What if I chose the wrong degree?

This question was in my head after reading a newsletter from Srinivas Rao, author of Unmistakable Creative, entitled, “A Letter to An Aspiring Young Writer Struggling to Find Her Way in the World”

A young woman asked Srini, “What can I tell people when I have made the great mistake of choosing the wrong degree?

Srini wrote back, “We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have. Robert Greene once said to me, “no experience in life should be thought of as wasted.” You are not defined or limited by your degree or any other label society places on you.

The road ahead is much longer than you might think it is when you’re 20. You also don’t owe anyone any explanation for your choices, regardless of how they judge you.

…Throughout life, you collect data points or dots. And you probably don’t have a clue how those dots will connect in the future. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backward. But you have to collect them going forward.

… You might choose the wrong degree, but it doesn’t prevent you from living the life you want to live.”

Their exchange made me reflect. I asked myself, “What if I chose a wrong degree?” Then, I remembered my parents.

My mom studied Nursing in college but thirty years later, she’s now working in Real Estate. My father studied engineering in college and now, he’s working as a delivery rider.

If in the future, I will not be practicing Architecture, the same way that my parents are not practicing their college degree, I don’t think I can say that “I chose a wrong degree.” Having been almost three years in college, I got to learn a lot of skills, learned tons of personal lessons that I might not have learned if I haven’t been in this path, and met tons of amazing people that I would not had met (or even crossed paths with) if I weren’t taking up architecture.

I can only understood life while looking backwards but I can only live it forward. While I look back on my college journey for the past two years, I can say that those things had to happened because they have to happen. I don’t think I am who I am today if it weren’t for those decisions and actions that I made in the past.

There are still things that doesn’t make sense to me. But now, I’m completely at peace with the fact that there are things that I have to go through first or I needed to grow more older to understand a few things.

I learned a lot of things because of my current degree and I am looking forward on how these things that I learned and the wisdoms of the people that I met will affect my life even outside of architecture. As Robert Greene said, no experience is ever wasted.

Paying More Attention To Life

Artist and author Austin Keon wrote in his book, Keep Going, “Attention is the most basic form of love,” wrote John Tarrant. When you pay attention to your life, it not only provides you with the material for your art, it also helps you fall in love with your life.

This month, February, Claire’s Essays celebrates its first anniversary. For over a year, I published more than 150 posts and reached almost 150k views. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to you and to everyone who reads my essays or blog posts. Paraphrasing from the words of author Kurt Vonnegut, I hope through reading my posts, I used your time in such a way that you will feel that your time was not wasted.

If there’s one thing that changed throughout my year of blogging, its that I paid attention more.

Personally, I noticed subtle changes in my mood and my behaviour more often. I noticed the environment around me quite often too. Whenever sunlight hits me, I would take a moment to savor it. When I’m eating something that mom has prepared, I’ll make audible reactions that infers that the food is amaaazing. When I’m reading a good book, I’ll exclaim in my mind how grateful I am that I found again another great book. Everytime I wake up in the morning, I smile- excited for another day ahead.

These are the things that I feel that I do not savor much but as I blogged about my day or my life over the days, I feel like they are magic waiting for me to recognize and acknowledge them.

It was more than two years ago when I was roaming around Fully Booked in Cubao and then I stopped in my tracks as soon as my eyes landed on this quote from Ben Franklin, written on a notebook they were selling, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

I pondered on that quote althroughout my whole ride and I even wrote it on the first page of my journal because I do not want to forget it ever.

I think that quote straight up summarizes my life. I just write something that is worth reading for me (because I think of myself as an audience) or I will do something that I can write about after.

As weeks and months of blogging passed, I noticed how I read more, how I write more, and how I connected ideas because of my wide reading.

Whenever I am jotting down what happened to the day that passed, I took note of my mood and try to compare it with the other days. That’s how I became more aware of what activities should I do less, what activities do I have to do more, when should I write, when is the perfect time to start a book, and when is the time to halt academic work and do the activities that stimulate me.

Blogging aided me to become more aware of myself and the surroundings around me (paying attention). And by paying more attention, I fall in love with life more.

