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

One of the Most Common Regrets: Time Spent Worrying

In an interview with Gretchen Rubin, Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., professor of Human Development at Cornell University, stated, “I was born the type that worries, but I have realized that many of the things I worried about never came to pass, and the problems that showed up weren’t the ones I had worried about. In my studies of the wisdom of older people, this is one thing they really taught me. Indeed, one of the most common regrets people have at the end of life is time wasted worrying.”

Whenever I was interviewing for an article for my college publication, I tend to ask the question, “What will you advice to your younger self?” and somehow, one way or another, their answers are related to worrying.

“You can do anything that you want to do. So stop worrying.”
“I’m was a mess. I spent a lot of time worrying in the past and if I can say something to my younger self, it would be, believe in yourself. Just do it.”

Even author and organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote in an article, “When people reflect on their biggest regrets, they wish they could redo the inactions, not the actions. “In the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did,” psychologists Tom Gilovich and Vicky Medvec summarize, “which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.”

Ultimately, what we regret is not failure, but the failure to act. 

Failure to act is related to worrying too because before we act on something, we think about it for some time and even spend time ruminating. Sometimes, worrying gets the best of us and all of a sudden, time has passed and we haven’t act on it yet because we worry a lot.

In my case, last year, before doing an academic work, I tend to worry about it instead of just starting. Then suddenly, 30 minutes had passed and I haven’t started yet, but if I had just started instead of worrying what bad things might happen, I would probably be halfway done by now.

That is why whenever I found myself worrying before doing something, I remind myself of this quote from author James Clear, “Stop worrying about how long it will take and get started. Time will pass either way.

Though, right now, whenever I will be doing something that I know that will take a long time for me to complete, I’ll take a deep breath and say, “This too shall pass.”

This reminder helps me to not dwell so much on certain things, to not worry so much on what will happen, and that its not the end of the world. I can overcome whatever obstacles I face because it will pass. Just like whenever I encountered obstacles last year that I thought were too hard for me, I thought I would not get through it but no, I did it. I overcame all of that and made it here in 2021.

Right now, I’m looking forward to just letting the situation to be what it is and spend less time worrying on controlling the outcome because whatever it is, it will pass. I hope and pray that I will have the courage to run to the roar.

Sunday Wisdoms #1

Hello, this is Sunday Wisdoms! Every week for 52 weeks, I’ll share 5 quotes from my commonplace book. Occasionally, there will be ideas from me too. Take what you can get. Your mileage may vary.

This is Week 1 out of 52.

Author Saint-Exupéry:

l’essential est invisible pour les yeux. (What is essential is invisible to the eyes.)

Author James Clear:

It will never feel like the right time. Do not wait for someone to give you permission to begin. Nobody is going to top you, nominate you, appoint you, or choose you and say, “Now, it’s time to start.”

Ralph Marston:

What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.

Srivinas Rao, The Art of Being Unmistakable:

Worrying about what other people think is a jail of our own creation, the irony of it is those people are in the same jail with us.

Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence:

Start with a growth mindset, the deep-seated belief that your true potential is still unknown. That you are not limited to what you have been able to do before.

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.