Posted in sport

Remembering Kobe

I have been up all night trying to make sense of why I’m so upset. When a celebrity dies, we all post RIP messages on Facebook and send thoughts and prayers to their family via Twitter (as if any of them would ever read it, but its the thought that counts anyway), but we don’t really feel emotionally involved.

But when a friend sent me a message saying Kobe Bryant had died on a plane crash I was genuinely and inexplicably shook to my core.

I am not a sporty person. I have very little hand-eye coordination and my stamina is, uhm, dodgy at best. But I grew up in a country that loves basketball. In fact the only sport that gets more coverage than basketball in the Philippines is a Manny Pacqiao boxing match. And when it comes to basketball, it doesn’t get any better than the National Basketball Association (NBA).

From an early age, I have been immersed in the culture of this league that yielded so many greats. From the trio of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman to their Western Conference Rivals that consisted of Malone, Stockton and Hornacek. Hill, Iverson, Ewing, Carter, Mutombo, Barkley, Payton, O’Neal, Hardaway (Penny and Tim) – I grew up watching these guys play. Rebounds, 24-second violations, three-point plays, triple doubles, fadeaways and layups were a regular part of my vocabulary just as much as cat, apple, and dog.

But I wasn’t really invested until Kobe Bryant came along. I mean, I liked MJ but he was on his way out by the time I really understood what the game meant. Kobe was different. He was young and exciting. He played with a single-minded determination that really was something to see. He laughed in the face of critics who claimed he was too arrogant because hey, if he’s winning games (and he usually did) then I believe the word for it is CONFIDENCE. He was very clearly a winner, and I loved winners. I never believed in rooting for the underdog.

Saturdays used to mean battling with my brother for control of the telly. I wanted to watch the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls on MTV’s Asia Hitlist, he wanted to watch the back-to-back NBA games that played on ESPN every weekend. But when Kobe came along and I became a Lakers fan I was there watching alongside with him, and our arguments now consisted of heated debates about the individual merits of our respective teams. I was convinced that the Shaq-Kobe duo and the flashy style of the Lakers made them the best team that ever walked the planet, he preferred the old-school defensive style of the dependable (but boring LOL) San Antonio Spurs.

I laugh now remembering how he would chant “KOBE SUCKS” during all the Lakers games because he knew it would upset me, and how upset he was when Derek Fisher made that miraculous 0.04 second game winning shot against the Spurs. I was ecstatic when the Lakers acquired veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton to support Shaq and Kobe, and devastated when the Detroit Pistons pulled an upset and, against all odds, beat the Lakers in the 2004 NBA finals. (My brother was beside himself with glee).

When there were doubts about whether he would ever win a championship when Shaq moved to Miami, I never wavered. I knew Kobe could do it. He had that steely determination to win at all cost, even if he had to carry his entire team on his shoulders – and he had to do that for a while, while the Lakers attempted to rebuild.

2 championship rings later and all the naysayers were finally silenced.

I was lucky enough to be in London for the 2012 Olympics. The only ticket I bought was for one of the preliminary matches between Team USA and I can’t even remember which country now. I wanted to watch Kobe Bryant play, I didn’t care who he was playing against and how much I had to pay to do it.

Watching him on the court was every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be, and it remains one of the fondest memories of my life.

Kobe Bryant was the embodiment of my childhood. At the back of my mind, I have always been invested in his life and his career, even when I got too busy to follow the NBA games. When he announced his retirement I mourned with the rest of the world. I pored over the highlights of his final season and marvelled with the rest of the basketball fans around the world at how he, after 20 years, was still able to show us how. it. was. done.

His teammates spoke well of him and his rivals loved to hate him. He was a fierce competitor and he loved the game of basketball, genuinely loved it. He gave it all he had. I wish I had that kind of fire, that kind of passion, for my life’s work.

I’m not going to mention that infamous rape accusation. It seems silly and inappropriate to drag up something that was settled out of court in light of recent events. I will, however, comment on the impact he’s made to the league, to basketball fans, and the millions of young impressionable boys who shouted his name every time they attempted to shoot a fadeaway (or shoot a crumpled piece of paper into a wastebasket).

To be honest, I’m really not sure where I’m going with this post. I just know that I needed to get it off my chest, how devastating it was to learn about his death and that of his daughter Gigi. I think I’m upset – as I always am- by the absolute waste of a life cut short. They could have done so much more, the future was ahead of them and it was shining bright, and in the blink of an eye it was gone.

I guess there’s nothing left to do but end this post with words from the man himself:

Have a good time. Life is too short to get bogged down and discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep rolling.

Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020

Rest easy, Kobe. Mamba forever.

Posted in Feminism, friendship, women

We Are All Guilty Feminists, Too!

I’ve always believed in the great power of the written word. Its why from the moment I opened my first Sweet Valley Twins book I’ve dreamed of becoming a writer. The written word, when shared, can have the power to change perspectives and from there, change lives.

I read a wonderful book recently called The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White, and I’ve been wracking my head all week trying to figure out how I can write a review that will possible do this book justice, because I feel like nothing I write could ever adequately express how much this book meant to me, and how much I want to share it with the world.

And then I thought, you know what, why not pay tribute to the book, its author and the women who contributed to it by living its values and reaching out to the strong independent women in my own life and asking them about their own ‘Guilty Feminist’ statements? Maybe in my own little way, I could start a ripple effect that turns into a tidal wave of positive change. Or you know, at least start having the kind of conversations that could lead to a real change in how women perceive themselves.

So I sent a few texts, messaged people on Instagram, slid into people’s DMs and badgered a few others to share their own “I’m a Feminist, but…” statements, and the result was overwhelming. I have never before had so many frank and honest conversations about issues that I also relate to. I had a long talk with a friend about fat-shaming within the Filipino culture and how much it affects us, to the point of damaging our mental health. On a happier note, I had a really good catch-up with a friend who is finally able to be her truest, happiest self, with all the support and acceptance of her family and friends. What a wonderful thing it is to know that a lot of people now acknowledge that love is love is love.

So rather than doing a long-winded review, I’d like to share these women’s statements, some of them funny, some of them crazy (but accurate), some poignant, some painful, all of them immensely relatable. None of these statements are mine, but I could easily picture myself saying them (and I probably have).

It just goes to show that as much as the patriarchy likes to make us think we are in competition with each other, despite our differences there are so many ways in which we are the same, and that is why we need to support each other. There is a special place in hell, after all, for women who don’t help other women. Someone famous once said that.

I want the wonderful women in my life to realise, if they don’t already do, that these things do not make you any less of a feminist, any less strong or independent. These incredible group of women are mothers, nurses, fitness instructors, writers, specialists in a male-dominated field, managers, leaders – when I stop to think about how much they achieve every day despite the millions of things on their plate, it humbles me. Thank you guys for taking the time to support my crazy ideas!

For me personally the point of feminism is inclusion; it’s empowering other women if we are in a position or if we have the platform to do so. Its reminding everyone, especially those who need it, that each woman is unique, and therefore special.

Its also reminding ourselves of the beauty of female friendships, and how much fun it is to bond with someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. One of my friends remarked about how much fun she was having participating in this little project of mine, and another friend was already asking to share it with another friend (that she thinks I should meet! lol).

And that made this blog worth doing.

I am not delusional enough to think that a single blog post will change the world, or even change my small corner of it. But for an hour of two, I felt connected to every woman in my life (or the ones on my social media feeds). Maybe its naive and maybe I’m having a castle in the clouds moment here, but I’m just feeling so hopeful that if could just continue to help each other out until every single woman is heard, we can do it. We can prove Beyonce right and run the world, girls.

I’ll take that hope with me when I go to sleep tonight.

P.S. The Guilty Feminist is a podcast too. It’s really good. See link below!

Posted in bloggers, Careers, Lifestyle

Learning to be more comfortable with criticism

Everyone’s a critic.

One of my greatest fears has always been that of being tried and convicted in the court of public opinion without being given an opportunity to defend myself. I have had unpleasant experiences of this nature before and it was so traumatic that its instilled a deep-seated fear in me of people talking about me behind my back, twisting my words and misinterpreting my actions to use them against me.

I don’t think you’ll ever find anyone who could honestly say they were comfortable with being criticised, especially when the basis for it is founded on false or incomplete information, in which case it becomes a judgment. There are people who are better able to cope with judgment than others, but anyone who claims that they don’t get just the teensy bit upset when they hear other people saying untrue and unfair things about themselves or their work is a liar.

I feel like this is a blog entry that I’ve done before. I feel like I’m singing a remixed version of the same chorus and I seem to be singing it over and over again. For someone so afraid of criticism and judgement you’d think I’d learn by now to keep more of a low profile. After all, the less you do something, or the less you’re seen to do something, the less material people have to talk about you.

Well, sorry, I’m just not a low profile kind of girl.

I’m the kind of girl who wears my heart on my sleeve. I am an open book. I am so transparent I make Casper look corporeal in comparison. I am passionate about the things that I love and I won’t hesitate to talk about them in front of anyone who will listen. This makes me a target for the cynics and the naysayers who have nothing better to do than to bring people down because they think they can do so much better. Spoiler alert: they probably can’t.

