[How To Grow Up] Gmenier Mendoza, Starbucks Pearl – “Do what you can.”

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The Thinking G-Man: Gmenier, rendered in black-and-white as per his request.

“Whenever I think of you, I think of suicide.”

When I say this, he laughs.  Anyone else would be insulted, but Gmenier (pronouced May-nier) Mendoza, a.k.a. G-Man, a.k.a. Kuya/Ahia G, immediately gets the joke.  It’s been over a year since we worked together on Stray Cat, one of the four plays included in the Love C.A.F.E. suite, but he still picks up on the references to our nights as China, the attention-seeking, self-destructive cosplayer, and her beleaguered sempai and reluctant suicide counselor Dom.  Our favorite venue for these back-and-forths is Twitter (where China posts her threat to off herself and where, occasionally, usually during Finals Week, I do the same), but even in real life it seems to come naturally–maybe more so as of late, now that his sister, punk orange-haired, hipster-cool intellectual and Humanities major Kat Mendoza, has taken over the “China” role in Love C.A.F.E.’s re-run.


Gmenier and our director, Erin Locsin (also the original “China”), going over the script of “Stray Cat” during our first reading.


Me and Gmenier during our first show.  In case you’re curious, yes, I did gain weight for the role.

Our meet-up is months overdue–I’d been clamoring for a reunion ever since the re-run had been announced, and before then there was a jam session (with my Elinor and his Eleanor) that we kept agreeing would eventually happen but never really did–which is why, when he walks in the door, the first thing that flies out of my mouth is “Yes, I know, I got fatter.”  He insists that I haven’t, and that he has, but to my eyes he’s gotten slimmer and I tell him so.  He laughs and changes the subject, asks what I’ve been doing.  “Schoolwork, mostly,” I say, “I’m not sleeping much.  You?”  “Same old, same old.” he says, smiling.  When we last talked, he’d been new in his current position; now, it’ll be nearly a year.  He works for PLDT Global, the international arm of the Philippine telecom giant, “…targeting OFWs, helping them bridge the gap, you know–family stuff.” he grins wryly, having caught himself quoting ad copy.

Gmenier, like me, lived a colorful university life, full of extracurriculars and onstage credits (when I mention this, he reluctantly admits that he’s “known” on campus–a fact that’s pretty obvious, considering he appears in our university brochures.).  I guess that’s part of the reason why I wanted to talk to him–because he’s somehow managed to balance having been that vibrant person-with-dreams and doing the responsible thing.    I cut straight to the chase.  “How’d it feel to go from school to the corporate world?”  “To be honest, it sucked.” He says, without a moment’s hesitation, but before I can clarify if he wants that statement “off record,” he explains it wasn’t because of his first job–he felt he was able to contribute meaningfully–but in the sense of having to adjust to the “real world.”  “The one thing you have to understand about school is that we’re sheltered somewhat.  The real world is different.”

I have to admit a little lump in my throat when he says that.  “How different?”

“Well…it’s harder,” he admits, “But you’ll get through.”  I sigh, “What if you can’t?”  He looks confused for a moment and asks what’s been going on.  “I’ve actually considered checking out,” I admit with a wry smile, “Except I’m too chicken to actually do anything, so for a time my solution was praying for an early, painless death.”

He gives me a confused look, and I fill in the blanks left between my occasionally depressing tweets, the recap I gave A.G. (who, incidentally, is Gmenier’s friend) and Cito, but with a little more of the inner turmoil filled in.  It’s surprisingly easy to unload, I guess because he’s already seen me at my “worst,” albeit in a fictional context.  “It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks,” I explain, trying my best to summarize the roller-coaster that has been a good chunk of my August-September.  “I’m burning out with school.  I don’t feel I’m doing anything meaningful, and everything I find meaningful I have no time for because of some presentation, project, paper or combination of all three.  And it’s not like before, when I could tell myself if I just hung on the sem would end and I’d have another shot at doing what I love–after this, it’s the working world.  And judging from the older people I’ve seen…a lot of them seem more miserable than I am.  I’m not sure it will get any better than this.”  “I think you’re thinking too much,” he says in response, “Or rather, you’re thinking ahead too much.”  In direct defiance of every “personal development” exercise I’ve ever received–you know, the ones that ask you to visualize yourself ten, twenty years in the future?–Gmenier diagnoses the cause of my anxiety as, “…forcing yourself to plan ahead when you can’t actually know what’s coming yet.”

