Posted in Careers, relationships, Self-Discovery

Growing A Thicker Skin

On the heels of the latest Taylor Swift news, I thought I’d take the time to reflect on my own penchant for perhaps playing the victim and not taking responsibility for my own actions

(Disclaimer: I fully support Taylor in her quest to buy the rights to her music but even a huge fan such as myself can’t help but look askance at the number of feuds she’s had in a relatively short period of time. Love her though!).

I’ve never been a quitter and I can actually tolerate more bullshit than the average person. But I’ve had moments these past few months where I felt like throwing in the towel altogether and saying, that’s it, I’m done. I can’t take this anymore.

You know how they say you can never really run away from your problems? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a version of that advice from people I respect, and it took a while for it to sink in but thankfully, sink in it did.

One of my mentors told me something that I found both profound and sad. He told me that wherever you go in life you will always encounter bullies; the kind that will do anything to hold on to power, who will want to bring you down in order to lift themselves up, who are self-serving, deceitful and just downright malicious.

He told me I had to choose my battles. I found this to be a bit passive-aggressive, probably because I grew up with the notion that I always have to win, I always have to be right. But actually winning and being right are both a relative state and a matter of perception.

Needless to say, its a truth universally acknowledged by all that just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean the other person necessarily agrees with you.

He then told me, in a succinct way that brooked no argument, that I just have to grow a thicker skin, especially if I want to go far in life. You can’t go crying home every time someone was a bit mean to you, or if you don’t get your way. You either decide its worth it and do something about it or you shake it off.

I have a really hard time shaking things off. I’m a dweller, you just have to accept this about me.

But what I have learned this week is that I’m at that age where I just have to put on my big-girl underpants and stand my ground if what I’m fighting for really means that much to me. The ensuing conversation may be singularly unpleasant, but I’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing I’ve finally said my piece.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that you create your own narrative, and you paint the picture of how other people will see you. And I for one would rather be remembered as the one who stayed and fought and gave it a shot rather than someone who got going when the going got tough.

Posted in relationships, Self-Discovery

If Life is So Short

I woke up at 4:30 am on one of these rare and precious days when I actually get to have a lie-in because I can’t stop thinking about how life is too damned short and unpredictable.

A colleague of mine died suddenly this week and I’ve yet to process how much this has really shaken me. I wouldn’t presume to call him a friend, but spending a considerable amount of time with someone in intense and highly-pressurised moments creates some kind of weird and indelible bond.

When someone dies you think about the last conversation you had with them. At the time I was quite upset about something and he helped me to see the humour in the situation, and then we talked shop for a little while as we both finished our tea breaks.

This was two weeks ago. I’ve passed him in the hospital corridors in the days in between and I’m sure I took the time to say hello.

God, I hope I took the time to say hello.

Whenever something like this happens it always makes you think about living your life and doing things that really matter. It gives you perspective; it certainly made me think about the hundred little things I worry about and obsess over that probably won’t matter much to me five years down the line.

It makes you think about the connections you make and how easy it is to take for granted that you’ll always find the time to reconnect with old friends. You put off saying things that matter because you think you can always leave it for tomorrow but what if tomorrow never comes?

And finally, it makes you think about your life choices. We spend our whole lives studying and working in order to live the good life, and I think sometimes we lose sight of why we work so hard in the first place. In our quest for the so-called good life, we’ve stopped living altogether.

Life should never become about the daily grind.

Find the little pleasures in between life’s big moments. They matter more than you think.

Make each moment count.

Call your friends. Call your family. Make sure you tell them every day how much they mean to you.

As cliche as it sounds, and while I’m not telling anyone to go bungee jumping or skydiving (in fact I have an aversion to both those things), I guess what I AM saying is, live your life in your own terms and live it in a way that you will have as little regrets as possible.

I love you, awesome people. Thanks for being a part of my life even if only in such an infinitesimal way.

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

Book Review: Circe – Madeline Miller

I’ve read so many books in my lifetime and I’ve since come to the conclusion that the secret to writing a good book all boils down to three things:

1. Find a compelling subject matter – preferably one that you personally feel passionate about.

2. Write a character that people would, at the very least, find unique and interesting. Someone they would want to get to know even if its not someone they would necessarily like.

