Lately I’ve been feeling a sense of displacement. It usually strikes me every time I come back from a long trip, as if I’m straddling between two worlds, one that is familiar and one where I am invisible, where I only exist as a random face, a stranger.
I know that home is a wonderful place to be in. I honestly don’t have the right to be dissatisfied. I enjoy a lot of things here that many people don’t. I don’t mean to say that with a smug sense of satisfaction, but to acknowledge that I’m lucky. (Maybe to say one is lucky repeatedly can be some way of humble-bragging as well, but…shrugs.)
During my freshman year in high school, my older brother and I had to be sent off to a public high school in Quezon City after my parents incurred a huge debt because of a failed business. The financial loss meant that they could no longer afford to send us to the private school near our home in Las Piñas. My aunt convinced my mom that the high school near her place had better standards than the usual public schools, and so my mom decided that we would live with our aunt and our cousins so we could study there.
As a kid, I felt that it was all a game. I imagined how that year was going to be fun, and how I’d have interesting stories to share to my friends back home once I came back to my old school.
My new classmates saw me and my brother as a curiosity. I remember how they would ask me questions about my old school–why I had to uproot myself from that life in exchange for this strange one. I vaguely remember dodging some of those questions, but what I could recall was how I found it amusing that they would speak to me in English, as if they expected me to be beyond speaking in the vernacular.
A few weeks ago, my startup company Taxumo had a two-day sprint activity to assess how we can create exciting new products for our customers—the thousands of Filipino self-employed-professionals, freelancers, and sole proprietors (and many thousands more, soon to come.)
During the session, our CEO EJ Arboleda introduced to us the Kano Model, the product development and customersatisfaction theory developed by Japanese professor Noriaki Kano. The said theory advocates going beyond the functional benefits of your product and service, and assessing the emotions which you can elicit by introducing certain new features.
The theory posits that products/services are composed of either three attributes: threshold attributes, otherwise known as the “basics”; performance attributes, or the ” satisfiers”; and the excitement attributes, or the “delighters”.
For example, think of an insulated water bottle. It’s basic (threshold attribute) that the said water bottle would not get hot and still be holdable even after you put in hot water. Now, if the said water bottle also keeps your water’s temperature stable for 48 hours (versus its competitor’s 24-hour temperature stability), that could be really satisfying (a performance attribute) for you as a customer, since it boosts your enjoyment of an expected feature. But what if the water bottle also changes color depending on how cold or hot the water is? That’s a totally unexpected feature, and could be a delightful thing for your customer (an excitement attribute.)
In time, however, as people become used to the exciting feature which you’ve once offered, it sort of becomes an expected property for your product. (Think of mobile phones having touchscreens—a feature Apple popularized.)
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one evening when the ad from Without Walls Ministries (@withoutwallsph) appeared:
“Jesus never mentions homosexuality. How can it be wrong?”
I curiously clicked on the link from this organization who claims to be “a community of people who love Jesus and are on a mission to spread the gospel in our city and beyond.”
They were organizing a free conference, open to the public. The speaker is a British pastor named Sam Allberry, a man who says he experiences same-sex attraction, and now preaches about how his attraction is not integral to his identity.
“Why are you so forceful?”
The words hit me like a brick.
I was talking to a friend earlier, trying to motivate him to start on his fitness routine. He had reached out to me a couple of weeks ago, saying that he had wanted to begin finally.
The thought excited me. I had always been dropping hints to my friend that his lifestyle was really messing him up–physically, mentally, and emotionally. He had been complaining of being stressed all the time. Secretly, I was hoping that he would somewhat take my advice to heart and sort of change his ways.
Finally, he said that he was going to the gym with me to inquire about the membership rates. On the way, I was planning everything in my head, and voicing it out to him. I was thinking that all he needed was an extra push to finally make that change.
That was when he called me out.
The thing is, forceful is an adjective which I don’t readily associate myself with. But I guess that is somewhat a form of self-delusion.
The truth is, I’ve been called various permutations of that word, in a lot of occasions, by different people.
Granted, I understand I can be very passionate about things. Sometimes it is exhausting. It takes a lot of effort to curb my enthusiasm just so I come across as friendly or fun or, in millennial parlance, chill.
Perhaps, there is a more graceful way of doing things.
But the thing is, I am very absorbed with the things I care about. And sometimes, it does get personal. Of course, I do catch myself at times when I feel that a criticism is really just that–a way to help me improve myself, and not an attack on my character.
I am intense because I care. Because I’d like to believe that I have done everything in my power to make things happen. I can rest well knowing that I have exhausted all means to solve the problem I’m facing.
At times, it does spill over to people close to me. And I feel guilty knowing that I have a tendency to put pressure on my loved ones to become better. Maybe it’s also because I have experienced that very same pressure growing up, and that to let myself buckle under it is a terrible sign of defeat.
As a song goes: “When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.”
I have to learn how to master this fire and make it last for a very long time, without burning the ones I care for the most.