15 Things 2014 Has Taught Me

Happy new year, guys!

So. Um. This should have been a year-ender post, but I was rarely home during the last days of 2014 so I didn’t have time to sit down and post anything longer than 140 characters. I thankfully got granted a few days leave from work and so I got to spend time with my family as we welcomed the new year. Here is a picture of me (far right) being matchy-matchy with my sister (can you guess which? lol) and my cousins last December 31. I call it, “Abbey Road Fail.” Ha.

But anyway. That picture is totally unrelated to the rest of this post…

2014 has been mostly lukewarm for me; there were some great hits, sure, but in retrospect they’re overshadowed by the many lowest-of-lows and the plethora of nights panicking and struggling to banish the heavy feeling of general dissatisfaction and unfulfillment. I used to be really optimistic, but 2014 took that away and replaced it with a glaring sense of reality. I’m not too happy about that. I’m not too happy, actually… (As you probs already got the gist of, basing on the blog posts here.) But drama asideI am grateful, forever and always, and there are still plenty of reasons to smile, and I am still loved, and I have still learned. A lot.

Fifteen of these lessons/discoveries/realizations that resonated:

  1. Confidence (even when faked) is everything. The problem with being as self-conscious as I am is that I’m very aware of my limitations and weaknesses, too aware, that oftentimes my certainty of my flaws makes me doubt all of my strengths. I keep going into “Oh, I’m going to suck at this” mode by default. But this year I learned that sometimes all it takes is telling yourself, “Eff yeah, you got this. You know this. You will kick ass at this!” and adapting that air of self-assurance, that spring in the step of someone who knows she’s good at what she does. It makes you feel  better about yourself, and that’s gonna make your work better, too. Sometimes you just gotta trust that you’ve learned and improved and practiced enough to be competent at what you do.
  2. It’s been a year of intensive re-reading. And I discovered that some books, the extra special ones, get better and better each time you read them.
  3. You’re gonna go back to being nobody special after graduation. School doesn’t prepare you for that. While I hadn’t exactly found being periodically recognized for good academic performance comfortable, it still took me a while to adjust from that at school to this at work, now—always finishing difficult tasks feeling like they were personal achievements, and yet nobody besides me has noticed. Because now, no one else is taking note. No one is tallying points, ranking grades, awarding medals. And that’s just how it works. You’re new, you lack experience, so people don’t much care as long as you finish your work promptly and satisfactorily. School was such a controlled environment, but in real life, you do you, and you have to be content with yourself being your greatest, and oftentimes only, judge. (And cheerleader, if the need arises.) I had to get used to that.
  4. The choice on who to follow on the Internet is more powerful than you think. I mean, it’s popular advice—Choose your inspirations wisely—and I think that’s true for who you follow online, too. You choose what content you see on a daily basis. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s influential, in a way. There was a time this year I got hooked on looking at Instagram accounts of people who post a lot of pretty stuff, gorgeous outfits, scrumptious-looking food…and before I knew it, I was already feeling bad about myself because I kept thinking, I want that! I need those shoes! I wanna eat there! I wanna own something of that brand! Even though I didn’t really want or need any of it. I just began to feel jealous because I saw photos like that everyday. So I just sort of stepped back and reevaluated what kind of content I wanted to see, what kind of people I wanted to be inspired by. Achievers, artists, readers, story-tellers, go-getters, game-changers, philanthropists, travelers—doers—and not just, you know, posters-of-stuff-merely-acquired-from-or-through-the-use-of-money. (Not that there is anything wrong with that. People are allowed to post what they want to post, and they have every right to pursue their passions, whatever they are, especially if they have the means to do it. I know that. Just, personally, I feel the need to back away a bit from materialism and worldly pursuits.)
  5. Sort of related to the previous item: Life is still better lived (primarily) offline. It’s easy to forget how real and huge the world actually is when you’re usually cocooned at home and glued in front of gadget screens. I didn’t realize how much the “world” I was so used to thinking of was more of a rose-colored puzzle piece of a larger, dirtier picture. Social media is inhabited by people who can afford access to the Internet. There is a bigger population out there who couldn’t. Being online all the time makes you lose sight of that. It took an unplanned trip outside the city, to a barrio with no electricity, full of out-of-school kids running around with no footwear, who probably don’t even know what the Internet is, for me to see how seriously twisted my priorities became.
