Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The trouble with fairy tales

I've always been a romantic.

When I first started writing in grade school, I would write love poems, even if at the age of ten, I had no idea what real love was. As I moved away from poems and into prose, I found myself writing love stories about best friends falling in love with each other. I collected Sweet Dreams and Love Stories, teenage romance novels that were also about best friends falling in love, or the bad boy falling in love with the good girl, or the jock falling in love with the nerd. Even in adulthood, I gravitate towards chick flicks where the guy always gets the girl in the end.

The trouble with surrounding myself with these fairy tales is that I had become conditioned to believe that love ends with happily ever after. That you may fight a little, but you'll still end up with each other because you're meant to be together! You've found The One! He was right beside you all along!

The thing is, love is nothing like that. As I've learned, love isn't supposed to be easy and it's not even romantic. When you get down to it, love is a conscious decision to be fully present to another person. This means caring about that other person's life, being involved, ready to offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, cheering them on, and really knowing them. It includes knowledge of mundane things like food allergies and random things like being afraid of cats and total darkness. It means knowing a little bit about childhood anecdotes, but not so much that there's nothing new to discover.

Fairy tales never tell you about these things. They don't tell you what happens after the prince and princess rode on the white horse and into the sunset to their happily-ever-after. Does the prince snore and keep the princess awake all night, making her cranky in the morning? Does the princess have an annoying habit of leaving her clothes on the floor instead of putting them in a hamper, like a real princess should? Do they ever argue about which kingdom to visit over the holidays? Fairy tales don't tell you these things because these are issues of real life, which only means that the fairy tale is over and real life has begun.

The trouble with fairy tales is it makes you believe that real life is not a story in itself. I suppose it's why a lot of couples like to say "the honeymoon is over!" when troubles begin to arise. But I've found that real life is so much more interesting than the fairy tale. After all, there is beauty in the way the prince makes a cup of coffee for the princess as a way of apologizing for keeping her up. Everyone has annoying habits because no one is perfect. And arguing --if done correctly-- is a way of challenging each other and can teach you both a thing or two about yourselves to make you better people.

Now, when I read a book or watch a movie, I see it for what it is: a work of fiction. Because once you turn the last page and the credits roll, the more beautiful story called Real Life continues.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A love affair with words

While most people like to post photos of food or their outfits of the day, a look at my Instagram profile revealed to me that I like to post about words.

A couple of months ago, when the days were dark, I liked to look for quotes that inspired me to have a more positive outlook. I would post them in my Instagram account in the hope that someone else would also be inspired by it. It's the tech version of reading The Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho and writing on my journal after meditating.

Now that I've started reading and writing again, I find myself taking photos of passages that speak to me. Lately, I've started making very short poems-- just four lines, always about love, turned into an image using the Phoster app on my iPhone.

I don't know why I just realized it now that words have always been very important to me, so I've always felt that they're worth posting and sharing. Now that I'm a writer by profession, I suppose you can say I have an ongoing love affair with words.

It makes me realize that perhaps I've always

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What I learned from writing about one-night stands

Let me just put it out there: in this month's issue of Men's Health Philippines, aside from writing about how to beat procrastination, I wrote an article on one-night stands.

I hesitated about promoting the article because I worried about what my more traditional and conservative friends and family would say about me writing about such a topic. But then I realized, what I write about is not necessarily what I believe or condone. (Plus, it's a six-page major feature-- in terms of milestones, it's right up there with the cover story for Good Housekeeping that I did in 2010. How can I not be proud?!)

I have always chosen to look at the reality and not the morality of situations because I feel I am never in a position to pass judgment on the way people choose to live their lives, in the same way that I would not want to be judged for the way I've chosen to live mine. And there are many different realities that I've come across in this world: people cheat on their loved ones, people stay with the ones they love. People choose to give it to someone they love, someone they just met, someone they don't love; people choose to save it for the one they'll marry. People wait for The One to arrive, people actively look for The One. Whether all of this is good or bad is up to them to decide for themselves.

Which is not to say that I don't have my own opinions and feelings about things like these. For example, when I find out that someone is cheating on a partner, it really ticks me off, having been cheated on myself. But my stance is always this: I hope they know what really matters to them at the end of the day, what they're risking, what the consequences are, and that they won't regret the decisions they've made when the time comes. I can say what I want about how cheating is wrong and all that, but ultimately, it's your life to live. No one should ever tell you how to live your life.

Besides, with all of these differences in experiences, decisions, and ways of living, there is so much to learn from others. Rather than judge, I choose to learn. My life is richer and my view is wider because of it. Through the years, I've learned to respect and accept views and experiences that are very different from mine, and I think it's interesting that such a variety of experiences, opinions, and emotions exist, all in just one world we live in.

So in writing this article, I learned what drives women to engage in one-night stands. I learned that evolution has a role in courtship, in the way men and women enter and view relationships, in the way we see sexuality. As a writer, it is my responsibility to share these insights so that men who do choose to engage in one-night stands can be better informed about how their partner feels as well. It was my privilege to hear the stories of women who trusted me enough to share their experiences on something that hardly anyone talks about so candidly-- and it's therefore my duty to do justice to their stories.

I'm proud of this article because I've never written anything like it before, and I hope that you'll learn something from it too. The December issue of Men's Health Philippines is available in newsstands, bookstores, and supermarkets nationwide (writing that phrase just brought back a whole lot of memories of my past life in PR!) and I hope you'll drop me a line to let me know what you think. :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Happiness Project

"You hit a goal, you keep a resolution."

Photo from Google Images

I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and one thing it made me realize-- I'm pretty happy with my life.

It was at the end of the book that I realized this, when I was reading her tips on how to start your own happiness project. It said that aside from thinking of what makes you feel good, you should also think of areas in your life that make you feel bad, that don't feel right, that require more growth. Looking at the big picture of my life, I'm in a good place. But upon closer examination, there are areas I want to improve on:

1. Exercise more often. Because the book suggests making it a concrete, actionable goal, I need to set a specific time of day to get on the treadmill. On the days that I have work, I plan to park much farther than I usually do so that it's a considerable walk to the office.

2. Find time for prayer. Honestly, I end my day with a phone call from my fiance, not with prayer. I don't start my day with prayer either, and just find myself talking to God randomly throughout the day. Which is not a bad thing, but there had been a point in my life where I was able to meditate and write on my journal on a daily basis. I need to carve out some quiet time in my life, and I think it entails waking up earlier every day.

3. Read a book. A confession: I love reading in the toilet. Where other people bring a magazine or the newspaper, I bring my books. But ever since I got an iPad (and later on, an iPhone), I found myself using Toilet Time to browse Facebook instead. I decided to bring back my old habit by starting with The Happiness Project and realized that I could actually work through my never-ending book list by reading just a chapter every day, one book at a time. It would be a bonus if I could find the time to lounge in my big chair with a book, but at least I've come up with a minimum requirement.

