Posted in Movies, relationships, Self-Discovery, Young Adult

Flashback Friday: Now and Then (the movie)

Today, I actually woke up hours ahead of my alarm and decided I wanted to watch an old movie before I have to haul my ass to work. Something comforting, something that will take me back to my childhood and to remember that feeling of innocence and wonder, that feeling that the world is full of promises and you have your whole life ahead of you. (Jeez, sometimes I think and talk like I’m approaching middle age! This turning 30 thing is really getting to me. Moving. On.)

So I decided to watch Now and Then. Back then, it was my go-to movie when I needed a boost. In those days before Netflix, one actually had to go to an honest-to-goodness video store to rent a movie. They even had them on those plastic case thingies with the movie poster on the front and the synopsis at the back. The movies were in VHS format and back then that was THE height of technology.

For most of the year, I went to school in the city. I was raised by my aunts and uncles because my parents had to stay in the country most of the time to run our business. They alternated months to come visit myself and my siblings. It was a rare privilege to have them both over and I can count on both hands the number of times they’ve done so when I was growing up, weddings and graduation ceremonies mostly. Not even for our birthdays – mum usually came to that one. 

It sounds sadder than it was but it actually never bothered me that much, at least when I was younger. Do I wish I had more time with them? Sure. But I guess that sense of obligation and responsibility was instilled in me early on, and I always knew at the back of my head that without their sacrifice I wouldn’t have all the privileges I was enjoying: going to a good school, having everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I had if it weren’t for that arrangement. 

Together in London, our first family trip. 🙂
So even as my brother and sister bawled their eyes out every time one of them had to leave, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip and put on a strong front. I did all of my crying in the toilet after, in private.

The point of all that backstory is to illustrate just how glorious and how hotly-anticipated summer vacations were to me between the ages of 10 to 15. Mostly because it was the only time my entire family could be together in one setting for an extended period of time. Back then, I was young enough to be excited over staying in the country. I used to like the fact that I’d be staying in a small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business, where simple pleasures were appreciated because there was nothing else to do, where the ocean was literally on our backyard (we had a seawall built to keep it away). Maybe because we were apart for most of the year, my parents – mum especially – tried to spoil us for those two months. We get to request what we wanted for lunch and dinner so she could cook each of our favourite dishes. We mostly get to do what we want – my brother could go hours and hours on the Playstation and no one would bat an eyelash.
Of course there were drawbacks. The place was a province and back then there were no phone lines built in town, let alone cellular services. The Internet was some futuristic invention and nobody could even dare imagine that someday we’ll have something like 4G. In a way that was a good thing, people actually had real face to face conversations instead of status updates on Facebook. Electricity was a fickle thing, and because it was a coastal town we were so frequently visited by typhoons even during the summer. My family had a generator at the back of the house so that we could still have some light during those extended days of rain and blackouts. We couldn’t keep it running for 24 hours though, so there was nothing we could do about the nights. 

So it wasn’t perfect, but we were all together. And watching films is one my family’s favourite things to do so my dad would encourage us to go to the video store and rent the movies that we liked and we’d take turns picking a movie to watch. He always looked so dismayed when I came back week after week with Now and Then in hand. He could not understand why I was so fixated on the story of four girls growing up in a small town in Indiana. 

Its set a time when they were no longer children but they’re not quite teenagers either. Everything is new, every experience is delicious. You start keeping secrets from your friends, especially when it comes to boys, because no one wants to be the first to admit that the enemy has suddenly become incredibly attractive. Its a story about enduring friendships and how important it is to have something constant to cling to when everything just seems to be changing.

All of my little adolescent crushes and youthful romances happened during that summer. I have to say, most of the time I was caught up in my imagination of what could be; nothing really happened between me and the guys I liked except for a few flirty conversations, a dozen secret smiles and a thousand longing looks. Everyone was scared of my dad, as he was one of the more well-known businessmen in town and had a reputation for being – well, not as friendly. Stand-offish. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t really allowed to interact with the locals. But my cousin was, and we used to ride around in a ladies’ scooter, cruising through the spots in town where the guys we liked were gathered just to see and be seen. I used to get so giddy during those moments and I’d come home with windswept hair, a slightly guilty demeanour and a secret happy smile.
I started writing a diary and pouring out all my teenage emotions and sweet little encounters. My God, i could fill pages and pages back then. I was blogging before I even knew what blogging was. I must have at least 10 volumes starting from the age of 9. I still re-read them sometimes, they give me a laugh. Its nice to remember that there was ever a time where my most pressing problem was how to catch a glimpse of the cute guy next door. 

Watching Now and Then brings back the memories of all those summers, before I was old enough for cynicism to set in, before I became a bit selfish and unappreciative of the simple pleasures of life in a small town. Before i grew up and moved on to wanting more complex things. Its nice to remind ourselves once in a while that we don’t have to make life so complicated, that the secret to happiness probably lies in keeping things simple. Let’s all take a trip down memory lane with Christina Ricci and the rest of the girls.

P.S. i was gutted to hear that the actress who played the young Chrissy died of drug overdose. Rest in peace. 😢

Posted in Filipino, Music, relationships, Reviews

Getting back to my roots (while listening to Original Pilipino Music)…

I have these moments where I feel a little bit homesick for all things Filipino. During lunch today one of my colleagues brought food that just reminded me of home; someone else was asking me about the best places to visit in Cebu, where I’m from. Yesterday, my boss showed me 2 one-hundred peso bills that someone from Victoria gave her when she was trying to collect money for charity (huh???!!!). I keep getting these little reminders of home, and isn’t it funny how I still think of the Philippines as home even though I spend a majority of my time in the UK? For all intents and purposes, London is my home now and I love it. However, I am a Filipino first, and I know sometimes I forget. I think and speak in English most of the time; I write my Facebook statuses and blogs in English; I read English books, I listen to English music. Its so easy for me to forget where I come from, to shed those aspects of myself that make me Filipino.

