There’s something about Saturdays that just make you sit down and contemplate on life. As a child, I have always been a reader and a thinker. Long before cellphones kept us entertained on car rides, I often had my trusted walkman and a pair of earphones as my companions. I loved and adored just listening to music while driving around with my parents who managed to drag my brother and I everywhere. The habit continued onto adulthood as I switched from my parents’ car to ubers and buses.

Even today, I still carry that habit with me. There’s nothing like getting lost in your own thoughts and just letting your brain breathe. I had a point somewhere in that introduction and the real point of my blog entry but may have lost it somewhere.

In the past week, I discovered Saturn Rising – which is the ‘revamping’ of your life for the lack of a better word to usher in a new season. It’s funny to me sometimes how science and faith use the same words to describe same situations.

I do not want to bore with you the details of my recent life because I am still going through them. The story would better be told on the other side but I write to you today to let you know that even through the darkest seasons when we wrestle with the most difficult things (and there’s no minimizing what a person thinks is a difficult thing), we can still smile. It’s crazy how you can cry in one hour and laugh the next. It’s amazing how God built us for this chaotic life – He has equipped us with everything we need.

Just like most of my ‘blog’ entries, this is me just being raw and real as I have been since 2003.

Thank you my dear blogger world – I’ll have answers for you soon.

Keep Swimming

Life moves … fast.

One minute you’re eight years old and arguing with your parents about staying up late and the next you’re a full blown adult with major responsibilities. A lot of studies have said that our generation is in love with nostalgia – this is why we love remakes, sequels, and reunions. There is something inside of us that is constantly longing for what once was. It’s as if we are obsessed with either our past or our future, but never fully in the present.

It’s been a year since I moved away from home and my mom recently asked me this, “have you stopped missing home?”. The truth is, you never stop missing a chapter of your life that once was. I miss everything about home: the smell and comfort of my old bedroom, the ease of life because my parents were the ones burdened with responsibility, and just being in a city where everyone spoke your language. If I were being completely honest, I also missed the comfort of connections. But the past is always better in our heads. Living where I am now has once become a dream. In our heads, the dream is always prettier, more beautiful. What they do not tell you about the dream is the in-between. The struggle, the chasm in between jumps, and that gnawing feeling of going back to the familiar just because the unknown is too scary.

And yet, you stay. Because this is your dream and you must have left home for a reason. Because the power of something greater is infinitely more powerful than going home and remaining stagnant.

Yes you miss home but you thank God for opportunities to  create new memories. You cling on to hope and you fight.

Keep swimming.

Why #WomensRights is More Than Just a Hashtag

Any great blog entry starts with an inspiration and just as most writers would know, inspiration could come from just about anywhere.

For me, it hit me in the middle of a packed bus in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles as I finished Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us. The book, which I borrowed for the sole purpose of distracting myself from the world of adulting, stirred up emotions in me that I did not even realize I had.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a home where love reigned. Where the men in my family were respectful of women and took responsibility in being protectors. They cherished and adored the women in the family. I have had my own personal story of abuse (the verbal and mental kind) that I wrote about three years ago. But as I finished It Ends with Us and Swear on This Life, I had the realization that my understanding of abuse went beyond my own personal tale.

There are many close to me who have suffered abuse in whatever form and seeing their stories of strength unfold led me to the realization on why fighting for women’s rights is so important. There are so many women out there who stay in abusive relationships because they have no other choice. Fighting for women’s rights and demanding for equality gives women a chance to build their own lives so they will not be controlled by men who are not worthy. It is more than just a trend on social media – it is a rooted desire to make the world a better place for women, where they are given opportunities to build an independent life so that they can leave whenever they no longer feel safe. When women are treated better, they are empowered to make better decisions that will keep them safe.

A woman close to my heart once experience the treachery of physical, emotional, and mental abuse. During her time, leaving the household was not acceptable. If you ask the women before us, they would be quick to tell you that they stayed because they knew no other way. But this woman, ahead of her time and at the tender age of 25, looked at her life and knew that there should be something better for her. She could have chosen to stay but by God’s grace and with nothing in her name – she walked away.

