32 Lessons, 32 Years

I have waited 20+ years to say this… I am 32 flavours and then some. Gah! Do you remember that song? I do!

I feel so old but at the same time feel like I still know nothing. Well, not nothing. But also not at the stage I thought I would be at 32, that I imagined when I was 12. I thought 32 was so old. SO. OLD. But now that I’m here, I am realising more and more that age is really just a number. It is not an indicator of wisdom or even meaningful experience. You earn wisdom and meaningful experience when you go through the years with an open and curious mind, ready to process the lessons that life throws at you!

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Looking back, 2016 (31 years old) was not too bad!

Speaking of lessons, I decided to “celebrate” my birthday yesterday with a list (I LOVE lists!) of 32 things I have learned in 32 years. Of course, I probably learned a lot more than 32 lessons. haha At least I hope I did! But I was so sleepy when I was typing this on my phone the night before my birthday so I just listed the first 32 lessons that I thought of. Which probably means something right? Right!

32 lessons, 32 years:

1) Progress, not perfection
2) Moisturise!!!
3) When people disagree with you freely but respectfully, it is a good thing. It means you have created a safe space for discourse
4) You can be firm and strict and still be compassionate
5) Being compassionate is not equal to being complicit
6) Back up all your files and photos on the cloud
7) When you don’t know something, it is a good chance to learn something
8) Don’t read the comments section. Ever.
9) You don’t need to be a conformist or non-conformist. You like what you like and that’s okay

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UM. HELLO!

10) Always choose zero % sugar when ordering milk tea
11) Huwag tanungin kung mahirap, tanungin kung mahalaga – Fr. Roque Ferriols S.J.
12) “Accept me for who I am” is not an excuse to continue or justify a bad attitude
13) Always write things down. You tell yourself you don’t have to because your memory is excellent but it is not, and you will forget! haha
14) Fear and Anger will creep up on you. Acknowledge them, work on them, but don’t feed them
15) Be honest and upfront, and yet kind and considerate
16) Don’t wear light flow-y skirts or dresses in Rockwell
17) Listen to podcasts (currently making a list and will publish this here soon!) & read articles, while stuck in traffic. That way, only your car is stuck in traffic, not you

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GUYS!!! One of the best podcasts about business!

18) While you strived to give great answers when you were younger, strive this time to ask enlightening questions
19) Make difficult decisions with love and compassion. But make them.
20) Saying sorry is not proof of weakness. It is one of the most raw and vulnerable kind of bravery
21) Empathy is messy and complicated. Empathize anyway.
22) You won’t be great at some things (accounting, etc) but that does not mean you can’t learn them
23) Most of the time, the most elegant and high-impact solution is the simplest one
24) Write on your journal as often as possible even when you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t feel articulate
25) Your imagination is not the limit, your confidence is
26) The mustard thing beside your Katsu meal, is not mustard

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27) Having a baby is not like how it looks like in commercials/shows. It is crazy (esp. the first weeks!), messy, and disorienting. But it is a different kind of joy and meaning – the kind you rediscover every single day

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I mean, look at him!!!!

28) There really are things outside your control. And that’s okay. Breathe! Seriously, that’s okay. haha
29) Character is built when you decide to keep your values, good attitude, and good outlook even through difficult and disheartening times
30) Character is more important than intelligence
31) Practice thinking 5-10 consequences ahead of a decision
32) You will make mistakes and at times, compromise values. The way forward is not to justify them but to admit that they are wrong, learn from them, and move forward

Okay, this won’t be a yearly tradition of X things I learned in my X years on earth. haha But truly grateful for this life full of adventure, experiences, moments, and yes, lessons. While I’m always hungry (breastfeeding mom problems), my heart is full. 

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2016 made me feel like Jon Snow

2016 made me feel like Jon Snow (Game of Thrones reference – and it is not a spoiler, geez). I realised that I knew nothing. For some of us, the world before 2016 was a bit more understandable, logical, and even predictable. But 2016 was that huge curve ball with spikes that just knocked us off our game and pricked the bubble we never thought we were in.

I’m not going to enumerate and analyse all the weird, painful, scandalous, and surprising things that happened this 2016 to the world. You can do a quick google search and see news, fake news, blogs claiming to be news, comments sections (don’t go there), and so much more! What I am going to share with you are more personal things I learned this 2016 so that I don’t forget and hopefully, you don’t forget too and you could come up with your own list of lessons learned for 2016.

Before the lessons, let me warn you that 2016 is probably THE most difficult year for me personally. It was my high school bully: irrational, persistent, and really really mean. It also came with an awesome gift, which is my little baby boy Miguel. But I felt so so battered and bruised that I found it extra challenging to even take care of my son. And it was a horrible feeling! Don’t worry though, I feel much better now. There are still many challenges, but I am well enough now to reflect on them and even objectively (gasp) evaluate some of them.

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2016 was so rough and tough that I made a letter to it in code (that I invented when I was 9) because I wanted to vent without censoring myself. Decode at your own risk (please don’t). 


