I was at the office at 6:55 a.m. sharp.
I skipped my usual morning pick-me-up of a breakfast burrito made out of cheese and potatoes and marched into an empty conference room, opened my laptop, connected the HDMI cable and looked up “Ted Talks public speaking tips.”
My intense focus was disrupted by my phone vibrating. It was a text message from my best friend, Thomas. Like usual, it was a lengthy one but I knew each word was written with heart and meaning.
The days leading to Capstone Day had been an emotional roller coaster for me. I was extremely excited to share a project that I was truly passionate about but I was nervous to mess it up. I was worried that my presentation was too long, I was worried about making it too complicated and technical, and I was worried that I would sound too worried.
After reading Thomas’ inspiring text message and feeling all the stress and emotion that have internally piled up within the past few days, I began to cry. I looked outside the window to make sure that no one was watching me sob uncontrollably.
As I was wiping the tears off my face, I realized that I was in a conference room that was ironically named for that exact moment which instantly made me smile and laugh. I was crying by myself in this dark and empty conference room and out of all the places I could have cried in, I unknowingly chose to cry in a room called “the Motivator.”
Surprisingly, crying helped as I walked out of the Motivator with a boost of confidence.
I waited for my turn to present in front of an extremely large crowd of at least ten people … since my mind instantly tried to convince itself that it was no larger than ten to cope with the anxiety.
As soon as I introduced myself, my small but mighty team and several other employees started to loudly cheer for me from the back: “Go Jez!”
I was wearing my dark blue blazer, black pants, and of course, my airplane sweater from H&M that others have repeatedly declared was “so me.”
I wore the same sweater when I presented my final presentation for my Spring Break in Silicon Valley immersion class (editor’s note: Read Jez’s SBinSV recap here) and my Peak to Peak immersion class, where my group presented a project about Boeing in front of the iSchool Board of Directors. I call it my lucky sweater, or the very least, a distraction and conversation piece, should my public speaking skills turn into more crying.
After I introduced myself, I recalled the lesson that the Ted Talk I saw earlier profoundly summarized: “Public speaking is nothing but a conversation from your heart about something you’re authentically passionate about.” Then it flashed on me.
Flying for the First Time
I remembered the first time I ever flew on an airplane and my life changed forever.
I was sitting in a window seat on the fifth row of a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, flying from Cebu to Manila in the Philippines. With my face pressed against the window and my right hand firmly grasping the armrest, I felt this powerful vibration throughout the plane as we thundered down the runway. It kept getting louder and louder as we kept going faster and faster. Soon enough, we lifted off into the sky and I looked outside and saw this incredible view of the world.
When I fly and the plane takes off, I feel the same feeling each time. The same feeling of pure exhilaration, wonder, and excitement as it felt when I was five years old. Even after 90 take-offs and 90 landings from this summer alone, flying never became routine. Although at times, I could barely keep my eye open from exhaustion, my heart still races during take-off and landing and my mind still mesmerized by the view.
A Life of Change
When I was growing up, I moved to different schools and cities. In 2007, my family and I immigrated to the United States and left everything and everyone we knew behind. I moved to a new middle school and then a different high school from most of my friends, and uprooted my life once again to go to college far away.
My life has always been defined by constant change and what remained consistent was always my love and obsession for airplanes. Each time I look outside an airplane window, I still feel like that I’m that five-year old kid many many years ago fascinated by the miracle of flight which makes going through constant change a little less overwhelming.
A few weeks ago, a fellow intern and I were talking about our plans after Southwest. I told her that I obviously wanted to work for the airline but was also considering working in consulting, a tech company, or going back to an ad agency.
I must have said that part with no conviction because she then told me, “Why would you do that? You know you love the airlines so why would you even consider any other thing besides it?”
And she was right. I feel like there are lot of people in the world that search their entire lives for that one thing they are truly passionate about, and yet I have known mine since I was just five years old. It is an incredibly blessing to wholeheartedly know the answer to the question: “what are you passionate about?”
As I stood there feeling nervous, I simply reminded myself that this presentation, like the Ted Talk profoundly summarized, was nothing but a conversation from my heart about something I was truly passionate about.
The Final Presentation at Capstone day
The next ten minutes was a blur, I wasn’t quite sure if I actually hit all the points I planned to hit exactly but in the end, I felt happy, proud, and relieved. Like the same feeling every time I look outside an airplane window, my heart was racing but in a good way.
I then felt this incredible sense of gratitude. My team was cheering for me. My friends and family were rooting for me from far away. And I was able to look back at my summer and could truly and genuinely say that I showed up to work each single morning and absolutely love the place I was in, love the people I was working with, and love the work I was doing.
A Dream Job 18 Years in the Making
Some nights this summer, I would stay up for a long time worrying about the fact that I was truly working at my dream job. From meeting people, I was always told that life is not a straight line, and it will take you through different zigs and zags until you get to a place where you truly feel like you belong.
I reflected on the fact that as a college senior, I feel like I could already say that I’m in that place and to me that is a scary feeling because it should have been harder. However, as I look back at my life, it was actually pretty hard.
My passion began as a five-year old in the Philippines and it took me 18 years to confidently say that I made it. In between, my family journeyed oceans and thousands of miles to find better opportunity and our very own version of the American Dream.
There were days when I felt defeated, days when I felt like the odds were all stacked against me, and even days when I told myself I just could not do it anymore. Yet despite everything, I somehow I made it and it was most definitely not a straight path. I have done my zigging and my fair share of zagging, and with all my heart, I can now confidently say I’m in that place.
The twelve weeks I spent at Southwest was life-changing. It reminded me that the answer to one of my life’s greatest questions has already been answered since I was five and that to me is an incredible blessing. There is no place I’d rather be but up, looking out, and fascinated by the view outside the window.