4. Blog more often. Being able to blog on a daily basis seems to be a difficult goal to achieve. Not only because I'm busy with work, but I also find that I don't have so much to share every day. When I was much younger, I had an opinion on everything and itched to blog, sometimes more than once a day, every day. But as I grew older, I realized that you don't have to have an opinion about everything, and even if you do, the whole world doesn't need to know about it. Editing my thoughts and the words that come out of my mouth has been a worthy exercise all these years because it means that I try to say things that I mean and in the precise way that I want to say them. I do want to keep this blog going though, so I think I just need to be realistic about how often I want to share things that are actually meaningful and worth talking about. Maybe once a week is doable?

5. Spend more time offline. Now that I have a job that requires me to be online and "always on" (and I have the gadgets to make it easier to really be always on, anytime, anywhere), I need to make a conscious effort to unplug and spend some time offline. When I think about it, some of what I can do for my job can actually be done offline, like brainstorming or mapping out a structure, then I can just go online again to flesh out the ideas. There is something to be said about sitting away from a computer, thinking without looking at a screen, getting up to stretch every so often. And because my work requires me to be online much of the time, as much as possible I'd like to spend my non-work hours offline.

I suppose these five things are enough for now. The book actually encourages you to come up with things like your Splendid Truths (which are basically words you live by), or a list of things that make you happy, but there is a danger for me to get caught up in making the lists, such that I forget about actually getting up to do something. So maybe it's better that I've started with the resolutions, right as the year draws to a close. At least I have time for a bit of a dry run!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Farewell to the Twenties

An article on Buzzfeed has been popping up on my Facebook timeline: Every Year of your 20s, Ranked from Worst to Best. It made me realize that I entered this new decade without really taking the time to say farewell to my twenties. With so many things happening this year, I already know what my 30s will be like: new beginnings, new chapters, new adventures. But what have I left behind in the past ten years?

So, I'm taking the time on this lazy Saturday to hit two birds with one stone: exercise my writing-for-leisure skills by updating my blog, and reflect on the past ten years at the same time. I'll be using the Buzzfeed article's ranking to see if it's accurate (haha):

AGE 23 (year 2006): While I'd like to say that Buzzfeed got this all wrong because this was the year that I rekindled a friendship with the man who is now my fiance, a deeper look into that year reveals all of the challenges that came with it. It was the year I started my career in media relations, and I had no idea what I was getting into! In my first few months, all of my bosses resigned one after the other, and by the time I was a few months shy of 24, our team effectively had no boss. It was the year that I learned everything from experience, and just had to roll with the punches as they came. A roller-coaster year I'm not sure I would relive.

But on the bright side, before I said farewell to Age 23, I was able to travel with my girl friends out of the country for the first time. That trip to Hongkong opened my eyes to how different traveling with friends was-- taking the train at midnight to go to the Night Market, waking up at 9:30AM to have breakfast at McDonalds, walking down the streets of Hongkong without a clear agenda. That trip is forever stamped in my memory.

AGE 20 (year 2003): Third year college. I'm trying to think long and hard about anything that strikes me about that year, but all I can think of is that this was the year we started learning Philosophy and Theology, and that I got together with my ex. Ho-hum. Next!

AGE 26 (year 2009): This is the year I got diagnosed with acid reflux, and nothing was ever the same again. How horrible. But this was also the year that I was able to visit Bangkok with a good friend. It felt amazing to travel with just one other person who also shares the same interests, and we made a very good decision to visit the ancient capital Ayutthaya. That was a great trip.

AGE 24 (year 2007): The Year Without a Boss. One full year of our team fending for ourselves. But it was also a year where we had the most fun as a team and became our own little family. We didn't know it then, but it would also be our last year in our old office-- the end of an era.

This wasn't such a bad year, as I was able to travel to Pagudpud with my girl friends, again with zero planning on our part. Even now, we laugh at the memory of how we got out of the Laoag airport, how some of us got drunk on videoke night, and how eight girls fit into two tricycles for a tour around the area.

AGE 27 (year 2010): I distinctly remember being on a radio tour with one of my favorite editors, and she had asked me how old I was turning since my birthday was coming up. When I said I was turning 27, she said, "That's an exciting year." And it truly was. So many milestones happened this year. On the work front, I got promoted to assistant manager, then to acting manager a few months after. Then my boyfriend and I were able to take our first out-of-town trip together with friends, and that trip to Bantayan, Cebu was his first time ever to ride an airplane. That was also my first time to travel with a new set of friends from the workplace. There are so many happy memories from that trip, and Bantayan remains to be the best beach we've been to, in his opinion.

AGE 21 (year 2004): Senior year in college. I remember feeling on top of the world on this year. I was in leadership positions in my organizations, and I always felt like I was passing the baton to the younger generation. We were looking forward to the Real World. My friends and I worked through our thesis and I learned to survive on coffee and M&Ms at 3AM. Even now, I don't know how that thesis got written because I remember how we had to watch all those movies, how I learned to use the microfilm machine at the library, and how I slept through my favorite History class because I was running on zero, but I have no recollection of actually writing and proofreading our thesis. All I know is this year, as challenging as it was, had me feeling like I could do anything and be anything.

AGE 29 (year 2012): This is where Buzzfeed gets it wrong. It was a horrible year on the work front. A year of disappointment and disillusionment. A reality check. I felt like I was in limbo all year, not sure of where everything was going. I left my first job and got into a new one that didn't prove to be the best decision. It was a year of failure. But then, not being used to failing, I guess it was a year that was necessary for growth. The traveling kept me sane this year-- South Korea, Puerto Princesa, and Boracay all in one year! Plus, I made some new friends, so it wasn't all that bad.

AGE 25 (year 2008): The year we moved to a new office. The year I made new friends at work. The year I started to take on a leadership role at work. And the year we finally got more than just a boss, but a great mentor. It was the year I started feeling confident in what I was doing, and that I was put in this profession for a reason.

AGE 22 (year 2005): Again, Buzzfeed got it wrong. Horrible year, thanks to the Ex! This was the worst year ever, but I suppose it's also the one with the most stories to tell. Wasting time in the office in a pseudo-job that basically meant we were being paid to use the Internet to learn more Photoshop and look for a better job, drinking at 2PM, drinking with friends, being stupid about love and broken promises-- gosh let's just skip this year all together!

AGE 28 (year 2011): Strangely, Buzzfeed calls this the best year ever, but I don't remember anything striking about this year. Sure, I felt more confident at work, my relationship was secure, friendships were solid. But other than that, I wouldn't say this was the best year.

When people ask me what year or age I will always come back to, I think I will always say this year, the year I turned 30. This is the year that I worked up the courage to follow my dreams, the year I got engaged, the year I finally felt I am where I'm supposed to be. My twenties proved to be a decade of growth, of forging lasting friendships and relationships with people, of ending unhealthy relationships, of seeing more of the world, of making memories that I wouldn't necessarily relive. What a relief to bid farewell to that decade! I can't wait to see what this new decade has in store!

