Keeping Up (With Ourselves)

[Initially published on The Intrepide, January 2016]

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

Something piqued my interest.

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed, my eyes were drawn to a video. The two-minute clip features a celebrity outlining how to eat a KitKat bar in six steps.

Interesting.

At the end of the video, an ad for a downloadable app was embedded. The app boasts “exclusive content” which features an inside-look into the celebrity’s life.

(Yes, I’m aware other celebrities have their own app.)

I’m aware that there are people who genuinely enjoy following the lives of celebrities. It’s very easy to get caught up in the seemingly glamorous Hollywood lifestyles, or other people’s lives, for that matter. Social media allows us to over-elevate our accomplishments and/or possessions, down to our lunch for the day, as well as that of others. Given this, we are drawn to the lives of other people just as they are to our own lives. Don’t get me wrong- being happy for other people’s achievements, or following their “interesting” lives is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if keeping up with these celebrities or other successful individuals causes us to be complacent with mediocrity in our lives, then that is a problem.

What do you mean by “being complacent with mediocrity?

In keeping up with these individuals who lead “successful”, interesting lives, we fall behind in allowing ourselves to pursue greatness or to simply improve ourselves. Just think – a minute spent watching how to eat chocolate in six steps could be invested in something simple but worthwhile, such as stepping outside to breathe in fresh air; browsing through different fitness classes and resolving to follow through with it, or, in contrast to the chocolate video, make a healthy shake or snack. The list of things we can do to improve ourselves is endless, but we must take initiative and identify what we need to do in our lives.

Write your story.

For the past three years, I played the lead character in an original musical called Right Here, Write Now!. The show revolves around a group of friends about to graduate university, recalling different turning points in their lives that shaped them to be the person they are at that moment. My character, however, seemed to have no story to tell; that, after all these years, her life had been nothing but a mundane list of routines. Playing this part, and being guilty of this in real life, it is common to compare our lives to other people. We often look down on ourselves because those around us are accomplishing great things, while we may not. We often attribute success with meaningful lives. I am particularly guilty of this. What I learned from my character, however, is that more often than not, success and fame are not the vehicles to happy, purposeful lives: it is merely finding what motivates us to live a life worth living; something we need to look for within ourselves. Only then can we write “a story worth telling.”

So, no more watching videos of other successful people?

No, watch less videos of other successful people doing insignificant things (such as eating chocolate), but invest your time and energy into seeking resources that provide suggestions as to how you, too, can reach your goals. While not all suggestions are right and/or applicable to you for various reasons (age, situation, etc.), reading tips may help you discover your own personal mantra to live by.  Use successful individuals as inspirations – “if they can be a (insert adjective attributed to success, here), why can’t I?”.

Know that deep down, we are inherently meant for greatness.

Keep up with that purpose; keep up with yourself.

 

 

Enlightening

It has been two hours since my family and I had electricity in our house- almost 34 hours of coping without what I now regard as such a luxury.  But during those dark times, I learned to appreciate a few things.

Prior to the outage, each member of the household was engrossed in front of a computer/phone/tablet, rather than each other’s presence.  In the midst of summer online courses, work deadlines, and relaxing from an exhausting day by the idle scrolling through social media, we all forgot the importance of family.  The animated voices of actors on TV livened the living room; quite ironic as conversations among our five-person household seemed dull and dead.

While the outage ensued, we rediscovered the humour and subtle concern that were absent in our day-to-day conversations.  Patience prevailed, unlike the rush of impatient remarks that surfaced within attempts in starting simple dialogue.  Not only that, but our family ate dinner together after several days (or even weeks) of missing each other.  My brother and I are often out, thus we sometimes miss out on having dinner with our mom.  Due to submissions at work, my dad arrives quite late in the evening, even early morning, thus we almost always miss him completely.

We never expected it would take a power outage to bring us closer together; not to mention, value each other’s presence.

After my dad dropped me off at a gig in Richmond during the rainy Saturday evening, already a few hours after the outage began, he started his 30-minute drive to the other side of the Alex Fraser bridge.  As he took the exit onto Nordel Way just after the bridge, the car skid, causing him to panic and press the brakes- landing him in a nearby ditch.  Luckily, no one was hurt- except his wallet after receiving a fine for overspeeding.

Tonight, we ate a late dinner at Richmond (we just seem to love that city this weekend).  A scrumptious dinner paired with enjoying each other’s company made the seemingly (here we go again) dark time  enjoyable.  As we approached our townhouse complex an hour or so after driving in the rain, I admit, I was half praying and half skeptical that the lights would be on.

Lo and behold, it was.

I rejoiced in seeing the refrigerator light again and salvaged whatever food was still edible.  Lights not used at the moment, I immediately turned off.  But before I reached to charge my dying laptop and recuperate my phone (can’t wait to see my data bill), I was reminded to take all that I’ve learned to heart: electronic gadgets are rechargeable.

Family ties- well, they’re rechargeable, too.

Sunscreen

[Photo courtesy of Natasha Lee via memes.com]

April showers bring May flowers, and soon it’s finally June.

Here we are, nearing the end of the second-to-last week of May.  Honestly, May is my favourite month of the year (aside from the fact that it is my birthmonth).  It’s the time of the year where the sun is smiling wide and bright, Happy Hour at Starbucks is back-though I’m not so sure if my wallet feels the same happiness- and the school year is drawing to a close.  The last one is particularly bittersweet, which I found out, as more and more my feed consisted of graduation and convocation pictures.  Seeing friends whom I’ve grown up and grown closer with, move onto a whole new chapter in their lives is exciting.  At the same time, however, it reminds me that I’m scrolling through my own life as well and will soon end up at the same stage of making the jump.  When I was in Grade 8, I always looked ahead; too far ahead, at times.  I was already excited about graduating from high school and living the “uni” life.  Now, in my current frame of reference, it seems as if the slow summers actually progressed at the rate of the speed of light.

