Today’s little ray of sunshine

I’ve been tutoring this girl named Bella for more than a year now. She had consistently been in the honor roll since first grade. Two months ago, her grades took a steep dive because of her math subject. It was going well until they started taking up addition and subtraction. She hates those. She loathes those.

And no matter how many times I’d try to teach her, she’d give up right away because she refuses to learn something she doesn’t like. So for a while there she kept on getting Ds and Fs, and I kept feeling more and more discouraged and frustrated.

Three weeks ago, Bella and I had an honest conversation. I told her that I decided I wouldn’t let her fail and that she shouldn’t let herself fail. So for three weeks I kept giving her word problems to answer, and she answered all of them with a straight face. Some days she would get it, other days she won’t. But for three weeks, we kept on it, studying all her other subjects on top of that.

On the last day, the day before her exam, I gave her one very long exam of my own. She didn’t ace it. She got a couple of mistakes here and there. But I was extremely satisfied with the progress she made, and I honestly think she was too. Still, I went home that night and prayed the hardest I had ever prayed for a student of mine.

Today, she showed me the result of her exam. She wasn’t smiling or showing any sign of happiness when she did.

She got an A-.

And when I smiled after seeing that, she smiled as well.

Of music and breathing

I must confess. These past few months I have been struggling with the ever-changing frame of mind I constantly find myself in. Some days, I feel one thing, and then on others, I feel completely different. Then there are days when I feel such a conflict of emotions that I stare at the ceiling or at the wall and I just have to take deep breaths.

I’m not sure exactly when it all started, but I do know what triggered it. But that’s a post for another time.

Right now, I just want to share a few songs. The last time I wrote a similar post, my mood was a lot happier than how it is now. But the gist is the same.

Music keeps me going.

There’s only a few things in this world that can put back the gleam in my eyes, and music is one of them. When I strangle myself with life’s worries and the pressure to meet the world’s insurmountable standards, music helps me breathe.

Maybe some of these songs can help you breathe too.

I fall in love with this song every single time I listen to it. It reminds me that no matter how many times I fail or get lost or feel like crap, I always have a home to return to. And, I guess, in a world where loneliness and detachment are all too common, being reminded that you belong somewhere is always a blessing. I listen to this and I breathe a little better because I know I’m alright, and I’m alright because I’m not alone.

This isn’t my favorite version of the song; I like the version on their album better. But anyway, OneRepublic has always been my favorite band and it’s because of songs like this that make them my favorite band. I played this song on the morning of my graduation day, on the night I resigned from my first job and basically every time I’d feel like letting the entire day pass me by. This song doesn’t just help me breathe easier, it picks me up and pushes me to keep going.

I’ve been single for about three years now, and I’m always being told by so many people that I should start going out and looking for a guy. And to be honest, there have been days when I’d feel lonely or insecure. But for the most part, I’m alright. I am firmly holding on to my belief that the greatest love stories don’t begin with me going out and looking for someone to have that with. I really do think great love stories just unfold on their own. And listening to this song reinforces that. It also warms my heart because I know that someday I’ll be having a love story that will be worth writing a song about.

Every time I go through bouts of fear and uncertainty, I always feel so incredibly small in terms of my faith. I forget that God is bigger than me, that when compared to Him, my fears and uncertainties are absolutely petty and insignificant. This song reminds me of that. It reminds me to pause and allow God to take the weight off my chest. Because, really, He’s the only one who can.

This is the live and shortened version of the song, and the only available copy of the song on the band’s YouTube. Again, the one in the album is much better. Whenever I play this song, I close my eyes and imagine God, my family and my friends singing this to me. And it lifts me up. Because I know that amid the pressure of accomplishing the goals I set for myself and the fear of not being able to do it, I am loved by some extraordinary people.
That’s it. Some of the songs that help me breathe. Do you have any songs that help you breathe?

A Tuesday gift from my sister

photo

I will.

If you had asked me every single day for the past year or so what I am most thankful for, 90% of my answers would have been the same: my sister, Karen. For someone who is four years younger than me, she just gets me.

