Surprise!

“Joy has a way of showing up when we least expect it. As we move through the stream of daily life, tiny moments can capture our attention and turn our thoughts in a joyful direction. These moments can be especially powerful in times of stress or sadness.” – Ingrid Fetell Lee

So, I was just reading articles on designer Ingrid Fetell Lee’s blog when I clicked a hyperlink that led me to this website:

Then, I moved my mouse a little while reading the title page then, I was surprised to found out that a few words were “washed” away.

It put me out of “calm” mode. I was back to my kid-like self wherein I began to notice something novel and I want to see where it ends. And after “washing” away the letters. This is what remained:

Oh gosh. Something that brought me joy at that moment.

Designer Ingrid Fetell Lee wrote about surprise and how it can improve your mood throughout the day in her book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness,

“Surprise has a vital purpose: to quickly redirect our attention. It acts like a warning bell for the brain, alerting us to a gap between what’s happening in front of us and what we had anticipated. In stable, predictable situations, the parts of the brain that attend to our environment slip into a kind of background mode. Our awareness of our immediate surroundings recedes while our conscious mind thinks through a problem, carries on a conversation, or daydreams. But an unexpected noise or tap on the shoulder brings the mind and senses into a state of sudden vigilance.” wrote Lee, “the increased alertness and arousal of the surprise response can also prepare us to take advantage of joys that come from out of the blue: serendipitous events (e.g., Ryan Gosling shooting a movie down the street), unlikely windfalls (ooh, free ice cream!), or changing circumstances (say, an early spring) that could influence our happiness for the better.”

She explains, “While these moments of joy might seem fleeting, they can have lasting effects because they help to promote upward spirals of positive emotions. Joyful surprises bring our attention away from ourselves and back out into the world, prompting us to approach and engage. They incite curiosity, spur exploration, and increase the chances we’ll interact with others in ways that keep the positive vibes flowing.”

Though in time of my discovery of that website, I wasn’t sad or anything but just merely reading articles when suddenly I discovered something out of the ordinary.

What joy I felt when I began to realize how great I felt in being surprised. And surprises are great especially when you are having a bad day.

It pulls your mind out of cruise control and heightens your focus on the surroundings around you. In times of overthinking-ness and anxiousness, surprises keeps you out of ruminating. And hence, I’m always on a look out for them.

I realized that when I started actively and consciously choosing joy, joyful things starts coming out of my view more often.

A while ago, while I was looking up the sky. A bird landed on the roof below me and then the bird flew in my direction that I started closing the window immediately because it may be go and be trapped inside our room (thank goodness, it did not). Thankfully, it went in an another direction. Then, I just chuckled at how I reacted.

I cannot control what life will give me but I can control in how I perceive them. There are more surprising things out there and I’m on a mission to find more of them!

Looking Up The Sky

Studies have concluded that looking up the sky can make you feel “small” and that is not a bad thing. It actually gives you perspective- that you are just this tiny thing in the universe who will be dead in the next century or so hence, most of the thing we worry about are unimportant in the face of death anyway. So, we should just live life.

In the book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, author and designer Ingrid Fetell Lee wrote about a study about people feeling “small” beside a grand landscape like a mountain, rock formation, grand architectural building, or anything that makes them look up,

“In a study led by researcher Yang Bai, tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and Yosemite National Park were asked to draw pictures of themselves. When the researchers compared the resulting drawings, they found that people drew themselves as much smaller when immersed in the grandeur of Yosemite than in the hubbub of San Francisco. This study offers a striking illustration of the experience many people have in moments of awe: the feeling of being “small or insignificant.” Keltner calls this phenomenon the small self, and while it may sound unpleasant, in fact for most people it comes with a euphoric feeling of resonance and oneness with other beings. People in this state often say that they feel the presence of a higher power and that day-to-day concerns recede from their attention.

Well, that is also why churches need to be big because it represents God (and of course for practicality reasons too- seating capacity, to store valuable artifacts, etc.).

