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.

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.

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).

Things I Noticed in Zootopia As An Architecture Student

Zootopia is 2016 animation film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, one of my favorite animation films ever because of how its plot is a metaphor for today’s society. And the plot of the story itself is another matter to discuss. In this article, I’ll write down things I noticed in the film as an architecture student. I am aware that in animation, everything is done with intention and so, I know that there are a lot of easter eggs hidden in the film regarding design so, if you have anymore to add, please do!

Doorways come in different shapes and sizes.

Animals are vastly different in terms of how wide and tall they are and honestly, they could have decided to just let all animals go in in a single big doorway in a train for example or in a police station. But I love how they intentionally designed various doorways to accommodate various sizes of animals, i.e the train doors in the photo below.

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Train doors

This detail is one of the amazing things because this speaks so much that they understand that it is dangerous and, honestly, non-animal-centered to have them all pass in a one single large doorway. And this is where equality vs equity comes in.

Equality vs Equity in Zootopia

So, there are a lot of details in Zootopia that shows equity (which should be the standard). Let’s take for example, the train again in the photo above, equality is when every single animal are given the same doors to go inside or alight from the train while equity is giving various sizes of train doors to meet the various needs of the variety of animals who take the train. In other words, equity is acknowledging that there are various types of animals that have different needs from each other.

Another example, the roads in Zootopia are designed to accommodate the standard-big car sizes and a bit of the road is for tiny cars (which are used by mice) (photo below)

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Notice how the tiny truck overtake with the big police mobile (LOVE THIS DETAIL SO MUCH)

Again, they could have just designed a one whole road but they did not and I love them for that.

Another example, in the photo below which is the police station: there are two different sizes for both doors and benches.

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Here are some more:

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how various animals get to the main city (pt 1)
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how various animals get to the main city (pt 2)
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train handles in different heights
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Three different sizes of garbage bins
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It’s a juice bar, not only serving giraffes but also medium-sized animals (noticed the animals on the far left holding drinks too) Best example, so far, of equity

But these details are for public spaces, hence, a lot of things are considered when designing environments. But how about in private spaces?

In the photo below, in a private room located at the Precinct One, the context here is that ALL animals who are police officers are somewhat in almost the same heights. Thus, desks and chair heights are all the same. This shows that no one as small like a bunny has ever become a police office before.

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Zootopia’s protagonist Judy Hopps, the first-ever bunny police graduate, has to stand up because when she sat down, one can’t barely see her (good thing she has long ears)

Furthermore, I love that they created an environment for rodents. Everything is really tiny in scale.

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Here is another detail in the Little Rodentia:

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In connecting buildings, bridges with no overhead are simply okay BUT what the animators did is that they enclosed this bridges. My hypothesis is that rodents are tiny and in a “height” like that, they might get blown off by the wind. Hence, they enclosed it.

To conclude, I love how every single thing is designed with intention. I watched this film four years ago but I haven’t noticed this details before! This goes to show that we discover new things or ideas as we re-discover them and that is great because we are growing every time!

Going back, I mentioned that Zootopia is a metaphor to our society in terms of the plot but it can be in terms of the design too (but super duper better). It’s obvious when we look at it with animals, they are in various sizes so of course they have different needs to be met but we, humans, are different from each other too.

Public spaces should be designed in a way that it can accommodate a variety of people but what do we got? Roads are car-centric, sidewalks are too narrow, etc.

We can learn a thing or two about better urban planning from animation films.

And life goes on.

I, finally, finished the research paper that I have been working on. And here’s a clip of submission (I honestly loooove MS Teams)

(Just a bit of quick note that this research paper had been super interesting for me. It was a lot of work, yes. But I had fun doing it. For the past few months, I’ve been interested so much about creativity, play, and the impact of design to users and in this research, I had the opportunity to merge it all together!! And that is what gives me so much joy! )

And life goes on…

When I had submitted this paper a few minutes ago, I stopped for a moment and realized that life really just goes on.

Last year, on this same day, its semestral break and I’m still resting from the hell week that passed. And life just went on.

Today, I accomplish a large task and I’ll be taking on another one in the next few days but that is for my next few days self to do. My focus is self-care and reclaming my self after hours and hours of academics.

Feels good to actually sleep knowing that you did your best down to the last minute of work and that is the only thing that matters. Like I mentioned, I’ll be focusing on detoxifying and reclaiming my humanity so that I may have the energy for next week. I hope you do too. Have a great weekend.

