ohno x aiba ♥

On the quest of becoming an interesting person.

I just turned 30 less than a month ago, and I wonder if that's the trigger. Probably not, because I don't really feel any different—to me, age doesn't mean anything. I read it somewhere, that there's nothing inherently interesting about being young or being old. If you're not interesting, you're not interesting, period, no matter what the age. That feels true to me.

I'd like to think that I've grown up to be an interesting 30 year-old woman, in my own way. But I also want to say that I'm a 30 year-old child who hasn't forgotten what it means to be vulnerable, to truly care. To be really out there, soaking the world, and finding more pathways for connection.

It's just that this year feels different in that I feel like I am always walking around with a mirror around me. I feel that somehow, everything that I do or feel reflect back on me, and I grapple with how to become even more myself. How to be more genuine, if that makes sense? It's not that who I am is particularly great or amazing. But more and more, I just feel like it's a waste of time to pretend that I am different from what I know I am. But that's just the thing. We live our years accumulating notions of how we truly are, and when we try to assemble everything into a coherent image, everything just doesn't quite fit as neatly as we'd like.

"Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be, rather than actualizing themselves. The difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization is very important. Most people only live for their image."

Brutal.

And maybe that's the point. That there's no point to classifying myself as something specific in the search of interestingness, in painting myself into the image of who I think I really am. I just am. You just are. You don't have to fit in any genre.

In the last years of my 20s, I felt that there was a plastic cling wrap subduing me, almost, perhaps for the purpose of self-containment and just wanting to feel solid. But now, it's just so satisfying to claw at that layer, nails breaking through the pettiness of propriety or prettiness with a satisfying pop! There's no need to please everyone. There's no need to be polished and pretty and pleasant all the time. There's no need to worry about how I come across, as long as I'm clear with my boundaries and my intentions.

To be genuinely me, I just need to pursue the things that interest me, and will hopefully better me. That, I can do. Me, I can be.
jun towel cuteness

Jun, at 35



Jun. You never stop growing, don't you?

When I think of you these days, I think of the segments and nicknames you inspire: J. 'This is MJ'. 'Quiz Matsumoto Jun'. All jabs at your seemingly larger-than-life image but, rightfully, also an homage at how comfortable in your skin you are, how you've grown to be so.

At 35, you don't pointlessly strive for superficial coolness: you instead settle into those huge smiles that take over rooms. Stages. Arenas. Domes. Your smile can power up countries. Your softness and your confidence, an arrow to all our hearts. You laughing at yourself gets to us just the way it did when you started doing it again. When you just started being you. Oh, Jun.

When we hear of you these days from your homeboys, it's about how tough you are on your managers, how you expect precision, and just, more. Whether it's just about getting the right steak sauce or having at least one manager in the waiting room at all times, you leave no room for sloppiness. Your bandmates like to poke fun at your steadfastness and ~a t t i t u d e~ but really, it's their hearts on a platter, just loving you and admiring you from the best distance—one between members.

At 35, you don't feel the need to tiptoe around perfection. You demand it. You own your job and simply outclass everyone. Matsumoto Jun as an idol is on a league of his own, and man have we got some receipts for it. The members probably have more.

When we read reports of you attending your juniors' concerts, and how you give them constructive criticism but also promote their songs, it honestly feels like an affirmation of everything we have ever believed of you. That you will always be the nice and kind Jun that Nino loves to brag about. That you are a good person.

At 35, Jun, you are as generous as ever, tending to the next generation of idols. You and the rest of Arashi are carving out a path that they would be proud to walk on, and I am so unbelievably proud that the boys I loved from when stockings on heads cracked them up are now the daisenpai. It's wonderful. Idols from other companies, heck, even other countries, look up to Arashi.

"Matsujun", as a legend, is fed simply by how you choose to live your days: with hard work, with pride, with joy. With much love. I entrust Arashi in your hands, I don't have any second thoughts, and no doubts. Your love for Arashi is clear as day.

Jun, you are your favorite heliotropic flowers: joyfully growing towards where the light is.
Here, after being your fan for more than a decade, and now, as I soon step into my 30s too, I want to say something:

It's been an honor to grow up with you, Jun-pon.

Let's continue to grow better, stronger, kinder! (You lead the way, and I'll trailblaze my own path too.)
You have always been an inspiration. Easy on the eyes too.
Let's shop a lot, travel, work hard, and celebrate life's small and big wins with the ones we love, shall we?



Happy 35th birthday, Jun.