That is exactly why when you are having a bad day or bad mood, take a break and look up the sky for a few minutes. A lot of research studies concluded that looking up or even going up is correlated to joy.

Look up in the sky. It will not solve your problems, however, it will make you feel joy and feeling joy is important to your overall well-being. It takes you away from your concerns but to just be in this present moment right now.

Another thing, looking up gets you to daydream. And daydreaming is one of the ways to get your brain into default mode network (DMN) and this is great especially if you are brainstorming, or looking for solutions to a problem.

Journalist Celestee Headlee writes about DMN in her book Do Nothing,

” The default mode network, or DMN, becomes active when we allow our minds to wander. When the DMN is engaged, it works on our memories, putting past events into context and making moral evaluations about things that have happened. It also imagines the future, tries to understand the emotions of others, and reflects on our own emotions and decisions. The default network is crucial for empathy, for self-reflection, and for Theory of Mind, the ability to imagine what others may be thinking. Allowing our brains to switch into default mode is crucial for our well-being. That’s the source of much of our creativity and innovation, since the brain actively reshuffles the puzzle pieces of our memories and emotions when it’s not directed to solve a problem or complete a task.”

Right now, I given myself a few days to brainstorm ideas before starting my research paper for a proposed corporate tower design. A while ago morning, while I was looking up the sky, I got another idea for what I should put in my design. This is another moment that proves why daydreaming and taking a break is important.

Things are starting to pile up as school days passed by, and this is where taking a break needs to be a constant conscious decision. There are days wherein taking a break can make me feel guilty but no. Preventing myself from overworking and overdoing is significant than anything.

I hope you are doing well and remember to take breaks every now and then. Look up.

We move forward because we have faith.

Paulo Coelho:
None of us know what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.

This is my 100th post (yay!). My creative journey started last April and six months later, I made it alive enough to write my 100th post. Reading the book Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley made me start my creative journey.

When I started, I remember how I was terrified that I might not have anything to write in the next few weeks, that I would have a flock of people hating me for how bad my writing is, etc.

But this is just me overthinking and people are busy worrying about their own lives.

A few things that I got from Creative Confidence that I kept reading everyday as I journey the last 7 months until now:

  1. “Doubts in one’s creative ability can be cured by guiding people through a series of small successes. And the experience can have a powerful effect on the rest of their lives.”
  2. “The real value of creativity doesn’t emerge until you are brave enough to act on those ideas.”
  3. “That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them.”
  4. “When you open your mind to the possibility that your capabilities are unlimited and unknown, you already have your running shoes on and are ready to race forward.
  5. “Albert Bandura used the process of guided mastery—a series of small successes—to help people gain courage and overcome deep-seated phobias.”
  6. “Facing failure to wipe away the fear.”
  7. “A subtle excuse lies in the idea of “trying”. It’s as if today is for attempts, and the real action will happen at some vague future moment. To achieve your goal, to topple the barriers that stand in your way, you have to be focused on getting it done now.”
  8. “If you want to make something great, you need to start making.”
  9. “It’s hard to be “best” right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements.”
  10. “All the overplanning, all the procrastinating, all the talking are signs that we are afraid, that we just don’t feel ready. You want everything to be “just right” before you commit further or share something with others. That tendency leads us to wait rather than to act.”

The sentences aforementioned are all from the book and I read them daily. When I have an idea for an article, I write it, never minding whether I “ran out” of anything to write. I just write. And then, before I knew it, I’m writing more than what I intended.

I committed to only one post weekly and then, suddenly it became, whenever I wanted. I post two to three times weekly, sometimes even more.

During those early times, I was able to get through even if I barely had any ideas, even if I fear of a lot of things because I had faith. I trust my intuition that by doing what I wanted to do, I will not regret my decision.

