Interview with a Former Cancer Patient

Irish Jain, 20, is cancer-free for three-years now and I had the opportunity to ask her questions that I am curious about.

In movies, people who were cured of an illness, they announced that, “From now on, I’m gonna live life with no regrets!” and so I asked her if that was how she felt when her doctor announced that she was cancer free. And her answer went something like this:

“When I became cancer-free, I didn’t go like “I want to go skydiving!” instead, I just went back to normal. From home-schooling, I went back to school a month after. I think the only thing that changed in me was I know what my priorities are now.

Even if I got lots of homework, I do not stress myself so much on it or stay up late all night just to finish it. Instead, I prioritize my health and sleep early. Because when I was literally in a life-and-death situation, the thoughts that crossed my mind weren’t school or academic work, its my family and friends.

And it’s something that I feel is super important to share to everyone who’s going through finals or midterms right now. Academic work is not the end goal of life. There is so much more to life than school or university. Hence, please take breaks and take time to do something that you really want and not something that someone has assumed that it was important in YOUR life.

Also, if I looked back on my year 2019, what I remembered was not the deadlines but rather, when I was volunteering, writing, reading, and playing board games with my community and my family. This goes to show what my priorities are and even though the academic workload is heavy these past few days, I remembered what Irish had shared to me and I’ll just be so so grateful that I am living, breathing, and stealing some free time for myself, to live.

Making Lists

I used to not see the purpose of to-do lists. Yes, they help you not forget the things that you need to do. However, by the end of the day, its disappointing to see the you did not get any stuff done or what.

But ever since I read a bit of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I now use a modified way of making lists and I go to bed at night feeling much more accomplished and satisfied on how I spent my day.

List
Another list

“I make lists to keep my anxiety level down. If I write down fifteen things to be done, I lose that vague, nagging sense that there are an overwhelming number of things to be done, all of which are on the brink of being forgotten.”
—Mary Roach

I worked on this big academic work for our Design subject and the only way I know to accomplish it while also, being human is by cutting it into small, actionable tasks.

breakdown of my large design project

For example, instead of writing in my to do-list ‘design the office floor plan’, I break it down into ‘design the fire exit’, ‘utility room’, ‘elevator’, ‘comfort rooms’, etc. In this way, I will not be overwhelmed and if it so happens that I may not accomplish the office floor plan for the day, I’ll look at my list and found that I made progress because of all the strikethrough lines— this visual cue calms my anxiety and I am able to do more important things such as reading, writing, and playing with my family, without feeling like I wasted this day.

Also, if I did not broke down the project into small, manageable chunks, I would be immobilized. I mentioned in my previous blogpost, Procrastination Is More than Just Laziness,

“Going back to my design project, the reason why I procrastinate or progress slowly (than what I hoped for) is because I don’t know what to do. The project that we have is a new topic and we haven’t even been able to discuss it. I’m just so lost that I do not know where to start. In other words, I’m avoiding negative emotions.” (when I wrote this post, I wasn’t done with my project yet; I was not even at 50%. But I did it. Yay. This too shall pass.)

I am grateful that I get to know this because during the first days of doing the project, I had a hard time progressing at all because I do not have any idea. But when I started to write down what I needed to do and break the down in the smallest, most actionable things that I can get done within an hour or less, my momentum for this project grew bigger and bigger. Soon enough, I do not feel any negative emotions anymore while doing the project. I just want to do the work while at the same time, making time for the things that keep me alive: reading and writing.

What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

During this pandemic, I was curious on why a lot of people began to take such huge interests in plants and baking. And that’s a great thing. I’m just genuinely curious why.

My answer came months later from an article posted in Farnam Street,

Why might baking be useful in times of stress? In Overcoming Anxiety, Dennis Tirch explains “research has demonstrated that when people engage more fully in behaviors that give them a sense of pleasure and mastery, they can begin to overcome negative emotions.”

