A good hug

We engaged in a full hug before we parted. It was the most intimate thing. A lot of things & worries have been going on in my head that night and I was more emotional than usual. We weren’t in that stage yet where I was comfortable to be my total emotional self, so I settled for a hug. Some bad days, all we really need is just a good hug. He gave me a good hug.

My eyes were closed as I felt my tears welling up. I tried my best to control my heave as he played with my hair. He didn’t know what was going on with me… but he was always full of warmth. We were silent for a second and that moment felt like I was telling him everything and he listened and understood. We hugged and we understood. “Can I just stay here forever?,” I said as I settled more deeply in his embrace. He laughed. Seriously, I meant it.

It was time to part ways. We were both exhausted that day and it was already midnight. It was a weeknight. As he turned his back on me, I felt okay. He made me feel at ease and I was quite on a haze. That day was a good day. He gave me a good hug.

Call me strong one more time.

Sometimes I get offended when people call me ‘strong’. I know some people mean it as a compliment, but there are those people who say it and assume that there will never be an instance that you would need help. When people put you in the ‘strong’ box, they think you are never weak or that you never cry. Or if you do then you cry metallic tears and some monster will erupt from those tears.

Growing up, I was always the responsible one. As a first-born, I manifest the usual first-born traits. I am independent. I tend to lead more than I follow. Yes, I’m also strong. Because when you grow up to have little brothers and sisters, you get this idea that you have to be a role model to them. You have to show them who’s great, who’s tough so you can inspire them to have those traits. And I think I have carried that on to my present life, “strong” becoming a huge part of my self description.

What people forget is that strong people are human beings too, who have their moments of weakness, hopelessness, and sorrow. Just recently, my younger brother moved to a different state. It’s his first time being secluded at a far away place, away from my parents’ warmth and concern. My mom looked so worried I thought she’d be sick for days. Recounting my memory of when I moved out, I remember my mom not even batting an eyelash. She wasn’t worried then and she told me the reason was, “because I knew you would be alright. That you’d make it.” It hurt a little bit hearing it from her. The little girl inside me says, “I understand, mom, but I want you to at least worry about me.” Because what if this is all just an act? That I’m not as strong as I appear to be and I don’t know how to show it because you all assumed that I would be strong like this. Maybe I have faked to be strong for too long, I thought I’m one.

I would never forget this instance back in high school. We were out late partying and my guy friend volunteered to drive all the girls home. When it was my turn, he felt that it was okay for me to be dropped 8 blocks away from my house just because he knows I can take care of myself. So I walked those 8 blocks pissed, offended, and quite confused. How can I be dismissed like that? Believe me, I still have ill feelings unto this day.

People put you in the ‘strong’ box and they think you are always invincible. Just so you know, we are not. And no one is. So next time you compliment someone with “but you are so strong!” make sure that you don’t say it all the time that you dismiss their human frailty. Strong people hurt too.

Late Night

There are things I wish I could do, like a Eurotrip in spring or deep-diving with ocean species, that keep me up at night, making me wonder if I’d be able to do these when my prime has passed me by.

It worries me that choosing my current life situation was a mistake. That I settled. That I chose a path to stability instead of being reckless, being young, and following my heart’s desire even if that meant cutting ties with the world that I knew and the me that I have always been.

I often think about giving this life up to chase after a dream. To be free, to go after intangibles and uncertainty, for the sake of proving to myself that I could be more. That I have courage to release the prisoner of who I really am. That I am independent of anything and nothing anchors me to a place.

Some days I wonder whether I’m too responsible for my youth. I know I would despise myself if in the future I’d look back to something as monochromatic as my life now. I need to take risks more, make mistakes more, kiss guys more, instead of fearing more and overthinking more.

Late night musings on a blank page… I wish I had the guts to live more, than to sleep more.

 

 

Thank you for your presence.