Friday, November 22, 2013

All shall be well

Photo from Pinterest

They say every girl has a dream wedding, one that she's been putting together ever since she was a little girl. I can't say I'm one of those girls, because I've never really thought about it until we started talking seriously about the future. My dreams, like me, are simple-- I just want it to be an affair where everyone has a lot of fun, enjoys good food (preferably a ton of seafood), and come together in a place that's not some boring ballroom or function hall. As much as possible, I want to go beyond the confines of four walls and have a place that looks out into something, whether it's a garden or a great view. But more than anything, I want it to be a practical, cost-efficient affair, especially since we have a place that we're saving up for.

In the two months since I've gotten engaged, we've been busy checking out possible reception venues. As it turns out, while there are many venues that fit my beyond-four-walls criteria, there are so many other things that also need to be considered: the presence of air-conditioning, the location and its proximity to the church, and most of all, the budget. I've been looking through beautiful photos and having my heart broken a little when I see the cost estimates, and sometimes when the venue is not as pretty in real life as I had thought it would be.

So today, I was feeling a little blue after receiving yet another over-the-budget cost estimate from a beautiful venue, and I texted my fiance (I still need to get used to calling him this!) that I was kinda down. He replied, "Don't be. :) Things are going well for us. :D"

Seeing that text made me realize that I had lost sight of the bigger picture: we are planning for the rest of our lives together. This wedding is just one day, a tiny speck in forever. And I'm lucky to have a guy who is able to keep my worries at bay by reassuring me that everything will fall into place, who is able to see all of this planning and preparation as an adventure that we're embarking on together. The first of many more adventures that we'll take. At the end of the day, we could get married in Timbuktu but what would still matter is that we're together.

So I take a deep breath and claim this: we will get the date that we want, in the church that we want, we'll get a great venue where our families will come together, and we'll get all the suppliers that are right for us. All it takes is faith that everything will work out as it should-- happily ever after.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Living the dream

Photo from Pinterest

It's been a long time since I've posted something. So much has been going on that I haven't had time to really step back and make sense of everything. It feels as though every day, I've just been going with the flow of wherever life takes me, and yet I know exactly where I'm going: where my heart tells me to.

Who would've thought I'd end up in Advertising, though? I always swore I'd never get into it, like I said in a previous entry. But it's been almost two months, and I realize that my previous jobs prepared me for this kind of job-- having accounts to service, coming up with content and strategy to promote a brand, taking care of a brand's image in the digital space. And yet everything is also new, as the digital world --particularly the world of social media-- is so exciting. A decade ago, Facebook didn't exist. Five years ago, smartphones weren't the norm. And yet today, almost everyone has a Facebook account, and more and more people are accessing the Internet and their social media platforms on a mobile device. I suddenly have front-row seats to what will happen three, five years from now: will Facebook still be the way it is? Will a new social media platform be born? Will some of the platforms we thought we couldn't live without die (RIP, Multiply and Friendster)? How will technology continue to shape and change the way we connect to each other? It's so refreshing to belong in this ever-changing world!

The thing with this job is that it has full-time demands while still giving me the freedom to keep my own hours. While I'm crafting social media content for my accounts, I'm also writing feature articles and advertorials. These past two months, I've been very thankful that my friends in the industry have been giving me work, and that I've encountered new people who are also trusting in my ability to deliver. I am so grateful for the chance to have my name in publications I never thought I could really write for, and that I'm given the opportunity to meet new people, hear new stories, and tell them in the best way I can. Slowly but steadily, I'm building my name and getting paid while I'm at it.

Which is a good thing, because I need to work hard and save a lot, now more than ever. The most exciting thing has been getting engaged. For someone like me who loves to plan, I am raring to do all the planning! My dream wedding is a practical and budget-friendly one, and I love the challenge of finding suppliers and packages that give you bang for buck. So in between the social media content and the writing, I've also been doing lots of researching, pinning on Pinterest, and making Powerpoint presentations compiling my ideas. The wedding is a long way off, and it's a good thing because we're determined to have fun throughout the process of planning it. It is, after all, a celebration! We're attending our first bridal fair next month, and we can't wait-- I'm so excited that I'm researching on the suppliers that will be there. He's so lucky I love to plan! Maybe after this, I can also freelance as a wedding planner. Haha!

All of this happened when I started saying "Yes" to my dreams and following my heart. I had always dreamed of keeping my own hours, doing what I love to do, and still being productive. And now, that's my reality. I just have to keep trusting that He will provide for me, one day at a time. What a blessing to be able to live my dreams!

Here's hoping you have the courage to say "Yes" to your dreams, too. :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Be a light

Photo from Pinterest

Many people search for their purpose in life. Without being too dramatic about it, I recently realized mine: to be a light to others.

Sometimes, when I look back at the past year, it seems as though I had been digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole, sinking into a darkness that I eventually felt I needed to get out of in order to survive. My reflections on why God had put me in that situation have so far been quite self-centered: I needed to learn to toughen up, I needed to learn some harsh realities about people and the world, I needed to realize what was important to me. All about I, Me, and Myself.

Then I realized that I wasn't alone in this darkness. Many others were feeling it too, and we were all starting to feel dark and dreary and gloomy. It was only then that I realized that God put me there to be a light in the darkness, to bring some positivity into all the negative things happening. So I tried my best to be cheerful, to focus on the positive, to lift people's spirits, to laugh with my friends, and basically try to live a life of love, one day at a time.

Now I realize that regardless of where you find yourself --whether it's an office, at home, within a group of friends, or with a loved one-- everyone is struggling. Everyone is trapped in their own darkness and dealing with their own demons, whatever they may be. I'm most definitely not exempt from this, as I have my own issues too. But instead of focusing on myself and my issues, I find that I can fight my own demons by trying to be a light in your darkness, someone who can help you fight those demons, someone who can stay positive when you feel like giving up. After all, you can only fight evil with goodness.

So as much as possible, I try not to rant (both in real life and in this blog). I focus instead on the blessings, on the everyday miracles, on seeing God work through others, on love. Maybe if I try to shine the spotlight on all the good things in life, it's only a matter of time before others see it too, and positivity will be like a good epidemic that spreads throughout the entire world.

Whether it's through this blog or in the little things that I say and do, I just hope that I have been a light for you. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Say YES!

In my first week as a full-time freelancer, I have been very, very blessed.

As I mentioned in my last post, Monday marked my first day working in advertising, when I said and thought I never would. Thankfully, I can relate to the brands that were assigned to me, and one is a brand that I actually use. I am blessed to be working in a fun environment where there is still so much potential for growth, both for the entire team and for each individual. Even if I'll only be in the office twice a week, I realized that even as a freelancer, it's still important to cultivate relationships with people. No man is an island, and you need the help of other people to survive in this jungle. And I'm happy to see as early as my first week that I am part of a group that is supportive and open.

