Summer ’21 in Florida

Our summer vacation this year in Florida was a mild version of a personal hell because of the 86C heat paired with 87 degree humidity. Considering that I lived in the Philippines for most of my life, Florida in the summer is a different kind of beast. It was hot, sticky, and I was sweating in all my nooks and crannies. Although if you do love this kind of torture, then sure, Florida is the place to be. While our main intention was for me to meet Nick’s dad’s side of the family (which was actually lovely, Grandma Pat and her boyfriend Ray 4ever!), we definitely took it as an opportunity to enjoy ourselves away from work and a have a little break from being dog parents. Here are my personal picks of things to do around the Tampa Bay Area:

Note: There is no beach on my list, because believe it or not, Nick and I are just bad at being at the beach. I personally would rather swim in a pool (at night) and lay poolside. And Nick does not enjoy burning too quickly under the sun and doesn’t like to swim anyway. We’re very antsy vacationers and like to be on our feet a lot when we’re on vacay.

  1. Breathe some fresh air and see some flamingos at Sunken Gardens. (St. Petersburg, FL)

Flamingos are Nick’s favorite (spirit) animals, so I was really excited for this one. It’s also my first time to see flamingos up close. They are cute, but weird animals. I mean for birds that are hot pink, they sure have the personalities to match. This place screamed Insta-worthy. Lots of beautiful plants and lush greens, flowers and koi fishies. There were also parrots who yelled “Hi baby” every ten seconds, which was fun at least for the first minute. We went on a Friday, so it wasn’t crowded at all. We also got a Groupon deal — $12 for the two of us compared to $30 so that was great.

2. Do some crate-digging at Jerk Dog Records. (Bradenton, FL)

Sign in front of the store

Whenever we travel, we try to make it a point to visit at least one local bookstore and one local record store (Support local!!). Nick is an avid record collector, so I have been influenced to enjoy this activity with him as well. For this particular trip, we found a cute little artsy hipstery ‘punk’ village in Bradenton and discovered Jerk Dog Records. It’s a small living room garage area converted into a store with the owner behind the register. The owner was very nice and talked to us about their little town. I learned something about cowpunk (don’t ask me more about it), Nick got himself an LCD Soundsystem record and I found myself a The Modern Jazz Quartet record in the dollar bin. Lovely.

3. Walk and bike along the Tampa Riverwalk — start at Armature Works, end at Sparkman Wharf. (Tampa, FL)

I definitely underestimated the heat when I suggested to walk this 3-miler park at 2pm. We started walking from Armature Works, after I had some Empamamas and a ginger lime margarita. By the time we reached the end at Sparkman Wharf, our shirts were drenched in sweat. We were not gonna walk back, so we rented those city bikes to at least enjoy some breeze while pedaling back to the car. It was the first time Nick and I biked together in a city. Well, second time actually, because the first one was in Seattle, with me on a motorized bike freaking out going over a hill on the way back to our hotel. It doesn’t count because it didn’t even last for two minutes. I always feared biking in the city, after that traumatic experience I had biking in D.C. At least this time it was more chill because I wasn’t biking beside 6-wheeler trucks and it went on for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed it!

4. Have a romantic date night at a rooftop bar overseeing the water. (St. Petersburg, FL)

We went to a rooftop bar called Pier Teaki at the St. Pete Pier. Love the view! And I love that there’s a trolley that comes every 15 minutes to pick up anybody who doesn’t feel like walking the whole strip. Food was okay. Their cocktails, I have nothing to write about. But great vibes!!! I was also already tipsy by the time we were there, so Nick succeeded on that one. 😉

5. Must-try: No Vacancy‘s frozen Pain Killer cocktail. (St. Petersburg, FL)

Hands down the best cocktail I ever had on this trip!!! It’s a frozen mix of two kinds of rum, a coconut cream orange juice, and pineapple. What a treat!

