Having to stay indoors with hardly anything to do for a little over a year was both an absolute nightmare and an oddly profound experience… The nightmare aspect involves all the obvious, pandemic-related reasons: Having to stay at home, the paranoia, seeing social media become a virtual obituary, the frustration with how people (and leaders, sadly) are handling the pandemic, and having to force ourselves to “pivot” our way forward with our careers – sometimes just to make ends meet.
As I’ve said, however, there are profound aspects in having to stay home this long… For me, it involves the much-needed time for introspection and re-evaluation. It allowed me to go on a journey to becoming braver in making decisions to prioritize things that are important to me and make me happy: Family, gratitude, faith, health, and being able to help people and causes I believe in.
Before people start crucifying me for being seemingly into toxic positivity, let me explain.
See, in the hustle and bustle of my pre-pandemic “daily grind,” I’d burn myself out meeting deadlines, making sure I made the institutions and partners I worked for/with happy, and exhausting myself doing things I’m good at… but don’t necessarily make me happy (don’t get me wrong… Happy learners – students in a classroom, readers, or clients – make me happy).
Speaking of family being a source of my happiness, I’m glad that the time off from work allowed us to reconnect with my dad in his last days. My dad was a prolific doctor whose yardstick for the people around him – especially his loved ones – was our ability to help people. I don’t know what it was, but reconnecting with him gave me the much-needed conviction to finally take the first steps to help others… partly for self-fulfillment, partly to make him proud.
The question I mulled over was, where do I help out? There are a few causes I’ve been seriously interested in over the past few years: Mental health, animal welfare, children’s cancer, and geriatric care (this is a pretty recent addition, seeing how much of a positive impact care homes make to both the elderly and their families was a real eye-opener for me). However, in my impatience to finally get something going, I decided to look into something that had nothing to do with anything I’ve listed: Smile Train Philippines – primarily because I’ve got friends already involved with the organization. I.e., someone’s already got a connection with the organization, so it should make my life easier in my “quest to be more helpful,” right?
That’s when the apprehensions (thanks anxiety!) started coming in. I thought, “What the heck am I doing? This is about cleft palates and cleft lips, not about children’s cancer”… and apart from knowing a neighbor’s staff and a guy from our school who sold us lunch back in college who had cleft lips/palates, I didn’t really know anything about the condition.
So, as with any human being embarking in a project for the first time should do, I decided to research. What I learned (and ended up really resonating with me) about children having cleft lip and palate conditions was something I never considered: The bullying. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like for these children – whose conditions impede their speech and would surely put them on the receiving end of being taunted by people who couldn’t see how beautiful they are (their photos showed how gorgeous they are before and after surgery… Omigosh their eyes!). Bullied kids get lifelong mental scars which would deeply impact the way they relate to people around them… and nobody wants that.
Then I discovered something that really brought it home… I found out that my dad actually volunteered to do cleft palate/lip surgeries, and even went so far as to hire a guy he performed one of the surgeries on as his full-time staff.
Talk about things coming full circle… I went from just really wanting to find someplace to help, to really feeling the need to help (because really, bullies – young or old – are horrible people), to finding out that this particular charity ended up bringing me closer to my dad, even after he’s gone.
So here I am lending my voice and my pretty weird skill set – years of drink knowledge and an odd ability to explain concepts in relatable contexts – to this wonderful organization.
What inspired the concept? See, I love Vir Das, the Indian comedian. I adore comedians who I get to learn something from (which is why Eddie Izzard tops my list, with Vir Das as a close second)… It’s probably why friends say I can be a little too highbrow…? Anyway. Vir Das did a Netflix special a few months ago which was completely unorthodox… See, comedians usually have a storyline/flow that they follow during shows, right? The Netflix special – Vir Das Outside In, The Lockdown Special, which was a compilation of online shows he did when his live ones got cancelled – did not have one. It was just him having a conversation with people who bought tickets, and the tickets benefited charities he was sponsoring.
After watching the show Chad and I thought… Hang on. I can do that. Granted, I’m not a comedienne, but I can talk about drinks, right? I might as well put my ability to answer all those drink questions I get from friends and loved ones (sometimes at odd hours, lol) to good use.
I decided to be a little faithful in the way Vir Das did it as well. I decided to throw out all structure, or a fixed topic… and keep it a safe space by inviting only people who have absolutely zero knowledge about drinks, but have specific questions to ask. I thought it would fun to turn it into a conversation as opposed to a class. Also, it’s a great way to keep the ticket price low: No selling, no booze included, and people could bring out whatever they have in their stash so we could talk about it, crack them open, and have (online) drinks together.
I think it’s original, and boy do I love originality… but will it sell?
Here’s the thing: The event is actually sold out. We started by personally inviting friends with a plan to promote online, but we sold over and above the tickets we have available. I am shocked, amazed, and petrified beyond explanation because I’ve never really sold out an event… Plus, I think years of working in F&B brings out the pessimist in a person, making me imagine all the possible worst-case scenarios (OMG will they get it? Will they freak out with my sense of humor? Will they talk to me? What if some daft idiot decides to bully someone in the event or turn it into yet another pissing contest…? Oh yeah, Chad’s gonna be there… Tech issues? Again, Chad’s gonna be there).
So why am I writing about a sold-out event I can’t invite more people to…? Well (mind you, I’m manic-editing this article to catch up with what’s happening, which kinda explains the dodgy structure… I’m as stressed out writing this as much as you probably are reading it), I had a different plan… the initial intent was to invite more people (which is a moot point now). Anyway, I just wanted to tell people that there’s likely gonna be another one sometime soon, with some tweaks to the concept so we could add non-alcoholic drinks (it’s ambitious, but I think it can be done). This is also my way of expressing my gratitude to those who are attending… and even the ones who helped out just because they want to help (yes, selfless people who simply want to do good for charity/community projects do exist). It’s also my way of thanking Marge, who has been extra patient in coaching me both in terms of physical fitness (her Pound classes are fun and crazy good!) and in putting together an event; as well as putting me in touch with the right people. I don’t know if Vir Das is ever gonna read this, but thank you so much for the inspiration (and please don’t sue me, I know what it feels like to be ripped off so I promise it’s not a copy of your show). I’m also super grateful to Smile Train Philippines… so much more than I can express for allowing me to help while I’m doing something I like – extra points for the dad aspect.
For those who have bought tickets, see you on Saturday!
PS, if you’re in the alcohol industry and/or have a working concept of drinks, to be honest, this might not be the event for you. There are plenty of structured online drink events and classes out there that specialize in grapes and regions that might be more up your alley… But if you want to help out, by all means, please get in touch! 🙂