10 Lessons I Learned This Year (2020)

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Never reject yourself.

“People who are Makers feel these same fears. They worry about rejection and battle uncertainty just like everyone else. The only difference is that Makers don’t let how they feel prevent them from sharing what they know.

But even more important to keep in mind is this: if you choose to create something, you’ve already won because you haven’t rejected yourself.

You have already won because you’ve battled the limiting beliefs and the self–doubt and the excuses like “I don’t have enough time or enough money or enough experience” and you found a way to make it through to the other side.

Yes, if you build something people might judge it or dislike it. But if you don’t create and share the things that you have inside of you, then you’ll commit the far worse crime of rejecting yourself.” – James Clear

Source: Be Honest: Are You Rejecting Yourself? (Why You Should Make Things)

This year, 2020, made me realize how much I am rejecting myself these past several years. In the past, I constantly downplayed my ideas instead of just pursuing and doing them.

This year, gradually, I acted on my ideas despite the self-limiting beliefs and I never felt so free. I literally have no regrets this year at all because whatever ideas came to my mind, I made sure to do them all.

I had short story ideas, and so I wrote them.

I had article ideas (which honestly I almost did not pursue because I was afraid that I don’t have enough experience) and so, I researched and write about them. It’s terrifying, yes. Amidst of everything, I had this voice at the back of my head telling me that I don’t have enough experience, people will laugh at me, I am not ready yet, and so on.

But I did it. I made it through the other side. I became more courageous every time I did something, instead of rejecting myself and cheating myself of growth.

If I were to summarize what I feel about the whole year it would be: I have control over my own life. It feels liberating to spend my days in a way that I wanted to and not how my parents or society wants.

Live for the day.

“Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time.” – Richmond Walker

I overthink a lot mostly about the future and sometimes, the things that I did. But, just like with everyone else, this year had showed that anything can happen anytime. I was supposed to be an intern for a government agency last summer but pandemic happened and I found myself inside my home, reading and writing.

I can never predict what will happen tomorrow or the next month hence it’s useless to actually be worried of something that I do not have control of. So with everyday, I do my best to live thinking only the worries of today.

I will make mistakes but in the long run, the mistakes would feel inconsequential and what I would be very grateful for is the experience.

Even though I am at home for roughly 80% of the year, I still had a lot of new experiences and one thing that crossed my mind before I delve into those new experiences was: I am gonna do something embarrassing.

Thankfully, I followed my gut and even though there is this great possibility that I ‘m gonna do something embarrassing, I still did the things that I wanted to do.

Fast forward to now in December, the mistakes that I committed in those experiences doesn’t seem of a big deal now (compared to the time that I had done them) and right now, all I think about is how I am so grateful that I get to meet amazing people, learned all these new skills, and most importantly, I get to be of help to others.

This is a very personal lesson for me and this is something that I want to remember always.

I am afraid to embarrass myself. Terrified even. But with this lesson that I personally came up with based on what happened to me several months ago, I began to look at every experience that I am about to take with total curiosity and excitement—regardless of any embarrassing moments that can spur along the way—because I know that in the end of it all, I would be very grateful of the skills that I gained, forming relationships with people that I would not had met if it weren’t for this experience, and I had the opportunity to lessen the suffering of others.

It’s not about how smart or talented you are. It’s about what you can contribute.

There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of “a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other’s work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas.” Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals: it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds.

What I love about the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don’t consider ourselves geniuses. Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute—the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start. If we forget about genius and think more about how we can nurture and contribute to a scenius, we can adjust our own expectations and the expectations of the worlds we want to accept us. We can stop asking what others can do for us, and start asking what we can do for others.“ – Austin Kleon

In the past, while seeking out opportunities, there are times when I look at an opportunity and say, “Oh. Everyone’s smart in there and I am not one. I’ll just go look for another.” But when I came across the concept of scenius, I started viewing these things differently.

For instance, I am currently in a student publication and there are a lot of students here that are so skilled in writing better than I do (and that’s totally great). But even though I do not consider myself as someone who is skilled in writing or even as great as my peers, I still continue to do my part in the publication because it’s about what I can contribute to the larger whole.

Later in life, I will be working and there will be people who are smarter and better than me but it doesn’t really matter because like what Austin Kleon wrote, it’s not what they can do for me but it’s what I can do for them and what we can contribute to others together.

