How I Lost Myself in Search of Money

Freeing yourself from a soul-sucking job is a challenge when poverty is all you’ve ever known

John Pucay
Published in
8 min readJan 22, 2021


The kids of Tondo, Manila. Image: John Christian Fjellestad/Shutterstock

You can’t “learn” to stop chasing money. It’s easy to say someone should get a career rather than a job, but it’s not that simple if you’ve only ever lived in piddling poverty.

It’s a mindset I know well: I was born and raised poor in a developing country. I’ve been chasing money all my life.

Have I heard about how to chase dreams and build a career? Sure! Have I seen books and podcasts on financial literacy, investing, and wealth-building? Definitely. Have I been exposed to all those sunset images with inspirational quotes about doing what you love? Far too often.

Did these “tools” make me give up a soulless, miserable, hated job and chase my dreams? Not at all.

We can’t reduce some lessons to a simple how-to format. Despite the hardships and challenges of survival, chasing dreams requires a drastic change in mindset and belief. And the best way to change deeply rooted beliefs is through experience.

I knew I wasn’t living well. But then I had lunch with a couple of old friends. It was like bumping into my past self; I saw all the dreams I’d lost over time. How did I allow myself to become like this?

At the end of my sophomore year, my university changed its academic calendar, which resulted in four months without classes. I needed a camera and a laptop for my media course, so I worked for a call center that paid above minimum-wage rates.

The original plan was to resign after buying basic filmmaking equipment. But as my mom says, the only sure plans are insurance plans (and if you happen to need life insurance, please see my mom for a quote).

I’m poor enough to be officially categorized as indigent, so I was reluctant to return to brokeness. It was a boring, soulless job — but it paid. The taste of adult money in my new denim pockets was delicious.

Pay is like a bag of chips: You always need to take just one more.

My junior year rolled in, and the job stayed. My government scholarship required a full class load, so I scheduled my classes outside work hours…



John Pucay
Writer for

Author of Karinderya Love Songs; a 2020s dating and sex literary fiction novel. More details at Or