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.

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.

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. : )

Defeat the Blerch!

Last night, I had a mature and eye-opening conversation with my dear old friend, distant wingman, and true bro, Ramon. Just like the old times in the Philippines, we had this late night talk about our debaucheries, embarrassing moments, the sexes, and philosophies in life. I am happy that I have a friend like that. Someone who can just get on my level in the conversation — be random, be serious, be black (whutt), and be plain straight and real. It helps that his body clock is in shambles and mine too that the different time zones is not even an issue.

Last night we were talking about how we were changing… in terms of alcohol consumption. He was three weeks sober (quite shocking!) and I on the other hand haven’t had alcohol in two months. My dad bought a pack of non-alcoholic Beck’s last week and tried to shove a bottle down my throat. Believe me, it was a travesty! Hell no am I drinking that. Give me real beer or give me nothing at all. I can’t believe this, but I am actually yearning for the taste of alcohol in my mouth. After my trip to Europe, I just can’t get enough of it. I miss it. My body even seeks the comfort of my old confidante, Jose Cuervo. I told Rum that I couldn’t believe everything changed so fast. After all the RAM parties, chill beer sessions, and Halloween drunkathons, what could possibly lead to this moment? We used to be better when we’re half-drunk. More fun and more free. I don’t mean the crawling-to-bed pissed drunk, but the still-conscious-but-fearless half-drunk. What happened to us?

He started running the past month, a really big change in his passive lifestyle. He decided to cut down on his carbs, something the man finds hard to give up, and I asked him Why? Why do it now? Why all this change? He just gave me a short and simple answer. “To defeat my past self”.

Sometimes, when we begin to gain this consciousness of who we are, we forget that who we are is not permanent. That we can change. That we can change who we are and how we think about ourselves.  All my life I was fat. All my life I was weak and a pushover. I was born stupid. I can never be athletic. Oh, I can never be good at anything. Just look at the past eighteen years of my life, I am a failure. We think we completely know ourselves and we think we cannot do anything about it, when all we actually need is a new pair of lenses. A different way to look at things. A chance to see ourselves in a different light. We all have potential to do better or to be more than what we think we are. We just need the big push, the inspiration, the slither of hope.

My friend’s motivation inspired me to defeat my past self. I don’t want to sulk anymore. I’m tired of feeling pathetic and as if there is no way out to my misery. I want to stop being that girl who is always worried about the future, always worried about what could and what could not happen. I want to defeat my past self.

I decided to run again. It was my slither of hope back in December and it will be again now. Aside from clearing my head, running taught me how to push myself, to take that extra breath to reach another mile, and to take charge. I want that empowering feeling again.

The link to the six-part comics below was Rum’s motivation when he started running. It is the reason that I am back on my feet, too. Check it out, it’s quite incredible. It’s called the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances by The Oatmeal.

Start reading Part II: The Feeding here. >>>

Fave Five: Female Fictional Characters

1. Elizabeth Bennett (Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice)

Winning traits: courageous, speaks her mind freely, strong-willed, and independent

2. Sloan Sabbith (HBO’s The Newsroom)

Sloan Sabbith by Olivia Munn in The Newsroom (2012)

Why I love her: she’s so smart, it’s sexy + the way she talks about economics make her so powerful. When she stutters and speaks on and on about economics, she’s so cute she make nerds look cool.

3. Violet Baudelaire (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Her intelligence, resourcefulness and creativity can save the world + her love for and nature to protect her siblings is admirable.

4. Betty Cooper (Archie Comics)

Hands down, #TEAMBETTY. She is the one for Archie because she’s that girl who dresses comfortably, is always up for adventure, the opposite of high-maintenance, and one who always have fun. With Betty, what you see is what you get. If she’s shy or nervous or acting all crazy, she’ll give you that. And what she gives is real.