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Work has been stressing me out lately. I find myself dealing with a scary kind of stress, the kind that has turned me into a machine. No blood in my veins, no feelings whatsoever. In this condition, I’m glad to be saved by a moment that excites me. An unexpected circumstance that lightens me up and makes me believe that there must be more to life than this constant pressure from work. Like a smile from a bearded stranger. A coincidence of sharing mutual friends. A chance that makes the world stop and makes one say, “Hey, I’m feeling glad.” “Hey, I’m feeling something.” This is what it is to be human. To feel and to hope and to think you are crazy for believing that something greater could be created from a coincidence. So to you, thank you for waking up the human inside me. For being present in that exact place and moment in time. I needed you to be where you are. I needed that shake.

15 Points of Advice for Twenty-Somethings from a fellow Twenty-Something

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(a 13-minute read) 

Turning 23 this year has made me feel like I have fully transitioned to being a real and legit adult. I moved out of my parents’ house, got a job in a new city, and have been paying my own bills now. I have seen real world, my friends.

In true yearly fashion, I summarized a list of life lessons I have pondered on especially this past year. This list, if not my new personal commandments, is a reminder of my growth. It is a reminder of my ongoing transformation and a guide on how I can be my best self. Some of these insights are inspired by personalities who I look up to and have been following, but most of them are inspired by my own experiences. I may not have the license to give life advice, but my main goal is to share this list to YOU, my fellow twenty-somethings, who are “figuring it out” just like me. Who knows if it will make sense to you or not? Indulge, anyway. This is my way of simply reminding you that we can be in solidarity in making sense of what we’re going through. Remember that you are not alone and we are all here to help each other.

~

1. Enjoy spending your money. A lot of the older adults encourage saving a portion of your salary every payday. I understand that and I’m not against it. There are emergencies to be prepared for; health, rent, mortgage, future family fund, or retirement to worry about. But my point is, as a twenty-something who is new to earning one’s own money, I tell you to go ahead and enjoy spending it the way you want to. It is a grand and freeing feeling to be able to work hard and buy things and experiences that you have always wanted for yourself. Eat out, drink out, go shopping, go travel. Buy something you want and don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy this freedom and this new consuming power you gained. Enjoy it because you can. This is a time of your life where you are not responsible for anyone but yourself. Who knows until when this will last? Who knows if the future exists?

Go and spend for yourself today and take delight in it.

Buy those pair of Chelsea boots that are in your online shopping cart for a month now. Be generous to a friend and treat her to a Zac Efron movie with a large popcorn and a large Coke. I’m not saying don’t save. Save if you can. I’m not saying go lose control. Be in charge of your spending still. What I’m saying is enjoy the money that you worked full time for. Spend your money the way you want to, but stick within your means as well. And also, pay your credit card bills ON TIME. FULL PAYMENT. ALWAYS.

2.  Start practicing good habits daily. Out of all of the points in this list, this is the most difficult for me. I am bad at cultivating habits. Me and discipline, we don’t get along really well and I want to change that, which is why I work so hard on these items on my habit list:

  • Do cardio/yoga for 10 minutes in the morning;
  • Floss teeth;
  • Remove makeup before bed;
  • Write on journal;
  • Pray the moment you wake up.
  • Be at work 10 minutes early.

They might sound simple, but these simple habits we accomplish everyday make our character. Not only that but it makes us healthy — physically, mentally, and spiritually. We need these habits.

3. Find a healthy obsession. These are activities that can serve as your daily constant, a reason to smile, a source of energy, and a good distraction when you need to forget your problems for a while. You need this to reconnect with your insides – your heart, your mind, your soul, your spirit. It could be reading about Marvel comic books, running marathons, baking brownies, watching HGTV shows, or any activity really that makes you positive about life. You pick your sweet escape. My constants right now are watching NBA (I finally got into the sport after years of ignoring it), getting updates on The Bachelor couple Ben and Lauren (This is embarrassing but they are the cutest!), and listening to Rob Bell’s podcasts (He is the best!).

4. Commit to your word. If you say you’ll do THIS, do it. When you say you’re GOING to this event, go at all costs. Don’t say YES if you can’t commit 100%. I hate it when people commit to one thing they say they’re going to do and then flake at the last minute and I’m sure you’d hate it too if it happens to you. Now I understand that life doesn’t always go the way it’s planned. If you made plans with someone and something happens out of the blue that you couldn’t control, then let the other person know at the earliest time possible.

Don’t make a habit of making people wait and making people feel that their time isn’t important. This is Human Courtesy 101.

