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

Thanksgiving 2017

Mornings at Highland Park, Los Angeles

 

A year ago, my husband and I had Jollibee Chili Hotdogs and Chuckie to celebrate Thanksgiving. I recall arriving extremely late from work and enjoying the quiet dinner just between the two of us. It was a difficult time in the early days of our marriage and yet my husband and I managed to be thankful that we were together. What we didn’t know was the chaos that lay ahead and what life would demand from us.

Looking back on the year that was I couldn’t help but be amazed at how absolutely amazing God truly is. I believe we wouldn’t have endured the things we endured or laughed through life’s rock bottom moments without His strength. Through this season in our lives, we have chosen to trust God and each other. It was not perfect but at the end of the day, God has shown that He is faithful.

What has gotten us through many moments of uncertainty as we transition into this new life is gratitude. Gratefulness for what is prevents us from worrying about what is to be. I am the biggest control freak you would ever meet so to rest in God’s goodness is an entirely new ball game. But our current life situation has given us no choice but to offer each step to God. Yes not each day but each step.

Our lives are truly not our own. We can never plan our lifetime, we can only trust that God is sovereign and He is making all things work together for the good. It is safe to say that my life is very different from the glamorous life it once was a year ago. There are no events, no media interviews, and no rubbing elbows. We live a quiet life that is full of laughter and little moments. We get up every day, thank God for our jobs, and count our blessings. We come across a lot of people with their own stories to tell and it allows our hearts to be softened. Every story we hear reminds us to be thankful for where we are and what we have.

I couldn’t seem to find the words to describe this quiet life but let me try.

I once worked with a girl who seemed to have her life together. She held a managerial position in my former agency, had family who supported her so her salary was hers alone, and had a multitude of “right friends”. Her dream was to become just like the social media influencers she managed and from the outside – her life was perfect. And yet, just like many stories we have heard, she was unhappy. I often wondered why the girl who had everything was so unhappy.

I only got my answer during my time in the valley. Don’t get me wrong, with God on my side, we never lacked but there was no shopping sprees in Rodeo Drive. I thought that the only way to get happy was when you are so rich you don’t care how much something costs. And yet, I have been happier than I have ever been. It is through this season that I have found the true meaning of contentment. What I have is enough for today and tomorrow what God will bless me will be enough.

My former colleague was so unhappy because she found out that getting what she wanted wasn’t the answer. You can get more, more, and more and still find something missing. It’s a never ending trap and maybe the reason why Jesus said that when you have nothing left, that’s when you find more. True joy comes in knowing that the God who takes care of the world is taking care of me and for today, that is enough.

I am thankful for Jesus today.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Through

“You wove evil but God rewove it together for good.” – Genesis 50:20

 

“Oh no! No! No! I am going to miss the bus again!”

This was an everyday thought as I run after my bus that gets me to and from work in Downtown LA. I don’t miss the bus  this time and so I plop into my usual seat and sigh. It was going to be a good day after all.

Life is definitely different from what I have expected it to be but we all know that already. However, during the quiet moments of my day, I can’t help but wonder  how funny God can be sometimes.

It happens to the best of us. We assume that God has called us to do something for Him and we step out in faith, expecting that once we do, our dreams will happen in a snap. But more often that that, saying yes to God means taking one step forward, two steps back.

It happened to Joseph who had telling dreams of becoming a leader and yet spent a good chunk of his teens and twenties as a slave and in jail. David was set out to be king and yet the next day, he returned to being a shepherd boy. Jesus was the Messaiah and yet for a good measure of time, he was hidden and in his last moments on earth, he hung on the cross.

It is safe to say that the God of the Universe operates rather differently. For those in a relationship with God through Jesus, you may have heard a promise from God. It may have not been a loud cry but a gentle whisper enough to renew a hope in you. You heeded to his call and yet experienced quite the opposite in life. Where is God in all of this?

