Lately I have found myself obsessing over books by Milly Johnson, Debbie Johnson (not quite sure if they are related), and Shannon Ables (the only non-fiction on the list but reads like a dream) .
The books all spoke about the simplicity of life and just like a warm and cozy blanket, I slipped into their pages and just like when I was a child allowed them to envelope me with their warmth.
The books had one common theme: enjoying small towns and to be honest, that is what I thought I would be doing when I left everything behind in 2017. I honestly thought that my husband and I would settle in a small town and I could return to my first love: teaching. As of late, it is yet to happen but I dream of a day where I can simply be similar to the characters in those books. As a angsty teenager, I have always described myself as a contradiction and at 30, I still see that in myself. I love being with people but I also treasure being alone, I enjoy ‘luxurious’ things but crave for the simplicity of life.
But now, more than ever, I am slowly learning to embrace the simply luxurious life described by Shannon Ables. She said that living your life in luxury means living it in peace as you would want it. And while my life may still not be that today, I am still thankful to be in this place in my life where I am learning to love its everyday. I am slowly slipping away from the desires that have held me hostage and slowly creating a life that is my own (well my husband’s and I) and no one else’s.
There’s really no point to this blog other than thanking God for providing me with a life that is joyful and content. This is one that I have been praying for but I never realized that it could be something that I can choose. And so I choose it on a daily basis. I can’t wait to share with you more about the books but I hope that this inspires you to find a life that feels good to you.
When it comes to New Year’s traditions, I must admit, I can be pretty Asian about it. My husband and I, pretty much like my family back home, fill the table with everything round, make sure we do not serve chicken, and stay awake until 12 MN to greet the New Year. One of the traditions that I used to do when I was single was to sit down right before 12, meditate, and just sit there wishing for a better year than the one we just had.
But this year, I wanted to not just dismiss 2018 but instead I bade it goodbye with my gratitude. I thanked it for what it was and what it brought me – the highs, the lows, the tears, and the triumphs. I do not want to be ungrateful for 2018 because in as much as it was challenging, it also gave me a lot of beautiful surprises. 2018 gave me what I needed to grow and be prepared for where God takes me in 2019.
It was fun until it caused me so much anxiety to be happy and optimistic at exactly 12 or else my year will not turn out right. Fortunately, you grow wiser as you grow older and as life would have it, you would realize that life is not always perfect no matter how much you pray, wish, or go for traditions. It’s not being pessimistic to say that life will not be rosy 24/7 even in 2019 but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
In fact, one of the greatest gifts that life can give you is the ability to accept the circumstance for what it is and have the ability to let it go without attaching any of our self-worth and emotions to it. We can fully feel the emotions that are attached with specific circumstances and not be defined in it. Growing up also means allowing ourselves to actually feel what we feel even if the people are not comfortable with our emotions or if we do not fit into what ‘proper’ emotions should be like.
Just today, on the first working day of the year, I felt the opposite of optimistic and positive for various reasons. But instead of running away from what I was feeling, I processed my emotions with my husband and though I do not feel completely a 100 percent at the moment writing this meant that I had hope that the rest of the year will not be the same. Or at least I knew that even if I had days such as this one, I would be okay. And guess what, you will be too.
We put too much pressure into getting it right on the first day of a New Year but in truth, we just have to be kind to ourselves and trust that it will all work out. I have full confidence and hope in Jesus Christ and in the middle of my own personal rant, my husband shared this verse with me,
“Don’t be obsessed with money but live content with what you have, for you always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, “I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen my grip[c] on your life! So we can say with great confidence: “I know the Lord is for me
and I will never be afraid of what people may do to me!” – Hebrews 13:5-6
Doesn’t that verse just cover all that we could possibly worry about in the coming year? It gives us hope that no matter what is against us, whether people or circumstances, our God is for us and that no matter what He will provide for us?
This 2019, I aim to rely more on God’s grace and I pray that my faith in who He is grants me steadiness in my daily life. That I learn to lean on Him and in doing so, may I become more content with the life He has given me while pouring love and grace to those around me.
In the same breath of surrender, I also want to remind myself that I am in charge of my life and nothing is simply ‘happening’ to me. I want to fully discard the victim mentality this year and own my life and my happiness. We have the power to have the life we want, we just have to fully understand it. I wrote more about this in my New Year’s Day Article for The Manila Times.