Be appreciative of people’s time. Be appreciative of people making plans with you. Be a decent human being, so respect and be true to your word.

5. Collect older adult friends and friends of various professions. I used to worry about not having enough friends of my age, but it turns out hanging out with older adults is really cool and valuable. I’ve made a lot of friends who are ten years, twenty years, or even thirty years older than me and a lot of them have proven to be really good life mentors. They show me a fresh way of looking at life. They are also a big help in decision-making because they have more light and wisdom and I can turn to them in really tough situations. You also have to make friends of different professional backgrounds. You can really need a doctor/dentist friend, a friend who has a good grasp on the law, and a friend who is not only good with directions but can also give you really good recipes.

6. Surround yourself with smart people. I think I picked this up from Mark Manson. If you haven’t heard about him, he’s one of the most inspiring writers I’ve ever read. He said that the average IQ of the 5 people you hang out with the most pretty much resembles your IQ. Now go look around you. Do you think you are smart enough? I figured that one way of hanging out with smart people without actually being friends with them is by listening to smart people’s podcasts. I listen to a lot of that lately, and I like to believe these people’s brilliance has started to rub off on me! I recommend You Made It Weird by Pete Holmes. Pete Holmes is such an adorkable comedian who has such an endearing laugh and is my current favorite conversationalist. He invites all of these comics over and they just have a blast talking about weird existential stuff. It’s highly entertaining. On faith and spirituality, Rob Bell is definitely a must-listen. He is a Christian pastor who sheds so much light and wisdom on faith and the Bible in his Robcasts. I cannot reiterate how much of a big fan of him I am. Another favorite smart “friend” of mine is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who is such an inspiration to me and my creativity. She is the reason why I had the courage and energy to finish and publish this list. I feel like I know her personally just with how much impact she had on my soul, even though I just know her from reading her books and listening to her interviews. Her book Big Magic is the bomb diggity. I can’t believe that all of these people I just mentioned hang out in the same circle. If only they know how they’d make me the happiest human if we all hang out someday. Dream on!

7. Go on dates and explore yourself. Looking back, my last relationship was from 9 years ago. I never dated or engaged in any serious relationship since then. You might think it’s a little sad, but honestly I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I had the best group of friends in college that I didn’t feel I needed a boyfriend. I’m also the type who wants my next to be my last so that mindset has really put so much pressure to me meeting people. Anyway, fast forward to last year, I came at a point when I felt ready to see and meet people. When you feel ready, you just do. I didn’t have to force myself when I had that urge. I felt the spirit pushing me to do it. So I made a dating profile (it isn’t that bad of an idea), met a number of guys, and had really interesting experiences.

I began to see clearly the characteristics that I want in MY person. More importantly, I found out weaknesses in my personality that I really needed to work on.

I may not be in a relationship as of the moment, because the challenge lives on, but I got something I needed from dating. I got to know first-hand how it is to be meeting people for the sake of trying a relationship. I figured that there was nothing to be scared about because these people are the same as I am who just want to know who is out there or how it is out there. I know it’s scary to meet new people with a certain level of expectation and a growing list of dating no-nos (believe me, there are so many unspoken rules to modern dating and we’d navigate that in another post), but you have to be out there to find out what you’re looking for. If you believe in sticking with one person for the rest of your life, you have to be willing to put the effort and energy to find the cream of the crop. I think people are most afraid of opening up themselves early on and finding out that it isn’t going to work. But how would you know if it’s going to work or not if you don’t risk it?

As my favorite relationship expert Tracy McMillan says, “When you dare to risk something in love, it always pays off. You don’t necessarily get the relationship, but you always get more of you.” Bam shabam! Go on dates and do it for you. And be safe!

8. On procrastination: If it’s a task you can do in two minutes or under, do it now. (Mark Manson) I love this insight because it works. It has minimized my procrastination by tenfold! Whenever I’m faced with a task like washing the dishes after dinner, I ask myself “Can I do this in two minutes? Yes? Okay, I’ll do it now”. The reality is, we have so many tasks we delay to do. We leave them undone until they grow bigger and uglier and everything becomes an urgent task at some point. That’s where stress comes in and we’d rather not entertain that. Don’t even begin with me with stress on doing laundry.

