there’s this feeling that the world wants me to get my act together,” he admits, “But I’m not scared. I try to see the uncertainty as part of the process.” He smiles wryly before–as he usually does when we talk–throwing my question back at me.
In response, I give him the same spiel, albeit less dramatic, that I’d given A.G.–the fact that I’m not looking forward to the foreseeable future, the perceived tension between responsibility and dreams. When I finish, he looks at me, confused. “I don’t get it,” he says, “What’s the connection between giving up on your dreams and growing up?” I tell him it’s about being responsible, about doing the mature thing and providing for my family, shoving my dreams into what Po Bronson, in his book What Should I Do With My Life? (a question I ask myself daily), calls the “Lockbox,” along with the “f*** you money” I earn in exchange for putting those dreams away. “So you plan to go to work, get a high paying job, then make the money so you can do accomplish your dreams later?” he asks in a tone that makes it very obvious he thinks this is a stupid idea. “Not exactly,” I say, “I mean that having to do the responsible thing, earn the money and stuff, will mean giving up on my dreams entirely. They can’t exactly keep me afloat, you know?”
I’m waiting for him to agree, even reluctantly, but instead Cito drops a bomb, “I don’t think that’s grown up at all.” Instead, it’s risk-avoidance, and he explains that shouldering the risks (and consequences) of pursuing a dream is, in his opinion, one of things that has people grow up. “Personally, I think, if you do something you aren’t really into, you’re bound to not to perform well enough to get anywhere. You won’t be effective.” “But I’ll be earning money,” I shoot back. “Who says you can’t earn money on your dreams? If you do what you’re really meant to be doing, you’ll grow up, you’ll get good, and eventually you’ll manage to find ways for the money to follow.”
It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times before, and always dismissed as a pipe-dream–the “Good To Great” Venn Diagram comes to mind, that nearly-mythical intersection of what you are good at, what you love doing, and what earns you money. Instinctively, I think to point out that what he’s proposing sounds impossible, but then I realize there are far too many examples of people making it possible: I’m just not sure I can do it, that I’ve found my way. I haven’t figured it out, and that fact scares me.
“What about the uncertainty?” I ask, “How do you manage?”
Cito shrugs, “I think it’s a necessary part of life. I mean, sure, there are people out there fortunate enough to know from the very beginning what they have to do. But there are people who don’t, and they eventually figure it out.”
“It’s not a big deal,” he says, “Some people have to search.”
I nod, then check my watch. It’s three minutes to class time. “Are we done?” Cito says. “Yep. Pretty painless, wasn’t it?”
He nods, and that is when I notice in the past few minutes, he’s stopped pacing the floor. “I guess so,” he says, “It wasn’t so bad.”
Special thanks to Cito De Leon for his time.