To be honest, I think I made that conscious decision 5 years ago when I arrived in London. I decided that I would immerse myself in the culture of this country because I want to experience life here to the fullest. I don’t want to just be over here working 12-hour shifts to make enough money to send over to the Philippines. No, I decided that I would take advantage of this opportunity and become, well, British. I tried to embrace every aspect of its culture, though I’ve yet to see the point of constantly drinking tea or this love of football (basketball, baby!).

It also didn’t help that my first encounter with Filipinos working overseas was with my old landlady, who is a walking, talking model of every negative stereotype Filipinos have ever been accused of: ambitious, money-grubbing, slave to trends and designer brands, possessing a “crabs in a box” mentality, love of “tsismis” (gossip) especially about fellow Filipinos, having nothing to say about art or culture…the list goes on. I have to admit that when I first got here, I sought to be the opposite of all that, to show everyone I meet in this country that there are Filipinos who are cultured and educated and can hold their own in a conversation. There are Filipinos who are willing to try new things, to travel and to explore. There are Filipinos who don’t see every man as a potential sponsor for a fiancee visa (I was once asked out on a date where the first question the guy asked me was ‘so what visa are you on?’. Like hello, I don’t need you and your British passport. I can work my way to my own, thanks).

I didn’t realise until this moment just how separated I’ve become from everything that makes me Filipino. I feel like I’ve lost my love for my home country, and though I will be the first to rant that there is so much about the Philippines that I detest, there is also so much to love and be proud of. I guess today’s theme is a reminder for me to be a little more in touch with my roots, to never forget where I came from because its going to make an impact on where I’m going. And if there’s one aspect where I remain proudly Filipino, its my love for classic original pilipino music (opm).  So I thought I’d share some of my favourite tunes in the hopes that after this post, I will be just a little bit more proud of being Filipino.

Halaga – Parokya Ni Edgar

 

“Sa libu-libong pagkakataon na tayoy nag-kasama, iilang ulit palang kitang makitang masaya. Naiinis akong isipin na ginaganyan ka nya, siguro ay hindi niya lang alam ang iyong tunay na halaga.”

  • This guy’s basically singing to a girl he’s in love with who’s got a boyfriend that doesn’t treat her right. Loosely translated, the lyrics are saying he’s never seen her happy with the guy and he hates the thought of him taking her for granted and not seeing her true worth. Literally, Halaga in Filipino means worth or value

 

Narda – Kamikazee

“Narda” is the alter ego of the Philippines’ version of Wonder Woman, called Darna. marsravelosdarna2

When she’s in her human disguise, she’s called “Narda”. She swallows some kind of stone and shouts “Darna” if she wants to transform. Its a little bit silly, I know. But its a huge part of the Filipino culture. I can’t think of any Filipino over the age of 25 who doesn’t know who Darna is, or who hasn’t made a Darna joke. Anyway, she fights bad guys, she’s super fast and super strong and she flies. This group, Kamikazee, decided to write a song about how hopeless it is to fall in love with someone like that who is so obviously (and literally) out of their reach.

 

“Awit na nananawagan (a song that’s calling out)
Baka skating napakikinggan (hoping maybe she’ll hear it)
Pag ibig na palaisipan (a love he can’t make heads or tails of)
Sa kanta na lang idaraan…(so he’ll just write a song about it instead)

Nag-aabang sa langit (Looking at the heavens)
Sa mga ulap sumisilip..(peeking through the clouds)
Sa likod ng mga tala..(or behind the stars)
Kahit sulyap lang Darna.” ( for even just one glimpse of Darna)

Ugh, the whole song is such a great metaphor for the hopelessness of unrequited love. I love it.

Harana – Parokya Ni Edgar

Harana in Filipino literally means Serenade. Its an old-fashioned practice during the “courtship” stage for a guy to gather a group of his friends so that he can serenade the girl he likes (usually at night and usually with the girls’ father giving him the death stare. Honestly, how can the poor guy be expected to carry a tune?!).

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photo taken from https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/551972498049666343/

Anyway, I guess in this era of Tinder and Match.com this practice is terribly OUT of fashion, and I for one think that’s a shame. I mean, I can see where this would be incredibly embarrassing, but part of me thinks its also incredibly romantic.

Parokya Ni Edgar is one of my favourite OPM bands, and their songs will probably feature in any OPM list I make. But Harana holds a special place in my heart because my high school crush sang it once and allowed me the illusion that he was singing it just for me (spoiler alert: he wasn’t!)

 

 

Pare Ko – Eraserheads

“Pare” (pa-reh) means, like, bro or brother or something. As this, and the next song, will illustrate, The Eraserheads are amazing storytellers and they really have a gift for writing songs in a clever way. In this song, the singer is telling his romantic woes to his “pare” and asking him to have patience and understanding because he knows he knows he’s bound to say things that are sappy and corny. So the singer tells his “pare” about a college girl he’s in love with who led him on and has now broken his heart.

Part of the reason why I love this song is because girls think they have a claim on the whole pouring-their-hearts-out-to-their-friends thing but actually, guys talk about their problems too. They just do it in a different way and usually with a lot more alcohol and swearing involved. This song is just such an accurate representation of the kind of conversation a guy would have with his friend, where he’s desperate for advice but trying so hard to still appear cool and collected. Although most of the song talks about the girl, because of the way the E-heads have written it, it actually becomes a celebration of male friendships instead.