9.  On creative life: Don’t be lazy. Don’t be a perfectionist. (Elizabeth Gilbert) Laziness and perfectionism is the worst combo one can have at the same time and these two have haunted me since. Whenever I think about writing especially, uncountable times I choke up because I know I couldn’t write perfect. I have all these ideas in my head but I couldn’t seem to put it in writing because I don’t have the tools to be perfect and I feel that I have no right to create something if it’s not going to be perfect. And then I lose all enthusiasm to write so I come up with a dozen reasons not to do it. There are times when I find the courage to write but in the middle of it I’d feel that it’s not turning out the way I want to so I choose not to finish it. I get excited for new ideas and end up cowering to perfectionism. It’s such an exhausting process. Liz Gilbert inspired me to think that creation doesn’t have to be perfect. We are not gods, and our inspiration is a gift.

Our ideas are gifts so if it comes to us we have to manifest it. If we don’t, it finds someone else who is not lazy, not a perfectionist, someone who will not choke up, who can and will share it to the world.

When it finds somebody else, then we miss out on what could have been ours. We may not be perfect, but we can work really hard to be good at it and that matters. So tell yourself to start creating. The rest is just excuses.

10.  Do not be your own bully. What a great follow-up to Number 9! I am guilty of this to this day and I’m still working on this myself. You know how a lot of times you think about creating something, doing something new, but because of fear you do not act on it? I have a lot of fear, doubts, and insecurities like the normal person, and most of the time it is the cause of my ruin. Let’s admit it, we are usually the cause of our ruins. We think we’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough. We think we are never enough. We scream it from the pits of our stomachs over and over every single time we are about to take off on an adventure and this is our biggest problem. (It is mine.) It’s the overthinking, being too much inside our heads, that hinder us from growing and being our greatest version of ourselves. So listen to me, don’t be your own bully. Take it easy and don’t be mean to yourself.

11. Pick your path. I always tell people, I have an attention span of a goldfish. Today, I want to be a cookie-baking sweater-sewing housewife. Tomorrow, I want to be the president of the United States. I have so many things I want to do that take up all my concentration. Different wants and desires for different moods and different days, and that’s the main reason why we need to settle first. We have to work at something while we’re figuring it all out. You have to pick one. If you’re always shifting, you’ll never build a solid foundation on which you build yourself. Focus on one thing, stick with it, work hard on it, be the best at it. It’s okay to settle for now. You may not want what you have, but it might be one that you need. Whatever it is you are doing right now might be a preparation for something greater that’s coming next. Now if you think that picking one means ending all your other dreams, you are wrong. You can do them all, but not all at the same time. You have to pick one path. Build on it then diversify later.

12. Love where you’re at. It has been three years since my big move to the U.S. and I admit that I hated America at first. I hated everything about it because I couldn’t accept my current situation in life when I first met it. Then one day I just had a breakthrough in my feelings for America. This country has fed me, clothed me, taught me to be strong, independent, and to speak when I don’t agree to something. This country taught me to free my mind and be confident about myself. It helped me grow and now I am in a love affair with it. We might not have a perfect relationship, but we help each other out when we can. Love your country. Love your street and the people in it. Love your city that no matter how much people love to hate on it, you treat it nicely as it does you. I love Jersey City. I love New York City. I love Maryland outside DC.

Love your current situation. You may be dating someone and you feel that you’re not THERE YET emotionally or physically. That’s okay, love where you’re at and trust your process. You may not be financially capable to buy a house or a car yet. That’s okay. Appreciate your current status. Things take time. To get to a destination, there is a journey. Embrace this journey.

13. Never let a day go by without laughing even a little. This is the ultimate life secret that I think is under-appreciated by many. My day isn’t complete without laughing about something and I think it makes life bearable. It must be my favorite activity in the planet, aside from eating. You have to learn to laugh.

Have funny conversations with people. Laugh at the weirdest and simplest things. If you can’t find something funny outside, find it in you. Do something stupid that you would laugh at.