And boy, I did not. Words flow faster right now and I’m posting daily (wow). I read a lot than I ever had and write a lot. From sharing my personal experiences, I ventured to writing about design, prisons, books, movies, etc. Just by starting my creative journey and doing what I love, in spite of the thoughts that I’m not ready or experienced enough, my future seemed so unpredictable. And that thought is amazing!!

Because of following my curiosities, I now have a life that’s full of magic everyday. I do not know what will happen the next day and I do not intend to think about it because I’m living for today.

I’m barely seven months in this journey and I have already loved so many things. It’s just mindblowing how there are always things out there or here in the internet in which you will love like a book, architecture, movie, show, article, a person, or a song. I intend to keep writing about them as much as I could.

Lastly, thank you for reading. I hope you’re well as well as the people you love. just like I am, you are in your own journey too. I hope you are living your best life. Whatever you are currently doing or planning, as long as you really want it, you will be able to do it. Believe in yourself. Do what you can at this moment right now. Do that everyday, and I promise, you are in a journey to the unknown.

What Kids Can Teach Us

[I am aware that I write about kids like most of the time but, honestly, there is just so much to read and learn from them (or who we once were) that we should not forget as adults as we grow older.]

Austin Kleon (author of Steal Like An Artist) brings his kid to a museum because, ” [kids] will make you rethink what’s interesting and what’s art. (After all, what are cars but fast, colorful, kinetic sculptures?) This, of course, should be the point of museums: to make us look closer at our everyday life as a source of art and wonder.” Also, if you don’t have a kid, he advises you to borrow one. “Borrow a kid. Spend some time trying to see through their eyes. You will discover new things.

Corita Kent and Jan Steward wrote in the book, Learning By Heart, “For so many years we have been learning to judge and dismiss — I know what that thing is — I’ve seen it a hundred times — and we’ve lost the complex realities, laws, and details that surround us. Try looking the way the child looks—as if always for the first time—and you will, I promise, feel wider awake.”

John Baldessari noted, “I learned so much about art from watching a kid draw. I taught at the grade-school level. Kids don’t call it art when they’re throwing things around, drawing—they’re just doing stuff.”

I interviewed a schoolmate about her art teaching experience and she mentioned that the best students she had are kids. Because, she noticed, kids do not complain. They just simply do the work.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about the musician Tom Waits in her book, Big Magic, “Waits had once been the opposite of that as a creator. He told me that he’d struggled deeply with his creativity in his youth because—like many serious young men—he wanted to be regarded as important, meaningful, heavy. He wanted his work to be better than other people’s work. He wanted to be complex and intense. There was anguish, there was torment, there was drinking, there were dark nights of the soul…

But through watching his children create so freely, Waits had an epiphany: It wasn’t actually that big a deal. He told me, “I realized that, as a songwriter, the only thing I really do is make jewelry for the inside of other people’s minds.” Music is nothing more than decoration for the imagination. That’s all it is. That realization, Waits said, seemed to open things up for him. Songwriting became less painful after that.”

Earlier in the book, Gilbert wrote, “Over the years, Tom Waits finally found his sense of permission to deal with his creativity more lightly—without so much drama, without so much fear. A lot of this lightness, Waits said, came from watching his children grow up and seeing their total freedom of creative expression. He noticed that his children felt fully entitled to make up songs all the time, and when they were done with them, they would toss them out “like little origami things, or paper airplanes.” Then they would sing the next song that came through the channel. They never seemed to worry that the flow of ideas would dry up. They never stressed about their creativity, and they never competed against themselves; they merely lived within their inspiration, comfortably and unquestioningly.

And my main point here is to relax. I meant this for myself and to anyone struggling and stressing about creating. There is this belief going on that “You have to suffer greatly in order to create something great.” (A lot of people concluded this after observing that a lot of whom we consider great artists suffered a lot while creating their masterpieces.) But like the epiphany of Tom Waits, creating doesn’t have to be so serious and dramatic that you have to compromise your physical, spiritual, and mental health.

