17 Lessons of 2017

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As I scrolled down my newsfeed, looking at all the 2017 memes, I thought to myself: “So this is what it’s like to not relate to new year posts. I like it.”

Photo credits: Sarah Andersen

Around this time last 2016, when I was doing the same thing, I was one with the general sentiment of the public – we had been beaten down to a pulp, surprised by plot twist after plot twist, taunted by everyday existential crisis and we just couldn’t wait for the year to be over.

I’m glad that now, I actually feel different about the year that was. By the grace of God, it has been amazing and life-changing for me. Rather than relieved, I’m ending the year feeling extremely grateful for all the chances I was given and for all the love I’ve received.

2017 was a year of growth and learning what it was to dream again. It’s about winging it and discovering that I could fly. And most importantly, it was about people, rooting my heart in them and understanding how it was to build and belong in communities.

(One important milestone: I started teaching this year. Though I originally planned to teach later in my career, God called me to teach this year and I decided to give it a shot. Best decision ever!)

With all that said, I’d just like to share a few lessons I learned from this past year:

  1. Leave toxic relationships. – When the year started, I was still in a state I didn’t want to be in. I was slowly losing myself – I could feel it – but at the same time, I was scared to do anything to regain myself because I felt like I was merely walking away instead of moving forward. Eventually, I realized that that was the thing about toxic relationships – they will make you feel like you need them, like you have no choice to be with them, like you would be a coward if you leave them. But those are all untrue. You can learn from them and go on with your life. You don’t have to be stuck in a situation where you are unable to grow and be yourself.
  2. Climb your mountain. – This applied to me both literally and figuratively. (Shout out to Team Tagaktak!) Though I’ve only climbed a mountain once this year, it was enough to wake me up and get me going. Physically exhausted, I thought that I’ve reached my limits. But, with good company and motivation I never thought I had, I reached the summit. With this experience, I learned to believe in myself, to believe that I am capable of taking charge of my fate. (It was this climb that pushed me to leave and take a step into a new direction.)
  3. Start your dreams now. – Maybe it was the climb or the desperation. I don’t know. But this year, I learned that you make your perfect timing, so if you have a dream, pursue it.
  4. You are your best self. – I actually reached a state of being this 2017 where I loved everything about myself and my routines. I was super caring about the welfare of those I loved. I took care of myself too. And I was doing everything to the best of my abilities. I called it my best self. Unfortunately, my best self was only good for two to three months, and when it wore off, I was so frustrated at myself. It took a while for me to understand that I am my best self. It’s all within me. I just really have good days and bad days but that doesn’t negate the fact that I have become this person that I can now love and forgive.
  5. Anchor yourself in people (no matter how scary that might be). – One of my biggest struggles this year is in the attachment department. When you’re someone who’s learned to live alone and depend only on yourself, you tend to detach from people or be more cautious in forming new relationships. So when God sent me a ton of good people this year, it was hard to accept immediately. I didn’t know what to do and how to open up (especially since I learned that people can be lost and relationships can be broken). But let me tell you this: anchoring myself in those people was the best thing I did this year. Whatever happens in the after, by welcoming them in my life, I have been blessed with beautiful moments.
  6. When you open yourself up to the world, it will open itself up to you. – Trust me, for an introvert to learn this is a BIG feat. I prefer my world to be small, focused on a certain group of people. But, as it turns out, when you give the world the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to be good to you, it will respond with kindness.
  7. Sadness, anxiety and doubt, even during sunny days, are valid. – For most of the year, I’ve been showered with blessings. But, believe it or not, even on those good days, I still sometimes feel bad. Initially, I thought that feeling the way I felt was wrong, that people have it worse than me so I shouldn’t mope around. I was blessed, for crying out loud! But it does happen and it’s alright.
  8. Relearn what it means to be a part of a community. – Going back home meant rewiring my brain from strong independent woman living alone to strong independent woman living with her family. Since I already had a taste of independence and freedom, I had to relearn consideration – how to consider other people and include them in my routine. And because of that, I was able to take down the walls I put up when I had to “grow up” and “go away”.
  9. Your happiness can depend on you.  – I’m not saying that only you can make yourself happy. I’m saying that you are capable of making yourself happy. When you go out into the world where your path isn’t as predetermined as you thought it was, you realize that you have to actively participate in your life and to make decisions in order to be happy.
  10. Not shouting back doesn’t always mean that you’ve shut yourself up.  – This applies to arguments. When I was younger, I always just kept quiet whenever I’m at the receiving end of a conflict. Over time, I learned to speak up and I detested keeping quiet. However, maturity helped me realized that the quiet is needed and valid.
  11. Kindness, true kindness, has no concept of self. – Refer to Christmas 2017 or even all the small things. I realized that during the most spontaneous moments of kindness, it’s all about choosing them over you.
  12. Pursing your dream won’t be exciting all the time.  – Hello Haber (my book in the making)! You’d think that when your finally writing it, you’d be so inspired and motivated all the time. You’d think it will finally feel like your doing something right and the whole world is proud of you. Wrong! That’s the idealized version of a dream my friends. Dreams will drag you down in the gutter even when you have nothing to give. But you go through that journey anyway because its your dream.
  13. Every person deserves a massage, at least once. – You’ll understand when you experience it.
  14. Keep track of yourself to better understand yourself. – Thanks to a close friend (henlo, Gims), I was inspired to journal. For the first time in forever, I consistently journaled for roughly four months. Throughout this experience, I was able to escape, pace myself and most importantly, reflect. Because of that, I was able actually detect if I have issues that I’m merely trying to repress.
  15. Allow yourself the comfort of comfort things. – This year it was pizza and donuts. You really need to have something to hang onto.
  16. You will always get tired and stressed. But you can choose what to get stressed and tired over. – I don’t know if this goes with the saying “Choose your battles” or something but what I’m pertaining to here is about career. All jobs will tend to demand from you but you can choose one where doing so wouldn’t be so bad.
  17. Get up, even if your back hurts, even if you had a bad dream, even if you’ve barely slept. – The day gets better. You’ll never know what’s in store if you don’t get up.

