Posted in bloggers, Careers, Self-Discovery

Learning how to ride a bike and other metaphors for life

I remember the very first time I ever got on a bicycle.

I was probably about seven years old and we lived in a village where all the kids used to come out and play in the afternoon and we’d all ride our bikes together, training wheels and all.

I have always been cautious by nature. I think I came out of the womb with a heightened sense of self-preservation. Even as a child, I was never one to take any risks. I was also quite conscious from an early stage of the things that were within my capabilities and those that weren’t.

Needless to say, basketball and other contact sports were not a big part of my formative years. Or anything that involved hand-eye coordination and stamina (I was a fat kid. Lol)

But I was quite happy with riding a bike. The training wheels were like my very own safety net. They ensured that I’d always find my balance, that I would never fall over and hurt myself. I was as happy and as carefree as it was possible to be, pushing pedal to the metal and going around the village without a care in the world.

Of course, the training wheels had to come off at some point. 

I was petrified the first time I ever got on a “real” bike. My uncle had one hand on my seat as he instructed me to take my time and to take it slow. He promised he wouldn’t let go unless he was sure I could do it on my own, and that he’d never let go before I was ready.

I didn’t think I’d ever get to a point where I could convince myself I was ready. I went around the block a couple of times with my uncle supporting me the whole time. He must have been exhausted, but bless him, he believed me when I said I wasn’t ready for him to let go just yet.

Inevitably though, we reached that moment where I had to be pushed, where I had to break through the barriers of fear and just do it. It was a real sink or swim moment. My uncle let go, and I either had to find my balance and pedal or I fall and hurt myself.

Those first few solo rides were shaky, and I fell and scraped my knees too many times to count. But I got back on that bike and tried again until I was cycling around the village without a training wheel in sight.

I needed that final push. 

Would I have been content to carry on riding a kid bike? Maybe. But it would only have taken me so far, and I would have missed out on the experience of being able to do something that I was initially fearful of.

Any new experience comes with fears and doubts, but that shouldn’t be a reason for missing out on them. I think continuously pushing and challenging yourself to do something you never thought you were capable of, especially if its something that scares the shit out of you, will only help you to grow as a person.

I have always been afraid of change. And these past couple of years I’ve attempted to make a big career change twice, and both times I backed out at the point of actually dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

I suppose part of that was because I always knew that it wasn’t the right time or the right move. But now the right opportunity has come, and it would be remiss of me not to take the chance just because I’m afraid or because I insist on clinging to the comfort of what’s familiar.

I never expected to have to feel this twice in one lifetime; they say once you learn how to ride a bike you’ll never forget how to do it. But at this moment, that is exactly how I feel. I feel like I’m about to learn how to ride a bike for the first time all over again.

The training wheels have come off. I’m as ready as I will ever be. I suppose the only thing left to do is hang tight and pedal.

Posted in Careers, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery, Writing

That Little Voice in Your Head

You are your own worst critic.

That’s just a fact.

When you try on the most beautiful dress and everyone else tells you you look fantastic, but all you can see when you look at the mirror is that bulge in your stomach that makes you think you look fat. So you return the dress and promise yourself you’ll buy it later, maybe after you’ve gone on a diet.

When you want to try something physical like muay thai and imagine people you know laughing at you for attempting something so athletic when you’ve always been just the smart one, and you ask yourself what in the world makes you think you could ever do this, so you nearly miss your first class.

When a higher job post becomes open and you think to yourself that there’s no way you’re qualified to do this, your colleagues will only intimidate you and its not your field of expertise so what have you got to bring to the table anyway? So you nearly miss the deadline for the submission of applications.

When you meet someone you fancy, but you think he’s in such a different stratosphere from you that ‘out of your league’ is an understatement, so you don’t even attempt to strike up a conversation…and you miss out on the possible love of your life.

One more.

When you try to fulfil your childhood dream of becoming a writer, so you decide to enter a short story writing contest, but halfway through writing your first story you read your draft and you think its absolute rubbish, so you nearly give up on the whole idea.

But you power through. And think to yourself that you don’t write to win, or to be published, or even because you’re hoping someone else will think its worth their time to read whatever it is you put out.

You write for you, for the sheer pleasure of putting into words the many things you have swirling in your head. You write because you have something to say and you want to say it, and you write because it is the best way for you to express yourself.