On the days that I stayed home, I found myself falling into this routine. When I was still working full time, I got up everyday at 5:30 AM to have breakfast with my dad. Now, I'm able to wake up at 7:30 AM to have breakfast with my mom. Afterwards, I watch a bit of TV before brisk-walking on the treadmill and getting a bit of exercise. I cherish these moments because it reminds me that freelancing has given me the chance to really make time for the important things: quality time with my loved ones and taking care of my health. 

I am proud to say that for someone like me who is bordering on being a narcoleptic (I think I can fall asleep anytime, anywhere), I have not taken a single afternoon nap this entire week. I work in my room, where the bed is just a cartwheel away, but I have really been working. And so far, my hard work at putting myself out there has paid off because now I have assignments for two magazines and need to work on two advertorials as well.

I did have one apprehension though: all of their deadlines are next week. With my advertising job plus these four gigs happening simultaneously, I wasn't sure I was up to the task. And then I realized, I should JUST SAY YES. These opportunities are blessings, and you don't just turn blessings away. If He brought me to this, He will also bring me through this. And as someone who is new to freelancing, I can't afford to turn away from these opportunities. I have to be prepared to juggle all these balls and wear all these hats, and see how far I can go. If I don't push myself to the maximum, I'll never know my limit. The only way you'll know is if you try.

So yes, yes, yes! Say yes to everything! If something new comes your way and you're not sure if you can do it, just say yes! Because you never know, that may be when the magic happens and you learn just what you're capable of. Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Never say never!

If there was one thing I had been sure of after college, it was that I would never work in advertising.

I took up an Introduction to Advertising class during my junior year, and my professor had succeeded in convincing me that advertising was not a field that you entered just to see what it's like, or just for fun. If you didn't have the heart and the stomach for industry, you wouldn't survive in such a crazy world.

So I never considered it, never applied. Even if I'm a writer, copywriting is not a skill I would put in my resume, and I am no good at coming up with slogans or messages that can be communicated completely in just a phrase. My friends in advertising also told stories that confirmed that the world was, indeed, crazy. But they loved it anyway.

Today I learned that you should never say never. Because as it turns out, today was my first day working in advertising. Of course, my department is actually under the public relations group, so it's not a complete departure from what I used to do. But this job will expose me to working with clients of one of the world's top advertising, marketing, and public relations agencies. Something I never thought I would do.

I realized that in saying "never", I had effectively closed my doors on all the lessons this world could offer, on the challenges that could help me become a better professional. So, never say never. Always leave some room to change your mind about things because it's the only way to grow and learn something new.

I'm glad that I somehow found my way into this world and that I decided to open this door, even if it meant eating my words. I'm excited to see where this new journey takes me.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

On humility

During today's Mass, I realized that even if I don't read the Bible, there are certain gospel passages that I could consider favorites because of the way they resonate with me. Today's Gospel was one of those passages, mainly because its message still holds true today.

It was about taking your seat at a banquet, and how the Lord advises you against taking a seat at the presidential table, because if somebody of higher stature comes along, then you'll have to suffer the embarassment of getting kicked out of that table and slinking off to a normal table. It's better to sit at the lowest place then have the host give you an upgrade.

"Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted." I love that phrase because it's so true. It feels so much better to have people recognize the work that you do without you calling any attention to yourself.

Now, the above quote is from the priest's homily, and I wasn't quite sure how it was related to the Gospel. But thinking about it, I realized it has to do with exalting yourself. Because when you see your talents as something that you worked hard for and developed all on your own, then you tend to become quite full of yourself and your accomplishments. A sense of entitlement is born too, and I really hate it when people have that.

But when you think of your talents as a gift from God, it makes you grateful. And when you have a grateful heart, it is difficult to be selfish. You naturally want to share with others, and so you end up using your talents for the good of other people.

Which, I guess, is what I've been trying to do with my blog so far. Yes, it's a personal blog. Yes, I talk a lot about what I've learned or what I've experienced. But I do it because my hope is that somehow, I will say something that means something to someone, or makes them think, or teaches them something. Words have the power to change lives, and I hope that my words will have a positive effect on others, even if I may never know their impact first-hand.

So, to whoever is reading this and wherever you may be, I hope I've said something to make this worth your while. Have a blessed week ahead!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Time for a clean-up

Photo from Pinterest
I am a pack rat.

I say this the way people usually say that they're alcoholics or chain smokers or something equally evil. Because being a pack rat is an evil thing. But the thing is, I always have been a pack rat. I remember how my mom dumped all of my toys in one corner of my room, forcing me to climb onto everything just to find my favorite toy, until I eventually tired of this and decided to clean up after myself.

My weakness has always been paper. I hang on to all kinds of paper, from old handouts to faded receipts and movie tickets. Filing my paperwork last week was a pain in the butt, but somehow I managed to clean up my work space. And since my room is now my new workspace as a full-time freelancer, I decided that I needed to be ruthless and throw things away.

And so I took a trash bag and started dumping things on my table and on the floor, deciding which ones to keep and which ones to toss. Going through everything made me realize how much useless things I had been hanging on to. Imagine, I had a box filled with ballpens that I must have saved from the last cleanup tucked away inside a cabinet, and now they're all dried up because I had forgotten they were even in there. 

And even after tossing those dried up ballpens, I was still left with this many working ballpens. Just how many ballpens does a writer need? Maybe one in every color, sure, if I'm feeling artsy or OC. But still, there are just too many ballpens, and I'm sure it got this way because every time the pen I was using ran out of ink, I decided to buy a new one instead of looking for another working pen already in my possession. Lesson learned: take a look at what you have now before you go out and look for something new.

Because really, it's the appeal of new things coupled with the refusal to let go of the old things that give pack rats like me a headache. You always tell yourself that you might need it eventually so you keep it, but then you keep it and forget about it, and are later lured by the nice and shiny newer versions of the old things you already have. Cleaning up requires so much discipline. I really had to tell myself that I am keeping these things and using them because I refuse to spend money on something that I already have anyway. So here's to not buying ballpens and notebooks for the next five years!

Buried within all that junk were some sweet memories, like these Christmas cards from my old job. Sure, they don't have any use for me anymore (especially since we've all gone our separate ways), but it's nice to look back on little things like these that bring back the good times. So just as I always have, I kept old letters and notes from old friends, even from those who I haven't heard from in decades. Because at some point in your life, you shared something together, you meant something to each other, and that's not something you just throw away. So even if you're cleaning up, hang on to the things that matter (and know what these things are!).

And then I found these! Identification cards from different stages in my life: ages 11, 15, and 21, to be exact. Looking at these made me realize how far I've come from that eleven-year-old girl who was just starting to play the piano again, or the fifteen-year-old girl that went on all sorts of crazy adventures with her best friends, or even the twenty-one-year-old girl that didn't quite know what she wanted to do with her life after college. Cleaning up forces you to look at all the stuff you've hung on to through the years, and ultimately it gives you a clue on what you consider worth hanging on to. What I've realized from this cleanup is a lot of the things I was hanging on to are not worth it. So much baggage, so many useless things taking up precious space. When you realize what's worth hanging on to, letting go becomes so much easier.

