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.

Choose joy

March 14, 2020 almost seven months ago… I wrote this entry on my journal:

“Know that sometimes things will not go your way even if you do your best, and regardless of whether you deserved it or not.

Do not confuse your aspirations with how the universe should turn out. “– Jonas Salzgeber

Everything really happens for a reason. Lately, I have been thinking of what would happen if I applied to the Interior Design program instead of Archi. I am 101% sure that I would not pass the exam for ID and would not have been considered. I would probably be in a pre-med program and would be bored as hell.

BUT I am here in a situation I never actually dreamed of but I am happy to be here. Yes, I still have thoughts of wanting to apply again at Minerva [a university abroad in which I applied twice and got rejected twice too] (I guess I will always feel like that bcoz its my dream school).

BUT I know that maybe it really is not my path now (maybe in my next life lol). God put me in this journey on this day and the days onward for I have a purpose to fill. If I got in to Minerva, the first time around, would I have met the amazing community of MakeSense? Will I learn how to sketch, draw, color, and render? Will I have known Likhaan, Tita Rosie, & other crafters? Will I be able to explore the museums in our country? Will I be able to [learn how to] crochet? Will I be able to help the ppl that I am surrounded with every single day?

It might not seem obvious to others but for me, I take time to see how I am making a difference in the specific place I am in. Whether its just buying something at a local store or helping someone w/ the directions or just simply riding the public transpo, in a way, I am thinking that I am helping to others. I was meant to be here because I have to do this or buy that.

So I do not like get so worked up because I did not get in twice but rather I am happy thay because this is how the universe should turn out. I did my best but it really is not for me (now). I am very very grateful of this journey I am taking on. I hope to meet more people, to connect, to learn, and to always remember to be in the present.”

I have the habit of re-reading my past journals because it makes me remember that where I am right now is something that my past self worked hard to get to and that this is something I wanted and I should not take it for granted.

I love how seven months ago, I choose to look at the silver lining of what’s happening. So far (or maybe, ever), I am grateful that I did not make it because I am having a lot of fun today and all the previous days that passed or… maybe its because I just consciously choose joy.

Regardless of what will happen, I will choose joy and I hope I will always will.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.

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.

Make Time To Do Something Unproductive | In other words, take a break from school/work

Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline) advises to anyone who wants to be become a writer to “get bored.

[Ideas] come from day dreaming from drifting, that moment when you’re just sitting there… The trouble with these days is that its really hard to get bored. I have 2.4 million people on Twitter who will entertain me at any moment… it’s really hard to get bored. I’m much better at putting my phone away, going for boring walks, actually trying to find the space to get bored in. That’s what I’ve started saying to people who say ‘I want to be a writer’ I say, ‘great. get bored.’ “

And although Neil Gaiman advises this to anyone who wanted to be a writer, research suggests that doing something unproductive (in other words, taking a break or something “boring”) is important for your physical and mental well-being. When we work more than what we can and we needed, we ended up exhausting ourselves. This is the reason why even though we have worked for long hours or get ahead, we ended up being more stressed even we accomplished a few things.

We try to ‘catch up’ and ‘get ahead’, but that only piles on more stress and less control. The stress of pop-up problems, like an infertility diagnosis, can make you feel like you don’t have time to just play and relax,” wrote Georgia Witkin, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “when your sense of control goes down, your emergency response system increases your adrenaline, your body’s natural stimulant. Now, you’ll find yourself still having to deal with the stresses and the side effects of adrenaline. Adrenaline, which sometimes manifests as panic attacks, is putting your brain and body on alert so you’ll be ready for the next crisis.”

Also, while your body and brain is on alert for the next crisis, it uses up other hormones like serotonin, which means your using up resources that you needed to be calm and joyful.

On the other hand, she wrote relaxing and playing, “…prevent the high adrenaline output and increase those mood-elevating hormones. Not only is relaxation nice, the clinical benefits are shown to increase overall health!”

At the end of her article, she shared that practicing mindfulness for only 20 minutes each day can improve your day and reduce your stress levels. Breathing exercises are a good way to go!

My own way of relaxing is to listen to music every morning. I play songs that motivate me and dance to it. At the same time, I watch the sun rise from our bedroom window. These moments are the best because as I watch the sun rise and get a feel of it every morning, it reminds me that I’m human- that I’m not in some race of sort, that I can slow down and walk at my own pace, and that I’m not a machine.

Why we need to relax

Jonah Lehrer explains it in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works:

“Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our minds are at ease— when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain— we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we’re trying to solve. While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights. “That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers,” Bhattacharya says. “For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.” “

“Relaxing or taking a break makes me feel guilty”

I experienced this many times last year. And since classes has started a few days ago, I’ve seen more and more posts like this one. Our constant working and belief that life is all about hustling made us feel and think that way. It’s the toxic hustle culture that made us believe we should be working all the time, forgoing time for family, friends, and even, me time.