If you want to read the 16 lessons I learned from 2016, click this link.

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how she learned to be afraid of attachments

 

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Artwork by Fanny Nushka Moreaux

 

Younger, she could boast about one thing – once she decided to keep you, she’ll never let you go. She never gave up on a friend, even if there was distance, because she wasn’t one to lose people. (Perhaps, that was why death was one of the concepts she found really hard to process.)

But older, one of the parts of her she had to trade away was her naivety. She learned that there were people who went away, who took different paths and worse, that she wasn’t that good at keeping correspondence because time and distance had the power to make her forget and feel awkward.

The lesson was: She had to work hard to keep people because people didn’t and couldn’t always stay.

But learning this lesson also birthed a new fear – the fear of getting too attached. She’s already too familiar with forming deep connections with the souls of the people she let in. But, as life had been slowly teaching her, all these people eventually became just parts of moments she once lived and not constants with whom she shares her new secrets to (and sometimes, it was her fault for not reaching out as often as she used to).

Accepting the possibility that people could leave meant she had to worry about investing her heart in every new person she lets in. It meant dreading the goodbye. It meant trying to promise in a future with a person while trying to push down some sort of bitter taste down her throat. It meant learning that she mustn’t be as capable as she thought in being a friend who keeps and a friend worth keeping.

(How and why is it even possible that good people would be sent in your life only for you part ways?)

She hopes, one day, that this fear turns into an inspiration instead, that the fleeting nature of people make them more precious. For now, she’ll try to live in moments, work on keeping people and remind herself to live life boldly, without any regrets.

The concept of timing and time

 

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Image grabbed from Pinterest

 

Isn’t time merely a construct (just like all the other abstract things I cannot explain well)?

One early afternoon, I was writing down my third to-do list of the day (instead of actually trying to accomplish one more task). As I was listing lessons that I needed to make PowerPoint presentations for, I kept thinking about the vacation that was and how I planned to supposedly have made the same presentations I was planning to make, then.

I planned a lot of things that I supposedly should’ve accomplished during the sembreak. I made a lot of promises to myself too. Though I did tick some stuff off my bucketlist  like jumpstarting my novel, learning to drive (properly) and getting a student driving permit, I didn’t finish everything I had to do.

As some sort of mechanism to forgive myself, I told my turbulent thoughts (Hello Virgil!) that maybe there isn’t really a certain time for certain things. After all, if I really wanted to get things done now, I would and should do it now. I didn’t have to set a one-week vacation period for me to function hyperproductively. I could continue on and I can start anytime. It was me who set that deadline and me that was disappointed in myself for not being able to commit to it.

It sounded like an excuse. Of course, I believed in time, whether it be a construct, a divine gift or a limitation. More specifically, I believed in timing – that there is a right or wrong timing for things. In writing – and I hold onto this dear God because if not I’ve just been wasting the years – I believe that certain things have to be experienced first before they can be written. I couldn’t have written about magic if I didn’t know what magical feels like, right? In love, I believe that the right love and the right person wouldn’t feel right if it isn’t the right time.