Author Rob Walker wrote in his newsletter, “[O]ne of my favorite responses to a willfully open-ended prompt I give my students — I order them to “practice paying attention” — came from a student who thought he did it wrong. He had made a planter, he explained, for a cactus. He’d done this, he said, on the theory that “by nurturing or caring for something, you pay more attention to it.” And of course he was right!”

I even applied this in my studies. I wasn’t a bit interested in Plumbing before, but I was reminded of Rob Walker’s words and so around last year, on our 3rd class meeting in Plumbing for the semester, I started paying attention. I listened attentively to our professor and taking notes diligently. I even replay class recordings when I missed something. Thankfully, even if I did not paid attention during the previous meetings, I can still understand the lessons that came. Soon enough, I found myself interested in plumbing and understanding the basic principles. I even made a post about it.

In short, the more I pay attention to myself, to the people, and the world around me, the more I love life.

An act of care first, then the love comes.

It is with quantity that one leads to quality work.

In their book, Art & Fear, Ted Orland and David Bayles wrote, “The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work, they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality…. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. it seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and piles of dead clay.”

Ever since I took up BS Architecture two years ago (even without prior experience in coloring and drawing), one of the many realizations that I had is that my blocmates are skilled in rendering and drawing better than I am (not a surprise) not because they have talent and I don’t have it or God has favorites and unfortunately, I am not. But rather, it is because they have done it a thousand times or even more.

Our pastor shared a story from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Jiro Ono, a Japanese chef who is considered around the world as the best sushi maker, had a new apprentice. Jiro told him to cook an egg. He cooked one and showed it to Jiro but after looking at it for only a few seconds, Jiro rejected it and told him to try again. This went on for two years. Until finally, Jiro said this is okay.

Jiro’s new apprentice wasn’t talented or even started out knowing how to cook a proper egg. In other words, he did not have any advantage. But by doing it for a hundred, probably even a thousand times, for two years, he finally mastered it.

In the same way, my blocmates are extremely great at rendering and drawing because they had put in a lot of work whereas I am just starting out. An article in DO Lectures blog states, “We have to understand doing our best work is a journey. We don’t start off being brilliant. We start off at ‘mediocre’. Then we go to ‘not too bad’. Then we go to ‘OK’. Then we go to ‘good’. Then eventually we arrive at ‘excellent’. And, occasionally we will go to ‘great’.”

Last January, I started learning how to watercolor. Honestly, it terrified me. I feel like I have to watch more YouTube tutorials on how to watercolor before I can finally start doing but it is through doing that I learn and so I started.

It feels frustrating. This gap between how I wanted my work to look like and how my current work looks like. But I become more patient. I cannot go from Level 0 to Level 100 right away. I had to go through each and every level.

Before, whenever I think of using watercolor, I started having anxious thoughts and soon I’ll find myself procrastinating because I’m avoiding this feeling of fear of creating a bad work. Right now, I am extremely comfortable using it that I just picked it up right away whenever I need to render.

Author james Clear wrote, “Your 1st blog post will be bad, but your 100th will be great. Your 1st workout will be weak, but your 1000th will be strong. Your 1st meditation will be scattered, but your 1000th will be focused. Put in your reps.”

There is no secret on how to be great at what you do. Its by doing and putting in a lot of work that we get better. No shortcuts. Just doing.

Whenever I am doing an academic work, there are times when I just blurt, “This is not nice.” but then I’ll remind myself that I am just starting out. I have to create bad work in order to know what’s better. It is by doing something a thousand or a million times that we can be better at it.

It is with quantity that one leads to quality work.

Lessons from Soul (2020)

Joe, the main lead in the film, wants to become a jazz musician. He’s so focused on the goal that he missed out on living. He thought, “I’ll be happy when I will finally landed on this big break. My life will finally change forever.”

To make the story short, he finally landed on this “big break”. But after performing, he felt odd because nothing changed in how he perceived his life, he still is him.

