Posted in family, friendship, Nursing

Overwhelming acts of kindness

I was going to write a post of all the things I can no longer do because of the coronavirus pandemic, until I realised how shallow, counterproductive and self-indulgent that would be.

I an far luckier than most: young enough that the risk to my personal health is low, a profession that will pay me even if I have to call in sick in the event that I show symptoms, having the means to get treatment, and a home with access to internet and Netflix.

Other people are barely getting by. People who earn daily wages or who have been forced to go on unpaid leave are now wondering how they are going to support their families through this. The elderly population, who are most at risk, face the likelihood that if they get this virus the mortality rate is about 9%. That might seem small on paper, but it converts to thousands of deaths, thousands of lives lost, and one of them could be your loved ones.

Sometimes I read the news and its enough to send me into a spiral of hopelessness and fear. I have trouble sleeping most nights because I keep thinking of my friends, mostly nurses, who are running out of PPE; and my family, scattered all round the world, some of them with limited access to proper health care.

But there are things that keep me going, daily reminders that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that if we all stay calm, sensible and united we will get through this. So rather than indulging in reminiscing about things I can no longer do, or things that I don’t have (or indulging in a nervous breakdown) I’ve decided to make a list of the overwhelming acts of kindness that have seen me through these past couple of weeks:

A chatgroup of fellow nurses and close friends, created initially to plan parties but have now become a place to whine, vent and generally keep each other sane.

A colleague, offering to print and laminate things for me when I seem overwhelmed with the things I need to do at work.

An unexpected ally, telling me I need to be supported because I’m so busy doing teaching, and offering to do my coordinating shifts for me so I can just focus on what I need to do.

My boss telling me to go home early so I can rest and take care of myself.

An unexpected text from a rep I work with closely telling me to stay safe on the frontlines.

An offer from another rep, asking me to let him know if things get too busy so he can deliver food for the staff to eat.

The nightly salutes and tributes to health care workers in France, Spain, Belgium and other parts of Europe.

Daily texts and messages from family and friends telling me and my sister to keep safe.

Pret, Carluccio, Leon and other restaurants offering free drinks and/or 50% discount on all items for NHS staff.

A reply from someone who means so much to me, someone I’ve unintentionally let down and been out of touch with for almost a year, a reconnection that has made my world spin on the right axis again.

And finally, a close friend sending a care package to my parents, who live in a remote area in the Philippines where access to health care and medicine are limited. Thanks to her and her partner, my parents – who own a grocery store and who are staying open so people can still buy essentials like rice and canned goods – will have a supply of masks, Vitamin C, paracetamol and a thermometer. The sheer generosity of it makes me want to cry.

Sometimes you think you’ve never achieved anything great or meaningful in your life, that you’ve made the wrong choices, and have made far too many mistakes. But I don’t know. Somewhere, somehow, I must have done something right, to have people around me that I can count on when the going gets rough.

My only aim today, as I go through yet another day in the hospital, is to pass on the kindness I’ve received. Let’s make love and generosity a pandemic, and may it continue to be so long after the impact of Coronavirus has been forgotten.

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 friendship, relationships

I Remember The Boy

Dear Someone I Used To Know,

Last night someone sent me a photo of you. You’ve reached another milestone in your life, and it made me feel incredibly proud. It also made me a bit sad, remembering a time when I used to be the first, instead of the 100th, to hear about the latest happenings in your life, a time when I would have been there to cheer you on as you reach for your dreams, instead of just seeing the fulfilment of it on a Facebook status.

I know enough now to not idealise what we went through. I know I made mistakes and held on longer than I should have. Still, I can’t find it in me to look back on that time with anger or regret. For better or worse, that experience made me who I am, and its a reminder of a time when I allowed myself to really feel, to give everything I have in the name of that stupid thing called love. And its an incredibly entertaining story to tell at dinner parties and reunions. 

I remember many things about you. Your face is indelibly stamped in the part of my brain that stores long-term memory; I remember your smile and the way you used to tease me relentlessly (especially about my weight). I remember your love of the ocean, and 90s RnB. You hated polka dots, and it used to be a fruitless exercise trying to engage you in any interaction before 9am.