So if there is such a right time in doing things, shouldn’t it have been done then? Or is that not the right time too?

I’m talking about two different meanings of time and timing now, aren’t I? (I shall not correct myself. I’m merely rambling so mismatch of meaning and non-sequiturs are normal.)

I don’t hope to get any resolution, to be honest. All I want is peace of mind. For now, that means believing that whatever happened during the past week was meant to happen – the good, the bad and the lazy (and yes, even the sickness).

Writing Anxiety 1: How do you keep at it?

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Since I’d have relatively more time for at least a couple of days, I decided to continue writing my novel. With God’s grace, I would be able to finish it before the year ends.

I just have a tad bit of a problem.

I conceived the novel idea last 2014 but it took me about a year to actually begin writing it down. And as you can see, it’s already 2017 and I’m barely halfway in. (I’ve just written about six chapters.)

I know that I can write and that I actually have no problem letting the words flow. It’s just that I’ve always found excuses to not write the book. I would often busy myself with work or other writing and creative projects instead of doing it.

I think, I’m just really worried about not getting it right that I’m obsessed with being in the perfect state of mind before I get to writing it (and if you know me, you know that that almost never happens. My mind’s always a wreck).

For this week, even if it’s just this week, I’ll try to turn that part of my brain off and just do it. I’ll sit down and write and let the world come alive again. It’s been so long and that’s why I may be too focused on making it good rather than telling the actual story I want to tell. I need to remember.

Last night, I started doing that. The dilemma was actually finishing chapter 5. It’s been almost six months since I began writing it that I didn’t know how to finish it. I actually thought that it’d still be a long way before I can cut it but I surprised myself by just doing it.

Now, I’m at chapter 6 and what’s so lovely about this journey is that I was surprised by one of my characters because *insert spoilers here*! It’s amazing when they come alive like that, doing things I didn’t tell them to do.

Okay. That’s it for now. Hopefully, I am able to stick to this thinking until the end.

how do souls brush against each other?

 

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Photo credits: Pinterest (Mishal Benson)

 

to remember that it was a kind of brown,

one that looked like a Monday, like coffee overflowing with sugar,

tucked away inside the eyes of someone who had a lot to say.

there was music and it sounded like pieces of piano keys falling, one by one, like

childhood and the last second before falling asleep. the room knew what was happening,

letting itself be occupied by vacancies and paint splattered on the walls. the paper knew

what it felt to be remembered, so it offered itself to idle strokes and the silence thereafter. in

that instance, there was a universe created, a silent agreement of

allowing the breaking of defenses and taking a step closer. there were secrets

unexplored still but it was then that looking into someone’s eyes meant

seeing them. (finally.)

To me he was Odin

If there was a rule to guard against attachment, it would be this: Do not let the name speak to you. Do not allow it to roll off your tongue. To use names would permit a sense of permanence and familiarity to settle atop your shoes and would bless the soil with that moment forever. (It would be too hard to commit to.)

But the eyes will always try to speak to you first. Despite your initial resistance, it will whisper to you. That day, it was Abby. And then, Odin. Before I knew it, my system accepted the register and I was holding your head. I said it aloud.

My hands never reach out first. They dread the split second they hang on air, wanting. But if I do attempt something, the heart suffers the most, because it explodes both at the thought of flying and actually getting somewhere.

I’d just like to think you understood me then. (Let me pay tribute, before I repress the happiness any further.)

because secretly, i’m a mermaid

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Photo credits: The Daughter of the Sea by Marco Busoni

There had to be sunlight somewhere. For fish hungry for water, it seemed ironic to first look for heat. But there she was, feet already sprouting, yearning for the sort of warmth she didn’t even understand.

What does it take for breaths to have meaning? Swimming around, she came to know air only as something you need for catching up. The sea was just a place to go. The waves were just a means of passing by.

Inside her, stuck in between bones she called her body, was more water. Her lungs were a well of salt and saliva, thickening with every inhale. Was it dark there? Was it dangerous? (Nonetheless, they were still just transparent.)

What did it mean to be buoyant? Sometimes, when she touched her scales, she can imagine herself floating. Though in her head the surface is also the sea, she knew she really didn’t need to escape water. Drenched, she only needed a small flame to hide underneath her shell.

Write about happy things, Pollen.