- - -

Previous Jun Birthday Posts (if you are so inclined.)
28, 29, 30
hanger

A scuffed newness

Devout to depth—the thrust of my 2018. And walking in confidence, aka the last building block to lock into place at the eve of my 30s. It has taken me awhile to come to this point. I just want to mark this spot right here, because I'm feeling good.

Depth Year. It's a concept that I read about in one of my favorite blogs, Raptitude. It's worth a read, even if you feel like it's something you don't want to tackle Depth Year as a personal challenge. The simple version of it is this:

  • No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started

  • You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more

  • You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.

  • The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. We could call it a “Depth Year” or a “Year of Deepening” or something.

It's the intensity and timeliness of it that struck a chord. Why do we keep on buying stuff? Why do we move one from one hobby to the other, and never really giving it a chance? Why do we stockpile books?

Okay, maybe the last one is a stupid question.

But still. Depth year. One year of committing yourself to a kind of patience and focus that probably is hard to come by in today's world. Maybe we don't need to spend more of our disposable income to find ourselves. I know I've been guilty of buying my way into discovery. I'm excited to see where this takes me, eleven months later.

Also. Yes, confidence. Confidence, I've found, is a vale, a resource that you stumble on, a vista opening wide to you. At first, it's hidden to everyone else. You take tentative steps to see the lay of the land. After a while, you feel a definitive "oh, this clicks". And just like that, you suddenly feel free to invite people in, to see the scenery, the vastness of your sincerity to express yourself fully. What a joy.

It's not that nothing scares you anymore. Quite the opposite. It's that you finally understand that things will always scare you, but at your core, you understand that you are equipped to last through it, if not thrive. I may still jumble my words up, make dumb mistakes, meet people that terrify me, those are all certainties. But having a core of confidence, a genuine understanding of what I am capable of, is a catapult to greater things, may it be career, interpersonal relationships, anything, really.

I know I will still fuck things up. But I can own those fuck-ups as they happen and kind of just have fun hacking my growth, and enjoy the process.

I feel older. But brand new. With old things. That I'll breathe new life into. This year, the last of my 20s, will be spent optimizing my progress, going deeper, and mindfully finding spikes of interests that, who knows, will bloom into passionate preoccupations in my 30s and beyond. Honestly, I already found one last year (volcanoes! Which merits another blog post, really,) but somehow, I am certain that this just the precipice of an ever expanding curiosity.

So here's me, touching base, saying hello with aplomb. Let's get hacking.
ohno will be forever adorbs

2018: A dusky soak in a remote winter wilderness

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Yuzawa, Niigata

🌙 ❄️ 🏮

Honestly, I briskly took these photos because I don't trust my mind's eye with this kind of beauty. More than the scenery, it was the freedom of not being tethered to the unnecessary and instead, existing in your own body, just as it is, despite the mind's endless tirades. That’s what I wanted to remember.

After sneaking these photos in, I chucked my phone back to the locker to give nature the respect it deserves. To give myself attention, because this 2017, I confess to living and dwelling inside my head to the point of overwelcoming my stay. Anxiety isn't anything special, but to those who experience it, it's tangible and real. For me, it's in the vise-like grip on the back of my neck, the clammy hands, the stuttering where there used to be smooth enunciation. It's having frayed, electric edges, and being afraid that the person next to me can hear the crackling. It's not knowing where it started, yet there it is, my physiology betraying me faster than I can take meditative breaths. At the end of the rope, my pride is all I'm holding on to, and that outward sense of composure, even if inside I am trembling violently, riptides whipping against my ribcage.

Don't get me wrong, it has been a year of amazing, ground-shaking growth for me, in many areas. Yet I'm just at that age where big changes can unsettle deeply, because there's already so much at stake. Staying. Leaving. Accepting. Fighting. On some days, it takes all of my reserves to go through a pretty regular day, because I feel everything will crumble with one wrong move. It's irrational, I'm aware, but there it is.

It's consumptive too, especially when combined with plans, ambitions, and hopes. I forget that I inhabit a body, that I am made of moving parts, that I simply can't just think a reality into being. With my body always in flight mode in the face of new challenges and new pressures, I also unconsciously placed my health last. I knew it contributed to the anxiety as well, but it’s hard to make a full stop when you’re in the middle of a mental vortex. The weight piled on disappointingly despite being on a healthy streak the past couple of years. More white hair popped up on my scalp, and my face broke out in a way it never has before. In a rush to “grow”, I forgot to take care of the fundamentals.

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hanger

Mulat

Image uploaded from iOS (1)
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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shige x camera = otp

Current State of Emotions

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.

hanger

On Wednesdays, we ponder our lives

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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. 
shige x camera = otp

-

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.
cute jun

Feel the wind

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.