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 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, Careers, Self-Discovery

The Illusion of Power

I’ve heard it said that power rests best in the hands of people who never sought to gain it in the first place.

When you move up to a position where you have authority over people, its easy to forget that with that authority and power comes the responsibility to always look out for the well-being of those under your care.

Its very easy to succumb to the mentality that people are there to follow your every order, to bow to your whims, and to be subordinate in every way short of fetching you tea and biscuits.

When you feed this mentality, it gives you a false sense of pride – and we all know this cometh before the fall.

Part of that is because pride gets in the way of you being able to listen to people around you. Pride also makes it difficult for you to accept feedback, and to accept the fact that you don’t know everything and you’re not always right.

The knee-jerk reaction to being questioned is to become defensive. But actually, having your decisions questioned should not feel like an attack. I’ve actually come to look at it as like a safety net, because I know someone is there to check my actions and to make sure I don’t make the mistake of implementing things that could go horribly wrong.

I guess its hard finding that balance between asserting your authority to make sure people know to respect you, and not overly elevating yourself above the people whose respect you seek.

Respect comes from people knowing you’re there for them, that you’ll be fair and compromise when the situation calls for it but that you also have the balls to make the tough decisions when the going gets rough.

I think having the respect of your team is where your true source of power lies, and its something so precious and something that takes ages to cultivate that you never want to do anything to jeopardise that.

I suppose I just need to remind myself that being in power doesn’t give anyone license to be an autocratic bitch. The idea that authority gives you power which then means you can do whatever you want is an illusion that you should nip in the bud lest it comes back to haunt you.

A little humility goes a long way.

Stay grounded. Stay humble.

Posted in bloggers, Nursing, Self-Discovery, Stress Relief

All In A Day’s Work

The best way to deal with challenging situations is to reflect on them, learn from them, and – in my case – to write about them. So I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned these past few weeks when work has been difficult, in the hopes that other people out there who – like me – are new to management will know they’re not alone in their experiences.

You cannot please everyone. For every praise you receive, there’s a person waiting in the wings who’s just dying to tell you the many many ways in which you’re screwing things up. I guess the key thing is to learn to compromise, to find the solution that is best for everyone, and to make a decision that you will be able to live with. You are not in the position to care about being liked, the best you can hope for is to be respected.

Friendships at work are a thing of the past. This is something I find incredibly sad, but its the harsh reality that most managers face. They say its lonely at the top, and though I’m not at that level I can only imagine how true that is. Not everyone will be able to accept the fact that you are now their line manager as well as their friend.

Most friendships whose bonds are weak and superficial will not be able to survive professional disagreements, or differences in opinion when it comes to work-related matters.The upshot is that the friendships you do keep, the people who will love and support you even when you give them a notice of improvement for consistently coming to work late, those are the friendships that are worth keeping. Everyone else is not worth losing sleep over.

There will always be people who will try to undermine your position. Whether its colleagues who have mentored you in the past, or people who think you’re too junior or too inexperienced for your role, or simply people who think they can do your job better than you. Standing up to these professional gaslighters is something you’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and it doesn’t get easier with time.

You will need to dig deep and to really have faith in yourself and your abilities. I’m constantly surrounded by people who back me up when I need it, and seeing the amount of trust they place in me is something that still humbles me every day. But none of that matters if I can’t find the strength to put my foot down, to say ‘no’ when its needed, and to have courage in my convictions. I won’t be able to convince other people that I know what I’m doing until I believe I know what I’m doing.

Human beings are amazingly resilient. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I never anticipated being able to talk to people who intimidate the shit out of me, or to be able to have these difficult conversations with people at a very senior level. I didn’t even believe I’d be able to control my emotions long enough to survive the shifts from hell, as I’ve started to call them in my mind.

But I did. And I have so much more respect for managers everywhere, and for myself. I think for me, its enough to know that I did the best I could, even if I very nearly had a mental breakdown at the end of it. That’s normal; managers who tell you they don’t experience these occasional bouts of hopelessness are lying. We all go through it.

Its okay to break down in pieces when you’ve had a bad day, but what defines you is how you take those pieces and glue them back together so that you come back to work the next day feeling motivated to do better, to be stronger, and to hopefully do some good in the world in the process. So it doesn’t matter if you drowned a whole bottle of prosecco, or stuffed your face with greasy Chinese food because stress eating is the solution to everything.

Do whatever it takes to make you feel human again, and remember, its just one stressful day at work out of many. Just like every bad thing we’ve ever experienced in our lives, it too shall pass.