Also? The song lyrics contain actual swearing! :p

“O, diyos ko, ano ba naman ito? (Oh my God, what is this?)
Di ba, ‘tang ina, (Son of a bitch)
Nagmukha akong tanga, (I looked like a fool)
Pinaasa niya lang aso, (She only led me on)
Lecheng pag-ibig toh…” (Damn this love)

Ang Huling El Bimbo – Eraserheads

Ah, now this is an epic song. Its really such a shame that I can’t translate the lyrics because it tells a story that is so quintessentially Filipino. To sum up, this boy once had after-school dance classes with this girl during which she would teach him the El Bimbo; in the process she also taught him about the power of true love. He never had the courage to tell her how he felt though, so they moved on and years pass. The girl becomes some kind of mistress and has a baby out of wedlock. Forced by desperation to take some kind of menial job washing plates or something, she was run over by a car walking home one night. So the guy laments that he can only hold her and dance with her in his dreams now. I’m probably not doing such a good job of translating this song, and maybe you have to be Filipino to understand the impact of this song. But the Eraserheads were probably like the Coldplay of OPM. They made listening to OPM cool.

To me, this song will always be associated with the guys in my class playing guitar one day during free period and everyone just spontaneously joined in because we all knew the words. This was probably a couple of months before high school graduation, and we all knew that we would never be together in quite the same way ever again. An era was ending and we didn’t know what the future held in store for us. Would we all make it? Would we all reach our dreams? In that moment, singing El Bimbo, we forgot about our worries for the future and just got lost in our love for music, for this song.

Cheers, blabbaholics.

 

Posted in Books, Paranormal, romance

Book Review: The Irin Chronicles – Elizabeth Hunter

In anticipation of the upcoming release of the fifth book in this series, I thought I’d post a review of three of my favourite novels of all time. I accidentally discovered Elizabeth Hunter because Amazon was giving away one of her books for free, and I ended up reading everything that she’s ever written. I like paranormal romance but I find that recently a lot of them are all parodies of Twilight, and all these teenage love triangles where the main female character is just so fantastic, where everyone is so in love with her but she somehow remains insecure about herself, where everyone wants to protect her at the cost of their lives but she insists on putting herself in danger – I just find it all so ridiculous.

Elizabeth Hunter writes about sensible, empowered women. They’re beautiful sure, but she makes it clear that what makes them beautiful is their character. They’re empowered not just for empowerment’s sake, nor is it just to prove a point to their male counterparts, but because they actually have a goal to get to. In short, she writes about the kind of female that’s relatable and liable. She’s been one of my go-to authors for the past year now. I think she’s really underrated.

Now. The Irin Chronicles.

First of all, this story is set in Istanbul, a place that I’ve always wanted to visit but have never gotten around to yet.  In the first book, called The Scribe, (buy now, its free on Amazon Kindle store!!!) we meet Ava Matheson – a professional photographer who hears voices in a language that she doesn’t recognise as well as read emotions when she’s around other people. She’s tried every therapy known to man, and her continuous search for a cure has led her to Istanbul. Here she meets Malachi, a warrior with a past: he belongs to an ancient group of scribes called the Irin who are descended from archangels.

An Irin warrior is strongest when mated to an Irina.

irin-irina
photo credits to thebreakfastblogdotnet.wordpress.com
The Irina are the female descendants; they’re called “singers” because their voices hold magic – such as the power to heal or see the future among others. Millions of years ago, the Grigori – the Irins’ ancient enemy – started a “purge” where they lured all the Irin warriors to a false war so that they can secretly kill all the Irina who have been left vulnerable. A few escaped, but since then there have been very little Irina presence in their world. And the younger warriors have never even seen one. This is a shame because the Irin’s touch is fatal to a mortal woman. We’re talking centuries of celibacy here. Needless to say, these Irin warriors are all a broody, moody bunch of pent-up sexual frustration.

Anyway, Malachi meets and becomes fascinated by Ava and as time went on, he begins to suspect that there’s more to her than meets the eye, but he’s afraid to dream that she might be the one girl he’s allowed to touch, that she could be a potential soulmate or reshon. Added to that, the Grigori have taken to following her around as well. The search for the truth about Ava’s past leads them to various parts of the country, and their romance blossoms in the process. However dangers lurk everywhere, and the Grigori are only waiting for the opportunity to strike and finish off the Irin race once and for all. I have to say, I really really love this series. I’m almost afraid of sharing it to the world because I would be crushed if others didn’t like it because I loved it so much. The first book ends in a cliffhanger that had me starting the 2nd book almost immediately. I was 1-clicking the Kindle store on Amazon like nobody’s business.

 

The second book, The Singer, was even better than the first. Ava and Malachi are separated by seemingly insurmountable forces, and there is a sense of urgency in the book where you’re not sure if they’ll ever be together or if they do, if things will be the same. And then when they are reunited, its not the kind of reunion that you would expect and its even more heartbreaking than the separation.

the-singer1
photo credits to thebreakfastblogdotnet.wordpress.com
On top of that, the story started in The Scribe gets equal airtime with the romance and we begin to sense that this story is bigger than Ava and Malachi, and that this has been planned (or fated) since before they met. We are introduced to other surviving Irina, and you can just feel the feels when they talk about their past before The Purge, and you can really sense the reverence with which this women are treated among The Irin.  We also learn a little bit more of Ava’s past, which is important because even among other Irina, she is…different.

 

 

The last book in the series is The Secret, where we finally learn the truth about Ava’s past and the Irina fight to reclaim their rightful place in the Irin world. We also learn more about The Grigori, who are actually sons of The Fallen – archangels who never went back to heaven because they became ensnared by the temptations of the human world, as well as the kind of power they hold over mortals. The Grigori become real to us readers and Elizabeth does a great job of showing their side of the story but not excusing everything they’ve done. We learn a secret that the Fallen and The Grigori have been hiding, and it all finally comes to a head in an epic battle in Vienna. I reread the climax of the story twice because I was’t so sure I fully grasped it the first time around because I read it so fast, I was THAT excited. It was a very satisfying end to the series, I loved every minute of it.

