The Pilot

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my first newsletter.

I write when inspiration strikes, but these days, it seems to happen only when I am suffering from heart break or celebrating yearly milestones. The batting average this year are two blog posts which imply I lead a very boring, uninspired life. Quite the contrary!

Thanks to James Breakwell of Twitterverse, I may have solved my “writing dilemma” a.k.a. procrastination. James is a comedy writer by profession and he tweets about his witty conversations with his four daughters. If you can’t get enough, which happened to me, you may sign up for his weekly newsletter which comes out every Monday. Go on, check him out. His Twitter handle is @XplodingUnicorn. All I can say is, James has made my Mondays great again!

Thus this idea of my own weekly newsletter. Will I make your Mondays great too? I don’t know because it’s Thursday now and I am way past my deadline. Maybe I should publish every Friday, call it the TGIF newsletter.

My Monday last week started out at 41,000 feet above Russia. I was coming home from a week-long business trip to Oxford and it culminated with a 13-hour direct flight from London to Manila. I never got any sleep, which was not a surprise considering how tense I get when I fly. Many of you know how much I love to travel. It’s my life’s greatest passion. What you probably don’t know is I also suffer from fear of flying. I have tried to overcome it by learning more about flying, almost to the level of its math and physics. I think I can be a pilot now – if YouTube videos count as professional training. Traveling alone means I have to deal with it like it’s nothing. Traveling with friends means at least one of them might end up with bruises or broken bones from me clutching their hands or arms so tight during turbulence.

This flight, though pleasant and smooth, caused me a bit of a panic attack because the flight map suddenly stopped while we were flying over Sweden. This was about two hours from take off. Watching the flight progress helps me relax, and with it stuck, I am helpless. The interesting bit here is the same thing happened seven hours into my flight from Manila to Heathrow. When asked, the flight attendants could not explain it. One of them even said, “No ma’am, it’s working.” She tapped on the monitor and the monitor lit up. I had to explain it was the little airplane on the telly that seemed to be stuck in Sweden when in fact, we were about to land in Manila. This happened on our flag carrier which is disappointing but not quite a surprise. We Filipinos aren’t exactly known for five star airlines nor airports.

I couldn’t sleep so I ended up watching random episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Fresh Off the Boat. I can’t watch violent films inflight because it worsens my anxiety. I tried to watch Thor, but I ended up trying to decipher if the noises were from the movie or the plane. So I just stopped.

I tried reading a book I picked up in Kensington Palace, “The Really Useful Guide to Kings and Queens of England”. I got bored with it so I inserted it in the seat pocket in front of me. I was so pleased with that book, I felt like I won my way into the British royal family.

As we were about to land, I stood up to get my purse. When I sat down, the guy seated behind me said, “Hey, your pants are ripped at the back.” I felt the back of my pants and yep! He saw my very cheerful yellow underwear. At least I had underwear. I had my favourite warm kaftan to cover me up so problem solved.

I deplaned, went through our newly automated immigration, collected my luggage and considered eating Jollibee before going home, but decided against it. I wasn’t a balikbayan long-deprived of the taste of home. I did feel like one even if it was just a week. The local food in parts of England I’ve been to is not really something to rave about. The office cafeteria in particular I would recommend avoiding. But you also can’t because the office is in the middle of nowhere and the next source of sustenance is probably in another village. On the week I was there, they served a “Filipino Menu”. I wondered where they got the idea that Filipino food was bland and not greasy? The chef need to watch Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and try sisig.

I finally decided to go home. While in the car, I realised to my horror, I left my new book on the plane! The royal family and I are not meant to be after all.

I came home to a quiet apartment. And rather dirty because four grown men just spent the weekend here. They’re my father and brothers so I don’t mind. And I don’t have a choice. LOL. I decided to camp out and sleep on my sofa while I stripped my bed of the sheets. One week later, I’m still sleeping on the sofa. People who have been to my house know that my sofa is like a lullaby. I sometimes wonder why I got myself a real bed if I would prefer my sofa over it. I’m not planning on sleeping on my bed anytime soon.

Home sweet dirty home. I did spend the whole Saturday cleaning, to the tune of Stickwitu by the Pussy Cat Dolls. Finally, I recognize my home again. Funny, James Breakwell mentioned Roomba in his newsletter this week. I’ve been thinking of getting one. I’m finally open to living with another, and I choose a robot vacuum cleaner. I think this is easier than finding a quiet, intelligent and knows-how-to-clean husband.

As expected, I was back at work the next day. I have yet to decide which parts of work I should share from now and in the future. Maybe I will stick to the fun and funny. It’s safer that way.

For now, I will miss England. I will miss my favourite London and the perpetual grey skies. I will miss my Heathrow Express adventures and pretending to be Miss Jane Marple in 4.50 Paddington. I will miss the long walks to the Underground and waiting for the train. I will miss taking the long trip to Oxford and taking the bus to Woodstock. I will miss the creaking of the stairs on my way to my room at the 300 year-old Macdonald Bear Hotel. I will miss the vast empty fields of Kidlington which is where the office is. I will miss my quick trip to Kensington Palace where I got lost in space and time imagining a rich history of reign and royalty.

