Early Bird

*What follows are my ‘sabaw’ thoughts at the early hours of the day. Hello to the way too early morning people like me.*

I wake up at three in the morning every work day. My brother leaves for work around that time, so I get up and transfer to the living room couch when he leaves, to catch more sleep. I only start moving around at four or 430am. By that time, I prepare my first mug of coffee and set out to do my morning chores before leaving for work: sweep up, let Marshie out, wash some dishes, and prepare my baon breakfast.

I’ve always been a morning person, so I don’t really mind doing chores early. It’s peaceful and quiet, with only the sound of AM radio and the occasional neighbors’ dogs’ barking keeping me company.

Quiet and still, except when a couple of months ago, the neighbor’s alarm startled me out of my struggle to stay awake as I was frying some chicken franks. The alarm resembles the sound of a crying cow. Try listening to the sound of a crying cow at 430am, while you’re still trying to wake yourself up. Disturbing, isn’t it? After a while, I had gotten used it, and actually miss it when I don’t hear it. The alarm blasts on for about 20 minutes. Such a heavy sleeper, my neighbor.

When I’m done with my chores and before jumping in the shower, I sit down, browse through some perpetually horrid and repetitive national news, and enjoy my second mug of coffee. Yes, I’m already on my second by 5am.

By 530am, I start hustling, and then I’m off to another day on the battlefield, where by 1pm, I’d already be yawning. Lola mode on.

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Time

This morning did not unfold the way it normally does. I woke up at my usual 3-330am, transferred to the couch after my brother had left for work, to catch on more sleep, and then finally got up around 4am to begin my Friday.

As I was having my first mug of coffee and figuring out what to prepare for my breakfast baon, I thought of what my parents would be doing today. I wondered, as I always do, what they would decide to have for lunch, how they would spend their Friday, how they would feel having all their kids out and having our lonely house all to themselves.

My parents are elderly, and unfortunately, my brothers and I cannot take them out as often as we used to anymore because apart from their illnesses, they tire pretty easily nowadays. They stay home almost all the time. We only get to spend time with them when we come home from work (which is always cut short because sometimes either my brother and I are already too tired from work, or my parents turn in very early at night, or chores get in the way). My brother and I spend the weekends mostly running errands and doing chores. I’m not proud to say it, but I feel we don’t get to spend enough quality time with mom and dad. And that bothers me.

So as I was having my coffee early this morning, I decided to ditch work today and do something nice for them. But what?

I remembered they’ve been craving for ginataang halo-halo for a couple of weeks now, so I offered to go to the palengke to get the ingredients. They know how much I dislike going to the palengke, so they were in disbelief that I would actually go. Their faces lit up the moment they realized I was serious about it.

The ginataang halo-halo was cooked and enjoyed by my two tanders (and me of course). During the meal, we were able to catch up and talk. There were lots of stories and lots of laughter – – simple, but quality time.

I’m not proud about ditching work today, and I don’t claim to be the best child ever, I just feel when one must weigh family and work, the former trumps the latter. And clearly in my case today, I made the right choice. When family and loved ones, especially parents, are in the picture, I feel there’s no such thing as ‘I’m too busy with work’ or ‘I don’t have the time’. Hands down, and it doesn’t even have to be said, you make time.

Perspectives

On the 22nd to the 24th of August, I attended a workshop on Change Management conducted by Microsoft Philippines. Have you ever attended an event that left such a huge impact on you that you just couldn’t stop thinking, reflecting, or talking about it? Exactly how I feel now. I’m on a high.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit plateau at my job for the past year. I’m less motivated and less challenged. There’s still a sense of contentment, but there’s also an urge to find more growth. And with ‘find’, I mean explore some place else where I can fly and soar yet again. I’ve been constantly praying for contentment and guidance on what path to take.

About a month ago, I was asked to join ‘a workshop that was going to be held in Makati’ because one of our consultants, who was originally supposed to go, was not going to be able to for some reason. A ‘filler’, a role I’m trying to get accustomed to in government service. Despite that, I accepted the offer and only had two concerns: 1) what’s the workshop about; and 2) will a shuttle be provided (~because Makati). I was a bit hesitant, but more excited, looking forward to what I may learn and eager to have a change in environment.

The workshop was postponed twice which made me less interested about it. When I was informed that it will finally push through, I wasn’t too ecstatic about it anymore.

It only dawned on me how cool of an opportunity it was to be sent to this workshop on the first day upon arriving at the venue. From then on, considering that I am after more motivation and challenge, I embraced the task at hand and resolved to maximize the opportunity.

I sat right on the front row, something I don’t really do, determined to focus, listen, and engage. It wasn’t at all difficult to do because the workshop was very reflective and hands-on. In fact, I was so engaged that I managed to win the best project pitch for my team and a quiz game on the last day. Hello, competitive. I was dubbed the class valedictorian.

The workshop allowed me to realize I may still have more to give professionally; that I still had more to offer and contribute; and that this brain of mine can still think and produce wonders. (Those peanuts I endlessly munch on are working overtime, kids!) 😁

Kidding aside, apart from the many takeaways I had from the workshop, I realized that the solution to every instance you hit plateau is not to run and seek a new home. Yes, change is inevitable, but most of the time, you just need to step away from the plate and take a breather.

I’m thankful the consultant was not available for the workshop. I’m thankful I was the next best choice to attend ~ the ‘filler’. I’m thankful for opportunities to breathe fresh new air, learn, and reboot.