External accomplishments hardly change anything.

“We all think some external accomplishment is going to change everything, but it never seems to. It doesn’t change how you see yourself. It doesn’t change how you go through the world. It doesn’t change what you feel like when you wake up in the morning.” – Ryan Holiday

When this blog reached 1,000 views, I feel grateful but things just went back to the way it was. I am still reading and writing. When this blog reached 80,000 views, I am still feeling grateful but that’s it. I’m still me. My mindset did not magically change. I am still reading, writing, doing homework, and doing household chores.

And this is why I am thankful that I do not depend my happiness on external outcomes such as “I will be happy once I reached 10k views.” or “I’ll be happy once I passed this project.” because once I achieved any of that, nothing really much changed. I still have more work to do. There are still things to check off in my to-do list.

So with that, I learned to do things just for the sake of doing it because depending my happiness on the things that I do not have control over will make me want “more.”

In other words, I will never be satisfied because i will keep chasing that feeling of “I made it” but the truth is, there never really is that feeling of “I made it.” There will always be another thing to do. So the enjoyment itself is not on the results but on the process of doing it.

Rejection is redirection.

A senior pastor from our church shared that there are no coincidences—only God-incidences. God-incidences means that you are here at this specific place, at this hour, at this very minute, because God wants you to see something, hear something, smell something, and feel something.

This year, I got rejected to a lot of jobs and internships and I even got rejected by my dream university for the second time. But looking back, I can say that things feel into their proper places. Where I had been and what I had gone through this year felt right and I feel that they are supposed to really happen to me to grow and move closer to who I need to be.

I am thankful that God directs me to where I am supposed to be in at the moment and knowing that He guides me, makes me even more courageous to just go and continue immersing myself in various experiences, and just continue trying because if its not meant for me (yet or at all), He’ll redirect me to where I am supposed to be at this current time.

They don’t care about you.

This is a lesson that I learned in early 2020 and that I am still continuing to apply ’til today.

I get anxious especially now that we are taking classes virtually where everyone can actually hear what you said. Overtime, I am learning that people do not really care about me because they have bigger worries—themselves. I know it will take time for me to live my life unapologetically but baby steps. Baby steps.

Labelling something or someone as “good” or “bad” makes me unable to see the situation for what it really is.

Whenever something happens/will happen to me, I mostly say, “This is bad.” but as it turns out, it really isn’t that bad and I get anxious for a long time for nothing.

Essayist and poet Heather Lainier talked about a parable of a farmer on her TED talk and as she learned from the parable, “The parable has been my warning that by gripping tightly to the story of good or bad, I close down my ability to truly see a situation. I learn more when I proceed and loosen my grip and proceed openly with curiosity and wonder.

And so when a professor announces another academic work to be done on top of a other academic works that I still need to accomplish, instead of thinking, “They just never end! This is so bad.”, I think, “Oh this should be exciting. What more can I learn from this?”

Thinking this way will not magically answer all my problems but regardless of what may come to my life, I will look at it not as a problem but only as a part of my journey—something that I have to go through to learn and grow.

The more you use your creativity, the more you have.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ― Maya Angelou

When I started committing to my blog around April of this year, I was worried that I may not have anything to write after a month. Eight months later, I still am writing and I still am receiving ideas.

I think its largely because I’m just continuing to do the work everyday and that’s why I never really feel that I “run out”.

Whatever creative goal you choose, it is important to build on your experience and not let fear and inertia hold you back. Putting ideas on a page and getting past that first hurdle is progress. Then you’re ready to take another step forward. Just take it “bird by bird.” Pretty sure, you’ll start to feel more creative confidence.“ – Tom and David Kelly

Do not worry so much on where things are going to lead. Continue following your interests, desires and gut. Share what you think is worth sharing.

“The lives of great thinkers teach us that learning is the verb of life. The trick to lifelong learning is to exercise your curiousity as much as you can and to let it guide you where it wants to go. To pay attention to what you pay attention to. To not worry too much about where things are going to lead. To learn for learning’s sake, not because it’s going to get you something, necessarily, but because you have faith that the things that interest you will help you become who you need to be.

Your interest and your desire and your instincts are your compass. They show you the way.

