A letter to my 2022 self

Hi Kring,

Happy new year! How is it like, living in 2022? I bet it isn’t much different to how it is now, with the exception of vaccines being widely available in some parts of the world. Fingers crossed that the Philippines is among them – I really want to go home and see mom and dad.

I want you to know that I have a lot of hopes for you. The start of each years always brings about a renewed hope that we will continue our work, but in a better, smarter way. 2020 was a success in this regard – it was a big leap from 2019, where we were purely on autopilot.

I know how you work, Kring. You work slow, but want fast results. You get anxious when your tasks seem monumental, so much so that you save them for another day. I know your insecurities – you believe you’re not capable of much, that the only things you can do are those that require the bare minimum. You think you’re a loser and that you can’t swim against the tide.

It’s a wonder, where all these insecurities come from. Why do we engage in so much negative self talk? We remember our failures more so than our achievements – and we (at least I do, maybe it’s no longer true for you!) believe that they are proof that we aren’t clever and capable enough to do more.

2022 self, this I promise you: I will begin engaging in positive self-talk. This is going to be my big thing this year. I’ve been anchored down by my poisonous thoughts for so many years. I will break these self-imposed shackles this time, and not ride on my fear of failure.

We both know it, right? That this fear has been the root of our problems. I will work to temper this demon of a thing. Everything else will fall in its proper place, I think, as I tackle this head-on.

I have more resolutions than the above. But going above my fear is integral to achieving everything else. This is where my hope comes from! It’s great to have this small hope at the start of the year.

I know you’ll be better than me, 2022 self. I’m excited to put in the work to become you.


Do you cringe when…

…you read your old blog articles? I do. I cringe so bad that I don’t even finish reading them. A few paragraphs are enough to make me close my Chrome tab.

I used to think of myself as an okay writer. I think I’m still riding high from my writing wins from high school – Jesus, that was more than a decade ago. At fifteen, I managed our school paper and I won a few writing awards. All that achievement got to my head! It made me confident that I was a natural, and that I needn’t write so much because my talent was innate.

Well, clearly that isn’t the case. The sobering truth is that talent should be nourished through constant practice. The part of my brain assigned to writing has shrunken to a nut. I’m back to level one in terms of skill.

I feel like this is a thing that happens to a lot of people. The older we get, the less we practice, and the less we do the stuff we used to love doing. There are too many reasons it’s commonplace (e.g. our education system, Pavlovian conditioning, ever-increasing responsibilities, consumerism, the system beating us to a pulp…), but it’s prevalent enough that the idea of passion has become a Holywood-esque dream. The world hammers us to becoming cogs in the system – uniform and utilitarian.

Is there a skill or a hobby that you love doing, but haven’t engaged in for a long time? What are your reasons for not engaging in it? I’m keen to know.

I’m drawing again

I’m drawing again. I thought I had retired from it, but here I am, with a brand-new pen tablet, drawing with excitement. It’s exhilarating to rediscover a hobby I loved so dearly.

I first began drawing thirteen years ago, making fan art of the anime La Corda d’Oro. I was lovestruck both by the male characters and by the the reverse harem (hehe), and so I spent my time doodling starry-eyed men as my head swam with their faces.

During university I tried my hand at digital art. My mom bought me a pen tablet, and since then I feverishly drew my favourite characters – this time, from video games. Persona 4, Suikoden Tactics, Tenchu: I drew fan art for hours on end and posted the final products on DeviantArt. Being part of an art community encouraged me to draw even more. I even gained friends from the site, and some of these friendships continue to this day.

There was a problem, though: I always created art out of envy. The illustrations I made stemmed from my desire to copy the style of more experienced artists. I was insecure and frustrated; I wanted to get good quickly and be on par with the masters. My mindset made being in DeviantArt toxic, as I saw better art everywhere around me – art made by people who were my age, sometimes even younger than me. I quit after three years.

What made me come back after a decade of doing nothing? It was a fan art I saw just three weeks ago. I was struck by how the use of colours made the character look so sensual. I don’t know why it inspired me so much; maybe it was my subconscious’ way of saying that I shouldn’t neglect I skill I actually have. It only took another week before I bought a new pen tablet.

Currently figuring out how to colour. I’m using a photo from this site as reference.

I’ve only been practicing again for a few days, and my progress is slow. My understanding of anatomy is laughable, and my colouring is poor. I’ve come to accept now, though, that developing a skill requires effort. It will take consistent practice to get anywhere. Optimism is important, too: even if my art is crappy at the beginning, it doesn’t equivalent to my being a failure.

Wish me luck as I venture once again on this land! And if you are rediscovering a hobby, yourself, do let me know. It would be nice to know people who are on the same boat as I am.

Laughing in the face of fear

*This is a blog post from Medium dated June 2018. It remains one of my favourite posts, so I’m putting it down here.

I’ve been afraid of deep water for as long as I could remember. Seeing the vastness and depth of the ocean, its abyssal waters holding more secrets than revelations, I know how much power it possesses. It’s commanding, it’s mysterious, it’s reckless. It could seize me, swallow me whole, and keep me under its depths forever if it willed.