So with that super cheerful caveat, here are the lessons I learned for 2016 (not in order of importance):

1) It is possible to memorise the lyrics of Guns and Ships (Hamilton Reference) and still not be able to rap it (HUHU). Keep on practicing anyway and you’ll get there little by little (I can rap 2 sentences now). Like most things, just knowing what to do is not enough, you have to do it and do it over and over again. So don’t stop learning. Learning is a muscle you have to exercise! Every achievement, no matter how small, will build your confidence and help you achieve more.

2) We know nothing. I thought I knew people and common sense, but really, the world is much more complicated than that. We have to dig deep and out of our comfort zones and echo chambers. We have to expose ourselves to discomfort and really listen to what’s being said and what’s not being said. The world does not revolve around our definition of “common”.

3) Don’t think in terms of prerequisites. How does this look like/sound like? Like this: “If only I have X, I’ll be able to do Y”. And this is SO HARD. It is easier to hide behind prerequisites. But prerequisites are tricky. There are always prerequisites to the prerequisites and the list goes on. I mean, there are times when prerequisites are really needed before something gets done (Oh, I know this SO well), but don’t let **all** aspects of your life and happiness depend on an external factor.

4) We are all just figuring things out as we go along. Not even the smartest person you know has got everything figured out.

5) Losing your chill is a choice and there are consequences. There were many times this year that REALLY tested my chill. Seriously. And there were times when I lost it and times when I kept it. Now, I could just say that “that’s the way I am, accept me” or “Oh well, my emotions got the better of me”. But saying these just won’t help me grow or improve. Instead, I’m accepting that keeping my chill is my choice. And for the times that I’ll lose it again, I could always, always bounce back and try again.

6) Making difficult decisions can be done in a compassionate way, but some decisions really have to be made for (and I used to hate this term) the greater and more long-term good. I wish life is not riddled with so many compromises and that we can truly have it all. But that’s not the case in life, business, love, diets, and other things. The best we can do is try (all the time) to remember our values and let it it guide the way we do things.

7) People will help you in their terms and in how and to what extent they want to help, not necessarily with what you need. And that’s okay, you’ll survive!

8) There will be some causes that will drain you in so many ways, but you’ll stick by them anyway because of love. As cheesy as it may sound, love is a valid motivation – not necessarily just financial gains

9) But having said that, money is important. The more you avoid it (the topic, talking about it, asking for it), the more it will avoid you.

10) There is an expiration date to blaming someone else for the decisions you have made even if they made you decide on those decisions. Yes, even if they did!

11) That said, try not to put yourself in a position where other people will decide for you or pressure you to decide against your gut.

12) We can’t give up and we can’t stop hoping. Even if there are lots of things (and people) we cannot understand, we have to try our best to understand them. But as we try and even succeed to understand them, it does not mean that we succumb or give up on our own principles and values. Now more than ever, we have to stick to them and fight for them. The future will be shaped by the battles we choose to fight today and how we choose to fight them.

——

How I put together the 12 top things I learned from 2016:

I keep a digital journal (Day One – I swear by it!) and read through key entries at the end of the year. I pick up and jot down themes, wins, and challenges, and as I go through them, some recurring lessons emerge. It is true that the lessons you have not learned will keep on haunting you until you learn them the hard way. GAH. Thanks a lot 2016. I know that sounds sarcastic (and you have no idea how many times I said that in my most sarcastic tone), but it is quite sincere.

Thanks a lot, 2016.

I did not think it would happen to me: Post Partum Blues

Today is October 23, even if I’m probably going to publish this a few weeks or months in the future. My little baby Miguel is blissfully sleeping, my husband is taking a nap, and I’m typing away on the laptop that I haven’t turned on for what seems like forever. It has only been 11 days and I already feel a few years older (and like 10,000 x uglier). Don’t get me wrong though! I know that I am happy and proud that I gave birth to a healthy little boy! BUT, maybe it’s just too deep in my heart right now that I sometimes (or often) could not unearth it.

The past few days have been a blur of breastfeeding, waking up in the middle of the night to pump and regularise my supply of breast milk, crying for no reason, crying for different reasons, crying because of anxiety, and repeat.

Why am I such a ball of negative energy? It seems like there is no reason to be. First of all, my baby is well (and in my opinion, super cute). Second, my husband and our yaya were there to help with the burping, diaper changes, washing clothes, etc. I am so fortunate to have such a compassionate and hands-on husband. I am also so blessed with our helper who was as excited as we were about the baby!

So when I look at our set up from a far, there is seemingly nothing to cry about or feel stressed about. In fact, it seems like I am getting all the help possible especially while still healing from my C-section. But deep inside, I felt (and still feel) sad, trapped, and alone. And because I could not beat myself up badly enough, I also felt (and still feel) guilty for feeling sad, trapped, and alone. And there were days when I knew why, there were days when I did not know why. I was told by our friends and doctors that I may be going through a very common (but rarely talked about) condition known as the Post Partum Blues (different from Post Partum Depression).

