What’s worse than staying stagnant? I think it’s moving towards the wrong direction. As you work harder and slowly deplete your resources, you become farther and farther from where you really want to be.
This happened to me when I glorified busyness and lived a very unexamined life. I was tired, stressed, sad—all for a cause I didn’t really care about. I ended up pleasing others but not myself.
That’s why every vacation, I schedule days alone to pause and reflect about the months that passed by. And then I write them down so that I could look back and learn from them. Now that I have my own blog, I decided to post it here. I designed this website to be an online extension of myself–including the vulnerable bits and pieces that I hope readers could somehow learn from. With this in mind, I’m happy to share with you the 10 Life-Changing Experiences I Had In 2015 (And what I learned from them).
1.) One of my first friends in college passed away.
I learned that a mere thank you letter at the end of a fun semester could make the world of a difference after a person is gone. I learned that when hit by an impulse to express your love and gratitude to someone, you should do it immediately. Even if you are busy. Even if there is no occasion. Even if you think it’s too cheesy. Because there’s always a good reason why you feel that impulse to do something for him or her. Sometimes, it’s because you will never get that chance again.
2.) I “lost” a close friend.
I questioned my long-held beliefs about not burning bridges–especially without a warning or closure. I learned that not everyone deserves an explicit closure. Because when there is a blatant attempt to deceive you for the sake of self-preservation, then isn’t that closure enough? If an apology is tainted with excuses, and excuses tainted with lies, how helpful will a closure really be?
I learned that you could turn your back on a relationship without being spiteful and angry. I learned that you could sincerely wish a person well—but keep a safe distance to avoid a vicious cycle.
3.) I started writing for Inquirer and continued writing for When in Manila.
I REALLY enjoy the kind of work I do for Inquirer. But I also enjoy how it’s (kind of) a bragging right. When you write “Inquirer” in your CV or your social media bio, it becomes a social currency.
The kind of work we do is a huge part of our identities. (This is why strangers ask each other “What do you do?” to make conversation.) So while I don’t think there’s anything wrong when most of our social media bios spell out the companies and publications we are affiliated to, I have this nagging feeling that I’m such a poser.
I’m terribly inconsistent with the amount of work I turn in. I find it difficult to follow through with my ideas. I’m erratic. I can’t meet my own deadlines. I overuse the “busy with school” excuse. This holds true for my performance in WhenInManila.com as well. Throughout this experience, I saw my weaknesses much more clearly: my procrastination issues, my anxieties, my inconsistencies.
I also learned a number of valuable lessons. I learned that you should always be content but never complacent. I learned that systems and habits are more important than goals and resolutions. I learned that finding the right bosses and mentors are just as important as finding the right jobs.
But most importantly, I felt humbled. I learned that whatever achievement I may have in the past, present, or future, it will not be because I have impeccable work ethics and an amazing portfolio. Instead, I will always be indebted to my bosses and mentors, especially those who looked at me at my worst and somehow saw the potential that I didn’t see. They gave me opportunities I know I didn’t deserve.
4.) I put up my own blog.
James Clear wrote:
If you’re working on something important, then you’ll never feel ready. A side effect of doing challenging work is that you’re pulled by excitement and pushed by confusion at the same time.
This quote helped me overcome perfection paralysis. It reminds me of what my boss in WhenInManila.com instilled in me: start before you feel ready.
I learned that most of my idols are made reachable through the Internet. And being a gutsy fangirl armed with sincerity could go a long way.
I learned how to trust my instincts while being almost obsessive with lists, planners, mood boards, shot lists, and pegs. I learned that the only way to survive the process of pre-production and talent scouting is to enjoy the process.
I learned to see work as an opportunity to develop relationships with both readers and collaborators.
I learned the value of quality over quantity. I learned to turn down work that isn’t for me.
I learned that progress is more important than perfection, and that systems are better than goals. That design is better than default.
Most of all, I remembered what it’s like to be in love.
5.) I decided to extend my stay in college.
This is a decision I’ve often had to explain or defend to others.
I decided to space out my units. It’s something I did with the blessing and/or approval of my parents and my adviser. I decided to take 15 units a semester instead of the usual 18 or 21. This was after a grueling semester of trying to balance 18 units of academics and working. “Busy” doesn’t even begin to cover it. There were days I broke down in the car just because of the traffic. There were days when I collapsed the second I got home and crawled my way to the bed. I developed a bad habit of scratching my face when I felt so stressed out–sometimes it left a mark for a few days.
I realized I was never truly in the moment . I went through the motions of producing half-baked work and forgetting my school lessons right after the exams. I was neither enjoying nor learning.
I felt like a callous robot, a machine geared towards efficiency. I did not have the capacity to feel compassion or anger or wonder with the events and peoples I learned about in class.
Not for the first time, I was chastised by my professor for not accepting that I can’t have everything I want.
I learned that she was right. I learned to glorify meaningfulness over busyness. I learned that beyond time, focus and attention are just as precious. I learned to make decisions people I love won’t approve of.
I learned to live life in such a way that I’m in love with what I do. And on days when I don’t feel in love, I learned to pause and assess why.
Lastly, I learned to be conscious of my privileges.
6.) I witnessed a loved one crash and burn and realized it might be a vicious cycle.
I learned that the people we love may not always love us the way we want them to. This doesn’t mean that they don’t love us back. This realization could make the difference between staying and leaving.
7.) My self-worth relied on my productivity.
I learned that when your self-worth depends on external things such as productivity, nothing will ever be enough.
I learned that slow weekends and coffee dates on rooftops trump completed to-do lists.
8.) Connectivity almost made me lose my mind.
I learned that replying to love letters and birthday greetings should never feel like a task. I learned to switch on my phone’s airplane mode more often. I learned to compartmentalize my life, enjoying dates, barkada reunions, and family gatherings sans the social media updates.
I relearned the beauty of undocumented conversations. And when tempted to snap a photo for the sake of remembering, I mutter E.E. Cummings’ poem:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it inmy heart)i am never without it(anywherei go you go,my dear;and whatever is doneby only me is your doing,my darling)
I learned to let go of the fear of forgetting, trusting my heart to remember what it carries.
9.) I fell in love with reading again.
When my daily drive reached four hours a day, I knew I had to do something about it. I got into the habit of devouring audiobooks. I can’t believe it took me this long to get back to the habit of reading. I felt like a prodigal daughter being welcomed back into worlds I thought I lost forever.
10.) I embraced the beauty of old constants and new relationships.
I learned that the quality of a relationship trumps its length. I relearned the beauty and comfort of late-night phone calls that extend to the morning, texts in all caps, and a hundred inside jokes.
I learned that some LDR’s could work, aided by hours spent on Skype, stories shared on Viber, love letters emailed to each other, and Pinterest boards planning out the most awaited reunion.
I learned that we all need anchors and constants. Amidst the changes and the billions of strangers in this world, it’s nothing short of a miracle that I found mine.
I learned to never tire of reveling in that miracle.
Dedicated to the people who taught me how to love, to be loved, and to fall in love.
Happy New Year!
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