So you write a short story. And another one. And just because you grow up thinking that the more entries you send, the more chances you have of winning, you write a THIRD entry and submit it ONE HOUR BEFORE THE SUBMISSION APPLICATION CLOSES.

AND YOU WIN. YOU ACTUALLY WIN.

That third and desperate attempt at an entry actually wins.

So what have we learned from this?

Do not let yourself be defeated before you even get on the ring. Give yourself a chance to try. 

Don’t be so afraid to fail that you talk yourself out of even making an attempt. You don’t fail when you lose; failure will only add to your experience. There is no failure so spectacular that you can’t bounce back from it to become BETTER.

And sometimes fate and the universe will collide with passion and hard work and you can actually get everything you’ve ever wanted. Or at least be one step closer to it.

So that little voice in your head telling you you can NEVER do something, that you’ll never achieve some of your more far-fetched goals and dreams?

IGNORE IT. 

 

Posted in bloggers, Careers, Self-Discovery, Writing

A girl, a pen and a hula hoop

I’ve been a little remiss about blogging these past two weeks because I’ve been occupied with something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the nerve to do before.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a writer; its why I started blogging in the first place. I love the idea of painting pictures in someone’s head just by using my words (because god knows I’m not good at any other methods lol).

Unfortunately I’ve always been wary of trying things when I’m not sure I’ll be good at it. I don’t know why that is; call it an inherent fear of failure. I’ve somehow convinced myself I don’t have enough of an imagination to write fiction, so I shelved that dream all these years.

But recently I asked myself, what kind of an attitude is that to have as you go through life? If you never try anything because you’re afraid of how its going to challenge you then that means you go through life always playing it safe. You’ll never know the extent of what you’re capable of if you don’t push.

Almost as if it was divine providence, one of my blog connections sent me a link for a short story writing contest almost a month ago. I debated for ages over entering. I know there are stories in my head that I want to tell but I don’t know if I’m a good enough writer to tell them. Also, I like winning. I don’t like joining contests and not winning. Lol

Seriously though, I finally decided to just go for it, to write as if no one was going to be judging it but just for the pleasure of it. Its the same principle as for when I started this blog. There was never any design that it would reach even one person, I did it for me and for the release it gives me when I’m feeling stressed about life. The fact that I now I get random messages from people I didn’t expect telling me they actually follow it quite regularly – that’s just icing on the cake.

Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that the essence of doing something is not in the outcome but rather in the doing. I loved the process of creating something; I got a real joy out of crafting a story, of coming up with a clever turn of phrase. And that is a prize in and of itself.

To conclude this blog, I now realise that every time I hesitate to do something because I’m not sure I can be good at it, I’ll remember my experience with the hula hoop. Bear with me, I have a point I promise.

As a kid I’ve always been envious of other kids who can do the hula hoop because I’ve never been able to get the damn thing to spin around my hips. I think an integral part of my psyche was damaged because I was never able to do the hula hoop as a child.

So last year I got this worm of an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head and I decided, screw it, I’m going to buy a hula hoop on amazon and practice until I either succeed or break something.

I remember getting bruises on my abdomen for days because I practiced so incessantly. After a month of anguish I was finally able to do it. And even if I had ended up failing at it, I had nothing to lose from trying.

You never lose if you try. You miss out on so much when you don’t.

So watch this space for updates and fingers crossed that this is the start of the realization of a dream that’s 30 years in the making. Who knows, I may leave nursing for a career in writing. Crazier things have happened.

Cheers.

Posted in Careers, friendship, relationships

How To Face “Challenging Behaviours”

In my 30 years of existence, I have inevitably come across people who are mental – excuse me – I mean, challenging. Before I moved to the UK, I used to be what is popularly called a doormat. It seemed my personal goal in life is to please people, no matter how many times I’ve been told that its impossible to please everyone. I had an intrinsic fear of authority figures and my first instinct when I’m told to do something is to say yes. Whenever I’d get shouted at or told off, even by my one of my personal friends, I would be the first to back down, give in and/or apologise.

As the line from Wicked says, we are “led to those who helps us most to grow, if we let them“, so I suppose there’s a reason why October has been absolutely  rubbish for me in terms of my interactions with other people. I have had enough confrontations in October to last me a lifetime. It has not been particularly pleasant, BUT, looking back its been a real learning experience. I think I can now write the following tips with some authority. I’m hoping to avoid any conflicts this month (and for the foreseeable future, obviously) but hey, if more conflicts come my way I’ll soon be a subject matter expert. Anyway, here’s some of the things that I’ve learned to do when coming across bullies. 