3. Keep it simple. Tell the story as you would like it to be told to you: without an excess of metaphors, unnecessary angst or pseudo-clever narrative tricks. Just allow it to unfold as naturally as a person journeys through life, and you’re good to go.

Circe is a book that fulfils all three of those conditions and more. Its a story about a woman who was born different, and who has learned to live with and ultimately celebrate those differences.

She’s someone who chose to march to the beat of her own drums, who refused to be defeated when odds and Gods alike rose against her, and who devised a way to find happiness even in the depths of a miserable and unjust exile.

I love her.

She’s fierce, witchy, bitchy and uncompromisingly herself. She goes for what she wants and make no apologies for the lengths she will go through to achieve her goals. Lesser mortals and deities cower before her because she’s not afraid to fight for the right to be happy.

This book deserves all the praise and acclaim it received. I would read it over and over again, if only for the last 50 pages of absolute magic. Like I said, I’ve read a lot of books. Its rare for me to be surprised, or to finish a book and genuinely be able to say that I did not see that one coming.

I know this is a work of fiction, and I hate that the ending was left uncertain. I fell in love with this character so much that I want nothing else but for her to have her happy ending, because she’s fought so hard and asks for so little.

In fact, I’m choosing to believe that she’s out there somewhere, living her dream; a simple dream that most people take for granted.

Circe is a celebration of womanhood and what it means to really, truly be alive. It reminds us that the measure of a life well-lived is not riches or the absence of pain and troubles, its how we find peace and contentment despite all of it, its in the people we meet, and its in the joy of finding someone to go through it all with you and who will tell you, at the end of the day, that everything is going to be all right.

Five stars!

Posted in dating, relationships, Self-Discovery

Putting Yourself Out There

Its all just lip service until you practice what you preach.

I’m a big believer in putting yourself out there, in letting the universe know what you want and in not being afraid to go for something if you really want it. I’ve always said that you shouldn’t let the fear of failing ever stop you from trying. Grab a spoon in the big banquet of life, and all that jazz.

The truth is, until recently, I’ve done nothing but talk absolute bollocks.

Sure, in every other aspect of my life I’m quite the go-getter. I’m known for having a one-track mind. When it comes to achieving something, I’ve been known to run myself ragged, exhausting all options and myself, until the goal is won.

When it comes to my love life, though, I am the biggest coward in the world. I have never been able to look any guy in the eye and just flat out let him know I’m interested. Ever.

I was in love with someone close to me for almost a decade and I was only able to bare my feelings in the most uncomfortable and awkward Facebook message I have ever had to send in my life, and I did it five years after I got over him. I honestly think I was only able to do that because by then I was safely in London, two oceans and a continent away.

Part of that is the culture I grew up with. Both the Filipino and the Chinese culture frown upon their women being ever so forward. A part of me will always balk at the thought of making the first move.

But I can’t blame my somewhat sheltered upbringing for everything.

The real root of such cowardice is my complete aversion to being emotionally vulnerable in any way or shape. I am so petrified of the risk of rejection that I fail to put myself out there time and time again.

I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’ve come to the conclusion that, in all likelihood, when you ask someone for something or when you put your heart on the line like that, there’s a huge chance that the answer will be no. Like maybe 9 times out of 10.

But if you continue to bottle everything up, to shy away from anything because you don’t want to risk being hurt, you miss out on that glorious ONE TIME when the answer could be yes.

Or you know, at this point, I’d settle for a maybe.

Today I took my chance. I put on my full battle armour (pretty curls and cat’s eyes), gathered my courage and just asked.

The answer was not what I was hoping for, but it was an answer nonetheless. It placed the situation in the most realistic and undeniable light, and it made me see my way forward, which is really as simple as showing him what he’s missing. Lol

Anyway, the point is today I was emotionally brave for the first time ever in my life…and quite frankly I feel nauseous. Like seriously nauseous. Being brave is not all its cracked up to be.

But I also feel great and empowered and I feel like walking down the street singing R.E.S.P.E.C.T. at the top of my lungs. Because I respect myself so much more for having the guts to look him in the eye and tell him (more or less) that I’m interested.

Ball is in your court, bud.

Posted in family, relationships, Self-Discovery

Heart In A Box

There’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Cristina Yang is trying to compile a wish list of surgical procedures she would like to learn from her mentor. She drew inspiration from a beating heart that’s been preserved in a glass box through some breakthrough in the field of heart transplantation.

