Embrace Your Fear

I’ve been thinking about the role of fear lately. With my coach, we went over the Emotional Freedom Technique and used it to unblock my fears around money. We’ve then talked about how fear can keep us from continuing on our path but also strengthen our resolve to stay on it. Lately, though, I’ve realized that fear had come back in an unexpected way.

When I started my new job, I immediately felt a tidal wave of stress coming towards me. I kind of waited for it to come crashing down (which it did), since I didn’t know what else to do. As the days slipped by, the wave would come back and hit me again and again. I still didn’t know what to do to keep it from hurting me, so I reverted back to my old ways. My old ways are from my school days, whenever I didn’t want to work on a paper or do a reading. I would procrastinate and stew in my stress – which is probably the worst thing I could have done – until I sucked it up and suffered through the work. This time, though, would be different.

I talked to my coach, and we got to the root of the stress. It was fear. It was fear that I was not prepared for the work, that I was not suited for the job, that I would fail and get fired, that I would never get better… And this would affect everything else going on. It was a kind of paralyzing, viral fear that would halt my daily activities and make me do nothing but, again, stew in my stress. It was horrible, to be honest. But since then, I’ve learned a few things.

I learned that stress and worrying are rooted in fear. Fear is such a powerful and primal emotion that it branches off into other feelings and affects the way we think and live.

Self doubt is rooted in fear. Not feeling confident or courageous stems from the fear that we are not good enough and that we do not deserve anything more.

The biggest thing that I learned, though, is that fear does not go away. It is like a wave; they come crashing down onto the coast, but it’s not always frightening. Sometimes it’s gentle and soothing. I started to read “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun. After reading only one page, I felt a sense of peace and I had never felt so calm. Her words are like a gentle wave, soothing and nurturing. She wrote about fear and how it can reveal everything if you let it. You have to approach fear with intimacy, an intention of wanting to get to know fear and yourself. If you keep running away from fear or trying to distract yourself from other things, you’re not going to be able to make peace with fear. It will continue to be a monster or an enemy.

But I think you can treat fear like something that can be faced with an outstretched hand, instead of a fist or a shield. Maybe you can even become friends with fear. I’m not quite there yet, but I do know that you need to be able to come face to face with your fear. Only then will you realize that the tidal wave can be ridden. And it starts with a shift in perspective, a bit of courage, and an open heart.

So, leave some space in your heart for fear, and see what happens.

Parks and Recreation

This has become my most favourite television show of all time, and I literally just realized that right now. This show crept up on me. My friends at the Harry Potter Alliance had kept talking about it, and I trust that they have excellent taste, so I watched the first episode on Valentine’s Day last year. I didn’t realize it then, but that marked the beginning of my journey to self-acceptance and self-improvement. That February 14th was actually pretty sad for me: I was unemployed, single, and lost. I believe that this show was the start of a better year and a better me.

It just hit me so hard that this show might have possibly saved me from a life without purpose or happiness. The past year and 10 days have seen so much change in me that it cannot be a coincidence. I’ve kind of stopped believing in coincidences.

A lot has happened in 375 days: I got a job, but ended up feeling drained and complacent and unhappy. I volunteered with amazing organizations and felt a higher purpose. I started to write, really write, again. I quit my job and started working toward not exactly a career, but a lifestyle that I would love. I read books that gently encouraged me to keep going. I started doing yoga and have become healthier. Quite a few of my favourite series ended, and left me to pick up on my own story.

I don’t want to recycle my earlier posts about 2014 and my New Years resolution, but I do want to emphasize just how much growth is possible within us if we simply let it happen. It’s something that I’ve learned from Parks and Rec, among many others.

I learned that being kind and hardworking are the building blocks of a successful career and life. I learned that surrounding yourself with people who love and support you create the best relationships. I learned that life is unexpected and often unwelcome. But it will turn around and surprise you again with its warmth and happiness.

This show has made me want to be kinder, more hardworking, more loving and supportive, and warmer and happier. There have been so many reviews of Parks and Rec praising its focus on characters who love each other. Comedies often pit people against each other, and being mean and hateful are used to get laughs. Not with Parks and Rec: being nice and doing things for others are used to get laughs, and it succeeds.