1. Present Reality
I am of the opinion that most bullies are delusional, in the sense that they think its all about them. This whole “me, me, me” attitude is what makes them bullies in the first place and they are unable to look beyond their own narrow perspective to the bigger picture. 
I find that when facing people with this attitude it works to bring them back to reality and make them aware of everything and everyone else that’s involved in the situation. 


2. Acknowledge Their Feelings (as well as your own)
Look, we all have bad days. And when someone you normally get on with becomes confrontational, there’s usually a good reason. Also, they usually have a point even if that point has been communicated in less than desirable ways.

It always pays to be humble enough to acknowledge your part in the conflict, or to acknowledge that the other person is entitled to be mad or upset while still making the point that there is no call for rude behaviour. 


3. Don’t Make It About You
I think sometimes the issue is bigger than the both of you (or how many other people there are involved in a confrontation) so after you’ve acknowledged your feelings, move on to the bigger picture. Yes, your feelings have been hurt but don’t let that overshadow any bigger issues at hand. If you make it all about you, you’re no different from the bullies whose behaviours you’re trying to challenge. 


4.  Make Use of A Mediator
Its rather presumptuous of me to make this list because I have been known to make confrontations worse by saying the wrong things or just plain giving in. So if you’re like me, the obvious thing to do would be to phone a friend and have someone there who’s not involved and who can remain calm and who can defuse a situation when the shouting (inevitably) commences. Make sure this someone has a level head on their shoulder and maybe a good right hook in case physical violence ensues. Lol


6. Remain Calm

Again, I am so bad at this. As most of my followers know, I tend to be dramatic (understatement). I hate the fact that I also tend to tear up when I’m really angry. 

However, most of my friends are men. I work in a speciality that’s about 80% male and men do not respond well to tears. They’re either afraid or contemptuous of it. I feel like I lose all their respect when I cry because they think I’m using the sympathy card. So no, getting emotional helps no one. Remain calm and get through a difficult conversation with your composure – and dignity – relatively intact. You can find a nice toilet stall to bawl your eyes out later, after all is said and done.


7. Don’t Burn Your Bridges
Look, no one likes to lose friends. Most of the time you get into fights with people that you actually give a shit for, and their friendship is worth saving. I think its why you’ve fought in the first place, because you actually give a toss about each other. 

Its the same with work colleagues. I’m not saying you want to remain friends with them but like it or not, you’ll have to work with them at some point in the future in a professional capacity. So if issues can be resolved without completely damaging the relationship, that’s the best outcome to aim for. 


8. Speak up. Stand Up For Yourself. 
All of the preceding points don’t matter if you don’t speak up when you feel you’re being wronged. Its difficult to be the one to rock the boat, but like I said these past couple of weeks, sometimes one must show that one is not pleased. I’m a pretty easygoing person, I don’t have a lot of pride and I have a pretty strong tolerance for bullshit BUT when I do lose my patience…it ain’t gonna be pretty.

You’ll never change things if you keep quiet. You’re not gonna get the help you need if you don’t tell someone that something’s wrong or that you’re not happy. So if you’re faced with challenging behaviours, challenge them. Confront them. Do not suffer abuse – or bullies – gladly. You (and I) deserve better. 

Happy weekend everyone! X 

Posted in Careers, london, Self-Discovery

Adulting 101

Let me just state for the record that there are times when I absolutely hate being an adult. Sometimes I find myself longing for the days when all my problems can be solved by a pint of ice cream and reassurance from mum and dad that everything will be alright.

You get a real appreciation for and understanding of your parents as you grow up I think. You begin to see that a lot of the time, adulting is simply about winging it. You fake it and hope to God you make it. As much as you try to use logic and as much as you try to weigh your options before making a decision, a lot of the time you make decisions on a leap of faith. All you can do is pray that you make the right one.

I suck at making decisions. Partly that comes from my desire to have everything. I find it hard to accept that in order to go for something I want, I have to give up something in return. I’m also really afraid of change. I’m the kind of person that gets attached to people, places and things. I’m incredibly sentimental. I remember when I was young (and stupid), my crush gave me a box of chocolate crinkles all wrapped up with a ribbon on top. I think I kept the box and ribbon for about 2 years and cried over it when, as puppy love tends to do, things didn’t work out.

This isn’t a post about puppy love, forgive me for digressing. 