There is a beauty in Elizabeth Hunter’s writing that I can’t put into words. Her writing just flows, its so easy to read. Their is also a sense of the spiritual in her writing. I remember asking once if she’s Catholic because I can just feel a sense of appreciation for a being higher than ourselves in her writing. Whether that’s the Christian’s God or something else, you can really feel that respect she has for the spiritual. Also, Elizabeth is my friend on Goodreads and she’s replied to me when I emailed her about how much I love her writing AND she liked my review of her books. I love that she’s that connected to her readers.

There is a fourth book but it features a different couple. I don’t recommend reading it as a standalone, but I will probably review that book together with the upcoming 5th book.

Happy reading, bookworms!

Posted in Books, Reviews, Young Adult

Book Review: When Its Real – Erin Watt

Sometimes certain books just land on your lap at the precise moment in your life when you need that book’s story the most, and this is one of those books for me.

There is nothing earth-shatteringly original about this book. Its very premise has already been done thousands and thousands of times in the YA genre. Ordinary girl meets famous boy and somehow, she alone is immune to his charms; she alone can treat him like a normal human being and make him feel like there is more to him than fame, fortune and good looks (because of course he is always good looking). Thus love story ensues. Cue meet-cutes, kissing and chases on the ocean shore.

The above paragraph may make it seem like I am mocking this book. I AM MOST DEFINITELY NOT. I think that only snobbish people will knock a book down because its not “literature” or because its not original or because it adds nothing new to the genre. Well, I happen to think we read books, fiction in particular, so that we can be transported to another life or another world where we can forget about our own sets of woes and problems and read about somebody else’s for a while. Unlike our own lives (and unless we’re reading, say, a bloody trilogy), we know that some kind of resolution will always come in the final pages.

For me, there are two kinds of “good” books: the kind that make you think and change your perspective of things and the kind that just make you feel good. When It’s Real falls into the latter category. Its well-written, just the right amount of sappy, not so much angst that it makes you want to throw the book across the room, and its so damn cute. There’s also a little bit of a message there about the hazards of social media. My friend told me when I started this blog that I have to relinquish all my rights to privacy once I put myself out there. And that’s just me with a handful of followers and with complete control about what I do and do not share with the wider world. Think about those popstars who dont have that option, that choice. I wonder if they really know what they sign up for when they chased fame and glory. 

Jimmy Kimmel does a portion on his show called Mean Tweets which always crack me up because celebrities get to read what people say about them on Twitter. Its funny but at the same time I can see where some of those tweets can really hurt, and they’re really really personal. So this book made me think about that. 

If I have one (or two) complaint, its that I feel like the “conflict” was a bit sudden and extremely contrived, and the ending may have been a bit rushed. But other than that, great book!

Posted in london, Music, Stress Relief

I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier….my top 10 favourite Killers songs.

I opened the mail a couple of days ago and found my concert tickets for the Barclaycard British Summer Time concert at Hyde Park on the 8th of July, headlined by my favourite band in the world, The Killers!!!

Ok, so I’m a little late hitching my star to this particular bandwagon (maybe a decade late, in fact), and some may argue that The Killers reached their peak with Sam’s Town and that no song they’ve ever released has ever come close to the gloriousness of Mr. Brightside.

I SOOOOOOOO BEG TO DISAGREE.

Of course, I’ve heard of Mr. Brightside, I mean what self-respecting nearly-30, One-Tree-Hill-and-The-OC-watching female didn’t? It was the soundtrack to a lot of angsty YA TV series back in the days when Chad Michael Murray was a big deal. However, it was only when I moved to the UK that my love for The Killers was cemented. One of my favourite surgeons has the entire Killers back catalog on his iPod and would often play them while operating. Its how we celebrate finishing a heavy and tiring Thursday list.  When I really listened to the lyrics of ‘Read My Mind’, I loved it so much I played it on repeat one Sunday, much to my flatmates’ annoyance. Needless to say, they now know how to sing the song’s very catchy chorus.

So in celebration of the upcoming Killers concert, I’ve decided to do a list of my top 10 favourite Killers songs ever. Most of the songs on this list won’t come as a surprise to any fan, but I’ve always loved reading about why fellow music lovers enjoy particular songs because we all love them for different reasons. So…enjoy, fellow victims!

(***disclaimer: major fan-girling ahead!)

10. Just Another Girl

This one is a lesser known track from their Direct Hits album. My sister actually introduced me to it when she was learning their songs so that she’d be able to sing along during the concert. At the time, I thought I already knew all of their songs but apparently I missed this one. There’s nothing special about it, I just really like the beat. And the video featuring Diana Agron.

Favourite line: “All of my friends say I should move on, she’s just another girl: don’t let it stick into your heart so hard.”

 

9. Spaceman

My friend from college, Cyril, introduced me to this one. I still remember singing along to this when we were revising for the Philippine National Licensure Exam, affectionately (or not so affectionately) called the Boards. At a time when I was so nervous of failing one of THE biggest exams of my life, this helped relaxed me and I’ve associated it with good memories ever since.

I don’t really get the lyrics. But its catchy and amazing in a weird kind of way.

 

8. Somebody Told Me

“Somebody told me that you’ve got a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year…”

I’ve listened to this song a million times and I still don’t understand if Brandon was implying the boyfriend was feminine looking, or if the girl he currently fancies in a relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Either way, its one of the catchiest lyrics I’ve ever hear in my life.

 

7. Smile Like You Mean It

I just love the strings on this one. And because of this live performance; the violins make me want to weep.

 

6. A Dustland Fairytale

“…and the decades disappear like sinking ships but we persevere. God gives us hope but we still fear what we don’t know.”

 

5. This Is Your Life

“…the sky is full of dreams, but you don’t know how to fly. I don’t have a simple answer, but I know that I can answer: something better. Wait for it.”

So whenever I feel like settling for the mediocre in any and all aspects of my life, I listen to this song and I’m reminded that there is wisdom in waiting. 🙂 And also, I am in love with the crowd in this performance:

 

4. Human

“..and sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door. Close your eyes, clear your heart. Cut the cord.”