At home with their loved ones people can reconsider what they value one muffin at a time. Creating with the people we love instead of consuming on our own allows us to focus on what we value as the world changes around us. With more time, slow, seemingly unproductive pursuits have new appeal because they help us reorient to the qualities in life that matter most.

Giving yourself the space to tune in to your values doesn’t have to come through baking. What’s important is that you find an activity that lets you move past fear and panic, to reconnect with what gives your life meaning. When you engage with an activity that gives you pleasure and releases negative emotions, it allows you to rediscover what is important to you.”

When I read this article, I began to look at reading and writing—the very things that I did the most during this pandemic—in a whole new way.

When my plans crumbled down and I can’t see my friends for such a long time, I turned to reading and writing. And this is where I concluded that reading and writing are not just some hobby for me. They are something for me to do—to live.

And so, I thought that it would really be an interesting question to ask to people this: What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

Their answers give you glimpse of who they are. Like what are you doing when the world seems to be crumbling down and things might not go back to normal anytime soon (or we may never go back to “normal”)?

Author and artist Austin Kleon wrote in his blog,

“There’s something about keeping your hands busy when your brain feels broken. I have friends with depression who build elaborate LEGO sets. I’ve read about veterans with PTSD who put together gigantic jigsaw puzzles.

We’re wired to want to turn chaos into order. Randomness into meaning.

It’s why hobbies are so important…”

It’s really interesting how we spend hours and hours doing academic work or literally, work but when negativity overwhelms us, we turn into planting, baking, writing, jigsaw puzzles, listening to music, reading, etc.

Why do we put lesser importance to the latter activities that I mentioned when they are the ones that makes us feel more alive and more human?

Even if I have a lot of things listed on my to-do list, I steal time for myself. To read, to write, and to just do nothing—because its through these things that I can rest and feel more alive than ever.

Ending with this line from the movie Dead Poets Society:

Image result for dead poets society quotes | Society quotes, Dead poets  society quotes, Dead poets society

Shortcomings and Embarrassments are Inconsequential

another amaaaazing person I got to interview

Five months after accepting the opportunity to be a feature editor for our college student publication and those past few months, I had a lot of shortcomings that I tend to magnify by their time of happening but are, actually, inconsequential in the long run.

Every time I got to interview someone for a feature article—someone who I would have not ever meet (probably) in my existence if I did not accept the offer of being a feature editor—I became much much more grateful that I followed what my interest and desire says.

When I got the offer five months ago, at first I thought, ‘I got so much on my plate right now—I have two blogs, academic responsibilities, and household chores.’ but after contemplating, I realize that I want to write. I want to listen to people tell their stories, write their narratives, and in short, I just want to write.

And honestly, I am just so so grateful that I listened to what my heart says. I met new and amazing people because of my responsibility, and it’s amazing how I become good friends with some people I interviewed. Whenever I write a feature article or interview someone, my heart fills with so much joy. I can’t believe that I am in this place wherein I get to listen and write someone’s story.

One of my latest interviews with Mark, during feedback session after the interview, he told me (non-verbatim) that I looked really happy doing this whole thing.

I can’t help but to smile wide because I really am happy with interviewing and writing, and I am so happy that others can see that because even though, I have a lot of academic work, writing just never feels like a chore. Writing is something that I do to live. It’s my fuel. I am just elated whenever I do it.

In connection with the first paragraph, let this be a reminder for me to my future endeavors: I would make mistakes (and that is fact) whenever I enter a new experience but rather than worrying whether I’ll commit mistakes or not, by the end of the journey, my shortcomings and embarrassments are inconsequential. In the end, I’ll be very grateful that I have been enriched and have experienced a lot and grown so much more to what I initially thought.

Five months ago, I never thought I would be this happy just by following my interests and desires, and seeing how I grown so much in such a short time, I’ll continue to do so. Despite having a blurry future because of it, I know that I’ll come out joyful, fulfilled, and satisfied.

Can you name just one reason why you are happy today?