In her book, Do Nothing, journalist and public radio show host Celeste Headlee confessed, “It was the hard-work culture that made me believe I was lazy if I stopped working for even short periods of time.”

Once, she learned that working for long hours doesn’t equal productivity, she started applying it into her life as well as to her employees. “I wrote a handbook for my producers that including the following advice: Don’t work a long day, go home, and turtle on your couch with a frozen dinner. Solid research shows forcing yourself to get out and go to the bar with friends, have dinner, see a movie, meet people and socialize, reduces your stress and makes you more efficient. Have a hobby.” Also, research shows that employees who completely disengage themselves from work during leisure (or non-work hours) live healthier lives emotionally and physically. They are less overwhelmed and they sleep better.

In my case, I start the day slow. Like I mentioned previously, I start my day mostly listening to music and watching the sun rise. It is to remind myself that it’s okay to slow down and I am not late for anything. I am just on time. Second thing I do is I keep a logbook.

Keeping a logbook

A logbook is where I keep everything that I did for the day, which includes making my bed, doing the laundry, what have I wrote about, what articles I read, etc. Every time the sun comes down, I will look at my logbook and I will feel relieved that I have accomplish things for the day and then, I’ll proceed to relaxing (aka total disengagement from org responsibilities and school), I watch my favorite show, write here in my blog, read a novel, etc.

Having an awareness of how you spend your days is helpful in terms of knowing that you are in control of your life and that you do not lack time.

Having no clear understanding of how you spend your time can leave you feeling more overwhelmed than necessary, which can cause you to make decisions that lead to more stress and anxiety, which feeds the sense that you’re pressed for time, and you end up feeling more overwhelmed than necessary.” wrote Celestee Headlee in her book, Do Nothing.

She mentioned about “time perception” which is an understanding of how we spend our time. People who have little time perception spend more time scrolling on social media sites and they feel more overwhelmed. Contrastingly, people with high time perception feel more in control because they have an exact idea of how they spend their time. They knew how much time they spend working, hence, they can make time for family, friends, leisure, and contemplation.

Celestee Headlee noted, “You may believe you can relax if you put in a few more hours and get ahead of your workload, but actually you’re more likely to reduce your stress level by taking a break.

Logbook is extremely helpful when I am relaxing at night because it shows me that I deserve to rest after hustling for hours and I can focus on other matters other than school and orgs. It leaves me feeling accomplished and that I did the best that I can for today.

Stop comparing

Lastly, avoid or stop comparing to how you spend your time to others. Hustling for more than what’s necessary is like a badge to other people which is overall unhealthy. Remember, this is your life and that is their life. The point is not to be as busy as your friends or be more busy, but its saying, “I am living my best life at this moment! I am grateful and I am in control.”

How I spend my time is more or less different from yours and that’s great! All we just need to remember is to be human. Be present. Focus on what you are doing right now instead of worrying about the work that you have to do tomorrow.

Celestee Headlee: Stop trying to prove something to others. Reclaim your time and reclaim your humanity.

Additional reading:
Work Is Play
Do More of What Brings You Joy
Why Do We Need To Play Even As Adults
“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.”

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.

Yellow-Orange Lining

A literal yellow-orange lining. Photo is from me ofc

Pain is neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination.” – Marcus Aurelius

Today, I am in pain for a mistake. While I recognize that my mistake is not something that will kill me but rather it is more of an embarrassment, I found my palms cold because of nervousness.

I found myself overthinking and panicking as soon as I learned of my mistake. I became aware of it quickly and retreated into a quiet room in our home. There, I stayed for an hour and listened to music. At the same time, I opened the window and watched the sky. That is when I saw the yellow-orange lining.

I found some clarity. First, looking at the sky reminded me that I am just a small speck of dust here on Earth. It made smile because it means that I should not dwell so much on embarrassments and failures- on unnecessary things. I should focus more on what I can learn, what more can I do, and doing things I enjoy.

Second, embarrasment and pain means that I am doing something new. It means that I am doing something out of my comfort zone and that thought alone gave me joy. I am walking towards growth.

Lastly, at the end of the day, you decided whether that single moment will determine your whole day or not. Then, I remember that earlier in the morning, I completed a short story about war on drugs– something that is bugging my mind for days now. I finally wrote it and accomplished it after focusing on it for almost 4 hours! My embarrassment dissipated and instead, the joy of having created something filled me up. The embarrassment I felt seemed so small. Because I did the work. I did something that I love.