 

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My attempt at trying to look cute (sorry)

 

Maybe it’s because, for a really long time now, I’ve used writing for the bad stuff by default, that I feel somewhat awkward using it to document something good. Like for instance, an intense argument would prompt me to write a poem, immediately taking me out of my heaven-knows-how-long writing slump while the small miracles happening in my day to day life wouldn’t even deserve a short diary entry.

Maybe, because it’s so easy for me to come up with sad words, I’ve forgotten how to write about being happy, or at least how happy felt like, that now that the emotion’s overwhelming me, I don’t know how to describe the feeling.

I’ve had so many reasons to be happy over the past couple of months but I haven’t really been keeping the stories about them, even in my private journals. At the time, I figured, I wanted to feel them in the moment and keep them alive only then because I’ll remember the feeling anyway.

However, now that I’m looking through the things I’ve written during this time of happiness and bliss, I realized that there weren’t many memories to look back on. Yes, I remember feeling happy and I still am happy, but I couldn’t find the little stories that built my big moments.

Hence the questions: “Have I forgotten how to write about the happy things?”; “Do I still know how to write about the happy things?”; “Why am I not writing about the happy things?”

Not wanting to miss out any further, I decided to write this post, just so I could remind myself later of the reasons why I have been and am happy.

“Senpau”

At the time I’m writing this, I’m preparing for my fourth week as a teacher.

I always knew I was going to teach someday but I didn’t expect to be teaching this early. Despite my initial worries, I’m so glad I took the risk anyway because I’ve found a place where I can do purposeful and meaningful work every day.

Though the workload can be overwhelming at times, at the end of the day, my job makes me feel like I’m serving God’s purpose and I’m making a difference.

(Sometimes, I wonder if I’m normal because I didn’t think it was even possible to love something you do so much that the stress feels like a minuscule part of the job package. Is it still normal to want to do this so much?)

Good people

Now that I’m back home, I’m constantly around the people I love the most – family, best friends, orgmates… etc. In a way, that has healed me and brought me back to a healthy state of mind.

I’ve also met a lot of new and nurturing people who make me so so so happy. All of them are very supportive during tough times and are good company when in need of a good laugh and deep conversations. I’d like to think we were brought into each other’s lives not to just cross paths and make a difference for a short amount of time, but to keep each other as wonderful friends from now on until who knows when.

My best self is myself

The past few weeks has helped me constantly meet my best self, and Pollen, when she is her best self, could be absolutely wonderful. Pollen is at her best when she is unafraid, when she trusts herself, and in those moments, she can do anything.

To know that my best self actually exists within me can be absolutely life-changing. There’s a part of myself that I like and I can trust and that means everything.

The things I can do, the purpose I can serve will be limitless if I kept being my best.

(I like this writing exercise. I’ll try to write more of these happy reminders.)

Of having have left

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Photo grabbed from: Vince D.

A year ago, I wrote “The curious case of leaving”, detailing how I felt during graduation and the LAVOXA send-off. There, I told myself that:

I may not be in a good place right now but I know that I’ll get somewhere someday.

Somewhere, after a year, turned out to be on Sir Jun’s roof top, celebrating his attorney-hood with Lavoxans of different generations. Despite initial hesitations about going, I came to congratulate him for achieving his goal and for just being an awesome human being, really. Also, it was the perfect excuse to meet up with Lavoxans and other friends.

In a mix of familiar and new people, I felt less overwhelmed than I would’ve been a year ago. I wasn’t fretting about silence and having no one to talk to (because, bottom line,  I really just wanted to be a part of this moment). More importantly, despite being a potato, I have learned to give in to urges of wanting to see people whenever I have the chance to do so. Perhaps, I have grown up.

Note to self: Missing them could just mean missing them, not distance or rules of separation.

Other than being a little more carefree, there’s a lot that changed about me – both good and bad. The good include this new sense of self-love and assertiveness that I found inside me. The bad include parts I’ve left stagnant and parts I lost.

I admitted it before, there are parts of myself that I may have unconsciously traded away for learning experiences, but at least, now, these missing pieces are currently being healed and filled with a new kind of magic. So right now, I’m happier and I know more of myself.

Status: Healing and Happy.

After a long while, I finally felt like I’m doing something right again. For so long, I’ve been so down about life, getting through days just because I had to. I’d almost forgotten how it felt to do good, to care about people, to pin your heart on your sleeve without worrying that it’ll be slashed into pieces.

It seems that, even though I’m still not 100% percent sure about where I want my life to go, I’m at a place where I’m meant to be. And this place, is not a safe haven where I can hide until I feel better, instead, it’s a home where I can challenge myself and rediscover the “Pauline Navarro” that’s been slumbering for months. I recognize myself now.