So, I came across this amazing video on Facebook that has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

I have been struggling and feeling very low lately and a lot of people around me are too (based on their posts on their social media sites). So, everyday, I constantly ask myself ‘What is one reason that I am happy today?’ or most of the time, ‘What can make me feel joy right now?’

My answers vary a lot, ‘The mere fact that I am able to wake up again to live.’, ‘Oh look! The sun is shining on me again to remind me that what I’ve done yesterday is not the end of the world.’, ‘The Christmas lights in front of me looks so amazing.’, ‘I’m eating this delicious food cooked by mom’, etc.

Being this intent to look for joy helps make life bearable for me. These times are incredibly a struggle to most and if you are one, I hope you look for joy in your life too.

They don’t care about you.

That is what a friend told me prior to me giving a short speech. He knows what an overthinker and anxious person I was and a few minutes before I was about to give a short speech he said that to me and I haven’t forgotten it ever since. (this was February 2020)

Overtime, I still am an anxious person. I still do overthink. I did not magically became fearless overnight. But I have definitely improved.

Anyhow, I tend to magnify how much a random person thinks about me. Its what psychologists call The Spotlight Effect. According to Psychology Today, it “refers to the tendency to think that more people notice something about you than they do.”

For example, when someone asks a question during class, whatever it was, I tend to not remember it at all the next day (not because I don’t remember but because it never just cross my mind). However, when I ask a question in class, I tend to overthink what I had done that until the next day, I’m still thinking about it. But, when I ask a classmate of what he/she thought of my question, I would then realize that they do not even think of what I’ve done at all because they are busy on their own worries.

Whenever I’m about to post something publicly, I’ll always remember this advice: They do not care about me. Rather than it being a source of sadness, it actually is more of a relief. Because then, as long as I do not do anything that inflicts harm on anyone, they would leave me be and I’ll just keep continuing doing my work that makes me happy.

Writer Louis Chew wrote on an article entitled The Spotlight Effect: Why No One Else Remembers What You Did, “But more importantly, there’s no need to be obsessed with what others think of us. The reality is that everyone has greater concerns — themselves. So speak your mind. Take some risks. Be the man in the arena.

Sunrises

Jacob Martin documented every sunrise for the month of October and check out the video below. It’s only a minute and five seconds!

These past few weeks, I have a new-found relationship and gratitude for sunrises. I am struggling a lot and when it’s night before I go to bed, having this reminder that the sun will rise again, gives me comfort and fills my heart with hope.

Okay, I may have several shortcomings for the day but tomorrow is a new day to do my work and to give my best.

Every morning, waking up in my room bathe with the light from the sun makes me smile.

Okay. This is a new day. Fresh start. I can try again.

Currently, I’m writing this before I go to bed feeling joyful that whatever my experience today is, tomorrow, the sun will still rise and constantly reminding me that life is a journey. Whatever happened today, it is not the end of the world and I should not revolve my whole world thinking about it. Life is more bigger than that.

Things I Noticed in Hayop Ka! As An Architecture Student

Hayop Ka! (‘you son of a bitch!’ in English) is a Filipino romcom animation film produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films, distributed by Netflix.

The film runs for a bit after an hour but I spent around two hours watching this because I kept stopping it and taking screenshots. I want to understand certain things about the design of the environment and also, the animal puns (which I’ll get into below).

Watching this got me so excited because of the insane amount of details!! And here we go:

Nimfa’s Clothes (Protagonist)

Nimfa is the main character of this animation film and I noticed that her clothes, or should I say, work uniform is what she wore in most scenes of the film and they used the color red to have her stand out in almost all of the scenes. There were a few scenes wherein she wore a bright violet dress. Nevertheless, still allowing the character to stand out.