When I was around 14, I wanted to write a novel. However, I get stressed a lot that I can’t find the perfect idea, the perfect plot, that it would not be popular anyways, and that I’m not experienced enough. But if I could talk it out to my younger self, I would say, just write. Yes, at first, it would not be easy. But the perfect plot will not come, just write what you can write. (Somehow, I am just grateful that I went through this kind of experience because of that, I am able to grow, learn, and improve myself or better yet, learned to re-connect with the kid inside me.)

Similar to when we were kids, we just draw and we just write. Want to write? We just write. Want to draw? We just draw. And writing or drawing something, we just set it aside and eventually, our parents are gonna throw it. Then, off we go to another thing that we want to write or draw. We just create so easily when we were young and somewhere along the way, we restrict ourselves. I made it hard for myself to just create something by rejecting the idea as soon as it was born and telling myself, “Its not worth it anyway.”

But that is not the point. The point is to create. The point is to do what keeps you alive and not rejecting yourself of an adventure. Just creating for the sake of doing just like when we were a kid. Just like in the book The Little Prince, we must not forget how we were as kids or else we might be very, very odd grownups.

Growing

After interviewing another student from my college for a feature article, I asked for feedback like I always do and her answer was this:

“Wala naman akong problema. I felt comfortable while doing the interview. Hindi nga ako kinakabahan eh.” (Eng trans: I don’t have any problem while doing the interview. I felt comfortable while doing the interview. I was never even nervous at all.)

Honestly, that is a huge compliment for me. During my very first interviews for a feature article as well, I got a feedback that wasn’t exacty a compliment but rather a call for me to grow and I am grateful that he is honest with me and for that, my future interviewees wouldn’t have to suffer so much because of my nervousness and inexperience.

I have so much more to learn with regards to how to listen well and converse effectively but such small compliments (small successes) gives me further strength to continue.

Just a few days ago, I experienced the feeling of “everything’s futile” again. And somehow, I think its related to my constant hustling these past few weeks. And I need to re-balance my self again. And I found this writings by one of my favorite youtuber, Dinara:

With that, I wanted to start my everyday with gratitudes. Letting the universe hear my thoughts and what I am grateful for.

I can feel that I am growing in many avenues of my life. But I want to teach myself to not get attached to some imaginary ladder that I need to achieve to be happy.

Small things matter the most. I interview various people and write down their narratives because I love to write a lot and read a lot. I enjoy writing as well as reading so much. And it feels me up with joy knowing that I am doing something that I love everyday.

I hope that stays. I hope that for the rest of my life. I keep choosing what I enjoy, what makes me grow, and what I love.

As a kid, I just enjoy what I love. When I was younger, my father had me take Kumon worksheets but as I grow older, I realize that solving Math problems isn’t what I am interested in. Hence, my younger self fought to do what she loves: reading.

I hope as I grow older, I will never forget that. I will never forget that as a kid, I chose to do something that brings me joy instead of doing something that people perceive as “will get you into a nice university or will land you in a nice job” but you do not actually enjoy.

I hope I will always remember to be alive. And to be alive means asking yourself: what makes me come alive? What is something that kept me going? And do it. Do it with my very best. The world needs people who are alive.

Like the Little Prince, I hope I will not forget. And I hope you too.

Odd Grownups

The Little Prince asked the man to draw him a sheep. The man replied that he does not know how to draw. But the Little Prince said, “That doesn’t matter.” The Little Prince continued, “Draw me a sheep.”

And this is something that we can learn from kids. Kids do not do things for the sake of improvement or praise. They just simply do.

When my cousin was younger and just draws all the time, I used to look at her drawings and compliment her. She just shrugs (eventually, she learned to say her gratitude). And now, I understand why she just shrugs. Because to her (and to almost all kids), what she had done is just normal and something that she just does. Hence, compliments and praises don’t matter to her. At the same time, there is no success or failure, just doing.

Recently, I interviewed a college senior for Spotlight, a weekly article that features students from the College of Architecture and Fine Arts who have art accounts.

