It took courage.

Hooray! I just survived my first week of grad school. I still honestly can’t believe it. I am now a graduate student! First one in my family, my goodness! I just announced it on Facebook, and yes, that makes it official. And yes, I am claiming full responsibility. People just don’t know the amount of work it takes to apply to grad school, and more so if you are an international student. Getting into a Master’s program in New York University (NYU) is the first big hurdle that I conquered and I would consider a success. I’m still sliding into a routine and I am honestly surprised that it is gelling with me nicely. I mean, a full-time job, a weekend job, and part-time graduate school. HELLO! I’M A SUPERHERO at this point. It’s really all about time management, I’m seriously getting that now. (And I just had a fun time out last night, don’t count my social life out lol)

I am truly overwhelmed with all the support. I’m getting super scared and anxious to be imagining the challenge of finishing this and the arduous task of finding a job after this. With everything, I believe God put me in this position because He knows I will thrive in it. He will not leave my side and will hustle with me all the way. I am 110% nervous on this journey and I am because of everything (my whole life) that is riding on this. But at the same time, in my heart of hearts, there is not a tinge of hesitation. I know that this is right for me. No question of a doubt. I see a path. I see a future expanding right before my eyes. And I’m so ready to put in the hard work.

I finally did it. I JUMPED. Oh, what courage!

A Year Older, A Year Wiser

10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in The Year that Passed

first post picThis day last year, I was in Berlin feasting on a happy Easter Sunday lunch with my foster family. It was the first day of my study tour in Europe and my first of the innumerable days of separation from my home country. That day was a cloud of dreams turned into reality, so I was feeling exuberant and just ecstatic.

Today, on the other hand, is a good-weathered Monday and you can find me at home, typing away and sitting pretty on the living room couch. In ten minutes, I have to sort another batch of dirty laundry and transfer the washed clothes to the dryer. After that, I will deal with everybody’s soiled dishes from breakfast. Later tonight, I will sit down to finish George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. That is, after I do late night yoga and finish Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. You can say that my life right now is relaxed and steady.

It’s crazy how life panned out in such a short period of time. A year ago, I had this over-the-moon enthusiasm for adventure and today I am swimming in calm and finding routine. Today is another day of work in progress to achieve balance and stability. It amazes me how one year can change someone’s attitude towards life completely. I’d like to believe that a year older has also made me a year wiser. In that note, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve accumulated from the dark and dreary, sunny (more like icy) and shiny past twelve months of my life. I hope this encourages you to come up with your own list of life lessons and be surprised at how much you’ve grown in a year.

1. There is freedom and extra boost of confidence in turning twenty-one.

Mandatory birthday selfie
Mandatory birthday selfie. I used my freedom belting out Kelly Clarkson songs with wild abandon at Muzette karaoke bar in Adams Morgan, DC.

Does it make sense that after turning 21 two weeks ago I feel more powerful? It really feels good to break free from the limbo that is age twenty. I seem to be more energized to wander outside, like I gained a certain kind of confidence to try and experience new things. In the eyes of the law in every part of the world, I am now an adult accountable for my own self. I find that really exciting, because I like the idea of being responsible for my choices and decisions. I am utterly thrilled of the adventure that can spring from this freedom and responsibility. New goals, I’m ready for you!

2. Brace yourself for winter.

When I said brace for winter, I meant go play in the snow. ( The fam went snowtubing one weekend in Poconos!)
When I said brace for winter, I meant go play in the snow. 😉 The fam went snowtubing one weekend in Poconos!

Having had lived most of my life in a tropical country, it was a serious undertaking to live and survive winter season. Believe the Starks, they weren’t crazy to warn everybody that “Winter is coming”. Yes, the first snowfall made me feel giddy, but fast forward to four months after and the weather still reaches freezing point? I’m pretty pissed. I had to commute everyday to my internship and the intensely cold weather was a major hassle. Train delays that would leave you 10-20 minutes out in negative Celsius is just one way to freeze your ass off. And it’s not just the heavy four layers of clothing or the wind chills that is taxing, but it’s this dark and depressing mood that winter creates. The cold never bothered you anyway, you say? That is complete bull*! Real cold will bother anybody.

3. Travel and yearn for cultural experiences.

inlovesicha conquers the world
inlovesicha conquers the world

I’m very fortunate to have had an opportunity to travel to different countries and see places I once only dreamed of at a young age. I wish this kind of luck occurs to everybody. My trip to European countries like Germany, Austria, Italy, the UK and different parts of America really opened my eyes to the beauty and challenges of the world and history. Being exposed to culture has really enriched my soul and gave me depth as a person. People should really save up and plan for travel. We should also encourage each other to allot time to visiting museums, art galleries, attending a variety of concerts or poetry readings. It’s my goal to get to know more strange places, hear more stories from interesting people, and enjoy diversity these coming years.

