Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dream, don't plan.

I used to have many plans for my life. As early as sixth grade, I had planned to take up Journalism in UP then take up Law to follow in my dad's footsteps. In high school, the plan changed to taking up Broadcast Communications. In college, the plan changed to getting into Summit Media and working in magazines.

The thing with all those plans is that they didn't happen as I thought they would. I decided not to pursue law (it actually never really crossed my mind all throughout college), and when I did get into Summit, I ended up in PR, which I never really imagined myself getting into.

So I spent a couple of years floating around, wondering what had become of my plans. I was in PR and seemed to be doing okay, but when I tried to imagine what I wanted my life to be in the next few years, I couldn't see myself hob-nobbing with the country's top editors and establishing myself as a well-connected PR practitioner. I always thought of taking further studies, but could never figure out what I wanted to study further. I thought of teaching, but could never see myself authoritatively and convincingly leading a roomful of students that saw the teacher as the enemy. The trouble with my plans is I had no idea what to do when they didn't work out.

It was only recently that I realized-- I had been so busy trying to plan my life that I had forgotten to dream. Or maybe it wasn't so much that I'd forgotten, but more of I had been afraid to dream because what if I couldn't make it come true?

But in the smallest ways that I had dared to dream --I dreamt of touching people's lives and making a difference through my words, I dreamed a silly dream of writing or editing Tagalog romance novels-- the Universe found ways to turn them into a reality. There were no plans here, no end goal, no measure of success. Just an openness to opportunity, lots of courage to take a leap of faith, and prayers that everything would work out okay. And they did, more than I could ever dream they would.

It's more difficult than people think, to learn how to dream. Especially when you're someone like me who's so used to coming up with a step-by-step process and working towards specific outcomes. They can even become easily interchangeable, plans and dreams. But I'm realizing that it's the dream that anchors the plans. When the plans don't go as they should, the dream remains the same. In my life, I had lots of plans, but no real dreams. So when the plans changed, I felt lost and unsure of what to do, who to be, next. Dreams are the heart of any life plan, and I'm only allowing myself to start dreaming now.

Luckily, I'm marrying a dreamer who is able to clearly envision even the car that we'll be driving in 10 years, down to the color. It inspires me to make little dreams of my own, for us, and for me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Four months to go!

As of today, we have four months to go before The Day! Considering that one of those months is December and it goes by very quickly because of the holidays, we only really have three months left to finish everything.

I may not be the kind of girl that's been dreaming of her wedding since kindergarten, but I started this process with some wishes in mind. One of those was that we would be able to have a wedding in which people close to us played a special role. But once we started planning, I changed my mind a little and thought that it might be awkward to have friends working on that special day.

One year into planning everything, and I see God's hand in making that wish come true in some ways. One of my good friends designed the invitation as her wedding gift to us, and everytime I show it to people, they all exclaim, "It's so you!" I'm not sure I would have had the same reaction if I had the invitation designed by someone who did not know me very well.

My wedding gown will be done by my tita, who owns a dress shop. A good friend from high school will be doing my makeup, a friend that I met from my PR days will be hosting our wedding, and one of M's friends from work will be putting his events background to good use by acting as our on-the-day coordinator. Then, when I was looking for a photobooth, I was led to one that turned out to be owned by an orgmate from college. The flowers for the entourage will be done by a very good friend of my tita. It's amazing how small the world has proven to be, and how God surrounded us with the right people at the right time.

I've heard of brides that go into this thinking "This is MY day." But I've always begged to differ. It's not a day where I get everything I want and everyone has to do my bidding. I've always seen this wedding as a day where we can celebrate with family and friends, and everybody is happy. It's precisely why we chose a summery theme with happy colors.

Most importantly, this is OUR day-- every step of the way, M has been involved, sharing his opinions, giving his go signal. Even when he tells me I have free reign, I still run things by him. I'd like to think that this will also be the dynamic for our marriage.

To be honest, we are more excited about what happens after the wedding. So really, we are not just counting down to our wedding day, but to the beginning of the rest of our lives. The wedding is just one day. We're excited for forever. :)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

On doing what you love and loving what you do

This morning, while I was in the shower (home of all great ideas and deep thoughts), I found myself thinking of the work I need to do later, and how blessed I am to be making a living out of writing, reading, and editing. I remember that my childhood ambition was to be a librarian, because I thought it meant I'd have all the time in the world to read all the books I want. Even when I was already working and would seek solace in a good book, I'd find myself thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if I could just read books all day and still get paid?" But I had always been afraid of turning that wishful thinking into reality because I thought that getting paid to read or write would diminish my love for it. But the Universe has its way of working things out, and here I am, doing what I love.