We’ve been talking to each other a lot lately about our dreams and plans for the future. She’s on her third year in college and is planning to open up a small online business, and I guess you can say I’m fast approaching a major crossroad in my life in terms of my career. Some days I feel so inspired and brave, and then other days I’m a deflated balloon left on the sidewalk.

Today, I felt like a balloon tied to a tree – not lying on the ground, but not exactly floating among the clouds. And then she gave me this notebook.

And I swear, when I saw this, I felt like I had just been given a bag of pixie dust. Because at that moment, I felt like I could fly. Because my sister believes in me, and she loves me, and she just truly honestly genuinely gets me.

24 things on my 24th birthday

Written on September 17, 2014:

#1: When I woke up, I smiled. It dawned on me then that, regardless of how much I spend my time worrying about not being able to make the most of my twenties, I’m finally one of those people who are genuinely happy and comfortable with growing older.

#2: Before turning 23, I decided to hide my birthday on Facebook. It sounds so nonsensical now, but back then, Facebook greetings contributed a great deal to whether or not I’d consider my birthday a happy one. And then on my 22nd birthday, I stopped caring about the number of wall posts I got and started caring about the actual content of the greeting. Maybe it’s the maturity that comes with the age, but I realized then that I only wanted to be greeted by the people I care about.

#3: Some time after midnight and 7 a.m. (the time I woke up), three of my best friends sent me a birthday text. My grandparents, my sister and my parents were next. After that, I felt like I would’ve been completely fine if no one else remembered. And that feeling made me happy.

#4: I used to expect everyone to make me feel special on my birthday. Now, though, I make myself feel special instead.

#5: And because I wanted to feel special, I had bacon for breakfast.

#6: I also had Frosted Flakes with chocolate milk because it makes me happy.

#7: And I sang Happy Birthday in the shower. And I danced to happy songs.

#8: While I used to want people to patronize me, I was never one to expect or ask for presents. That said, gifts, to me, are like a bucket load cherries on an already cherry-fied ice cream.

#9: And there are very few gifts that can make me happier than a beautifully wrapped book. Which is perfect because it’s one of the things I got!

#10: Another gift I received is a cool-looking watch. Which is also perfect because it’s been a long time since I’ve had one.

#11: But definitely the most interesting part of my day is receiving two separate bunches of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins. One of my co-teachers gave me a box filled with 35 pieces of munchkins; my sister added another 5 pieces to that box when I got home from work. I didn’t even realize my love for Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins was that apparent to everyone.

#12: I’m going to say this because it’s my birthday so you can’t judge me, and even if it’s not my birthday I’ll probably say this anyway because I think it’s an achievement – I consumed 24 of those 40 munchkins. I didn’t even realize I ate that many until I counted the leftovers (which, by the way, I plan on eating tomorrow for breakfast). I guess subconsciously, my stomach wanted to eat a munchkin for each year of my existence. Also, this will sound more impressive (or gross?) if you ask what else I ate today. Answer: a whole lot more.

#13: I like that it’s the simple things that give me the most satisfaction. Like Dunkin’ Donuts or good books.

#14: I also like that I don’t need a big celebration. I only wanted my mom to cook my favorite cream of squash soup.

#15: So I spent my birthday dinner enjoying my mom’s cream of squash soup with my family and my best friend.

#16: For two years now, I’ve been spending my birthday with my best friend. Last year, she slept over for two nights, and we talked about the past and how it changed us for the better. This year, we talked about the future, and what adventures we’ll be having together. She actually wasn’t supposed to make it because of work. But God knew my birthday would be so much more awesome with her, so two hours before dinner, she was allowed to leave early and she was able to hitch a ride with a co-worker, who drove her straight to my house.

#17: One of my favorite birthday greetings came from a college friend who I had dinner with a week ago. She said, “Wishing for your next love life because you got everything else covered already.” I loved it not because she wanted me to have a love life (which I also appreciate, I guess), but because she sees me as someone who’s alright in life. No, I don’t have everything else covered and I still have my worries and doubts. But I like that she looks at me and sees that I’m alright, because I really am. Not perfect, just alright.