I always laugh at myself. One particular time, I went to rush inside an elevator and the door almost closed on me. My body’s response was this awkward karate pose with my hands and a left side kick. Thank God there was no one around to see. I thought it so funny that to this day it flashes in my mind and I still laugh about it. And that’s just one of a thousand moments that I get to laugh at. Fill your mind with funny things. It’s your choice to make your life amusing, so make it.

14. When you want to turn a bad day around, change your perspective. Perspective changes everything. Whenever I find something to hate about my job and my mood is cloudy gray and I feel like I’m in a rut, I zoom out and realize,

“Hey, I’m still breathing. I can afford food for this week. I have a bed to sleep on tonight. I have an able body. My family is safe. My mind is capable of this kind of thinking. These are reasons to be happy.”

Suddenly, my mindset takes a 360 degree turn. I relax. Now if it’s an extremely bad day, it’s okay to revel in the badness of it. Feel and embrace the pain, because it’s all part of the human experience. But in all other cases, sometimes we just need to take a breath, step away from what’s making us feel bad, and come back with a fresh perspective. We might be just making a big deal of things that would make us feel better if we let it go.

15. Learn to accept grace. (Rob Bell) Last but not the least, one of the best things I’ve learned from the great Rob Bell is that: It’s not a matter of ’if you deserve good things in your life’ or not, but that all of these are gifts and we have to learn to accept them. When someone compliments you, say thank you. Appreciate it when others show you appreciation. When you have lots of free time, don’t feel guilt for being unproductive all day. You don’t have to ’produce’ all the time. Be grateful for the free time that made you slow down and appreciate the peace of life. Accept this grace and practice gratefulness. Learn that despite all your shortcomings, faults, weaknesses, doubts, and insecurities, you are alive.

To be alive is beautiful and to be alive is a miracle. You get to see beautiful things. You get to enjoy food. You get to laugh. You get to love. Every breath is a miracle and we have this life to be thankful for.

Once you accept this grace, share it. Share the grace, the love, the hope, and the happiness.

You cause me pain, you gotta go.

Today, I had to say goodbye to Mr. Rotten Molar. It was bad to the core. It did nothing for my life. It still causes me pain sometimes. I have reached a point that no amount of fear of dental surgery can make me decide otherwise. Buh bye #17, you had to go. Bring #18 with you, will you?

The whole time I was on local anesthesia, blindfolded, and listening to music. My dentist, with such motherly concern, told me minutes before the surgery, “I don’t want you to hear what’s happening. I don’t want my light blinding your eyes. I want you to be distracted from all of this.”  I appreciated all of it, but what happened next was still the scariest thing ever because I was literally in the dark and feeling this pressure drilling into my mouth. My heart raced the whole time as I pictured a tropical island in front of me. After three songs, they took off the blindfold and I was so surprised it got done so fast. I take a shower longer than this surgery!

My hands shook for a good two minutes. It was such a brand new experience for me. I didn’t feel any pain, but the whole time I was with myself in the dark. Swimming in the unknown. Imagining what it looks inside my mouth. It was petrifying.

After they finished my sutures, which was another weird experience, I felt the anesthesia fading and a menacing pain rushing to me. God damn, it was a throb that made you want to punch someone in the face. After some painkillers though, it was not as bad anymore.

I was prepared for this pain. When you forcefully take something out of your life, of course it would hurt. Just like forcefully erasing someone associated with so many bad memories from your life. If they don’t bring anything to the table but pain, you gotta let them go. Isn’t it weird that this thing that has become a part of you and causes you pain will cause you a different pain when you take them out of your life?? Palagi na lang ba tayong masasaktan? #maximumhugot #maximummindfuck

Bottom line is: I. Love. My. Dentist. I do have to go for another round for my right molars, but let’s save that anxiety for another day.

Wish for Change

Be careful what change you wish for, because you just might get it. Most importantly, make damn sure you’d want it. Make damn sure you’d want it because you won’t get hard-fought years of freedom back with a regret. People did not die for democracy only to lose it to one man’s promise of change.

You had a whole history to know what you were doing. You had a whole history to be prepared and informed, so don’t you come running for empathy or help when everything turned out bad and ugly. Don’t come running with a gun pointed at your head saying you did not deserve it because you were innocent. Do not come running saying you were allowed to believe a man with atrocious views of humanity because you had enough of the reality. No, you don’t get to come running, saying you’ve been lied to, that you were only human, too naive to believe a promise founded on vicious beliefs.