On a post entitled, 10 lessons I Learned This Year (2020) I wrote,

When this blog reached 1,000 views, I feel grateful but things just went back to the way it was. I am still reading and writing. When this blog reached 80,000 views, I am still feeling grateful but that’s it. I’m still me. My mindset did not magically change. I am still reading, writing, doing homework, and doing household chores.

And this is why I am thankful that I do not depend my happiness on external outcomes such as “I will be happy once I reached 10k views.” or “I’ll be happy once I passed this project.” because once I achieved any of that, nothing really much changed. I still have more work to do. There are still things to check off in my to-do list.

So with that, I learned to do things just for the sake of doing it because depending my happiness on the things that I do not have control over will make me want “more.”

In other words, I will never be satisfied because I will keep chasing that feeling of “I made it” but the truth is, there never really is that feeling of “I made it.” There will always be another thing to do. So the enjoyment itself is not on the results but on the process of doing it.”

And this is why I love the very last scene of Soul the most, because it shows us a scene wherein Joe, the main character, taking account his environment—feeling the breeze, smelling the wind, and looking at the sky.

Soemtimes, when we rush through life we forgot to live. We missed out on the subtleties of life. Hence, even when there is so many academic works to do (hooray! finals month!), I make time to hangout under the sun, play games and watch movies with my family, reading a book, listening to music, and writing. Because, Now is the only moment I will ever get to have. I want it to be well-lived.

My main takeaway from the film is that your spark or what keeps you going in life doesn’t have to be this big dream of wanting to be a jazz musician or a scientist, or a CEO. Sometimes, it can be sky-watching, walking, talking to other people, teaching/coaching, or even eating.

Life doesn’t start after reaching a goal. Life is today. It is where we all are in right now. In the movie, someone asked Joe what he will do in his life right now and he said “I don’t know. But I’m gonna seize every moment.” (non-verbatim)

No one’s thinking about me.

I have been experiencing what psychologists call ‘The Spotlight Effect’. Its wherein I think that everyone’s thinking about me. I have been overthinking about my faults and I think that my blocmates are thinking about my mistakes- that thought makes me anxious.

Hence, I messaged my two blocmates—who I am closest with and who’s opinions matter to me—and asked them if somehow they had thought of me the past few weeks and instantly think about my mistakes and failures.

Both of them answered no (which relived me to be honest) and if they had ever think about me its just because they miss me. At the same time I also discovered that they are too busy dealing with their own problems and worries in life to even think about me and my failures.

One of those blocmate that I messaged mentioned to me that even if someone in our class actually thinks about my failures constantly, that is not my fault anymore. They chose to do that and that is something out of my control.

I debated whether I’ll message a few more blocmates but I don’t think it would make much of a difference as much as the first two I messaged. Because like I mentioned, only those two people are the opinions that truly matter to me and if they haven’t even been thinking about me, then I’m good.

This activity that I did—that I did not assume and instead asked my friends directly—provided me with a peace of mind. No matter how others will perceive what I do, by the end of the day, they will worry about their own lives. They don’t think about me all of the time like how I overthink about it. Hence, I should get busy on living my life rather than pausing and making time to worry what they think of me.

Living Intentionally

On the last day of 2020, I told myself that I’m gonna live more intentionally in 2021. Intentional in a sense that if I miss my friends, I’m gonna call them. If I want to feel joyful at the moment, I’ll either read or listen to music. If I want to get better at creating art, I will practice frequently to suck less. In short, if I want to do something, I’ll do it.

What led me to this “living intentionally” anyway?

Because what I noticed a lot the past year was let’s say, I wanted to cook for my family, but I don’t even research recipes of what I may want to cook. I miss my friends a lot but I don’t even make an effort to message them. In other words, I mostly waited for life to happen to me, instead of me happening to life.

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo Da Vinci

And so with that lesson in mind, this year, I made a decision that if I want something to happen in my life, then I would make it happen.

This month, I focused mostly on my friends. I haven’t had any exchange of messages between my closest friends since a year ago and I miss them so much so I messaged them one by one to ask them to hangout.

The next few weeks were all sorts of magical. My friends replied to me that they have been wanting to message me but we just both kind of waited and somehow, it leads me to think of what could have happened if I just waited again? Will the past weeks that had gone be as magical as well?