For now, so long and farewell, dear England. I will see you again soon.

I have been asked a lot about travel tips and I hope to be able to share those with you in my next stories.



The Trapeze

Reflections on my last day as a 38 year-old fabulous, kick-ass boss of my life, captain of my soul.

In a few hours, I will be 39. It will be the last year in my thirties. Oh boy, am I in a rollercoaster of emotions. I started having short bursts of tears about 5 hours ago.

I spent the whole day sleeping, inception levels. I was dreaming within a dream within a dream. I was in San Francisco, then UK, then I “woke up” and I was somewhere else but the rest I cannot remember. I must have been so exhausted, even the noise of 10 people cramped in my house could not shake me. When I did wake up, I felt so refreshed. It was a lot like when I slept for 9 hours straight on a 12-hour flight to London.

I finally made it to the gym and spent about an hour on a bike while watching Private Eyes. So glad Matt and Angie are back!

Now I am seated at a local Dunkin’ Donuts having some much deserved coffee and a rare treat of choco butternut.

To say the least, my thirties has been the most eventful, crazy, happy, sad, adventurous, wonderful, amazing, depressing and lesson-filled years of my life. I was actually out in the real world!

My thirties is when I got my heart broken the most. I look back and think about my dating history. It’s practically non-existent by the way, but those times I did, it was fun and exciting and full of hope. Eventually, they all didn’t work out, but I am all the wiser and definitely relieved that I did not get married or have children with any of them. Realizing how wrong they were for me was in hindsight (just like any other bad decision) and I am glad they are all in the past. I get asked a lot when I am getting married or when I am having children. When, not if. That’s how society rolls. I don’t know the answer. I am still open to both, provided I don’t have to swipe in an app to make them possible.

My thirties is also when my professional career took off. I graduated so late from college I thought I wasn’t going to make it. My mother thought otherwise and she was the one who pushed me and made sure I did. I joined the corporate world in 2005 and has been living in it since. I have had the privilege of meeting so many interesting and brilliant people who believed in me and paved the way to where I am now. I have also had the privilege of experiencing really trying times in my career but those pale in comparison to the many chances I was given to bounce back. In this world, I have proven that no one is an island. A friend once said to me, “Stop giving someone credit for your achievements. They are yours and yours alone.” I did not say anything but I disagree. I know what I bring to the table. On the other hand, you can be as smart and great at what you do, but if no one believes in you, I doubt you’ll go very far. I am very lucky to have been able to show what I can do and to have had people who knew and gave me due credit.

My thirties is when I started thinking more about my mortality and that time really is short. Three years ago, before I went on a trip to Seoul, I had pain on my right breast. I decided to visit my gynecologist who felt a lump and had me undergo an ultrasound. A mammogram is not recommended for my age yet, so ultrasound would be the way to go. The good news, it was benign and I have a condition common to women my age. I was referred to a breast surgeon who helped me understand what I had and she has been monitoring me for the last 3 years. The first time I underwent a breast ultrasound felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe and I thought, if this is not cancer, I will instead have a heart attack. So now, I get into waves of fear and calm for every year that I have to undergo this exam. I could not be certain of what is worse – the unknown or knowing. Every negative result I end up crying buckets and just feel as if my heart would burst for being so grateful to be alive.

My thirties witnessed how our family grew from 7 to 14. Count in 3 sisters-in-law and 4 nieces in the last 7 years. A lot of changes happened in our family, but they were all small miracles and I am glad to have witnessed the birth of our future generation. It’s definitely filled with women and I pray that they grow up to make their own marks in the world.

In my thirties, I found myself more frequently reevaluating friendships, relationships, personal goals, the meaning of happiness and success. Pretty much an evaluation of everything I ever stood or hoped for. I thought I would have been married with kids before 30, but I wasn’t. I went into relationships even when each was pretty much wrapped in a big, red flag because I was scared time would pass me by and having no man is a failure. I treated work as if it were the reason for living, at one time spending 16-hour days at the office. I was like this until someone cared enough to force me to realize work is a never ending battle. Work is also where you can be sure you will not please everyone, so why kill yourself trying? The same applies to friendships. I have been thinking about a few people who I have considered to be really good friends, but I realize it was a one way street. I always felt like an afterthought to them. I finally acknowledged this and I’ve decided I matter to the right people. That should be enough. There is no need to force friendships that are not there.

Somewhere along my thirties, my idea of success changed from having as many new clothes as possible, pairs of shoes, a car and getting promoted as fast as possible. Now, success means being able to sleep soundly at night, getting enough rest on weekends and being able to exercise. When I get back to my healthy weight and body fat percentage, that would be like conquering Mt. Everest! There have been some opportunities for promotion, but my idea of success now is lower cortisol levels. I don’t mind staying a manager for a while if it means less negative stress. I have KonMaried the shit out of my home for the last couple of months as I can no longer tolerate too much material possession. I’d much rather spark other people’s joy with them rather than let them gather dust.

