2020 recap: failure, awakening, fame, passion, authenticity, and curiosity
Dedicated to Eduardo Salcedo — my spiritual partner and my friend for life. Thank you for helping me wake up to the fact that awareness puts me in a position of choice; that the authentic expression of ourselves is repairable.
Every year, I do a recap of the monthly adventures I embarked on. I make a listicle on the lessons I learned in each place I visited, in each local family I stayed with, in each small and big humbling circumstances I found myself in.
But this year is significantly different for me — for all of us actually.
Have you ever written about your deep, dark dive in life this year? What did you find out?
This time, instead of writing about those monthly travels, I choose to share my profound adventure about myself: a battle against my self-diagnosed anxiety disorder.
On Monday, literally, a week ago, I found myself sitting on a porch, unloading rage, anger, frustrations, and self-inflicted pains to a person I just connected with. Let’s call him Alejandro. I normally have doubts about instant friendships but Ale and I were glued together for being Virgos.
Before this visit, star signs were the extent of our newfound friendship. My dog Lola, who I got from a shelter home 2 years ago is very sensitive and is usually just always close to me. I am very surprised by how she likes Ale. I’ve had Lola since she was a puppy and I know very well that she does not like everyone. But this one, she likes. A lot. So, I am also trusting Lola’s energy with other people.
Despite my awful crying eyes that made me look even more Chinese, Ale did not hold back. He said a lot of very hurtful things which were only hurtful because they were true. I don’t know this person for a long time (not even 3 months, I shit you not) but he painted an accurate picture of the person he sees in me. He saw right through the person I was concealing. I have no clue how he did that but I took every word to heart. Besides, nobody has talked to me like that for a long time. I am a life champion by default in the eyes of my colleagues, friends, and my family. Nobody will ever think I am going through something difficult because, in everyone’s minds, I already got life figured out. I won the life lottery as they would all say.
It was refreshing to have Alejandro around because he does not know me a lot. Not even half of who I am. He only describes what he sees. This was the first time we had a heart to heart conversation. He made sure he belittled me. He also did not entertain my drama even if I had the need to be hugged, loved, and agreed to. That night, I felt that he was burying me alive. I have never been buried alive and I certainly don’t know how that feels but while he was talking, I couldn’t breathe. Nobody’s said shit about me face to face. Not even my very close friends.
Well, you do know my sisters, my mother, and my aunts. Sure, they do that every day but they are still my family who will always be fascinated by the way I chose to live my life. That will never change. I am the Protector of the Velarmino Name, Mother of the Doggos, the Khaleesi of YOLO, the Unburnt, and most especially, the Breaker of the Chains. Because I really did break the invisible barriers of how girls in my country should grow up. This is how proud my family is of what I’ve become so much they don’t notice my flaws anymore. Except they are very vocal about my weight. They insist I eat more.
Honestly, at that point, Ale’s words and attitude were the only things I needed. I longed for someone who will talk to me in the most unfascinating, disrespectful, put-your-shit-together-woman! way. At the same time, he was coming from a place of love and good intentions. When he did just that, I knew he was someone I can be genuine friends with. Forever.
I’ve been anxious for most of my life, especially when it comes to my career. I never really paid attention to my extreme anxiety because for me, it was normal to be anxious especially if it’s about a job I am passionate about. Alongside it, in the middle of a pandemic, I need to pay the bills. Anxiety was part of the daily jam until one day, my body could not keep up with my brain. My mind was in a triathlon tournament that never ends. I literally felt like I was in an athletic contest of three events. Every day, I swim, cycle, and run long distances. I hope these were actual physical activities but no, this was my unstoppable brain. I learned to co-exist with my anxiety that every day when I wake up, it’s part of who I am and a part of what I need to have in order to survive my daily grind.
I let anxiety sit on the passenger seat while I drive the highways of my life. I let it have a say on where to go, I let it touch the maps, I let it tell me when to pull over for a cigarette break. Until I woke up to the horrific truth that it is not normal to live with anxiety. At the back of my head, it’s easier not to deal with it. I am used to being anxious all the time anyway. What difference will it make if I confronted it?
Now, I am sitting with discomfort. What does that mean?
Most of us are not really awake because we choose to stick to our daily comfortable routines. We, humans, are never good at facing our demons. We live every day without awareness, without even feeling the ground we step on, and intently seeing only the things we want to see. Our mind is not wide open to working on the aspects of ourselves that we don’t even know about. We always stick to the belief that we are who we think we are but deep down in that subconscious mind, there are lots of traumas that were buried because we never want to be face-to-face with them. It is very uncomfortable to do so.
Sitting with discomfort is when you truly admit to yourself what you’ve done wrong at the same time, acknowledging what you’ve done right. I can go on and on writing about what I discovered during my tea party with discomfort but I do not want to overwhelm you with my personal journey – it is quite heavy. We all have very heavy shit that we don’t want to share nor discuss. In most cases, they’re probably buried deep down our subconscious that we don’t even recognize its existence. You, my dear friend, are here to observe. Don’t take all my bad energies in!