5. Skeeter Phelan (Kathryn Stockett’s The Help)

Yes, I love outright smart girls who are not afraid to speak their minds and do not apologize for staying true even if doing so make them look tactless. I dream to be like Skeeter who helped bring out the courage in other people by pushing herself to be strong as well. What’s more, I dream to inspire and change people’s lives through writing.

The Diary of the Pimply Kid

Growing up having the pimple gene was tough. I was that girl who had a new pimple every week. I was that girl who had to learn and try different facial scrubs, toners, and creams at an early age. That girl who needed to take pills because the size of her acnes are getting worse the doctor says topical treatments won’t be enough. I was that girl who grew to be overly conscious that she refused to talk to people when she had the choice. But when she didn’t, she looked down whenever people try to talk to her, hoping that people didn’t stare at her pimple while she talked. I was that girl people refer to when they say, “Oh she can be really pretty if only she didn’t have pimples.” I was that pimply kid. And I still am.

Talking about me being a pimply kid is tough. It is a very personal and sensitive topic and it never fails to hit my weak spot. It is the monster under my bed, the monster inside my head. It’s my biggest insecurity up to this day and I have never really opened up about this in my blog or to any one for that matter. My decision to talk about this now is quite a rare and special moment. You can say I’m growing a backbone, or that I’m turning a page in my life. I think I am ready to acknowledge this weakness that I have always had and I finally choose to be strong about it. I want pimply kids like me to realize that they are not as shallow as they think they are and it’s normal to feel low with the monster in their faces. It may not be the gravest problem in the world, like poverty or AIDS, but it’s a problem that makes us cry or keeps us up at night. So it matters. I just want pimply kids out there to know that they are not alone in this battle.

My nightmare began in 5th grade when I had my first big pimple. First of all, who gets pimples in 5th grade??? Me! I remember it was on top of my nose, quite at the center, and it was as red as Rudolph’s nose. I don’t remember being teased about it, but it occupied my mind big time. I was a kid around kids who notice little details and find all things funny, so it got me really worried. You know how grade-schoolers can be pathetic and immature or how easy they can turn big moles or bad skin into the butt of jokes around school. But that was beside the point. Who gets pimples when they haven’t even started high school? Me. Who wants to be that kid? No one.

The tragedy continued in high school. After I hit puberty, the damn monsters have incessantly come and gone. On my yearbook pictorial in high school, I had this huge zit on my forehead. BOY WHAT ARE THE CHANCES. It was a mess. The make-up people tried to cover it up, but it’s either they weren’t good enough or the photo-editing group didn’t try hard enough because I still had the trace of a bump in my photo. Oh, it doesn’t end there. Apparently, my luck can get worse.

A week before my college yearbook pictorial, would you believe that I had a SUPER MEGA ULTRA huge zit on my chin??? That’s what I said! WHAT ARE THE CHANCES!?! It was a four pimple in one, four pimples joined together, I’m not even kidding! I put a band-aid over it because it’s size was a real shame. Also, my philosophy was if I put band-aid on it, germs can keep away or in other words I can stop my dirty hands from touching it or pricking it or doing nasty things to it that could make it worse. I have done everything — the toothpaste solution, the lipstick solution, the overnight pimple cream that I must have put 10x in a night — that maybe I had overdone it… Which must have only made it worse. I prepped the makeup artist by apologizing, because of the challenge of covering it up and she had that look of pity on her face. I tried, but all I could say is, Thank you Photoshop.

My monsters were a curse. The acne, the blemishes, the spots, the scars. All of them. Sometimes I blame my parents, because it was their genes that got me this curse. Sometimes I blame God. Because seriously, WHY ME? I could have been like the other girls who were born with perfectly clear and fair skin, but why did he have to choose me to suffer? It was a curse. It was a disease and I have had innumerable breakdowns because of it. It became the root cause of all my other problems. It always had me thinking that boys didn’t find me attractive because of it, or that when other girls see me they must be laughing or talking about it to themselves. To a teenager who felt the need to belong, be flawless and perfect, my life was a damn nightmare. I pitied myself and my self-esteem was non-existent.