Now, the high emotion from the series finale has finally dropped down, so I will end my ode here. I’ll probably come back to Parks and Rec in this blog to post about other good things like healthy relationships and perfectionism and waffles, so it’s not really goodbye. It hardly ever is.

parks-and-recreation-cast

The 15 Questions Tag

I was looking at Heena Rathore P.’s blog and came across her 15 Questions Tag post. It looked like a lot of fun, and she did tag anybody who wanted to do it, so now it’s my turn.

1. What do you think you can do, but can’t?

Sing really, really well. Like, being able to belt and having a nice chest voice without gasping for air. I’ve been delusional in thinking I would sound exactly like Judy Garland or Lady Gaga whenever I sing along with them.

2. What’s a difficult word for you to pronounce?

Before, it was Massachusetts (I would somehow end up saying “Mass-a-two-shits.”) Now, there’s no particular word in English that’s really hard for me to pronounce, but saying “femme” en français has been a struggle. And pretty much verb tenses in Tagalog.

3. What are your favourite TV shows from your childhood?

Arthur, Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood, Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Pokemon, Digimon, The Weekenders, Recess, The Simpsons, Full House, and probably a few more.

4. What are your virtues and vices?

I care a lot. I care about the work that I do. I care about what other people think of my work and of me. And this leads to me trying to be as nice, pleasant, charming, and agreeable as possible. I think I’m a pretty empathetic person because of this (as well as my imagination).

It also leads to a whole lot of stress and worrying. With my current job, I’ve used up so much time just sitting down and worrying about my lack of preparation or ideas, and it’s been so consuming. It is definitely not good for my mental health, although I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve been able to pull myself out of that funk by just doing the work and realizing that I’ve survived.

5. What’s more important: love, fame, power, or money?

I’ll let Dumbledore handle this one:

There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you [Harry Potter] possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.

6. If you could live in any era/time period, when would it be and why?

I love the 1940s music and fashion, and I would love to see men dressed to the nines more often… But as a non-white female, I’d feel safe right where I am in 21st century western society, thank you.

7. If you had to redo your entire wardrobe with 2 stores, what would they be and why?

ModCloth and H&M. I’m such a sucker for ModCloth’s dresses (although I don’t own any – yet) and H&M has a lot of comfortable and “young” clothing, so I’d feel at home with those two.

8. Can you recall what you were doing a year ago on this day?

Yes, actually! I have this neat journal that lets you log your day over the course of 5 years. You can actually see what you were up to on February 24th. This is what it says:

Had my resume looked over at York for my Odyssey application. Watched Parks and Recreation. Did some MYM work.

So, I went to my alma mater’s career centre for help with a job application, did some work for an organization that I volunteered for at the time, and used my time very wisely to watch one of my favourite TV shows.

9. Do you have reoccurring dreams? If so, explain?

Not really. My dreams sometimes feature reoccurring places. Sometimes, I’m in this huge mega mall that has grand yet industrial-looking escalators, hidden hallways and passages, and a lot of cool stores. Usually, I’m looking for something or running away from something in that mall. One time it was zombies, so that’s cool.

10. What’s your horoscope?

Capricorn!

My Chinese Zodiac sign is Horse.

11. What does your dream bedroom look like?

It would be like the bedroom I currently have, but improved. So, that means a bigger space, a bigger bed (at least a double), nicer and matching furniture, a walk-in closet, more bookshelves, a reading nook under the window, and an attached bathroom. Hopefully that bedroom is in my own place.

12. What position do you sleep in?

Lately, I’d curl into a fetal position on my right side because it’s so damn cold. Usually, I switch from either side onto my back.

13. What are your all time favourite films?

I’m going to (try to) break this up into genres.

RomComs: When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Crazy, Stupid Love

Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series

Dramas: To Kill a Mockingbird

Action: Kill Bill

Musicals: Rent, Chicago, Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King

Movies that fit into multiple genres/I didn’t know where to put them: The Princess Bride, Easy A, Mean Girls, Flipped

… I’ll have to stop there for now, because I’m afraid I’ll spend too much time curating this list and won’t get to the rest of this post.

14. What makeup are you currently wearing?

None haha. When I do wear makeup, though, I put on primer from THEFACESHOP, powder foundation from Zuii Organiz, touch up my eyebrows with an eyeliner from Avon, and put on Revlon Lip Butter. And if I’m wearing contacts, I’ll wear Maybelline mascara.

15. Do you have neat handwriting? Show us!

camillevt's handwriting

I’m going to tag anybody who reads this and wants to do it! It’s a fun way to write and to let your audience know more about you, so I highly encourage it!