I am not going to rehash things that I’ve probably already written about in a previous blog about how hurtful it is to be the object of petty gossip. I will instead focus on affirming my beliefs and setting my intentions for how I am going to cope with criticism, unfair or otherwise, because the nature of what I do guarantees that I will experience this from time to time. So here’s what I know.

  1. Take anything you hear from other people with a pinch of salt. Being somewhat of a gossip myself, I know that the teller will always put his or her own spin on the tale. The version that reaches your ears is vastly different from the original message and some things get lost and added in the retelling.
  2. Amidst the negativity, find something helpful that you can work on. Consider it an extreme form of feedback. After all, everyone’s feelings and opinions are valid and worth listening to. Who knows, office gossip and catty comments might even be a catalyst for positive change. Although, at present, I am not in the mood to be quite as magnanimous as to thank the haters for their hurtful comments. Can I please be allowed to be petty for five more minutes? Thank you.
  3. Resist the temptation to do damage control. Its so so tempting to explain yourself, to justify your actions, to clear your name. I’ve had enough life experiences to know that this will not make the situation any better. All you’ll be doing is adding fuel to the fire. Besides, if they don’t already appreciate your hard work and effort, chances are they never will, so efforts to change their mind is an exercise in futility.
  4. Filter what you let in to your life, choose whose opinions you opt to listen to. Honestly, the thing to ask yourself is whether you should even give credence to the opinions you hear in the first place. Is it coming from people you respect? Is there any truth to the criticisms (if so, see number 2)? Do you really care? Will it matter six months down the line when we’re all running from our lives because there’s been an outbreak of war? Which leads me to point number five.
  5. Life is too short to be pissed off all the time. Honestly, the amount of energy needed to sustain a bad mood is infinitely higher than the energy it takes to just smile, and, in the words of one Taylor Swift, shake it off. And if you can’t shake it off just yet, do what I’m doing now, which is –
  6. Channel all that negative energy into something good. I happen to write better when I’m upset about something. Some of my best work is borne out of my darkest moods. Maybe because when I’m writing about them I open up and make myself vulnerable, and in doing so I’m at my most authentic. Upset? Post a blog, write a song, or better yet, sing your heart out and keep your neighbours up by screaming the bridge of Welcome to The Black Parade at the top of your lungs. I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better.

Let’s be honest here. I will probably spend the next twenty four hours dwelling on the situation and nursing my hurts, but I can promise you that I will have mostly gotten over it by tomorrow. And if you’re in a similar situation or if any of the tips above have resonated with you or if you have other strategies to share that might help others, please comment. I’d love to hear and learn from you.

Cheers.

Posted in Careers, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Writing

How You Get Your Groove Back

Over the weekend my sister and I finally had the chance to watch the London production of Hamilton. I have to say that although its general knowledge by now that this show is a cultural phenomenon, its a different thing altogether to actually experience it yourself.

This isn’t a blog about how great the show it was though because I wouldn’t be telling you all anything you didn’t already know. It would be redundant for me to say that Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius, and as strange a concept as hip-hop musical theatre may be, he somehow made it work, and as a result he gave the Broadway and West End industry a badly-needed face lift and brought a new generation of theatre goers to the fold. We already know all that.

I suppose I wanted to talk about what watching Hamilton and listening to its music meant to me personally. For the past 6 months now I’ve slowly been resigning myself to the fact that this was it. This was all that’s going to become of my life. I would spend the rest of my days working for the NHS, doing a job that at best barely satisfies me, counting down the days until I collect my salary at the end of the month, breaking up the mind-numbing pattern by having sporadic dinners and catch-up sessions with friends every once in a while. Eat, Sleep, Rinse, Repeat.

It got to the point where I couldn’t even muster enough interest to pick up a book, I was sleeping longer, eating more – which is always indicative of my state of mind as I am a self-confessed stress eater. I could barely be bothered to put on make-up. I lost the will to even open a dating app. I spent most nights hunched over a 500-piece Disney Jigsaw Puzzle in a feeble attempt to find something that stimulates my brain. I start watching random shows on Netflix only to lose interest halfway through because I just could not be bothered.

Looking back I think I probably had the beginnings of – if not depression, something close to it. It’s like I lost some vital part of myself, the part that always enabled me to look forward to tomorrow, the part of me that believed that something exciting was always waiting to happen around the corner. I sometimes found myself in the middle of doing something and I would suddenly stop to think, what’s the point?