Most of who we are is a product of coping with whatever scenario we were brought up in. Our traumas, whether we admit that we have it or not, are from ages 0-12 — an unchartered territory that our adult selves will not even bother to go back to. We have no idea what’s in there. Or, in most cases, we don’t really know how to touch that subject because we do not know it exists. After all, it’s way more convenient to shut down than sit with the discomfort of our being.
In this article, I will share all my successes, hindrances, what stopped me to continue what I was doing, my self-diagnosed anxiety disorder, my greatest lies and alibis. But most of all, I want to share with you how I am changing the narrative about myself that I believed in (and stuck with) for most of my adult life.
There are also writing/journaling exercises at the end of every section. I do these exercises daily because I learned that improving ourselves is a life-long work. From here forth, I have dedicated 4 hours a day to focus on my being, to focus on nurturing my artist self, and at the same time, recognizing who I am outside of my job: I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a woman. These are parts of who I am that I’ve forgotten because I was so focused on the unwinnable war against… me.
I encourage you to do these exercises without confusing your circumstance with mine. Sure, you can definitely relate as these are the basic subjects of human existence. But I ask you to read this with awareness and honestly list down things about you that you can relate to.
In the end, I do wish we can use this space as a space for sharing what we’ve realized about ourselves through these significant subjects. After reading this article, I do not want you to feel like this will be your self-help journal in achieving who you want to be. My writing is always about my life experiences and how I’ve seen the world in different levels and forms through the years that I am galloping the globe. Again, you can choose to relate but remember that you have to knit your own story of who you are. I also want you to remember that I am not a mental health expert. I am writing about my journey as I go, as I process it, as I am learning about it. Writing is something that makes me feel safe and processing my thoughts out loud has helped me become aware of what is real and what is not real.
The narrative: leading the authenticity movement
For you, dear ones, who’ve been following my journey for the last 10 years, you know my narrative — the story that I kept telling myself repeatedly. My public story. The story I am known for. It’s what made you follow this blog in the first place.
My narrative, without going into details goes like this: I am from the Philippines and I left home to travel the world at 19. I studied Fashion in Italy then, later on, realized studying is not my jam. My curiosity made me move to Spain, travel around Western Europe, met a boy, went backpacking in Western Africa, broke up with this boy, and went on an indefinite backpacking journey throughout South America. That lasted 3.5 years without going home to the Philippines. I’ve been on a cruel boat journey from Panama to Colombia, crossed the border to Ecuador, took a 72-hour bus ride from Quito to Peru, went overland to Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and finally, Brazil.
See also: More thoughts on moving to Mexico, life, and the promise to always give myself an interesting journey
After that, I went home to Asia and started exploring Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the whole of Southeast Asia. Then I moved to the Middle East to do some humanitarian work. Met a boy, lived in Israel, traveled to Jordan, Egypt, UAE, and Lebanon. Consciously violated my boundaries by tenaciously obtaining visas to Syria and Yemen for an adrenaline rush. That didn’t work out. Did visa-runs slash short-term living in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
Got engaged with my then-Israeli boyfriend, moved back to Asia to process my permanent residency in Israel as a married woman, and again, that did not work out. We never actually married because of Israel’s incomprehensible bureaucracy. Then I moved to Mexico to start a new life only to find out I will be stuck in Mexico and be forced to realize how I have been living and portraying my life through this single story of who I am. To understand more about single stories, read my article, The Single Story of Israel to the World. Here, you will find out what your single story is without confusing it to the copy of others.
Now, this is a solid, stellar profile. A decorated narrative of my life. While 100% of this is true, I’ve come to a realization that I stopped being that person a long time ago. This is not me anymore. This WAS me. This WAS the young adult in me. This WAS my life between 19-27 years old. After that, everything is scripted and based on the successes that I wanted the public to see and stick with. I am 32 now and when the world stopped because of the pandemic, that’s when I saw there was a gap in my timeline: what happened in my life between ages 27 – 32? What was my narrative?
Our stories always have an order but it is an automated story that we tell ourselves and the world. Do you remember what you say when people ask you, “what’s your story?” Don’t you feel like everything you say is part of a great script you did not even intend to write. It just goes out the exact same way every time you tell that story. The more you repeat it, the more it becomes very real to you. But please, do correct me if I am wrong. I just have not met anyone who changes their answer each time someone asks the same question. How do you present yourself to the general public? Do they always change? Or you just stick to your script? I surely am using the same script for years.
Another part of my story is leading the authenticity movement. I’ve lied about many things in my life but being authentic was something I promised that will always be part of my story. However, I found out, that authenticity, if left unattended, can also give you a delusion of who you are. I found out there is no end to learning how to be authentic.
