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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I’ve read your blog and all I saw was a selfish young brat who never grew up.”
It was like a cold slap in the face. For one thing, I am your average people pleaser and another, it hurt because here I was a few months away from 29 and this person had the audacity to say nothing in me has changed. She also criticized my desire to succeed, the hard work my parents have done to send me and my brother to the best schools, and my achievements. I later on realized that she was merely projecting her discontent over her own life towards me. But I was too shocked to be rational.
Just like any well-meaning adult, I brooded over her comments for weeks. Here was this supposed “Christian” who went to church gamely, taught her kids how to pray, and posted Bible verses threatening me in a country that wasn’t my own. My head spun and I was left with panic attacks and a possible PTSD that wasn’t serious enough to diagnose. How could this person, who knew nothing about me and what I went through in recent months, call me out like that? Also, how could someone who never walked a day in my shoes criticise what I’ve been through and the words I’ve sprawled across this blog? Most importantly, how could a Christian be so spiteful?
This blog, despite its misgivings, has saved me from bullies, eating disorders, and even my own self. It has been my sounding board and despite the many likes, comments, and followers I get on social media, this blog, for a good portion of my life, was the friend who always listened. This blog was created way before the term bloggers were coined and so for years, I kept it close to my heart and refused to craft “my own brand.” This blog was personal and in its authenticity, I aimed to inspire another.
I never recalled a day where my words that came from a place of raw pain would be used against me out of spite. It’s safe to say that I was traumatized and trauma was something that I have dealt with
It took me about two months to process the trauma. There are days where I sit in the shower and be terrified because I was alone in a foreign land while also trying to adjust to a world where my parents weren’t a few steps away. My 28th year turned out to be nothing like I have expected it to be. In fact, it was the exact opposite of what I dreamed my first year of marriage would be.
While it has brought me so much joy, it has also brought me a lot of pain. Most of them because of my unrealistic expectations of life, my own insecurities, and my own misgivings. In the past 12 months alone, I have come against challenges like no other. I found myself at the end of my rope, with no one to turn to. I was alone. Situations have forced me to make decisions that sounded insane for the most part, and most importantly, at the lowest point of my life, I have also been kicked repeatedly by people I sought shelter from. Instead of helping me, they brought up old skeletons, warned my husband of my “attitude”, and continued to gossip about me. Yes, I wasn’t perfect but for someone to kick another when they’re down or to rejoice because I was going through a dark period, whether or not she understood what she was doing, has broken my heart far a million times.
I have discovered what it was like to be in the dark and could easily relate to this passage from Lamentations 3:19-21:
“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh, ho well I remember – the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over!). He’s all I’ve got left.”
During this new season of my life, all I had was with Jesus and the fervent hope that even if I may have messed up life through my choices, that God was still good. For the first time ever, my life was beyond my control. It wasn’t as neat as I have always wanted it to be. I was relying on God every single day and it seemed like every single day, there was a challenge to be overcome: whether internally or externally. I’ve written about it here and there and yet today, I choose to see the little victories God placed my way.
First off, he blessed me with a strength and bravery I never knew I had. For years, I had my own crutches: my achievements, my titles, my worldly possessions, and my own “social” identity. In a way, they were the things that have made me brave. But it was when God stripped all of those away that I have learned to find my true confidence in the One who made me who I am (Philippians 4:13, MSG).
Second, through people’s rejection, judgement, and criticism, God has showed me His unfailing love and goodness. By being isolated for the first time in forever, I have seen how truly miraculous God works. Yes, some people may have hurt me and left me in the cold but God, just like the hero that He is, swept in and led people are way who we didn’t expect to extend a hand, lend a hand. These were not Christians who quoted verses and yet you saw how they displayed God’s love and mercy through their actions, not words. They were inconvenienced and yet they sacrificed.
Which leads me to my third learning: love is ACTION, not a Facebook post, not a card, not a message BUT ACTION. Our new church has been sharing with us the story of Ruth and the importance of Hesed or a love that is loyal, no matter what the situation. It was an eye opener, especially in the first year of marriage, of how important it is to love without agenda and even when the situation doesn’t suit us. It’s a powerful love and it’s a reminder of how God loves us.
And fourth, the only way to grow is to acknowledge your own pain, mistakes, and ask God to help you overcome. My husband, just like Joyce Meyer’s husband, Dave, showed me love just like how it is described in 1 Corinthians 13, a love that is patient, kind, and loyal. Towards the end of 2016, I was so angry and so mad at the world, and God took a situation that ultimately meant to destroy and turned it around for good. He took me out of this Devil Wears Prada world I created and into a desert to refine me. I am not quite sure if I am out of the desert but I don’t feel any discomfort instead I feel peace and content with a life that is lived day by day.
Now, my heart is healing while being freed from perceptions that I, as a worldly “independent” woman had, to become the woman He has wanted me to be. Today, I write freely about this experience even if it has no conclusion yet because for me the battles are being won on the inside. I write about this experience in the middle of a battle because no matter what the world tries to do or how the enemy roars, the ending is the same: we win.
