Saturday, March 29, 2008

Small World

I read this e-mail a week after it was sent to me. I almost got it deleted without reading it.
This is definitely a sweet surprise.
Hi Liana, I happened to come across your blog while searching for what came up when I googled for _my_ blog (new, so it doesn't show up yet!).
I'm a professional travel writer, a fiction and literature lover, and I taught for several years at Boston University before my writing career took off and I started writing fulltime. There are a zillion blogs out there, most of them drivel. Yours is sweet, insightful, and interesting and I remember very clearly being similarly troubled in college -- both with the stresses of trying to keep a relationship going, juggling class, and so on, but primarily with the uncertainty of not knowing which road to take, which path of the several laid out for me to follow.
We're very different people, in different parts of our lives, who've grown up in different countries, and yet I can't help but want to write and tell you about a little story in my life (your Singapore, Someday post prompted this...) and, well, maybe it will be something else to ponder. Another view.
Basically, I thought for four years during college that I wanted to go to Japan. I had a long relationship with a Japanese girl which sparked an interest, and to my great surprise, when the relationship fell apart I still was really interested in teaching English in Japan. But lo and behold, when it came time to send in my application, I basically decided I didn't want to bother. I had a new, very sweet girlfriend I didn't want to leave, and I liked my Colorado life and the apartment I had, and I didn't speak any Japanese. It was a little different from you because I was living away from my family already and had learned to adjust...but mainly, deep, deep, down, I didn't want to go because I was afraid. Not afraid to travel, but afraid that if I left for Japan my entire world would shift forever. I didn't want to risk that. And my girlfriend rolled her eyes and almost got mad at me, saying, "What? You've been jonesing to go to Japan all this time and now you're not going to send in the application? How utterly lame!"
I had only one more day before the deadline, and there was an essay, forms to fill, and a photo to include, but I dashed around and submitted it, and got accepted. And later that year I stepped off a plane knowing only three Japanese words: One, Two, and Three. And a phrase that a friend taught me as a joke: "Will you marry me?" My fears had been right. Life was totally different from then on. My girlfriend and I broke up. I lived in Japan for two years. I came back married to a Japanese girl.
My first big publication related to Japan, and fifteen years later I'm still going there several times a year...I'm contacted by newspapers and magazines and on the radio. So I was right and I was also wrong. I knew what I had in college, but I had no way of knowing, until I went to Japan, all the things I would lose if I never took that plunge. Going to Japan was the best thing I ever did in my life. It was terrifying, scary, stressful, and I lost a lot...but I have never, not once, regretted that decision. It brought me so, so much, and my life would be far less rich and far less interesting, and I'd be far less happy, if I hadn't gone. And the other important thing is that we never get a second chance.
You might, someday, be able to visit Singapore but it will be totally different from the opportunity to do it as part of your education. You'll be a tourist, removed from things, and will have the duties of a job and/or family to interfere. Travel is perhaps the most educating, wondrous thing we can do with our lives and you're young enough to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Maybe you won't get to Singapore at all. Don't get me wrong: it may be complex, it may be hard, and it may interfere with relationships or the life you're living right now...or maybe even the person you are. But most people end up treasuring their time abroad the way someone treasures a child. I don't know you at all, and I don't want to make you second guess yourself, and perhaps you're right...perhaps you can get there "someday." But more likely, you won't. And whereas a CPA certification _will_ be the same this year, the next, the year after that, you may not always have the same opportunities to travel. It just gets harder, more obstacle, job, kids...pets.
And one other thing, Liana, please don't downplay yourself, your strengths, your writing abilities, or your intelligence. You're clearly a bright, motivated, passionate, creative girl and you deserve to get the most out of life. You're a fairly good writer and you certainly write better than many of my Boston University students (though that's not saying much -- American schools are ghastly!), and as you yourself figured out, having a roadmap is vital. (That's my Blog: "Bartlett's Roadmap to Becoming A Writer.")
You're in school now, which is a very difficult time because your "real life" is on hold in so many ways. Your "job" is classes, but you're still juggling a social life and the stresses of who you'll end up being or what career you's very hard. But you can still pick out a few short term goals and a long term one. In my case, I had to choose between acting, writing, or art...I was doing art classes, but also acting in plays and doing writing as well. Just before going to Japan, I won a bunch of prizes for my writing and decided that was the route to take.
Ultimately, whatever path you follow in life will be the person you become. And not following a path can be just as defining as actively pursing one. And unfortunately, there's just not enough time in life to be everything, to do everything, and to go everywhere. A roadmap of short and long term goals will make you better able to choose your battles -- figure out where you want to go. For example: Travel is a great tool for writing. If you want to be a writer, going to Singapore might be a very good way to open some doors. You can write about it for your college paper, you can blog, you can perhaps try a local newspaper back'll have experiences that will enrich your life and make you wiser, and who knows, you may even fall in love again...which will no doubt enrich your writing. All the vast range of human emotions become a part of a writer's toolbox. Anger, pain, sadness, apathy, torment, frustration, confusion, indecision...those are just as important as love, passion, happiness, joy, and so on. Travel is a teacher, usually a wonderful one. And it is far, far less scary when you're on the road.
On the other hand, maybe being a CPA will help you be a lawyer. If that's your goal, then let writing drop and focus on that. If you're wanting to be a teacher, what goals can you achieve right now that will help you move towards that profession?
The key thing is to start making choices right now, today, that will move you closer to these future goals. It's not always easy, but your first priority is the person YOU think you can be. It's your life -- you have a right to live it. Anyway, sorry to interrupt your day, but I just want to say that I hope you DO go to Singapore...and I hope my random email from e-nowhere doesn't come as an intrusion. I just enjoyed reading your blog and I think you've got to don't let life pass you by.
Best wishes, ---Ray
I never thought a faceless guy, from the other side of this planet, could make such a distinct mark in my life.