I'm happy that I got to clean up my space, and I'm hoping that I can truly commit to keeping it this way. It feels much better now, to know that everything I've kept has a purpose, and that everything has its proper place. Here's hoping that the pack rat in me doesn't rear its ugly head again!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Good deeds go a long way

From "Cure For the Common Life" by Max Lucado

I was doing a bit of reading before going to bed and came across this. It almost made me cry, because it felt like I was getting a pat on the back for what I did today. In case the image isn't so clear, this is what it says:
God inhabits the tiny seed, empowers the tiny deed. He cures the common life by giving no common life, by offering no common gifts. "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." Don't discount the smallness of your deeds.

I'm not normally a very expressive person. I mean, I usually prefer to let people know how I feel about them by making time to be there for them. I guess it's true that my love language is quality time. But today, I felt the overwhelming need to affirm a friend that I felt needed it.

And I realized the importance of hearing somebody say these words. Even if you know that someone loves you, it still makes a world of a difference when you hear those three words. You know your parents are proud of you, but hearing them explicitly say "I'm proud of you" can bring tears to your eyes. And even if you're friends and you know you'll always be thankful to have one another, it still means a lot when they really say "Thank you for being my friend."

So that's exactly what I did. And I knew it meant a lot. And it felt so good to know that I made someone feel good about themselves, and that all it took was a note. No grand gestures, no big words, just a note with words that came from the heart.

Now I know that even the smallest gesture can mean so much to people, and something that may have been insignificant for you actually meant the world to them and changed their lives in ways you could never have predicted.

"Don't discount the smallness of your deeds" indeed!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Facing my fears

Photo from Pinterest

I received an email last night from my editor (the one that assigned the story with four moms), saying that they would like to include me in their Contributors page. One of the things I had to supply was "A fear that I was able to overcome." My answer was a not-so-subtle way of formally promoting myself as a freelance writer: "I've always had a fear of the unknown and unpredictable, and I conquered it by jumping into the world of freelance! Talk about facing my fears!"

All shameless plugging aside, my answer was true and from the heart. I have always feared the unknown and unpredictable. I always like situations where I am in control. I don't like driving in unfamiliar places because I don't like getting lost. If I have to go somewhere for the first time, I whip out my map and analyze all possible routes. And while driving, I always feel panicky until I arrive safely at the destination.

Even when traveling, I like to research a lot, even making little Powerpoint presentations that include possible tourist attractions, options for hotel accommodations, and a cost estimate. I don't know if my travel companions appreciate this or are slightly freaked out. I make up for this by enjoying every bit of the trip and not sticking to a schedule unless we have to (like when you  have to catch certain shows or make sure that you get to ride on the last train home).

So to jump into the world of freelance, where the next paycheck and next job are both a mystery, definitely counts as facing my fears. As early as now, I'm realizing that it takes a lot of confidence and optimism to make it. For an introvert like me, I constantly have to push myself to put myself out there and rekindle old friendships-- not just because I want and need a job, but also because I genuinely want to work with these people again. As my last assignment taught me, you can learn so many things from other people. So working with old friends is sure to teach me a lot of new things.

Optimism is also required because scouring the Internet for jobs is not as easy as they make it out to be. Job postings on Craigslist.org are all very vague, bordering on shady, that I'm not sure if I can get a legitimate gig out of it. It's also a dog-eat-dog world at Freelancer.ph because you have to bid for projects, and it seems that people are willing to bid very low just to be assured of the job-- so how do you get a job at the price you need to command to survive? I'm currently learning the ropes at ODesk.com, so we'll see how that goes. So now I have to learn how to draw the line between being discerning and picky, how to exercise just the right amount of caution when it comes to these online jobs, and still stay optimistic that jobs can, indeed, be found online.

I saw this quote on Pinterest and realized that I need to hold on to it right now. To make it in these early stages of rebuilding my career, I need to trust that there is a plan for me, and that I'm on the right track. The idea of being in complete control of my time and doing what I love is still quite foreign to me, but since He has been providing for me, I'm hoping that it's only a matter of time before I stop being paranoid that I should be overworking myself and stressing out, instead of enjoying myself with what I'm doing. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: "Why We Broke Up" by Daniel Handler

Photo from Google Images

I don't know how to feel about Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. For one, I'm happy that the young adult fiction genre has this beautifully-written novel to call its own. It comes with illustrations for every chapter, and the novel would not be complete without them.

The novel's basic premise is that the protagonist Min has broken up with her now-ex-boyfriend Ed, and is now ready to return the treasure trove of items that she has collected during their short relationship. She goes through each item and reminisces on the memories that each carries, thus the book is structured in such a way that each item gets its own illustration and chapter dedicated to it. Almost every chapter closes with the sentence, "And that, Ed, is why we broke up."

I'm happy because of the eloquence with which Min retells every memory, every story. Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that even the smallest, most insignificant items carry a rich and deep history in them. A paper napkin from the restaurant of your first date, a movie ticket from that first time you kissed in the theater, a pressed rose petal from the bouquet given on your first anniversary, and many other trinkets that would otherwise hold no meaning to anyone else. Min's retelling is beautifully bittersweet, and the reader is sucked into all these memories of a love that didn't last.

Which then makes me sad. Because from the beginning, you know that their love is doomed. After all, the title itself gives away the ending. So you find yourself joining Min in remembering why and how she loved Ed, and waiting to see how they finally fell apart. Reading this novel awakens the feelings of both first love and first heartbreak. As much as you remember how it felt to fall in love and give meaning to all these little things, you also remember how it feels to look back at a failed love and think of how you could have made it better, how you should have known better, how you should have broken it off then. And sometimes, you even question which parts of it were true and which ones were just beautifully-dressed up lies.

And that makes me angry. Because these kinds of failed relationships are true, and it sucks that they exist. And the book reminds you that they exist. So it makes me mad at the world for allowing love stories to have beautiful beginnings and tragic endings, and mad at the people who take a beautiful love for granted. If these things weren't true, the novel wouldn't resonate so well. But it does. When it shouldn't.

A friend asked me why I read it in the first place, when I'm in a happily committed relationship. I guess other people might get paranoid about the state of their own relationships, but reading this book made me all the more grateful for the love that I have, for the memories that I've collected. It brings me back to the reality that although the world is filled with these broken relationships that give birth to books like these, there also exists the kind of love that I have, the ones that triumph over all the obstacles, the ones that do make it from now until forever. So here's hoping that I never ever have to write my own story of Why We Broke Up.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: "Seriously... I'm Kidding" by Ellen Degeneres

Photo from Google Images

A cousin of mine recently posted a photo of this book on her Instagram account with the caption, "I don't usually like to read but this book is awesome! Made someone like me finish it in three days. It'll make you smile, I promise." When my sister, who is also not a reader, asked me to look for this book, I knew it had to be good.

Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres is like watching Ellen's talk show, only it's on paper. What struck me from the very first page is how, as you read along, you can actually hear Ellen talking. And for a writer, where tone and voice is so important, that just goes to show that Ellen's voice is so, so strong (which got me to thinking about my own voice as a writer and what it sounds like, but that's probably something for another blog post). That distinct voice is actually the key to really enjoying the book, because you find yourself imagining Ellen telling the story to you in that cheeky way of hers. The punctuation (or lack thereof) also makes all the difference when she tells a story, like this one found in her chapter entitled "Stuff":
When you're packing up a house, you're forced to decide what you really need versus what you can get rid of. You might have been holding on to cases and cases of empty glass jars, but once you have to pack them up and move them, you realize maybe you're not going to harvest your own honey.
My mama is similar to me in that she also likes to move a lot. Mama has moved thirty-two times since 1952. It's so funny because I remember sometimes I would come home from school and there would be a note on the door that said, "I moved. Try and find me!" And I would spend hours and hours trying to find the new house. Sometimes I would find it by nightfall but sometimes I wouldn't. Actually this is really funny-- one time she accidentally forgot to leave a note and I had no idea she had even moved. I lived in the house with a beautiful Mexican family for about three months before I realized they weren't my cousins visiting from out of town. They were so nice. They called me "Quien es, quien es," which I thought was  a beautiful name.

The book is filled with little anecdotes, random musings, and as Ellen herself puts it in her note for the reader, "I decided to include a little something for everyone in this book. You're going to find some short stories for adults, coloring pages for kids, and many things for all ages in between."

What I love is that in the middle of all the humor --and there is a LOT, since it's Ellen-- there are also nuggets of wisdom like this one in the chapter "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (which I couldn't help but post on my Instagram account):
The thing everyone should realize is that the key to happiness is being happy by yourself and for yourself. If everything you have got stripped away-- your home, your job, your family, your things, your favorite t-shirt with all the holes in it that you won't throw away even though it reveals a large part of your stomach region-- if you lost all of those things and you had to live in a cave all alone with absolutely nothing, you should still be happy. Happiness comes from within. You have the power to change your own mind-set so that all the negative, horrible things that try to invade your psyche are replaced with happy, positive, wonderful thoughts.
You don't have to be a fan of Ellen to enjoy this book. It's easy to read, light and humorous, but still has enough wisdom to make it worth your time and money. The title itself, Seriously... I'm Kidding, encapsulates this very balance. So I found myself laughing while reading, at the same time thinking, "Wow, Ellen makes a lot of sense!"

Try to grab a copy of this book, if you can. It's the perfect way to destress after a long day. After all, laughter is the best medicine!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Different Lives

While everyone else has been posting baby pictures as posts for #ThrowbackThursday, inspiration struck me this week and I posted this on Instagram:

Souvenirs from a different life.

Six years worth of events for twenty-two different titles. Looking at all these "All Access" passes, all of that seems like a lifetime ago. To think, I was only 23 years old when this whirlwind of a career began. Even if everything was explained to me during my interview, I had no real idea that I would be going on radio tours, conceptualizing TV segments for pitching to networks, churning out press releases, learning to make small talk with media, keeping abreast about the latest showbiz happenings, and strategizing the best ways to promote magazines --which are a medium in themselves-- in other forms of media.

I never really expected to get into PR, and it's always come as a surprise to people who know me that I even lasted. Heck, even I was surprised I lasted so long! Truth be told, it's not in my personality at all, but that life has helped me grow so much professionally and personally. And I made friends with whom I remain bonded up to this day, which just goes to show that the office culture of treating each other like family really does survive beyond the office's four walls.

I tried getting into something different, with the hope that I would learn even more things in a new field and industry. As much as I did achieve those two goals, I ended up learning more about some harsh realities about office politics and many other things I naively thought I wouldn't experience first-hand. I learned that I believe too much in the good of people, and that it's disappointing to find out that not everyone is good after all. I also realized what's important to me in an office, and ultimately in a career. Most importantly, I learned to listen to my heart, to take a risk, and do what feels right for me even if it doesn't really make sense.

The good in this life I'm about to leave behind.

Of course, it wasn't all bad in this last year and a half. I learned about the importance of customer service and relationships in a business. I've had the privilege to work with amazing people who are dedicated and hard-working, and I would like to think that I've made new friends. I may not have made my mark professionally, but it's more important to me that I touched them personally.

Now I'm preparing to leave this old life behind and jump into a new one that will test my perseverance, resourcefulness, and self-discipline. It will also test my faith in Him, and how much I'm willing to let Him take the lead. But already, I'm being reassured that everything will work out. After all, I'm finally doing what I've always been meant to do.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Photo from Pinterest

Just last month, I was in a very dark place and felt no light was in sight. Physically, mentally, emotionally, I was on the verge of a breakdown. It ultimately led me to do the one thing I thought would be best for me: let go.

When I let go, I turned to God. I'm not very religious; I guess you could say that I'm more spiritual, choosing to see God as a force that works in the universe. So when things don't make sense to me, when the world doesn't seem right, I find myself turning to Him more than ever. So this time around, I prayed. I asked for signs, and as I mentioned in a past post, He gave me so many. For once, I let go of my control freak tendencies and let Him take the wheel.

The past month has been simply amazing. I mean, check this out:

1. I told my friends about my plan to freelance, and everyone replied with leads and opportunities.

2. I blogged about freelancing, then a former colleague contacted me to write a feature article about things you didn't know you can get for free that's due tomorrow.
- I asked for leads on Facebook, and people I didn't expect to respond helped me out.
- I went to Fridays Eastwood to follow a lead, and while I was waiting for the supervisor, I was wondering where to eat afterwards. I ended up being served a huge club sandwich, on the house.
- I ran into some difficulty writing the article and decided to send in whatever I had so far. Just as I was wondering how I could manage to revise in time for tomorrow's deadline, I'm told that my deadline will be extended until Monday.

3. A few days after getting the first writing gig, another former colleague contacted me to also write a feature article, this time a personality profile on moms who pursued their dreams.
- Initially, I hesitated because I wasn't sure how I could handle being employed full-time, writing one article, and now this one. But despite coming out on the same issue month, this new assignment had a deadline that was right after the first article.
- Out of four moms to interview, my schedule only permitted me to commit to one. Lo and behold, the last mom is free on the holiday, so I can do that too! Just when I thought I could only handle one, it turns out I can do two out of four!

4. The reality started sinking in and I started to worry about the state of my finances.
- God gave me the perfect job: it's challenging and requires a big amount of commitment, but only requires me to come to the office twice a week and is flexible enough to allow me to accommodate more freelance writing gigs. Despite it being a part-time gig, it still gives me a regular salary. And I start September 2, which means I no longer have to worry about September being a dry spell!