At the time she made the decision, people close to her questioned her and gave her the spiel, “He loves you, he will change. You must stay.” But this woman, full of determination decided that enough was enough and though she had sacrificed a few things, she knew she made the right decision for herself. Because she was equipped with a degree and job, she had the ability to stand up for herself and leave. Of course, just like any human being, she wishes a few things were different but at the core of who she is, she never once regretted walking away from a relationship that could have either ruined her or killed her.

She could have settled because at that time this is what society taught but she knew in her heart that this wasn’t the life she wanted or those who loved her could have wanted for her. With only faith and courage, she built a new life and soon found a love that respected her, loved her, and cherished her. God gifted her with a man who stood by her side no matter what and she witnessed what a real, loving relationship felt like. While I wish I could share more details of her story, I stop her for it is not my story to tell.

Instead today, I wish to honor my mother – who fought hard and bravely for her place of safety in the world. My mother knew that love did not have to hurt and she deserve to be taken care of even if she could very well take care of herself. I can only imagine the horrors she went through and what she had to overcome but she did it, even if she had to do it alone – she did it.

Today, I salute women like my mother and others like her. Today, we are slowly taking away the stigma of walking away from bad, abusive relationships and slowly stripping these types of men of their power.

For every woman who is still in relationships as such, I pray that God gives you the strength to overcome – you are not alone. Love does not hurt, does not sting, does not make you feel crouch in fear nor does it make you feel small – real love liberates and I pray today, you find the courage to choose to keep yourself safe.

Let us keep fighting for every woman in the world for it is through this united resolve that we overcome.

I end this with what I wrote three years ago:

“I am sharing this story to remind you beautiful woman reading this that you are not alone and that when a guy hurts you whether through his brute strength or his words, walk away. You were created to be loved and appreciated and believe me when I say that staying will not change him but even make the situation worse.

By loving yourself and being brave enough to walk away, you are stopping him from repeating the same behavior and at the same time, inspiring women everywhere that you don’t have to take what you don’t deserve. By taking the stand today, you at also making the world a better place for little girls to grow up in.”

Happy International Women’s Day.

 

This Valentine’s Day Embrace The Heartbreak.

It’s the year 2004 and I am sobbing in my room while watching My Best Friend’s Wedding. The reason? My ultimate crush, who asked me for kilig “be my prom date” ideas, did ask someone else out and it wasn’t me. Fast forward to 2008 where my first foray in dating (we watched Iron Man on our first date, it has been that long!) ended up in more tears and a disbelief in myself that stayed on for a really long time because he was verbally abusive and unkind. Seven years later, I am once again sobbing on my birthday because the beautiful, menacing boy dumped me on my birthday.

Dateless on prom night at sixteen.

Up until two years ago, I was pretty unlucky in love. I was never the first choice and I have had my fair share of jerks. I would constantly console myself with ice cream, One Tree Hill, and of course, crying to my baby brother, Carl.Those were the days wherein I would ferociously write in my journal without a care in the world. My sixteen year old self was determined to get her fairytale. In the chaos of life, there are days when I have forgotten or at least tucked away that sixteen year old in the back of my mind. Life has made me forget how she fought to keep her optimism and her belief that on the other side of all the pain, there was an answered prayer or pixie dust waiting. She was often rejected and yet, she kept going. I missed her a lot in the past year but I promise myself I would treat her more kindly and carry her closer than all the other mes I have been in the past ten years.

Me in my high school uniform!

My husband and I had quite the long drive last night and he had early 00s music blaring in the background and all of a sudden, without warning, the memories of my past life started flooding in. It felt like a movie because suddenly the memories of me crying and praying and just getting disappointed with my life came rushing in. And it took me a minute to return to reality. I was in Los Angeles with the husband I prayed to God about when I was seven (after watching Devon Sawa on Casper! My husband does look like him!) and yet, nobody can deny the many years of heartache I endured.

The moments do not hurt me anymore but instead, I say hello to them like an old friend. Pretty much like the Gabby and Sharon McDonald’s Commercial, it’s like saying to a friend that has taught you so much. That’s when I realized that while I hated heartbreak while I was in it, I don’t necessarily regret them or wish them to have been erased from my history. Last night, I was living the reality of what I have always believed – everything is essential, the good, and the bad, to your story.