I never laughed so hard in such a long time. And after talking with a lot of new people during the last few months, finally I got to experience again this feeling that I can literally say what I wanted because these people know me and I know them too. I am reminded once again that I am loved, and that there are people who care for me.

For the next month, I’m not sure what I’ll focus on. But this month taught me this lesson: My life becomes so much better and more exciting, when I lived for the day. When I don’t wait for a special occasion to do something, but instead, doing it today. When I want it, I’m gonna do it instead of waiting for something. I’ll never assume what the outcome will be but instead, I’ll live through it.

Ryan Holiday: The poet Heraclitus said, “One day is equal to every day.” Today could be that amazing day for you. Today could be how you want life to be. You just have to choose for it to be. Or rather, stop choosing for it not to be.

Do We Deserve This Kind of Graduation?

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewee but his message can be understood nevertheless. Original title of the article: “Deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?”

Mark Sahagun, 22, felt relieved following the announcement of Mayor Isko Moreno suspending the classes from March 9 to March 15, 2020. Just a few days after defending his architectural thesis, a break is what he needed the most. Little did he know that the class suspension is only the start. As days passed, the government announced community quarantines measures, lockdowns, and eventually affecting their graduation at the PICC supposedly last May 5.

The Start of His Future

Before the lockdown took place on the midnight of March 15 to April 14, Mark went back to his hometown in Laguna. At that time, he was still optimistic that they would have their graduation rites on May 5. But with the continuous extension of community quarantine measures after the lockdown, his dreams of graduating at the PICC did not happen. “Gusto namin na ma-experience ‘yung PICC eh. Isa sa bucket list mo ‘yun na maglakad ka sa PICC.” he stated.

However, the pandemic did not only affect his May 5 graduation but the start of his future as well. While in Laguna, Mark tried looking for jobs through JobStreet and he realized how little his chances are to land a job because he is in a province. He was accepted for a job in Manila but he rejected it. He had a job once when he was still an undergraduate student and he used it as his basis. “Yung ino-offer kasi sa akin lower than the salary [of my previous job]. ‘Yung travel, sobrang layo din. ‘Yung compensation, hindi din okay kasi mas mababa siya compared dun sa first job ko.” He also considered the safety of his family and himself. 

Mark mentioned that during this pandemic, the design industry felt smaller. “Sobrang limited talaga ‘yung possible work. Sobrang swerte mo, if makahanap ka ngayon, and maswerte ka or sobrang galing mo talaga to the point na kahit hindi sila opening, bubuksan nila yung slot for you kasi they want you na mapunta and ma-hire sa kanila,” he stated. “‘Yun lang ‘yung isa sa mga factors na sa tingin ko na iha-hire ka ngayong pandemic.”

With his future looking uncertain and nothing left to do, Mark started his own business, Plaintaire PH, a plants store offering air plants with holders. He felt grateful that amidst the circumstances that constrained him to go outside, he still found an opportunity to help his family financially through an activity that he finds joy in.  

Is This It?

Before their supposed graduation on May 5, there were talks that it would be virtual graduation and since it’s a new thing, they were clueless about what they should do. Some of the graduates took pictures because they thought that the administration will ask for their photos to be inputted on the presentation. However, they did not. They conducted the virtual graduation last September 30 and it looked like it was an ending credit of a film.

Mark spent about six years in PUP because he had to retake Design 10 and that is why he can’t help but be dismayed. “Sa totoo lang in-open ko ‘to kay Ma’am Lutap, “[Ma’am,] deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?” Mark shared. ”Sabi din naman niya, we cannot force na magkaroon ng physical graduation kasi nga pandemic. But sa tagal na tinagal niyo sa PUP, hindi ni’yo deserve yung ganoong virtual graduation.” Mark does not degrade the recognition that they received through the virtual graduation but he believes that they deserve better than that. “Meron pa kaming mas dapat na ma-receive na better recognition kasi degree ‘yung tinapos namin.”

