On Reading Year-End Posts

Recently, I have been reading year-end posts of the people that I follow but one post that tugged my heart the most was a post where she narrated her downfall, how she spent a lot of time feeling like a fraud after, and how did she overcome it.

As I read her post, I immediately had so much appreciation to her. I had read posts that 2020 hadn’t been a “good” year for them (I mean the year has brought both good and bad) but it takes courage to be vulnerable and share how you struggled the past year how you reacted to them.

Her post made me remember what happened around this time, last year.

I was with my community and each one of us talked about what we have learned for the year 2019.

What I talked about was how happy I am because I grew so much because of my responsibility as a class president during my 12th grade and I am also happy that my classmates and professors acknowledged my efforts.

Then come our graduation, when everyone is happy (including me) that high school has offically ended and we are now going to college! However, after that, my parents came to talk to me how disappointed they were that I haven’t achieved any academic achievements that year.

It broke my heart. Because I thought they knew how much that experience mean to me. I haven’t even thinking about external achievements because I am just so happy how tremendously improved that year and did things outside of my comfort zone to be of service for others. The responsibilities that I took shaped me and will help me on the long run.

I thought they would also be happy for me that I improved well in terms of personal growth. But instead, they looked for external achievements. As if my experience that I had because of my chosen responsibility is neither enough nor better than an external achievement.

I had a responsibility to my classmates, but that did not made me slack off my academics. I studied but still, my priority is my responsibility. My grades aren’t “barely passed”, if you are asking, I think—considering that I got a lot of responsibility during that time—my grades are great.

Honestly, I felt like a fraud. It made me question my beliefs as well.

Before the first day of my last year in high school started, I declared to myself that I’ll focus on personal growth and being of service to others. For years, I focused on academics and getting academic awards but they barely made a difference in my life. I get excited and happy but after a few moments, I’m back to what I feel initially before I had the award. And so, I declared to prioritize responsibility, experience, and growth.

And how my parents reacted made me question whether I should just stop seeking growth for myself and volunteering just so I could focus a lot on getting external achievements. But that did not made me happy. I was not satisfied. A medal does not comfort me on nights when I feel like sad but a memory of a certain experience does.

After all my efforts, my growth, my improvements, is it still not enough?

As I am writing this, I can still feel pain from the memory on how I cried that my parents can’t see how much I had improved because what they want is an external achievement from me.

But, thankfully, I calmed myself and think about the experiences that would never occur to me if I did not volunteer as a class president and what I learned or the relationships that I gained because of that experience. Gradually, it made me feel joy and that’s when I realize that even if they are my loved ones, I can’t control their reaction, and their expectations. Even if this are my beliefs and this is what I want to do that does not guarantee that my loved ones will support me or even be proud of me for it.

From my experience that year, I learned that responsibilities change me a lot and so, I took it as an account to look for avenues wherein I will improve and also, I would have fun while doing it. As Albert Einstein wrote in a letter for his son, “That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes.

I never did try to argue with my parents because like I said, their beliefs are not within my area of control and I would continue hurting if I did care something that isn’t in my control anymore.

As for me, the fact that I am fully aware and without a single doubt, on what my personal values are and how my experiences enriched my life, no one can possibly tell me that they are unimportant or that I should have done more or be more because I believe that I have done what I could. I am enough.

And to people reading this, you had made it to this year, 2021. Even if you think that you haven’t have any “achievements” this year that is worthy for a lengthy year-end post or an external award, consider this quote from author Ann Hastings:

Satisfaction is always available. It is just not always looked for. If, when you enter any experience, you enter with curiousity, respect and interest, you will emerge enriched and with awareness you have been enriched. Awareness of enrichment is what satisfaction is.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I also believe that 2020 was not a wasted year. You cannot control what other people says but you alone can find joy on what enriched you the past year. Whether its an obstacle or a victory, every experience enriched you (probably a lot more enriched if its the former).

2020 Year End Post

The warrior’s approach is to say ‘yes’ to life: say ‘yea’ to it all. Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” – Joseph Campbell

Simply making it in December is already an achievement for me.

Last August, I wrote something on Tumblr that is scheduled to be posted in December. I even forgot that I even wrote something.

Its 10:54 of August 20 surely I’ll reblog this. But first, I will schedule to reblog this same post again on December 20.

I’m going through rough times right now. Tough, yes, but I know it is vital for my growth. Well, I’m the one who made the decision anyway. I have to be responsible for it.

Just for myself who will be reading this again on December 20, that if you had made it ’till that day, still joyful and alive, I am proud of you. Right now, I can’t see where am I going. Because I’m literally just living in the moment.