You used to have a real love for food, and the bonds of our friendship were cemented over gyoza and a bowl of Katsudon. You hated studying, but you’ve obviously gotten better at it since, if that MD next to your name is anything to go by. You used to love driving, and I used to love having you drive my car when you couldn’t use your own. I guess I used to live for the moments when I could pretend we were something more than we actually were. 

Who do you share your secrets with now? It used to be like pulling teeth, trying to get you to open up about what was happening in your life. I think its because I was such a blabbermouth back then; as close as we were I think a part of you never trusted me to shut up about them. I’ll have you know, yours were some of the few secrets I really kept. Maybe that was because for a long long time, my feelings for you were my biggest secret.

Are you happy? I hope you are. Despite everything that happened, I have many fond memories of us. You were always there for me when I needed you, especially when I needed someone to sort me out as I go through crisis after crisis. And despite the fact that you didn’t really know that my biggest crisis was YOU, you knew enough to be careful with my feelings when we found ourselves in a situation that changed the landscape of our friendship.

Last night I dreamt we were playing ‘Tong-Its” ,of all things, and laughing like we used to. That’s why I find myself writing about you on a rainy Saturday morning, when I once promised myself I would never write about you again. Isn’t it funny, though? I’m never as good at writing as I am when I’m writing about you. You’ve become my muse, and I won’t be surprised if someday I end up writing a book about you – certainly there’s no shortage of material in that regard.

My memories of you stay with me, even as I give away pieces of my heart to other people. I don’t look at those memories in quite the same way anymore, but I suppose part of growing up and moving on is the ability to see things from a different perspective, to see the truth in the lies we used to tell ourselves.

Time passes, things change and feelings inevitably fade.

I don’t remember what it was that I used to feel for you, but I do remember feeling them; and while I don’t think of you that often anymore, I know I will always remember you.

 

 

 

Posted in family, friendship, relationships

The Art of Forgiveness

As 2018 comes to a close, I find myself in the position of once again looking back at the year that’s gone: the good, the bad, the things I should have done and the things I could have done without.

Over the holidays, I made time to call several of my relatives and friends all around the world to greet them a Merry Christmas. There was one call in particular that I was dreading, because I wasn’t sure if it would even be received.

You see, my brother and I somehow managed to get into a stupid argument that got blown way out of proportion last Thanksgiving, of all times.

He took exception to the tone of voice he claims I always use when he was asking me a question. I took exception to the fact that he asks questions incessantly and unnecessarily, even when he already knew the answer, just for the pleasure of annoying me.

He spent the last two days of our family vacation barely making eye contact and ignoring me. My questions and tentative peace offerings were met with either disdain or the occasional grunt. I told myself I didn’t mind, that I was grateful for the reprieve from the constant teasing and torment.

What a pile of rubbish. Of course, I minded.

I minded because, first of all, we were on a bloody vacation. It was really awkward having to pose for all these photos and smile through my teeth when I was fully aware that the person standing next to me really hated my guts.

I minded because my brother and I are based in different parts of the world, and we see each other once every couple of years at best. It seemed such a shame to waste all that time we’ve been given fighting over something so inconsequential.

I minded because the last time my brother got that upset with me, he didn’t speak to me for two whole years. Yep, my family (especially the men in my family) take passive-aggressiveness to a whole other level. They don’t do shouting matches or throw plates at each other. If you’ve wronged them, you cease to exist for them until they’ve gotten the hurt out of their system.

I minded because I knew I could have done so much better. I could have been more patient, more sisterly, more understanding of his innate need to annoy me because in a twisted way, he really just wants my attention.

I minded because I love my brother, even when I don’t like him very much. We’ve always had a far more complicated relationship compared to that which I have with my sister. I think in some ways the distance works for us because it allows us to only remember the things we like about each other. Its the reason why we’ve gotten along so much better since I’ve moved to London.

In our case, absence really DOES make the heart grow fonder.

Most of all, I minded because this wasn’t the first relationship that I’ve managed to damage in the latter part of 2018. It was only very recently that I’ve managed to hurt a very good friend’s feelings to the point where she’s ignored any overtures I made ever since to make up for it.

That was warranted, to be fair. What I did, while not unforgivable, certainly let her down to such an extent that she is justified in hating me and shutting me out of her life completely. I came out of that experience feeling like I was losing my equilibrium.

I think that may have been the moment when I took a long hard look at the mirror only to realise I really did not like the friend and person that I was becoming.