I asked her about her teaching experiences from the past year. She taught kids how to draw and paint. And she finds them the best students she had handled. Why?

Because, according to her, kids never complain. Unlike when she teaches older students, she never heard complaints when she was teaching kids.

And I think that is amazing. Again, to kids, it is all just something that they do for the sake of enjoyment and just doing it.

I read of an activity wherein a professor created a program for her graduate students, wherein each of them will be paired up with a kid. And the reason for this is so that her students will re-learn how to do things in a less structured, less rigid, and more enjoyful way.

“Grownups are very, very odd.” The Little Prince said. I found myself thinking that I became an odd grownup myself.

One message from the book is that growing up isn’t the problem, forgetting is.

Re-connecting to that kid inside each one of us is not done overnight. We have to re-learn things again. But at the end of the day, what matters is that we remember.

Do more of what brings you joy

I just finished The Lorien Legacies (7 books). For me, its one of those books that you can’t put down.

After reading the last book, I stopped and feel. I let myself feel the exhilaration knowing that a book is finished. I just finished reading their story. Now, I can put them down to rest.

You know what?

I’ve read The Lorien Legacies a few years ago but I just discontinued it because as much as I enjoy it so much, the reviews I read in Goodreads make me feel like I’m the most stupid person for reading the book. Hence, I stopped.

Fast forward to now, The Lorien Legacies crossed my mind when I’m thinking of what makes me happy.

I realized that I should not let other people’s opinions stop me from doing what I am interested in and what gives me joy. For every day in my life, I should choose to do the things that makes me happy. For then, I will truly be able to say, that I have lived well.

Doing things that give you joy makes you alive. Honestly, what the world needs right now are people who are alive.

Hence, I continued reading the books of The Lorien Legacies, starting from the beginning because I forgot all the details. And I have never been so joyful in my life. And I continue to live like this, just doing what I enjoy, letting my interests, curiousities, and desires lead the way.

And before I decided to just do it– to just do the things that I enjoy. Here is what I read, this post is from wyattwesleywriting on Tumblr:

When I was in fourth grade, I wanted to read Harry Potter. Someone in my class told me I couldn’t because it wasn’t in my level and I wouldn’t understand it. I read Harry Potter just to spite him. I’ve reread it a million times, it’s one of my favourites. I realised after reread and reread that I didn’t understand it in fourth grade.

When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to read the classics. I read the Bell Jar, Red Badge of Courage, Shakespeare, and as many as I could find. I couldn’t tell you what they said. But I looked like I could read at a higher level than I could. I read the same books and plays in high school. They made sense, I enjoyed them, I read them not to prove something but because I wanted to.

When I was in eighth grade, I only read murder mysteries and criminal books. That’s what more advanced readers read. I wanted to prove that I could read as well as someone twice, three times my age. I enjoyed them, but it was because I was proving something.

When I was in college I reread the series of unfortunate events. I loved every single book, every single line. I’d forgotten what it was like to read a book because I wanted to. I read young adult novels more than anything because I like them. I don’t care that they’re below my level, that they’re ‘too’ young for me. I don’t care that people see me reading them.

I realised something. I was taught to read because I needed to. Intelligent people read, that’s how people become smart. Reading isn’t a waste of time like television. I wasn’t taught to love to read. No one is. I found a love of reading by giving up the idea that people gave a shit if I read or not. I enjoy it more than I should. I realised that instead of instilling the idea of doing something because it’s expected or because someone should do something, instill the idea of doing something because you want to. Instill the idea that happiness comes from what we choose, not what others have chosen for us.

I realised that when I’m happiest, when I have the most joy, it’s when I do something for me. It’s when there are no expectations, no drive to prove someone wrong. I realised that my happiest when all inhibitions and perceptions are gone. Maybe that’s how we should enjoy our hobbies.

I can’t stress this enough: DO THINGS THAT BRINGS YOU JOY.