See, I have always been an achiever and go-getter. I am SUPER competitive and demand so much from myself. So when my body would just not heal fast enough for my standards, I felt helpless. And I’m not used to feeling helpless. I am used to being the empowered and empowering person who has a plan for everything. So far, my pregnancy and birth plan all went according to… plan. I did not have morning sickness, dizziness, sensitivities, excessive weight gain, or any discomfort that I often hear about. Haha okay, I did not exactly plan not to have all the discomfort but I thought I did. When it all worked out, I thought it was because my plan worked out. While my baby decided to come around 5 days ahead of schedule (still full-term though), that turned out to be a great thing! And my plans, back up plans, back up to the back up plans, all worked out.

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I mean, look! I was able to even take a selfie with the guard who wheeled me in! And I was already in labor then! This was the face of someone who was clueless about what’s about to happen.

But I did not plan to have the post partum blues. I did not even consider the possibility. I thought I have everything figured out and that I was super strong and chill. I was not prepared for it (who would be anyway?) and I felt really bad that it hit me.

Before I knew it though, we are on day 11 and things are a lot brighter and better – but really, I’m coming from a low base. And I promised myself that I would write about this while it is still fresh, even when it is probably not yet over. I hope somehow, my journey will help someone out there who needs some encouragement and inspiration.

Here are the things I learned when dealing and recovering from the Post Partum Blues:

1.) Don’t compare your journey to others

My condition was probably aggravated by my being VERY competitive. Competitive people like me like to look around and compare (so we can compete better), and I did just that. I compared myself to super hands-on moms who look so pretty and effortless on Instagram and Facebook. I compared myself to moms who seem so happy and blissful about their newborn and they could not wait to breastfeed 24/7. I compared myself to the moms who have the resources to hire all the helpers possible to help them take care of their babies. I compared myself to the moms who chose to take care of their newborns themselves without any help. I compared myself to every single mother I know or I encounter even online.

Thanks to really supportive and understanding mommy friends that I have, I was able to process my thoughts and feelings. One of the best pieces of advice that almost immediately made me feel better: Focus on your own story. I can draw inspiration and learn from other people’s experiences, but my story is my own and it is far from over. I am writing it every single day.

2.) Remember that taking care of yourself is good for yourself, your family, and your baby

Thinking about your happiness does not mean that you are selfish, especially if being happier will make you a better person and a better mother.

For me, I knew that sleep was the one thing that could make me happy and sane. I knew  (and experienced!) that I needed at least 5 hours straight or I won’t be able to function in the morning or at all. The “sleep while the baby sleeps” did not work for me as I am always on edge and anticipating Miguel’s cries. I knew I needed help when I started dreading the cries of my baby. It was a miserable feeling because I knew that I have to take care of my little son who I love so much but at the same time, I was dreading it and many times, wanted to hide or run away. To make things worse (this was a major factor), I was still recovering from my operation and could not move about well (or even lie down, change positions while lying down, sit up immediately, etc.) or even carry the baby for a prolonged period of time. I felt like a failure and a selfish person.

Mark and I found a way to help me sleep straight for a night at least, but it entailed introducing a bottle of breastmilk to my son for the night. And of course, because I was on “beat-myself-up” and “I’m-such-a-bad-mother” mode, I googled “nipple confusion” like crazy (as in CRAZY! The folks from Google were probably worried already) and felt bad for not trying harder, not enduring the pain of my incision, and sleeping for more than 3 hours. While my son did not get “nipple confused” and we have been successfully doing latching and bottle feeding without any issues, I was still beating myself up for a good number of days.

Then eventually, I stopped feeling bad. This was because 1.) I was able to sleep a bit better and because of this, healed faster – which was made possible by my amazing husband who took care of me and found ways to help me sleep more and recover, and 2.) I had conversations with lots of moms who had to make choices for their children and themselves too – and these choices were different for each mom, but all fuelled by their desire to do be the best people and mothers they can be to their children

Each mother is unique. We are built differently and we have different needs. Some could endure long sleepless nights and still be able to function well. Others are sick or recovering and may not be able to care for their child immediately. But regardless of how we are built, we all have so much love to give. And we can and will give this love not just for the first few days of our child’s life, but for the rest of his/her life and our lives. There will always be do-overs and every new day is a new beginning. We’ll be more effective in showing this love when we nurture and nourish ourselves as well. My son deserves the happiest and healthiest mother I can be.

3.) Acknowledge your fears and feelings, process them and try not to feed them

Easier said than done. I spent a few days just being afraid of absolutely anything and crying about anything and everything I could think of. I had a couple of panic attacks too. I thought of all possible scenarios of our lives with Miguel, even the highly unlikely ones. I drove myself to crying spells with these thoughts and then felt guilty afterwards for letting myself get down the rabbit hole too deep.