I am quite excited about 2019 and I just want to remind you once again that your life is yours. While listicles, articles, and books are helpful, you do not have to adhere to anything that doesn’t make you joyful. This 2019, find what works for you and go after it! I wish you a joyous and happy life with everything you have prayed for and more.
I want a seat at the table but I do not want just the seat, I want to be able to deserve being there. I want to be there and contribute, not just sit there and be pretty (although I would be the first to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to both be beautiful and a significant contributor to any table you are called to).
If there is one thing you should know about me (that you do not know already if you have been reading this blog long enough) is that I do not give myself enough credit. I do not know if that is because of my Type A personality, being raised a middle child, or just how brain is wired. I am the first person to compliment another for their good work or basically anything good about them but the last person to acknowledge my own successes and own achievements. See even typing those words made me cringe.
You see, I see every day as a blank state of nothingness. Oh yes, I do remember every single mistake since I was like seven but I have forgotten every achievement I have had. My brain forgets that part of the equation but not my failures and not how I should have done better. My brain also makes me feel that I am so far away from the woman I wanted to become ten years ago and that makes me hustle even more. Now, with a culture that glorifies the hustle over anything this doesn’t seem like a big thing. But to someone who is questioning life and its meaning – it all seems lost to me.
During the year of transition (aka moving to LA and leaving everything I know behind), I begun to dive into the something deeper that life had to offer. Suddenly, life felt meaningless – I often ask myself, ‘What happens after the big win?’. As humans, we go and turn into the next big win. We keep going, going, and going. There’s always another milestone to achieve, another bag to buy (guilty), and another travel destination to go to.
We come home with our bags, with our photos from vacation, with the work high, and we are happy for a minute until we find ourselves running to another cycle of buying, winning, and achieving. Now while there is nothing wrong with that but I keep wondering where it leaves our mental health and our souls.
You see, it’s so easy to tape up our wounds with shopping and whatever else it is that leaves you high. For me personally, it’s adding to cart. I just love and adore shopping. Clothes and bags are my vice. I would be the first to tell you though that while I have thought of this – I haven’t completely abandoned my add to cart habits. They’re not dangerous, out-of-control spending but sometimes I wonder why my happiness can be found in something so … material.
This brings me back to deserving the seat on the table. I wonder sometimes why my ego is so fragile and why I tend to it through my passion of checking out multiple purchases on a weekly, maybe daily basis. I keep wondering if the reason why I do not think I deserve a seat on the table is because all of this reverts back to me not being worthy enough.
Maybe it reverts back to me not having enough confidence and that makes it difficult for me to risk my ego and bring what I know to the table. I am afraid to show my one hundred percent because what if I am not good enough? I hide behind my clothes and bags just so I can add worth to me and puff myself up for a time.
But what happens when I am alone? Well, this is as raw as I can be at this moment.
I have ideas of centering myself and finding the right balance but I do not want to commit to anything until I am a 100 percent there. But until then, here are a few thoughts and an intention to learn – about myself and the world and hopefully I come back to this space but until then, I will keep digging.
This is my second year celebrating what is fast becoming a favorite holiday of mine and it came not without tears. Okay, it came with a lot tears. I always get emotional during the holidays mainly because I am missing the holidays back home but also because sometimes you just need a warm hug from your parents. Being so far away from home always makes me think about the brevity of life and how important it is to enjoy where we are at the moment.
The crab in me often retreats when I have been overly stimulated and if I do not give myself that option to let it all out – I end up bubbling over. And that is never good. So I am kind of glad that I get a four day weekend so I can be on my own, read the books I purchased, and just breathe.
My boss told me a gem yesterday, he told me, “It’s okay to be who we are and feel what we feel. That is what makes us human.”
And for someone who bottles up her emotions all the time, that gives me comfort and that is a gift I wish and hope to give myself this year and beyond.
I just realized that the holidays always make us feel pressured because it always makes us feel like we have to feel a certain way and be a certain way but in reality you can feel whatever you want to feel on this day without the pressure of it being perfect. You can be sad on Thanksgiving day, you can be happy, you can be sullen about it, you can spend it in your PJs all day – whatever makes you feel good for today that is what you do. Do not let anyone else make you think differently. Do what is good for you and that is what makes you not choose destructive choices.
My husband finally convinced me to go on a real hike and would you believe that the city girl in me climbed atop Mount Lowe. Just like anything in my life – I freaked out because I was thisclose to the edge and had panic attacks all the way up. It was terrible, it was horrible but it turned out to be incredible.
