NO PLACE LIKE HOME
After a journey of self-discovery that took her around the world, Crystal Anievas, 33, learned that as long as she follows her heart, everything will be okay.
After I graduated from college in 2005,
I got a high-paying job at a prestigious corporation. I was focused on becoming independent so it was important for me to join a company that could help me succeed.
A few years into the job, I started to feel a shift inside. It is not unlike the feeling you get when you’re traveling on a fast train and discover you are supposed to be heading toward a different direction. I tried hard to evade the questions and to push away the doubts, but the truth was clear—i wanted my job to be focused on uplifting the lives of people. I had to jump off the train I was on so I could get on another one.
I’ve been attracted to Africa for as long as I can remember. I even joined an essay writing competition when I was 18 that won me a chance to join an international environmental youth camp in South Africa. At first it was its natural beauty and diversity that drew me in. Later on, it was the experience of feeling at home that fueled my desire to return in hopes of making a difference. So I applied with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and set off for Accra, Ghana in September 2010.
My official assignment was to encourage local female volunteers to teach in the northern regions of Ghana. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the challenge at hand, I went around the different regions of the country to listen to what stakeholders and influencers had to say about the challenges in the education sector. It was great to get to know a country through the stories of its people and through the realities they experience.
Outside of work, the best thing about my time in Ghana was the experience of living on my own for the first time. I discovered that I needed a lot of time with my own thoughts, in a new environment, with a diverse group of people around me. I spent countless hours on the balcony of our flat watching breathtaking African sunsets, getting tutored on the proper way to hand wash laundry, and having meals with lots of wine.
When I returned to Manila in 2011, I started working for a social enterprise. I thought it was a natural fit for me given my background in marketing and project management. However, after almost four years since coming home from Ghana, I still didn’t feel like I had found my place under the sun. This feeling of uncertainty created strong waves of anxiety and selfdoubt within me. I started questioning my self-worth because I didn’t feel like I was fulfilling my potential.
The opportunity to work in India in 2015 was pure serendipity since I was not actively looking for a job. I accepted the offer because I thought it would be a good opportunity to regroup and recharge. The company I joined was in the technology sector. It was a new field for me, and I was curious to find out more about its power to revolutionize the way we do things.
After a year in India, I decided it was time to come back home to be with my family. And this time it was accompanied by a sense of peace. I was at peace with the fact that I would have to continue my search back home.
My experiences taught me important life skills: how to pick oneself up from failure, to overcome frustration, and to learn to take things in stride. Before learning these lessons, I found myself taking life too seriously when things didn’t go as planned. I also found that expressing my feelings (which used to terrify me) is the beginning of true dialogue, which leads to understanding and healing. It’s true that expressing how you feel exposes you to the risk of getting hurt but the sense of relief and peace it provides is worth the risk.
Finally, I learned to follow the beat of my own drum. A lot of choices I’ve made have been different from what most would expect, and the struggle to listen to my inner drumbeat is real. It helps to seek support from people who share the same rhythm and who truly care about me. Crystal is currently contemplating her next move: government, NGO, or academe? Let her know your vote by sending her a message through facebook.com/ crystal.anievas.
Crystal (in yellow) on fieldwork with officers and staff of the Ghana National Service Scheme.