Thank you so much, Ray. And goodluck with your own endeavors.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Reader's Resolution

If you’re one of the people who have seen me read a book, you’ve definitely asked why I read that way. One of my strange habits is reading a book half- closed, only to protect its bind (which I refer to as the backbone) from having white and crisscrossed lines.

I’m not really the O.C. type who organizes my things to the point of labeling each one, but I’m very particular with my books. I use them with utmost care so that they will look brand new when I stack them on my bookshelves. I also avoid letting other people borrow them for the same reason.

Just a month ago, a friend borrowed a Coelho book of mine. When she returned it, it looked as if it aged 10 years from the day I lent it to her. I was, of course, disappointed and even thought of buying a new copy. Fortunately, I didn’t. Because if I did, I would have felt worse after reading an account from Coelho’s “Like the Flowing River”:

“… but as soon as I’ve finished the book, I let it go; I give it to someone else, or to the public library. My intention is not to save forests or be generous. I simply believe that a book has its own journey to make, and should not be condemned to being stuck on a shelf.”

I’ll still stick to my almost-merely-peeking kind of reading, but not anymore to preserve the book for my shelves. I’ll still treat my books with utmost care so that they can endure the trek of being passed on from one reader to another. I will no longer be reluctant to let others borrow my books, because, in the first place, books are meant to be read and I, as a reader and owner, must allow them to fulfill their purpose.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Road Map

The older I get, the more complicated my life plans become. And it scare the hell out of me.

When I was in elementary, I only had one path to follow: become a lawyer, then settle down and have a beautiful family.

I was unaware of all the other opportunities that may come my way back in those days. I thought I just needed to find out what I want and pursue it. So I decided I want to become a wife, a mother and a lawyer- that simple.

Now that I am almost done with college, I look back and see how much my plans have changed; how much my options grew in numbers. Being in College extended my horizon, to the point of making it limitless. I started with one path, mainly black and white views of what I wanted. Now, I watch my plans branch out, but sometimes I feel like I overdid it.