What helped me climb out from the rabbit hole slowly were 1) Going out for a drive with the husband even for 30 minutes – being outside and seeing streets, traffic (yes, even traffic!), other people, birds, leaves, falling leaves, fallen leaves, absolutely anything – taking a break puts things into perspective., 2) Putting on lipstick – seriously! It made me feel a little bit like myself again, 3) Writing down my fears and “talking” to myself (and people I trust) about not living in fear. I told myself that if these fears happen, and I spend now until then just being afraid, then I missed time and opportunity to enjoy the moment and just be with my family. If they don’t happen and I spend now until then just being afraid, then being afraid will be my default and I will always be anticipating the events that I’m afraid of. I might as well be actually living in them.

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October 23, 2016 – We drove around Ateneo and I felt a little bit like myself again – but a version of myself who was overly excited to stick my head outside the window, take photos of everything, and just breathe the air outside our house. haha

4.) Surround yourself with people who can support and help you – and don’t be afraid to ask!

As an independent woman, I am used to doing things by myself and for myself. But motherhood made me realise that I could be independent without carrying the weight of the world. In fact, if I don’t carry the weight of the world, I could be more caring, nurtured, and nurturing.

5.) Find your mommy pegs – the ones with philosophies and lifestyles that you actually want to live (don’t compare yourself but find bits and pieces of advice that you can adapt)

Moms have been around for forever. I mean, that’s common sense but I think for the past few days, I forgot that mothers have been doing this for centuries! There is no shortage of role model mothers out there with different parenting styles and lifestyles that I could draw inspiration from.

I am so fortunate to have a group of friends who are moms too, who replied to my frantic FB messenger/Viber/Whatsapp messages for the past few days.These mommy pegs were able to raise their children well while nurturing themselves and their craft/work/career/vocation. They shared their own stories, techniques, tips, and tools that made me feel a lot less alone and a lot more equipped.

Regardless of their choices though, they encouraged me and told me that I should do what feels right for me and not compare (again) my journey to others.

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I have a new found deeper respect for all parents out there and promised myself to withhold judgment, be kinder, be more compassionate, and share what has been so generously shared with me.

So if you are an anxious new mom, feel free to reach out. I don’t have all the answers and I’m new to this too but it helps to know that you are not alone. Even if we have different journeys and stories, we are in this together.

SUPER IMPORTANT: There is no shame in seeking for professional help as well (especially when you are having thoughts of hurting yourself and others). Remember that you are not alone in what you are going through!

You may call the contact numbers from the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (click this link) or visit/call your doctor (you would probably be surprised, as I was, that they are have encountered the blues and depression in their patients many times) for recommendations.

For family and friends of mothers (or anyone really) who are going through this tough time, they don’t need the “it’s just in your mind”, “be thankful for what you have”, or “change your mindset” advice. Some of you may not have gone through this, but it does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Try to understand, show your support, be there for them, and encourage them to seek help. The world will be better if we show  and share more love (less judgement) to each other.:)

Dear Miguel

(1)8rPF+DF Fernandez-Ruiz, Reese_4424

Dear Miguel,

I am so excited to meet you in a few weeks! I sometimes still could not believe that by Christmas, we’ll already have you with us and we can carry you around, play with you, and introduce you to our family and friends!

There are so many things I want to tell you and stories I want to share with you, so expect a lot of letters, emails, and messages from me that will keep you reading for a long time. And if these are not enough, we’ll also talk for hours!

For now, I want to share with you some things about you, me, your daddy, your Titos and Titas who already love you so much, and some bits and pieces about how life with us is going to be like.

1.) First of all, I want to let you know that we’ll be trying our best to be the best parents for you. We’ll fail once in a while (or a lot) and there may be days when we won’t be our best selves for ourselves or for you. But no matter what happens, we won’t give up on trying and we won’t give up on you. In this family, no one gets left behind or forgotten (you’ll get that reference soon enough)

2.) You have a really cool (and sometimes weird) family – your grandmas, grandpas, Titos, Titas, cousins, and more! You also have Titos and Titas who are friends and colleagues of your mommy and daddy. They are all very excited to meet you!

3.) I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for maybe about 3 months straight. Those were our first 3 months together (with you in my tummy). So if you can rap Guns and Ships easily, you can thank me later. But no pressure son. haha

4.) You will grow up with friends from all walks of life and backgrounds. Sure, we will attend those big and fancy birthday parties too, but we’ll also go to different communities and celebrate with them in simple and meaningful ways! We’ll do the things we love with the people we love the most.

5.) We will speak to you in English, Tagalog, and Bisaya (and we wanted to add more languages except… we don’t know them, so) from the very beginning! You won’t be an English-speaking kid who can’t understand or speak Tagalog in your own country. It is really not hard to learn 3 languages at the same time. You can do it my love!

6.) We will teach you how to pay bills, ride public transportation (not in an “immersion” kind of way, but actually learn how to go places – but your mommy and daddy are clingy, so we’ll go with you), open your own bank account, cook your own food (shoot, that means I have to learn this too, but we can do it Anak), get your own water, wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean your room, clean some areas of the house, and all the possible life skills that you need to learn to survive! These things are fun too!