And yet, many say that this is actually bad career advice. It leads to discontented spirits who flit from one job to the other, thinking to themselves, "This isn't what I love to do, so this isn't for me." It's almost like being in a relationship (and how many times have I likened a career to a relationship), where you keep finding flaws in the person you're with and concluding that he's not The One. And so you move on to the next, and to the next, and to the next, convinced that The One person or job is just out there, waiting for you, and you'll live happily ever after. It sounds romantic and idealistic, but in reality, all you get is a resume that shows you can't hold down a job and you can't figure out what you want, or the realization that you've been labelled a commitment-phobe. Hardly the characteristic that will attract an employer looking for someone with a sense of loyalty to a company, or someone who's willing to grow with a company for a substantial amount of time before moving on to the next. Even with relationships, it's difficult to grow and move forward when you're too worried about whether or not this person will leave you at the first sign of struggle.

I also read an article before that pointed out that only a select few can financially afford to follow this career advice. Really, how many times have I taken a look around my place of work, zeroed in on certain individuals, and thought to myself, "This person obviously does not need to work for a living, so this really must be his/her passion." But now that I'm in this situation, I'm realizing that this is not true at all. I'm doing what I love, but I'm hardly swimming in money. On the contrary, I find that I have to work twice, three times as hard just to make what I used to when I had a regular job.

It seems that the flip side is the secret. It's not so much about doing what you love. You're very lucky if, like me, you have the opportunity to make a living out of your passions. But not everyone in life is as lucky. Think of security guards, salesladies, janitors-- all thankless jobs, it's difficult to imagine them as a child's ambition. And yet these jobs exist, and we see people who go about these jobs with a smile on their faces and a genuine care for those that they serve. The secret is that no matter what job you're in, be thankful that you have a job at all. And then, fall in love with it. There's always something good about whatever job you have, whether it's the things that you learn, the day-to-day experiences you have, the people you meet, or the kind of person you become because of it.

What a happy coincidence that for today's homily, the priest was talking about the need to be excited again about life and its blessings. His anecdotes were about how people lose their excitement over things --relationships, jobs, studies-- as time goes by, and how important it is to realize that life is not always happy. Life comes with its ups and downs, triumphs and struggles. So when you're down and struggling, it takes a lot of faith to just hang in there and find it in yourself to be excited again.

Truth be told, now that I'm nearing one year in this freelance life, it hasn't always a bed of roses. Sure, there's a rush that comes with seeing your name in a byline, but behind that byline is the stress of finding interview subjects, the difficulty of transcribing interviews, the challenge of powering through writer's block because the deadline is the next day. It's meant days of working in a digital advertising agency during the day, then going home to get more writing and editing work done when everyone else is probably resting already. It's meant weekends of working instead of lounging around. So no, it hasn't been all fun and games. But at the end of the day, I am thankful for the struggles because I know that there isn't anything else I'd rather do. And I know that each struggle will pass-- once I hit the "Send" button to submit my pieces, it's over until the next project comes along. It's faith that keeps me focused on all the good parts of this job. It's faith that keeps me going.

My final thought in the shower was that life is like a game of cards. You're not always dealt a winning hand. But if you already know that you've got a losing hand, you still have two choices on how to approach the game: with a defeatist attitude, sulking all throughout; or with a cheerful spirit, enjoying the game and deciding that you're lucky you got to play at all.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On never being too old for first-times

Now that I've been working in digital advertising for 10 months, I've gotten a bit used to having to say goodbye to some clients and saying hello to new ones. The job has required me to research on many different industries, which is great for someone like me who just loves learning new things.

My latest account has to do with hair treatment. This is a big deal for me because *confession* I have virgin hair. Even if my suki hairstylist always asks me if I want to get my hair colored, I always just opt for a haircut. The most I've gotten is a hot oil, and that was just recently.

That is, until this account came along and our clients offered free treatments for the team. I was apprehensive, of course, but M said, "Go. There's a first time for everything."