That is why I always envied my friends who have always had clear skin. They don’t know how lucky they are. To be able to wear powder and experiment with makeup, like any other teenager, without expecting any breakouts after a day or two? How I wish I had that fate. There was a time that I had to go to the derma clinic every week and have my face get pricked, scraped, burnt, and injected with medicine that by the time I reach home I lock myself and cry in the bathroom. Did it sound like it hurt? Good, because it terribly did. It was physical turmoil that I couldn’t even touch or feel my face without wincing just a little bit. It hurt emotionally having to accept this fate in the face of dried-up blood and bruises from something that is not even intentionally my fault. It sucked.

Having pimples has been my insecurity since time immemorial that I think it explains why I have always tried to be the smart student, the good leader, or the fun friend. I tried to divert people’s attentions away from my face and on to all the achievements that I worked hard for. Maybe if I had this big and pleasing personality, people could ignore the monsters on my face and look deeper. Sometimes I thought it worked, but sometimes it didn’t really cut it. I know that appearance doesn’t define people, but only people without issues on how they look can confidently say that. It’s difficult when every time you look in the mirror, you see the problem. It’s an arduous feat, but I guess you just learn and accustom yourself to accept it. BE BIGGER THAN THAT PIMPLE ON YOUR FOREHEAD. That’s what I told myself.

I was that pimply kid and I still am. I still get breakouts every month. I still try new facial creams and cleansers. But something changed. I have accepted my fate and I haven’t stopped fighting the battle. I may have learned how to put a little makeup as an effort to make myself look and feel good. I’m still a girl, anyway. But even if I go out the world without concealing the zits on my face, I feel better now because I know I am more than that pimple. I am bigger than that pimple. It’s a constant battle, but I will fight it.

The bottom line? Kids, when you get a little older or more mature, you’ll realize that it’s okay to look imperfect. There will always be people who looked deeper, who will care about who you are and not what you look like. From experience, despite my insecurities, I have the best set of friends and family who look at me for who I am, who couldn’t care less how I look, and accepts me with all of my baggage. With or without my monsters. Now that doesn’t suck at all.

Monkey Mind

In Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, she mentioned how we humans often burden ourselves with what Buddhists call the “monkey mind”. We busy ourselves with “thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl”.

Gilbert went on,

“The problem is the emotional attachment that goes along with the thinking. Happy thoughts make me happy, but—whoop!—how quickly I swing again into obsessive worry, blowing the mood; and then it’s the remembrance of an angry moment and I start to get hot and pissed off all over again; and then my mind decides it might be a good time to start feeling sorry for itself, and loneliness follows promptly. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.

Touche.

The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in the moment. It’s something like the habit of my dear friend Susan, who–whenever she sees a beautiful place–exclaims in near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince that she is already here.

All it takes is for us to be in the presence, to be in the now. So go say it out loud,

I am here. I am in the moment. I have my ‘what is’ and here is my ‘now’. That is what matters.

Liz Gilbert, I hate you make so much sense in life.

Allow and enable

I was so happy that I came across this message written by Ralph Marston from greatday.com yesterday. It’s only what I wanted to hear.

Allow and enable

If it seems that you’re stuck where you are, no matter what you do, then you’re almost certainly trying too hard. Stop trying and start allowing.

When you’re striving and fighting and pushing, you’re working against yourself. Take a breath, calm down, and be.

Be you, in the moment, honestly, authentically, needing nothing and appreciating everything. Allow, accept, enjoy, and you cannot possibly remain stuck.

Where there is genuine love, appreciation and enjoyment, there can be no resentment or frustration. When you fully allow life to flow to you and through you, then you enable creativity and value to naturally and easily flow out from you.

Life is beautiful to a degree that goes far beyond anything that you can imagine. Stop trying to imagine that beauty and start allowing yourself to experience it.

Let go of the need to strive and to judge. And embrace the profound opportunity to be, now.