24 things on my 24th birthday

Written on my super secret notebook 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.

Dream big. Do bigger.

I have big dreams.

I dream of traveling, seeing and experiencing the world. I dream of becoming a catalyst for change. I dream of making a mark on other people’s lives through the words I write and the things I do. I have a bunch of others that I won’t bore you with. 

Most of the time, my big dreams keep me going. In my moments of idleness, when my life begins to feel more and more like a dull and overdone routine, I think of my dreams and it snaps me out of my lifeless trance. They give me the spark I need whenever I feel like I’m running out of fuel and pixie dust.

But then there are times when my big dreams feel anything but inspiring. Sometimes, they feel like an enormous weight on my shoulders because they’re too big for me to carry. Other times, they feel like a dark cloud hanging above me, taunting me from a distance that I just can’t seem to reach.

I realize now that it’s not enough to dream big. It might be enough to get us through a day, but it won’t be enough to get us through life. Dreaming big is just the beginning, it’s the tip of the iceberg. Actually doing something to achieve our dreams is the 90% of the iceberg that’s underwater. The bigger the dream, the bigger the iceberg. That means I have at least half a dozen gigantic icebergs to dig my way through.

So from this day forward, I’m doing bigger. 

It’s been years since I last wrote a story. I’ve decided to write some again – three stories to be specific. I’ve started on one, and I’ve already done the necessary research for the other two. I’ve also decided to apply in teaching English programs – both paid and volunteer work – in South America for next year.

I admit, these aren’t big steps. But they’re a lot bigger than the steps I’ve been making these past couple of months, and I’m glad. 

There isn’t just a spark in me anymore, there’s a fire. 

Snapshots of my days of bliss

The photos below are from a recent trip I had with my siblings and cousins. We went to the island of Coron in the Philippines, and spent four days swimming and snorkeling in the clearest waters, lounging on hammocks by the most gorgeous beaches, eating the best food and singing karaoke at a local bar.

A line from a song by Green River Ordinance kept coming to mind while I was sitting on the bangka in the middle of the sea. It goes, “Meet me down on Cannery River. Set your heart free for awhile.”

And I did. And it was the best feeling ever.

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Genie isn’t “free”

Let me start out by saying that I love Robin Williams. Always have, always will. I was only a couple of years old when I first saw Hook and since then, he was a constant source of color in my life – from his funny films like Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji  and Flubber, to the bittersweet and melancholic ones like Patch Adams, Jakob the Liar and World’s Greatest Dad.

The news of his untimely death hit me the same way it hit everyone else  – like a huge avalanche swallowing me up. Then I found out that his death was the result of a suicide, and then it felt like the avalanche turned into this gigantic boulder that had just fallen on top of me.

And then someone I follow on Twitter retweeted this:

IMG_4081This tweet was retweeted over 320,000 times and was liked by over 220,000 users. What’s even more striking is that various websites and blogs have described the tweet as “beautiful” and “perfect”.

I debated with myself for a long time on whether or not I should share my own thoughts. I didn’t want to speak up at the wrong time and come out as tactless and insensitive. But ultimately, I realized that I’d rather come out as tactless and insensitive than choose to keep my mouth shut on this one.

So here it goes…

To me, that tweet is neither beautiful nor perfect. It wasn’t touching or sentimental, and it did not make me feel all warm inside. You know what it made me feel? Anger. You know why? Because to me, that tweet is dangerous. And careless. And stupid.

I’m not condemning Robin Williams for committing suicide. I’m not here to say he should have known better. I’m not here to say he shouldn’t have done what he did. Who am I to judge him when I know absolutely nothing about what he was going through?

No, I’m condemning the idea of suicide “freeing” you.

For those of you who’ve been following my blog for some time now, you’d know about my best friend who tried to commit suicide more than a year ago. When I read that tweet, I immediately imagined my best friend in the state she was in at that time reading the very same thing, and it terrifies me to my very core. And I swear I could just punch the person who posted that tweet for all the world to see.

It’s just… it makes me so mad, knowing that if that tweet existed 17 months ago and my best friend saw it, there’s a possibility that she might not be here anymore. Because that’s just what that careless tweet might have resulted in. It tempts us. It tickles a bone in our body that’s a sucker for the grand and beautiful downfall.

I admit I’ve never been depressed so I may be talking about something I don’t fully understand. But honestly, when it comes to people I love, I don’t feel the need to understand things first as much as I feel the need to say what needs to be said and, more importantly, what needs to be heard. I need them to know there is hope, that life is worth it no matter how shitty it gets, that giving up is the easiest thing to do but that we are made for so much more than just the easiest things.

One thing I’m damn well certain of is that the last thing people who are battling with depression need to hear is that suicide frees them, like they’re birds that have been given a chance to escape. That’s bullshit.

Life isn’t a cage we should be freed from. Life is the sky.

I just feel that the tweet was done more for the sake of artistry and its ‘special effects’ than as a means to honor Robin Williams. If you’re going to honor the passing of a beloved, celebrate their life. Don’t romanticize their death. Because this isn’t a Disney film anymore. This is real life.

Because if we’re being completely honest here, Genie isn’t free. Genie is dead. And there is no freedom in that kind of death, there is only an end to a life that could’ve had a thousand beginnings.

Dear Twin,

I remember, not too long ago, you asked me if I missed you. At the time, we haven’t seen each other in months and we haven’t talked in long while. Some time during our conversation, you asked me jokingly if I missed you.

I answered no. Because we like to insult one another and make fun of each other. Because we don’t get sentimental about things like that.

And because, honestly, I really didn’t miss you.

We’ve always had a peculiar relationship, you and I. We’re twins but we were never really twins, not the usual kind anyway. Aside from the fact that we look nothing like each other, we also couldn’t have been any more different in terms of personality and interests.

We grew up in the same house, but we never grew up together. Our late-night conversations, secret whispers and knowing glances have always been about other people. We rarely talked about our fears, our dreams and our feelings. You have your own friends, and I have mine. We share most of our fun moments, not because we experienced them together, but because we told each other about them afterward. We’ve always led separate lives. The only difference you moving to California made is that I’d see you even less than I already did.

But I want to tell you that I miss you now. You’ll be coming home tomorrow. And now more than ever, I miss you.

Though we rarely shared the same experiences or even the same wavelength, we’ve always found comfort in knowing that we will always be connected to one another. And I’ve always found comfort in my firm belief that I’m the one person who knows you better than anyone else.

You wear your heart on your sleeve, my dear sister. You’re not afraid to show what you feel, to say what you think, to be the first one to laugh out loud. You’re hot-tempered and impatient. You cry when you’re furious and you can’t understand sarcasm. You love making chocolate souffle for us, and then you hover around us every time we eat it, and expect us to say it’s the best chocolate souffle ever. But most of all – and I have envied you for this – you’ve always known what it is you want in life and you’ve always gone after it.

Right now, hours before seeing you again, I’m beginning to realize just how much I miss being around you and having that twin connection tangible by your presence. Above all, I find myself genuinely excited to get to know the person you’ve become in the past year or so.

I hope you’re still awesome. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long two weeks ahead.

Seriously though, I can’t wait for you to come home.

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Twin and I, 1995