Becoming a lawyer has always been in my heart. But now, I’m unsure, more than ever, if I will eventually take that route. I’ve always envisioned myself as a teacher, touching hearts and seeing my students transform right before my eyes. This is also one of my options; one of the too many options I don’t have a clue how to handle.

I want to become a partner in the biggest auditing firm, I want to study abroad, I want to own a coffee/flower shop, and I want to become a housewife. The list can go on and on, you see. So, perhaps, I might have certainly overdone some parts.

Since the start of this year, I have been feeling jittery about the future. I’m scared, of making the wrong turns, of ending up at the wrong corner, of seeing myself stunned in front of a dead end; I’m frightened of making the wrong choices and ending up not liking who I have become.
Yes, it feels downright scary, but if there’s one thing I’m sure about, it’s that I like where I stand today. I hope I can say that again tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and all the days after that.

To The Love of My Life

For the past five years, you always manage to catch me off guard and ask me why I love you. And every single time, I am unable to give an answer.

Last night, after I went across our old photos, your letters (which show how much your handwriting improved through the years) and all your presents, I realized, no matter how much we’ve grown, there’s something about you that hasn’t changed.

You always ask me why you, and even if I see no point in justifying myself, I want to give you an answer.

I love you… and I love YOU because, even after five years, you still look at me the way you did the first time you said you love me; the look that makes me feel I’m amazing; the look that tells me, no matter what I do and no matter what I won’t be able to, you’ll still be amazed by me, day by day, year after year. And that look is the only thing I need to keep me going.

I love you and I want the world to know.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Singapore, Someday

Never have I been away from my family for more than a weekend, yet, the dream of studying abroad has always been close to my heart. I’m not really a ‘traveler’ but the idea of learning things from a different perspective, in a brand new environment excites me.

Last week, I came across an announcement from the External Linkages Department. It was an invitation for the exchange student program in Singapore Management University (SMU). My heart started beating faster as I was basically staring at my dream. However, as usual, fear and nervousness got in the way, so I decided to think things over first.

I was, honestly, convincing myself to just drop it. I am two terms away from graduation and entertaining that kind of opportunity will surely mess up my schedule. I cannot afford to lose focus now.

But despite the lengthy list of why I should just forget about Singapore, I cannot get it out of my mind. Perhaps, this is one instance when I can’t pretend and say, “I never really wanted that, after all.”

Yesterday, I gave in to my heart’s plea. I mustered enough confidence and allowed my feet to bring me to Mr. Masilungan's office. I was really, really nervous to face him but there was something about the way he shook my hand that calmed me a bit.

After asking me some general questions (like about my course, year, CGPA, etc), he said something that blew my mind: “Perhaps, we can proceed with your first interview RIGHT NOW.

I was shocked and nervous and basically afraid of making a fool out of myself. So there I was, left with no choice but to pretend like everything’s fine when in fact I was almost not breathing!

It seemed like, despite the suffocating feeling inside, I was able to say something right. I passed the first screening and left the room with the application form in one hand.

Now that I have the key to my dream, I am left with one decision to make: will I use it?

My parents said it was okay. And I want to thank them for the willingness to spend a couple of hundred thousands for that (which can still turn into a couple of couple of hundred thousands since I have this feeling that my dad is planning to come with me). However, my biggest concern is TIME. If I will pursue my application, and modesty aside, I really think I would qualify, I wouldn’t be able to graduate in December. I would have to extend for a term and stay in school until April, then take the Board exam on October.

I am, at this point, just a short walk away from a dream, but taking that stroll would mean lengthening my journey.

Honestly, I didn’t have any intension of ending this entry with a statement. I wanted to post the question to everyone in the hopes of somehow finding the answer from others. But after really mulling over my choices, I guess it is best for me... TO STAY.