I have since resolved to do better. And the first step towards healing, the key thing really, is being able to apologise and ask for forgiveness.

Forgiveness. Its such a scary thing, to ask for AND to offer. And the closer the relationship is, the harder it seems to be to say I’m sorry. Its difficult because I sometimes feel, when someone apologises to me, that they’re not as sincere as they should be. That they’re only paying lip service, and apologising out of some societal obligation to do the right thing.

You see, in my family we’ve always been raised to believe that actions speak louder than words (ironic, seeing as how much I love words!). I’ve never heard my dad tell me how much he loves me. BUT. When I was younger and sulking to the point of tears because all my friends had their own mobile phones and I was feeling left out and inferior because I didn’t have one, he saved up most of the money he had at the time and took a special trip to the city for the sole purpose of buying me my own Nokia 3300.

He never held this over my head in the years in between, and I only found out about this story when I was working and earning my own money. You can imagine how small and selfish I felt at the time. Anyway, my Dad doesn’t say much (and when he does he often gets it wrong and inadvertently hurts my feelings), but his actions have always made me feel protected, supported and loved.

So on Christmas Day, I got on Facebook Messenger and made a video call to my recently estranged brother so I can greet him a Merry Christmas and to force him to accept me back in his life. And to be honest, there was a moment when I thought he wouldn’t even take my call. But as soon as he did, I knew we were going to be alright.

He knew how symbolic a gesture it was for me to make the first move. And I knew it was just as symbolic that he took the call. We didn’t need sappy words of apology, and I will kill myself if he ever reads this saccharine and sentimental post, but our actions were enough to get that relationship back on track.

It was the best Christmas present I received this year.

Of course its easier with family, isn’t it? Nothing short of murder can sever the blood ties that obligates them to loving and accepting you and forgiving you time and time again when you mess up.

Its different when its someone who is part of your life by choice, rather than by blood. If you think about it, its a relationship that’s built on mutual understanding, trust and shared memories alone. There’s no binding contract apart from the promise that you will always have each other’s backs. What happens when you fail to fulfil the obligations of that relationship?

I’ve never really thought about it. I think I just took it for granted that there’s no transgression so big that its beyond forgiveness. I’ve always said, rather glibly, that I can talk my way out of anything. This illusion came crashing down in flames as I sat waiting – for three days – for a reply on messenger that never came.

I had hoped that by the time I wrote this blog it would have a happier ending, and that I can put a period at the end of the sentence and say I’ve learned from it and we’re moving forward. But that’s not the case. And its been a really hard pill to swallow.

Perhaps I should take a leaf out of my father’s book and let my actions speak louder than my words. Either way, its been a very humbling lesson to learn this year that the road to forgiveness is a hard one, and some of us may never get there at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in bloggers, friendship, relationships

Dear Old Friend

Dear Old Friend,

It occurred to me that I very rarely take the opportunity to thank you for being the kind of friend that I never knew I wanted but one I so desperately needed.

You see, I had a moment of clarity this week when I realised that life very rarely turns out the way we want it to. We don’t always get the things we want when we want them, and sometimes our prayers go unanswered.

There’s a reason for that though. Time and some higher powers at work know something we don’t. Because when life doesn’t give us the things we ask for, its because it wants to give us something better.

I’ve spent the past ten years glorifying a relationship that was probably more one-sided than I would have liked. One of the life lessons I’ve learned over the years is that when it’s right it should be easy. You don’t have to bend over backwards in order to feel secure in any relationship, because the best kind – the ones that are worth keeping – are unconditional. 

Ours is the kind of friendship that is free from complications. We understand each other so well that when both our phones died one time and we didn’t arrange where to meet up beforehand, we both made the executive decision to go home and just call each other once we’ve recharged our batteries. And we both knew that the other person wouldn’t take it personally, because that’s just how we roll.

You are the only person I could ever imagine going on a Euro Trip with. I don’t know how we did it, but we both grew up together AND separately on that trip. There was an understanding that we were going to enjoy the experience together, and I was glad to be there with someone who shares my interest in art, history and culture.

But there was also an implicit understanding that if at any point you wanted to do your own thing and I wanted to do mine, that was okay. Like when the time I wanted to go drinking in Berlin and you wanted to take photos of the Brandenburg Gate at night; or when YOU wanted to go drinking in Rome and I just wanted to curl up in the hotel with a good book.