Ah, one of life’s deepest questions: Are we human or are we indeed dancer? On the 8th of July, I most definitely AM dancer.

And really, I can’t decide whether I love the upbeat version or this really solemn piano version. In fact, I refuse to choose! I love them both.

 

3. All These Things That I’ve Done

The lyrics are weird, they may not even make sense, but damn if this isn’t one of the best songs ever written. Sing with me everybody: I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier….

 

2. Mr. Brightside

To illustrate just how big this song is, ladies and gentlemen, I present: The Memes. 

I defy anyone to listen to this song and NOT sing along. At the work christmas party last year, my feet were literally dead and I’ve already had far too much wine that I was sat in my chair with my legs propped on another chair. Then this song came on and I was like, bitch let’s go. :p

 

and the winner…

 

Read My Mind

There are no words for how much I love this song. When I’m in a bad mood, I listen to, write about and post this song on social media. There is something about these lines that really speak to me:

“So I don’t mind if you don’t mind, cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine…”

Seriously, the entire song has lines that are instagram-caption-worthy. I love love love this song. If they don’t play it on the 8th of July, I will DEMAND  a refund. Thankfully, I know for a fact that its always on their setlist. 🙂

Brandon Flowers says this is his favourite song, and that its special, and that they can feel it overtime they play it on gigs. I know exactly what he’s talking about.

 

And of course, a very special shout-out to my song.

Sam’s Town – this transcends list. Like this song cannot be placed on any list because it. is. amazing. 🙂

Posted in relationships, Self-Discovery

Learning to be glad of my own company

For the next two weeks, my flatmate (who also happens to be my sister) will be getting lost in the streets of continental Europe, following a path that I myself traversed 3 years ago. I’m really proud of her courage to explore new cities and have unforgettable experiences. However, I can’t deny that the flat is really lonely without her. And its not just because I miss having someone to share the chores and responsibilities with, although I wouldn’t mind not having to prepare dinner after a long day at work. :p

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My sister and me! 🙂

Truth be told, I knew I would hate the thought of being by myself for the next fortnight. As Arlene, my sister, was preparing for her Eurotrip, I was already thinking of activities to do and people to do it with, especially since London has been having the warmest weather ever recorded in history this past week (we were hotter than Italy at one point!).

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been the type who can be comfortable in any kind of company. Put me in a room of strangers and I’ll probably make friends in about an hour. My friend once told me that I seem to have a knack for making small talk and making people feel comfortable about telling me things. I’ve honestly never really thought about it; it just comes naturally to me because I genuinely enjoy being around and getting to know people. But how meaningful are the acquaintances I make is another question.

As I reach the ripe old age of 30, I have come to realise that friends are not stickers that you collect and put in an album, to be looked at and admired but never really put to use. I think friends are more like expensive shoes. You’re on your feet all day so you don’t want to buy cheap shoes, you want to buy one that’s of good quality, that’s comfortable, and that you can wear in any weather. These shoes will see you through the good times and the bad; they will be there for weddings, birthdays and funerals. You don’t need a lot, you just need to buy your money’s worth and pick ones that will last.

At 29, I probably have less friends I can ring if I want to do something crazy like party all night. However, I do have a select few that I can consistently count on to have random phone conversations about nothing at all, or to prop me up when I’m feeling down, or support me when I have stupid ideas, or wait with me at the A and E because I’m having an allergic reaction and I’m afraid I might go into anaphylaxis shock (yes this has happened).

Most importantly, I’m learning that sometimes we need a little bit of alone time so that we can learn how to be on our own but not lonely. Who are you when you’re not with others? Can you live with the  you that you’re discovering when you’re by yourself at the end of the day? These are thoughts that have been running through my mind whilst I sit in an apartment that is really too big for one person to live in (I almost, ALMOST wish I was back in a hospital accommodation).

Anyway, I just wanted to put my thoughts onto paper so that I can look back at this sporadically over the next two weeks. I am not going to have a sudden epiphany (I do have other things to do than self-reflection), but I think that if I find that I feel complete even in my own company, I’ll be more ready to give relationships a shot and less scared  of putting myself out there or letting others in, and these two solitary weeks would have been all worth it.

 

 

 

Posted in Feminism, fitness, Lifestyle, london, Stress Relief

This Girl Can

After work today, I went to my muay thai training session at London Fight Factory. I’ve been going to that gym on and off for about 3 years now. At one point when I was experiencing probably the lowest point of my life, I think it probably saved me from giving up or going insane. My friend Aaron first introduced me to it. At the time, I was significantly less confident about my physical abilities. I thought I’d better stick to what I knew best (Zumba) and save myself the embarassment. But he was so passionate about it that I decided to give it a go. And while I may not have been as consistent about it as I would have liked, it has remained one of the most enduring parts of my fitness routine.

It just makes me think about how quick we are to judge ourselves and say ‘I could never do that’. When did we develop this mindset that there are things beyond our reach? When we were kids, we used to be dreamers. We used to believe in magic and in the impossible. More importantly, we used to believe in ourselves. I sometimes envy the innocence (and blissful ignorance) of children. They haven’t yet learned to put themselves in a box nor to place limitations in their abilities. They still believe they can be the next prime minister or president, or be an actress, a ballerina or martial arts fighter. Check out these kids doing warm up for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training today at LFF. IMG_5476

This stopped me in my tracks first of all because it was so darn cute, but also because it just inspired me. I mean, not all of these kids will be fighters. Some of them are probably going to be awkward executing all those moves. But they will always remember the fact that they tried, and they had fun with it. I will think about this the next time I need inspiration. Because you know what? The fact that I’m out there and trying already makes me better than half the population who are spending the afternoon watching the telly.