6. Must-try: Pig Out BBQ‘s fried mac and cheese. (Bradenton, FL)

Fried cheese bombs, I’m definitely here for it!!!
The toilet was also there for me minutes later. >.<

7. Hang out at Grassroots Kava House and play Bandingo on Thursday nights. (Ybor City, FL)

So we didn’t smoke cigars, nor did we eat a Cubano at Ybor City, which everybody else and their mother recommended. We went the coffee route. What’s ironic is I didn’t order kava that time we went, considering I have never had it before. I thought Kava was the name of the cafe, honestly. A little bit of trivia for those of you who aren’t familiar, kava is a plant from the Pacific Islands consumed for its relaxing and calming effect. I would imagine it brings the same lightheadedness that consuming alcohol and weed would. They actually serve kava cocktails on this place. It is a bar, after all. Really interesting vibe and an unusually goth-like clientele who enjoyed playing musical bingo on a Thursday night.

8. Do some window vintage-shopping. (Sarasota, FL)

I found this vintage telephone at this store called Scavenger’s Marketplace in Sarasota for 20 bucks. I was convincing Nick to agree with me that it was screaming for me to take it home so I can put it in our living room. He didn’t agree and made a point whether I can make space in my luggage for it, so I ended up not getting it. /sad/ I still think about this telephone to this day. By the way, I fell in love with that store! They had all these cute vintage finds and tchotchkes for a good price, I liiiiive.

9. Go to the casino and win in roulette.

This is the only photo I had at the Hard Rock Seminole Heights, because I was busy winning at roulette. lol I took my winnings to buy us some nuggs and some fries. What a successful night. 😉

10. Spend an afternoon at the Ringling Museum. (Sarasota, FL)

We went to see The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on a Monday, so it was free. I love European art, so this one was a winner for me. We had a great time walking through Baroque and the Renaissance eras. The particular room that stood out to me was the one with still life art. Paintings of food as real life people – if only I can remember the artist!!

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!


The honest truth is I welcomed 2019 in my mismatched pajamas, a bare face (literally, without a gloss on my lip, not even moisturizer), and sprawled on the couch. My new year came through the door quietly, and I let it in calmly with no fuss. I think this is the first time that I consciously greeted the new year like this. I used to always dress my best and get so upbeat. I’d make a lot of noise, jump and run around the house in my polka dot outfit with coins bouncing in my pocket for good luck throughout the year. This time around, I felt the adult me take over. To welcome the new year in a formal business fashion. That ‘let’s make a deal if you treat me right’ statement. I just wanted peace and quiet and a really good sleep.

Every time a year starts, I always try to get a general vibe of how the year will transpire. For 2019, I see an exciting, record-breaking, successful yet challenging year. In 2018, I definitely pushed the envelope, taking more risks and thus meeting the side of myself that I didn’t realize existed. I finally met her — the strong-willed and courageous one — and I think in 2019, she will unleash her beast full-fold. In 2019, she will be bold and audacious. She will be brave enough to show the world who she really is and what she is about. It’s her show now.

Well, my first week of January has been pretty low key and uneventful. Just about right and what I deserve, since the last three months of 2018 I have been a hot mess. So I had a painful breakup. I came to face the fact that dealing with heartbreak really ruins your orientation in life. You get confused about yourself, your doubts and insecurities start creeping in, and you feel lost and blindsided. It really throws you off. That’s exactly what happened to me. I thought the bullet missed me. I thought, ‘I’m a strong girl, I don’t get hurt’. I thought the breakup left me unscathed. The truth is, it was just a ruse. I was just ignoring the blistering wound festering in me that one day started hurting so much. And when I saw it, I started pushing on it, so more blood, self-loathing, and anger came out. Pain changes a person. It even turns some into monsters. I became a self-destructing monster. But enough about that. I think that I am over it — mostly.