7.) We’ll definitely do our very best to teach you the right values from the very beginning, but we won’t do this in a vacuum. See, you are part of a bigger world! This world is a big one. We are all figuring things out in this world and your mommy and daddy are blessed to have good people in this journey. We will all hang out together! This community will teach you empathy, compassion, kindness, and openness (which means you’ll get to know people with very different beliefs and backgrounds too). They will also help you realise that discourse, disagreements, and differences are not causes for divisiveness.

8.) We will not make your assignments, projects, talk to your teachers to boost your grades, or badger everyone we know to “like” your projects on Facebook. You’ll do all these (and more) yourself, with our loving guidance and support. We will trust you to fight your own battles, hustle your way through life, go through your own disappointments, and rise up again and again from falling or failing.

9.) We are big believers in “I love yous”. Your daddy and I say I love you to each other all the time. We say it before ending a conversation, before going to sleep, upon waking up, and any and every chance we get. And we mean it every single time. Welcome to the I Love You Club, buddy!

10) We love you for who you are and we accept your journey. You won’t be an extension of ourselves or our dreams for ourselves. You are not here in this world to take care of us when we get older. You are here because of love and out of love. You are here in this world to love, make your own path, make your own difference, and search for your own meaning. We’ll challenge you and encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone, but we’ll be patient with your process and support you in that delicate balance of hustling and being patient with yourself too.

(1)8rPF+DF Fernandez-Ruiz, Reese_4416

 

One of the Forgotten Things About Starting a Start-Up

When R2R was starting, it was kind of a side hustle for me and for our other co-founders. Jumping into entrepreneurship is exciting and nowadays, romantic. People will tell you to just go for it, just do it, jump and make the parachute on the way down. And to some extent, those are true. 

But there is another truth that is not as emphasised (or known) by our well-meaning cheering squad. 

One of the most common questions I get asked when I give talks in provinces or schools is “how can I be an entrepreneur and support my family?”. Most of the young people who ask this are breadwinners of their families. They would love to jump into building an enterprise they are passionate about, but don’t have the bandwidth, capital, or even free time, to do so. Most of them have to get jobs with regular income straight out of college to help support their families and younger siblings. Our responsibilities may be different, but the concerns are somewhere along those lines too. How can I start an enterprise while making a living/supporting my family/paying for rent/paying for the bills/saving for the future/etc.?

Yes, jumping all-in into entrepreneurship is not as easy when you are “adulting” in life.

So here is one of the things that don’t get talked about or emphasised as often when people talk about entrepreneurship: If you want to eventually start your own, one of the best jump off points will be organizations (that you believe in of course!) with bosses that support side hustles and entrepreneurship. You can work part time or full time, learn on the job, and contribute, while still having some time and flexibility to start something you are passionate about. 

I was super fortunate because my bosses during my first job (Program Assistant for the Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program of Ateneo School of Government) were so supportive when we were starting R2R at the same time. 

I still showed up for work every single day and even during the weekends when needed. I commuted like crazy rain or shine, and showed up in the office (mostly) on time (those were the days when traffic was not yet as bad as it is now, but it was still stressful). But even if I kept full-time hours, I did not feel censored or stuck. 

My bosses talked to me about career options, social entrepreneurship, R2R, and they even indulged my once-a-quarter (or maybe even more frequent than that) soul-searching consultations. I worked on R2R stuff right after work, during the night, and some weekends. I got my full Millennial on with my bosses, but they remained patient, kind, and encouraging. When I decided to leave after about a year to go full time in R2R, they were not just happy for me, they became our advocates too.:) 

I got my full Millennial on with my bosses, but they remained patient, kind, and encouraging

Without their support and guidance, it would have been extra challenging for me to work full-time on R2R with our co-founders. I would have also starved in the process – or lived exclusively on cup noodles (well, not the entire time because some of my friends adopted me – that’s another story for another day!). 

But of course, while my bosses were super kind and supportive, I also had to do my share. Here are some of the lessons I have learned when keeping a full-time job + starting a side hustle that you eventually want to transition to a full-time thing: 

1) Don’t shortchange the company/organization that supports you and provides you with the flexibility to do your side hustle/passion project. While there may be times when your mind will be filled with possibilities for your side hustle, always be present (physically and mentally), responsive, and give your 100%. A good work ethic does not just apply to your side hustle/passion project.

2) Maintain good relationships with the people you have worked with. 

3) Inform your bosses and the people you work with, about your side hustle especially if you expect it to take more time to do. Supportive bosses will help you figure out a good schedule that works for both of you. Stick to this schedule! 

4) When it’s time to leave your job, be decisive so that the company you are working for could immediately move forward, and do a proper turn-over

5) If there are things that your previous job would need from you weeks, even months after your resignation, be generous with your time and talent. Generosity goes a long way and will definitely be remembered and appreciated! 