Of course sometimes it is our own decisions and mistakes that delay the process but even in our mistakes, God intervenes. And yet sometimes, the intervention takes forever. 

Many times in the Psalms, we can see David languishing over the wait, the pain, and the feeling of being abandoned. Though it may seem like that, we never are. Because as part of what is said in Hebrews 13:5, “being content with what you have; for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!”

God is with us even during the moments of despair and what seems like a season of silence. Even Jesus felt it on the cross and yet God’s faithfulness is evident, even during our dry seasons.

God is the builder, the Master Weaver, and the ultimate redeemer. As inspired by Max Lucado’s You’ll Get Through This, here are some thoughts to remember during a dry season.

  • You will get through this. 

            Deliverance is God’s speciality. When we are in the deepest seas of our own circumstances, we often think, this is it, this won’t end. And yet time and time again, God has proven to deliver us from all evil that consumes. He has brought those before us through the wilderness, through the valley of the shadow of death, and through the deep sea.

  • It won’t be painless. 

       In John 16:33, Jesus has said that there will Indeed be disappointment and pain but He said to rejoice for He have overcome the world. There is no promise that all pain and sadness will be eradicated once we say yes to Him but He does promise to rewears our pain for a higher purpose.

  • It won’t be quick. 

If you have been a Christian for awhile, you may now know that God likes to take his sweet time. We have seen it in the lives of every hero in the Bible. He holds time in His hands and He knows when to proceed. We always have our own timing but in His hands we trust that every day is as it should be in his book.

  • BUT God will use your mess for good. 

          While the waiting and the pain is more than enough for us to question where we are and even what we believe, we must see this waiting period, this chaos as a sign that our life is going as God promises. Each struggle is a chance for God to mold us into who He has created us to be. God sees each puzzle of every season of our lives and sees how one significantly impacts another. The Devil meant it to destroy but by God’s grace, we shall overcome.

The many stories in the Bible, just like Joseph’s, teaches us to trust God to weave through what the enemy has planted and overcome. He redeems all the broken parts of our lives for good. 

As Lucado emphasizes, “Joseph can tell you that life in the pit stinks. Yet for all of its rottenness doesn’t the pit do this much? It forces you to look upwards. Someone from up there must come down here to give you a hand.” 

God did it for Joseph, He will do it for you – at the right time in the right way. 


An Ode To El.

 

My favorite cousin, Izrael, died in his sleep last Friday. To this day, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. My cousin, who loved life, and was generous to a fault passed away at 28.

I went ahead with the day’s tasks but at the back of my mind, memories of Izrael was flooding in my mind.

He loved life. He was gregarious about the beauty of life. He was passionate. And yet, he also had his moments of sadness and frustration. But he trucked along – truck, truck, truck. You never saw him sitting still, wondering about whether he should or not – he just did. 

And just like deaths do, it rattled me. It disarmed me and last night, I found myself overwhelmed with emotions, clinging on to my husband for dear life. My cousin was dead.

And I knew he was in a better place than all of us. But that doesn’t take away the grief – death sucks and the devil can just kick it. It was like I was living in the world of simply getting by but today, with a jolt, I woke up with a stuffy nose (my body welcoming Fall) and I was awakened.

I am only 29. Though life has made me feel older, I still have so much ahead and I can’t give up. El would have told me to keep trucking, like he did.

Grief is overwhelming but it is also life altering.

Truck, truck, truck.

I love you, El. Rest easy in Heaven.

From Betty to Me: What I learned in my first ten years in the real world.

Me at my college graduation.
With my family at my college graduation.
Me and my best friend, Kae who unfortunately passed away four years ago.
If there’s one thing I recall from my first year working, it would be Betty La Fea. The TV showed brought to life by the beautiful America Ferrera brought life to my days. I turned it on while I was getting ready for work, hoping to gain some sort of inspiration for the long days ahead. She was also constantly on my mind as I traversed into the world of fashion, pretty much just like she did, but without an inkling of what I was getting into.