You may be in a season where you are unattached or recovering from a heartache. And though it may seem like the season will never end, it will and you will be better for it.

Enjoy the moments of uncertainty. The moments where your heart is half broken and half hopeful. These moments may hurt you in the moment but their purpose is to develop you. The heart is extremely resilient and we grow through the moments that break us.

Looking back now – on all those moments that I had my heart broken and was devastated, I just look at them with trepidation. I did not go through them but I needed the lessons they brought with them. It has made me a completely different person and that makes me grateful. I have chosen to let each rejection mold me and make me who I am. It has made me more empathetic and kinder to myself and others (at least I try to be).

So in as much as you would like to take the easy way out – don’t. We go through things to learn from them and until we learn the lesson, we do not move to the next level. I am sorry for your pain but trust me when I say that it does get better.

Do not run away from your pain – embrace it as a season, do not fester in it but allow yourself to feel the pain and choose to grow. Everything in our lives is essential to a greater purpose we may or may not see.

Be strong enough to see you through this season because it is worth it, you are worth it.

 

Off the grid.

Could it be possible to be completely removed from the person you once was? I have been thinking more than usual lately (possibly because of all the meds due to the uncool bug I took on after Disneyland) about material things, social media, and what it takes to truly make us happy.

I have been wondering what drives people to a) use other people for their own benefit and b) even think of using other people to gain material wealth. I mean how much material wealth can one acquire before they tell themselves it is enough?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a comfortable life – but a comfortable life at the expense of others? How could you be proud of a life that’s constantly striving to acquire in the hopes of becoming better than others? After you get the bag (my own material kryptonite), what’s next? After you get the position, what’s next? After you reach the pinnacle of success, where do you rest or do you rest at all? After gaining the world, do you still have your soul?

These thoughts lingered in mind upon entering 2018. My life these days is very different compared to the glitz and glamour it used to be. There are no famous friends, there are no famous “almost boyfriends” who ditch you for beauty queens, and there are no events, parties, and celebrities. There are bus rides, good books, a quirky office setup, and an eight hour day. There’s hard work to be done but I never feel depleted – as if I am on a treadmill that never stops.

I am comfortable in my own skin. The mask I used to wear can no longer be found. I am completely who I am and while there are days where I still tend to be anxious or less optimistic than I hope I would be, I don’t really feel as stretched out as I used to be. I scroll less on social media (although I cannot resist cute dogs or cute babies or on sale items that I mentally purchase in my head) and when I do, I begin to ask myself, “what is this all for?”.

I told my mom the other day during our marathon Skype session how I have begun to care less about my curated Instagram feed and sometimes question myself when I do post something. Is this my authentic self? Is this who I truly am?

It may have taken years but I am beginning to be as real and raw as I feel. There are days when I hide what I feel and then explode at the most inconvenient times. I try to speak my truth when I feel it. I also have stopped explaining who I am and my choices.

There’s a solid inner peace that sometimes gets rattled but I am proud of the life I am currently living (aka the story of my recent life) and I am thankful.

The Story of My Recent Life

“The story of my recent life is” is a phrase that keeps repeating in my head as I type my end of the year blog.

I came across it on my good friend’s Instagram account and couldn’t help but repeat it in my head as I went through the last week of 2017.

The phrase is haunting in a way that only words can be. Something clicked inside of me and I was hit with the realization that yes, where I am today isn’t where I will be forever.

You see (and only if you haven’t realized by this time), I can be overly dramatic. My husband discovered this when I threw a mini tantrum when he told me to not wait in line for an hour to have a photo taken with Minnie Mouse during our trip to Disneyland. I have always wanted to be an actress growing up and I am a writer so if you add those two things up – you get an overly dramatic almost 30 year old.

So anyway back to what I was saying. Oh yeah, overly dramatic. So my point is sometimes I forget especially when times are tough that whatever this is won’t last forever. I seem to think that good times go by so fast while struggles take forever to leave. I forget that time moves at the same pace no matter what and where I am today is simply a reflection of my recent life and in this lifetime, you can have a million different definitions of your “recent life” and that is okay.