Nimfa in a corporate tower. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Nimfa in a clinic. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Nimfa with her family. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Nimfa with the rich character. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Still wearing a red clothing even out of work. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
The only time she did not wear any “red” clothing but still stood out. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

The clothes of other characters pale in comparison with Nimfa’s clothes except Jerry’s (the one who she ended up with). I think having neither of the two men wore red throughout the film is a clue that neither of them will be with her in the end. According to someone from Rocketsheep Studio, the end signifies “a new start in her life and her relationship with Jerry did not start as a lust or pursuit of material wealth”

Nimfa and Jerry. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

Environment

The overall environment of the film is influenced by Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It’s like having a bit of a field trip in Manila (the slums as well as the place where the rich are).

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Is this EDSA? Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Quiapo Church in the background. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

Baybayin

On the upper left reads, “Tatas” from the word Patatas (meaning potato) and on the right, the sign of the coffee shop reads “Kahe” or Cafe. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

Baybayin is the alphabet that our ancestors used and although it is not the alphabet that we commonly use today, I saw that they used a bit of it in the film!

Cell Tower

Cell Tower inspired from the Eiffel Tower. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films

This cell tower seems to be one of the focal points as this is somewhat inspired from the Eiffel Tower (since this is a romance film) and it is in red too, similar to the protagonist’s color of clothes (hinting its importance).

Homes & Kiosks

In the film, we see characters that vary in terms of their socioeconomic status.

In the main protagonist’s home, you would see that there is an abundance of items at home and too many colors.

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

And the home of the rich character displays a coordinated color scheme and wideness.

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

In other aspects too, we can see how the animators played with sizes and space to distinguish what is something where the rich go/lives. For example, in the screenshots below, there are two perfume kiosks. The first is what you’ll call a luxury brand while the other is not.

Luxury brand kiosk. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
The not luxury brand. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

In order to give the feel that the first kiosk is a luxury brand, they used size. They enlarged the display to induce the feeling of intimidation and having its own carpet in order to make it “stand out” or better yet, giving a feel that this “kiosk” is different from other kiosks on that floor.

May God Bless Our Trip and others that will give you an idea of Filipino culture

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

May God Bless Our Trip is something that you see often in public transport everywhere in the Philippines and I am so happy they included this lol. Also, it shows how religious we are as a country (in general).

Sale Posters

Sale naman lagi poster on the upper left. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

In malls in the Philippines, sale posters are everywhere and every time. I laughed so hard when I read the poster, “SALE NAMAN LAGI” (WE ARE ALWAYS ON SALE in English)

The heart struck with an arrow tattoo

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

If you are Filipino, there is one moment in your life when you had seen someone with this tattoo. I’m not sure where did this originated but I have seen this tattoo so many times in old Philippine films.

Posters/Banners with a politician name

No Littering poster with a politician name. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films
Banner with a politician name. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films

One thing frequent in the streets of the Philippines (excluding the streets of rich gated subdivisions) is a poster/banner with a politician’s name. It can be a welcome banner, or a reminder not to do “insert bad deed here”. Sometimes, it’s posters for elections.

Animal Puns

Every time I saw animal puns in the background, I paused the film because I want to read and understand them all! And I am amazed by how witty the animators are. I captured a few of them.

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films
“Catinko” from Katinko. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Ibonmaya” from Rivermaya (a Filipino band). Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
“Bisugo” (a fish) from Sogo (a hotel). Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films

Additional:

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

I laughed when I saw the “somewhere in Batangas, Philippines” in the address lol. Someone got too tired to create a fake address or maybe he/she just wanted to add something funny.

Thoughts

If it had been released in theaters, I doubt that it would even get that much attention. But instead, this film was released on Netflix and that’s a good thing for the filmmakers and the whole Filipino animation industry.

Since a lot of Filipinos are now subscribed to Netflix, the Filipino animation industry would not really worry so much whether anyone would watch what they produced because of how easy it is to just watch a movie on Netflix.

My thoughts on the plot of the film is another story. In this post, I just want to celebrate the effort that they put in the smallest of details. They gave their best in recreating Manila and they accomplished that very well.