It has been ten years since I ditched by khaki and white uniform and wandered into the “real world” as magazines would like to call it. I was the biggest dork in college so to find myself in the middle of a highly popular fashion retail chain was quite intimidating and yet, just like with anything in life, I faced the challenge head on. My motto in life has always been “do-it-afraid” and that lack of fear has both opened and closed doors.

Since then, I have become a special education teacher, a college professor, a pre-school teacher, a writer, and a PR practitioner. I’ve worked for communications agencies, wrote for big publications, and met personalities I’ve only dreamt of meeting previously. It has been an adventurous ten years but as the quote would say, the days are long but the years are short. It has been awhile since I have been that wide eyed, highly enthusiastic 19 year old who first got a taste of what it was like to work in the real world and so much has happened since then.

Now, life took another major turn, as I am starting all over again in the City of Angels. So it’s ironic that my tenth year is marked as a new beginning in a brand new city and I take this moment to reflect on the past ten years.

 

Me and my college classmates during one of our industrial trips Choose your heroes well.
Choose your heroes well.

When I was a child, I had a lot of heroes. There were a bunch of people I looked up to both on screen and off of it. However, as you get older, you realize that not one life is alike and no matter how much you strive to mirror the life of a “lifespo”, your life is beautifully your own so you must make it your own kind of beautiful. Success is relative. I have made the mistake of going on the treadmill of how my life should be in and it took an unplanned uprooting to get me out of that funk.

During that time, there was no Instagram yet and Facebook was barely out of Harvard but the pressure to be a certain way was evident – imagine how more so now. However, I have learned that it’s of equal importance to know who you are, know what works for you, and have confidence in the life you want to live. It’s important to learn not to be swayed by the life others want you to live.

Ditch the credit card – or at least the urge to buy EVERYTHING.

I had dreams of owning my very own Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull. I recall having a vision board of all the material possessions I wanted to own. In my young mind, money equals success and so I went on shopping sprees which led me to a mountain of debt.

Today, I am learning to live well within my means (or even below my means!) instead of showing off or filling internal emptiness without a moment’s euphoria of shopping, eating, and merrymaking.

It’s not a secret that debt is never ending so it’s important to manage it because even when the bag is already out of style, your credit card debt never is.

It’s not a secret that debt is never ending so it’s important to manage it because even when the bag is already out of style, your credit card debt never is. For those of you who also have student loan debt and are looking for ways to save and manage your payments, check out options like refinancing through Earnest.

Never stop learning.

I graduated with a degree in International Marketing with a minor in Public Relations. However after my first foray in the “corporate world”, I realized I wanted to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher and so I went ahead and completed my 18 units and my Master’s Degree in Education. I soon found myself teaching special children but then realized that my real life’s calling, at least for now, was to be in Communications. So even if I had a knowledge of information in Education, I decided to set that aside and

Don’t be afraid of change.

Life is all about changes. If one season doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to leave that season and enter into a new one. It’s always exciting and there are always valuable skills to be learned that will eventually make you invaluable.

Know the importance of family and why overtime is counterproductive.

Even when I was working for the best agencies in the Philippines, I have always managed to go home on time. The reason? I was one of the few people who believed that the work will never be done but time will your family will run out. I always valued my time with family over editing another work article that can most definitely wait. Early on in life I have learned the importance of valuing family over the job and I was fortunate to learn this from my early mentors. When I had the chance to handle my own team, this was one lesson I taught them. It’s very tempting to be the “martyr” at work but at the end of the day, it doesn’t make you indestructible. Cherish your health, cherish your family, and don’t regret choosing another work email over spending time with them.

Take Risks.

Most of the jobs I took I had zero knowledge about when I took it and yet I had the confidence and humility to take it on. And yet I don’t regret taking jobs that seemed beyond my skill set because with the right attitude, you will learn and you will excel. All it takes is knowing that you don’t know it all but with confidence you can take it on.