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.

Interview with a Former Cancer Patient

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Lists

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

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

List
Another list

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

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

breakdown of my large design project

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

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

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

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

What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author and artist Austin Kleon wrote in his blog,

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

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

It’s why hobbies are so important…”

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

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

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

Ending with this line from the movie Dead Poets Society:

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

Shortcomings and Embarrassments are Inconsequential

another amaaaazing person I got to interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dont Let it Dominate You

“Don’t let it dominate you.”

A sentence I read on author and artist Austin Kleon’s IG stories. (I’m not sure if the quote is his as I was too busy pondering on the sentence itself).

And here is digital creator and my fav youtuber, Dinara, on her IG stories:

THIS!

There are so many deadlines (and its not yet even midterms) to do and it takes constant conscious decisions to always choose joy and think that I am more than just productivity and academics.

Now that I am much more laidback in academics (like I do not so much burn myself to death to accomplish assignments), I felt better, more satisfied, and I felt much more in control with my time and overall, with my life.

And I realize that when I do not put too much importance to academics, the better they turn out (same as with Dinara’s conclusion). That is why I always remind myself that this too shall pass because then I will not be worked up so much when faced with grueling homeworks and plates.

I will not be put into some happy, magical place once I finished my homework, there will always be more work and hence, I should control how I would like my life to be like.

I hope you don’t stress out yourself so much on whatever it is you are working on right now. Steal some time for yourself and don’t let anything dominate you.

We are all struggling

We are all struggling.

This is what I’ve concluded after my ninth interview for our college newspaper. I have been part of it for over three months now and had talked with so many new people during those months and I’ve come to the conclusion similarly to what Canadian astronaut Col, Chris Hadfield said in an interview. He was asked what what advice would he give to his 20 y/o self and he answered, “I think what might’ve been worthwhile to explain to myself at 20 is to recognize that every single person you meet is struggling.”

I watched the video above a couple of months ago and I remembered his line just as I was reflecting my latest interview with a blocmate. He was one of my close friends in my first year of uni and when we started online schooling, we barely exchanged messages and I noticed that he hadn’t been attending classes. So, I became curious on why he isn’t attending (although he is enrolled). Also, I’m working on an article that focuses on various circumstances that certain student faces while we are undergoing online classes during the pandemic. I had an idea of featuring him in the said article.

After interviewing him by exchanging messages, I am just amazed by how brave and strong he is. The interview ended with an agreement that I would not feature him due to how personal his story is and it would not be a really nice idea to share it to the public. But I just was so speechless that he even make time for university despite his personal problems and workload.

But the point here is, we are all struggling. The least that we can do or what our professors can do as well is to acknowledge that we are all in various walks of life and be considerate of each other. As what T.S. Elliot stated, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

I recently discovered this music video of For King & Country for their song ‘God Only Knows’. After watching the music video several times, I cried.

What made me cry is how “normal” the scenes displayed in the music video. There was neither bullying nor abuse. The music video simply depicted the “normal-ness” of life. It’s so normal that I can actually see myself in the video and that is why I cried.

I can remember the moments when I’m in train going home from university (pre-COVID) and I would look at my reflection on the train windows and I’m surprised by how ‘normal’ I look whereas on the inside, I am just so exhausted and I just want to go home quickly and cry.

I also have this habit of scanning the faces of people who are taking the public transport with me and thinking ‘one of them might have been scolded at their job today’ or ‘one of them might be feeling exhausted like I am and we just want to take a break from everything’. Although, I’ve been doing this subconsciously, I observed that this is a way for me to practice empathy.

I have to think that they are experiencing pain in their lives too. Just because I do not know them doesn’t mean that I have to dehumanize them. With that in mind, the least that I can do for them is to be kind.

Col. Chris Hadfield:

“… to recognize that everybody you meet, every single one of them, no matter how expensive their suit is or how serious their expression is, they are looking for significance. They are trying to do the best they can, and they fail regularly. And they’re within their own particular battle of their own life and so cut them some slack for that.

Don’t let them off the hook but recognize the shared nature of being a human being and let people be themselves. Make some allowances for them, treat people a little more kindly as a result.

Treat people a little more kind today. Thank you.

Commonplace Book

My own commonplace books!

Commonplace books is where I jot down passages, paragraphs, sentences from books, articles, movies, documentaries, and speeches that resonates with me.

Sometimes, it hasn’t even resonated with me yet but the way the author stated it is beautiful and I just write it down.