5. Everyone I've talked to about my plans for the future has been supportive, making me appreciate having my family and friends behind me in all this.

How amazing to realize that He really does answer prayers and that He really will provide for me.

The uncertain and unpredictable future is less scary now, because I know that no matter what happens, I have Him to count on.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reality Bites

It can be so easy to give in to the self-doubt and anxiety. Oh, how reality bites!

As the reality of my situation sinks in, I find myself tempted to be consumed by worry. It all started when I received my last salary last week. I didn't think they would hold my salary for the whole month of August (I thought it would just be the last 15 days), so all of a sudden I'm scrambling to meet all of my obligations. In making sure that I have enough to pay for everything that needs to be paid for, I'm suddenly feeling very destitute: unable to make plans with other people because I don't know where I'll get the money for a night out, choosing not to bring a car to save on parking (thank goodness we have a driver on my dad's payroll), counting every peso that leaves my wallet.

Then there's the upcoming trip to Pagudpud. I should be thankful that he tells me not to worry about it, not to fix the accommodations yet since it's still in October, and part of me suspects he has something up his sleeve related to this trip. But with the financial situation, I worry about where I'll get the money to pay for my share.

Yes, I have projects, but I'll be reaping those benefits by December. Yes, I have my back pay, but I'll be getting that in October and I already know where that's going. September is looking to be a dry spell, and it's scary. Scary enough for me to wonder if I made my decision too hastily, if I made it with a clear head and not a reproductive system filled with hormones gone haywire.

And so I have to consciously repeat to myself: yes, I made the right decision, I couldn't have lasted two more months with an anxiety attack waiting to happen everyday. As for the money, I will find a way, and if not, then God will make a way. The same way He has been opening all sorts of doors for me whenever I knock. I have to remind myself that I am blessed with people who are giving me all sorts of opportunities to do what I feel I was born to do, and that this just goes to show that I have people who believe in me.

The future looks scary, but maybe now is the time to face my fears. And for now, I need to remember this quote I found on Pinterest:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Returning to a dream

How easily we forget.

I realized this as I stayed up until 1:00 AM putting my portfolio together.

As a contributing writer for Good Housekeeping, I had started off by writing for their Mommy Makeover section. Just one-page articles about moms who wanted to upgrade and improve their look, but didn't quite know where to start.

I remember that every shoot would have four to five moms that I would need to interview, which meant that my articles would come out in a span of four to five months. But I had forgotten just how many moms I had met in the course of these interviews. I realized last night that I had done nine Mommy Makeover articles from 2009 to 2010.

As I looked through the old magazines (and grew increasingly frustrated to find that my 2010 magazines were missing, and those had my biggest articles), I realized that there were some articles I had even forgotten about, like this one:

How could I have forgotten that day when I sat down with THE Ida Henares and her husband Ronnie, where they candidly shared their love story with me? It was a privilege to hear it, and an honor to write about it with the purpose of inspiring other couples. Again, how could I have forgotten?

As I searched for the missing magazines last night, I was only fixated on finding two copies in particular. Thank goodness I suddenly realized that I had one more missing article, and it was the only one where I had to produce the shoot as well:

Lucky for me that this came out in 2012, and Good Housekeeping already has digital editions. I purchased a copy on my iPad and proceeded to take screencaps of my article, to be stitched together and placed in PDF format after. Ah, the wonders of technology! How I wish those 2010 issues had digital versions too!

In all that has happened to this point, I had forgotten this part of my life. Maybe it was because I had always seen it as raket, as something that I was doing on the side of a "real" job, a dream that I indulged in before coming back to the demands of the real world.

Now I realize that the dream can become your reality, if you want it, are willing to take risks for it, and believe that you can do it. When self-doubt begins to whisper in my ear that I can't do this, now all I have to do is look back at all these articles and tell myself:

"I can do it, because I ALREADY DID."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On going freelance

Well, I finally went and took the plunge-- I am officially going freelance by the start of September.

I seemed to have God's go-signal, as my cousin sent me the link to an advertisement for a seminar: "How to start a career as a freelance writer in the Philippines". Held in an accessible place at a convenient time for an affordable price, it was like all the stars had aligned so that I could attend this.

And so off I went to 47East in Esteban Abada, Katipunan on a Saturday morning, excited to learn more about this path I'm about to take. Though many had signed up, only four people had arrived. Which I actually liked better because it made the discussion more casual and free-flowing.

It was definitely an informative morning, as Ime Morales, founder of the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines, shared tips on how to get started, as well as the types of opportunities available out there. It wasn't a step-by-step procedure or anything, but more of points to consider if you truly want to pursue this path. As I am slowly realizing, freelancing is bound to teach me many things about myself and how I really want to live my life, as I am in control of everything for the very first time.

So the talk really helped set the direction for me, and I now need to think of the following:

What's my specialty?
Based on my previous career, I would say writing press releases, personality features, and feature articles. I enjoy doing interviews and telling a story.

But based on my writing style, I believe I'm also capable of writing corporate materials like brochures, manuals, and content for company websites.

The seminar taught me that it's important to have a specialty so that it will be easier to be top-of-mind when clients have specific needs.

What are my fields of interest?
Again, if I were to base it on my previous line of work, it would probably be local show business. But really, I like travelling, reading, and watching movies. I've just never really tried writing about full-length reviews about places, books, and movies. I guess now I'll have the time to try.

Knowing what interests you is important because writers have to be credible. The only way to have credibility and engage people with your writing is to be truly interested in your subject, because your interest and passion really do show in your work.

How much is my work worth?
This was the most eye-opening part of the seminar. Although I haven't been as allergic to numbers as the stereotypical communications major, pulling numbers out of thin air to make costings has always left me beffundled.

Thanks to the seminar, I learned first to create a quota for myself. I examined my monthly expenses and determined how much I would need to earn in order to meet these obligations.

Then I decided on how much time I would have to work in a day (which then multiplies into number of hours in a week, then in a month). As tempting as it is to say that I would only work for two hours a day and spend the rest of the time sleeping and basically just bumming around, the seminar also taught me that freelancers need to have an incredible amount of self-discipline, and treat yourself as though you were treating an employee. Whatever standards of excellence you would have as a boss in a regular workplace must be applied to yourself now.

So yes, I made my computations based on an eight-hour workday, five days a week. Just as my weekends are sacred to me now, I feel I must continue to keep them sacred even as a freelancer. Now that I have an hourly rate in mind, it will be easier now to gauge how many projects I will need to take on in order to prosper.

Where can I find opportunities for freelance work?
Here, I realized that I am lucky to have friends in the right places. All I need to do now is get over my shyness and announce my availability to the world.

And when the opportunities come --as I have faith that they will-- I have to say yes to everything in order to really establish myself. My mantra now is "Newbies can't be choosy", and I'm ready to take on all the jobs that I'm capable of doing without sacrificing my health.