We never put pressure on the other person to always be in each other’s pockets. We don’t need to see each more than once a week to stay connected. Heck, sometimes we go weeks without seeing each other.

But I like how we make it a point to know about each other’s lives. When something big happens, or when I have some random thought about how I think you look like the Black Panther, a simple howdy on Messenger will start a conversation that usually ends with us talking for hours.

We never stopped to think about how unique our friendship is. What’s normal for us is actually incredibly difficult to find. How many purely platonic guy-girl friendships have we known to exist? The answer is none. Its not possible. But we’ve made it possible, we’ve created the kind of friendship that works for us.

I guess in a time where we’re reaching the peak of our adulthood and we start to take stock of the relationships we’ve created and maintained over the years, its easy to be disillusioned when we find that we’ve wasted so much time and effort on a relationship that turned out to be hollow, or a friendship that did not stand the test of time and distance.

We’ve both experienced what its like to struggle to reconnect with someone who’s become a stranger, and we both know what its like to be unable to relate to someone who’s life choices has led him or her down a completely different path.

Its nothing personal, and its not to say that the other person is necessarily a bad friend. But I think that making the effort to stay in touch and be friends with someone – no matter the distance – is a choice.

Its very telling, the friendships that we chose to maintain and invest effort into. I think deep down we know which ones are worth it and which ones are not even worth the effort of being upset over. Sometimes the thing to do is to just cut your losses and realise you’re too old to cling to something that’s not having a positive impact on your life.

So I suppose I just wanted to write this blog to celebrate that. I wanted to celebrate our friendship because it is one my constants, its one of those anchors that I need in order to keep myself sane throughout the crazy rollercoaster that is my life.

I will always be here for you, even if I appear to be too busy. I’m never to busy to spend 100 minutes talking about everything and nothing at all. In fact, at the rate my love life is going you’ll probably have me as a permanent boarder on that loft that your new home conveniently comes with. I’ve already assessed where my bookshelves are going, so prepare yourself. Lol

Seriously though, thank you old friend. Thank you for cheering me on even when I get crazy ideas, for never making me feel like I was stupid for trying something when there was every possibility I would make a fool of myself. Thank you for the sharing and the laughter.

Listen here.

We are not allowed to become the kind of friends that only see each other once every seven years. We are not allowed to be sitting across each other in a restaurant one day and struggle so much to find a single topic of conversation because we’ve let ourselves drift too far apart, so we end up being on our phones half the time instead of talking to each other. That’s not how this friendship is going to end up.

Please don’t ever become a stranger, I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if that happens. Wherever life takes me, know that I am taking you with me wherever I go. And believe me, I will bully myself into your life even if you don’t want me there.

That is how this friendship will end: with you, me and a bowl of curry reminiscing about the good old days.

Love,

Anj

 

 

Posted in College, friendship, relationships, Self-Discovery

Dear 21-Year-Old-Me

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status to remind everyone in our year that its been 10 years since we graduated from college and we are, in fact, getting older by the minute.

Honestly, you could not pay me to be 21 again. At 21 I was heavily overweight, insecure, confused and emotionally stressed. I had no idea what the future had in store, all I know was that I was damned petrified of it.

At 21, I was looking back at my college years with some measure of regret for the things I’ve done and the things I didn’t do. I think I was having some kind of identity crisis because I felt like I could have lived a little more in college, and by live I mean drank more alcohol and maybe partied just a little bit more.

But its different when you see things from the 20-20 perspective of hindsight. So I have just a few things to say to my 21-year old self.

There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Do not worry that you’ve never experienced an overnight party or had a hangover. In 4 years you’ll find yourself vomiting up those unfortunate shots of Jaeger bombs somewhere in Lambeth North station in London of all places and you’ll tick that off your bucket list.

It will take you a good five years to get over your current “great love” and the source of your emotional stress. But get over it you will, and you’ll be a better person for having gone through it.

Finding our true love is proving more difficult than I thought. Prepare yourself for some rough years ahead. Haha

Your years as a clinical instructor will change you in ways you’ll never imagine. Be prepared for “scandals”, be prepared to be hurt but take comfort in knowing there’s something great waiting around the corner. So sign that job contract, do not even hesitate.