In your everyday, I hope you find your yellow-orange lining too. Your feelings are valid and you are allowed to feel it. However, be careful and make sure the pain do not blew out of proportion.

Written: Oct 2

Posted: Oct 5

Check Your Privilege

I read a post from a man named Asim Qureshi, CEO of Jibble (an employee time clock app):

“Several years ago, I encourage a friend to take more risks in his career. He responded, “I’m supporting my parents, sibling, my wife and kids. I mess up, we’re out in the street.” I didn’t encourage him again. Now, over the years, many have told me that they really respect as I gave up a fantastic career to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. The reality is that it was nothing more than privilege at playunlike many, including my friend, I had the luxury of being able to fail. I also had a wife that encourage me to go for it. Risks aren’t as risky for those that can afford to take them—heroism is often nothing more than the omission of details.”

I would like to add a comment from a man named John David Co on Facebook:

This is just like all those posts saying that the rich work smart while the poor work hard. Most people who cannot take chances and experiment with something new. They are too busy making ends meet to devote time or effort to anything else. For example, who is saying that, for example, Jeff Bezos used to be broke, he wasn’t really broke. He got his parents to invest $250,000 in Amazon when it was starting out. That’s a heck of a safety net, so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t really scared of failing. Those who are blessed or privileged need to stop making it seem like it is other’s people’s choice of fault that they are poor. For some that might be true. But for the vast majority, it is just fortunate that the deck is stacked against them from the very start.”

Honestly, I just strongly agree with everything that they say. My mom is an agent of a popular life investment company. And I just cringe whenever they say things such as “it’s the poor’s fault that they are poort (in literal sense) and it our job to change their minds!!” like some hero complex of the rich. They romanticize their current members “rag to riches” story wherein they did not actually start from “rag”. They have the privilege to save a lot of money just by cutting down to buying their wants and that’s how they got to investing. But a lot of people do not have that kind of privilege. The money that they earn is literally enough for them to make ends meet. Oftentimes, they do not even have the money to buy any of their wants. Hence, they can’t risk putting their money o investing because they literally don’t have any safety net like Jeff Bezos had for Amazon.

Also, there are existing systems that continue to exploit workers. They work hard for eight hours, sometimes dealing with another job, and still, they only make barely enough money to cover the rent, food, and utilities.

I consider myself a privileged one. I would not have the luxury to understand, talk, and be able to write in English if it weren’t for my privilege. I studied in an English-speaking private school in elementary and when I was younger, my dad would buy books for me and my siblings to read. Furthermore, we had the money to install an internet connection in our house and that’s when I had larger resources. I read so much up until now because of that. I moved to a public high school after graduating and that is where I noticed that my classmates cannot easily comprehend instructions written in English (most of our textbooks were in English). Like I previously mentioned, I had the privilege of reading English books when I was younger.

By being aware of my privilege, I became empathetic about their situation and whenever they have problems in understanding, I kindly explain it to them (but honestly, I still have a hard time comprehending a lot of things too so I still need to learn more). My point here is I got a head start because of my privilege. If we understand and became aware that a lot of us are just privileged that is why we got to where we are right now, we would find that the problem is not in the person but in the existing social and political systems that continue to oppress the poor. We would be having more empathetic conversations and continue to improve the world. A reminder that if you do not even think about it then it means you are privileged enough to not even worry about it.

What a ride!

How does a successful day look like?

Each person has their own meanings of a successful day. And I have my own too.

To me, a day is succesful if it is well-lived. Well-lived in a sense that I make myself live in the present. You can’t believe how much I have spent ruminating of the happenings of yesterday or the anxiousness of the future during the past few years. Hence, for every day, I remind myself that I’ll do the work of today and worry about the problems of today.

This morning, I unconsciously recited a quote of Maya Angelou in my mind. “This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.” Reciting this, I never would have expected that this day will really be a day that I have never seen before.

My main task for the day was to write two feature articles and yes, I completed them. However, spontaneous things happened and I was tasked to write another article–a news article–an type of article that I’m not (yet) comfortable.

With the help of our managing editor, I am able to accomplish the task. The previous feature articles I had done before, somehow exhausted my mind but at the end, I’m satisfied with how I spent my day. It’s not really about accomplishing things in a day but more of have I done something that I love and did it with my utmost best?

I love this words from Mavis Leyrer about the goal is not to arrive without scars, “The object of life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well-preserved body but rather skid sideways, totally worn out shouting holy shit what a ride.”

And that’s basically what I perceive as a successful day.

You may arrive with bruise and cuts and yet, satisfied on how the little adventures went shouting: “What a ride!”

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.