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Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
24 October 2017 @ 02:06 pm
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Kalapana, Hawaii

The cling of sunshine and volcanic polyps still stick on your pores. Parang nandoon ka pa din. Vastness. Ang ganda ng ilaw, iba ang pakiramdam na may malawak na nasisinagan. The space made you feel alive. I know you. Binusog mo yung mata mo, as if that could solve everything—pang-baon pag balik sa Manila. Like the oceanic ruggedness of the North Shore could save you, the old and new craters on Kilauea could console you. Gumaan ba ang pakiramdam mo?

Here lies Earth, here lies the water, so in this scheme, sino ka ba dapat? Bakit ba struggle? Ano ang inuwi mo?

Tama na. Alam kong pagod ka na. Para sa’yo naman ‘to lahat. Para sa’yo din ang kawalan. Breathe in your own space, be what you want. Do what you want, dress how you like. There’s no need to be more, to strive for the sake of striving. Kinasaya mo ba yung promotion mo? You’ve warped “upwardly moile” as something you have to maintain.

No need to start a start-up, no need to have a nice feed, no need to have exhibitions to attend every weekend, no need to learn how to create a macrame hanging for a plant, no need to prove your fancy sounding job title, no need to hide a semi-broken heart, no need to follow every tragic news cycle, no need to be a fucking connoisseur of every fucking thing, and definitely not all at fucking once. Ano ka ba?? Hindi ka pastiche ng mga pangarap ng lahat ng taong nakilala mo. Be a sponge and learn and all that shit, pero ano na, gusto mo ba yung mga pino-project mo? Para saan ang effort, ‘te? It’s all just empty exhuberances. Kapagod ‘yan. Tama na.

At ‘di ka rin brand, so tigilan mo yung subconscious strat planning mo. If you could be summed up by a hashtag then you’re not doing the life thing right. Stop that bullshit. Tama na.

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Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
18 June 2017 @ 10:36 pm

May, to be perfectly honest, was a shitshow.

I felt like I was encroaching on myself, and letting myself get the best of me. Self-sabotage is far easier than self-actualization--you know what you're doing while you're doing it, but you're almost unable to stop because somehow, it feels natural to snowball into full-on, level 100 Mess with a capital 'M'. The summer months were that for me: an easy ride into myopia, and ignoring the things my soul and my body were calling out for. I never believed those articles that say "stress will kill you"; it has always felt too simplistic, and I was always reading them from a superior POV--that I will always know when to tap on resources that will help me manage stress. I would know when to bail out. I just would.

As it turns out, when you're in the middle of it, in the midst of true, back-bending, almost soul-crushing stress that feels like shots of molten lava creeping up your nape, you don't see that you have options in order to feel less harried. You are just there, under the harsh office lights, digestion all dull and slow, and creativity at a stuttering standstill, wondering how you could survive the next day of feeling exactly just like this.

I knew I needed to snap out of it, but I just couldn't. There has just been too much pressure on my shoulders, and I almost enjoyed being so pressed for time, so unhealthily static, so focused on material catharsis, and so caught up in emotions that I would have processed better on a less stressful time. After a couple of years of radical self-love and finding ways to further become a better, more grounded version of me, it just felt like such a release to self-destruct. I was doing something forbidden, something that I couldn't speak about to other people because there is a delicate shame in reveling in it. It was an existential table flip, and I just wanted to lie back and do nothing as everything spilled over. It would be so easy, to eat mindlessly and just pack on more pounds, to compartmentalize tough emotions, to push away a new love, to do my work defensively, to never really be vulnerable enough again to create.

I imagine being hidden in swathes of clothes, in new folds of skin, my hair cropped to my skull, looking out at the world with vacant eyes.

I imagine disappearing.

 
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
12 June 2017 @ 11:40 pm
I do feel it physically. How do I contain myself, how 
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
18 January 2017 @ 10:55 am
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My two girlfriends and I finally resumed our weekly Wednesday breakfast dates after the whirlwind of  a holiday season, with one friend just finishing her law exams and the other coming from her Europe sojourn. It's nice to have that sense of normalcy back, in a way. This morning, we were vaguely discussing the next year. It dawned on me, how fast "real life" is happening, as weird a statement that is. One friend is getting married and moving to LA next year to practice law as well, the other one is also getting hitched next year, but in Amsterdam. It just hit me this morning that it's really happening, that I'm about to have two of my closest lifelines moving away so soon. I'm not sad, exactly, I'm so excited for their new lives. They've been hurtling towards a version of their current plans now for as long as I've know them, and I'm proud of them. It's really their thing, if that makes sense. I have my own thing here, and for the first time in a while, I feel like I have tangible goals set for the next couple of years. I'm just a bit anxious that I won't have the two of them around nearby, never mind that there are things like Skype and social media to keep the umbilical cord going.