All physics puns aside, I’m just learning that there’s only a certain amount of pages left in my high school chapter.

But don’t get me wrong- it has all been a blast.  I can proudly say I have little to no regrets during these past four years.  Surprisingly, I took risks and spilt ink (shoutout to my friend Rachel Wong- check out her blog), but I couldn’t have done it without all the people who helped me write my story.  This year had been a year full of leaps of faith, reinvigorating old friendships and kindling new ones; and the back-and-forth question of whether to put condiments on hotdogs.  I wouldn’t be the punderful person I am now, had you not brought me out of my shell.

Although you may be slugging yourself through the heap of year-end projects/tests, like myself, always strive to get a better view of the picture.

Don’t get burned by the heat of auto-pilot mode.

Apply some sunscreen of inspiration.

12:30 AM Awakening

Technically, I should be going to bed, since I’m supposed to get up early in a few hours, but who actually does that? (To the small percentage of those who are actually sensible to do so, I applaud you.)

I just want to take this time to acknowledge an uncommon truth:

The Author of Life is hilarious.

There are many ways as to how this truth can surface within each person’s lives.  In my own life, I discovered this truth through the series of answered teenage girl prayers. It’s a way through which I am made to realize that someone is actually listening, even to the most petty inklings of the heart. However, the only way to find this out is to reset the pages of the internal book- to leave it open.

In this way, the Author of Life can do what He does best: pen a story worth telling.

Mirror

We don’t select who to help. We’re here, in this privileged position, to help out those who aren’t.

Whenever people find out I wasn’t born in Canada, I receive looks of surprise. I moved here when I was just about to turn eight. Because the school system was quite different in the Philippines and I had already finished the second grade, I still needed to finish the grade in Canada. That was not a problem for me. I loved school (in some ways, I still do). However, I did miss my friends and relatives, who had been in my life for the past eight years, only to be replaced by quiet weekends in a foreign country. Back then, though I was proficient in English, my difference was not hard to pinpoint- my native accent clothed my speech. Almost nine years later, that accent is put in the backburner, only used when speaking in Tagalog.

I have no regrets in becoming Canadian. I feel welcomed and accepted in the rich cultural tapestry that Canada embodies. I feel blessed that I can pursue many areas of knowledge and the arts, and feel secure in a financially-able country. What I do regret, however, is how I forgot my history, not of the Filipino culture, but of my culture: the culture which saw the need of others, especially of those within my family, and dreamed of bringing them to the standpoint of privilege that I’m in.

All of us blessed with the necessities of life, and more, are called to a greater purpose of sharing it with those who don’t have it.

That is something I, or anyone- particularly those who came from another country- should never forget.

Writer’s Block

I absolutely despise it.

Although I rarely put the pen on the paper, as I am more likely to type away onto a blog post (like what I’m doing right now), I hate the feeling of emptiness; when there is no inspiration for a plot or an idea for a post. I hate it. Eventually, the frustration overwhelms the mind and, consequently, the will to write. Thus, what is produced at the end is nothing but mere stress.

Today was a pleasant day- the sun gleamed with a cool breeze that made walking home from a meeting after school, enjoyable. Upon arriving home after the fifteen-minute walk, I check my email. The inbox icon indicated a new message- it was the result of a scholarship I had applied for abut a month ago. It is an educational program which takes secondary school students on a two-week trip to France and Belgium annually to learn about the First World War. Being the academic enthusiast (nerd) that I am, I leaped onto this opportunity, as I love history. I was almost sure I was going to be selected.

But I wasn’t.

Surprisingly, I took it pretty well. In fact, the rejection pushed me to search for other scholarships. I remained confident in my abilities and my creativity. I consider myself as a passionate and innovative individual who’s not afraid to take initiative.  Within the sea of success stories of other people, however, I felt discouraged. These people who were awarded with prestigious scholarships had an extensive amount of work in their portfolio. I felt as if I had done nothing as significant as theirs. In a snap, the drive to take initiative and make a difference, even within my school community, was mone fairly gone.

I realized that writer’s block also occurs in everyday life. I believe that there is a burning desire to achieve greatness within everyone, whether it be to serve the poor, to write music that can change others’ lives, or to make the perfect tuxedo cake (reminiscent of the cakes the Home Ec students made last week).  However, there are certain occasions wherein the drive to do something great is present, but the means and knowing how to achieve greatness, is not. Nonetheless, it is up to us, the co-author of our stories, to always keep searching for inspiration.

That way, we can put the pen into the paper again no matter how many times we have to draft a new story.

Clean Slate

This is not a post about making resolutions.

With the dawn of a new year, resolutions, or the lack thereof, are also within the horizon. Although I completely agree that resolutions are important- that resolving our shortcomings of the previous year is significant to our growth as living beings- we should not lose sight of what a new year really is: a fresh start. A clean slate. A new chapter. We, you and I, know what we need to improve. We know the habits and the mistakes we need to correct, and we will. On the other hand, there were the good times, too. Events that touched our inner selves; memories that made us want to stay in those precise moments.

But that is past tense.

2014 was great, but it is now a mere artifact of the past.

Today is 2015.

Like the picture above, the details are unfocused, but that can’t take away from the beauty of the colours. If anything, the bokeh image is even more striking- there’s some mystery to it. That’s how I perceive 2015: I may not know what will happen yet, but I can rejoice in the beauty of the unknown.

A fresh start.

A clean slate.

A new chapter.

Let’s get the pen on the page and make some magic.