Lately I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of “selling out.” What does it really mean, and where does one draw the line?
Is a writer considered “selling out” when she does corporate work instead of producing journalistic pieces? Is a musician considered “selling out” when he performs covers instead of his own originals? Is a thespian considered “selling out” when she performs for mainstream TV or movies instead of acting onstage? Or are all these an essential part of the balance that one has to achieve–and is “selling out” much deeper and much more complex than that?
Looking at my own career so far, I see that I’ve followed a certain trajectory because of beliefs and values that I have always held dear. I moved from a telco to a non-profit consulting firm because I wanted to “stop selling phones and start changing the world.” Then, from the non-profit, I moved to become a freelance writer because I wanted to explore all my potentials and push as much as I could, both creatively and financially. I took on corporate projects, advocacy projects, lifestyle projects–and I wrote mainly about art for a fashion magazine to get my feet wet in the industry and to push the boundaries of my writing. When the NBN-ZTE scandal broke out in 2008, I took to the streets and to the Worldwide Web in protest, and I made my voice ring loud and clear. I joined social and political movements, and sacrificed profit for passion and advocacy. In 2009, I joined the Senate as a way of concretizing my advocacies and of putting my money where my mouth was, so to speak. In 2011, I found myself being pushed in many directions, and I tried to balance advocacy with creativity with (what I thought would be) profitability. I made a few wrong moves and also some pretty good ones, and so, here I am, at the end of the year, faced with a fairly happy problem despite the messy predicament.
I ask myself now, Did I, at any point, sell out? Did I work on anything that was against what I believed in? Did I take anything on that was against my will? In the world of politics, did I go against my values and advocacies for the sake of money or power or influence?
I’m glad to see that I didn’t have to. The worst was working with someone who totally did not share my values–which is why I left the partnership soon after it started. I cannot separate who I am from what I do, so if you ask me to do something, it better be something that I can believe in as a person. I do not compartmentalize that easily.
This crossroads I’m in now is a bit more complex because I am being given a unique opportunity to seriously provide for my family through a company that I know, love, and believe in. It’s rare to find companies like this these days, and I know because I’ve worked with them intimately over the past four years, and I like everything that I’ve seen so far. However, working with them means dropping the political animal in me–so now I find myself asking just how much politics really matters to me. Can I possibly continue being an advocate for reform from behind the scenes? Can I allow myself to keep quiet–or to participate in other ways–in exchange for security and stability for my family? Isn’t there a way to balance both?
I also realize that being an advocate doesn’t necessarily mean being political, and that taking a break from politics doesn’t mean taking a break from advocacy. I can still promote the best of the Philippines; I can still write about what’s great about Filipinos and Filipino changemakers; I can still channel my creativity and inspire others–although maybe this time, my audience will just be of a different demographic.
Who knows? Maybe there will be a way to achieve balance. Maybe this “moral dilemma” won’t be so difficult to solve after all. Maybe I won’t really be “selling out”, and therefore maybe I can move on to the next stage of my life in peace. Who knows?
Again, I still don’t have the answers, but maybe they won’t be too hard to find. Maybe I’m just being called to do something else in the meantime, or maybe I’m being tested about the strength of my advocacies and beliefs while balancing these corporate realities. Maybe it won’t be so bad after all. I definitely don’t feel like I’m “selling out”, and maybe that’s a good start.
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