huling sayaw; unang tikim

I used to love playing “teacher” when I was young.

I had a small chalkboard mounted on the wall of our house’s dirty kitchen.
90s kids would remember those dark green toy blackboards designed with
the alphabet around the borders,
sometimes with a manual, analog clock for teaching time…
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo on Google.

I bought boxes of chalk and even had an eraser for the full experience.
It was the perfect play setting for me.
I’d imitate my school teachers—how they taught,
reprimanded students, and conducted quizzes and recitations.
I even had my own class records, with my classmates as my students!

Even in our store at the city market,
I had another chalkboard set,
complete with a box of chalk and an eraser.
As a small, timid girl, it was my favorite hobby.
I’d play alone with my “imaginary students” or with my centro playmates,
pretending to be their teacher.

When the opportunity to teach arose in 2007,
right after my bachelor’s graduation,
it felt as though my younger self had manifested
that I would be a teacher.

I loved pretending to be a teacher when I was younger,
but making it my job was a whole different story.
I was hesitant at first, knowing I’m not really an excellent speaker.
Speaking in front of a class,
even reciting despite knowing the answers,
was a scary battle for me.
As a Computer Science graduate,
I hadn’t taken any classes on teaching methods.

But I said yes to the invitation.
Despite the fear, maybe I truly wanted it,
or perhaps it was the convenient option—I don’t know anymore.
Perhaps both?

With only my playtime experience and
the visual memories of my teachers’ methods in my toolkit,
I decided to go ahead and teach.

I sucked at first, I know.
But eventually, I improved.
I started out as a copy of my past instructors.
I used their materials, adopted their pedagogy,
and copied their teaching style.
Even my classroom rules weren’t my own.

As I matured into the practice,
I began developing my own identity as a teacher.
Instead of being an exact copy,
I started modifying until eventually,
I was confident I had established my own teaching style.

I pursued my master’s, and then after a few years, my doctorate,
thinking that I would spend my life teaching.
After completing my master’s,
I felt even more comfortable with my teaching methods and skills.

I thought,
Okay… I could stay here.
And since I’ll stay here, I might as well pursue a PhD.

So I did.

After earning my PhD,
there were some drastic changes.
The duties changed, as they often do with any career progression.
Neithan and I moved to another university,
which meant a new environment.

But I guess the entire academic landscape changed as well.
Or perhaps my priorities changed.
For radical accountability,
I’d say it was the latter —
my priorities changed,
and so things weren’t the same.

Around 2021 or 2022, the work atmosphere changed for me.
I was mainly teaching classes and doing research.
It was all good until it felt like I was doing nothing but those two things.
Additionally, the workload didn’t seem to translate into better pay,
especially given the rising expenses and inflation :-)).
It never reached a point where the pay felt fair
for the time and effort I was putting into the work.
I had the degree, but my savings account didn’t agree.
Perhaps the degree was of no value? 😅


Priorities changed, especially after Neithan and I got married.
We have plans, we have dreams, we talk about how our day should look,
and we try our best to make them a reality.

But I felt like I was always out of time.
Work demands time.
Lots of things outside of myself and Neithan were demanding time.
It got to the point where I didn’t feel like myself anymore.
I wasn’t doing what I wanted or
what we needed to make our to make our ideal day a reality.

Even doing the chores became an even harder chore.
I felt bad when our laundry basket overflowed,
or when I couldn’t cook breakfast, or clean the room.
Meeting up with friends was hard to fit into our schedule
because we had to manage our energy
for the load of work that needed to be done.
Sometimes, I’d get frustrated when my Ate or Mama messaged me
while I was working.

It felt terrible.
And I felt very ugly. 😅
That was a clear sign it was time for a change.

I thought,
I might die at 45, like Papa did.
He was 45 when he passed away, so I have about 8 more years.
Do I want to spend my remaining years doing this? NO.
Do I want to die UGLY? NO. :-))

In 2023, Neithan and I started building Pixelzero Digital Solutions,
a small web and software development company.
It’s based in Naga City, our hometown,
where we met and where we’ve decided to build
our life for the next few years.

It’s a whole different venture.
Starting a business is entirely different from academic work.
We’ve had to learn a lot of new skills to make this work,
but we’re up for it.
Neithan and I have always loved creating tools and systems
that make our lives easier.
Pixelzero allows us to continue doing that,
not just for our own needs, but for others as well.

Slowly, I’m feeling more like myself again.
I feel prettier now, especially since Neithan and I
stopped eating rice last November 2023. :-))
Most importantly, I know I’m doing this for Neithan, myself,
and the life we dream about every day.

On April 9, I gave my last lecture
to the two classes I was handling this semester.

On April 26, I held my final class session,
where students presented their project outputs.

Today, I submitted the final grades.

Teaching has taught me a lot,
not just about people,
but also about the systems in place.
Honestly, it doesn’t feel as pure as it did back in 2007.
It’s slowly becoming more corporate, and that doesn’t work for me.

It showed me that not all shiny things are good things.
However, there are always bits and pieces to learn.
I’m still unpacking my ~17 years of experience in the academe.

I’m grateful for many things…

Teaching has taught me the value of lifelong learning.
The most crucial skill is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
I carry this lesson with me every day.

Teaching allowed me to share knowledge with my students.

Receiving a few random messages like these makes me believe I did a good job.

Of course, not every student liked me. :-))

Through teaching, I met my one true ally, Neithan.
I’m grateful for this every day.

Fun fact: He was my student in my first HCI class the semester
I returned after completing my MS. :-))

The landscape has changed,
but my priorities have changed even more.

As I close this chapter, I carry with me the experiences
I’ve been lucky to have — both the good and the bad.

I am so ready, very excited, and eagerly looking forward
to becoming a full-time wife to Neithan
and a part-time secretary to Pixelzero from here on out. ☕

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