It’s a hard things to internalize, but once you do, it’s one of the most powerful things. It sets you free.” – Austin Kleon

Constantly reading this quote over the last several months from my commonplace notebooks made me feel at peace because what I did mostly during those months is not what society expects me to do but nevertheless, I never regretted anything because I know that reading and writing are one of the main reasons why I am standing strong today and the reason why I am able to have this kind of output today.

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Following my gut felt so liberating and I had never felt more satisfied than ever because I am control and I am living MY life based on my choices and how I want to live.

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

They don’t care about you.

That is what a friend told me prior to me giving a short speech. He knows what an overthinker and anxious person I was and a few minutes before I was about to give a short speech he said that to me and I haven’t forgotten it ever since. (this was February 2020)

Overtime, I still am an anxious person. I still do overthink. I did not magically became fearless overnight. But I have definitely improved.

Anyhow, I tend to magnify how much a random person thinks about me. Its what psychologists call The Spotlight Effect. According to Psychology Today, it “refers to the tendency to think that more people notice something about you than they do.”

For example, when someone asks a question during class, whatever it was, I tend to not remember it at all the next day (not because I don’t remember but because it never just cross my mind). However, when I ask a question in class, I tend to overthink what I had done that until the next day, I’m still thinking about it. But, when I ask a classmate of what he/she thought of my question, I would then realize that they do not even think of what I’ve done at all because they are busy on their own worries.

Whenever I’m about to post something publicly, I’ll always remember this advice: They do not care about me. Rather than it being a source of sadness, it actually is more of a relief. Because then, as long as I do not do anything that inflicts harm on anyone, they would leave me be and I’ll just keep continuing doing my work that makes me happy.

Writer Louis Chew wrote on an article entitled The Spotlight Effect: Why No One Else Remembers What You Did, “But more importantly, there’s no need to be obsessed with what others think of us. The reality is that everyone has greater concerns — themselves. So speak your mind. Take some risks. Be the man in the arena.

A little bit everyday turns massive in the future

Writer Robin Sloan writes, “Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s in the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.”

And this is something that I see in myself the past few months.

For example, last April 2020, my curiousity piqued in human-centered prisons after watching this short video created by Vox and 99 pi.
The video resonated so much to me that I even wrote a blog post related to it: Would You Support Humane Prison Design In Your Own Country? Why or Why Not? (published April 2020). Since then, I indulged in resources relating to human-centered design and prisons. I got a writing internship in June and by August, I messaged our head asking if I could work on an article related to Human-centered Prisons. With her green light, I began working on it. The whole time I was working on it, I was scared, terrified sometimes, because I wasn’t an expert. My curiousity is the only thing in me but I started to look at it as a good thing. I may not be an expert but I know I can contribute something to the conversation. Long story short, I accomplished the article entitled: Rethinking Prisons. A few weeks after, I wrote another similar article, but shorter and more opinionated, for our college newspaper: Why We Should Build Human-Centered Prisons.

What started out as notes and just following my curiousity became an opportunity for me to share what I learned.

“But the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have revisit them in order to make the most out of them. You have to flip back through old ideas to see what you’ve been thinking,” writes Austin Kleon in hus book Show Your Work! “Once you make sharing part of your daily routine, you’ll notice themes and trends emerging in what you share. You’ll find patterns in your flow.”

This is also the reason why I keep commonplace notebooks and read it religiously. I’m always on a lookout for any patterns. All of my blogposts are from patterns too. If you had read most of them, you’ll notice that ideas are overlapping with each other. I built into it every now and then.

I never imagined that my curiousity could grow into something. Whenever I remember how my journey went, I became much much more confident in acting on my ideas even though the future looked so uncertain.

It’s not how smart you are in the field or how skilled you are. What matters is what you contribute. Author James Clear wrote tips on how to get started as a writer and the last tip states, “Write about what fascinates you. You don’t need to be an expert. Curiousity leads to expertise.

Small things when accumulated turns into something massive. Do not worry about not having a big idea, just continue working first on where your curiousity leads you.

Author Paul Graham advices:

“The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for bìg ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you, and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can take roast… Put in time how and on what? Just pick a project that seems interesting: to master some chunk of material, or to make something, or to answer some question. Choose a project that will take less than a month, and make it something you have the means to finish. Do something hard enough to stretch you, but only just, especially at first. If you’re deciding between two projects, choose whichever seems most fun. If one blows up in your face, start another. Repeat till, like an internal combustion engine, the process becomes self-sustaining, and each project generates the next one. (This could take years!)”