God, I’m just so thankful!

A year ago, I couldn’t even imagine how I would be able to go, survive. Now, I can look back on the experiences I’ve had so far and thank them for the lessons they taught me. It’s just unbelievable how after being so lost back then, I’m here now with direction and heart still full of hope.

Maybe, this piggy really has taken flight.

 

Thoughts up on Manabu

Photo taken at Mt. Manabu summit

 

Last February 4, I joined a mountain climbing trip to Mt. Manabu with Team Tagaktak. It was a spontaneous trip (at least for me) since my sister notified me a night before the hike. Though I was tired from the work week in Manila, I said yes because I did want to return to Manabu after four years and I wanted to meet up with my Lavoxa friends.

So yeah. The hike happened like that, on a whim, but after it all ended, it felt like I needed to be there, like it was meant to happen. I won’t narrate the entirety of what happened. Instead, I’ll just write what I learned from the climb.

Travel at your own pace.

I started confidently, striding alongside those who have more recent experiences of hiking than me. I thought to myself that Manabu was the mountain of my childhood anyway and I conquered it before. But I was badly out of shape and I needed to realize that. It was only when I allowed myself to slow down and take breaks that I was truly able to experience the hike.

There are things you don’t give up on. (Find real motivation.)

At the time of the hike, I was on the brink of deciding to move on from something big. That was when I came to learn that I don’t need to put up with meaningless things. So maybe, it was by default that I also thought of giving up on the climb after my body gave away.

But the hike wasn’t meaningless. I just couldn’t understand what it meant to me initially. I needed to find real reasons why I should go on.

Partly, it was the team, specifically Sir Jun, who really pushed me to reach the summit (because they won’t leave me no matter how much I told them that I’ll be fine). But mostly, it was a bet with the mountain and a promise with myself. I told myself that if I was able to reach the summit, I’d be able to take the “next step”, face everything toxic and live meaningfully.

There is beauty in both knowing and not knowing your limits.

The hike was a wakeup call that I was so out of shape and that I’m not living a healthy lifestyle. Two stations in, I vomited and felt my spirit exit my body. My insides were shaking and my lips lost its color. Every cell in my body begged me to quit it.

I told Sir Jun this as he egged me to continue. Then he responded saying that knowing and not knowing your limits is equally important. Thinking that you still have it in you to walk an extra mile even when you’ve exhausted yourself, can push you to exceed your limits.

Take care of yourself.

One does not simply climb mountains. Despite being in bad shape, I was able to finish the course, yes, but if I want to do it regularly, I have to start taking exercise seriously. (I actually promised myself to return in a month with more fighting spirit and a better body condition but guuuuh. I’m sorry.)

People come together through labored breaths.

I’ll admit, I was pretty intimidated by Team Tagaktak initially. I’m not an outdoorsy person or someone who actively seeks to join groups like theirs. And I know that I often get mistaken for a timid introvert with different priorities in life.

But that day, I was just myself around them. Though I’ve been dragging the trip, they made it feel okay and encouraged me all throughout. They made stopping and resting normal and they stood by the code which is to never leave anyone behind.

I know I’d be fine if the left me alone in a rest stop or something but it felt good to experience their sense of loyalty and kindness first hand.

(A/N: Kinilig ako noong inadd ako sa FB group. First climb ko pa lang naman pero kahit pa.)

Away, you can be most honest with yourself.

As we hiked, everything was just fleshed out and real – the numbness of my feet, the mud inside my shoes, the thorns poking my skin. And then, the wind, the smell of grass, sunlight. In that setting, how can you resist admitting that you are in fact, just a girl trying to take a leap of faith?

You’ll find yourself in a different place just by turning around and facing the other side of the mountain.

When we reached the summit, I turned to the side facing San Pablo. The lights were dimmer, the wind was stronger and I felt magical.

It’s okay to depend on people.

(And it won’t mean that you’re necessarily a burden.)

It’s a matter of finding your own path, and being willing to dig deep in the mud if you have to.

This is my favorite part of the hike! We went down at night and I walked at my pace (which was slower) so of course, I got separated from the group. It was fine because I made paths of my own and led Lyka who was behind me. That really motivated me to do well and wow. It felt like I had a knack of finding my own direction.

The most rewarding thing is feeling sweat flow down your forehead.

(I’ve missed sweating that much for anything.)

There’s a certain song, rhythm you come to memorize in the dark, when going down.

(And because of that, you come to memorize the landscape.)

Bet against the mountain. Promise victory.

I finished the hike. I will return a better person and conquer it(myself) again.