4. When you make a life-changing move, give yourself time to adjust and settle down.

rhythmAny radical change that disrupts the normal of your life is difficult (i.e moving to a new city, changing jobs, dealing with loss), so give yourself time to find your rhythm. It’s a process to accept change, get into a new routine, and see the pleasant in the unfamiliar. When your strategy doesn’t work, regroup and change perspectives. I remember when I moved to the US almost a year ago, I felt so out of place the first few months. I felt like I will never belong. I was so sure I won’t find new friends, moreso to love this strange land. But, look! I got myself new awesome friends and I have adjusted to a new lifestyle. I even pass as a local now. There have been a lot of times in DC when strangers approach me and ask where the closest CVS or Whole Foods is. I think it’s pretty awesome that I look like someone who frequent Whole Foods. haha! One year in, maybe I am a local!

5. Having a healthy body and soul pays.

I attempted to make a green smoothie once. For someone who isn't a fan of veggies, I enjoyed it. But I keep my eyes close when I take a sip. :p
I attempted to make a green smoothie once. For someone who isn’t a fan of veggies, I enjoyed it. But I kept my eyes closed when I take a sip. :p

Being healthy isn’t really about forcing to be a size 0 or size 2. It’s about hugging your figure, but also aiming to be strong and lean. A month ago, I started doing yoga (with Adriene of YouTube!) and strength training (thanks, Fitnessblender). I proved that late night yoga improves sleep by a tenfold because ever since I started doing yoga before bed, I sleep deeper and fuller. Waking up feels better than ever. I also thank my family for being conscious eaters, because they have encouraged me to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed food. We discovered the benefits of brown rice and coconut water and we were convinced.

Staying creative also helps me have a positive outlook in life. I have these little projects like the monthly newsletter I make for my friends and the style book I made out of fashion/travel magazine cut-outs. Find an activity that makes you feel good and do it when you can. Your happiness will radiate to the outside and looking good will come as an incentive. A healthy life is a happy life!

6. Find comfort in solitude.

solitudeA lot of people confuse solitude with loneliness when they are really two different things. Psychologists explain that loneliness is a negative state inflicted by others. Lonely people feel isolated because they sense something is missing in their lives. Solitude, on the other hand, means to be alone without being lonely. This is a condition you choose. I have appreciated solitude especially in times where I find the noise from the outside world affecting me in a harsh way. It’s my way of recharging from the exhaustion brought by life in this universe.

7. You will meet people who will make you realize that you deserve as much love, kindness, and generosity as anybody.

inlovesicha awesome friends

Believe it or not, you will meet people who will genuinely care for you and want the best for you. They will make you feel special, lend you an ear and a hand, help you believe in yourself and all of these not just because they are kind people but because they believe you deserve it. I am so grateful to have found friends and life mentors in both my best and darkest moments. To have people believe in you is such a great feeling. It only makes you realize that if they can, you can too. And you should.

8. Never neglect family.

inlovesicha family

Another thing that I am extremely thankful for is my family — my mom, dad, and two brothers who I also consider my best friends. I love that we always do fun things as a family (i.e. trying different kinds of food and learning how to cook, weekend movie nights, going on road trips, bickering over who’s in charge of the household chores, etc). It’s really important that I appreciate the good relationship I have with them and that we can talk about our interests, issues, and differences. We may have huge quarrels and sometimes hate seeing each other’s faces, but at the end of the day, tempers and tensions die down and we’d go back to what’s normal. I guess the beauty of family is that you’d always be pulling each other up and you’d be there for each other no matter what.

9. Rejection hurts… especially when you had great expectations.

anthems of angstThere are some things in life you’d believe are meant for you, but would turn to be not. Opportunities will come and you would get your hopes up. You’d imagine winning… but you won’t and it will break your heart.

Last month, I got rejected for two jobs. I was qualified for both, aced the interviews, and faced just one opponent for the two. I really thought I would be chosen for either one given the circumstances. But then, I got chosen for none. Of course, I was absolutely devastated. Day and night, I wondered about the reasons why they didn’t want me more than the other person. I have waited for more than seven months for an opportunity like it and I can’t believe I wasn’t enough for any of it. It hurt so bad. But of course, nothing could be done. Unfortunate things happen and I just can’t let myself be pulled down by this kind of failure. I allowed myself to wallow in sadness for about a day or two when I got myself soothed by Soundgarden and Nirvana. Then I picked myself up and never wanted to look back.