Bird by Bird

In the book Creative Confidence, authors David Kelley and David Kelley shared about writer Anna Lamott’s childhood story from her book Bird by Bird,

Her ten year-old brother had been assigned a school report about birds and hadn’t started on it until the night before it was due. “We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

I haven’t read her book yet but its on my TBR. Anyways, these days as one difficult plate after another go in my way, I remind myself of this story of Bird by Bird.

[Note: Plates are referred to as activities in architecture/design school. Basically, its designing, drawing, with explanations on the side.]

During moments of daunted-ness due to a new task ahead, I reminded myself that I do not know yet whether I can’t or can do this task but I will still do it anyway. The only way to know is by doing it.

A plate that I had three weeks ago which is Watercolor Ink Rendering of a museum I chose to draw. I haven’t fully figured how to do watercolor but I chose to do it. First, I told myself to just sketch first. I took a deep breath and started sketching the museum. After that, somehow, I felt better, knowing that I get past the first barrier. And I left it for a few days because I waited for the ink to arrived.

Finally, when the ink arrived, I told myself to apply in the lightest wash first. Then let it dry. And so on, until I get to the details.

When I finally finished, I’m so proud of what I have done. My work improved a lot and I’m looking at it objectively. There are still many things to improve but I’m grateful that I am growing.

And onto my next plates, this is what I do: I focused on a certain portion of the task. I don’t think of the whole pie but focused on eating up one slice first. Somehow, as I finish one after another, I feel completely satisfied and less stressed. I am moving forward even though I am taking it step by step, nevertheless, I am still making progress towards the end.

The bird by bird concept helped me get through a lot of things these days. And even though I haven’t finished the work today, I am satisfied that I made progress.

Looking back, ever since I read the book Creative Confidence, I am happy that I took whatever life brings Bird by Bird and will go on with that in mind.

To end, authors David Kelley and Tom Kelley provided an advice to particulary anyone,

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.

Why would I spend time thinking about someone who doesn’t even love me?

When I read this from James Clear’s newsletter, I was stunned. First, I’ll share it to all:

Actress Viola Davis on handling criticism:

“I don’t have any time to stay up all night worrying about what someone who doesn’t love me has to say about me.”

Source: Viola Davis’ Battle with Low Self-Esteem

And for someone who has extremely low self-esteem, this is just what I needed to hear, not to mention that I really love Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder.

In class, we are asked to present our work individually and actually seeing my classmates’ works, I started to overthink. And here comes the worst part, I started comparing.

Comparing is good only if its on a realistic level. For example, I’m someone who is just a beginner in composing music (Note: This is only an example. I am not composing any music and I do not know how to play any instruments, but who knows? in the future, I might be interested in learning one.) I barely have an experience and it is extremely unhealthy if I compare my work to Mozart’s or Beethoven’s who have decades and decades of experience. Hence, if I compared my works to them, I’ll probably not continue pursuing songwriting at all because I’ll end up thinking, “My works will never be like them anyways.”

For me, comparing is good if it gets you to do better. Let’s say I admire a work of my classmate and its not necessarily on a level of “Worldwide Popular” but it gets me thinking that, ‘Oh. I can’t do that yet but I can do that once I learned what I needed to learn.’ Basically, the bar is not that high. Hence, it makes it realistically achievable given that I spend time learning and practicing.

Anyways, going back to where I said that we will present our work individually, I did not have the courage to volunteer to present my work (BUT the good thing is that I can still present next meeting) because I was so afraid of what my classmates would think of.

BUT (capitalize for emphasis)

Good thing, classes ended earlier and hence, I snapped out of ruminating.

I remember that THIS is my life. I am here, not to impress anyone with what I can do, but for me. FOR ME.

Yes, there is a possibility that they may think of not really good things about my work BUT that is outside of my control.

I get to say what I can and cannot do.

Presenting my work and having the opportunity to hear constructive criticisms from my professor is what I wanted to do. And what other people may think should not be an impediment nor even a factor whether I should change my decision.

What my inner soul wants me to do is to learn, to hear comments about my work from my professor. And that is what I’m gonna do.

I should not even waste a second of my time here on Earth, dimming my light just so I would not destroy my self-made image to other people. There is no self-image. I’m just me.

So, I’m grateful to actress Viola Davis for her perspective. It helped me remember on what is the significant. Though, it’s not easy to change perspectives. I will always remember that every day is a new day to do my best.

