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.

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!

Body image

Every day, before going to the shower, I take a long, hard look at my naked body. I scan its every bump and roll, making a note of those that disrupt the normal flow of my curves. There are too many for my liking. I’m fat, I almost always conclude.

I always find ways to criticise my body. Call it a default setting; I’m so used to doing it that’s it become my norm.

As a kid of three years, I was a chubby girl who had no concept of body image. All I knew was that pork fat was to meal to be savoured, and rice was a life-sustaining staple. Everyone pinched my cheeks and call me tabachingching – a way of saying someone was fat, adorably so.

A few years later I would still get teased, mostly by my well-meaning extended family, and they would do so on a regular basis. They no longer called me tabachingching, but just taba, fat. It made me embarrassed. It was then that my initial image of my physical self began taking shape – I was fat, and fat wasn’t desirable. It resulted to me being teased for the sake of entertainment. I stopped eating pork fat then.

As time passed my weight would yo-yo between normal and overweight. I observed that, if I was the former, I wouldn’t receive any comments about how I looked. If it was the latter, though, people made sure that I was aware of it. High school came and I saw girls my age with svelte bodies. Teen magazines showed slender models pulling off the trendiest outfits. A thin body became something to aspire for, and dieting became the norm.

I remember cutting out the bodies of the Candy girls and Cosmo models, sticking them all over my room and replacing their face with mine.

Now, a bigger form of insidiousness is taking place. The ideal is no longer directly advertised, but is seeped and ingrained into the public space. Women with ridiculously curvy bodies, faces blessed with chiselled jawlines, luscious lips, anime-esque eyes and thick lashes: these images define “the norm.” I feel pressured to conform, and I’m certain that millions of girls and women are, too. Our bodies are just not enough.

And so my default setting is to criticise my body. Pointing out my flaws is something I’ve lived with since I was a kid. I look at my frame in the mirror, looking at every curve that isn’t supposed to be there. It’s a few curves too much.

But to be honest, I’m confused.

I’m confused because the desire to look better is not 100% there; there is a disconnect with what I think versus what I feel. Could it be that I am, for once, actually satisfied with my body?

I try to understand what could lead to this satisfaction. There is the lifestyle change: I exercise regularly and try my best to eat well. There, too, is the social influence: my friends and my family, and all the other people I surround myself with, seem satisfied with themselves and their bodies. How we take care of ourselves, and the people we surround ourselves with, look to be great contributors to our self-perception.

But I’ve noticed another thing, as well: I’ve never heard, in a long time, my loved ones berating themselves or others over how fat they are. The people I am with – my colleagues, my friends, my partner – they don’t comment about looks. It’s as if they couldn’t care less about it. I didn’t know how freeing it could be, to not care so much.

The final thing about this satisfaction probably has to do with growing up. As I grow old, I’ve become more accepting of who I am. I understand that all the images around me – all the Instagrammable bodies, the latest diets, and the societal expectations – are all a big consumerist ploy. I know now that I should put behind all the teasing from my childhood and teenage years, because they’re too shallow to take to heart. They’re definitely too trivial to construct my self-image around.

I’ve still got a long way to go. Whenever I look at my naked body in the mirror, I still feel a twinge of frustration. I still berate myself over how much I’ve eaten and makes notes about how much cardio I should do. It’s an in-built system that I’ve followed for a long time.

I’m glad of the progress I’ve made, though. Many times, I see that I am, in fact, fine. The road to acceptance is a long, looping, and loopy (!) one. Does it have a final destination, I wonder, or is it a never-ending road full of pit stops? Whatever the case is, I’m happy I’m further into it now than I ever was before.