School vs. Education

I always liked school. I liked attending classes, learning about new things, doing well on tests, getting praised by teachers and other students, making friends, and feeling like I belonged somewhere. School was such a natural thing for me and for everybody else. It was the “right path” for people to be inside a building, grouped with other people their own age, for the most formative years of their life. That’s around 14 years of your body changing and your mind opening and your heart breaking and hardening and softening – and you’re with hundreds of students going through the same thing. But this doesn’t always become a bonding experience. Children can be nasty.

It was only during university that I fully realized that this business of schooling just isn’t working for everyone. For one thing, we’re made to believe that our paths are linear: elementary school –> high school –> post-secondary education, preferably university –> job –> career – with, of course, marriage and children. But life isn’t a straight line. It’s a series of loops and zig zags, and it’s messy. And the educational system doesn’t really reflect or teach that.

One of the things that I remember the most from The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Sir Ken Robinson, is his claim that the educational system has been formed to churn out work-ready adults during the Industrial Revolution. That’s why there’s a subject hierarchy, and why people believe that getting credentials from a school will directly lead to good work. Think of that what you will, but if this is an agenda that was put into place hundred years ago, then we maybe should be worried that it hasn’t changed that much when pretty much everything else in society has. Of course, this agenda isn’t followed by every school in the world, but the prevailing notion of using education through schooling as a tool or path for the working world is unchallenged.

Education is supposed to challenge. It’s supposed to be about critical thinking, thinking for yourself, appreciating different perspectives, and growing into whoever you are supposed to be. Education happens over a lifetime. And I think that this is something that we forget or take for granted, which is a shame, because there are opportunities every day for us to learn.

And I’m not just talking about those everyday lessons like, “if you hit your sister then she’ll get hurt,” or “if you’re rude to the server your drink might taste funny.” While they are valuable and teach us about basic human decency, they don’t fully encompass what I talk about when I explain the difference between schooling and education. For me, education is also about finding a subject that interests you, and taking your own time and making an effort to learn more about it in whichever way makes the most sense for you. Take writing for example. You can get a BA or MFA in technical writing, communication, creative writing, public relations, and so on. But in order to make a living or lifestyle around writing, you have to figure out how to integrate this practice into your life. And so you learn about what other writers have done and are doing, through their blogs and other written work, going to events, and engaging in conversation with them.This kind of education is like training or development, and actually makes room for the subject to become a part of you, rather than a topic that you read about, take a test on, and then neglect for the rest of your life (here’s looking at you, algebra).

So, what I’m trying to say is that education is not and should not be reduced to a method or a business. It’s a significant part of our lives, and is integral to our growth. It’s empowering, especially if we’re the ones who take it upon ourselves to continue learning about what matters to us.

I hope you take the time and care to learn something that matters to you.

Be the Leslie Knope you want to see in the world.

be the leslie knope

When I was working at my last job in legal aid, I had wanted to print out the above picture and place it at my desk. I had the intention of working really hard to be the best representative I could be, and work so hard that I would change things. Just like Leslie.

Well, that didn’t happen. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to decorate my cubicle with personal things. There were no reminders to be awesome or faces of characters who inspire me or photographs of loved ones. I didn’t even bring my custom-made mug with pictures of my dog. Maybe it’s because I knew deep down inside that this wasn’t the job for me and I would be leaving soon. Maybe it’s because I actually didn’t want to try that hard to make a positive difference. I think it was both, and they were connected.

Leslie Knope tries so damn hard and puts so much effort into her work (she gets like 3 and a half hours of sleep every night!) because she cares a lot about what she does. She loves her hometown of Pawnee, and will do whatever it takes to make it a better place. And she is also completely herself. Her decisions come from a place of integrity and sense of justice, and she’s willing to sacrifice herself in order to do good for the community (like with the recall vote in season 6).

I would love to find my inner Knope. I’m no Gryffindor or bureaucrat, and I’m certainly not as out-going or energetic as Leslie. But I do make a big effort in my work, no matter what it is, and I care about what I do. I want to try to be as passionate and hardworking as her, and hope that I too will make a big positive impact for others. I just have to find my Parks department-equivalent. And maybe a Ben Wyatt-equivalent, but that’s a post for another day.

And as for decorating my workspace? Well, I’ve started to do that at home. Among my to do lists, I have a statement with my intention, “Sharing stories to inspire empathy and kindness,” and I’m planning on adding inspirational quotes, including the Leslie Knope picture. And yes, the mug with my dog is there, too.