Today, I would not have written this if I had the courage to present nor would I have this realizations. So, either way, I choose to be joyful and to understand my decisions.

Have a great day.

You cannot predict how smart or skilled a person can be.

In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck wrote,

“Benjamin Bloom, an eminent educational researcher studied 120 outstanding achievers. They were conert pianists, sculptors, Olympic swimmers, world-class tennis players, mathematicians, and research neurologists.

Most were not that remarkable as children and didn’t show clear talent before their training begain in earnest. Even by early adolescence, you usually couldn’t predict their future accomplishment from their current ability. Only their continued motivation and commitment, along with their network of support, took them to the top.

Bloom concludes, “After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the US as well as a broad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all person can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.“”

And in connection with this, do you know that Ted Geisel aka Dr. Seuss (author of many children’s books like The Lorax) was voted by his classmates as the “person least likely to succeed” among their class? Because he was never the studious type. He would rather watch a movie, go to the zoo, or just draw. (Basically, he followed his interests and hobbies.) And this is why using a compass (with your interests and hobbies leading the way) is important instead of a map.

Also, this proves that you can’t predict what a person may become in the future. Aside from “not to be judgemental to anyone” message of this post, having the knowledge that you cannot predict anyone’s future, is good for ourselves.

We do not know what will happen and that thought alone is exciting! We may have mediocre work right now but given enough time, we may produce something great occasionally. But ultimately, its all about just loving what you do and being excited to where it just takes you. So just start. It doesn’t matter if you failed, what is important is you had fun doing it. As author Srivinas Rao wrote in The Art of Being Unmistakable, “We often do not know where stories end, where unpaved roads lead, and who we’ll become along the way. Therefore, you just have to start.”

Use a compass instead of a map

In an episode of Workman (one of my favorite Korean variety shows), they went to a daycare and through that episode, I found out that they rearranged their education system for kindergarteners.

They adapted child-centered education wherein children are free to do and follow their curiosities in the daycare. They can play an instrument, play with toys available in the classroom, they could read a book, etc. Also, I don’t feel that “classroom” is even the right term for their space because it doesn’t look like a classroom at all.

This overall system promotes creativity as well as it builds up this confidence within the kid. In here, teachers do not say “sit still” or “behave”. Rather they encourage them to follow their desires and whatever they found interesting. They aren’t taught to score well during exams or be the best among the block. They promote communal activities (playing games with the whole class) and just being.

Honestly, even I think that kids as young as them should not take exams as soon as they have to go to school/daycare. They are too young to just sit still and I think the best thing that a school can instill in a child is to love learning. As they grow older and started taking exams, they will remember that how you do in a exam is not related to how much you learned.

I hope this could be applied to higher education as well. Personally, I am interested in psychology, biology, history, and journalism. I am currently in architecture program and I hope that there would be ways in which I could take up courses from other programs. Unfortunately, that does not exist yet lol

What I found interesting among a lot of master designers is that they integrates various subjects into their work. Some have took courses from other programs (ex. Steve Jobs), there are others who took up science programs but shifted to a design-related program, etc. Basically, they have knowledge on other subjects and that’s how they are able to design what they are designing right now.

In connection to everything I read, a few months ago this is what I started practicing: I used my hobbies, interests, and desires as my compass and disregarded the “map.” The map is pertaining to the pre-ordained life that society expects me to follow.

Since then, I never felt guilty of not following “the map”, I went my own path, following my inner soul. I read about psychology a lot, I read essays about creativity, I read novels, I read fiction and non-fiction, I write, etc. Anything that I found interesting or what I am curious in, I just follow it. And I never felt so happy and satisfied. Everyday I will learn something new. Gosh. If there is just any option to design my own curriculum, I would. And I would design it in a way that is filled with courses that I am interested in.

Srivinas Rao, author of The Art of Being Unmistakable, wrote about kindergartens and using a compass,

Kindergarten classrooms are utter chaos and true genius at the same time. The potential to discover a calling is available every single day. Then something happens. Somebody decided that you might stray too far off the beaten path, and gives you a map. They decide what is important for your future and these decisions become the destinations on the map.

….However, if I want to do interesting work, take risks, and see what I am really made of, I have to be willing to use a compass instead of a map.

Promoting self-learning and using a compass, allows each and everyone of us to just be ourselves. This is what I missed the most during summer breaks, it is when I just learn things without having to be graded for it.