Currently, I’m doing things that I absolutely love (minus the stress of doing it) to do. I am pursuing various hobbies right now and I do not know where they will lead but I don’t care.

Because the act of doing it, creating something, it means that it has already been materialized in a physical form. Instead of letting it just rot in my head, I create it. Whether it may be perceive as ugly or beautiful, I had brought it to life. Something that only existed in my head before– a mashup of everything that I had consume yet– has now been materialized into the physical world.

And for that, you should pat yourself on the shoulders knowing that you did your job. Your job is not to judge whether you work is good or bad. Your job is to create whether intangible or tangible.

Whatever you are doing on this day, December 20, 2020, I hope you give yourself time to rest. And speak your gratitudes towards the universe for all the people who had influenced your life in doing what you are doing right now.

Keep fighting. Keep creating. Keep smiling. Keep helping. Keep playing. Keep going.”

I’ve read this several times now and wow. I had come so far. The very things that I did—reading and writing—during this year had shaped who I am today. Also, I am proud of myself for being hopeful and joyful even though the path that I took is so uncertain. I am so proud of myself for believing that I can do it.

Two weeks ago, I’ve gone into overthinking spiral that left me immobilized and in addition, I also had a flu during that time.

Then, I started talking with myself. I noticed that I started to look at things more than of what they are instead of what they actually are.

A few days later, I got the opportunity to talk with the people who really knew me well and I started to reclaim myself—the one who got lost in all the inner noise. My friends reminded me of who I am and that got me crying. Because then I realized how brave I was, how courageous I was in going into this uncertain path, and now, somehow I got lost. Thank you for my friends for helping me realized how far I’ve come and setbacks will not define who I am.

Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.” – Chadwick Boseman

This year, I am also grateful to the people who had influenced my life this year mainly to Austin Kleon, James Clear, Tom Kelley, David Kelley, Ingrid Fetell Lee, and Ryan Holiday. Their words and actions greatly influenced my life this year and I will not be who I am today if it weren’t for them.

To my 2020 self, thank you for being brave, for doing your best to live every day, for following your intuition even if it goes against the “path”, for choosing to live in joy all the time, and for not rejecting yourself.

To the people who supported Claire’s Essays this 2020, thank you. Thank you for reading and commenting in my works. I still have a long way to go in terms of writing and still, I thank you for being on this journey with me. Continue being good human beings and making the world a better place one step at a time.

69 Things That Made My Year (2020)

  1. Claire’s Essays (this blog) – the start of my creative journey; going through life using a compass instead of a map
  2. Empathy In Design – a personal project of mine; it is a blog that feature designs that empathizes with users
  3. Tom Kelley and David Kelley’s Creative Confidence
  4. Austin Kleon’s (life-changing books): Steal Like An Artist, Keep Going, and Show Your Work!
  5. James Clear’s 3-2-1 newsletter
  6. Austin Kleon’s newsletter
  7. Youth 4 Sustainable Cities Program of Makesense
  8. Makesense Microinternship Program (read the articles I wrote for this internship here and here)
  9. Abstract: The Art of Design Season 2
  10. Running Man
  11. Hospital Playlist Season 1
  12. Workman
  13. Itaewon Class
  14. Sixth Sense Season 1
  15. Interior Design Masters Season 1 (Specifically: Episodes 3 and 6)
  16. Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness
  17. The Little Prince (2015)
  18. Klaus (2019)
  19. Meet The Alumni Series of our college publication, the Freehand.
  20. Voices of CAFA series
  21. Architecture Week Rewind series
  22. The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore
  23. Happy Jail (2019) documentary
  24. Architecture 101 by Nicole Bridge
  25. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
  26. How Norway designed a more humane prison
  27. You Can Draw in 30 days by Mark Kistler
  28. Little Women (2019)
  29. Money Heist and Money Heist: The Phenomenon
  30. Andy Grammer – Keep Your Head Up
  31. I got super interested in learning how to use Adobe Illustrator.
  32. Ruler: Master of the Mask
  33. Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin
  34. Cas Holman’s designs
  35. Les Miserables’s Do You Hear The People Sing
  36. The Greatest Showman’s Come Alive and This Is Me
  37. for King & Country – God Only Knows
  38. Emma Scott’s Rush and her other books.
  39. Mia Sheridan’s Most Of All You and Archer’s Voice
  40. The Aesthetics of Joy
  41. Austin Kleon’s blog.
  42. James Clear’s blog
  43. Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away
  44. Game Series by Ariesa Domingo
  45. Love In the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
  46. Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express.
  47. Sunday Snippets newsletter by Ali Abdaal
  48. The Decline of Play – Peter Gray
  49. Ha Hyun Woo – Stone Block
  50. Aswang (2019) documentary
  51. My completed short stories for this year which are a product of things that I consume: Killed by Aswang, A Note From An Inmate, Passengers, Words Do Hurt, and The Strongest Woman In The World
  52. Tunnel (2016)
  53. Alice in Borderland (2020)
  54. Sweet Home (webtoon)
  55. Along With The Gods: Two Worlds and Along With The Gods: The Last 49 Days
  56. Zombies (2018)
  57. Handmade notebooks out of used papers
  58. Integrating Nooks Into School Designs
  59. How architecture changes for the deaf
  60. Where Joy Hides and How to find it
  61. John P. Weiss’ blog
  62. Daily Stoic newsletter
  63. 99 pi’s blog
  64. Commonplace notebooks
  65. Celeste Headlee’s Do Nothing and We Need To Talk
  66. Scenius.
  67. Philippine History Through the Lens of Local Church Architecture
  68. “You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.”
  69. Want to be an artist? Watch Groundhog Day.