I read that from someone a long time ago but when I read that, it just felt weird. Like I know I’m supposed to do things that gives me joy but why am I not doing it?

I want christmas lights on my room all year long and not just during the holidays because for me, lights have something magical in them. So why am I not doing it?

I do not enjoy scrolling on socmed so much but why do I continue doing it?

When I started to become aware of these things, I started taking more proactive actions on doing more of the things I want and I enjoy doing.

For me, reading sci-fi and fantasy books are one of the things that makes me happy. Whenever I find a good read, I can stay in one place for a couple hours and just get lost in the character’s thoughts. For me, reading is similar to play.

Experts are now redesigning their office systems and spaces to make it more conducive to play. Play is any activity that gives you joy and has no result. The results are only intangible– it improves your overall well-being. Hence, since the result is not tangible, people denote it as unimportant. But play overall helps you to be present.

Most adult spend time worrying about their mistakes and responsibilities. But with play, you get to be here. In here, this moment right now. And that is exactly what reading does to me.

I know, most of us (if not all) are suffering. But may you continue to play, to do the things that you enjoy regardless of what people perceive of it. What is important is what you feel about it.

By choosing to do more play or to do more of the things you enjoy, I am not encouraging you to go on “toxic positivity” but its more of, taking a break from ruminating. And instead, be in the now. Focus on the now. Focus on this hour asking ‘What can I do for this hour that would give me joy?’ or ‘What is the most beautiful thing that I can make?’

Almost two years ago when I cried to my friend after sharing something with her, and I remember how she replied, “Ate, ang importante ginagawa mo kung ano ang nagpapasaya sa ‘yo. Siyempre hindi nila maiintindihan ‘yan kasi hindi naman sila ikaw eh. Ang importante masaya ka. (What is important is that you are doing what makes you happy. Of course, they might not understand because they are not you. At the end, what is important is that you are happy.)” Also, I do not remember why I was crying at that time but I clearly remember that I am crying because I felt like no one understands.

A few years back, my dad pushed me to Kumon. At first, I was okay with it. Believe me, I am able to understand Math pretty well because of Kumon but I just wasn’t happy doing it. My dad forced me to do complete Kumon but I just don’t want it. I do not enjoy doing it. I always go for reading.

When my dad saw it, that doing math worksheets just do not make me happy at all. And he saw how much I love reading, he just let it go. He probably saw that I am old enough to do the things that i wanted and I should learn how to follow my interests instead of forcing me to do what he wanted.

Do more of what you enjoy. I am rooting for you.

“It is your Rose.” the fox says.

In the Little Prince, “But it is not any common rose,” the fox says. “It is your Rose.”

I love to think that the “rose” is a metaphor for the things we love and we create. To me, my journals are where I keep my history and the history of the environment around me. But to others, it may just be any notebook out there,

This just to show how each of us is vastly different from each other. We cannot shame people for liking something we do not like and vice versa. Let people enjoy things.

In the Little Prince, the Little Prince asked the fox if they can play but the fox replied that he is not tamed. Then, the Little Prince asked what is tamed. The fox answered that it means to build a relationship or to need each other.

To the Little Prince, the fox is just like the 100,000 other foxes out there. To the fox, the Little Prince is just like the 100,000 other boys out there. But if they choose to build a relationship or to “need” each other, they become unique in each other’s worlds. Both the Little Prince and the Fox became each other friends. And their journey would never be the same.

To you, I may just be like any other person out there. To me, you may just be like any other person out there too. But then, I decided to write this and you chose to read this. What I create is now on your mind and will become a part of your journey. Everything that will happen from now on is affected and influenced by our actions and nothing will ever be the same again.

Highlights From Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear and here are some of the lines I highlighted while reading the book:

  • “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. Despite our unique personalities, certain behaviors tend to arise again and again under certain environmental conditions. In church, people tend to talk in whispers. On a dark street, people act wary and guarded. In this way, the most common form of change is not internal, but external: we are changed by the world around us.” – James Clear

In designing, designers can influence people to act in a certain way using visual cues. They design a space not only considering the technical specifications but also how should they want people to act in the space.