 

There were a lot of adverts on the tube and other places a couple of years ago celebrating the active woman called This Girl Can, and it really stuck with me. This one in particular:

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Sometimes I forget that the only limitations I have are the ones I place on myself. If I want something and I work hard enough for it, there is nothing I can’t achieve. This girl can. And if I can’t just yet, I will never stop trying.

So here’s my own rough muay thai training session. Cheers, blabbaholics. x

Posted in Careers, Lifestyle, Stress Relief

10 Ways to Avoid Work-related Stress

Ordinarily, after a long and tiring day at work I would go home, feel frustrated and maybe post some deliberately vague status on Facebook about not letting the world get me down or shaking it off or something equally cliche. Now, I want to channel all that into a positive mental activity by making a list about how I can avoid work-related stress. I’ll post it on my blog so that I can remind myself of it the next time I have days like these and maybe help others out when they too have need of such a list. So, here’s some of the things that I compiled in my head as I was walking (tired and hungry, I might add) home from work:

 

 

A place for everything and everything in it’s place

I tend to dwell on things that have frustrated me throughout the day.  I have to learn to JUST. BLOODY. LET. GO. Yes, I can air out my frustrations, but I shouldn’t really be bringing  them home with me. Leave work at work. Furthermore, I need to remember that every day is a chance for a brand new start, a chance to change things if I really feel like there’s something that needs to be improved. I shouldn’t go on and on and on about something that happened last week; that way lies madness, and its very unproductive. Like I always say, if people were more proactive and less reactive, we would have more doers than whiners.

Have some perspective

I always thought that if we walked a mile in one another’s shoes we would be rushing to go back to our own. It’s easy to be caught up in another person’s weakness, or complain about someone not doing his or her job, or maybe complain that someone on the top of the food chain has forgotten what it’s like to be on the bottom. HOWEVER. I am of the opinion that we all could be a little more understanding of one another. Colleagues especially should learn that just because someone isn’t doing something the way you would do doesn’t mean they’re not trying their best. We should also remember that other people are facing pressures that we know nothing about. Managers don’t always know what its like to be on the shop floor working your ass off, whereas people on the shop floor don’t always know the sometimes near-desperate measures that managers have to resort to to keep things afloat. So have some perspective and put yourself in the other person’s place before you react.

Do not speak up when you’re angry

This is something my boss taught me. If the situation has escalated to a point where you are too involved and too emotional, chances are you will say things you might later regret. So if you’re feeling particularly upset (and the situation isn’t an emergency or something) walk away and come back when you’re calmer. You’ll find that you’ve gained just a little bit more clarity and perspective in the 5 minutes that you took to cool off. If you speak everything that’s on your mind in the heat of the moment, you’ll probably get instant satisfaction, but at the expense of your relationship with the other people involved in the scenario, and that will just lead to more stress. However, if you do speak up…

Stand your ground

I can be something of a pushover. I really should learn to say no, or to stop being such a people-pleaser. If there’s something I believe in, or something I see that I know isn’t right, I should speak up. If I’ve stated my opinion or position about something, I should learn not to waiver at the first sign of dissent, especially if I know I’m right.

Do not take on the problems of the world

Take responsibility only for the things that you are responsible for. I have this tendency to want to solve all the problems at work, and while that’s a noble aspiration its also a naive one. The problems of your workplace are bigger than you, you can only do so much to contribute a solution. At the end of the day, its enough that you’ve done your best. My boss tells me that when things aren’t going right, my default thinking shouldn’t be “what did I do wrong?” or “what did I fail to do?”. Instead, I should make a mental checklist of the things that I DID do, and yeah, maybe other things might have been missed but the important thing is that you tried.

Trust, develop and work with other people

I really dislike working with people who have a superhero complex. It’s like they think they’re the only ones who can save the day. Sometimes they make others look bad just so they can swoop in with a solution and make themselves look good. I think that’s wrong, and I don’t think that reflects very good teamwork. I think that if everyone on the team does well, it reflects on the whole team. tumblr_n08tzinXa41qei2wfo1_500-6907

I also think that if you constantly put yourself in the position of knowing all the answers, you put so much pressure on yourself. Whereas if you take the time to teach and develop other people, not only will you have helped someone else out, you’ve also helped yourself because the next time there’s a problem, there’s someone else you can rely on.

Eat Well

I have to put this on the list simply because I know for a fact that I am not a nice person when I’m hungry, have skipped a meal or have not eaten way past 8pm for dinner. I know people in general tend to not be at their best when their blood sugar is running low, but man, I have had moments when I was really stressed and hungry that I am ashamed of. I have been known to bite my friends’ heads off; I become impatient and maybe just a little unreasonable. So this is really a priority for me.  Having said that, next on this list is…

Find a better way to relieve stress that has nothing to do with food

I am a stress-eater. I am not proud of it, but I am. When I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I order Chinese food and just binge-eat dumplings while watching Netflix. I wanted to cry when my workplace took out KitKat bars from our vending machines because they went on a health kick, because sometimes those KitKat bars are the only standing between me and the loony bin. Anyway, I need to rewire my brain and somehow not connect food with comfort. I am now on a mission to STOP turning to food when I’m stressed.

Music soothes the angry beast

There is no problem at work that can’t be made just a little bit more bearable by Taylor Swift. Or any music really. When I got home today, while waiting for my Japanese takeaway, I logged on to Netflix and watched Pitch Perfect 2 and just sang along to the songs. Go to Spotify and you’ll find plenty of playlist to boost your mood. I myself have a few guilty pleasures playlist that I listen to when I need a quick pick-me-up, it may or may not include MmmBop. :p

Find that work-life balance

This is probably the most important. I went through a phase where I was spending probably 50 hours a week at work and at the end of two such weeks, I felt like I barely knew myself. I had the sudden realisation last week that I’ve let a lot of my hobbies and passions go because I was too caught up with work; I’d stopped trying new things and pushing myself to do something I’ve always been afraid of because I was too busy training the next big thing in orthopaedics (insert eyeroll here). I made a promise to myself long ago to never become the kind of person who is defined only by her work. So that’s why I’ve decided to go back to blogging, to running, to working out and finding other things to be interested in. I am more than a nurse, more than an educator, I am a well-rounded (sometimes literally well-rounded) person with lots of other interests.