They would have been happier if the virtual graduation was a temporary one, Mark suggested, and there would be a real one next year or when the circumstances allow it. They were willing to wait as long as it is in a “deserving ambiance, deserving ritual, [and] deserving rites.” But, the virtual graduation that occurred is already “the graduation”. It’s done. He now shifted his focus on his future.

We All Are In Different Pacings

Currently, Mark focuses on Plantaire PH but still, he wants to use his degree. “Itong lockdown nag open siya sa akin para matulungan ko yung family ko dito sa bahay. Also, na-experience ko din gumawa ng sarili kong business,” he concludes. “It’s one in a million chance na pwede mong i-grab na hanggang ngayon, existing si Plantaire, existing ‘yung business ko and masaya ako dun sa ginagawa ko. But I don’t want to leave my degree kasi siyempre sayang naman ‘yung six years na ginugol ko sa PUP.” He wants to take a risk next year, 2021—if transportation is readily accessible—and look for a job in Manila. Though he knows not to pressure himself too much on finding a job related to his degree but rather, just doing things that he is happy with and is making progress in.

“May kanya-kayang pacing talaga lalo na ngayon pandemic… Keep striving. Keep working basta as long as nagkakaroon kayo ng progress. Its a good thing pero ‘wag din kakalimutan ‘yung mga na-una niyong dreams and in time, magagawa niyo din sila after this pandemic.”

Hospitals in the Eyes of a Mother, and a Cancer Patient

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewees but their message can be understood nevertheless.

In this article, narratives of two women who had experiences in hospital environments were shared: one is a mother of a 3-year old, and the second was a patient herself. (1) Jessa Roque-Medina was an intern for Philippine General Hospital and mother of Saab, a three-year-old who was diagnosed with Billary Atresia. On the other hand, (2) Irish Jain, a 20-year-old who had been cancer-free for 3 years now. 

It is not surprising information that spaces inside a hospital, in general, feel cold. It is mainly due to the blank walls and eerie silence that fills most spaces. After spending some time inside hospitals due to chemotherapy and frequent checkups, Irish confessed that there was a time that she had been scared to go to a hospital. She feels like someone’s giving a death sentence somewhere whenever she goes inside, and that thought makes her uncomfortable. Even the seats that lined up on both sides of the corridor—where she had to sit for about 2 hours to see her doctor—add to her growing discomfort as those seats become chilly over time and they make your back ache.

Having gone to India for 18 months for a liver transplant for Saab, Mrs. Medina shared that whenever they are en-route to the hospital from the hotel, as soon as Saab sees the facade of the hospital, she starts to cry. She observed that her three-year-old daughter had developed “trauma sa mga taong naka-scrub suits.” Recently, she noticed that Saab’s reacting differently whenever she is enclosed with a few people in a room (i.e Mrs. Medina, Saab, and someone unfamiliar). Currently, in Manila, Saab starts to plead to her mom to go home whenever she sees the building of the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI). Even as a three-year old, Saab had learned to associate pain to hospitals and people wearing white, but it’s still early to know if it had other impacts on her mental health too.

Private and Public

Although hospitals, in general, feel unwelcoming, unfortunately, as Mrs. Medina concluded, “It always goes and boils down to budget. How much are you willing to pay; that is the exact treatment you’ll get—not medical—pero that’s the exact thing you will get in a hospital.” As a former intern at PGH, she witnessed how beds, beddings, and air conditioners are always inadequate to the crowd of people wanting to get treated. But, she is aware that the environment isn’t exactly the main priority for public hospitals. 

Irish once had a check-up at Philippine Children’s Medical Center last 2017, and one of the reasons why she did not have her chemotherapy there was because of the environment. She described that the hospital is currently under renovation during that time, and the building looks so old. The walls were not blank white walls, but they do not have paint at all. The doctors in the hospital do not have their personal clinics; they were inside a huge room, and the only thing that separates them is curtains. The patients of other doctors were visible, and once it’s your turn, you had to check every curtain to look for your doctor. Although she liked her doctor at PCMC, the environment itself did not make her feel that she can get treated well. Hence, she chose Mary Mediatrix Medical Center, a private hospital near her home, to receive chemotherapy.