My whole idea of the future is changing. I see freedom. Being single and childless at this age means a whole world of possibilities. I get to travel a lot, which I love and won’t give up ever. I see reinvention. I honestly don’t see myself climbing the corporate ladder anymore. I see me catching a trapeze from this point and crossing over to the other side, landing on my feet. I’ll probably wobble a bit, but I will find my balance after. I see genuine relationships. It is because I will only make time for those that are. Why waste time and effort for anything less? It’s like accepting you don’t deserve the best. I see more resilience. I did not come this far in life if I wasn’t resilient to begin with. I see someone who is more confident and sure of her choices in life and will not apologize for them. I see me celebrating me! I borrow this quote from one of my favorite Miss Universes ever, Sushmita Sen, “Celebrating you has to come from you first. Why wait for someone else to celebrate you?”

It’s funny how we normally dread getting older. Some invent ways to say their age without seeming “old”. Some say deprecating things about getting older, usually implying it as an unfortunate situation. A friend just joked if I can finally watch a movie for free. This is a senior citizen benefit. I told him I have a long way to go, but if I do, I should only be so lucky. I should definitely be so grateful.

So, here’s to aging like fine wine. Here’s to taking less crap, and not settling for scrap. Cheers to 39!


The Gravity

Six months later…

2017 seems like a galaxy far far away. The storm of a broken heart has passed and all is right in the world again. The potential long distance romance with NG has been destroyed by the death star. Here I am, alone again. Naturally. Call me CG Solo.

The past six months hasn’t been a walk in the park. I got sick. I suffered from chronic stiff neck which started on the left side in November. In mid January, this moved to the right side and I had to go through twenty-two sessions of physical therapy before I could be somewhat restored. I was not cleared by my doctor until early May. Her remarks were, “You may go back to the gym but you are no longer allowed to lift more than 3 kg. in Body Pump. May the force be with you.”

And now here we are in June. My favorite month! I turned 38 a few weeks ago. I feel like it’s an accomplishment I should bask in. Not all get to do it after all. On the other hand, it’s as if a secret passage opened up and I am being ushered into it, whether I like it or not. Getting older is like a bullet you can’t dodge. For starters, I see some hair color transformation – black brown to white. If my future goal is to be brown-skinned with ash blonde hair, then I am on the right track. But, I am not ready for that yet so I am detouring to some fancy color like ash brown or something. My teenage years seem to have caught on as well. My lack of acne then surfaced in my late thirty’s. I was forced to consult a dermatologist and it only turned out my already oily face cannot take the virgin coconut oil I so generously slathered on every night before sleep. The doctor said I only need a good sunblock and mild cleanser to get my acne-free face back. I highly recommend Cetaphil and Heliocare. Just note that eyebags are an entirely different battle. Something I try to avoid looking in the eye. Haha, punny.

Now, on to the less important stuff; the things people don’t see. The things that keep me awake until dawn. Those. Apart from Netflix.

Something happened to me after my birthday. I got older, but I became a child again, questioning a lot of things. Asking a lot of why’s.

Why am I doing what I am doing now? Why am I in this job?

Why am I friends with this person? Why do I hate the things I hate and like the things I like?

Why do I unintentionally kill plants? Why am I the worst brokenhearted person I know? A friend said this, but I think she’s right.

Why do I love rice so much? It’s not helping my quest for the best and fittest bod of a forty year old.

It’s like my brain has suddenly decided to have its own brainstorming activity and I am there to listen because I have no choice.

In the midst of all the chatter and the clutter, many truths are revealed. It’s a lot like Darth Vader telling Luke “I am your father.” A truth that left Luke changed forever.

Truth is, I would be happier doing something else. Travel, study gems and jewelry and sing. What I do now is an enabler, so I can’t complain.

Truth is, I understand and know in my heart why I keep some of the friendships I have. I wonder about others. Maybe it’s part of growing up and realizing principles and non-negotiables.

Truth is, I do not know why I kill plants. I love them. I water and follow care instructions.

Truth is, I also don’t know why I am the worst brokenhearted person I know. I do know I’m a fighter and will continue to be one.

Truth is, I love rice because…I’m Asian…?😂

What would Master Yoda say if I was a Jedi? “Go to the center of gravity and find your planet you will?”

Am I not of this planet? I certainly feel like an alien these days.

But, you know what? The vast universe seems to listen to our hearts and know exactly when to knock and give signs. A friend popped out of my Facebook messenger earlier today to see how I’m doing. Then she asked if I had been progressing on my plans. I said, it has been keeping me awake these days. “Cast a wider net!”, she says. Clock is ticking!

She’s right. It’s time to find my gravity.

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” – Master Yoda in the form of Paulo Coelho

Gotta go and find my planet. May the force be with me.