The intention this year is to focus on what matters, which is my well-being and what needs to be done for my career. I think coming into the year, I’m bringing a new sense of maturity. I’m not as anxious as I used to be about where my life is going. Whenever I feel down, I always go back to 5 years ago in my life when I started from nothing — with zero idea of who I am, a transplant from the Philippines not knowing what career I can have here in the U.S. But fast forward to today, I’m still here, working and figuring it out. It doesn’t mean that everything is clear and certain now. The secret is finding the will to live — hoping that tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe tomorrow brings more inspiration. Maybe tomorrow I’m luckier. Maybe tomorrow I find more motivation. As long as that hope is alive, I just keep on going. I don’t think it really matters if everything makes sense or not yet, but if I ask myself am I happy? Yes should be my answer. And if I am not, how can I be happy? Happiness is what we should aim for. I stopped making excuses years ago and that change of perspective really did good to my life. When we stop playing victim in our own stories, when we stop blaming the world for our circumstances, and start acknowledging the fact that we can actively turn things around to our favor, achieving little successes that may not be exactly what we want but something close, it is considered a win. Let’s take control of what we can in life and run with it.

Bottom line is, my 2019 carries a lot of hope. I believe them when they say it’s a year of MANIFESTATION. I’m excited for the coming months! A lot of work to do and boxes to tick. Also, here’s to writing more. Truthfully and organically, as they would say. Let’s get on it. 🙂

The Unpopular Immigrant Story

There is an immigrant story that books and the media fail to cover. It’s the story of the international students who walk the long road to becoming immigrants in the United States. It’s a story I identify with and a story that you will hear today.

Four years after my departure from my beloved home country, I still have a number of friends who ask me “What exactly are you doing there?” They know I’m not a green card holder and I’m not a U.S. citizen either. It’s a question that always lead me to my scratching my head before I answer. How do I explain what I’m doing to someone who wouldn’t understand the struggle? Because the answer is not black or white. It’s gray with a tinge of blue and specks of brown and, okay, hints of green. To put it bluntly, it’s shit.

Me: I am an international student here in the U.S. But I also do work on the side.

Friend: What work?

Me: Some work.

Friend: Okay. And what are you studying?

Me: Some studies.

That’s the best answer I can come up with. And I know, given my vague answer, that my friend is not far from thinking that I am an illegal alien in this country.

Okay, you want the real truth? I am not an illegal alien. I have a legit valid non-immigrant status. I am an international student and I study at an ESL school. “Study”. Now this answer opens another bag of worms. My friend goes, “But why?? You don’t need to study English.” I probably don’t, but I NEED it so I can stay here.

If you choose to be an international student in the United States at a college or university, you need to have kaching in your kapow. I don’t know what I just said, but you need bucks. Thousands of bucks. At least if you’re looking to apply for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree for a year, you need to show an estimate of $25,000 – $100,000 in your bank account… Or your sugar daddy’s bank account. Or whichever person you find who would be glad to sponsor you, good luck. Yes, if you don’t know it yet, to say that you will avail of an American education is usually a joke. An expensive joke.

If you’re an international student who would enroll at a college or university, you are required to take a full-time study which should not be less than 12 credits. Mind you, the usual price for 1 credit at a community college, the cheapest you can find, is $600. You do the math. You need at least $7000 for one semester. And that could be you learning basic foundational courses like Math, English, and Science… which you already did in your past life when you completed your Bachelor’s Degree in your home country.

Now, let’s say I will go for the international student option, but I am poor and I don’t have a network of capable sponsors. What can I do? My family lives here in the U.S. (legally) and I want to live here too. I don’t want to leave just yet. Do I just give up? Maybe I do have other options.

Enter English for Second Language schools aka  ESL schools. An ESL school is a different breed of school. They accept international students on F-1 visa, but the full-time study only costs about half of what you spend in one semester at a college or university. Let’s say $4000 for 2 semesters or a year of school. Good enough. I found a legitimate way to stay here and “perfect my English” while I’m on it.