Both women mentioned that they feel that they are well-taken care of if they are in a private hospital, but they still feel uneasy inside a hospital.

Coping Up

No one wants to go to a hospital, or even spent a lot of time there, but that is neither an excuse nor a reason to not design an environment that eases psychological tension for patients and their family. 

Saab and her parents had come to the point where they spent six months straight in the hospital in India, and Mrs. Medina suggests that having rooms designed with a homey feeling would be helpful. She also mentioned that accent walls are great additions too. In the past,  Mrs. Medina had her check-ups at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City and she compared it to a 5-star hotel. Almost everything feels like a hotel, from the chandeliers to the consultation areas of the doctors. But underneath these un-hospital-like environments that make the spaces feel less traumatizing is the cost of treatment. “Siyempre they cannot give a first-class and world-class treatment kapag hindi enough ang pumapasok na income,” she stated.

Having spent time in a hospital when she was 17 years old, Irish highlights the importance of community to her well-being. She did her treatment at a private hospital owned by Catholics (which is good for her because she’s a Catholic as well), and because of the tight-knit religious community, she became close with the nurses. But she suggests having a common room wherein patients can interact and support one another in each other’s healing journeys. Also, the feeling of belongingness has a huge positive impact on a person’s overall well-being. 

Irish described how ecstatic she is whenever she is in UST hospital for her regular checkup, especially if it’s the holiday season. The lobby of the said hospital is adorned with fairy lights and other Christmas decors. She mentioned that the feeling itself inside the hospital changes when it’s nearing Christmas. When it’s not the holiday season, Irish is delighted by all the paintings that hung on every wall. “Dito kasi sa [hospital sa] Lipa, minsan mo lang makikita [‘yung mga painting] tapos sa pediatrics pa siya and luckily, 17 pa lang naman ako nung nagka-cancer, so dun ako sa pediatrics.” she shared.

The Lesser It Feels Like A Hospital, The Better

Watching how her three-year-old daughter developed a trauma after being in hospitals most of the time, Mrs. Medina stated, “The lesser it looks like a hospital, the lesser traumatizing it would be [and] the lesser fearful it would be.” Interestingly, even Irish reached the same conclusion, “[Basically] parang lahat na makakabawas na feeling na you’re in the hospital. Kasi may common na feeling kayo kapag nasa hospital. It is sullen. Parang feel mo lahat ng tao dun may problema. Pero kunwari [kapag] may library, may magandang cafe, parang hindi mo masyadong feel [na nasa hospital ka].” 

Saab is still very young to determine how her experiences in hospitals affected her mental health. On the other hand, Irish had been scared of going to a hospital for some time because it would remind her of her breakdowns— the moment when she learned that she has cancer. Fortunately, Irish began to heal, especially when the environment of the hospital became joyful due to the Christmas decorations. 

The environment has a huge impact on one’s well-being. It can make you feel that you are being sentenced to death, or it can uplift your spirit and can ease a bit of tension that you are feeling. It makes a huge difference being in an environment that makes you feel that you are welcomed, and it doesn’t add to the agony that you are feeling but still allows you to feel joy alongside the distress.

Lessons from History of Architecture: What I Perceive As Truth May Not Be The Truth At All

A huge part of the beliefs ingrained in my subconsciousness is there because I live in the Philippines. I would have a different set of beliefs or truths if I live in Japan or was born in India.

What if I grew up in a Muslim environment?

Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal, an example of Saracenic Architecture

If I was born in a Muslim family, I would most probably be a Muslim too and I will grow up going to mosque that are adorned with abstract patterns. Because for Muslims, any form that depict human or animal figure on or in a mosque is considered as idolatry. Hence, their places of worships are always decorated with abstract art. So, if I grew up in that kind of environment, I will consider human or animal statues in a place of worship as idolatry.

What if I grew up in Japan?

If I was born in Japan, I will grow up being surrounded by Shinto shrines wherein statues of animals (like kitsune and shika) stands on the site of the shrines. If I grew up in that kind of environment, I do not consider that I am committing idolatry because I do not worship kitsune and shika. Kitsune simply serves as a guardian of Kamis while shika is a direct messenger to sun goddess, Amaterasu.