Posted in bloggers, fitness, Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, Self-Discovery, Travel

Life Lessons From Hiking

After a hectic four-day trip to Vegas, my aunt took my sister and I to a 15 kilometre hike around Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.

I’ve always considered myself a city girl, and I will probably never live more than commutable distance away from a major city, like London. If I have it my way I will be renting my flat in Soho (for the same price!) until I die.

But for some reason I’ve developed a strange fascination for hiking around nature this year. I’ve discovered how much I love to just walk with no particular destination in mind, to soak in the views around me and allow it to soothe my often anxious and high-strung city soul.

You learn a lot when you’re somewhere with no mobile phone coverage or Wifi, especially when you’re running low on battery and can’t even listen to music on your Spotify. In that instant, its just you and nature and whoever happens to be hiking with you (my family, in this case).

I’d like to share some of those lessons in the hopes that, like me, you find the time to get away from it all for a while and have the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures (and lessons!) of hiking.

Be prepared.

I’m very vain, and my instagram is filled to the brim with photos of me in various outfits. But there’s no room for vanity around nature. You have to be prepared for rain, sunshine, mud, water and whatever elements Mother Nature decides to throw your way.

For me, this really is a metaphor for life, and its something that I should really be sorting out now that I’m in my 30s. No one wants to think too hard about things like insurance and savings when life’s a party, but you can sure as hell guarantee they’ll be thinking about it when the challenges start pouring in like rain.

Disconnect and Unplug.

I’ve already blogged once about my increasing disillusion with social media, and yet I find myself still posting on Facebook and Instagram time after time after time. Its like I’ve been conditioned to think that anything I do in life is not worthwhile unless its validated by my “followers” in the form of likes.

Be honest. How often do you look around when you’re on holiday to find that you and your friends are all on your phones, racing to be the first to upload photos or post an Instagram story? Or wasting time trying to get the perfect shot that you fail to soak in the beautiful piece of the world that you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in?

Yesterday I had a phone that was dying and was without a Power-bank for a change. I also didn’t have mobile data or Wifi coverage. And I think it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me on this trip. To just be able to enjoy the experience without feeling the need to update the rest of the world about what I was doing, to really BE in the moment, was a gift.

I think for the rest of this trip I will try to be on airplane mode more often.

Put one foot in front of the other

I think of myself as a reasonably fit individual but I have to say I had reservations about the 15km hike, especially when I realised that a) there won’t be a toilet for miles and b) the trail will naturally have uphill, downhill and (did I mention?) uphill portions.

It requires stamina and good breath control, sure. But one should never underestimate the power of the mind. If you psych yourself out by thinking of all the ways it could go wrong, or decide that you’ll never make it before you even try, you’ll miss out on an incredible experience.

There were times during the hike that I thought a particularly challenging trail would never end, but eventually it evens out, and before I knew it I’ve made it to the finish line. It’s a lot like life, you really just need to keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other until you make it.

Breathe

I live in a city where life is so fast-paced that you wake up on Friday not knowing where the rest of the week had gone. I’ve built a career and most days I find that I actually love my job, but it does account for at least 30% of my overall stress and anxiety.

I attended a talk once where the speaker said that stress is really just a series of tasks that you need to do. You’re stressed because you’ve either procrastinated so much that tasks have piled up, or you’ve set unrealistic goals in the first place.

I’ll add to that and say you get stressed because you forget to sit still and just breathe. This hike was extremely taxing, but there were periods when we stopped to catch our breath, relax, enjoy the scenery and work up to getting our second wind.

Life should be like that. You should be able to press pause and look out for your physical and mental health. I think one of the things I could definitely do when I get back to London is to work less extra shifts and have more time for me. Since getting back from Australia I feel like the energiser bunny that just keeps going and going and going. I feel like I never have enough time to breathe, to just BE.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Nothing’s so important that you lose your health and yourself over it.

The journey is the destination

Finally, and I know this is such a cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. Winnie the Pooh once said:

We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.

We spend so much time worrying about where we’re going and what we’re going to do when we get there that we don’t stop to appreciate the journey.

I didn’t even realise we were nearing the end of the trail until my aunt pointed it out to me. I was having so much fun exploring the beauty of one of Oregon’s most beautiful state parks that I didn’t realise we’d walked 15 kilometres.

Whatever you do in this life, enjoy it. Make memories, make friends, try new things, push yourself. At the end of the day, where you go and when you get there won’t be as important as HOW you get there.