The Management of Grief

HP_OotP_excerpt

The above is an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, had just died. Quite understandably, Harry goes into an emotional spiral and through the stages of grief.

I didn’t truly know what that kind of grief felt like until last year when my grandfather died. It was July 31st, which is ironically Harry Potter’s birthday. I, too, went through the stages of grief like Harry did and like everybody else has done. I was in shock – I actually went into shock (I remember shivering under a blanket and struggling to breathe), I was in denial, I was confused, I was angry, I tried to bargain, and I sobbed and howled in despair. I remember thinking about the above scene when I went through this, as well as another scene where Harry isolated himself from everyone and wished that the world would lose its colour so that everyone and everything would match what was going on inside him. He wanted to project his inner turmoil onto the world so that others would understand.

I felt the same way.

The sun was too bright, food was unnecessary, and nothing else mattered.

There were only two things that helped me get out of that: time, and people. The death of a loved one is the number one stressful, emotional, and life-altering event that we experience. But life goes on for us. At the same time, it’s unfair and helpful. You need to force yourself back into the daily routine. It gets you out of your head and interacting with others. Talking to other people is a normal part of life, and although it’s painful for you to share with others this death, it certainly helps, too. People empathize, they show compassion, they give you space, and they just get it. This kind of things affects everyone, and so there is no judgment or condescension. Why would there be? We all suffer, and we don’t want to make it worse for anyone.

It took me somewhere between a week and, well, now, to accept my grandfather’s death and be at peace knowing that he is at peace. I’ve still cried about it every now and then, but it’s become a part of me like confessing to my fifth-grade crush. Both have caused emotional scarring, but now they are not at the centre of my life. They have shaped me, but they do not define me.

Everybody has scars. We can hide them, present them, heal them, and accept them. Probably all four at some point, too. I just hope that we don’t become too busy, tending to our own scars, that we ignore everybody else’s.

Bloglovin

I’m now on Bloglovin! You can follow my blog here. Bloglovin is an aggregator that allows you to keep track of your favourite blogs and to see all of their updates.

This is just one small step of many that I will take to prove to myself that I am a good writer and to hopefully gain more readers.

If you’ve been reading my work for the past few months or have just recently discovered my blog, thank you! 🙂

Halves and Wholes

I’ve always wondered what it really means to be in a loving relationship with a soul mate. Is this person really the alpha and the omega of your life? Are they your best friend, your inspiration, your partner in crime, and the most attractive thing on the planet? Is this a lot to ask of one person?

I think so. Elizabeth Gilbert agrees in her book, Committed. It is a lot to ask of just one person to fulfill all of these requirements that you can find in your other relationships. Your best friend can be your significant other, or your mom, or that person you went to high school with. Your inspiration can be public figures and even ideas. Your partner in crime can be your dog. Or, actually, all of these things can be found within you.

I’ve read parts of my old journals from my high school and university years, and while a good chunk of it is embarrassing, there are many times that I surprisingly found my younger self introspective and genuine. There is one thing that I clearly remember from those journals, and it’s that I had mentioned several times how incomplete I had felt. And that the only thing that would fill the empty space would be with a boyfriend and a relationship. This next part is embarrassing, but I just recently realized that I don’t have to have a boyfriend to feel whole. I can and have found fulfillment in other ways: writing, having meaningful conversation and other relationships, spreading sprinkles of kindness, watching my favourite TV shows and movies, feeling grateful, and living in the moment.

Another thing that I remember writing about is whether a relationship with a soul mate takes on either ones of these formulas:

1 + 1 = 2

or

1/2 + 1/2 = whole

The latter is definitely more romantic, which is why I had firmly believed in it for so long. It’s about two people finally finding their other half and feeling complete. They complement one another and perhaps need one another. But let’s talk about the former. The former believes that the relationship is a partnership of equals, and takes into consideration that these are two people trying to make a life together and will butt heads once in a while. And so I think the first formula is more realistic.

However, I kind of don’t want to accept it as the only formula or the right formula. I want the reality and the romance. Also, relationships aren’t stagnant; they’re ever evolving because people need to adapt to new situations in order to survive. So maybe, relationships can be either formula or a combination of the two. Maybe there’s another one that works even better. In any case, let’s just say that people find fulfillment and a sense of completion within themselves and with others, and it’s different for everyone. I know that may not sound romantic or poetic, but it’s the truth. And I hope that you find something beautiful in that truth.