10 Lessons I Learned This Year (2020)

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Never reject yourself.

“People who are Makers feel these same fears. They worry about rejection and battle uncertainty just like everyone else. The only difference is that Makers don’t let how they feel prevent them from sharing what they know.

But even more important to keep in mind is this: if you choose to create something, you’ve already won because you haven’t rejected yourself.

You have already won because you’ve battled the limiting beliefs and the self–doubt and the excuses like “I don’t have enough time or enough money or enough experience” and you found a way to make it through to the other side.

Yes, if you build something people might judge it or dislike it. But if you don’t create and share the things that you have inside of you, then you’ll commit the far worse crime of rejecting yourself.” – James Clear

Source: Be Honest: Are You Rejecting Yourself? (Why You Should Make Things)

This year, 2020, made me realize how much I am rejecting myself these past several years. In the past, I constantly downplayed my ideas instead of just pursuing and doing them.

This year, gradually, I acted on my ideas despite the self-limiting beliefs and I never felt so free. I literally have no regrets this year at all because whatever ideas came to my mind, I made sure to do them all.

I had short story ideas, and so I wrote them.

I had article ideas (which honestly I almost did not pursue because I was afraid that I don’t have enough experience) and so, I researched and write about them. It’s terrifying, yes. Amidst of everything, I had this voice at the back of my head telling me that I don’t have enough experience, people will laugh at me, I am not ready yet, and so on.

But I did it. I made it through the other side. I became more courageous every time I did something, instead of rejecting myself and cheating myself of growth.

If I were to summarize what I feel about the whole year it would be: I have control over my own life. It feels liberating to spend my days in a way that I wanted to and not how my parents or society wants.

Live for the day.

“Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time.” – Richmond Walker

I overthink a lot mostly about the future and sometimes, the things that I did. But, just like with everyone else, this year had showed that anything can happen anytime. I was supposed to be an intern for a government agency last summer but pandemic happened and I found myself inside my home, reading and writing.

I can never predict what will happen tomorrow or the next month hence it’s useless to actually be worried of something that I do not have control of. So with everyday, I do my best to live thinking only the worries of today.

I will make mistakes but in the long run, the mistakes would feel inconsequential and what I would be very grateful for is the experience.

Even though I am at home for roughly 80% of the year, I still had a lot of new experiences and one thing that crossed my mind before I delve into those new experiences was: I am gonna do something embarrassing.

Thankfully, I followed my gut and even though there is this great possibility that I ‘m gonna do something embarrassing, I still did the things that I wanted to do.

Fast forward to now in December, the mistakes that I committed in those experiences doesn’t seem of a big deal now (compared to the time that I had done them) and right now, all I think about is how I am so grateful that I get to meet amazing people, learned all these new skills, and most importantly, I get to be of help to others.

This is a very personal lesson for me and this is something that I want to remember always.

I am afraid to embarrass myself. Terrified even. But with this lesson that I personally came up with based on what happened to me several months ago, I began to look at every experience that I am about to take with total curiosity and excitement—regardless of any embarrassing moments that can spur along the way—because I know that in the end of it all, I would be very grateful of the skills that I gained, forming relationships with people that I would not had met if it weren’t for this experience, and I had the opportunity to lessen the suffering of others.

It’s not about how smart or talented you are. It’s about what you can contribute.

