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.

Quarantine Day X: Feeling guilty about everything

Since the quarantine, my feelings of guilt over everything I do has increased ten-fold. I feel guilty about so many things: my productivity; my meager contribution to society; my lack of effort to check up on my friends. All of these weigh heavily on me. They make the burden I carry on my back.

My social media usage, I think, is partly to blame for this guilt. Because of the “empowering” messages I read about “making the most of the quarantine,” I’ve come to feel horrible about my lack of effort. Sure, I spend my free time writing. I’ve even gone back to painting. I regularly call my family, less so my friends, and I’ve donated to a charity back home. But it never feels like it’s enough. I feel like I should be doing something bigger and of more substance. It feels like the only way to make the most of this period is to help the disadvantaged through direct – heck, even manual – means.

I plan on making the most of my day today: write (as I am now), paint, read a good book, and scout for remote volunteering opportunities. I also plan on making cinnamon buns and looking for courses I could take in edX. Despite all these, I still feel hollow and guilty. Do you, reader, feel this sort of guilt every now and then? The guilt of not doing enough?

I wonder if this is just a spell of anxiety. It certainly is incorrect to feel this way (J.K. Rowling recently condemned life gurus who preach productivity during this period), but how does one quiet feelings of guilt? Guilt goes away through action, yes. But if the action you’ve done has proven ineffective, what is the healthiest alternative?

The other enemy

Philippine news has always been a circus, but moreso now, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, than ever before. This has divided people to the extremes. On one hand, there are those who complain about the government and are demanding better measures. On the other are those who are defending its policies, and believe that the course of action being taken now is satisfactory. I’m in the former, and I have always been vocal against our rulers’ out-of-touch, anti-poor governance.

I’ve observed us Filipinos pitting ourselves against one another. We fight with the “other side” – those whose opinions differ from ours – and we end up getting too distracted, lost in the myriad of pettiness. We generalise those who are of a different mind, and forget that this fight is with an invisible enemy, and not with each other.

A few days ago, two good friends of mine complained about my opinion of our government. They told me that I was too negative, and that I had no right to complain because I, “haven’t contributed anything to the betterment of my country.” They went on to list down a few other people who were “too negative,” and jokingly said these others should form an anti-government club with me.

My friends and I have different opinions, but we’ve always mutually respected each others’ differences. Why was this case different? Their complaints literally felt like a stab at the heart. These are my closest friends, how could they say this about me? How could they pair up and do this together? I saw a chunk of our mutual respect chipping off.

Their complaint drove the point home for me: that what’s happening in the Philippines – and, contextually, the whole world – drives a wedge between people. This wedge is so deep that we’ve begun to feel disrespect, and even a deep contempt, towards those whose opinions are different. This is why my country is at chaos: because we see other people as enemies, and cement in our minds that they always will be. As we plant these seeds of hate, we also set aside our salvation: uniting for the sake of our country.

Honestly, I’m far from being a saint. I also tend to stereotype those who have a different stance to mine. But I hope that my friends’ words would serve as a guiding light, to help me see that I should have more tolerance, acceptance, and respect towards others. If I could contribute anything to my country (other than taxes!), then it would be the will to set aside my differences with others, and collaborate in the face of turmoil.

Painting: The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault

Cabin fever

Written last 21 March 2020

I’m writing from my favourite cafe again this Saturday morning, bypassing my original plan to stay at home amidst fears of the pandemic. I’ve only been staying at home for three days and cabin fever has already set in. Restlessness, irritability, the urge to get out and stay out – cabin fever is real and is rearing its ugly head.

My partner and I are attempting to be more creative in this dilemma of staying indoors. On day two of the attempt we realised we are, in fact, not very creative, as we have already spent more money than we anticipated. We’ve bought a Blue Yeti microphone (for all ASMR-lovers out there, watch out for my Youtube channel) and two Nintendo Switch games. Being bored could be expensive.

I’m very aware that I’m speaking from a point of privilege. If your main problem during this period in history is how to kill time and how you’ll keep from going crazy indoors, then you’re incredibly lucky. Boredom still is a problem though, and during this extraordinary time, it is an issue for many.

Here’s how I keep cabin fever at bay:

  • Establish a routine – If you’re spending all day thinking of what to do, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Establishing a routine keeps your day structured. Not to mention, a routine will eventually set you on autopilot, which means your brain power can be allotted to more important things.
  • Meditate – I attest to this. Healthy mind = sane mind. If you’re staying indoors for long periods of time, decluttering the mind is necessary.
  • Put your music on speakers and dance – OKAY, this sounds like something your single aunt with ten cats would say. But keeping things light in the time of coronavirus helps. Not to mention, dancing is a form of exercise, so you’re hitting two birds with one stone.
  • Exercise – I have two resistance bands which I use often to exercise. There are also tons of videos on Youtube on indoor circuit exercises and cardio.
  • Video chat with family and friends – Now is a perfect time to catch up with your loved ones. I’m sure they will be glad to hear from you!
  • Learning or practicing a new skill – I will admit that it can be a bit of a pain, but learning a new skill is a great way to spend your time. On my own list is: learning to do ASMR (lol), watercoloring, and writing some more.

What do you do to keep from being bored?

100 new experiences

Early this year, I found a list on the back of my journal that went all the way up to a hundred. Having no idea what I could have it as a list for (100 grocery items I need in the house? 100 must-use table topics?), I settled for “100 new things I did in 2020”. I knew from the beginning that it’d be asking for too much, but I wasn’t too bothered.

Three months on, I’ve still only listed down nine items, the last one being two weeks ago. At this rate, I’m sure I won’t fill up the list. Still, it feels satisfying to have some experiences written down. I have a tendency to forget how I spent my time, so I greatly enjoy being reminded through my journal.

Here are the new things I’ve done thus far:

  1. Get a matching tattoo with my family – this is extremely special because it involves my family (sans my dad, he doesn’t like needles!). We’ve been planning it for over a year, so to have it come to fruition was unforgettable and quite touching.

  2. Submit a proposal for freelance work – I’ve always liked the idea of freelancing, but I’ve never taken the first step of selling my skills. Finally submitting a proposal was satisfying, because it felt like I broke a wall. (By the way, the proposal was unsuccessful. But still, I already took the first step!)

  3. Attend a Toastmasters meeting – I’ve mentioned this here, with the goal of curbing my social anxiety. I plan on joining the club this month, which, once I accomplish, will be another first!

  4. Played petanque competitively – I don’t mean this in a professional way, no – I just played petanque with my boyfriend, hah. But he’s pretty athletic, so I felt competitive still. It was also my first time actually playing a full round of the sport, so there’s that.

  5. Cooked stir fry veggies – The first attempt, and a successful one, at that! Stir-frying veggies with garlic, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and cornflour produces such good results. Eat it with rice and you’ve got a winner!

  6. Buy my own domain – you’re reading through that domain now!

  7. Made kale chips – This was a fail; it ended up so salty that it was inedible. Still, I tried. I’m keen on trying a whole lot more of new recipes, so many of the items on my list will be probably be cooking-related.

  8. Made a Fiverr account – bent on having my first freelancing gig, I joined Fiverr and created a decent profile. Fingers crossed that I’ll have the first gig by this year!

  9. Win three consecutive pool games against my boyfriend – My partner is a skilled pool player, having honed his skills from the many backpacker hostels he’s stayed in. I’ve always been frustrated over not winning against him. Imagine my joy when I finally did, and won three consecutive rounds of pool! (Okay, he wasn’t in his best form at that time and kept making mistakes, but still, victory tasted so sweet!)

What are your novel experiences thus far for the year? Let me know!