30 May 2007

This is going to be a long story

In my previous entry, I wrote about how my week turned out to be the worst so far. I wasn't trying to give too much away but eventually, friends (longtime and online) were rather concerned that it had something to do with my marriage, thinking fraud was my husband fooling around (Are you kidding me? I would welcome one day when he's not within my eyesight all the time! LOL!) . So, now I feel I have to let it all out in the bag for two reasons: 1) to correct the perception and 2) to let it all out and be done with it. When I'm done with this entry, I hope not to speak of it again.

For starters, the marriage is fine, thank you very much! :) We aren't perfect but I've grown to appreciate the fact that despite our differences, our pitfalls and shortcomings, our success and failures, the partnership always prevailed. Besides, if it was that which was troubling me, I would not be sitting at home watching Friends.

My lowest moment for 2007 (so far) had to do with work.

Fact: I have been working as a content writer for the last 2-3 years. I forgot what year I started but I've been doing this for quite sometime. What that means is, I work from home and work as a ghost writer for websites. When I started, the rate would go as high as P500. 00 per 1000-w0rd article. These days, rates are down. Maybe because there are so many of us now. I'm currently writing for P110. 00-P150.00 per 500-word article daily. I also do paid blogging on the side, which pays slightly better.

Why I do that is for these reasons:

---- being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. And while I consider that as really my career, I have to be honest that it isn't as challenging, mentally. I have a degree in Communication Arts from Ateneo. Writing allows me to exercise my brain. Researching about what I have to write feeds it. Besides I am, by nature, into research and finding information. I enjoy doing that a lot. I figured, I do as much of that in the net anyways, it would be an added bonus when somebody actually pays me.

---- the extra cash, although quite small, helps me buy the little things such as my son's magazine subscriptions, his books, his GBA games and other toys, my DVDs, my husband's stuff.. . . things that I don't have any problem spending for. I could net between 5,000-8,000 monthly depending on how many articles I take. (Kung nagsisipag! Nakakapagod kasi minsan! Hehe!) With blogging, I could net even bigger. And I just don't write for one company. That's what's good about freelancing.

Fact: I have had experience working with foreigners, both in the corporate world and online. Fun Fact: My former British boss while I was working in Makati in the early 90's looked like Hugh Grant, kulang lang ng 3 paligo. Hehe! Fun Fact: My former American boss also from my work in Makati looked exactly like Ted Danson. Fun Fact: My former British employer, from my very first content writing job online, looked like Agent Smith from the Matrix (or what looks like him, based on the pictures). All of these foreigners are workaholic, and sometimes that drove me crazy. But other than that, I did not have problems with them except to only say: I really worked like a dog. Needless to say, with these people, there wasn't any cultural barriers. It actually didn't matter what our backgrounds are.

Fact: I have a flawless record for work. Back when I was still employed in the corporate world, my perfomance rating was always high. And I used to work under 3-5 bosses at that, especially when the expats were in town. When it comes to work, I give my best. That's really a fact. Especially if it's something I enjoy doing; never mind if the pay is not as rewarding. In fact, I have been moonlighting at something that does not pay me in cash nor in kind for the last 18 months or so; yet I stuck by that because that kind of work makes me feel I can amount to something useful. That's how I view work. Think Monica Geller. How she is, is how I am in many ways.

Fact: I may not be religious. But I know right from wrong and not just based on the teachings of the Bible, but based on ethics.

Now I feel I have to mention all of that because of what I'm about to write next...

Last April, I was able to be given the opportunity to do more work. The job required me to be online 40 hours a week and it paid $3 per hour. It was for a little business based in Las Vegas. And its owner, a husband and wife team, were devoted Christians. Our set up was online and we only communicate via email or daily conferences. We had to submit reports daily, to account for our hours.

Cast of characters: (Not their real names)

Herbie - the business owner
Wife - his wife
*ME* - me
Emma - our director of operations, a Pinay, the one who told me of this job
Brian - one of our writers, a Pinoy, my friend in real life

* Emma and Brian are two people I have worked with for the last two years in other content writing jobs. Emma and I met online, but we discovered we come from very similar backgrounds. Small world! Brian is my husband's buddy, whom I've introduced to online writing.

As the days went on, I had noticed little things with our employer...which, on hindsight, I should have paid more attention to. Anyway, to drive to the point --- from May 1 to the day I resigned from the company (May 20th), the owners have not paid any of us our salaries. For whatever reason, after April 30, the pay has been delayed. We were 7 in his employ, all Filipinos. Some of them are still there. When the person, Emma, who recommended me to join this company, decided to leave, I took that as a cue to also leave, immediately. I was not bent on staying longer anyway, and frankly the reason why I stayed was just because of her. (That's one thing about me, too --- I'm a loyal worker when treated right and I recognize what my colleagues can do for my professional growth).

On May 17th, the wife emailed us that we will be receiving our pay on or before May 25th. After May 17th, trouble began. Emma left the company sometime that weekend. When Emma told us of it via email and a few hours after I read it, I submitted my resignation to Herbie & the Wife: Resignation

When I left, I had not heard from the couple anymore. Emma just forwards to us the email conversations they have and none of it was about me or my work, per se. When it was finally May 25th, I followed up what the wife wrote regarding our pay and I wrote this: First Email

When I didn't get a reply from them after that, I sent this email out on May 27, after consulting with friends --- outsiders who do not have any connection with the work that I do: The Long One

When I still had not heard from them, I sent this email. I mass-emailed it to everyone in the company including the owners: Dishonesty

Three days later, which is today, Herbie replied to that email: Dishonesty2

And it's pingpong email!
Me: Dishonesty3
Him: Dishonesty4
Me: Dishonesty5

And finally: The Last Email

Even with my last invitation to talk to me, I got nothing.

If you were in my shoes, would you also be feeling what I've been feeling? I kept thinking over and over if I did made it worse by sending that email about Dishonesty. But then again, my friend Sheila was right ---- no matter what I say or do, if there was no intention to pay us, there will be no pay. And between my email and Brian's email, their answer was crystal.

I'd be lying if I said it's not about the money, because I worked for that money. Bottomline is, I deserved that money.

But more than anything --- I felt exploited, used, demoralized even. I felt taken for a fool, and that's the one pet peeve a Virgo hates the most. No other person has ever made me feel so low. Ever.

And this is the story of why I've been depressed.

But now, my heart says I should be past that. A big part of me wants this to be over with. I need my peace. But my mind is toying with the idea of pushing my complaint further. Do I listen to my heart or my mind?

As I am writing this, I'm still watching Friends (Season 7). And I may be feeling really bad now, because they could not even cheer me up. And that's never happened before. All of these never happened to ME before.

I wish there was a way for real life to be controlled with the clicker so that I can just turn this episode off or switch the channel.