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8 Life Lessons from my 8 years as a “Kababayan”

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Jannelle So_So LATwo weeks ago, I tendered my resignation as host/producer of America’s first and only daily talk show for Filipinos in the United States, “Kababayan Today.” I have posted my farewell message on my social media accounts – www.facebook.com/JannelleSoOFFICIAL;  www.twitter.com/JannelleSo and www.instagram.com/JannelleSo. And aired my farewell show last Monday, June 30th.

As I have been saying, it has been a great run; but time has come for me to move forward with my life. And as I look forward to the future, I look back on some poignant life learnings from last eight years as a “kababayan.”

1. Never compromise your integrity and credibility… not even for a job.

2. What matters in life is that you have the love and respect of the people you love and respect.

Being on television made me feel “exposed” to the public. Hosting a daily talk show sometimes felt like an invitation to viewers to not just watch me and listen to what I was saying; but also to form an opinion about not just the topic of discussion; but also about me – how I was speaking, the words I was choosing to use, what I was wearing, how my hair was done…There were even viewers who wrote an email to tell me how they think I should stand in front of the camera; or viewers who had totally opposite observations.

jannelle 1

Jannelle So

“You have too much make up on,” one viewer wrote one day. But on that same day, I get another comment: “Nice make up on the show today. You looked good!” Were they watching different shows? Or maybe one was watching an old or malfunctioning or an inferior brand of TV?

Because I got these comments and criticisms, albeit well-meant, from all directions, I decided to surround myself with people I trust – my mom, fiancé, and very few dear friends – who I knew would tell me the truth; and whose judgment I trust because I know that their observations are coming from a place of love, because they want what’s best for me. Yes, even when my mom would occasionally call after the show, to tell me that my neckline was too low; or that my skirt was too short.

3. The only thing we can control in this life is ourselves – our thoughts, feelings, actions and output.

Community leader and a good friend of mine, Ted Benito asked me in one of the segments of my farewell show: “What will you miss the most?”

I believe I blurted out a list of things I will miss the most. But added that one of the most important things I will miss is “being in control.” As producer of the longest-running daily talk show for Filipinos outside of the Philippines, I made every call – what to talk to about; who to invite as guests; how to adjust if a guest canceled; how to tie in segments; and so on. I probably made about 50 plus major and minor decisions on any given day, including sales pitches, dealing with advertisers and sponsors, dealing with community leaders. So yes, I was in control.

But as I ponder about that now… I realize I was wrong. Really, as I made those calls when I thought I was “in control,” those were decisions about how I was going to react or act or think or what I was going to do, faced with a challenge.

I couldn’t and didn’t control to make a guest come in if he or she felt like canceling at the last minute. I couldn’t and didn’t control how advertisers would support me and my program. I couldn’t even control the situation when it called for me to leave my post and move on with my life.

I can only control myself. And I should be doing that, anyway, whether or not I’m a host/producer.

4. God is in control. And His timing is always perfect.

While our control as human beings is limited to ourselves, as a believer, I know God is ultimately in control of everything. So much in control, in fact, that even He can control our emotions, perspectives, even our life; but only if we let Him.

jannelle 2I started having thoughts of leaving “Kababayan Today” about 4-5 years ago. Yes, I never made my hesitation public. “The show must go on.” But all my close family and friends knew my struggles. Those were most stressful days when my only recourse were prayers and meditation.

Like many of you when trying to discern the perfect path, I prayed for the wisdom to know when it’s time to walk away. But then blessings started pouring – new advertisers/sponsors who had faith in my ideas; travel opportunities, to film exotic locations; even the launch of “Kababayan Today” syndication in Hawaii last year. I took these as God’s way of telling me to stay. He has been blessing me and who was I to resist?

Then I started changing my prayer. Instead of imploring Hs help to take me out of my situation or take the difficulties away, I prayed for a change in perspective: “If this is where you want me to stay, change my thoughts. Put in me a perspective about work that will make my heart joyful about what I’m doing,” I prayed incessantly, even during the day, whenever I encountered stressful and upsetting situations, and yes, even people.

jannelle 4In the end, He lead to me to a different path, one that I’ve been praying for years. In the end, He blessed my decision to finally leave LA18. It was a sad undertaking for me, as well; but I had peace in the knowledge that I am doing the right thing… only obeying and following His plan for me.

5. Passion should be the purpose of work.

People ask me how I did it – hosting, producing, marketing, editing, advertising, client relations, community relations,  and everything else I did to build and grow “Kababayan Today” – and how I did it all at the same time. Regular people work 40 hours per week. Anything beyond that is considered over time. I worked all those hours and more… and often without proper remuneration.

To be objective about it, it all boiled down to time management… basically all the time for work and whatever’s left for my personal or social time. This is not necessarily how life should be lived. Everyone talks about work/life balance. But you see, I was able to devote all that time because to me, “Kababayan Today” was not just work. Beyond my job, I had a passion for growing this platform for our Filipino-American community. I had a passion for telling stories.  I had a passion for informing and engaging people. That made it easy for me to deal with the obstacles, to overcome my daily difficulties and in the end, it was also what drove me to leave.

jannelle 36. Spreading one’s wings entails effort and self exertion.

I believe that passion grows as it is fulfilled. And when it gets a point where passion is bigger than your platform, then you know it’s time to look for other options.

It would have been easy to stay as host/producer of an established program, and one that was built and established also because of my hard work. After a while, it became a routine. And though I was able to satisfy my passion to share stories and meet and interview personalities, I knew that there was more. And while I felt secure in my position at the station, I knew the only way to quench my thirst for “more” or “other” was to leave.

Most of us stay in a situation because it’s comfortable. But is that all there is to life? Is comfort something to aspire for?

We are encouraged by the phrase: “Spread your wings.” I guess because we know that it’s the prelude to flying, to soaring into higher altitudes. But you can’t spread your wings without effort. It doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a conscious decision and active exertion of effort.

7. Everything else is background noise.

Faith, family and friends, knowledge of self — to me that’s all that matters. Everything else is background noise, distracting you from your peace. Don’t let them.

8. Always be thankful.

Jannelle So is taking a break from 20-years of print and broadcast journalism career that began in the Philippines and continued here in the US. Connect to her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; or email her at sojannelle77@gmail.com.

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