On to the next problem, international students are not authorized to work in the U.S. The only exception is if you found a job on campus. If there are no jobs available on campus, how are you going to live then? This is the major problem that people like me who take this route live with everyday. I am an adult and I’ve reached past that point of mom and dad being responsible for my breathing, my eating, the roof above my head… my makeup, my happy hour margaritas, and (duh) my avocado toast brunch-driven millennial lifestyle. Because we have to survive (and let’s be honest, a lifestyle to maintain), we need a good source of income. In comes the side jobs aka waitressing, bartending, coffee-making, babysitting, caregiving, old people-sitting, dogwalking, etc. In Manhattan, it is a LEGIT source of living, I kid you not. Babysitters make more money than you in your office job that you feel so smart doing. I’m talking about $100 a day playing with kids and dropping them off at ballet classes and soccer practice. It is a good source of living, but you ask yourself, is this really the life that you want? Is this something so sustainable that you’ll be doing for the rest of your life?

I’ve spent two years at an ESL school, so why am I doing this again?? And why are there so many foreigners like me who are doing this? Being in a community of ESL students on F-1 visa here in the United States, I must know of a thousand reasons why. And all are sewn by a common thread. We are people who have Bachelor degrees in our home countries who decided to take a risk and get better chances at a country that appreciates and pays hard work. It’s definitely not an easy life. I have made a lot of friends who left the familiar, jumped out of their comfort zones to provide a better living for those who they left behind or to provide for a better future.

But what exactly does our future look like? The hope is that we can actually convert our status into something that allows us to live and work here, without the constant worry of Trump suddenly kicking out all international students. There is a way which is finding a company that is willing to sponsor you for work, but that road is also congested and demands 10+ years of work experience. The hope is that some kind of magic happens where work authorization cards grow on trees and it wouldn’t matter whether someone is a non-immigrant in this country. Can’t we be allowed to work anyway? Because when you have been a U.S. resident for more than 5 years, can’t that count as residency yet? Immigration is a real tricky thing.

We are not undocumented immigrants, but we are the almost-immigrants nobody really knows a lot about. We just live in the seams, hoping that there would be a quick and easy solution to all of this paperwork, that doesn’t involve having a fake U.S. citizen marriage.

I can’t blame the people who choose to live their lot here. It clearly is better here than what we left behind, but nobody really grasps the difficulty of figuring out a way to stay for good when you don’t have the benefits of a U.S. citizen. And it haunts you in your every waking day.

To be honest, when I began this journey, the only reason that made me stay is because I don’t want to take the chance of not seeing my family again. I knew back then that if I opted to stay behind, I would be risking not seeing my family again. So right after college, I packed my bags with no certainty of what I was gonna do and let Jesus take the wheel. I did that. And I’m here now. I’m still at a place where nothing’s certain but I just continue to carry the hope that tomorrow will bring some sort of solution to my problem and I would be able to live free and travel to Europe without worrying if I can ever come back to the U.S.

My parents just got their green card two days ago. I tell myself that I don’t have to fight so hard to be here anymore. I can find work in another country and try my chances elsewhere and my parents and brothers can just visit me. But then I fell in love with Uncle Sam. I fell in love with my life here. I fell in love with what I slowly grow up becoming — independent and carefree. And I don’t see myself living this kind of life in my home country or anywhere else just yet. Now I have a different reason to stay but the circumstances are the same.

I don’t know how this story ends. I’d just have to live everyday and see the opportunities unfold. It is so cliche, but everything really is uncertain. Wherever you may choose to live in this world, life has a way of challenging you and hitting you with roadblocks. It may not be immigration issues, but it sure is something else. You just continue hope that you’d have enough strength and stamina to face it all. With a little help from friends and family… and some vodka. 😉

And that is my immigrant story.





These past few days have been a bust. As much as I try to control things in my life, there are always these little details that are out of my grasp that get in the way. So now I find myself at a buffer zone and the looks of my near future are still a blur.