The point is that I get incredibly attached. But sometimes attached is just another word for stagnant. Or stuck. And there comes a time when you have to think about what you really want out of life, and where you see your future going. I’m now in a position where I can think about settling in London and making a life for myself in this city. Its challenging, especially in terms of having a career and managing your finances. Its important to love your job but what I’ve learned is that its also important to keep moving forward. There are a lot of opportunities out there if you have the courage to go for it. And practically speaking, you also need a job that pays the bills.

(If it were up to me, I would be a bookseller at Waterstones, to be honest. But sadly that career path is not in the cards for me.)

This isn’t a very coherent post and its very much a reflection of my mental state of mind. I haven’t been able to blog much because I’ve been confused about the direction that I’m going to take my career (and life) in. I’ve had to weigh whether what I gain is worth giving up something (or someone lol) that I really love. I’ve also found myself questioning whether I have what it takes for me to take that leap, whether I’m ready for such a big step and this is when I usually find myself listening to Miley sing The Climb.

If I think about it from a sensible and logical point of view, I think I already know what decision I’m going to make; at this point, its all a matter of taking the steps to get my heart to accept what my brain already knows. I really really hope that I’m doing the right thing not just for me, but also for my family (and my future family!). As soon as I make the decision and take that irrevocable step, I can resume blogging and doing my book reviews, hopefully soon.

Until then, wish me luck guys. 

Posted in Careers, london, Moving to London, United Kingdom

Approved! 

Just a quick update to say that life has been hectic lately and I’m too emotionally and mentally spent to even contemplate writing a full-length blog. But for those who don’t already know, my indefinite leave to remain has been approved!

It was definitely an excruciating experience and an exercise in patience. For a second there, I really thought there was a real chance that I wouldn’t get the decision that I wanted. Seeing the letter and the word approved (they should really use big bold letters for that one word!) felt like a thorn has been pulled from my side and I drew my first easy breath in 8 hours (that’s how long I was at the home office).

What does this mean for me? Well, it means I basically earn the same rights as a citizen, although I still have to apply for the actual passport next year (and shell out another 2000 gbp). I can own a property, start a business, work anywhere if I don’t want to be a nurse. There’s no restrictions on my working hours, unlike when I was on a work permit when I can only work 20 hours a week extra on top of my contracted hours. I still need a visa if I want to travel this year because my passport is still Filipino, which is a pain because I honestly never want to go through the process of applying for any kind of visas ever again.

I guess what it means is that I can start thinking about building a life in the UK. For better or worse, this is my home now. And that mental shift has had unexpected results and have led to surprising decisions on my part. But I think when you’re young, its easier to take risks. And you take that risk because you don’t want to look back in the future and ask yourself ‘what if?’. I think the only truly bad experience is the lack of experience itself. 

Thank you to everyone who helped me out with this process, to the people who kept me calm when I was nearly in hysterics and to the people who were the first to celebrate with me. More celebrations to come later! 

Posted in Books, Careers, Feminism, Lifestyle, london, Reviews

Book Review: The Great Chick-Lit-A-Thon

I always think that people who abuse chick-lit as being all fluff and no substance has never had a week where you’ve used your brain so much that you just want to sit down for a day and not use up any more brain cells. That is what a chick lit is for. Its not unintelligent; in fact, I think it takes brains and talent to write a good chick lit. I don’t think it should even be called chick lit, that term is absolutely sexist. Yes, these books are written for and by women but I think men can learn a lot from them too (It certainly won’t hurt their E.Q. )

I will defend chick lits with my life. I think there comes a point in your year where you absolutely need a good escapist read. I think people who disparage these books as being so far from literature should get over themselves. Of course they’re not literature! One way to avoid going through life perpetually disappointed is to adjust your expectations. Take these books the way they were meant to be taken: they are pure, escapist enjoyment meant to be taken on a beach holiday and read for relaxation. Once in a while they provide a good social commentary and that is why this genre exists, because it is relatable AF.

Ok, I’ve said my piece. Let’s get to the review.

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld

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Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books of all time (talk about literature!). I love it so much that I’ve seen both the tv and movie version at least 10 times;

I salivated over seeing Matthew McFadden walking down Soho and I’m still kicking myself for not having the balls to get his autograph. I’ve read every spinoff of the book that has ever been released, even trashy ones such as Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife and Elizabeth and Darcy. I even considered reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but stopped myself. So when I saw this book on a trip to Waterstones, I thought, why not?