What if I was born into a family whose religion is Roman Catholic?

If I was born into a family whose religion is Roman Catholic, I will grow up going to a Catholic Church every Sunday and being surrounded by statues of Jesus, Mama Mary, and other saints. My belief would be that even though there are statues in our church, we do not commit idolatry because the statues serve as a visual reminder and a way to connect. As BBC writes, “Catholics do not worship Mary or the saints, but ask them to pray to God on their behalf. This is known as intercession.” We are not committing idolatry because we know that we are worshipping God.

So what does this all mean?

This essay will not answer the question, who’s beliefs are more right or more wrong because as I was studying the architecture of different countries, I began to realize that what I perceive as truth may not be exactly the truth at all but it is only considered as truth because its what a collective group of people in my area believed in.

My current truths are shaped by the people and the built environment around me. But it may not be the truth at all.

So what’s the truth? Honestly, I don’t know and I have no intention of wasting my energy on finding out what’s the real truth.

But I am writing what I noticed here today because I know that having this kind of awareness—that what I perceive as truth may only be a truth because that is what most people in my location believed in—makes me more empathetic, understanding, and open-minded to other people who do not share the same beliefs as I am. The people who do not share the same beliefs as I am, they grew up in an environment that told them that this is what’s right and what’s wrong, just like how I am, hence I do not have the right to judge them for that because what I believe in may not be even the truth at all.

Culture shapes architecture and the built environment, in turn, is what shapes the beliefs of the future generations of that land. For instance, the Shinto shrines of Japan are established by people who are now centuries dead. But Shintoism is still practiced because the tangible idea of what they practice in the past is still here in the present and hence, they continue to shape the beliefs of the Japanese people.

We are largely shaped by our environment and sometimes, it makes us a bit more kinder if we have that kind of awareness every time we interact with someone.

So I’ve Read All These Quotes, What’s Next?

I have been reading quotes frequently through my commonplace notebooks because I need a reminder. I might get lost along the way and I need guidance and wisdom to find myself again.

I’ve experienced a rough patch during the last weeks of 2020 and I don’t think I would be here, standing strong, if it weren’t for the wisdom from the people I wrote in my commonplace book.

“…be ready to meet your responsibilities like a hero. Because whatever tomorrow brings, major or minor, it will be what you’ve been training for. Responding to what life throws at us—that’s what this philosophy is about.” —From Daily Stoics email, “Life Will Go On. What’s Your Plan?”

Having this conclusion makes me trust myself more that whatever tomorrow might bring, I would be able to overcome it because I’ve been training for it. I have to do the work.

This is also why I work really hard on my personal growth. At the end of the day, its not my circumstances, what I am facing, or what I am working on that matters, its how I respond.

I cannot control my loved ones. I cannot control what and how many academic works will be given to me. I cannot control how my professor will perceive my works. I cannot control how the audience will interpret my writings.

But what I can control is me— how I respond to them and how I do my work. I am training everyday learning how to respond, reading the words of other people so I know how I can act in my own life, applying what I’ve studied every day, and practicing it again in another day.

“Let’s face it … people and events are going to continue to both hurt and disappoint you. Among the people will be those you most love, as well as those you least know. Seldom is it their intent to purposely hurt you, but rather, a variety of situations mostly beyond your control will cause them to act, speak, or think in ways which can have an adverse effect upon you, your present feelings and emotions, and the way your life upholds. It has been this way through six thousand years of recorded history, and your hurt or grief is not the first time a human has been deeply hurt by the inappropriate actions of another.

The only way to avoid being touched by life––the good as well as the bad––is to withdraw from society, and even then you will disappoint yourself, and your imagining about what is going on out there will haunt you and hurt you. Knowing this, there is but one solution that will support you when people and events hurt you, and that is to learn to work harder on your personal growth than anything else. Since you cannot control the weather, or the traffic, or the one you love, or your neighbors, or your boss, then you must learn to control you … the one whose response to the difficulties of life really counts.” – Jim Rohn