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 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 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, 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."