If that horrible day comes and you find yourself not wanting the change, and I do not wish it upon you, I just hope you’d still have a life to stand up to it. I will not tell you “I told you so” but “I wish you would have known, would have heard, would have listened. Change isn’t always for the better. Any man who promises to bring change is lying, because one man couldn’t do it. We can’t wish for change. We have to be the change.”

Salt water

His mom was so happy to see me. She thought I was the girl that appeared in her dreams, little miss perfect for her little perfect son. She looked at peace to see us together. It felt nice to make someone feel that way. I didn’t do anything out of my way, but she loved me because her son loved me.
He was happy to be with me. After three years, he still looked at me like yesterday was the first time we met. He was at peace to have me beside him. It felt nice to make someone feel that way. He loved me more than anything.
He stooped down and kissed me. He tasted like salt water. He didn’t know his love would drown him. His mom enveloped me in a warm hug. She smelled like seaweed. She had no idea of the tidal wave that was about to run her over.
Because I had no peace left inside. It was time. There was no perfect time. Nothing about what happened next felt nice.

Snooze

7:15
Wakey wakey! Today is a beautiful day.
7:30
Take over the world!
7:45
A new day, new hope, new motivation!
8:00
Ready for the open door!
8:15
Get up & shake ye tailfeather!
8:30
C’mon get your ass up. Get up!! Get up!! Get up!!
8:45
MUST. WAKE. UP.
9:00
Your body is telling you no, but YOUR MIND IS TELLING YOU YES.
9:15
There’s still hope.
9:30
You have no choice!!
9:45
Really?? Ugh what the hell

Regular Day

She did her laundry that day. It was a Tuesday night and there were less than ten people in the laundromat. While she watched the machine whir, her clothes going round and round inside, she heard her stomach made its own whir. She hasn’t had proper lunch that day because of all the demanding tasks and demanding people that wanted her attention, including the impending doom of what might be the results of her CAT scan on Saturday. Her mom left her a voicemail of worry, asking her to call back and discuss what the doctor said. For days, she has nursed a craving for a ramen in a cup. That was what she slurped in the tiny window of her lunch break around 2 o’ clock. The soup was a good blazing hot, much needed for the cold outside and the cold brewing her insides.

While waiting for her clothes to finish in the washer, she crossed the street to the supermarket. She was lured by every counter, every aisle, everything junk and not. She grabbed a basket and threw in a jar of peaches, a bottle of honey-roasted peanuts, a bag of imported pork cracklings, Oscar Meyer hotdogs, and the essential milk and eggs. Even the dollar-bag gummy worms beside the cashier counter did not escape her sight. She put it all in the basket and paid $30 for that impulsive trip. People say don’t go grocery-shopping with an empty stomach, but she probably knows that already. She was in her own hungry world to give a crap.

She threw all her dry and clean clothes in the Bed, Bath, & Beyond plastic bag, which she turned into her official laundry bag. She put three weeks worth of clean clothes in her trolley and pulled it onto the sidewalk. Pulling the rack of clothes on one hand and carrying the bag of groceries on the other, she walked an uphill battle back home with the cold winter wind blowing in her face. Inside her head, she was hoping the eggs wouldn’t drop and break. Those were organic cage-free eggs and it would have been a sad waste.

All she could think of was what she would eat first when she reached home. She took a handful of peanuts and started munching away. Mrs. Norma called her for dinner. They were having steamed shrimp. She wasted no time, took a bowl of rice, and grabbed a handful from the bowl of shrimp. She went for a second serving of steamed rice. She wasted no shrimp parts. How hungry could she be?

After dinner, she decided to finish off with peaches for dessert, made green tea and poured milk on it. She was still in the mood to eat some more, so she opened the bag of gummy worms. Something was messing with her appetite tonight.

She was all kinds of a mess the whole day. Feeling happy one minute and sad the next. Feeling excited one minute, depressed the next. She was hungry and tired and nothing could have shaken all of those weird feelings. That was what a regular day in her week looked like, a day that has become a regular part of her life and it was inescapable.