As much as this path is scary and unpredictable, and while I've always feared the unknown, this is the first time that I am excited to face a blank slate in my life. Maybe it's because I know I am blessed to have family and friends rallying behind me and believing with me that I can do this.

So I'm keeping the faith, high on optimism as I count down to September. 😄

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The process of letting go

I've done quite a lot of reflecting in the past few weeks, and one thing I've realized about myself is that once I say the words "I give up", there is absolutely no turning back.

As it turns out, I tend to put up with quite a lot and still not let go. Just a look at how my past relationships (romantic and otherwise) have played out, and I wonder how I could have hung on as long as I did.

Back then, it was the heart that whispered for me to stay. The mind had all the reasons to leave, but the heart refused until such time that it, too, realized that there was nothing to stay for anymore.

This time, it is the other way around. I thought I could tough this out. I thought that I could just psych myself into adapting, into not letting things get to me, into putting up with the present by keeping the future in mind. But the heart and even the body feel differently. And as always, in the end, it is the heart that always wins.

In all of this, I've learned that you really need to listen to your heart. You need to look at how you feel when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. Basically you have to ask the question "Am I happy?" and be as honest as possible when you answer. Of course, it's naive to think that life will always be a bed of roses, but I believe that in spite of all the challenges, you still have to be able to go to bed at night knowing that at your very core, you're still happy with your life and how it's playing out.

While the other aspects of my life are going well, this has been eating away at me. And when you take into consideration that more than half of my day is spent here, while I only get to see my loved ones a few hours a week, I don't think it's right that I'm only happy a couple of hours a week.

And so I begin the process of letting go, of wrapping up loose ends. It's like I've been deep in the heart of a very dark tunnel, and now I begin to walk slowly towards the light, to a brighter albeit unpredictable future ahead. And I begin this process with God by my side, because if there's one thing that has been getting me through all of this, it has been the daily pep talks with Him, the little prayers thought and whispered, and feeling His love and presence through the support of my loved ones.

Finally, finally, I'm beginning to see the light.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Words of the Day

An enlightening conversation yesterday revolved around two words:

To express something in words

You're very good at verbalizing your feelings. That's because you're very cerebral, and that's how you cope. You're able to gather your emotions, make sense of it, then verbalize it-- "I'm upset because..." or "I'm sad because..." or "I'm happy because..." It's one of your strengths, how you're able to communicate very effectively what you want and how you feel.

To express psychological conflicts through somatic symptoms
E.g. Some people somatize-- they have all kinds of body aches and pains that their doctors cannot explain.

The problem is, in your environment now, you're unable to verbalize your feelings. It's like a cork has been put in place to keep you from speaking up, to stop you, to hinder your growth. And so you've kept it all inside. You've kept quiet, you've buried your feelings, you've stopped verbalizing.

That's why your body is somatizing. Your body feels warm, your pulse races, your acidity acts up, you feel nauseous, you get headaches-- all of these things are your body's way of expressing that something is wrong, since you're unable to verbalize it. And it's not healthy. It's not healthy at all.

When you wake up on a Sunday with an anxiety attack, and you have to remind yourself, "It's only Sunday, relax, it's not Monday yet, you're still okay..." Something is terribly wrong.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

On family, childhood memories, and growing up

I'm in Cebu for the weekend because we have a new baby in the family, and I'm her godmother. If for the past week I've been thinking about the gift of life, this weekend has me reflecting on family and my childhood, and how it has all affected who I am today.

The couch has been reupholstered, a new TV and an ottoman have been added, a carpet has been removed, but I look at this living room and remember lying on that couch on lazy December afternoons, reading a book while the rest of the house took a siesta. I remember the years when we had power interruptions that lasted almost entire days, and we whiled away the time here by playing cards and memorizing statistics of Marvel characters using those collectible cards I'm not sure they still sell.

The godmothers are ready for the baptism! We have been best friends all our lives, and we have been through all sorts of adventures together. During the baptism's reception, we were observing the new generation of kids and silently doing the math, realizing that a few decades ago, that was us. Two little girls two years apart, playing happily in our own little world. And in a lot of ways, we're still those two little girls today-- still having conversations only we could have with each other, still lost in our own little world.

Of course, whenever we would be in Cebu, our little world expanded to include one more person. Together, we have memories of playing Nintendo Family Computer, sneaking chocolates from the refrigerator until we finish the whole bag, daring each other to finish a gallon of water under time pressure, watching Beavis and Butthead on MTV until two in the morning, and having conversations in our own bubble. And now he's a dad. Even more amazing, the lady holding his child in the photo is the same lady who took care of him when HE was a baby! She was so surprised to see all of us all grown up, just as I, too, am surprised sometimes when I realize how much time has passed.

And now we have a next generation of children. My beautiful goddaughter here has grown to be a lovely young lady. I remember carrying her around when she was three, a time she no longer remembers. She's very smart (and tall!) for an eight-year-old, seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and is even saving her money by putting it in the bank. I was watching her during the baptism and saw how she was just so excited by everything, how happy she was to be playing with her cousins. She was just living in the moment, and I longed for those times when you could just be fully present, feel pure and unadulterated joy, and not have to worry about anything at all.

We still have a full day ahead of us, and I'm trying not to think about flying home later this afternoon. All I know is, I would love to come home to Cebu more often and --more than reminisce about the good times that made up my childhood-- see this new generation of children grow. 

Especially this little girl, who slept through her own baptism and had no idea that all the festivities last night were for her. It was so interesting to see that while she would cry (which always sounded more like a long squawk), she would also easily calm down, so easily pacified. It makes me wonder if it's a trait she will carry later on in life, if it's telling of a chill and steady personality that's just littered with a few outbursts here and there.

This little girl I'm privileged to call my goddaughter.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Life is short.

Somebody from the office just died. We weren't close, didn't even have to work together, but I knew she was young and therefore taken way too soon. She died because of a brain aneurysm and multiple heart attacks, and left a husband and two young kids behind.

I find myself tearing up at the realization that God can take you anytime, so quickly. It calls into question my own mortality: what have I been doing with this precious gift of life that I've been given?

You tend to go through life thinking you have so much time-- time to fulfill dreams, time to make decisions, time to meet up with friends. But the truth is, we never know if we do indeed have time. Maybe God laughs at all the plans we make because He knows better.

She was going to watch a movie with her kids that day she collapsed. She was fine on Friday, went about her work, gossiped with officemates. Then in just one weekend, everything changed. Her young family's life will never be the same.

Not that I ever doubted the saying "live each day as if it was your last", but this has put things into perspective and makes me take a look at my life and the way I spend each day. Do I show the people I love how much I love them? Do they know it and feel it? Do I go to bed happy, knowing that I did good today? Do I spend my energy on worthwhile endeavors?

Life is such a precious gift, and it shouldn't take someone's death to make me realize just how true that is.