I had, by all accounts, a job and work that many other people would have possibly envied. I was working as a corporate attorney in a large, stable and profitable company. The pay was decent and perks were generally regarded as top-rate. My job allowed me opportunities to develop myself professionally and personally. To be perfectly fair, it was a very good engagement.
While I was working that job, my company had graciously allowed me to teach Business Ethics at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. It was not really something that I had to do but it did provide me with an opportunity to expand and build on my knowledge. Understandably, this other job had virtually no perks to offer except free parking and a chance to sit and do nothing in God’s presence in the Chapel of St. Thomas Moore which was tucked away in a quiet corner of the Rockwell Campus.
It was nevertheless easy for me to wake up early on Saturday mornings, often leaving my still sleeping family, in order to make it to Rockwell on time. There was a deep satisfaction that I got from standing in front of young professionals to guide discussions on, among other things, how Immanuel Kant and Aristotle are relevant to their business (and personal) decisions today, how profits are attained with, and by, ethical business behavior, and how we should never leave our values at home and assume different, often unrecognizable personas at work.
I hoped that my students would also feel that giving up their extended Saturday slumber was worth it. More than that, I hoped that they would bring to the office what they committed to in class. These hopes were often affirmed in very personal and touching ways by my students - through short notes of assurance that they would “do the right thing” or simply through heartfelt thanks, even after a tense final oral exam.
At some point in the past year, I experienced issues with my relationship with a peer in my office that had regrettably become a daily, energy-sapping burden. The hellish traffic from Quezon City to Makati did not make matters any less challenging. Going to my job had become a chore.
I couldn’t recall exactly recall how, but one Saturday morning, in the quiet of the Chapel of St. Thomas Moore, God reminded me about His gift of seeing. It was, of course, the gift of seeing not just with one’s eyes but more importantly, comprehending with our minds and understanding with our hearts. I saw that I needed to shift gears and that I was truly much happier with my work with the AGSB.
While I already knew, somehow, what I had seen clearly that morning, I was held back by fears and apprehensions as I was reluctant to leave my job and the relative financial security that it offered. This was when I was once again reminded of one of God’s most powerful gifts: the gift of choice.
Quoting a variety of supposed sources, I often proclaim in class that “life is the summation of our choices”. We can, if so minded, quite literally trace our present state to each choice we have made in the past. Choosing well then is a way of affirming God’s wonderful gift of choice made possible by our autonomy and free will.
So in complete trust, I made a choice to leave my old job and work full time for the AGSB.
While the jury may still be out on whether I had chosen well, my decision to come home to the Ateneo has led me to appreciate another one of God’s gifts – time.
Since I made my choice, time has transformed dramatically. It is no longer a drumbeater, tormenting me to march to its callous cadence. Instead, time is now a caring, watchful companion. One who lets me bring and fetch my kids to school, take a look at their homework and see the silly, funny, joyful things that they see. Time is now my partner in making me care again-- care about my interests and advocacies. Time is the silent witness to the wonderfully chatty, unhurried breakfasts that I can now have with my wife.
Everyday, I ask myself if I made the right choice. I guess it’s only logical and somewhat amusing to realize that only God’s gifts of time, seeing and choosing will tell if indeed I did.
Atty. Blue Festin (GS 81, HS 85, AB 89, JD 95) currently teaches at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.