What is that... other thing that you do, Mia?
A lot of people ask me what else I do aside from Facebook (all day, errday). And I usually just give them a one word answer: “Landlady.” And when I give them this answer, it seems to satisfy them and I’m greeted with some shrugs of reluctant agreement, as if to say that “Oh. That’s easy enough,” or “Oh you mean to tell me that you just sit around and wait to get paid?” or “I’m not that interested because, really, being a landlady seems so boring." Normally, when I receive these reactions, as mixed as they are, I just let the conversation take its natural course: either onto the next topic or onto another question about what else I do. People find digital marketing and social media easier topics to digest, probably because they’re daily social media consumers themselves. But for those who are genuinely interested, those who want to know why I split my time between two totally unrelated industries and businesses and how I got into this whole thing to begin with, then this is the article for you.
“So, what exactly do you do as a landlady?”
To be able to answer that question, one will have to look at the big picture, so to speak. Technically, I am not the landlady of these properties. I represent the actual landlords: mother and father dear. My folks own these properties and what I do, more or less, is oversee the management of these properties. There are two residential properties I manage and one commercial property. I manage the people who take care of the properties, if the tenants have any complaints, if there are any issues with the external entities involved (like corrupt government officials and whatnot), repairs and maintenance of the actual structures, utility billing and payments for all the tenants, these are the things I do.
Now, these tasks may not seem like a lot but it took me quite a bit of time before I got the hang of keeping all of these things at bay. The learning curve I had with these seemingly menial tasks took longer for me to get used to than when I transferred to a big ad agency. Sometimes I even think I haven’t completely gotten used to the whole thing. Imagine trying to learn about 20 years worth of experience from your own parents. Sometimes things get lost in translation. Sometimes, they use terms and jargon that only contractors, engineers and architects understand. Like they've been doing this for the most part of my entire life! There are moments in our weekly meetings when I find myself just staring blankly at my mother because they’re in the middle of a discussion about kinds of tiles or different kinds of grout. Or sometimes when they talk about the business side of things and bank...things, I can hardly keep up. And when I do catch myself, I laugh in my head because I feel so far removed from my comfort zone, and yet, there I am, partaking in a discussion, hoping against all hope that no one notices how out of my depth I am. It's not that I find these things boring or uninteresting; nothing could be further from the truth.
I mean, obviously, once the meeting is over, I clarify and ask about the things I don’t understand. But again, I really feel like there is still so much more I can learn. I am grateful that I don't have to make any decisions about any of this. Thank Jesus, the burden of decision making is not in my hands. And all I really need to do is make sure I perform all the tasks my folks are too busy to do. Aside from this, I also get a kick out of trying to digitize whatever I can, just so that in case anything happens to our physical records, we have digital copies of whatever we need.
Tell me, why did you even start doing all of this if this isn't what you're comfortable with?
It's a valid question. And I have reflected on this for quite some time. There always all of this talk of "doing what you love", "loving what you do" and "doing something that you love and you won't have to work a day in your life" bullshit that I just don't believe in. I mean, I get it. I get the appeal. But what I've found to be true over the course of my career trajectory is that work is work is work is work. It will always be work and it cannot be anything else other than it is. No matter how fun it can be, there will always be parts of it that will not live up to the ideals that people aspire to attain (s/o to my delusional millennial friends, hollerrrr). What I do believe is that there will always be some part of work that is tedious/annoying/a general pain in the ass. The idea is for it to be painful so that whatever benefits you reap from it is much more sweeter. The vacations you can afford to take as a result of suffering and working hard will be much more enjoyable that way. When your work is done for the day, you can relish in the fact that you will have done your job, no matter how begrudgingly, you got shit done. Isn't that more satisfying?
Like for me, I think it's delusional to think that everyday is a semi-vacation day. What are we, prepubescent? Living in Candyland or a fantasy world or some place like that? Which brings me to the idea that being a landlady and doing all this pushes me so much out of my comfort zone, so much so, that when I do get to work on things like marketing and social media, I am filled with so much relief, that my appreciation for everything that I do with ease is so much more fulfilling in itself.