It’s a bit shocking, at first.  I’ll admit that I sort-of assumed Gmenier had those three-year, five-year, and ten-year plans we’re all supposedly required to have in order to get ahead. The reality, however, is a bit different.  “You can’t live too much in the future,he says, explaining our tendency to demand too much of our future selves with those tick-boxes of achievements to accomplish by thirty, forty, fifty.  “I’m not saying stop having ambitions.  I’m not saying stop dreaming.  But you have to accept the fact that will not do everything.”  The best thing to do, he suggests, is to “live in the in-between,” a term he later mentions came from inspirational blogger Jeff Goins.  I ask him what it means, and he explains it’s sort-of a better term for the present–the tiny sliver of reality that’s somehow within our control.  Without ditching the concept of the long-term goal, Gmenier explains the shift in focus to “What can I do today?”, working towards those goals one small step at a time.  At the end of the day, it’s likely–actually, certain–that not everything’s been neatly crossed off the list.  There will be things, he explains, that we don’t manage to do, or do right.  “But that’s life.  What you’ve done is what you’ve done.  If you want to do more,” he says, “at the risk of sounding kind of corny here…what Scarlett O’Hara said in Gone With The Wind: ‘Tomorrow is another day.’  That is, if you have a tomorrow.”

“But you can’t completely throw out the future, can you?  I mean, what you’re going to do?  What if you’re not sure yet?”  We both note the irony in that, in how part of my fears about having to grow up are about how I won’t get to do everything I want, when I’m not even quite sure what I want.

Lately, Gmenier explains, he’s been focusing on figuring out his purpose, which is why, disclaimer: “If this is meant to be a career talk, I may not be the best person for the job.”  I dismiss career as the least of my worries–I’m actually a bit allergic to the word, truth be told–and say that his current focus fits the discussion nicely.  Purpose is new.  Well, not quite, but mostly I hear about passion, about doing what you love–a definition that’s confused me to no end, largely because I’m a jack-of-all-trades; I love doing a lot of things, to the point that to not be able to do one of them, ever, terrifies me.  I’ve been told that passion is somehow supposed to point to purpose, but I’ve always felt like if that’s the case, then I’ve got arrows pointing in too many directions.

“I guess because when we’re in university, we get to do a lot of things.” Gmenier says.  He himself, like me, juggled theatre with other extracurricular activities, and had more than one outlet, aside from, of course, his majors work.  “But that was then, that was what I had to be back then.  What I have to be now can be different.”  Gmenier espouses a single purpose, but one whose execution is ever-evolving through every chapter.  And as for passion, he considers it merely a quarter of the equation: good as a starting point in the search for purpose, “But sometimes it can be the other way around.  Sometimes you find your purpose first and become passionate about it, over time.”

Gmenier’s idea of purpose comes the closest to my ideas of adulthood–the inevitable sacrifice of dreams–but without the misery.  On the contrary, unlike the sad, cynical adulthood I’ve envisioned in my head, he seems strangely at peace with the idea, more than I would be.  I’m haunted by the “What ifs,” the potential longing.  “There’s so much I still want to do though,” I say, “What if I never get to do them, because I have to grow up?”

“What if,” I repeat, “It doesn’t get any better than this?”  I ask him if he believes in the idea of “Glory Days,” the fact that we peak at one point and then taper off after.  “I’m afraid that this is it, you know?  I will never have as much potential as I did in this moment.  It’s all downhill from here.”

“Well, if you’re worried about that, then you could stay in the academe.” He says.  “NO.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.” I say, and he laughs at my horrified expression.

“You have to allow yourself to miss things,” Gmenier continues, “You let yourself look back, relive it all over again…but at the end you accept that it’s over.”  This leads to a long, semi-philosophical discussion on what “missing things” means, ending in the admission that even our university’s required nine units of philosophy subjects are perhaps no match for nostalgia.  At the very least, though, we both conclude it has nothing to do with regret, the idea that “you didn’t do enough.”  Looking back is supposed to be joyful, not fear-inducing, and as for the idea of “glory days,” well, “I think there’s one for every chapter,” Gmenier says, “You’ve got to accept that you did all you were going to do at this point in time, and you move on.”  He circles back to the idea of purpose, and how it changes manifestation with each stage: just because we aren’t doing everything that we used to do doesn’t mean we’re not doing what we have to do.

It’s a balancing act, he admits, between the possible and the desirable, but that’s what makes it easier, in a sense.  Passion is pure fire, in Gmenier’s book, and its light can blind–“You can get so hung up on your passion that even once you’ve reached your peak, you refuse to let go, and that can keep you back.”  Purpose, on the other hand, helps you move forward–once you accept the limitations of what you can and cannot pursue, you manage to get on a track that fits you.  “Keep doing what you love doing,” he says, “But be realistic–sometimes you won’t have the freedom to do so at this point in time, and that will be okay; you can do something else.”