Some deets on my life lately:

  • I have been accepted to the Masters program of my choosing and I’m waiting on the results of my chance on a scholarship. That’s the only way I can accept the offer to the program anyway. To be honest, I’m also doubting whether I can really study full-time again. Do I have the grit to study again? I’m a little afraid to go back to school, but at the same time, I know I have wanted this for so long.
  • I have a pending employment application that I have to wait results for in May or June. Will I push through it if it did get approved? The good thing about it is SECURITY. I have imagined for that day to come in so many ways. Now that it’s near and so damn possible, I’m not sure if it’s right for me.
  • A friend offered to be roommates with me and she wants to move to a new apartment this summer. I have to make a decision quickly, because we need to find a room we can afford together. Moving is such a hassle and I don’t know if I’m ready for a new set-up or higher rent.
  • I recently decided to do a diet/fitness lifestyle overhaul and I’m trying my best to keep up to it. I have been making and eating healthy lunches, zero-carb dinners, smoothie breakfasts, taking 5k runs around the city twice a week, and the whole thing is just so tiring! I wonder how people can maintain this on the daily. (I have a serious issue with routine and discipline.)
  • Lastly, there is an e-mail lying around my draft folder, with me asking for a salary raise. Due to wanting to get the timing right, it’s been lounging in that folder for two weeks now. I’ve been pushing myself to work harder just to justify my request even though I know that I have deserved it since the beginning of the year. I don’t know when I’ll press send. It’s driving me insane. “Charmaine, grow a backbone. You deserve this,” is my speech every night.

So yup, that’s what’s been happening in my life. There are so many things bogging me down and the stress and anxiety is creeping up slowly. I hate it. I hate dealing with all of this adult stuff. I wish I can go back to being a kid again, when my worst problem was a math homework that my mom can help me answer.

The only thing that makes me happy about this is the achievement after three months of hard work that has got me to where I am now. Truth is, these problems were brought on by my actions that I did out of the desire to have a better life and a better career. Because of my desire of security and stability, I now find myself in a place of endless possibilities. I am proud of what it all led to. Although, I would say that there are days that I still feel lost. I am never 100% sure whether I’m doing the right thing. I just know that doing something will open more doors for me and will take me somewhere at least. After all, actions make half of the dream-chasing. As Ally Macbeal says, “I actually like the quest, the search. That’s the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to. What do you know? I’m having a great time and I don’t even know it.

Dear Yves

Image result for new york postcard

Dear Yves,

Thank you for the lovely postcards! Look at you gallivanting around the world. What an exciting life! As I write this, I sit from across a souvenir store here in Washington D.C. There is a T-shirt with Trump’s face on it and I’m looking directly at his eyes. I try my best not to shake my head of disgust. Tomorrow is his inauguration as President of the United States of America. What have we done, am I right? I still hope the day would come where I can just erase him and his existence from my memory. But for now, I guess I’ll just swallow all this hate. I believe we’ll get through this. We are, after all, a super generation (despite the older people thinking otherwise). I was thinking, I never really cared for who lived inside the White House. Now I realized that because Obama lived there before, someone who I respected and admired, I didn’t really worry because of the safety and peace of mind his leadership gave me. Now that Trump will be living there, I hate the idea of the White House all of a sudden.

I’m going on a road trip with my family to Louisiana in two months. We’re stopping by Tennessee, and who knows, maybe decide to go to Texas while we’re at it. I don’t know why I feel fearful. I just don’t know what to expect from visiting states that aren’t as blue as New York or Maryland. I’m not prepared for racial encounters. I don’t know how to handle stares if we decide to eat at a restaurant full of only Caucasians. I didn’t really worry much about me as an immigrant before. But now I don’t feel as safe as I used to. Anyway, that’s my life.