I was perfectly fine living with this fear; I didn’t have any intention of engaging in anything that involved deep water, after all. But then I met my partner who loved the sea — and he invited me to go diving with him.

I was eager to please. I said yes with a smile, but internally I was freaking out.

Facing the ocean

Riding the boat heading to our dive site, Halik Reef, gave me a mix of emotions. There was the fear, agitation, and nervousness, but there was also the excitement of trying something out for the first time. It helped that my partner was thrilled to explore the sea once more. It helped even more that a dive master accompanied me all throughout the dive.

Our boat stopped and our dive master stood. We were given final instructions on how to use our equipment, counted three to one, and went down the sea.

The sea was clear, so clear that we could see as far as 30 meters. Already we could see fish swimming 12 meters below us, feeding and playing on the corals. But that wasn’t what I was focused on: I found it disconcerting to breathe underwater for the first time. I had to get used to using my mouth as my sole source of oxygen, and to adjusting the pressure in my ears as we went deeper down. I was a human out of her element; my body told me it didn’t belong at sea.

I reminded myself a few times to not freak out, lest we end our diving session early.

Under the sea

The dive master, my partner, and I began exploring once we were able to go down a depth of 12 meters. The first thing I noticed was the colors: there were so many colors everywhere I looked. They were in the corals, in the fish, and in the rays of light as it danced in the sea. The colors were swirling around me, and I held a firmer grip on our dive master to make sure he stayed with me while I observed.

We went around Halik Reef in a circle, and though the sense of uneasiness never left me, I felt less anxious as we explored. I had never seen so many sea animals my whole life: there were sharks, blue tangs, lionfish, pufferfish, clownfish, butterflyfish… there were too many species for me to remember; the reef was bursting with them.

The highlight, though, was the turtles. My partner has a love affair with turtles and has been fascinated with them since he was young. We saw two in the dive: one feeding on plants in an area surrounded by corals, and the other swimming in as we were about the leave. The dive master and I excitedly motioned him to the former, and there was pure fascination in his eyes as he saw a turtle for the first time. We watched it for a longer time than most of the other sea life we saw; it was transfixing to see it eat.

We stayed in the sea for 40 minutes, wherein after we got up the boat and talked about the dive. Both the dive master and my partner told me I was incredibly lucky to have such a good first dive. As for me, I was mostly happy about not freaking out!

Facing the fear

Was there anything that I took away from the dive? Yes, two things. One was that I’d go further than I would for my partner. The second was that I’ve been in my safe zone for too long — so long that I no longer desired to go out of it.

The second was difficult to deal with. I’ve long been aware that I was no longer as curious as I was before, but to witness it in action was a hard-hitter. I knew I never would have faced my fear of the water had someone not pushed me to.

During the course of our two-week vacation, my partner and I snorkeled and dived one more time. In both instances I still felt the same magnitude of fear. The fear of the water may be something that will stay long with me.

But perhaps facing your fears isn’t about conquering them, but about being able to live with them. And perhaps it’s what separates the child-like from the rest: they are able to laugh in the face of their fears, and live the life they wish to have.

And it’s who I aspire to be: a person who faces her fears, befriends them, and moves through life with a nervous but willing heart.

Quarantine Week X: Babbling

I can’t write. The words have not been flowing properly. I find myself stuck in proofing and rewriting. In fact, I spent ten minutes just now attempting to re-write the first sentence of a draft.

Apparently, the key to getting out of a rut is to juggle your hobbies. It’s an empowering thing to know that, if you’re stuck in a project, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure; you just have to take a breather.

Socialising. One of the resolutions I had this year was to reconnect with two friends per month. It has been going well, but I find that I require discipline. Sometimes, I can’t bear the thought of socialising.

This applies to many people, I guess. When you’ve used up your willpower and motivation on matters like work, there is little left for talking to people, even friends. I find myself in this situation all the time, and I always have an excuse to reschedule.

As you can tell, it’s neither sustainable nor healthy. When I know that it’s time to talk to friends, I just suck it up and do it. I ring them, and after a minute of us talking, I forget why I was so unwilling to in the first place.

Hobbies and money. I have a bad trait: I need to spend money on a thing before I could commit to it. Working out, blogging, painting: I had to pay for them before I stuck to them.

The lockdown has given me time to think about how I could enrich my life. Now, I have a few ideas in mind. I want to study, draw digitally, and learn to play the keyboard piano. None of these are cheap. And I don’t want to choose just one: I want them all.

I’m taking my time and thinking things through, and I’m also constantly reminding myself that money isn’t necessary to investing yourself to something. Perhaps desiring so much is just the effect of the poor sleep I’ve been getting lately. My bed is utterly useless, and I could feel its springs on my back whenever I lie down.

Maybe I should get a new bed…

I said I couldn’t write, yet I’ve just finished an entry… hoorah, me!