With his encouragement and the realization that if I was going to do this, it might as well be with a very reputable brand, plus it's for free, I took a deep breath and told myself, "Okay. Let's do this."

Final selfie with my virgin hair!
Aside from wanting to say farewell to my virgin hair, I realized that it's good to take a Before photo so that you can easily compare it to your new hair! At this point, I'm excited but very scared.

I was shown different hair samples --all of which, honestly, looked the same to me-- and then I told them to consider these two things: 1) it's my first time, so please be gentle; and 2) I'm getting married in six months (!), so I want a color that's not too drastic so that it doesn't grow out too ugly. The stylists decided to ease me into it by choosing a shade of brown that they promised would give a subtle yet noticeable change. In particular, my stylist Donna told me that dark brown was actually preferable because if you have fine, thin hair like me, choosing a light shade would kind-of reflect on your scalp, making the thinness more obvious.

The color is in!
Before they brushed all the color into my hair, they had to dab a bit on the back of my ear to check if I'd have an allergic reaction to it. My ear started to itch a little, but I really think it was psychosomatic! So Donna proceeded with caution and would ask me every now and then, "Does anything itch? Are you still scared?" Thankfully, the answer to both was "No!"

It turns out that color for the roots are applied last because it absorbs color more quickly. But after around 10 minutes, Donna checked my hair then said, "Oh wow, you're ready! Let's go rinse it!" I didn't understand the big deal until she told me while she was washing my hair, "Your hair is one in a million. Usually it takes 35 minutes, but your hair absorbs color so fast, it was ready in 10." It's a good thing that she was on the watch, otherwise I would've had ultra-light roots!

New look for a new life!

So she rinsed it then blow-dried it, and I decided to take a selfie! It doesn't look like a big change, which I like because I feel like I'm really being eased into deciding if I want to go a bit lighter next time.

A big thank you to my stylist Donna!
I couldn't resist taking a photo with my stylist Donna, who really put me at ease by telling me that we have the same hair type, and she shared tips on how I could add more volume to my hair. Since it was based on her personal experience, I really felt like she knew her stuff! I'd love to go back and get my hair done by her again. It really pays to have it done by the experts and trust in their judgment and expertise!

So here's the Before and After shot, taken in the exact same spot under the same lighting conditions. The change isn't too obvious indoors, but I've been told that you can really see the brown shade in natural light.

With something just as simple as changing my hair color, I realized that you're really never too old to have a first-time for anything! :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On wedding preps and the importance of counting backwards

One of the very first things I did after getting engaged was to open up an Excel spreadsheet and make a timeline.

When July rolled in, I revisited my timeline and saw the note "6 months before - fix Church requirements". So M and I decided to dedicate a day to doing just that.

The Driver and The Navigator, ready for an adventure!

Here are some of the things I learned in the process:

1. It helps to call ahead.
In today's day and age, the landline is something anyone hardly ever uses anymore. But it was super helpful in this process.

Since I was baptized in the hospital's chapel, I had to call the hospital to find out where I could claim my baptismal certificate. Then, I also had to call St. Francis of Assisi and Sta. Maria dela Strada to find out if the confirmation certificates of those confirmed in Poveda and Ateneo (respectively) could be claimed there.

By calling these Churches ahead, not only was I able to verify that our records were indeed there, but I was also to get information that would help them track down these records quickly-- when I called Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Sta. Mesa for my baptismal certificate, the guy I spoke to gave me the exact book number, page number, and even line number where my record could be found.

After all the verification, we were ready to set our itinerary for the day. Which leads me to the second lesson.

2. Download Waze app and believe in its power to get you to places.
From old-school to modern! With my phone plugged into a car charger and armed with unlidata, we set out for Sta. Mesa, completely reliant on the directions given by Waze.

Even if both M and I drive and are knowledgeable of how to get around, Waze helped us navigate through side streets that got us from Sta. Mesa to Cubao in no time! But we arrived in Cubao only to find out that we would have to abort our mission, all because of the third lesson.

3. Learn how to count backwards properly.
As it turns out, I had only counted by month. So yes, July is six months away from January 2015. But what I failed to realize is that we're getting married on January 31, which means that six months before our wedding date is still... July 31.

It was explained to us in Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao that our certificates would only be valid for six months. So if they released M's baptismal certificate to us today, it would only be valid until January 8.