I’ll try to send you postcards from Louisiana and smear some gravy on it. I can’t wait to taste original Southern chicken and biscuits. Soul food makes the soul good. 😉 Ciao!


Discard and carry on.


Over the weekend, I bid adieu to some of my things. I cleaned up the mess that is my room. Thanks to my BIG TIDYING PROJECT that I did successfully with the help of Ann Mari Kondo, author of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ and creator of the famous Konmari method of decluttering. The Konmari method starts with discarding things first then sorting them out. Ann Mari’s number one rule in deciding whether to discard something or not is to ask yourself, “Does it spark joy in you“? If after that question, you still find yourself going back and forth, she gave this wonderful tip.

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.

And so I did. I started with things and by the end of the night, I found myself reflecting on my relationships with people as well. It was necessary to say goodbye to some of them.

  • To my lime-green dress. It was the dress my mom gave me as a gift when she found out I’d be doing an internship in Washington D.C. It was also the dress that caused a scene when I wore it to a “wear a red or green” Christmas party at work. It was green to me! But I got flak for it because everyone said it wasn’t Christmas green. I think I have graduated from using this dress.
  • To my snakeskin printed top. It was my always reliable office top. I had a huge crush on this guy that I see at work. For some reason, on the days that I see him I was always wearing this top and it annoyed me because I didn’t want him to think that this is the only top I own. This memory makes me smile. Now I can let it go.
  • To my bright red cardigan that my godmother gave me last Christmas. Even though I hate its shade of red, I wore it a few more times than I wanted to because I wanted to love it. Every time I wear it, I always hope that my feelings would change. But it never does. I realized that you can’t force love. I had to give it to someone who will love it for what it is.
  • To the hoodie/sweatshirt that my dad gave me last Christmas. I wasn’t too excited receiving it. It wasn’t me at all to wear something like that, but my mom and dad liked it for me and so I pretended I liked it and considered wearing it. One year later, I still haven’t worn it. I realized you can’t force yourself to be someone you are not. It had to go.
  • To my Nike black and pink rubber shoes. My first (and for a time being, the only) rubber shoes I had after moving here in the U.S. I had so many memories with these shoes. I wore it almost everyday for more than a year while I worked as a cashier and waitress at a Japanese-Chinese restaurant. I owe those shoes for taking care of me and supporting me in my most stressful and exhausting days. One time I spilled a container of gyoza sauce on it, I considered retiring them. But I didn’t because I loved wearing them. While I was putting it in the garbage bag, I tried my best not to cry being reminded of everything I’ve gone through with them shoes.
  • To that Nicholas Sparks book that isn’t the best I read of him but I finished. Bye.
  • To Lena Dunham’s book that I tried my best to finish, but I really couldn’t no matter how much I love her. Bye.
  • To those Nylon magazines that I promised to read when I get the time. I have never found the time. Bye.
  • To T, who I’ve known for a month now. He taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid to be honest with guys. That I should lose my fear of rejection. That if they don’t respect what I want, then they don’t deserve me. When I met him the first time I was so head over heels giddy of what I thought I felt for him, that I had a self-transformation. Because of what he made me feel, I realized that I like myself when I’m in love. I want to be that kind of inspired all the time. T and I just didn’t click as I’d hoped. I think this is the end for us. Thank you and goodbye.
  • To R, who I met on a whim. He taught me what magical chemistry and connection felt like. What it felt like to meet someone for the first time yet connect like we have been friends forever. He made me realize that perfect moments exist, but that it doesn’t mean we are perfect for each other. And that’s alright. Some things are better left in the moment and I am happy that we had what we shared. Thank you and goodbye.

As I said goodbye to all those things, I felt as if I have welcomed a new me. It feels great to recognize those things that I actually really need and keep only those that matter.

It felt good letting go of what didn’t serve me anymore and pass them back on to the universe. I felt free and I think I just won my true self back. Discard and carry on.

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.

Thank you for your presence.


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


(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.