Just, no weekly breakfast dates, no impromptu workouts, no hopping just a few blocks for a quick coffee break, no spontaneous "I need it for my sanity" drives down south. I met the both of them in college, and feel like the decade that has passed since we all met for the first time has just further cemented that the three of us get each other like no one can. I'm not afraid that our connections will weaken or sever, we've bared too much of ourselves among the three of us for that happen in this lifetime. I'm just trying to wrap my head around the fact that they won't be living in the same zip code as I am, much less the same continent. Life really gives us our own courses to run through, doesn't it? Ah, I already miss them, even if I have a whole year left to enjoy them! Do you get what I mean? I want to spend time with them as I know them in this moment in our lives, in a place that's still home for all of us, for now. We will all change, eventually, and I look forward to all the discovery and unfolding to be done in the next few years.

But for now, for a little bit more,  let me just hang on to our breakfast dates.

And now I'm ridiculously emotional because this song came up on Spotify and it's so beautiful and apt and I'm just. Sigh. Isn't feeling optimistic about the future but also being slightly wistful such a complicated feeling? There's no other way than just to breathe through it and accept it as one of life's ebbs and flows. 
 
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
04 December 2016 @ 02:46 pm
-  
I feel like everything is happening all once, as well as nothing at all. A bleaching of sorts, my identity being wiped away in the gray of things. Every road leads to an end, thoughts that will never see the light of day, this lack of purpose.

I'm too busy but swirling with nothing inside. I know this script too well. Regaining balance gets harder every time, I grieve all the gains that have come undone. I want to rest. I want to be set on fire. I don't know who is in this skin anymore. The words are itching out of my pores, just to say, with all humility, that I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say. That I bring nothing to anyone. That I am clumsy and stuck. There is no despair, just a lack.

Always a lack.
 
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
20 September 2016 @ 04:53 pm
I feel like I've been kicked around for a bit.

I'll say it only this once: I'm not made for corporate muscling. I deal and trade in sincerity and passion. I sound like I'm bragging? Not really. To be honest, it's a pitfall when it comes to my profession.

I've learned to function as my real self in this industry anyway.

But I'm surrounded by so many good things and even better, brighter, souls that I'm tempted to just brush all of this off. I'll have to deal with it head on, though. It's still work. I know I can muscle through this just as well as anyone. It'll just be harder because I cannot stand to be ruthless. I am too soft.

Buck up, kid.

*

Last week, I turned 28. It didn't happen silently.

Two special people woke up extra early during a weekday to have breakfast with me in my favorite cafe. The barista, a cheerful girl with long blonde hair who has been brewing my morning caffeine fix for the better part of a year, gave me my coffee for free. Free coffee!!! I am all about that life!

Saturday, my oldest friends made sure that I blew all the candles on several delicious cakes. Clincher? They're all my favorites. Yulo's stawberry shortcake, green tea white chocolate torte via Homemade by Roshan, Polly's chocolate cake, Cuerva's mango torte, etc. I love cake. It's not a birthday without cakes, plural.

So, as they were making sure I blew all the candles, I was also chastised for wearing a dress with a plunging neckline on my birthday thing. But it's my birthday??

(It's apparently because plunging necklines are not conducive to documenting candle-blowing that entails running from one cake to another. Oh well. You can have your cake and eat it too, I guess.)



After stuffing ourselves with cake, we went out to karaoke. They sang terrible songs, by the way. I mean, it was my birthday, so of course I had the right to put up my hood and bust out "his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arm's are heavy, mom's spaghetti" with ~feelings~! But all of you! The Jubilee Song? Ordertaker?

...okay, maybe I can blame the seven bottles of sake for that. Fine.

Sunday, a spicy Thai feast with my family then coffee in a sun-drenched hotel lounge. But most of all, this bright little someone named Saige. Niece, tugger-of-hearts, precocious little pup, dolphin whisperer, APPLE ORCHARD OF MY EYES. This was her after lunch. Do you know why she was making those faces?

Because of the wind.

The wind.

Saigey

Her first time to feel the caress of wind on her cheeks. The way it made her giggle in delight and scrunch up her eyes. The innocence and the joy of it...

I was shocked. I could go on about how much it melted my heart, but I wouldn't be able to stop. She is such a gift. I'm surprised that there exists a part of me that would find grace in such a small moment. Frankly, the past six months have been filled with these pockets of grace, of moments that just stun me into submission. I'm not even her mother. I'm afraid to ask my sister how terrifying it is to have such a force of change in your life.

Somehow, though, I could understand it. My love for her, when she was born, was instant and fierce. My stand on having children is ambivalent, at best. But this little bug, I will protect and love and herd and hold close for as long as I am able to.

I will give her the wind.