A Day to Love

So, Valentine’s Day is coming up. I hope that I won’t be sad like last year. 2014 was probably the first year that I was in a bad mood on February 14th. I think it’s because it was the first time that I wasn’t preoccupied with something big, like school and/or work. And so my mind decided to focus on the fact that I was single on that specific day.

Which is funny, because on the other days that you are single, it’s not such a big deal. Yes, there are decorations and couples going out on dates and romantic movies playing all day – but really, it’s not so bad when you really think about it. There are decorations and sales for potential gifts at other times of the year. There are couples going out on dates all the time. And romantic movies can be watched or broadcast any time of the year. It’s the fact that we’ve made February the 14th a day to specifically celebrate romantic love that can make us feel overwhelmed or sad.

I’m feeling really optimistic, though, since I had a really good day. My new job is going well and I feel like I’m in the right place in my life. So it’s hard to put myself into that more negative mindset, especially about a holiday that I think is so good for the world. Love is what makes life worthwhile. It’s what can start and end wars. It’s what makes a house a home and a group of people a family. It’s – in my opinion – the strongest thing in the world.

Which is why I’ve intended to stay positive and be loving for this year’s Valentine’s Day, even if I will spend it without a significant other. And it’s okay to be single. If you’re reading this now, I want you to know that you can make any day of the year a day for love. You can spread warmth and gratitude wherever you go, whenever you choose. You have the power to love, and you have the choice to share that love everyday.

Help

I’ve been having trouble getting through a book called, “Think and Grow Rich.” It’s said to be the Bible of self-help/how to become successful books. I had started reading it last month, and I swear, it has never taken me this long to read a (relatively short) book that wasn’t for school. Looking back, I should have realized that it wasn’t really helping me like I thought it would. Yes, I did get inspired to dream bigger and to set goals for myself. And there are really great tips on what it takes to follow your passion (or burning desire) and become a success.

But it didn’t inspire me on a deeper and more visceral level. I didn’t want to cry or tell anyone about what I was reading. I didn’t want to buy a copy of the book or look into the author’s life like I would with a novel. And I didn’t realize this until now, because I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

I just watched The Help for the first time today, and I loved it. I loved pretty much everything about it. I loved that almost all of the memorable characters were women. I loved that it displayed the humanity within all of us: our fears and our weaknesses, our courage and our strength. I loved that it portrayed the amazing relationship between women, and how each woman was her own person.

There were a few things that made me uneasy, though. How things haven’t changed so much that we can say that we’re finally past all of the racism and hatred. How a woman’s place in the world still has strict boundaries on all sides. How Minny and Aibileen would still face economic uncertainty (i.e. inequality), and Yule May will still be in prison for pawning a ring so she can send both of her children to college.

There was something else about the movie that made me feel the fire inside. Skeeter Phelan wanted to be a writer, and got her start in a housekeeping column of the paper. But then she had an idea to interview all of the maids – the help (and this is interesting to me, because in Tagalog that word, “katulong” is still used to describe caregivers and housekeepers) – about their perspective about working for white families. It was something she had never done before, and it must have been all kinds of scary and exhilarating. I really identified with Skeeter, because I’m still at that beginning stage of writing and I’m searching for something that I find important, something that really matters to me. And also because she’s the only one in her group of “friends” who isn’t in a relationship.

That, too, was a big deal for me. Skeeter felt out of place in her hometown, in her family, and in her circle of friends. I’ve felt that way a lot, and I’m still dealing with what I can do about it. She let herself become vulnerable and fall for somebody, only to have him end the relationship because he couldn’t deal with who she is. She published her first book, got offered a job as an editor, moved to New York, and would start an exciting chapter in her story.

I can’t help but be jealous of her. Not for being white, but for having the guts to write about something she’s passionate about and scares her, for leaving her friends and family behind, for pursuing her dreams and leaving a mark on her community. And it made me wonder, will I ever get to do that? And how will I get to do that?

The thing, though, is that Skeeter didn’t even write that book by herself. She just took the stories of over a dozen women and sent it for publication. And in the process, she got to support these loving, hardworking, angry, passionate women by sharing their stories. And in a way, that helped her with her story.

Isn’t that how we get anything worth doing done? By helping each other? By inspiring each other and reaching out to share our stories, hoping that this act will peel off another layer of humanity so we can see ourselves reflected back?