What are your suggestions for relieving stress? I’m sure there’s a lot of other ways out there that work for other people and I would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers, blabbaholics!

Posted in Music, relationships

Playlist for the brokenhearted – or songs I play when I just want to feel the feels ;)

London weather often lends itself to emotional reflection. So I decided to make this playlist on Spotify as a soundtrack to when I just want to emote. Let me just say that I have not had reason to be heartbroken in a while, but that’s probably because I’ve decided to have a heart break and just stop trying for a while. I have been able to relate to most if not all of these songs at one point or the other in my life, but I’ve mostly gotten over it.

So here’s my playlist, aptly titled ‘Hurt’ with a sad face emoji.

I love most of the songs on this playlist. And I think its just got a good mix in there, from the first stage of broken heart when everything just hurts so much that you can’t imagine  ever getting past it, to the time when you’re mostly ok and ready to go back among the living again. Let me just say though, and I speak from experience, that the decision to ultimately live your life again will only come from you. You take as much time as you like to process your feelings, do not allow anyone to rush you. However, don’t take too long wallowing in the past and things that can never be that you forget to enjoy the promise of tomorrow, and the hope of what else is still to come to your life.

Here’s my personal favourites from this playlist, with the lyrics that have really resonated with me when I was struggling with my own broken heart. 😉

Gravity – Sara Bareilles

“…I live here on my knees as I try to make you see that you’re everything I think I need here on the ground. But you’re neither friend nor foe, though I can’t seem to let you go. The one thing that I still know is you’re keeping me down.”

Oh Sara, sometimes you just have to know when to let go when you love someone so much that you start to lose yourself.

Baby Don’t You Break My Heart Slow – Vonda Shepard

“I’d rather you be mean than love and lie. I’d rather hear the truth and have to say goodbye. I’d rather take the blow, at least then I would know. But baby, don’t you break my heart slow.”

I think there’s nothing worse than being in a limbo of uncertainty. If its over, I’d rather just know.

Boys Don’t Cry – Plumb

“I used to hold your hand, so tight there was no question. But now even when you’re near, I’ve never felt so alone.”

Ah, that feeling of desperation when you just know something’s wrong but don’t have the courage to ask or know for certain.

Congratulations – Blue October

“I came to see the light in my best friend, you seem as happy as you’ve ever been. My chance of being open is broken and now you’re Mrs. Him. My words they don’t come out right but I’m trying to say I’m happy for you. I think I’ll take that drive, I wanted to give you something I’ve been wanting to give to you for years: my heart”

When I first heard this song, I think I was 21 at the time and still getting over the fact that my best friend (whom I’ve been in love with for the better part of 5 years) is with another girl. I think I nearly died from heartache (insert eyeroll here). I’ve mostly gotten over it. But I’ve also promised myself I will never fall for a friend ever again, its just a special kind of hell. Shout out to Stephenie Myers for recommending this song when she posted her Twilight reading playlist.

Keep Breathing – Ingrid Michaelson

“I want to change the world instead I sleep. I want to believe in more than you and me. But all that I know is I’m breathing, all I can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing now.”

Yep, this is the first phase. That curling up in bed, crying your heart out and ignoring the world phase when even breathing seems to take up all your energy. This one was famously played on the Grey’s Anatomy Season 2 Finale and its still one of the most epic scenes I’ve ever seen on telly.

Gale Song – The Lumineers

“…and all this too shall pass, this loneliness won’t last”

It will pass, hang in there.

Not As We – Alanis Morissette

“Day one, day one: start over again. Step one, step one: I’m barely making sense. For now I’m faking it till I’m pseudo making it. From scratch begin again, but this time as I and not as We.”

Whenever I feel like I’m finally ready to move on from whatever heartbreak I’m going through at the time, this is the first song I listen to. I think its just got such beautiful lyrics and everyone can relate to it. Anyone who tells you that its easy to get over someone is lying. Sometimes you’re only pretending to live your life again, but that’s ok. Eventually, you’ll stop pretending and start living again. Until then, fake it until you make it.

I Got You – Leona Lewis

“Coz this is love and life and nothing we can both control. And if it don’t feel right, you’re not losing me by letting me know.”

“Go ahead and say goodbye, I’ll be alright. Go ahead and make me cry, I’ll be alright. And when you need a place to run to, for better or worse I got you.”

This. This is the way to break up or get over someone who hurt you. Really, most of the time no one sets out to intentionally hurt another person, it just happens. We want what we want, we love who we love. We can’t force ourselves or other people to feel something that’s not there. I came to the conclusion, even as I was wallowing in sadness, that I value my friendship with the guy far too much to lose it over something neither of us could have controlled. So to you, you know who you are, despite everything, I got your back.

I’ll Be Okay – Amanda Marshall

“I’ll always have the memories, she’ll always have you. Fate has a way of changing, just when you don’t want it to.”

“You can’t hold on forever baby. I’ll be okay.”

And you will be. Stay strong. Have a glass of prosecco, hang out with your friends, take up a hobby. You are bigger than your heartache, you’ll be okay.

 

 

Posted in Books, Feminism, relationships, Women's literature

Review: Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and the dynamics of female friendship

There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women
-Madeline Albright

This is the second in my series of reviews of Margaret Atwood’s books. The more I skim through her body of work, the more apparent it becomes that women – their roles, their relationships with men and with each other, and their daily struggles – are central to her writing. Cat’s Eye is heftier than The Handmaid’s Tale and it took me longer to finish this book. It also took me a while to sink my teeth into the writing, but when I did I was hooked. There were moments when I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading, but the prose was so beautiful and lyrical that I just felt compelled to continue.