There is no rule, though society likes to tell us that, in defining your life. Commitment is a HUGE thing and of course we can’t skip-a-doo through life like a shifting wind but we are allowed to change our minds. What we like today may not be what inspires us in ten years and that is okay. We are allowed to be different versions of ourselves in this lifetime.

Having different versions of ourselves take courage as well. A life in motion requires constantly changing and that means letting go of different parts of ourselves and that requires both grace and humility. We cannot swiftly move from one phase to another without leaving unnecessary baggage behind – that includes our ego and our pride.

What is the story of my recent life? 

As 2017 draws to a close, I cannot help but realize that I have lived through many recent lives before today. I clung on to each life which became a problem because as with anything in life, you cannot fully enjoy what is in front of you if you do not learn how to let go. Aside from being overly dramatic, I also have difficulty letting go.

This year, I was left without a choice. My recent life is nothing like my former life and I used to have trouble accepting that but today with a few days left in 2017, I learn to let go more and more each day and trust that as the New Year dawns, new beginnings will rise again.

Christmas in Disneyland 2017

Disneyland has always been a magical place in my mind though it has been awhile since I have been there – fifteen years to be exact so imagine my glee when my husband and I decided to spend Christmas Weekend there. Everyone said it would be a crazy idea but we went and did it anyway (this sums up our relationship).

I won’t tell you that it wasn’t crazy because it definitely was – imagine a million kids and a lot of disgruntled parents drinking beer at 2 PM but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was the perfect weekend getaway (I had vacation depression right after!!) and I don’t regret spending my first holiday away from home in the happiest place on earth.

I also went on the craziest rides and conquered my fears, even though I was shaking and could barely move. So that is another metaphor for my recent life – taking the plunge though I am scared out of my wits.

Here are a few photos on the trip but check out the link above to see my husband’s creative video in the link above.

 

 

 

 

Winter 2017

It is the 21st day of December and officially the first day of winter. In less than a month, my husband and I will be celebrating our first, yes our first!, year living in the United States. For the past week, I have been holding back the tears but admittedly spent a good part of it crying any chance I got.

Being far away from home sucks for the lack of a better term. I miss giving my dad a hug every morning and car rides with my brother. I miss going downstairs and just feeling safe in the idea that I am home and I am safe. In the past year, I have stepped away from the comfortable life my parents provided for me in order to build my own life. And building one’s life is never easy nor safe. For the longest time, I have felt uneasy and I have craved for the sense of security I had felt when I was in my parents’ home. I was never the girl to take chances but this year, I gave it all. It came with a lot of rewards, struggles, and sacrifices. But never once did God’s peace leave me and when all else fails in my life, that is what I hold on to – His peace.

My greatest desire growing up was not to get married. My biggest desire was to take care of my family, especially my parents when they got older. However, the puzzle pieces did not seem to fit. Just like Moana, I felt like there was always something on the side of the world that was meant for me. I never would have the courage to go for it, I would have been too afraid to leave my family. God knew I needed a little push and here I am, almost 12 months in. I was confused – God did not give me my heart’s desire? Why weren’t my prayers answered? Yes, I did pray for a godly man but not one who would take me across the world because I needed to take care of my parents.

There are still a lot of questions that are left unanswered and I know that I may never get the answer to them anytime soon but I have always believed in following God’s peace wherever it led me to. And this year, it led me here. It led me to build my own family without abandoning the one I have known my whole life while learning to become a wife. I am grateful for my husband’s kind heart and for always putting me first. I do not say it enough but in the past year, my husband has showed me the reality of God’s love and His patience. There are many ways my heart has been changed by marriage but that is for another time, another story to tell.

I used to think God’s plan for me included something grand but maybe it is grand but just not in the world’s way. And that makes sense because God’s way has never been like the world’s anyway. I keep trusting His purpose, I keep trusting His heart, and I rest in the fact that He is good especially when I am not.