Mirror

Every morning, as I prepare for work, and every night, as I prepare for bed, I tell myself that I am beautiful. My special someone tells me I’m beautiful multiple times, every single day. Sometimes, out of complete humor, I send text messages to my family, just to remind them that I am beautiful. I don’t always get the best responses, but I know deep down, they know it. Lols. There was a time though when I was not this confident and loving of myself.

I was a thin and lanky kid growing up. So thin and lanky that a relative actually told my mom I probably had tuberculosis. At first in school, it wasn’t so much about me being ‘too thin’ though. I was teased for having a ‘big nose’. “Tomato nose” that’s what I was called, and it’s the reason I’ve always been bashful about my nose. I remember one instance when a classmate told another classmate that when I smiled, my nose only got bigger. That very instance was the reason I smiled less back then.

There was also a time when I was considered ‘maitim’ (dark skinned) and ‘pangit’ (ugly). That confused me because at home, my family considered me ‘beautiful’, and no one ever called me names because of how my skin looked. It bothered me why some people in school referred to me as ‘ugly’.

I still remember those days like they were only yesterday. I still remember how I felt.

I eventually moved on from it for some time, but it was like a voice that kept haunting. You never forget those things, do you?

I started having weight issues in my 20’s. Who knew that the thin and lanky girl would get flabs in the most unflattering of places. I was mostly teased about my arms that were likened to those of a boxer’s, and my belly. I used to wear whatever I wanted, but then, I suddenly couldn’t. It felt like it didn’t fit. It felt like it didn’t look as good as it did before. It felt like it didn’t look becoming.

There was always something wrong because my body was so wrong. My body was so wrong all because it didn’t look like the others that were leaner and more shapely. I disliked my body so much that I even avoided full-length mirrors like a plague. All these, just because I didn’t look like everyone else.

It took time, like just recently, for me to realize how I allowed other people’s perception get the better of me; how much I’ve punished myself for looking the way I did; and how unforgiving I’ve become of myself.

I realized that I can’t control other people’s opinions of me. Or even if I did, I figured, it’s not going to be worth anyone’s time. But I can change how I see myself. I can change how I feel about myself. I can be more positive.

Part of the journey is surrounding myself with people who inspire and encourage, and at the same time, learning to accept and give criticisms in stride – – constructively, and not insultingly. Certainly, hateful words do not and will never help.

And of course above all, I am learning to accept myself for what I am and for what I am not, knowing that how I see myself is more important than how others see me. I take steps to better myself FOR myself.

Frankly, it’s an awesome journey to be on. ❤

Gift

Do you remember this?

It’s the pen that you gave me during one of our occasions as a couple. “Write your story,” it says. In the box that it came with, you attached a short note. Part of your note says, “Take this everywhere with you, and let it remind you to write your own story, your own destiny. I hope to be in it.”

I remember feeling all giddy about what your note said, and even more because, of course I knew, that you were pushing me to write again.

But I didn’t write again.

After we broke up, I stopped taking it everywhere with me. I stopped using the pen. I placed it back in its box, together with your note. I hid it somewhere I can’t immediately see. I didn’t want to be reminded of you. I didn’t want to be reminded of us.

That was almost four years ago. Over the weekend, I saw the pen, and I read your note again. There was a slight tug on my chest. It wasn’t because of past hurts, but rather for the first time, your words – – – the ones you had engraved on the pen and written on your note – – – actually, truly spoke to me.

I have since gone back to writing, and I’m creating pieces more than I’ve ever. My pieces allow me to be myself, with each work baring my soul, allowing me to be free, and hopefully reflecting honesty, sincerity, and authenticity.

With each work, my story is told; With each work, my destiny unfolds.

My life.
My own.
On my own.

Without you.

Seven

Seven years ago, a day after my last day in Xavier, I started my journey in government service, on the 1st of April in 2011. My mom thought it was an April Fools’ joke, to be asked to start on such an awkward day. It’s true though, I was asked to report on April Fools’. And report I did, excitedly.

Quite fitting though because many thought it was foolish to leave a stable job where I had already reached my peak and where, to them, I had more room to grow even further; And even more foolish to join a government agency I had no idea actually existed before. Or even if I did, I chose to ignore.

To be honest, it wasn’t an easy choice, and at one point, because almost everyone was saying it, I started to think that maybe I was being foolish.

But life’s like that, I think. It allows you to be foolish in order for you to realize what’s actually important, or what will actually make you happier. In my case, it was important for me to explore other options, to see what else is beyond the walls of Xavier, and to find fulfillment again.

And explore and find fulfillment, I did. (Also convenience.)

Foolish choices don’t always turn out well, I know, but they’re also not complete and automatic failures.

In my case, my 7-year foolish choice has turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made.

Segregate

Been cleaning my room since yesterday afternoon, and I’m only halfway done. Everything is being categorized into ‘dump’, ‘donate’, and ‘keep’.

It’s amusing how cleaning out your stuff can turn into a trip down memory lane though, and how difficult but liberating it gets when you start deciding on what to keep and what to throw away, and how each thing, though material, has played a part in your life. It’s like saying, “I want to keep remembering this” or “I want to stop being reminded of this.” I found lots of both in my pile. I’m a hoarder, I know. I’m kind of like Sheldon in that sense although unlike him, I choose to let go of most of my stuff.

Here’s one I found that I’m choosing to keep and always be reminded of. Taken either in 2007 or 2008 for the Grade 7 yearbook, during my last year as an administrator. Quite the throwback, indeed.