I got the idea of writing down sentences that I want to remember from Ryan Holiday. He shared in his book that he kept index cards wherein quotes are written in there and the ideas stated in his books are all from his index cards.

And while I was reading that more than a year ago, I thought that its cool and I wanted to try that too. And so I did.

For everything that I read or heard that I found beautiful, I write. And not until a few days ago did I learn that what I previously call ‘quotes notebooks’ are actually called commonplace books and it has been practiced by a lot of people!

Here is what journalist Dwight Garner wrote about his own commonplace book: “I use it as an aide-mémoire, a kind of external hard drive. It helps me ward off what Christopher Hitchens, quoting a friend, called CRAFT (Can’t Remember a F— Thing) syndrome.”

One of the reasons why I continue to jot down in my commonplace books is because I want to remember.

I considered going for my phone to jot down but most of the time, I just want to sit down and read my quotes notebook without a lot of distractions and getting tempted to open other applications.

Also, one thing that I’m fascinated in is how I have read them dozens of times and yet, somehow, I still get new connections from them. That this paragraph from an author is actually connected to the one this person stated. Or I have read something new and a quote from my commonplace book is actually related to that but they are not even the same person!

And commonplace books are where I get blog post ideas and that is why my blog posts are full of what other people has stated and I am not complaining. They are amazing, amazing people. They expressed what I want to be said better than I can and they shared something that I do not know and hence, I’m so grateful to have an avenue where I can share what I learn, that hopefully as much as it resonated with me, it can resonate with others too.

I thought about reading other people’s commonplace books must be so exciting of an activity because it shows what you prioritize, what you value, and what you focus on. Like for example, Ryan Holiday’s index cards are mostly about stoicism.

Mine’s all over the place but most of my quotes are somewhere along psychology and design. And it shows how you grow over time. Mine started with a lot of stoicism passages, then moved on to sentences about creativity, then went on about being an artist and showing your work, and now, its more of being grateful and living life.

Consider starting one and watch yourself grow through the pages!

Make your own Bible.

I have this notebook that contains design projects that are human-centered or empathizes with its users and I actually refer it as my Bible.

Those projects I wrote in that notebook are things that I want to remember especially once I partake a job. And somehow, those things that I wrote in my Bible became stepping stones to the start of my design blog and I started writing articles in our college newspaper about how space design can affect users.

Until now, even though my ‘Bible’ is full, I still go back to it from time to time because my plates in my design subject are human-centered so my Bible acts as my guide.

Moreover, I find it interesting that there are so many others before me who have their own Bible as well, and that Ralph Waldo Emerson actually recommended to everyone to create one,

Make your own Bible. Select and collect all those words and sentences that in all your reading have been to you like the blast of a trumpet out of Shakespeare, Seneca, Moses, John, and Paul.

Aside from a design notebook, I also have a quotes notebook.

Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?

In the first issue of his weekly newsletter, Sunday Snippets, youtuber and doctor Ali Abdaal wrote how he and his friend have the hedonic adaption in their minds as a reminder while they are picking out houses to live in Cambridge.

According to Science Direct,

“Hedonic adaptation refers to the notion that after positive (or negative) events (i.e., something good or bad happening to someone), and a subsequent increase in positive (or negative) feelings, people return to a relatively stable, baseline level of affect (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006).

From: Advances in Motivation Science, 2018

He and his friend have the concept of hedonic adaptation in their heads so that even though there are houses that are looks great but costs a lot for their budget, they would not be tempted to choose it because in the long run, it will not affect their happiness.

After pondering about this matter, I remember what writer Oliver Burkeman shared, an advice he received for making major life decisions,

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking “Will this make me happy?”, but will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?” We’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy: the question swiftly gets bogged down in our narrow preferences for security and control. But the enlargement question elicits a deeper, intuitive response. You tend to just know whether, say, leaving or remaining in a relationship or a job, though it might bring short-term comfort, would mean cheating yourself of growth.

To bridge over this two concepts, I remembered how, a year ago, my father asked for my thoughts about living on a bigger house with a swimming pool and wherein me and my siblings will have our own rooms. I answered how I think that our current house is fine. It’s small but it’s perfect for our family.

Back then, if I was asked the question, will a bigger house make us happy? I would have answered yes.

But knowing about hedonic adaptation and reflecting on my past actions, such things would make us high at first but it will not affect on our long-term happiness.

But if I was asked, will a bigger house enlarge us?, I would answer no. And with that, we could focus on bringing our money to other much more important matters.

And today, whenever I get anxious about a project or an assignment, I will remember that whatever may be the outcome of it, I will always return to my natural state which is happiness.