There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.” Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals: it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don’t consider ourselves geniuses. Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute—the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start. If we forget about genius and think more about how we can nurture and contribute to a scenius, we can adjust our own expectations and the expectations of the worlds we want to accept us. We can stop asking what others can do for us, and start asking what we can do for others.“ – Austin Kleon

In the past, while seeking out opportunities, there are times when I look at an opportunity and say, “Oh. Everyone’s smart in there and I am not one. I’ll just go look for another.” But when I came across the concept of scenius, I started viewing these things differently.

For instance, I am currently in a student publication and there are a lot of students here that are so skilled in writing better than I do (and that’s totally great). But even though I do not consider myself as someone who is skilled in writing or even as great as my peers, I still continue to do my part in the publication because it’s about what I can contribute to the larger whole.

Later in life, I will be working and there will be people who are smarter and better than me but it doesn’t really matter because like what Austin Kleon wrote, it’s not what they can do for me but it’s what I can do for them and what we can contribute to others together.

External accomplishments hardly change anything.

“We all think some external accomplishment is going to change everything, but it never seems to. It doesn’t change how you see yourself. It doesn’t change how you go through the world. It doesn’t change what you feel like when you wake up in the morning.” – Ryan Holiday

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.

Rejection is redirection.

A senior pastor from our church shared that there are no coincidences—only God-incidences. God-incidences means that you are here at this specific place, at this hour, at this very minute, because God wants you to see something, hear something, smell something, and feel something.

This year, I got rejected to a lot of jobs and internships and I even got rejected by my dream university for the second time. But looking back, I can say that things feel into their proper places. Where I had been and what I had gone through this year felt right and I feel that they are supposed to really happen to me to grow and move closer to who I need to be.

I am thankful that God directs me to where I am supposed to be in at the moment and knowing that He guides me, makes me even more courageous to just go and continue immersing myself in various experiences, and just continue trying because if its not meant for me (yet or at all), He’ll redirect me to where I am supposed to be at this current time.

They don’t care about you.

This is a lesson that I learned in early 2020 and that I am still continuing to apply ’til today.

I get anxious especially now that we are taking classes virtually where everyone can actually hear what you said. Overtime, I am learning that people do not really care about me because they have bigger worries—themselves. I know it will take time for me to live my life unapologetically but baby steps. Baby steps.

Labelling something or someone as “good” or “bad” makes me unable to see the situation for what it really is.

Whenever something happens/will happen to me, I mostly say, “This is bad.” but as it turns out, it really isn’t that bad and I get anxious for a long time for nothing.

Essayist and poet Heather Lainier talked about a parable of a farmer on her TED talk and as she learned from the parable, “The parable has been my warning that by gripping tightly to the story of good or bad, I close down my ability to truly see a situation. I learn more when I proceed and loosen my grip and proceed openly with curiosity and wonder.

And so when a professor announces another academic work to be done on top of a other academic works that I still need to accomplish, instead of thinking, “They just never end! This is so bad.”, I think, “Oh this should be exciting. What more can I learn from this?”

Thinking this way will not magically answer all my problems but regardless of what may come to my life, I will look at it not as a problem but only as a part of my journey—something that I have to go through to learn and grow.

The more you use your creativity, the more you have.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ― Maya Angelou

When I started committing to my blog around April of this year, I was worried that I may not have anything to write after a month. Eight months later, I still am writing and I still am receiving ideas.

I think its largely because I’m just continuing to do the work everyday and that’s why I never really feel that I “run out”.

Whatever creative goal you choose, it is important to build on your experience and not let fear and inertia hold you back. Putting ideas on a page and getting past that first hurdle is progress. Then you’re ready to take another step forward. Just take it “bird by bird.” Pretty sure, you’ll start to feel more creative confidence.“ – Tom and David Kelly

Do not worry so much on where things are going to lead. Continue following your interests, desires and gut. Share what you think is worth sharing.

“The lives of great thinkers teach us that learning is the verb of life. The trick to lifelong learning is to exercise your curiousity as much as you can and to let it guide you where it wants to go. To pay attention to what you pay attention to. To not worry too much about where things are going to lead. To learn for learning’s sake, not because it’s going to get you something, necessarily, but because you have faith that the things that interest you will help you become who you need to be.

Your interest and your desire and your instincts are your compass. They show you the way.

It’s a hard things to internalize, but once you do, it’s one of the most powerful things. It sets you free.” – Austin Kleon

Constantly reading this quote over the last several months from my commonplace notebooks made me feel at peace because what I did mostly during those months is not what society expects me to do but nevertheless, I never regretted anything because I know that reading and writing are one of the main reasons why I am standing strong today and the reason why I am able to have this kind of output today.

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Following my gut felt so liberating and I had never felt more satisfied than ever because I am control and I am living MY life based on my choices and how I want to live.

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.