*

What is worth celebrating, what is not?

It's a question I've been wrestling with recently. But in the end, you just take the cake and take a beloved's offered hand. Isn't that the sane thing to do in this hard and unrelenting world?

28 years. I choose and relish all this sweetness. It's good to stock up on it for the stormy days.

Thank you. 
 
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
01 September 2016 @ 03:20 pm
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I really, really do hope you are happy.

Okay, I need to start from the beginning. Frankly, it brings me some distress to see you on my notifications. Are you "liking" my happiness, or at least my projected sense of it? We are all accomplices in the treachery of social media, right? Or are you liking my appearance, the way my hair swayed along effortlessly as I walked in a batik dress along 17th century French-Indochinese architecture? Not that it was staged, but a good friend who knows my angles and lowest points snapped that pic for the 'gram. It was a moment. I felt comfortable and didn't feel like an asshole as I had it taken–I honestly felt joyful, and I wanted to preserve it. In a foreign land, I get overtaken by the desire to capture and share everything, even more than usual. My feed gets more constipated with my ravings and my thoughts and the filters I subject to all these new places to me. It's like my brain gets displaced along with a stamp on a passport. Travel is in the mind.

But there it was. You liked my photos one after another. Under the sweltering Hanoi sun, I paused underneath a tree because I was so overtaken by an irrational impulse as your name on my screen repeated itself infinitely in my head. Melodramatic, but I horribly wanted to hop on a plane just to hug you. I swear now that I could have. I wanted to wrap you up in my arms, to feel the heft of your head on my shoulders. Like, hi, there. How are you. What have you been doing? Who are you, now? I missed you, so so much. Let's talk, let's catch up. Coffee or whisky is on me.

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Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
17 August 2016 @ 11:01 pm
Every time I try to stay silent, I end up on the brink of wanting to explode.

That's my state for the past month. Yes, work has been good, I have been productive. I have tried not to talk more than I needed, tried to step away from things and people that I love, if I felt they were a source of distraction. I am interested in far too many things, but in reality have so little time to devote to most of them. Can't help but think it's also because of a lack of confidence, a heart that's too small to devote myself fully to any one thing. I am a melange of half-baked interests. I have too much to say, I feel like there are conversations I avoid because I will ooze out from underneath my words, bound to be misinterpreted, or worse, bound to say something that's purely buoyed by raw emotion and nothing else.

There is too much of me, yet not much as well.



I thought I needed to stay silent.

"Become. It was a verb that had always obsessed me, but I realized it for the first time only in that situation. I wanted to become, even though I had never known what. And I had become, that was certain, but without an object, without a real passion, without a determined ambition. I had wanted to become something--here was the point--only because I was afraid that Lila would become someone and I would stay behind. My becoming was a becoming in her wake. I had to start again to become, but for myself, as an adult, outside of her."

That's one of the most debilitating passages from the third book of Elena Ferrante's acclaimed and stunningly powerful Neapolitan Novels. I don't have enough apetite to give it a review, except to say that it's mandatory reading for women. The anger of Lila and Lenu, the acute desires, the consuming refraction of image and perception and other people's gazes--it is astounding and back-breaking to read. I am swept away by its furor. I read it at the right time; I am ripe for it. I felt, many times as I was reading the third installment, that I needed to take a breather. It featured a kind of arousement that made my chest hurt, a desperate anger fanning the flames. The questions bubbled up with rage.

Who are you? What are you fighting for? What are all these things in your life, why do you talk the way you do, are you fucking up everything you hold dear underneath that veneer of calm? Why are you trying to prove what you are trying to prove, and who is the intended audience?

I cannot remain silent, is what I'm trying to say! I feel so much violence about both the inertness and the volatility of my own potential. It consumes me so much, in so many little thoughts that don't seem to relate to each other except for the anguish that ties it all together. Yes, violence, anguish, I use these words without restraint. I am keenly aware of the turmoil and the tyranny of trying to be pleasant, of trying to pass off rough seas as the opposite and dress it up to seem like a serene and opaque lake, a placid, precious jewel, where there's no danger lurking. But I am a minefield! I am booby-trapped and beset with history and ready to destroy barriers, emotional or otherwise. I do not feel trapped, but I feel too full, like I was subjected to too much inspirational affects that are actually garbage. I am fucking furious at myself. I can barely grasp at the precise reasons why, but it feels like such a struggle, to become, and to have this becoming be something acceptable, something I deem at par with my expectations for myself.

But those expectations of myself, I have come to realize, were developed as I, through the years, internalized what it meant to be a cool, intelligent, self-serving woman, a woman oozing with promises of both sexual and intellectual satisfaction, for herself and for whom she feels are worthy, a thought giant, a world unto herself, an ecosystem of epithets and unapologetic behavior and effortless, incalculable cool. My dream becoming is a pastiche of things that don't matter now, if they ever even did, ideas that have been projected at me as the province of women, details that I've nitpicked throughout the years without a second thought.