Procrastination is more than just Laziness

I have a design project that I have to submit in a few weeks (although its still far away, I’m the type of person who prefers to do tasks right away) and after starting it, I realize that my progress is slow. I thought its because that the deadline is still so far away and that I do not feel the need to rush. But, I began thinking about it differently after I watched this video of @evolveandbloom. (Fun fact: I created a Tiktok acc because of her. In Facebook, I saw a video compiling her best Tiktok vids and I created my own acc just to watch her other videos.)

Based on my actions, I would honestly say that I am procrastinating and that is why I progressed really slow. But from her video, I began to understand and rethink my perspective about procrastinating.

I’ve been hearing this a lot from my professors and a few of my classmates that the reason why people procrastinate is because of laziness. But there is so much more to procrastinating than just laziness.

I am reminded of what social psychologist Devon Price wrote in an article entitled Laziness Does Not Exist, “People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation. There are always barriers. Just because you can’t see them or don’t view them as legitimate, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look harder.”

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’m in the act of doing my project, the negative emotions are too much and they impede my progress.

Wharton organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote in an article, Procrastinate Much? Manage Your Emotions, Not Your Time, “The psychologists Timothy Pychyl and Fuschia Sirois have discovered that procrastination isn’t about avoiding work; it’s about avoiding negative emotions. We procrastinate when a task stirs up feelings like anxiety, confusion or boredom. And although it makes us feel better today, we end up feeling worse — and falling behind — tomorrow.”

And how do we deal with it? The answer is not better time-management.

“This means that if you want to procrastinate less, you don’t have to increase your work ethic or improve your time management.” Mr. Grant wrote. “You can instead focus on changing your habits around emotion management.

One thing that I practice (that I essentially works for me) is writing down what you want to make progress today. I cannot possibly complete the project in a day but I can complete small tasks of that project. Before I start working, I write down things that I want to accomplish for the day relating to the project and sticking to it. It helps me to reduce thinking about the project as a whole or the more daunting tasks far ahead.

My negative emotions are holding me back and they gradually stop once my head is on a task that is not too hard but not too easy. Another tips are to gamify the task and give yourself a deadline (I use this a lot and it really works).

Basically, Parkinson’s Law. I give myself like an hour (I have a timer beside me) to finish a task and sometimes, I went overboard for a couple of minutes but the vital thing about it is it gets you to work and to progress at it quickly because you have a deadline to meet.

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!

I don’t know what career title I want to take in five years

I started committing to this blog around April 2020 and it has been a road full of exciting possibilities since then. I am aware that in order to have an output, I had to make an input—read, listen, watch, feel.

And since then too, I learned so much from the comfort of my home than I ever did in my first year of university. The Internet completely changed how I view myself and the world. And it hasn’t been around for like 50 years???

And one of the best thing that I learned is its definitely okay to follow what’s interesting to you at the moment.

I always write about this in order to remind myself: It’s okay to not follow the desired path. Continue following your interests and desires. Continue doing your hobbies. Continue spending your free time from university on what YOU wanted to do, instead of what the society wants you to do.

And since having this mindset—on focusing on the work and not any career title—my future became less and less clear to me and that thought makes it even more exciting.

If someone (and I know someone will ask me sooner or later) where do I see myself in five years, I will honestly say, I don’t know.

I like overthinking about the future but I want to be at peace with myself and unapologetically state the truth that I don’t know and that’s okay.

Writing and reading has completely changed my life. And like I mentioned, when I started having my interests and desires as my compass, every day seems to be an adventure. I never know what I may find, what opportunities I will attract, what ideas I will receive, and people I will know of (recently, I discovered Ali Abdaal through one of my favorite authors—who I discovered just by following my interest too—Austin Kleon and god. why did I just knew him now?? Please do check his youtube channel thank you)

Last year, I never knew that I’ll start a personal blog nor a design blog. I never knew nor even dreamed of that I’ll be interested in human-centered design, study of play, creativity, and joy. But I did.

And this goes to show how unpredictable the future can be and hence, I will not stress myself out on trying to figure out what I want to do in the future and instead, be at peace with myself right now.

A few tips from the amazing Unjaded Jade (she got this tips from an incredible business woman she did not mention her name though):

1. Give yourself options.

And you do this by gaining lots of different skills i.e. following that most interests you right now and never minding whether its something related to a career or not. just do it. Then move on to the next interesting thing you find.