4.  Take note of the parish's office hours and days off.
While in Cubao, we kept trying to call our church to ask if they were super-strict about the validity period. But no one was picking up, so we decided to abort the mission and head to Eastwood to ask in person. Only to discover that the reason why no one was picking up was because the office was closed.

Some parish offices are closed on Mondays, others on Tuesdays. Some are open as early as 7:30am, others open at 8am. Some lunch breaks are only until 1pm, others are until 2pm. When I called Sta. Maria dela Strada for M's confirmation certificate, I was told that we should drop by after lunch because the priest who would be signing the certificates would be in by then. Knowing the office hours of each church you need to visit helps you make a more efficient and realistic itinerary.

5. Always look on the bright side.
Aborting the mission left me feeling very frustrated and disappointed in myself because, really, how simple is it to count backwards?!

We visited Eastwood and I tried to get a hold of myself by praying, releasing my tears of frustration, and basically trying to focus on this image:

We'll be standing here in 207 days!

It was here, in front of the altar we would eventually stand before by next year, that I realized how truly blessed I am to be marrying M. He wouldn't tolerate my little pity-party. He said, "That's the way it is. We'll do it in August. It's nothing life-threatening; no one has died. Now if our church tells us that they've messed up our dates, that's a problem. This is nothing."

So now, I'm just thankful that we had found out about the validity issue when we had gotten just my baptismal certificate, rather than when we had gotten all four certificates already. Imagine my meltdown if we find out that ALL certificates are invalid and we have to do everything all over again! So at least it's just one potential do-over. And now we know how to get to the churches, so it'll be easier to find them when we do Church-hopping 2.0 in August!

At the end of the day, we're still getting married. Like M always likes to say, don't worry because things will always fall into place. :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On rediscovering the creative side of writing

"I miss reading your 'books'."

That single comment on my last blog entry brought back a whole lot of memories. It was then that I remembered that I used to write poetry. And those 'books' were love stories hand-written in Cattleya fillers using a mechanical pencil, which meant that the side of my right hand was almost always tainted with lead. In college, I wrote "moment stories", which were super-short pieces that highlighted a single moment in time.

And then work happened. Even if my work in PR required a whole lot of writing, and even if I'm making a living now as a freelance writer-slash-content creator in digital advertising, I realized that these types of writing have always required a brief. It has always been writing housed within a specific framework, required a specific structure, conveyed a specific message. For more than a decade, I have been writing according to the dictates of others-- clients, editors, brand identities. Somewhere along the way, in my quest to be a writer, I had forgotten an entirely different side of the coin.

The writer as a creator.

Now, I've started writing a love story, just like old times. I'd forgotten how exciting it can be to flesh out characters and think of where to bring their story. I've always been drawn to the story of best friends falling in love and to all the exhilaration that comes with a first love, that I've decided to try writing one again. Only this time, armed with all the wisdom I know about love. No third parties, no crazy plot twists, no unnecessary characters. Just a girl, a boy, and a whole mess of feelings that come into play when you try to decide if falling in love is worth risking a friendship, as you try to discover if it's indeed possible to be both best friends and lovers.

Even if I spend most of my day creating content and working within briefs and frameworks, I find myself turning on my computer every night to nurture these characters who I think about while I'm on the treadmill or in the shower. It's been a long time since I've felt this way, and I'm just excited to see where this will go.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On rings and proposals

Paris Hilton's 24-carat diamond engagement ring was worth $4.7 million back in 2005.

"Now that's just showing off."

I don't exactly remember when he had said these five words. Was it while we were watching a movie, and the girl was presented with a huge engagement ring? Or was it when we saw pictures of a newly-engaged girl showing off her ring?

All I remember is being struck by these five words, because it speaks so much of the two of us.

In this day and age, women seem to be conditioned to believe that bigger is better. Especially with engagement rings, the question is always, "How big is the rock?" The "bigger is better" mentality seems to apply to proposals too, as men are now pressured to one-up whatever the Internet deems as the "best proposal ever", and it gets crazier every time. Heck, it's not just marriage proposals now that are big and grand-- today's teenage boys are pressured to make a production out of asking someone to be their girlfriend, and even today's teenage girls are pressured to make a "prom-posal" for the boy she'd like to go to the prom with!