You will find yourself thanking the stars time and time again that you were intelligent long before you grew into your looks. You’ll find ways to cheat physical beauty later.

Try and go easy on the cakes and the steamed rice and the servings of lechon. But don’t worry too much about your weight. We will find a happy balance in the future and we will learn to love our body. Mostly.

The people you meet in college are some of the best people you’ll meet in your life. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by how different they are from you; those differences are the very reason why they were brought into your life. By the way, 10 years from now those people will still be grateful you chose to study instead of party. Almost as much as they’ll still be talking about your wonderfully loopy handwriting.

Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done. You are more or less a good person, and at least you can take credit for trying to be one.

Do not listen to that voice in your head telling you you should have gone into medicine. That’s not your calling.

Be nicer to your family. Even your annoying siblings and cousins. They will soon become some of the best friends you’ll ever have. Yes, even your brother.

Hey by the way there’s this thing called Instagram that you may want to invest money in. Lol

David Archuleta will not win American Idol. You’ll get over it.

In about 10 years, you’ll find yourself a bit more settled, in a foreign country and having experiences you never thought you’ll have. You’ve travelled, you’ve met new friends, and you’ll still be scared and confused most of the time…but really, 21-year old self, relax. Don’t worry too much about the future. We’ll be okay.

You’ll soon find yourself where I’m sitting, giving yourself a pat in the back saying, “We did good.” So for now, enjoy all the years in between. See you soon. Xx

Posted in friendship, Lifestyle, relationships

The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

If there’s one lesson that I learned the hard way in 2017 its that not everyone will understand or appreciate your help, especially if its unsolicited, therefore sometimes the best thing to do is to mind your own business.

I used to be really good friends with a girl from work, until I took it upon myself to resolve a situation on her behalf when apparently, all she was doing was airing out her feelings. She didn’t really want nor did she expect me to do anything about it.

Unfortunately I am (or at least, I was) the kind of friend who will feel the need to defend and fight battles when I feel like my friends are being unfairly treated, especially if they don’t feel like they can speak up for themselves whereas I might be in the position to do something about it.

In hindsight, maybe I should have kept in mind that not everyone is as comfortable rocking the boat as I am. For some, its easier to be mad and to simmer for a day or two (or you know, whinge about it until the end of time) than to go through the longer and perhaps more difficult process of really doing something to change how things are.

I also should have kept in mind that no matter how well-intentioned my assistance is, at the end of the day I’m not personally involved in the situation and, again, it really is none of my business. I do not need to be at the forefront of a battle that no one wants to fight.

These days, as much as it pains me to be passive, I only offer help when people ask for it. I realise that, in a way, its a way of showing respect for the other person’s freedom to make his or her own choices, even if I feel like they’re digging themselves a hole that would be difficult to get out of. Its none. of. my. business.

I realised that I don’t have to take on other people’s problems on my shoulders; I’ve got enough of my own thank you very much. Learning this lesson allowed me to be more patient and to realise that sometimes what the other person really needs is simply a sounding board. Sometimes you help just by being there and by really listening to what they’re saying.

It can be hard to listen when you’re already formulating an action plan in your head about what they should be doing to solve the problem. That’s not always what they want from you. Sometimes they just need you to listen and to let them talk. I always have to consciously remind myself nowadays to let other people talk for at least 15 minutes straight before I even think of butting in with my own two cents. I’m sure it comes as a surprise to no one if I say that I tend to forget that other people need to talk too.

Its hard to find the balance between giving a helping hand and just being an annoying, interfering busybody. I don’t know what it is about human beings that we always think we’re so superior as to assume we know better than other people. We don’t. And even if we do, its none of our freakin’ business unless they explicitly ask.

That’s not to say I don’t occasionally intervene, but only in dire times and only with people who are obligated to love me despite my meddling, like my sister for example. And never without telling her or asking her first whether she needed (or wanted) my help or not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my own experience is a cautionary tale against putting your nose in other people’s business. Leave them be. As unfair as it may seem, there is a road to hell that is lined with all our good intentions and sometimes its just not worth it.

As someone who’s been on both ends of this argument, believe me when I say that discretion is often the better part of valour…or something like that. Simply put, life is too short to be stressed all the time let alone to be stressed about other people’s affairs. At the end of the day, we each have a life to live and a choice on how we live it. Mind you own damned business, you’ll be much happier for it.