That also isn't to say that I don't enjoy doing all of this. I genuinely find this industry interesting, partly because it is so different from what I am used to entirely. And the experience of growing this family business is so much more enriching because I am able to do this with my family. The integration between my home life and my work life is so intoxicatingly refreshing that there is nothing more I look forward to in a week than spending time with my folks, in earnest, and with the sole interest of keeping my folks' hard earned legacy in tact. And that is why I keep doing what I do. My exposure to my parents' work ethic is reason enough for me to endure an industry I am so ignorant (aka dumb) about.
How did you even start this whole other career?
Good question. Fresh out of college, waaaaaay back in 2010 (OMG 7 years ago... whaaaaaat even), I had put up this small boutique media and film production agency, partnered with a now-ex-boyfriend, we thought we would make entrepreneurs out of ourselves from a home office in Pasig. It was a great endeavor while it lasted. And that was my first taste (or more accurately, plunge) into managing a business. Something that I had no idea about, at the time. It was this that prompted me to seek corporate exposure and growth. I mean, as much as I had enjoyed managing a full-blown production agency in boxer shorts, while eating pancit canton at 3:00 AM, there was something about it that didn't seem right.
There's a saying in Filipino: "Hinog sa pilit", which literally translates to ripened by force (???). This is what that felt like. Like I had been forced to be the boss, managing people twice my age and the expectation for me to be a legit boss was so apparent that I basically crumbled under the pressure. I just wasn't ready. I'm not a genius or a Promil kid or whatever, as it were, but even if I had the IQ of 5 million or some shit like that, I still would not have been ready for that whole "be the boss" thing. I needed to know how offices worked. I needed to go through a normal 9-5 thing before even trying to commandeer an army of freelancers. I needed exposure to office politics. I needed to experience what it was like having terrible bosses. I needed to experience what it was like having amazing and inspirational bosses. Once I had gone through that, I knew I was inching closer and closer to becoming (more or less, and very loosely used, mind you) ready to manage my family's business.
If I do recall correctly, there was no such "moment" of being ready. In 2015, I started a part-time digital marketing consultancy gig at Emerging Power, Inc. and also a Community and Content Manager at social@Ogilvy, which only required me to go to the office twice-thrice a week. For the rest of the week, I was just in my proverbial cocoon, enabling my Netflix addiction. It was during this time that my folks felt that I could be more productive (As if I wasn't doing enough things. Though I really wasn't. They figured it out. Hahahaha). They started giving me tasks, increasing my exposure and giving me more explanations and lectures of how the entire business was run for the last 20 or so years.
And then it happened. My mom had a stroke in October 2015. Boom. It was life-changing. I knew that now that we were faced with the reality and the mortality of these two brilliant business owners, I had to step it up. I am their eldest daughter after all. What better time help out, right? As a result of all this and without any convincing from my parents but a sincere desire to help, I left my job at Ogilvy and decided to be a more permanent fixture in my dad's then-sole proprietorship and now corporation (!!!). Fast forward to June 2016. We suffered another blow. My dad was diagnosed with cancer. I'll spare you all the details but what was once something I thought was only a temporary fix to help around the business was now a cemented set up. I'm fortunate enough to be a welcome addition to this whole thing. I am not only able to spend most of my time with my folks, trying to strengthen my relationship with them but we are also well on our way (fingers crossed!) to building our very own mini-empire. And I would not trade this for anything else in the whole world.
Perhaps that's the message of this entire thing. Of all the things I have learned about this particular industry, it is the fact that regardless of the other things I do, I know that there is still so much I can learn to keep my mind sharp, also that a fully integrated home and work life is essential to any kind of career growth, and lastly, the recognition that work will always be work and it will always be difficult is something that is essential in any industry or job or gig or whatever. Getting out of one's familiar comfort/safe zone is the key to any kind of meaningful growth. It makes you aware of what your limitations are as a working person and can, ultimately, prepare you to actualize whatever you thought you couldn't do. And most importantly, I've learned that life will always hand you things, lemons, fruits, animals, non-fruits and what you make out of it will define you. The relationships that you build out of all of it is the shit that really and truly matters.
Being able to do all that I do, to the best of my abilities and knowledge (albeit kinda sorta limited in this particular industry) is something I take absolute and complete pride in. Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone in your work life? How has your experience been? Are you lost in space (like me) but still very proud of what you've accomplished (also me!) Let me know in the comments section below! I would love to hear from you! :)