The quote above was famously posted by Taylor Swift during her beef with Tina Fey (who wrote Mean Girls, interestingly enough) after the latter made a joke about her during the Golden Globes. I confess that I myself don’t have a lot of close female friends. I don’t know why, but I’ve always gravitated towards male friendships because I just find it more…simple. I’m not sure I’m using the right word. Let me try to explain.

I always feel like I can be fully myself around men. I have a lot of female friends and some of those are friendships that I know are for keeps. However, its not always easy for me to open up and be vulnerable with other women because I’m always afraid of being judged and found lacking. I get that that’s probably a symptom of some unresolved issue, possibly from my childhood, rather than a reflection on the kind of friends I have. But its the truth nevertheless.

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Cat’s Eye tells the story of Elaine Risley, a somewhat famous Canadian painter who’s come back to her hometown of Toronto for a special exhibit. While there, she’s haunted by memories of her childhood friends, particularly Cordelia, who was the little ringleader of their group.

The story alternates between the present and flashbacks of Elaine’s childhood, starting with the day her family moved to Toronto after a sort of nomadic lifestyle (her father, I just learned from Wikipedia, was an entomologist. I don’t know why this was never clear to me while reading the book). Elaine’s a bit awkward when it comes to social situations probably because she’s only ever had her brother to play with. She also seems to be more comfortable playing with boys than with other girls.

After about a year of living in Toronto, and just when Elaine probably felt like she was finally getting her sea legs with it comes to her friends, Cordelia moves into the neighbourhood and becomes the Queen Bee of the group. I think she must be like a young version of Regina George from Mean Girls.

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The title of the book was taken from a special kind of marble (the toy) that Elaine has and proceeded to keep in her little red purse, which gave her comfort whenever she felt like life was getting her down. It was her little secret, something that no one else has and no one else knew that she was keeping it, and especially not Cordelia.

Sweet little girls, my butt.

Cordelia’s presence changes the dynamics of the group. Elaine, because of her obliviousness and awkwardness, becomes a target for bullying. And its the kind of bullying that girls at that age seem to specialise in. I know this because I was probably once one of those girls. When I was 10, I was a part a group that consisted of the most popular girls in our year. Other girls looked up to us, they all wanted to be part of us. I always felt like a fraud back then because I could not see what was so special about me. The other girls in the group were all prettier, richer, funnier. I was just the smart one. I was too young to realise there was power in being smart and clever. I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. And just like what the other girls did to Elaine, there were times when I was deliberately excluded and alienated because I did something that the group didn’t approve of. One time I apparently got too friendly with a guy our queen bee just happened to have a crush on, I wasnt even aware of this and yet they made me feel like rubbish for a week. I think that was my first insight as to how hurtful group think among women can be. 

And just like Elaine, I knew that the worst thing in the world would be to tattle. I mean, I was never driven to it. I eventually grew a pair and started to come into my own power. The worst thing was that when I did, I perpetuated this cycle of bullying by turning into one of them. We zeroed in on the other vulnerable members of the group and just teased them mercilessly. Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to recollect these memories and I am really ashamed of myself.  We made other girls cry. We called someone fish-face behind her back and proceeded to spread the nickname to the other people in the class, and it caught on like fire. We got the telling off of our lives when the girl we were calling “fish-face” cottoned on to it and decided to do the right thing and tell her mum about us. I suppose we were contrite, not because we felt bad for calling her fish-face but because we had been caught doing it. We then proceeded to ignore her afterwards. She became a pariah for like a month (which is like a year when you’re in middle school).

Elaine went through a more traumatic experience when the group decided to throw her hat into a ravine and when she was then forced by Cordelia to fetch it. They had all been told tales of bad things that happen when someone goes down into those ravines. But nevertheless, it was hard to stand up to peer pressure. So Elaine went and nearly freezes to death. In her delirium, she thought she saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary which enabled her to stand up and somehow get home. Her mum suddenly became fully aware of how much the situation has disintegrated, and the girls eventually apologised albeit insincerely. There was the sense that Elaine had betrayed the group by bringing a grown-up into the situation. It was after that that Elaine finally had the courage to “break” with the group.

You never really get over it

Elaine kind of repressed the whole episode. She would eventually move on to high school, do quite well, get into art school, do quite well, have a husband, get divorced – you know, the cycles of life. Throughout all that she would meet Cordelia sporadically, and the repressed experience would influence most of her life choices and especially her art. You know that girl we called “fish-face”? There’s no telling just how much we’ve altered her life because of that episode. God only knew whether she had fully internalised the whole thing. I can only apologise for making her a victim of my attempt to cover up my own insecurities back then. Because if they were busy bullying her they wouldn’t be bullying me. 

What it all comes down to…

I have a somewhat simplistic credo in life that I apply in all my interactions with other people, but particularly with other women; and its that I will never say anything about them behind their back if its a thing that I can’t say to their face. I also now choose friendships on the basis of whether I can truly open up and be myself when I’m with them. However, it is my belief that – just like love – you can never really be open enough to give something of yourself if you’re not whole. Like, allowing yourself to be bullied or to pretend to be someone you’re not just to be accepted is a symptom of someone who’s not comfortable in their own skin. You have to love yourself first before you become involved with others, whether its relationships with men or friendships with other women. If Elaine had loved herself more, she would never have allowed her life to become what it was. She would not have needed to use her relationships with other men as a crutch for when she was feeling unhappy or empty. She would never have allowed herself to be defined by who she was to others. She would be happy just being Elaine.

I guess the greatest compliment I can pay this book is that it will make you think, and it will mean different things – and be given different interpretations – by different people. It will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to go through the dynamics and politics of childhood friendship.

Happy reading, bookworms!