Eligible is a modern retelling of the classic tale every woman out there (who hasn’t been living under a rock) loves. For the life of me, I cannot understand why out of all the bars and gin joints in the world Curtis Sittenfeld chose to set this story in Cincinnati. There could not be a less glamorous setting for a retelling. But I read on a review somewhere that the author came form Cincinnati so she’s probably killing two birds with one stone: writing about what she knows and shamelessly plugging her hometown.

Mr. Bingley (or Chip Bingley in this version) is an ER (A and E for those of us on this side of the Atlantic) doctor who was once a contestant in a reality show called Eligible, which I imagine to be something similar to The Bachelor. He went on it on the urging of his sister/manager Caroline and because he wanted to find love. At the end of it he just could not bring himself to choose from either of the finalists because he didn’t think what he had with them was real. He moved to Cincinnati and took a job at the University Hospital where his good friend Fitzwilliam Darcy was a bloody neurosurgeon (of course he is).

Liz and Jane are not the shy, innocent virgins that they were in the original version. In fact, Jane is nearly forty, a yoga instructor and has been trying to have a child through IVF for years. Liz is 38, works for a magazine and has been having an affair with her close friend, the married Jasper Wick (Mr Wickham) for a long time and has been stupidly in love with him for even longer. They are both called back to the family home when their father has a heart attack.

I found this to be a really clever retelling. The Bennets are just as ridiculous as in the original and Mrs Bennet clearly transcends generations, revisions and retelling because I found her just as overbearing and annoying. I think the book did a really good job of injecting modern issues while still keeping the theme of the original intact. And I guess that’s only to be expected because no matter how enlightened and progressive we believe ourselves to be as a society, marriage is still by-and-large a game. An eligible bachelor such as Chip Bingley is still eyed and sized by ambitious mamas out there to see if he’s the right fit for their daughters. I’ve talked about the pressure to be paired up and settled as you grow older in my previous blog and that’s hasn’t changed from when Jane Austen published her novel. The shelf-life of women has probably expanded a bit, but a woman in her 30s who is still single is still seen as an anomaly.

I like how this book tackles feminism and proposes the idea that to devote yourself to another person doesn’t mean having to give up being your own woman.

There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable book.

My Not So Perfect Life – Sophie Kinsella

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I used to love Sophie Kinsella when I was in college. When I moved to London I found it a little hard to read her books because I thought they were unrealistic. Living in London is fun but its incredibly tough. Not everyone gets the glamorous jobs in advertising; we don’t all have fun Friday nights where we do all kinds of quirky things. In short, its not as perfect as her novels seem to portray.

Which is why I love this one.

My Not So Perfect Life is a glaring reality check on what social media has done to us as a society, especially for the younger generation, the so-called millennials. I think that we’ve all always felt the pressure to be perfect: the perfect daughter, the perfect employee, the perfect woman. With the advent of social media, there is an added pressure to not just be perfect but to make sure that everyone else knows it. To be honest, I sometimes hate looking at social media feeds, especially when I’ve had a particularly tough day at work or if I’ve had to re-think my holiday plans because I just can’t afford it. I see my friends’ posts and they just seem to be on holiday all the time and I find myself thinking, how in the hell did they find the time and money to do all that? Or I look at other people’s blogs or vlogs and think, mine will never be as interesting as that, my life just isn’t that instagrammable.

Truly, don’t ever go on Facebook or Instagram if you’re not feeling good about your life. 

This book tells the story behind the social media posts. It dares to say that there’s a story behind every perfect post. People project what they want to project into the social media world because they feel the need to maintain an image. Not all of it is real. We shouldn’t lose sight of who we are just because we inspire to be instagrammable. We shouldn’t bend over backwards to make other people think life is perfect because guess what? No one’s life is perfect. Not even movie stars with their blogger poses. They go through their ups and downs the same way as we do, they probably just hide it better. And maybe they have more expensive drinks to process their grief, but grieve they do nonetheless.

I loved this book. I finished it in one sitting. At one point, I felt the need to book myself into a glamping campsite just to see what the experience is like.

I think this book has an important message, especially to the young women of today.

Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me.

Life isn’t always instagram-perfect but you don’t want it to be. You are more than your social media feeds, you do not need to maintain an image. Be real, be you, be better than Facebook.

 I would definitely recommend both these books for people who are looking for a light easy read as we near the end of summer. Enjoy, bookworms!