  6. On a lighter note, I (only recently) learned how to view a microscope using both eyes. Haha! Here’s a pathetic truth: Prior to this year, I’ve only ever used my left eye to view microscope fields, because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to adjust the two eyepiece lenses to suit the distance between my eyes. From our first lab sessions years ago, our professors kept reminding us to use both eyes to view the microscope because that was the proper way, but each time I tried that, it was like being cross-eyed and seeing double, or half the time, seeing nothing but total darkness. At least with one eye, I could see what I was supposed to be looking at. This was how I survived microscopy in the entirety of my college life. It was only at work this year, seventeen months after graduation, twelve months since I passed my licensure exams, that I accidentally (miraculously) figured out that perfect-distance-between-both-eyes adjustment and I was like, HOLY COW. I NEVER KNEW IT COULD BE LIKE THIS. THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER. I AM AN IDIOT. Lol. My life would never be the same.
  7. On writing: When an idea hits, just write it down. Immediately. Don’t edit, don’t embellish, just write down each thought as it comes along. Even if they don’t connect with each other. Even if they don’t make sense as sentences yet. It’s imperative that you get the ideas down first and foremost, crappy as they are—the first draft of anything is shit (Hemingway got it right)—and after that, you can close your notes and forget about them for a bit. Lay the words down to rest, before you revisit them with fresh eyes, when you’re ready, and that’s when you can start editing.
  8. I prefer plane flights as I do most things—alone. (As mentioned here.)
  9. Not everyone can appreciate Jesse Eisenberg. Heck, not everyone knows who Jesse Eisenberg is. I have experienced a panicky moment some months ago in conversation with these people (who even went so far as saying The Social Network was so boring because all the actors ever did was talk—I almost had an aneurysm just listening to the conversation!), and I was like, “Why am I here I don’t belong here These people DO NOT UNDERSTAND…” Some weeks later, when I met up with my best friend, I found out she experienced the exact same thing, and we shared the (hilarious) frustration of questioning how and why there are people who don’t know who Jesse Eisenberg is and/or could not appreciate his appeal??!? And then I realized I am, in fact, so, so lucky that I have met people who belong to the tiny percentage of the population who do know him, and that I can call these people my closest friends. I shouldn’t ever panic about being the weird one in the room. I already have friends who share my brand of weirdness. And I may not communicate with them day by day anymore, but that’s because we don’t need to. We’ve got each other’s backs, regardless of how geographically far apart we are now.
  10. If you even have to think about it, it’s not right for you. (This The Script song is completely relevant to EVERYTHING.)
  11. I now know how to look someone in the eye and tell him “Fuck you,” without having to open my mouth or gesture with my hands. (And how to convince myself it’s as satisfying as voicing it out loud.) Because there are people who can say things that are way out of line and even think it’s fucking funny, because making perverted jokes about girls half your age is so fucking hilarious isn’t it? Har har—NOPE. And oh, to be forced to keep treating someone with respect even though he hasn’t given me the same courtesy! But I’d rather not risk losing my job. So I resort to telling him Fuck you in my head, telling him I pity you and your sick idea of entertainment, telling him I pray your daughter never grows up to become the subject of these kinds of jokes you find so fucking funny.
  12. FEMINISM. My chinky eyes have been opened and it’s as glorious as it is frustrating.
  13. Fringe-cutting is no sweat, thanks to this Twist Bang Cut video, the Holy Grail of DIY fringe-cutting tutorials. (Especially for someone with a natural side-part like me!)
  14. The word “gumption” and what it means and how the Universe keeps shoving this word in my face and how great it is and how I want to keep reminding myself of it enough to emulate it in pursuing the things that matter to me.
  15. And probably the best one I’ve learned—tasting the rainbow. When an emotion hits, just let yourself feel it. Because the tougher ones? Pain, sadness, anger? They become even more difficult to deal with if you fight against them. I used to always beat myself up at my low points, asking myself, “Why are you so depressed? Can’t you see that life is good right now? Stop freaking wallowing already!” and it didn’t occur to me that doing that just added to my struggle. So allow yourself to be hurt, to be sad, to be mad. To taste every shade of the rainbow. The darkness is equally important as the light, and you must experience both. You’re human. You feel things. That is what it means to be alive.

Here’s to more lessons in 2015!

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