2. Put effort into everything that you do.

So now you followed the interesting things, next thing is of course, the work. Make sure you learn through this experience. Make every day count.

Lastly, if you do have a plan for the next five years, that’s great! I love how you plan things out. I see you.

But for me, although I do not have exactly a five year plan, I do have values. Values, hobbies, interests, and desires that will lead the way for me as I go on to these unpredictable life.

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.

Pursue Joy

“Joy is a form of resilience.” I will repeat, “Joy is a form of resilience.

How so?

Many consider joy as this frivolous emotion. One can even say that it is unimportant and should not be given a time of the day. But is it really?

Joy Vs Happiness

As a culture, we have been obsessed in pursuing happiness. (Happiness comes from the inside but that is another matter to talk about)

But actually, what we should do is pursue joy.

Happiness is an emotion pertaining to that you feel over a long period of time. So, for example, let’s say, I’m a student and when I say, “I’m happy right now.” What that means is that I feel happy about yesterday and the days before that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t awful moments but over time, I feel good overall about what happened.

On the other hand, joy pertains to right now. It’s the feeling when you want to jump up and down or giggle or laugh because of a joke. And this is why pursuing joy is much more important that pursuing happiness. Because joy is what’s happening around us every time. Writing this blog makes me feel joy. And in retrospect, when all of these joyful moment add up, I can say that I am happy with how I live. So maybe, we are only happy in retrospect. Hence, it is why pursuing joy is more important that pursuing happiness

Why is Joy Important?

Going back to my first sentence, “Joy is a form of resilience.” is from designer and author Ingrid Fetell Lee.

And she explained why in a blog post. First off, she wrote that we tend off to put off joy. For example, “Oh! I will work full head-on for 9 hours and then I’ll watch a movie.” We see joy as a reward for our hardwork.

But actually, Lee suggests that we should incorporate joy into our daily lives. Basically, joy is a tool that we can use to cope up with stress.

She explained further, “Small moments of joy help the cardiovascular system recover from stress. When we feel stressed, our bodies floor with chemicals like cortisol and epinephrine which raise our heart rate and blood pressure, keep us alert and focused, and help us respond to the challenges at hand. This is an adaptive response to stress, and it works well when it’s temporary. If stress becomes chronic, on the other hand, this places strain on the body and can lead to exhaustion and illness. But when we experience joy, such as watching something funny, taking a little while to become absorbed in play, or spending time in nature, it gives our bodies a break from this stress response, enabling us to recover.

Thus, joy is not frivolous. It’s actually important for our body, especially our mental health.

Small Moments of Joy

Knowing this information, I had to apply it. Assignments and academic readings are piling up but I’m ‘stealing ‘ some time just to be.

I acknowledge that I am more than my academics. And the life that I want to live is not something that is in the direction of academics, hence, I go my own path.

One thing that I do and probably my most favorite apart from writing is soaking energy from the sun.

Around 3 pm- 4pm, I get up, after being huddled for hours on my desk, and go in our porch.

Without having to go outside, the sun direction is right there at the gate and that is where I can get energy from the sun.

Honestly, one of the highlights of my day. And I am reminded of what Andy Grammer wrote in his song Keep Your Head Up:

The glow that the sun gets
Right around sunset
Helps me realize
That this is just a journey
Drop your worries
You are gonna turn out fine.
Oh, you turn out fine.
Fine, oh, you turn out fine.

Whether I failed during the day or experienced something terrible, the sun’s gonna be there. Always. And its gonna be there until I die. Whatever I am worrying about it is gonna be fine. It will pass. Other things that I do during the day to feel joy is listening to my favorite music, showering after a long day, watching korean variety shows, and reading a great book that will keep me immersed for hours. And not to mention, there are tons of other things that unexpectedly show up during my day that brought me joy. Like a few days ago, I discovered a website that has a very interesting UI on its homepage, and just the other day, I finally owned a copy of a book that I’ve been waiting for MONTHSS!!!

Basically, pursuing joy is me telling myself that I will not succumb to being a machine and taking care of myself. In addition, joyful things that unexpectedly came my way are a reminder that life is full of miracles and casual magics. I also believe that what I put out in the world, that is what I get back. And these miracles are what I get back.

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.