6) Before you start your own company, figure out how you can build a great culture and a supportive environment that enables others to pursue their passions too! It will not be the easiest thing, especially when you have critical priorities and your company needs focus. But it could be done in baby steps, starting with flexible hours, creativity days, one-on-one sessions with your team members, and other small initiatives that could enrich your company and encourage your team. 

Starting something is not just dependent on the entrepreneur’s grit or hustle.

I have read hundreds of pages of books and blogs about being an entrepreneur. There are tips about hustling, being gritty, not giving up, focusing on the mission, and other really sound advice. But starting something is not just dependent on the entrepreneur’s grit or hustle. New things, including start ups, are nourished by an enabling environment with nurturing mentors and leaders. It is important to identify them, seek them out, and engage with them.

I would not be here without them. 

So here is a shoutout, a long-overdue thank you, to the mentors and leaders who made it possible for us to get this far.:) Thank you Fr Ben Nebres, Dean Tony La Vina, Arnel Casanova, and Harvey Keh! 

Why Finding Your Passion is Not Enough

Warning: Venn Diagrams ahead 

When I was younger, I thought that I really wanted to 1.) graduate with honours, 2.) get a high paying job in a multinational corporation, 3.) climb up the corporate ladder, 4.) go for an MBA or further studies, and 5.) build my own company to be my own boss. In that order. And that is a perfectly good path. I know lots of people who are on this path and they love it! But I came up with this roadmap not because I felt passionate about it, but because I thought that it made the most sense.

See, I did not have the connections, inheritance, free flowing allowance, or the luxury to figure myself out and eat, pray, love. Nope. Earning a stable income was not a personal goal, it was a requirement for survival. Literally. So early on, I conditioned myself to choose the most stable and less risky path.

But life happened during college and utterly disturbed me. Ateneo’s “Men and Women for and with Others” happened. Philosophy, Theology, Socially Oriented Organizations, and Gawad Kalinga happened. I started reflecting and discerning a lot and realised that this is what I really want (that dark pink area in the middle):

The Venn Diagram of finding the passion you can pursue in life 

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I got incredibly fortunate to find this in R2R (Rags2Riches, Inc.) almost right after college, while working as Program Assistant for the Ateneo School of Government’s Youth Leadership & Social Entrepreneurship Program. I stuck to one thing for 8 years. And I love it! BUT. That is not what this article is about (I’ll write about that in the future). This article is about identity and about how doing what you love (or having your own pink area in your Venn diagram) is not equal to finding or defining yourself. I wish I knew this earlier. I mean, I knew this conceptually, but concepts are easy, living them is harder (guess the Hamilton song reference). 

Note to self: Your passion and the company/business/activity that manifests it, are parts of you. Do not get lost in it.

For the first few years (and until now), the company was growing, surviving, and learning. It needed my focus and dedication. I thought I could not afford to do anything else. I mean, sure, I went on vacations, watched a lot of TV, watched TED talks, joined some workshops and events. But mindshare-wise, I did not allow anything else in. No side hustles and no unrelated intellectual curiosities. And to a certain extent, that was okay. I deeply believe in the company’s mission after all and we were trying to solve a social problem that we were passionate about. It truly deserved focus and dedication.

But this is what happened to me: I focused on my work in R2R and unintentionally made it define me. I never allowed myself to feel that I deserved credit for anything in R2R but at the same time, I did not know what I was good at (or good for) without it.

After a few years of this kind of mindset, my Venn diagram looked like this:

The Venn Diagram of Getting Lost

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It was incredibly lonely to be that little dot lost in that big wonderful thing. And yes, it looks like a pimple too (haha). For good reason. My situation was not helping the big wonderful thing that I love.

I stopped learning, listening, and growing outside of the work I’m passionate about. And that did not help the work I’m passionate about.

How did I realize all these? Well, for one, I was no longer curious and could not remember the last time when I was. I was no longer fascinated or impressed with anything. I would travel for work but won’t have that wide-eyed wonder anymore. I would meet really interesting people but I won’t be interested.

Because I got too caught up with what I love doing, I forgot how to appreciate it or anything outside of it. I became almost like a snob who thought that I knew it all, and I have been there and done that. Yet strangely enough, at the same time, I felt inadequate and undeserving. What a weirdo.

It all caught up with me about a few months ago (or maybe creeping up since a few years ago) when we had to go through the biggest challenge that we have ever faced in R2R (another story for another time). At the same time, I got pregnant. These two huge milestones shook me. This combination was new to me. Because I lived inside my own mental solitary confinement for so long, I suddenly did not know how to move forward. I was not able to practice the mental and emotional agility that comes with opening up to the world. So the feelings of inadequacy came back. I repeated the vicious cycle.

But instead of drowning in it this time, I decided to get out of it. I am going to be a mom (thank you mommy hormones too, I think you helped)! And R2R’s challenge is about to become its biggest breakthrough! I could feel overwhelmed, but I should not drown, and I must not stop.