Everything I thought I want to become means nothing. The standards I have set for myself are all imagined.

I fear that I sound self-defeatist here. But you see, I can feel, I can taste it in my mouth. The change, the riptide, the thing that will tip everything over! Soon, it will come. Soon. I am afraid of looking like an idiot while I figure out my becoming, but I am more afraid of being razed to the ground by desires that will leave me empty. So let it come. Let me be angry, let me be unpleasant.

Let me be.
 
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
25 July 2016 @ 02:18 pm
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Frankly, it's scary how fast a week goes by these days.

I don't know if it's my age, my current situation. The working part of the week always whizzes past like a steamroller—a good or bad thing, depending on certain things. What I've learned to cherish the past year or so is the perfection of a week. I'm not sure I'll be able to articulate this accurately, but somehow, isn't seven days just perfect, just right on the mark? Six days feel rushed. Eight is an indulgence. Somehow, the seven-day weekly cycle is long enough for me to see how I can improve the next week without it feeling too far-off or too overwhelming. Seven is just right for benchmarking.

These days, work is surprisingly fulfilling for me. I think I've kind of hit my stride in the industry that I'm in. Or more accurately, I have reached a place of mental acceptance wherein just because my work isn't necessarily my passion doesn't mean I can't find ways to enjoy it and engineer my personal development to skyrocket along with it. Advertising doesn't have to be a love and hate thing. Maybe the thing is I've become more smart about it, and less emotional. It also comes with age, with knowing your working style. I've discovered that I perform better in small, lean start-ups where there is more room to "hack" things, to really be part of growing something versus trying to prove my mettle in heirarchical, established agencies where the bureaucracy and politics tend to depress me. You just need to know which aspects of your work make you tick and which ones make you excited to get up in the morning. That really helped me.

For example, this year, I've been working on my strategic skills alongside my creative ones. I love moments where I find that my curiosity and eagerness to learn are paying off. I've learned to really relish small victories—I've found that it's the accumulation of small, daily wins that matter. Just last Wednesday, I was so excited because I was able to strategize and lead a campaign for an Asia-wide product launch of a well-known skincare brand. No biggie, honestly, but it felt like a win. Everyone was enthusiastic about it, jumping in with ideas that built on what I laid out.

Somehow, I feel like I've become addicted to presenting ideas in front of everyone, of fighting for it. There's power in feeling yourself finally capable of having people listen to you, and having them believe you. Starting a conversation that leads to bigger ideas is so empowering and honestly, just a lot of fun. Small wins, really.

Let me just get it out there: by no means is my work right now going to change the world, but I'm refining skills that will help me to, someday, if I get the chance. I figure I'm not on the losing end even if my work isn't my ~passion~ because I'm still learning. And that's all that counts at the end of the day: making mistakes and learning and showing up.

It's five days of trying your best and two days of reassessing everything and focusing on the things that you love. What we can do in a week, in several weeks...seriously. Improvement doesn't have to be a daunting, all-or-nothing approach. Viewing myself as an ongoing project that "reboots" every week is a big help, mentally. Progress over perfection every damn time.

I'm sure rereading all of this preaching will make me hurl on a cynical day. But it is what it is. For now, I'm just happy to be productive and learning things, bit by bit.
 
 
Nina ♥ ☁ ☼ ★ ♬
18 July 2016 @ 04:19 pm
I wake up drenched in milky sunlight, blanket unconsciously shoved aside some time during the night. It’s 6:30 in the morning. My body is used to being gently nudged into wakefulness by a susurrating, Steve Jobs-approved melody. Gone are the jangly alarm clocks of my childhood, the ones with glow-in-the-dark numbers. These days, I wake up with the whole of humanity shoved to my face, all on a handy screen.

Well, not this morning. It feels luxurious to ignore all the updates and notifications. There’s no need for them today. I lock the screen and get up to take a shower, the small window affording me a view of a pale sky. I try my best to work my vegan shampoo into a respectable lather—no good. Not this time, and maybe not ever. At least my hair smells like yuzu lemons, all citrusy without the cloying acridity. I will own this small pleasure, at least. This is one thing I can control.

When we meet up in the lobby, his countenance tells me that his day is ending. I smile, hoping that it communicates sympathy. He probably interprets it as a sort of shy sheepishness, something I wish I never convey so openly, especially to him. I watch his fair, veined hands curl around a cup of barako coffee. He hovers the cup in front of his mouth for a few breaths before he takes a small sip. I couldn’t meet his eyes, even though I made a conscious effort to try to do so. Somewhere along the way, I had begun to want him again. His silence tells me that he knows.

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