And if you have been reading my previous posts, I mentioned this quote a few times now but it is amazing how each and every time I wrote this quote, I have something new to add. This is basically how curiosity starts, it starts as a small idea and over time as you search and search, you would have a lot of things related to it already and this is just basically it. This means that I am following my compasses very well.

Here is the quote from Austin Kleon:

“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.”

Continue Doing Things Even If You Aren’t Good At It

three–rings on Tumblr shared about her conversation with archeologists when she was 15 years old. They asked her “getting to know you” questions. She answered, “No, I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.” Amazed by the range of her experiences, the archeologists said, “Wow!” But she said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at any of them.

One of the archeologists replied, “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.

three–rings then wrote, “And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I though it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.

“What is the point of doing it today if you will not even pursue it in the future?” That is something I have been hearing these months. We’ve become so future-centered that we forget to live today. It’s like we are so sure of what would happen in the future but the fact is, we don’t know.

It’s not about doing things that will make your resume look appealing in the future but more of doing things to become. Author Kurt Vonnegut wrote about this on a letter addressed to students,

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.

…write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody…

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside of you, and you have made your soul grow.

It’s all about being human, because being human is to do, not for any tangible gains, but to make your soul grow.

What you do and what you love shapes who you are

Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” And that is so true.

On the book, On Looking, author Alexandra Horowitz, walked around with experts. Throughout the book, readers discover that things that interest you are the ones that you notice the most. I am interested in design and architecture so, my eyes always goes to how houses, public spaces, and roads are designed, but maybe to you, you are interested in typography, hence, you look at typefaces when you are on the street.

There are various people who have other interests, mostly somehow, at first look, unrelated to their professions but over the course of their lifetime, their previous experiences from pursuing their interests have led them to make great contributions on their field.

On an article entitled, “You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.” I wrote about various people and how their interests had influenced them. Here are some:

“Former mayor Edi Rama of Tirana in Albania organized a crew of painters to paint the whole city in an attempt to save the then, “dead city”. Tirana in Albania was once voted as one of the worst cities in Europe but that changed when buildings in the city were painted in vibrant colors that Edi Rama chose himself. Edi Rama was an artist by training. This is maybe why he had the idea of painting the city. Even though there were no police patrolling even before the painting initiative, residents reported that they felt safe out in the streets. People stopped throwing trash on the streets. Business owners took off metal grates from their shop windows. Five years after the initiative, businesses in Tirana tripled. This would not happen if Edi Rama did not apply his art skills in his work.”

Ted Geisel aka Dr. Seuss had spent his entire childhood at Fairfield Street. When he was a kid, he frequented the local library, zoo (where his dad works), and the local park. Parades are also frequent at Fairfield street which he usually anticipated. Dr. Seuss credited his experiences in Fairfield street for everything that he had wrote.”

Simply put, their experiences had shaped who they are. They don’t bother knowing how they will apply this experiences in the future, they just do it because they enjoy them.

Author and artist Austin Kleon wrote about life-long learning and following your interests, “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.

Let people enjoy things

A pastor from our church shared that while he is walking with a friend, his friend suddenly pointed up to the sky and enthusiastically called out a name of a bird. Though he is not interested in birds before, the fact that his friend is so enthusiastic and enjoys seeing birds, he do not want to blow up the visible joy in his friend’s face and soon, they found themselves spending a great deal of time looking for birds and calling out its name. Our pastor shared that he never knew that birdwatching is that fun.

Look around you, and you will find people who have a range of interests that varies from yours. And that’s okay. Support them and further cultivate their interests by showing up and make comments from time to time. Having people who support your craft can largely affect you as it is considered as a small success, “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.” wrote Tom and David Kelley on their book, Creative Confidence.

Doing because you enjoy them

wyattwesleywriting (tumblr username) wrote about her experience on reading as a hobby,

“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 quoted her whole post because every single thing is spot-on. There is nothing wrong if you read because you want to be smart or do things to become ‘something’ but that leads you to not do the OTHER things that brings you joy because you perceive that they do not give you anything. But like I wrote, what you do contributes to make your soul grow. Hence, doing the things you enjoy is important, not for the sake of achievement and praise, but for you.

And most importantly, you haven’t rejected yourself. The fact that you continue to do things that you enjoy means you did not constrained yourself inside the castle of excuses, but instead you chose to venture and immerse yourself outside the treacherous land of uncertainty and unpredictability. What we choose to do, we become. The act of doing things, regardless whether we perceive ourselves as good at it or not, have already contributed to what we can become.