Anyway. That totally went to a darker place than I thought this blog would go. Funny what introspection can dig up, huh? I haven’t given myself the chance to reflect on the past year because I didn’t know if I would like what I saw when I did. But happily I’m the kind of person that doesn’t have it in within herself to be down in the dumps for so long. I’m genetically engineered to be bubbly and happy and for the most part that is my default setting. It was very eye-opening for me to realise that even the most seemingly well-adjusted and happiest of individuals could also go through mental health issues, mild as they may be.

You’ll all be happy to know that I reached a turning point last week leading to a series of activities culminating in the Hamilton show this weekend. First of all, I started reading again. I have always had an avaricious appetite for knowledge and stories. I went on a shopping spree on both Amazon Kindle and Waterstones, diversifying my bookshelves with an equal mix of fiction and non-fiction. Among my most recent purchases include two feminist books, Julie Andrews’ memoir, a book on the Lost Princes of the Tower and two of Yuval Harris’ books Sapiens and 21 lessons for the 21st Century. Plus the usual romance novels of course.

I’ve started a workout regimen that challenges me but also allows for, shall we say, my physical shortcomings. I think I’ve finally accepted the fact that I will never be an athlete, and that I will never be skinny, but I can still be active and healthy in my own way. My sister bought me a new pair of Nike’s over Christmas, which to be honest was probably the main catalyst for my renewed interest in training. Personally I think the right pair of shoes has enough power to change a person’s life. Quote me.

2019 was a struggle for me financially. I was still reaping the repercussions of having made questionable decisions in 2018. I probably should have limited my purchases to those that were strictly necessary, or perhaps travelled less, but I can’t really bring myself to regret the experiences I’ve had. So I worked a lot of extra shifts between September and December to make up for it. That probably contributed greatly to the feeling that my life was all about, and only about, work. I was spending too much time doing it, getting caught up in office politics and the drama of working in a slowly-dying NHS, plus working extra shifts that were both physically and mentally taxing.

I’m not sure how to express my feelings about this matter without sounding ungrateful. I’m lucky to have a job that on occasion still brings me something that might resemble joy, and my career trajectory is something that I’m really proud of. But. Part of me wishes I had the courage to give all that up to finally focus on something I’ve been wanting to do all my life: write a book.

I made several attempts to last year to write a story. Any story. I told myself that it doesn’t have to be good, the point is simply to finish. I bought books on everything from creative writing to grammar (and wished like hell that I paid more attention to subject-verb agreement in high school). I made a list of things that inspired me, tried to find a genre that suited me and filled notebook after notebook with ideas. I was determined to at least have a draft by the end of the year.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Every time I wrote something and reread it a week later it just felt shallow and superficial, and I didn’t think it measured up to a real writer’s work. I couldn’t find my voice, and I wasn’t sure what message I wanted to send to the world with my book. Basically, just finishing a story doesn’t and will never work for me. It didn’t inspire me. If I was going to tell a story, it needed to be a story worth telling, even if I’m the only person that thought so. I needed to be able to believe in my own creation.

In addition, “real life” got in the way. I work 37.5 hours a week, sometimes more. Each time I move up the career ladder I take on more responsibilities, which meant it was difficult to switch off from work even when I wasn’t at work. It was difficult to change gears, to put myself in the mindset of being a writer when part of my brain is still dwelling on whether we had enough bed capacity to operate on all our patients tomorrow.

So I lost the will to write. I gave up on that dream and told myself it’s never going to happen. I need to be content with what I have, be grateful to have stability and to be alive. But I was wrong.

This is the first time I’ve used my laptop for writing in a long while, and the first time I’ve had any interest in sharing my thoughts and feelings in a blog. It’s very therapeutic and it’s made me feel more like myself. I love being a nurse educator, I really do, but I think I realise I need both it and writing in my life. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t use my words to communicate, just like Alexander Hamilton.

Just two days ago I bought a notebook and a pen, sat down in a cafe and wrote a story that really meant something to me because it was my story, with a little bit of embellishment. I don’t know if I’m ever going to finish it, I really hope I do. I think I’ve found a way to tell the story I want to tell from a unique perspective, everything I need to complete it is within me, I just have to find the strength and the perseverance to keep at it even when it starts to feel like a pipe dream.

I think that’s why Hamilton resonated so much with me, and it will probably continue to do so in the months to come. Its a story about a revolution that founded a nation, sure, but at the core of it, it’s a story about having a dream AND having the drive to make that dream a reality. Its not enough to make castles in the clouds, if you want to achieve something you have to work for it, be willing to fight for it even if the odds are stacked against you.

I can only hope that if I ever put something out there, it can be as inspiring and life-changing for one person as Hamilton has been for so many others. Kudos, Lin Manuel Miranda.