In essence, Gmenier’s philosophy–combining the elements of living in the in-between and living for purpose–is to “Do what you can.”  Only, instead of this being limited exclusively to the idea of capacity, in Gmenier’s view it combines also the will: the willingness to do it, the desire, the so-called element of “passion.”  Purpose is what you can do, because you can only really do something you love–anything else is less success and more subsistence.  In a sense, it’s that “mythical” intersection of the Venn Diagram between what you love doing, what you do well, and what can earn you money, only how Gmenier explains it, it feels less mythical.  His idea of the constant evolution of how your “purpose” is expressed adds the element of hope: what you give up may come back to you.  Or it may not.  Don’t think about what you’ll be doing in the future.  Don’t think about what you did in the past.  Instead, do what you love doing that you need to do, in the here and now.  The important thing is to do what you (and, it’s implied, only you) can.  

After he explains this, I tell him about a change that I’ve recently noticed in myself: how I don’t really feel the need to be onstage anymore.  Before, a long absence from theatre would send me into agonies–I’d feel physically drained dry, my life absolutely meaningless.  But having given it up for nearly a year due to thesis and academic responsibilities, I don’t feel the same ache.  Instead, I tell him, I’m focusing on music and writing, and finding that those fulfill me just the same.  He smiles, but true to form never says “I told you so.”  Instead, he simply repeats, “Do what you can.”  And I realize he’s right: I’m doing what I can, and I don’t really feel the worse for it.

Our conversation at this point has run on for nearly two hours (which, to all you readers, explains why this post is longer than the others), and I note that it’s nearly time to pick my mum up from her Bible study.  As I wait for my driver to arrive, our conversation turns to small talk–the stuff we skipped in view of handling the profound topics of “growing up” and “purpose.”  I comment on a photo I’ve recently seen on his timeline, of a carwash named “G-Man.”  He laughs, “Yep: first a comic book, and now a car wash.”  He shows me the comic book in question, which leads to talk of superheroes.  On Twitter, Gmenier has a penchant for mentioning the Batman-verse, specifically casting himself in the role of the caped crusader (though, full disclosure, I wasn’t actually supposed to tell you all that).  “Why Batman?” I ask him.  “There’s a story behind that,” he explains, “I started with Batman, as a kid.  Then, for a time, as a teenager, I got really into Spiderman.  Lately, though, I felt it was a good time return to my roots.”  “Like coming home,” I say.

“Exactly,” he says, with a smile, “You can always come home to Gotham.”


Special thanks to Gmenier Mendoza for nearly 
two hours of his time.  Stay tuned for the results of our jam session, if we ever get around to having one.  Also, after I took his photo, I asked him if anyone ever told him he looked sort-of like John Lloyd Cruz.  “I only have one answer to that,” he said, “It’s the other way around.”  Sure it is, Dom.  Sure it is.

In the interests of full disclosure, the original quote at the end was “You can always come home to Batman,” but then that conjured up the funny image of Gmenier coming home to find Batman waiting on his couch…so he told me to change it to Gotham instead.

But yes, Gmenier, you can always come home to Batman. 😉

[How To Grow Up] Cito De Leon, ACB 204 – “Some people have to search.”


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.

“What to do When you Make a Mistake” – Jeremy Statton

“What to do When you Make a Mistake” – Jeremy Statton

I’m a perfectionist, and I’m also extremely impulsive–not exactly the best combination, obviously.  The latter means that I make mistakes a lot, and the former means I tend to beat myself up about them.  I don’t like screwing up–who does?–especially when my scrapes end up involving innocent bystanders (I’m like a bomb; there is always shrapnel.).

My default mode when I screw up is literally to freeze and start over, usually from scratch.  Unfortunately, the mistake usually makes me lose steam, so the project–whatever it is–rarely manages to get resurrected with the same passion as its initial, flawed incarnation.  A lot of my big ideas have died because I’ve screwed them up the first time (sometimes to the detriment of aforementioned bystanders), which is probably why, at twenty, I’m freaking out because there’s so much I could have done that I never got done!

I stumbled upon this article while trying to clear my head for Business Law, and while it’s no cure-all for my perfectionist neuroses, it’s simple enough prose and gets the point across.

Fix what you can fix.
Don’t dwell.
If you’ve affected someone else, apologize.
Keep moving forward.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  A good read for all you neurotic perfectionists in the hypothetical room.  We will all inevitably slip up, sometimes with catastrophic results.  Fortunately, life is long and full of (at least partial) do-overs and opportunities to “redeem yourself.”  Seize those opportunities.  Don’t freeze up.

(Cue the song, “I give myself very good advice, but I seldom ever follow it…”)