Honestly, I feel that our animation industry is only just starting and our animators have so much more to offer given enough experience and more budget.

Also, I want to share how exciting it is to write a blog post like this for an animation film that is made by my fellow countrymen. I had done a few Things I Noticed As An Architecture Student blog posts for foreign animation films but this is the first time that I did it for a Filipino animation film.

It’s very different when writing “what I noticed” in animation films that are influenced by my culture and one that is foreign because the former allows me to resonate with it in a way that I would seldom (or maybe not ever) feel in foreign animation films.

Related links:

Things I Noticed in Zootopia As An Architecture Student

Things I Noticed in Over The Moon As An Architecture Student

A little bit everyday turns massive in the future

Writer Robin Sloan writes, “Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s in the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.”

And this is something that I see in myself the past few months.

For example, last April 2020, my curiousity piqued in human-centered prisons after watching this short video created by Vox and 99 pi.
The video resonated so much to me that I even wrote a blog post related to it: Would You Support Humane Prison Design In Your Own Country? Why or Why Not? (published April 2020). Since then, I indulged in resources relating to human-centered design and prisons. I got a writing internship in June and by August, I messaged our head asking if I could work on an article related to Human-centered Prisons. With her green light, I began working on it. The whole time I was working on it, I was scared, terrified sometimes, because I wasn’t an expert. My curiousity is the only thing in me but I started to look at it as a good thing. I may not be an expert but I know I can contribute something to the conversation. Long story short, I accomplished the article entitled: Rethinking Prisons. A few weeks after, I wrote another similar article, but shorter and more opinionated, for our college newspaper: Why We Should Build Human-Centered Prisons.

What started out as notes and just following my curiousity became an opportunity for me to share what I learned.

“But the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have revisit them in order to make the most out of them. You have to flip back through old ideas to see what you’ve been thinking,” writes Austin Kleon in hus book Show Your Work! “Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerging in what you share. You’ll find patterns in your flow.”

This is also the reason why I keep commonplace notebooks and read it religiously. I’m always on a lookout for any patterns. All of my blogposts are from patterns too. If you had read most of them, you’ll notice that ideas are overlapping with each other. I built into it every now and then.

I never imagined that my curiousity could grow into something. Whenever I remember how my journey went, I became much much more confident in acting on my ideas even though the future looked so uncertain.

It’s not how smart you are in the field or how skilled you are. What matters is what you contribute. Author James Clear wrote tips on how to get started as a writer and the last tip states, “Write about what fascinates you. You don’t need to be an expert. Curiousity leads to expertise.

Small things when accumulated turns into something massive. Do not worry about not having a big idea, just continue working first on where your curiousity leads you.

Author Paul Graham advices:

“The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for bìg ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you, and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can take roast… Put in time how and on what? Just pick a project that seems interesting: to master some chunk of material, or to make something, or to answer some question. Choose a project that will take less than a month, and make it something you have the means to finish. Do something hard enough to stretch you, but only just, especially at first. If you’re deciding between two projects, choose whichever seems most fun. If one blows up in your face, start another. Repeat till, like an internal combustion engine, the process becomes self-sustaining, and each project generates the next one. (This could take years!)”

If this is isn’t nice, I don’t know what is

Content creator Ali Abdaal shared his favorite quote from Kurt Vonnegut,

And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

And I think this is one of the things that I continously think about these past few days.

When I’m sipping my hot choco during the morning, or when I’m drawing, or reading a really good book, or writing, or just lying on my bed after a long day, I think about this: If this isn’t nice, then I don’t know what is.

It allows me to be more grateful in the present and whenever I just think about that sentence, my face will immediately light up and I’ll smile. It helps me to remember that I am a human, I have feelings and emotions, and I enjoy what I do and I am living my best life.

Everday is not a holiday or vacation. In fact, most of the everyday life are mundane moments and being able to appreciate the smallest things and not taking for granted anything is the life itself.