So recently, I started opening my world again to the different areas in my life that needed to grow. Instead of being a little dot (or pimple) within my passion, I am my own person with a bigger purpose and my passion has a life of its own too. I am part of it and it is a part of me. And this kind of relationship enriches us both (come to think of it, same principle applies for other kinds of relationships). It kind of looks like this now:

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I think doing what you love is still important. It is one of the best ways to live. Yes, still look for that pink area in your own Venn diagram. It will be challenging, and it will be worth it.

But your personal WHY is bigger than that area and even bigger than your passion – so find a WHY that transcends the roles and encourages you to express and manifest your purpose in every aspect of your life.

Yup, I’m ending this with a cheesy video that relates to this whole article.. 😉 If you have not watched the movie yet, you should! OR, just watch this clip. No spoilers here (I think). 

 

Creating a Bucket List that Matters

  • Went up the Eiffel tower – check
  • Spoke at the Sydney Opera House in front of Australia’s young leaders – check
  • Traveled (almost) around the world without spending – check
  • Met with world leaders and awesome people – check
  • Ate Desmond Tutu’s birthday cake (yup) – check
  • Married the man of my dreams and prayers – check

My life looks like a ticked off bucket list. BUT.

I could think of so many more things that I have done before reaching the age of 30 (and one of my favorites is marrying the man of my dreams & prayers!).

The truth is, life is not comprised of just trophies, certificates, countries, courses, adventures, and awards. It is also full of moments of anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. In fact, the things that really build character are the hard things, not the ones that make you giddy inside.

So whenever younger people ask me about all my achievements (and by “achievements”, some usually refer to the awards, media exposure, etc.) and ask how they could achieve them too, I always feel uncomfortable.

One, because I don’t think the awards, media exposure, or number of passports (or stamps on them) are the goals. The goals should be bigger, inclusive, and based on faith and hope for a better future for everyone. If the awards themselves become the end goals, that would be dangerous and misguided – and such a waste of time and talent. And trust me, they are not good enough as anchors. They crumble when things get tough. 

And two, I don’t think that my life is a success story already told and that it could be measured based on media mileage or awards. Those are not the real achievements (they are great pats on the back though and are definitely appreciated). Behind all the glitz and glamour, I consider my real achievements to be the moments of survival, belief, hope, faith, and love in spite and despite of all the anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. 

So instead of creating just a bucket list of things-to-do and places-to-go (I also have those!), I also wrote another that is more meaningful and will remind me of the more important things in life. Hopefully, for those who feel in a hurry to “achieve” and measure their achievements though external rewards, this list could help you build your own bucket list that matters: 

  • Tell the people you love that you love them, all the time. It may be awkward at first for some people, but you’ll remember these moments the most (my status: YES! all the time!) 
  • Tell your biggest failure story and share its lessons (my status: soon!)
  • Forgive the people you blame for some difficult times in your life (my status: getting there!)
  • Lose an award, nomination, or something that you really want, with grace and genuine happiness for others (my status: after lots of tries, finally there!)
  • Listen to constructive personal feedback without being defensive or listening only to respond (my status: still practicing, but getting better)
  • And finally (but really, the list goes on), find a community that you could love and stick to – it could be a church group, organization, cooperative, artist hub, group of like-minded people, etc. and constantly think of ways to provide value to them. Serving others is one of the best ways to find your calling and passion.

When you measure your life and achievements through more meaningful metrics, all the awards, media exposure, travels, and other things that may come your way (and they will come because the world needs and loves people with passion and purpose), will be nice-to-have. But you’ll find that nothing beats the moments of survival, belief, hope, faith, and love in spite and despite of all the anxiety, self-doubt, failure, and missteps. 

Photo by: Shutterpanda for Rags2Riches, Inc. 

9 Reasons Why I Started Blogging Again

1) I have finally recovered from my previous blog trauma called Multiply – guess what my username was? PAXANGELUS. WHY. 

I used to have a Multiply blog that is so well updated with all kinds of random ramblings. I talked about politics, love, life, religion, movie reviews, and everything in between. But my favorite (NOT) parts of this blog were my “blind items” and passive aggressive posts about my crushes and some people I know. CRINGE. Before Multiply closed down (THANK GOODNESS), I saved all of these entries and secured them in a multiple password protected and authenticated place that I alone could access and read, in case I just want to beat myself up or laugh at my younger self. And no, I am not yet ready to share all of them again. hahaha 

So yes, I was traumatised with my own younger voice. I feel like a Tita cringing at the status messages and posts of her teenage niece. I did not want to write in public again because I was afraid that I will go back to these after a few years and find out that I was not as smart as I thought I was. 

Like this particular passive-aggressive entry:

PaxangelusMultiply

Before I saved this, I edited all of the blog entries to be private (thus, the “for you” note) because I just could not risk anyone else copying them for future blackmailing purposes! And to my three friends who commented, why didn’t you tell me this was a bad idea?!


But recently, I realised that even if I still cringe every time I read my past entries, I should accept them as part of who I am and what made me who I am today. We all have pasts that we are not entirely proud of (right? right? Come on!), but these should not keep us from moving forward and being better.