If the procedure she thought of did not even come close to giving her the same sense of wonder that that heart in a box did, then its not worth adding to the list.

My version of this is not as happy and wondrous, I’m afraid. I’ve been under some degree of stress lately. I can’t blame it on anything major, just a buildup of life’s minor irritations that have somehow become unbearable: bills, the return of London’s infamous grey skies, Jon Snow being annoying on Game of Thrones, office politics, people being absolute dicks, just to name a few.

Then I remember that this month my Dad is about to go in for testing to check whether he’s got prostate cancer.

That’s my heart in a box.

You see, we may think we’re having a bad day or even a bad week, and we expend so much emotion on things that we’re not even going to remember five years down the line. I personally dwell far too much and for far too long on things that are so beneath me, its not even funny.

I think about things way too much that the result is that I make more of it than I should, and the molehill becomes a mountain I can’t get beyond. But really, annoying colleagues, unmet deadlines, walking in the rain, a bad date, those are a walk in the park compared to the fear of losing probably the only man I’ve ever loved.

An argument at work is not a bad day. A bad day is getting a biopsy result that will change my life forever. That is the measure. Anything beneath that is not worth my time and attention.

Save all that emotion for the things that are worth emotionally investing in. Trust me, you’ll probably need it.

Posted in bloggers, family, relationships

A Letter To The One I Love on Valentine’s Day

Dear Papa, on a day when women everywhere are writing letters and sending cards to their boyfriends, I thought I’d write one to you instead. And not just because I’m single, but because I genuinely want to say a few things which I should have said a long time ago.

Last night, instead of dreaming of Prince Charming, I dreamt about you. It wasn’t a great dream, and I woke up in tears from anxiety and fear because of it. Suffice it to say that you weren’t well in my dream. And the thought of you getting old, and someday having to live in a world without you, these are some of the things that keep me up at night.

We haven’t had a conventional relationship. I get jealous sometimes over random things, like when I see a girl going shopping with her dad, or when I see a father picking up his daughter from school. I don’t have many memories of us doing those every day things, because out of necessity we had to be apart for the better part of every year while I was growing up.

But that’s fine. I knew the reasons why you couldn’t be there for every graduation ceremony or every birthday party. I wouldn’t even have those things if it wasn’t for your hard work and sacrifice. In case I forgot to tell you then, I am very grateful for all the things you did for me.

I suppose this is why I work so hard for us to make up for lost time now. I want to make all your dreams come true, I want you to have every opportunity you ever missed and to see the world you’ve always wanted to explore but never had the chance to because we didn’t have the means before.

It’s been a pleasure seeing the world through your eyes, and sharing those moments of discovery with you. I love that you now have stories to tell of other places apart from the small corner of the world we live in. And I love that we’ve built memories that I will cherish forever, through the passing of the days, whatever those days may bring us.

It’s funny. For the first time in a long while I genuinely am not bothered that its Valentine’s Day and I’ll probably be sitting at home tonight nursing a glass of wine with my equally single sister. I’m happy and content enough to hold out for something that’s worth this extremely long wait (the El Nino drought has nothing on my love life), because I refuse to settle for anything less.

Despite my doubts, I genuinely believe that I’ll find someone someday. And I’m not in any rush because I’m enjoying life far too much to make such a big change for someone or something that’s going to be fleeting. I’m not going to marry some random guy just because society tells me its “worrying” to still be single at thirty-one.

But Papa, today I said a prayer to meet that random guy who I will eventually share my life with sooner rather than later. Not for me, but for you. I know my lifestyle and my persistent lack of a committed relationship is what keeps YOU up at night. I desperately want to ease your worries, but that’s the one thing that I can’t achieve through hard work and overtime. It’s out of my hands.

However, I prayed today in a way I haven’t in a long long time, for me to find that someone. Not for me, but for you. I want to bring someone home for you to meet, I want you to be able to walk me down the aisle someday, and I really really want to have that father-daughter dance with you. If those are bad reasons for wanting a marriage, well, so be it. Other people have married for less, and for worse reasons.

I don’t know pops, maybe some things are just not meant to be. We’ll see. But for now, you are the only man in my life and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But if it does, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, take care of mumsy, take care of yourself and I hope to see you real soon. Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.

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.