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.

Good Housekeeping (Philippines) - - Real Life -

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.

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