This year my greatest prayer has been to learn to be content in my own skin, my own life, and what God has blessed me with. So here’s a little cheer from The Highams – may your Christmas be merry and bright.

 

There’s really no point for this entry other than a brief moment in between my little things to do when I realized that there is a contentment inside of me that closely resembles joy. I have always been an anxiety ridden individual and my days once used to be filled with clouds of fear and disappointment. Today, I was surprised that there was stillness inside of me. Don’t get me wrong, there are still chaotic parts of the world but I am unmoved, no longer fretting. It is refreshing and I thank God for it.

 

Hello Me, It’s Nice To Meet You.

Facebook has a way of reminding us of the past.

The on this day feature is both a blessing and a curse. It’s ironic how it works – as a famous TV writer once wrote, it is the happy moments that make us sad and the sad ones we revel in because we overcame them.

If you have been a visitor of this site (why, thank you!), you may have heard this a million times from me: what a year it has been!

Major changes, relocations, and career shifts has led me to a different 2017 than what I have expected.

I look at myself in the mirror and see a calm girl who has more depth. My problems through the years now seem like tiny degrees of whining. The world doesn’t revolve around me anymore. But that doesn’t mean I have forgotten about self care of self actualization (what would Mia say?). Instead, I have put those two things on top of the priority list.

In the year where I have joined with another, I have strangely found myself. Taking me out of an environment that I was so used to has allowed me to discover who I am or develop into someone I always thought I could be.

My 20s were filled with people pleasing – whether it was friends, family, bosses, workmates, my very little online audience, and society in general. I was always so rigid and guarded. I did not want to miss a step, I wanted my hair perfectly in place, my work nothing short of excellent, and my taste in men approved by everyone but me.

My life turned upside down and it has led to a year of discovery. Discovering what I like, what I aspire to be without voices commanding what they should be, and the power of saying no.

To live freely and to cut off connections that were both controlling and toxic led me to realize two things: it’s okay to say no and it’s okay to not like things (and / or people). It’s okay to not keep in touch. It’s okay to retreat in my shell. And it’s okay to be silent, opinionated, and proud of the life I have been built with my husband.

It’s okay to discover God on my own terms, He loves me through the journey I am taking though it is not conventional. My faith doesn’t have to scream in order to be real and I do not need a radical lifestyle change to consider myself blessed. I can be doing mundane things like walking to the bus or folding laundry and still discover God there.

It’s okay to reconnect with people who you have had rifts with, the same way it is okay to cut off people who were there. Seasons in life require different characters. We are blessed to have consistent characters in all seasons but that doesn’t make us less of a person if a friendship ends.

It’s okay to not “achieve” for once. Achievement can mean different things for other people. For so long the work has defined me, this has been the biggest break up of my life, and yet to not be defined by metrics has been my life’s greatest source of my freedom.

God will get me to where He has planned in His time. To be grateful for where I am now is my life’s biggest achievement today. Tomorrow it could be different, tomorrow I can be saving the world, but tonight I am happy with just saving me.

Sometimes we rob ourselves of celebrating our own journeys because we look to our left and right and see that their victories are more than I could ever achieve.

I keep forgetting that my own tale is enough to keep me preoccupied. To run this race, I need to wear blinders, like champion horses. I rejoice with those who rejoice and I weep with those who weep but I dare not compare my journey to another. I’ve been doing that for so long – I need to give my heart a break.

I am grateful for birth of new dreams or maybe an awakening of what I have always dreamt to be – before the fairytales, the likes, and the followers. Los Angeles is beautiful because everyone is left to their own devices.

Sometimes I forget that I am no longer in the fish bowl called Manila. I can let my hair down with nobody caring. I can be me and though I am still discovering who me is, I am thankful that it’s not too late to be her.

The year has left me exhausted but there’s so many more mornings to look forward to, so many memories to make, and so many laughter to be enjoyed.

God always promised that the best is ahead and though this year did not shout grand experiences, it was filled with little milestones. All of which are monumental in taking away who I have been and leading to the discovery of my authentic self.

Thank God for multiple chances. And thank God that I am finally meeting me.

Los Angeles, California 2017