#18: Another favorite birthday greeting is from my best friend. Her first message, this was before she came over for dinner, goes, “See you this weekend, and I hope you don’t have a boring birthday because good lord, you’re 24. Can you please just go out and get wasted stupid already?? Or smoke a cigarette? Or you know, find a hot Brazilian guy to ogle or make out with.” And then after she went home, she goes, “Oh but sweetheart, make no mistake about it. I will be there to hold your hair while you throw up in the bathroom and afterwards, take you home the second you decide you finally wanna experience getting drunk for the first time.”

#19: I like that my best friend and I are polar opposites when it comes to life experiences, and that we still have the key to each other’s hearts regardless. I like that she finds me boring and devoid of craziness, but that we always have the best time together.

#20: One of the recent discoveries I made is that learning becomes a lot easier after you’ve graduated college. I’ve been taking a free online course on Sports & Society at Coursera.org (classmates, anyone?). I’m also trying to relearn Spanish until I become fluent at it. And I’m having a blast. Learning is so much more fun when you’re not expected to do it anymore.

#21: On my 18th birthday, my ex-boyfriend was an hour late for our date. I spent that entire hour trying to fight back tears, and failing miserably. That was the worst birthday ever.

#22: Fast forward to six years later, it completely amazes me how much my heart and spirit have grown.

#23: This might seem conceited and pretentious, but you know, I like me. I know me. I know what my heart deserves. I know my faults, strengths and weaknesses. I know where I am with God. And most of all, I know well enough to know there’s still a lot more I don’t know. And I am willing.

#24: There is no set formula for a good life. But I like to think that the basic ingredients to having one are all on this list… including, but not limited to, munchkins.

Feliz cumpleaños a mí!

This started out as a rant. Now, it’s… not.

This was supposed to be a lengthy tirade about the fight I had with my mom earlier.

I had two whole paragraphs typed out already, complete with our difficult history, the play-by-play of the whole argument (which included direct quotations from the both of us) and a lot of unpleasant adjectives. All I had to do was click on ‘publish’ for the whole Internet world to see.

And then, I don’t know. I hesitated, reread the words I just typed, selected the whole post and pressed the backspace button. And then I started typing this.

It dawned on me that what I was about to do is exactly the kind of thing I’d end up regretting tomorrow. So instead of writing about the whole fight, I’m going to write about this very moment.

It’s amazing to me how just a few minutes ago I was so mad – as I was typing my original post about the fight, I was getting angrier and angrier by each word. Now, though, I’m just… I guess hurt is the word.

And I guess hurt is okay. I would choose hurt over anger. I can still think rationally when I’m hurt, and being able to think rationally keeps me from doing stupid and hurtful things. To my mom. Like posting a nasty argument we had with the intention of making her look like a villain in front of all of you. I was so good at that before. But I don’t want to go down that road again.

I realize now that no matter how mad and frustrated I am at my mother, I still want to be on her side the same way she’s still on mine no matter how many times I disappoint her.

So even if I’m not really feeling her right now, even if I may be avoiding any direct contact with her, the last thing I want to do – the first thing I’m not supposed to do – is to pit myself against my mom, and to encourage you to side with me.

A NEEDTOBREATHE song comes to mind right now. It goes, “Be more heart and less attack.”

This is me being more heart and less attack, I guess.

A post dedicated to September

So it’s September – the month of all months, I like to think.

It’s my favorite month of the year. Christmas songs are about to get some airtime on the radio and I just absolutely love Christmas songs. My love for Christmas songs borders on addiction to be honest, especially when you consider the fact that I don’t really celebrate Christmas.

It’s also my birth month. I’ll be turning 24 in exactly two weeks. I’m actually excited about it. There’s something about the number that seems so appealing and interesting to me. So I can’t wait to be it and find out exactly what it is.

And it’s the month when I come out of hibernation/seclusion to meet up with friends I haven’t seen in months. I spend the rest of the year being focused on work and personal interests that I rarely have the time nor, admittedly, the energy to hang out with friends as often as they hang out with each other. So I’m excited to see them. We always have the best conversations.

Most importantly, you know how we sometimes take a moment off our busy schedule to look back and reflect and to look forward and hope? The whole month of September is like that for me. Maybe it’s because of the birthday, or because it triggers the countdown to the new year, or because of reasons I have yet to discover. Either way, September has always been a month devoted to my soul and spirit.So September, darling, I welcome you with open arms and an open heart.