OH! and I also realised that my past blog entries were meant to be just cathartic. And to a certain extent, personal blogs that are written for catharsis could provide insight and value for others. But I thought that I should expand beyond unintentionally providing value. So now, instead of just having this blog for cathartic reasons (that is still part of it!), my intention is to also learn, contribute, and create valuable and useful content. I have lined up a lot of entries for the next few weeks and even months and proud to say that none of them are blind items or passive aggressive entries! I’m so proud of myself. haha 

2) My twice a month personal emails to R2R advocates

So recently, I have been writing personal emails to our R2R advocates. When we first started doing this, I was kind of hesitant because I thought I would run out of things to say or share. But we are a few months into this now and my mind is still overflowing with stories and new ideas! I’m sure there will be times when I’ll experience some blocks, but as long as there are people, little things to be thankful for everyday, and small victories to celebrate, we’ll not run out of inspiring stories. 

3) Traffic and erratic internet access 

Cheers to finding silver linings! Because of our terrible traffic situation, I find myself on the road longer. And because of erratic mobile internet, I could not answer emails/work/get on calls efficiently while stuck in traffic. Luckily (?), I have audio books and podcasts (all downloaded for offline listening) and my journaling app works great even when offline! So lots of time on the road + erratic mobile internet = lots of time staring out the window, listening to books and podcasts, and getting hit by lots of ideas that I could immediately record in my journal (Day One).

4) My Day One Journal 

Thanks (?) to traffic and erratic internet connection, my Day One is filled with random thoughts, status messages that I wanted to post but did not, and some pretty cool insights that surprise me too when I read them again. I realised that I could be really weird & incoherent, but at times, I make sense. haha

5) Mocha Unson Blog

I know, I know! Okay, hear me out. I have never read her blog thoroughly and I would not repost her blog entries as “credible news” and examples of “authentic journalism”. But like it or not, she has a voice. And she’s not shy about reminding anyone who would listen. And so I thought, if Mocha Unson could blog, anyone should be able to. In fact, more people should! I know a lot of amazing people who are smart, insightful, thorough, and objective, who could make some noise too. If we have people who contribute to the chaos, we need more people to contribute to the clarity.

6) Mar Roxas, the travel and food blogger

His blog is seriously adorable. And he’s a Tito, with Tito jokes and all.

While I was overthinking and second guessing myself and everything I put out into the world, he was confidently incorporating corny puns and jokes into his captions and sentences. I don’t want to be a boring Tita when Mar Roxas is a funny Tito. Please.

7) Arriane Serafico 

I still sometimes can’t believe that we’ve been friends for less than 5 years (according to Facebook though, we have been Facebook friends since May 2010! What?!)! This woman inspired me, ate with me (but like, 10x faster), listened to me, and planted crazy ideas inside my head (the good kinds, sometimes). We have been through a LOT, traveled together, slept on one Hello Kitty bed for a few nights, and shared personal stories of hardships and hope.

And now, she’s venturing into something she has always been great at: teaching and empowering others to achieve their personal goals! I could attest to how great she is when it comes to this and would recommend her class to anyone who would like to set meaningful goals and design their lives!

Being her friend has been very inspiring and her go-getter vibe is infectious! So here I am, go-getting (if there is such a term – there should be)! 

Arriane_Serafico

Screen grabbed from: arrianeserafico.com

8.) Our R2R Team & Artisans

Working with a group of inspiring people with amazing stories is just rejuvenating! We talk about weird and mundane things too, but a lot of our conversations are also enriching and thought-provoking. We talk about our artisans, advocates, positive impact, sustainable design ideas, love (yes!), politics (oh, you should hear us!), creativity, innovations, and many more. Some of my Day One entries are based on our conversations too. So in a way, I’ll be sharing the behind-the-scenes of a social enterprise with a group of passionate people talking about world-changing ideas!

9) And finally, my conversations with my husband


My husband Mark is pretty smart. That’s an understatement actually. He has this natural curiosity & interest in others that I wish I have too! I’m learning!

Fortunately for me, I get to talk to him a lot. We are almost always together every single day, and we have the same values and hopes for ourselves, our family, and our country. I am always learning when I’m with him, which means that I’m always learning.

A lot of the things I log on my Day One came from my conversations with him. We talk about philosophy, ideas, innovations, theology, psychology, the best Tonkatsu place, super heroes, Rags2Riches, Hapinoy, inequality, politics, lyrics of songs that he always messes up, travel, our upcoming baby, and anything and everything we can think of (and we have really itchy minds)! 

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Hihihi #Kilig 

So there! Because of all my “influences”, here are some of the topics to expect from my blog:

  • Ideas – I’ll “give away” some ideas that I hope to see in the world one day
  • Travel stories
  • Life Hacks – mommy stuff that I’ll learn as I go along, productivity hacks I have tried (and worked for me),  and other tips that I could not think of right now but I’ll learn in the future
  • Art stuff – art that inspire me, art I made, etc.
  • Behind-the-scenes of R2R
  • Insights on life, love, some politics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and more!