I will stay here, and finish the journey I have started, while I safely keep in my heart the dream of studying miles away from here.
I will fulfill that dream when I’m already armed with a CPA license under my name.
Yes, someday, I will

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Small Hours

I have been pretending to be Superwoman for quite some time. I have endured almost a week of taking merely catnaps. I even find myself wondering why I’m still wearing the same clothes because a day feels like 48 hours. I have completely lost my sense of time, not knowing which day it is, and acting as if deadlines are the only dates that appear in my calendar.

I badly need my dose of rest, but taking it would mean welcoming the possibility of failing. It is a choice between sleeping and staying alive. I obviously choose the later.

I have been, since God knows when, ranting about this kind of life. Yet, I have never (seriously) considered getting out of it.

I’m caught up with school works and tons of reading assignments. I miss being busy holding hands, dining out and watching movies with him. Those memories, those small hours make me look forward to a brighter morning, in the same way that it helps me stick up with every long and exhausting day.

He’s my hero.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


- Girl

There must be something about Keng and I's taste when it comes to movies because we always find ourselves inside moviehouses with couples twice, or even thirice, our age. But everytime that happens, it's a good sign; we end up enjoying the film up until the credits roll.

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don't need no other lover
Something in her style that shows me
- Something

Yesterday, we went to G4 to watch Across the Universe.
We sat in awe for 2 hours and left our seats as Beatles' fans.

There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love
- All You Need is Love

There's only one word to describe the experience- WOW.
I cannot pinpoint which part or aspect of the movie caught me- it's just, WOW.
Saying it is like an MTV marathon of the best classics, decorated with amazing cinematography is, I guess, redundant to saying, WOW.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
-Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Try to watch it. It's a must- see, definitely

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I Believe in Paulo Coelho

After three years of building up a decent heap of confidence, I am now left with hardly anything to keep me going everyday. Fate is slapping me with unending letdowns. Or should I say I am being punished for mediocre efforts?

Just as when I needed the most amount of faith in myself, I am stripped off with whatever I managed to put together. There are so much negative thoughts circling my head right now. I am beginning to feel really terrified.

In this time of skepticism, a small voice was slowly getting louder, until it succeeded in getting my attention.

One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, wrote in Alchemist, that a person, in his vulnerable age, already knows what he wants from life. And when the time comes that he finally stands up to achieve it, the universe conspires for his success. At first, life will be easy, especially when beginner’s luck still exists. However, a period will come when the person will be tested to his limits, not to hinder him but to measure his strength, because only those with brave hearts deserve to win. This is the part where most of us give up not knowing that this is when we are closest to our dream.

Right now, I am holding on to the fact that the world is just testing me; that after all this, I will emerge with my dream on my hand.

I choose to believe in Paulo Coelho and his voice is slowly overpowering the unwanted echoes in my head.

Back From the Future

After weeks of being back in campus, I guess I’m still on an SGV life high.

Who could blame me?

Life as a trainee was plain fun. I never expected I could get along well with the associate director, director and the senior director easily. I learned so much, not really about audit technicalities, but more of about life. The SGV people, more than anything, showed me that if one is really dedicated to his/ her chosen career, overtimes are enjoyable and overnights are no big deal.

The OJT experience helped me think about my future in a more transparent view. And if there’s one best way to end it, it’s having a scrumptious dinner in Nanbantei with my ‘bosses’, who turned into ‘friends’

A thousand thank yous to:

Sir Valen, for the patience and the trust. I really admire your dedication and humility.

Sir Melvin, for spending your free time just chatting with me and, of course, for paying the bill. Ü

Ma’am Maan, for sharing that really cute childish side of you when we were out of the office.

Every member of JEZ cluster, for welcoming me and making me feel comfortable around you, guys.

Non- JEZ peepz (Pierre, et.a l) with whom I practiced the mischievous side of me (haha).

Lastly, of course, Mr. JEZ, for allotting some of your precious time to have dinner with us even if you were endlessly teasing me about some associates.

We were required to accomplish 160 hours; I worked for 175. I was definitely overworked and underpaid. But P3,000.00 for 3,000 lessons learned? Not bad, at all.

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