It was also a great workout and I was able to take a lot of photos – which was motivated me to climb up to the top.
Sharing with you these photos because if we look at the world from a different perspective – we see the wonder of the world and what God created for us and we are reminded of what’s important and that gives us relief. It reminds us we are loved and safe no matter how reckless our emotions can be.
But what do I know? It’s true what they say that you know less as you grow older than you did when you were 18 (or in my case 16 since I was a know it all at a young age).
Since 2004, I have been dishing out what I think was important and relevant in terms of love, life, my faith, politics, never fashion (which I grew to love), and just anything that made sense. Soon I was also dishing out on every social media platform I could get my introverted hands on and while I applaud my younger self for being brazen enough to speak what was on her mind I can honestly tell you that I no longer feel as brave as she does.
Or maybe time, age, and experience has subdued me. Not every topic needs to be retweeted, not every news article with my own opinion needs to be shared on Facebook, nor should every comment be liked, or every life moment shared. I used to want to share EVERYTHING. I do not know the point I was trying to prove but suddenly (especially since I moved here and away from the subculture I grew up in), I saw the plastic bubble I lived in.
I wanted to be deemed important. I wanted my social media accounts to prove I was doing better than the girl he chose over me or I was smarter than who they promoted. I was unconsciously creating a brand that merely reflected what I wanted it to reflect. Perfectly cut squares of my life that took hours to curate.
I was always SO NOISY. I wanted people to think I was pretty. I wanted them to think I was smart. I wanted them to know that I knew what was going on in current events and most importantly, I wanted them to know my opinion of things.
But now that I am older (and hopefully wiser), I have fallen in love with merely being a bystander. I love liking my friends’ photos showing how they are thriving in life, I adore sending in heart emojis to celebrate my friends’ victories, and I love the fact that Veronica Mars is back on air again.
Now that I am not constantly filling the already populated world of the Internet – I am now learning the value of simply observing which leads to being mindful. Instead of falling in love with sharing my thoughts with a click – I take the moment to step back, observe what I am reading, and wondering if it needs an answer.
For a girl who’s always spoken too much too soon too many times being able to step back to assess what I am really responding to has been such a freedom. And it all has to do with the interactions and situations I found myself in in the past year or so.
If I were being brutally honest I would be the first to tell you that I just survived the ABSOLUTE WORST season of my life and yet I commend myself for being able to see the season through knowing that every season was just that, a season.
Every day I got up with the determination to see the other side and that is when EVERYTHING YOU KNOW becomes tested. You begin to question and doubt everything you believe in. You begin to challenge notions you were raise with. You begin to challenge your own beliefs. You dig, you discover, and you get through to a better place.
It’s like a war inside your head and within your heart and just like any warrior you come out of it bruised yet smarter. And it is those bruises that teach you what you need to know – the power in humility, the grace in betrayal, and the hope in the darkest situations.
You don’t understand how it could come about. How you could have a won a battle that has devastated your heart and crushed your soul and yet somehow you did. That is when you realize that God is real and everything I believed about him is real. The more you come in contact with life’s harshness, the more you realize how truly gracious our God is.
How much patience He has for His children as they question him in the desert and how incredibly faithful He is to hold our hand as we pass through the valleys and into the hills. How we graciously He carries us from situations that has caused so much pain into an enlightened state of blessings.
And life is like that – it’s a cycle and what we know today may not be what we know tomorrow and yet we stop for a moment to bask in its goodness and to rest in what we know now.
Because it is all that we need in this moment and we thank God for always providing just what we need lest we drown. We take it a day at time and as we learn to quietly do so – we grow and we see life in ways we haven’t before.
A quiet and steadfast pace where we do not need to prove we are intellectual or better than the next social media star. That it’s okay to watch others win, that it’s okay to simply celebrate our victories in secret, and to just stop showing off. We simply be and for me at this moment – simply being is more important than knowing.
It’s been a month and a few days since I turned thirty and though I have always marked my birthday with a list of lessons I would take into the new year. 30 was a milestone birthday and surely, I intended for it to be a happy one. But as with most things in life, they never truly turn out to be what we expect it to be.
What I thought would be a grand trip somewhere turned out to be a quiet day of self-care with my favorite book in our little apartment. I had a lot of feelings and emotions leading up to my birthday that I had to sort through. I needed to realign my heart, my mind, and my soul and most of the time, it is never quite as beautiful as our Instagram photos suggest.