10. Whatever the future holds, you will be okay.

futureIn moments of despair and hopelessness, the strength of the human person prevails. Whether you trust in a God or a greater power or just yourself, find something to believe in and hold on to it. The key is to keep yourself together and be resilient. Despite all the rejection and insecurities, I’m still standing because I believe in myself and in God that gives me strength. Life will shoot you down, but you will stand up and move on. Do what you can to carry on with life and take more chances. Stand firm, stand tall, and let your failures build up your courage to win some other time.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I will be okay. : )

Cross the damn road.

One step forward, two steps back. That seems to be the pattern my life is in right now. One day I am so enthusiastic and filled with optimism, picking myself up from a fall. Then two days later I wake up falling back to day one, all the progress I made has spiraled down overnight. It makes me feel that everything I do only sets me up for a bigger failure. Seriously, it is a tiring pattern to be in and it is hard not to lose patience.

My breaking point happened one afternoon when I went out for a run with my dad. It just hit me — the why am I here, what am I doing with my life questions. The worst existential kind. I tried to run as fast as I could to divert my attention to the building weight in my lungs as I go faster or the hitting of my feet to the ground. I tried to run fast as an attempt to empty my head but it did nothing. My dad tried to talk to me and ask me what’s happening, but I don’t know how to answer him. With my head throbbing, I decided to shut him out. I shut my mom out too when she tried to do the same. When I went to take a shower, that was when I burst. I lost it and sank to the bathroom floor, crying all my misery and frustration to the poor bathroom tiles.

And then I realized what I thought the problem was:

  • I lost the control to my life when I moved. My parents gave me the steps to take, the choices to make that I felt like I lost the say on my own life. Suddenly, everyone had a damn thing to say about my life. My relatives, my parents’ friends, my friends. I don’t know how everyone suddenly had control, except for me.
  • I lost the comfort of being with my friends. Yes, Mindy, everyone is hanging out without me back at home.
  • I lost my idea of what I want for my life, no clear path, no clear destination. Blank. Question mark question mark.
  • I lost the life I loved… and I was devastated because I kind of want it back. I don’t know, I’m not sure.


But the real problem is, I just can’t let go. I can’t let go of my old comfortable life, which is why I can’t look at the present and the future and all the possibilities it holds. I’m not even trying. I just keep on running away from it, scuttling to my rut and pretending like things haven’t taken a 360 degree turn. I keep on running to the past because it’s a safe place, a comfort zone. At present, all I have is fear and uncertainty and I don’t want it.

I am the problem. Even if I didn’t move across continents, people would have still moved on with their lives so I should just accept it. Accept that a huge change is going to happen anyway. People were meant to move on and lives were supposed to change and I couldn’t have done anything about it.

I am stuck because I refuse to move on. I can’t cross the road because I don’t want to. I can’t cross the road because I am afraid of what I’ll miss if I do. Damn it, even the chicken had the courage to cross the road.

So let go, Cha! Let go of the past. Let go of your fears. You should let go. Stop resisting and accept the possibilities in front of you. With an open mind. With unyielding courage. With hope of an exciting new life. Then, you can move on. Cross the damn road.

Embrace the suck.

This is episode 1 of Lauren, a web series about a woman who was raped while serving in the army.

I think that is enough for me to persuade you to watch it. It’s also 10 minutes tops for every episode, so you’ll be done with Season 1 after half an hour. Try hard not to be emotional especially when you see Troian Bellisario being so good in the character of Lauren Weil. Not even 3 minutes in this video and I’m already crying.

I don’t know. There is something about rape that makes it difficult for a woman not to empathize with the victim. Whenever I hear a story of rape, I am enraged. It never fails to strike a nerve. I suddenly begin to hate men. Men who are pigs. Men who are controlled by what dangles between their legs.

Embrace the suck? God damn, you’re right. Because at the end of the day, it’s still a man’s world and women will always be at fault for “leading” men on, for being powerless at the face of an assault, or for NOT ACTING LIKE A VICTIM GOOD ENOUGH. Fuck that.

I am all about women empowerment and I admire the work of WIGS (Where It Gets Sisterly) and their various YouTube series that showcase different stories of courage in women. Purely original and all-starring female leads. If you don’t see for yourself, you’re missing out.