But if there was one thing I prayed for when it came to being proposed to, it was "Please, please, please don't let it be in public." I cringed at the thought of a huge production, of having other people's eyes on me, waiting to see my reaction-- would I cry? Would I look shocked? Would my hand shake as he put the ring on it? While other women dream of these grand proposals, I dreaded the thought of being on the receiving end of one.

Which is why I loved the way I was proposed to, because it proved that he knew me so well. And it showed so much of who he is too-- a simple and private man. He popped the question on the beach, with his arms around me, with no one else knowing what was happening. It was a private, intimate moment that no one else witnessed, that only the two of us have the power to relive in our minds. I loved that he didn't get down on one knee because we've never been one for formalities. I loved that he had his arms around me because it told me that he will always keep me safe in his love. I loved the simplicity of it all because that's just who we are-- a simple couple that finds happiness in just being with each other, whether it's watching DVDs or buying groceries.

My engagement ring is quite small, but I love it because I've never been one to show off. I've never liked drawing any sort of attention to myself, I hate being in the spotlight, I feel awkward and inwardly pleased when someone notices me, whether it's for something I'm wearing or something I've done. He doesn't show off either, and he doesn't really care what other people think. So he gave me a ring that he knew I would like, because he knew that I would feel awkward with a big flashy ring, especially since I would never flash it around in the first place. My opinion was the only one that mattered to him, and my ring showed that.

A basketball player proposed to his TV host-girlfriend today in the airport, right before she hopped on a plane to Europe to study. According to reports, there was a banner, roses, a singer, and accomplices to capture the moment. The proposal ended up all over cyberspace with complete strangers offering their well-wishes, reliving the moment as if it was their own. A few hours later, photos of a former officemate being proposed to in the office pop up on my News Feed. I am happy for all of them, but I'm happier that my proposal story was nothing like theirs.

Mine only has the sea, the sun, the sand beneath our feet, his arms around me, and a huge wave that punctuated the moment with a lot of laughter. And in that moment, I knew that our days would be filled with much laughter and love, from now until forever. I wouldn't have it any other way.

(Image source:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Closure and Starting Over Again

I just finished watching the latest blockbuster film "Starting Over Again", and I can't quite get over the lessons it has left me with.

While most people were probably rooting for love getting a second chance (hence the title), I sat through the movie knowing it should end the right way-- with proper closure. The "twist" in the end, therefore, did not surprise me, and I left the theater knowing that it was as it should be. And I left thinking all about closure, and haven't quite stopped since.

I was lucky enough to get closure out of my first failed relationship. Years after the anger had passed, I found myself asking him the questions I had wanted to ask through online chat, and he was honest enough to answer. When he tried to rekindle a friendship, I saw him through different eyes and knew that not even a friendship would work out between us. And that was that. The end.

I was not so lucky with my second failed relationship. A bad breakup where no real words, no explanations, no hows or whys were exchanged. I was unfortunate enough to end up with an actor, and until now I'm no longer sure where the act ended and reality began. So many questions arose, and for a long time I felt that I needed to know why things ended the way they did in order to move on.

It took me a very long time to realize that not everyone is lucky enough to get closure in life. Not all questions are answered. Some never even get the opportunity to ask those questions, much less receive an answer. There are many people who deal with untimely death and never get to say the things they want to say-- now that's lack of closure. What I've learned is you need to accept that it will never happen. Well and good if you end up with an opportunity to get that closure, but in life, it's more the exception than the rule. So by accepting that you've been dealt a cliffhanger with no ending, that in itself is an ending. That in itself is closure.

Now, whenever stories of my failed relationships come up, I sometimes get asked if I need closure. And when I think of it now, I realize that the answers to my questions don't matter anymore. It doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the fact that we're over, that we've grown into different people, that I'm happy with my life and who I'm spending the rest of it with. So if it doesn't change anything, who needs it? Why bother? There's no point to it.

I've heard that some people are disappointed with the ending, maybe because the title "Starting Over Again" led them to believe that love would get a second chance. But starting over again doesn't necessarily have to be with the same person-- it's not always about rekindling the right love that happened at the wrong time. Starting over again can also mean accepting the past, picking yourself up, and moving on to a better and brighter future with somebody who takes you for everything that you are and everything that you could be. Now that, to me, is a happy ending.