My dear husband blessed me the cake of my dreams and a yummy Italian Dinner at Mi Piace in Pasadena. It was a quiet night of revel and celebration – also the day after our 2nd wedding anniversary and the quiet dinner did lift my mood that was until the most ironic thing happened – I got hit in the head with a parking boom.
The paramedics were called, I was a bit hysterical because of my long history of watching too many medical shows (I literally asked the paramedic if I had internal bleeding), and just coming to terms with life for what it is. It was a literal bump in the head that also awakened something inside of me – it’s okay to not like where you are in the current moment but it’s important to understand that you are never stuck anywhere.
Since then, I have been doing a lot of internal cleansing and meditation as I prepare for a new chapter in my life. It’s all about letting go of the old, forgiving others (oh boy, it’s a long process), forgiving ourselves, and for me especially – not being ashamed of going after what I want. To not be scared to go after what I want for me and my little family and to not be constrained by limits others have put upon me.
It’s only been a month 30 but I am grateful to you for showing me the importance of growing my own wings and soaring – despite the many times I have failed to fly.
I would have more stories to tell you but for now, I bask in the silence and quiet of my life.
“If someone as rich, as famous, and as powerful as that person can think that all is lost in the world, what makes me safe from the dementors that live within?”
Those are the thoughts that have been running in my head as news outlets reported on the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. The dementors they lived with felt familiar. Long before I came to understand that dementors lived within me, I was simply a college student trying to make it through. The dementors continued to torment up to my late 20s. As I have continually mentioned in this blog, I had an Instagram worthy life on the outside but on the inside, I was tormented by my own demons.
I was working in a high profile Public Relations job (think The Devil Wears Prada) and I felt like a fish out of water. I liked the work, genuinely getting to know people, and helping share their stories but I did not particularly love the pressure to socialize. I wanted to connect with people in an authentic manner and not just because I wanted them to post about my product. It added to my already poor mental state. The pressure of the job plus the expectations of the people around me led me to slowly chip away on the inside. I was a ticking bomb and nobody knew.
In 2016, I fell in love, got married, and was momentarily freed from the dementors up until I rejoined the world again. By the end of 2016, I was an emotional mess, the dementors were winning and yes, thoughts of suicide has crossed my mind more than once. Having left with no options, my husband and I moved to the States and while it did not start out smoothly – being stripped away from everything made me refocus on what was important. With none of the pressures I have been carrying for as long as I can remember, I was free to become myself.
At one point in my life, I had everything a girl could ever want and yet, I was miserable on the inside. Today, a month shy of turning 30, I spend my days quietly doing the work of my hands, serving my husband, talking with God, and just enjoying life. I have learned to stop looking over my shoulder – that has helped a lot. I have stopped looking at what another person had and what I did not and that has made all the difference.
Thoughts are very important and I have learned to value meditation – of simply breathing in and out and thanking God for what is in front of me. All we need is today, God will take care of tomorrow. It all beings with gratitude and we have heard it said a million times that social media can be a form of torture because we see a world that we cannot have. But if there’s one thing I have learned, we do not really own anything, we are simply in the flow of things, and what we set out in the world, we get back.
I am not perfect and the dementors still come from time to time but by God’s grace, I am slowly overcoming it but only because people were bold enough to ask me how I was doing. So it helps to be persistent, to ask questions, to probe a bit even when people say they are fine. It is love that makes the world a better place and though we have all been hurt and some stories simply cannot be repaired, we can still love those who are present in our lives now and most importantly, we can learn to love ourselves and from there, we move forward and we believe that there is always always something to look forward to.
Before getting married, I was in a semi-relationship with a man who was suicidal. It was a relationship that was dark and heavy. He was so tired of the things that came his way and our relationship seemed like the only bright thing in his life. He held on to me for sunshine. However, the demons inside of him often won, leaving him with no choice but to end his relationship with me.
It hurt … like hell. And yet in those moments of despair on both my end and his, I chose to hold on to kindness. I reminded him that he was loved and that though we were no longer together, I always wished him well. He wanted to end his life so many times and though my reminders were mostly unwanted and deflected, I kept reminding him that the reasons to live outweighed the reasons to die. I kept pestering him and with love and kindness and to make the long story short, we did not end up together but he lived and now he is thriving.
It is so important to love people and pester them with love – you just never know how much it would help in the long run. The things you deposit into other people will go a long way – just keep believing and just in case you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself – just keep believing that greater days are ahead.
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.
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.