And that verse that I started with reflects that because there’s a second part to it:
“God proves to be good to the man who patiently waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The worst is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If He works severely, He also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.” – Lamentations 3:19:33.
I refuse to be reduced by things said about me, about mistakes I have done along the way, about the people who have harassed me, those I have hurt (I am not perfect), and the situations born out of my own doing. They all happened but I am never too far out for God to reach me. In fact, it is in these moments that He holds me closer than He ever has, it is when I am at my lowest that He shows up the most. In my weaknesses, He makes me strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 9-11).
And that lady I began this story about? She may or may not be right but thank God because my victory and redemption doesn’t come from her, in fact her words have no bearing, simply because God has overcome and in Him, all is well.
You’re supposed to hide your crazy.
At least that’s what every book, every girl friend, and romantic comedy convicts us to do. We have to hide our crazy not just so we can get the guy but so we can take control of the boardroom, our Instagram feed, and who we are as women. Boys are taught to get out there, make mistakes, and own the world in their own chaotic ways. But not with women.
Women should be prim and proper, especially in the culture we are raised in. Very few Filipinas “own their crazy”, instead they sweep it under meticulously cleaned rugs never to be discussed. They hide the chaos well: by working out excessively, by controlling food, by acting perfect, by never getting mad. To see a woman who owned her “shit” meant seeing a woman spiral out of control. Never a wrong step in public. Sit right, stand tall, finish your food, never let yourself run beyond a size six.
So many rules of how one should be that we paint our own version of realities that are often confounded with the truths that have been shared with us growing up. I don’t think it was taught for the purpose of forcing one to live up to imperfect rules but it was just one of those things that just happened.
Stumbling across Brene Brown’s Rising Strong became a therapy for me of some sort. It spoke about truly owning one’s narrative and understanding the stories we tell. It has become transformative and though it may take awhile for me to truly incorporate everything I’ve learned, it did teach me one thing: it’s time for me to own my crazy.
It’s time to stop hiding from everything and everyone by pretending to be perfect. She even mentioned the scary “Umbridge” theory where even being overtly “lighthearted” can also be as dangerous as the dark. Reading it and truly studying it has opened my mind to the truths I have refused to see as a child and an adult.
But now I am here and I am owning my crazy: which means owning my own pain, my destructive narratives, and hoping to emerge better. I will fight for my happy because I know there is no other way.
The other day, I treated myself and soaked in the tub while rereading a favorite, The Happiness Project. The first time I read it was when I was teaching college kids in 2012. It was a very different life from the one I am living now and yet the inner resonance of my life remained the same: I wanted desperately to be happy. To wake up joyful and just at peace.
It was as if a million life times passed before I got to where I am today. Jobs passed, seasons turned, knowledge was learned, and major events occurred. In the deepest core of who I am, I believe I am still the girl I used to be but with the passing time and situations, some things shift and you see yourself changing and becoming a slightly different person than who you once wore.
Anyway, back to the book. Chapter three discussed the importance of finding work that you were passionate about — like you lived it, breathed it, and didn’t think of it as work. My shift from teaching to public relations once made me think that that I finally found the love that I was looking for. But as I continued to spend time in the world of Public Relations and everything attached to it, I found myself going back to the same question, what do I love to do?
This was a question I never dared to ask myself more than a few times a year, especially during high times of stress, late nights, and no weekends. My last job left me on an ever higher level of anxiety and here I am, a few months off of it and still experiencing anxiety attacks like no other. I am weaving my way through it and I should be fine but they still come in waves and threaten to consume.
On most days, I am more than ecstatic to have left a job that was so consuming that it burnt me out but on some days like last night, it left me feeling a little.. challenged.
I miss deadlines. I miss approving things. I miss thinking of solutions and I guess in a prideful way, I miss being important.
It led me back to the feeling of being “legitimate”, a term coined by Gretchen Rubin when she describe her short law career. She wanted to be a lawyer because she wanted to be legit but she found no joy in doing so and so she gave it up but with hesitation. It was her sister who brought her out of the funk of wanting to be important and actually being kind to one’s self.
Last night, it was my baby brother (who else). He reminded me of all the reasons I left, of all the things I’ve always dreamed of, and of resting from the chaos that was my life for a good four years. For the first time since graduating high school, I find myself without an end goal. For as long as I can remember, the goal was to be the best: in school, at work, at the gym, and everywhere else.
Living life constantly on the margin has left me with anxiety at 28 that I am trying to recover from. Being without deadlines for the first time in forever has left me with still feeling panicked every once in awhile but now I have all the time to pull back to my center and the core of who I am.
Learning to unlearn has been 2017’s greatest challenge and yet the ability to breathe and for once to not trying to keep nudging my way to the top has given me the opportunity to breathe and that, to be completely honest, feels so dang good.