An interior designer and a professor from SoFA Design Institute shared to us how her client had asked her to not place a dining table in their house because it is always left unused. According to her client, her kids eat separately in their rooms, hence she though it would be useless to have one. Through the story, our professor remind us how important designing can be. As designers, they can design the spaces inside the house in such a way that families will spend more time in the living room and dining room so they could eat and bond together.

Another example of redesigning an environment to shape human behavior is the Alley Oop of HCMA Architecture + Design. By adding bright colors, basketball hoops, and lights, the dark alley transformed to a public space. Observations showed that after revamping the alley, more women spent time and passed by the alley- this means that alley felt safer than before when it was all dark and gloomy. Also, college and high school students frequently use the space for their physical activities.

  • 1% Better Every Day

Reading one page a day.

5 minutes of exercise every day.

Writing a paragraph every day.

All of these when done for 365 days are a big thing. Most of the time, big goals intimidate us, but when we take it day by day, we can achieve it.

A novel might seem a lot of work and may take even for years. But when you write a page per day, by the end of the year, you will have 365 pages!

  • One small step per day. Every day.

“The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. It’s remarkable the business you can build if you don’t stop working. It’s remarkable the body you can build if you don’t stop training. It’s remarkable the knowledge you can build if you don’t stop learning. It’s remarkable the fortune you can build if you don’t stop saving. Its remarkable the friendships you can build if you don’t stop caring. Small habits don’t add up. They compound. That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.” – James Clear

Gap Year Stories: July– Second Month

I used to describe June, the first month of my gap year as ‘the calm before the storm’. Because July is where I will officially start my internship plus, I have two blogs that I need to regularly update. However, now that July is over, I never felt like it was a storm. Sure, there were moments wherein my stomach churns because I was nervous about the article that I wrote for my internship. But after two days of it being posted publicly, I did not worry about my article anymore, I was off to write another article for my blog.

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

For the month of July, I truly embodied the “living one day at a time”. Those were moments where I felt miserable but they are only moments, they do not last for the following weeks. The next day, they will be gone because it’s a whole new day, a new chance to live better.

Before July even started, I was nervous that I might not fulfill the projects that I committed myself to. Now, in retrospect, I realize that I underestimated what I can handle. I worried a lot about the hypothetical outcomes that I made up myself.

James Clear wrote,

Action forces prioritization.

If you’re stuck deciding between options, force yourself to act. You can only act on one thing at a time, which means you will have to make something the top priority.

Even if you pick wrong, you’ll learn something.

One of the things that improved this month is how I do. Usually, I spent a lot of time worrying before doing something. For example, I tend to overthink how long it will take to finish something instead of just starting. But I learned something from one of James Clear’s newsletters,

Stop worrying about how long it will take and get started. Time will pass either way.

Also, since I had more commitments last July (more than what I was used to), I relied so much on a system. I have days scheduled for writing, proofreading, and researching respectively. I finally but unconsciously established a routine that works for me this quarantine (this was a long trial-and-error process). My routine and system kept me afloat for the whole month without going crazy because of the things that I need to do,

In my Gap Year Stories: June- First Month blog post, I wrote that I’ll focus on researching design works that empathize with people (for my Empathy in Design blog and of course for educating myself as well) and I did accomplish that (my logbook says so).

The month of July has been an exploration plus a lot of time reflecting. It seems ironic that the month which was supposed to be hectic for me because of the responsibilities that I need to do turned out to be a month full of learning and self-reflection (I even posted more than 20 posts here in my website for July. A personal record!). I’ll credit my system for this feat.

Lastly, I think whatever happens self-reflection is what matters. Is what am I doing effective? If not, how could I iterate it? Why am I feeling like this? Am I doing things worth the time? Am I doing something that helps others whether in a tangible or intangible way?

This wonderful quote is from Marie Curie:

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.