By sticking to my story of who I am, I split myself into two parts: one where I only put forward the things about me that make me loved and safe in the world. The rest, which are the very ugly parts of who I am, I kept hidden. My personality from 27 years old (ouch, that’s a very long time not to focus on myself) is a totally fake personality. I only stuck with it because it’s what kept me safe and most accepted in the world, most especially in the career path I chose — a public life where I am putting forward the way I want to change the world in an unwinnable battle against critics — critics who always find a way to bury me to the ground and eat me alive. Luckily, what people think about my art never really mattered to me.
At least, for now. I know it is very important to breathe in some constructive criticism but in the world I am living in, I have to choose my battles. More often than not, there isn’t really the right or wrong war to sign up to. I just listen to my body instinctively. I will discuss this more later in the Failure Section where I will tell you the story about Trisha: The Tormented Artist.
From reading and doing research, I stumbled upon Carl Rogers’ humanistic psychology concept that involves being conscious of incongruencies. His method suggests that unpleasant feelings can result from a discrepancy between our perceived and ideal self:
- Perceived self: how an individual views themselves
- Ideal self: how an individual wishes who they are
I learned that if I want to be authentic, I have to have the willingness to look bad to myself and to other people. Like I told you, this did not bother me consciously but I did a little deep dive: what stopped me from being truly authentic is my ego’s attachment to the sense of being good all the time. For the past few years, I never allowed myself to make mistakes. That I should be someone who does not make mistakes. Part of that influence of being always good at what I do is my deep relation and value for my heritage. In my daily life, there’s always the discussion and the strong identification of being a person of color and a woman. I’m sure you’ve read these two words a lot in my short stories or probably heard it in one of my public speaking engagements.
While it is very true that people of color and women have their challenges, I might have done it a little bit too much. I planted a seed in my mind that people like me are not allowed to make mistakes. That women and people of color do not get second chances. My life and what I do always had to be perfect. I made it my passion. So, I put together an identity that will make me believe I am contributing to changing the world. I made changing the world a crusade — and crusades, as we know, starts with good intentions until it’s done wrong.
I am not discrediting my passion for being a woman and a person of color. It’s just a matter of living with it in harmony and consciously leading crusades that are not too much. The difference between then and now is my comfort in accepting my problem: I fear rejection so I kept telling the world about my decorated narrative. That’s just got to change and it has to happen now.
Attachment: how do you do this?!
My intense feelings towards everything I do does not always result in positive things as I wished it would have. If you are new to reading my blog and following my journey, I want to share with you that between the ages of 19-27, a time when I had a clear vision of who I wanted to be, what made that period successful was my ability to detach.
I jumped right away into serious relationships, always moved in with the guys I was dating, met their families, and had no boundaries. I never had to experience the stages of dating because, in my head, there is always an escape route. I actually did not realize this until 2 days ago, while I was having lunch with a friend. She put into words what I couldn’t: “you are always in serious relationships because you do not intend for them to be long ones. You know you will leave at some point so you never really cared about its sustenance. You never looked at it as something that will last forever. And there is nothing wrong with that.”
When I was dating Tony, I had no intention of living in Hong Kong for a year and that resulted in me flying to Tel Aviv without personally saying goodbye. I broke it off through Whatsapp. I even burdened him to take care of the stuff I left in his apartment. “Do whatever you want with them. I don’t need them.” Just as I was detached from people and places, I was also untied to material things.
This did not change. I still rent fully-furnished apartments in case I want to change the way I live the next day. Grab the dogs, put my clothes in the car, and just go. I am still not at the point where I will buy a heavy dining table and move it around Mexico every 6 months. It’s just really my emotional attachments that I am trying to work on at the moment. And thank God I do not go nuts about owning material stuff. This is very clear to me.
In Tel Aviv, I met Omri, the most beautiful and understanding man this beautiful Universe has to give. But then it didn’t work out because of the many rules about living in Israel that are impossible to comply with especially if you do not fit that religious structure.
With Tim, it was totally different. He and I lived every waking day being asleep. I did not break it off right away even if there were lots of red flags waving. I told myself, “you are going to learn how to be attached and rid of the idea of always being detached.” I sat with the discomfort of that relationship because it was safe. There were no efforts needed from me or from him. “Just keep being comfortable” is what I told myself in order to survive and justify why I was still in it. That went on for months and months and months.
I thought I will have an escape route until COVID happened. I was forced to stay in one place. The choice of moving around was actually taken away from me. And what do you do when you don’t have a choice? I am sure you understand what COVID has done to us as humans and individuals. This is probably the first time that this is happening to us. We move on through life because we always have a choice whether it be right or wrong. But pinche COVID really put me on the ground and left me with no options but to stay put. For a time, I thought that was not important. I thought I can go through staying put without having problems with it.
After Tim, I found myself in this very attached and lonely state (not necessarily towards him. We are friends and both have moved on) to the point that I couldn’t be alone. The attachment was not just for romantic relationships but also platonic. I always had the urge to go out for drinks every single day or invite friends for dinner. That’s when the problem and wondering came in: you were alright backpacking the globe by yourself for most of your adult life. Why is this happening now? Why are you doing it backward?
I secretly hoped that relationships came with a manual that will automate these processes. But then again, we are humans, not robots. We have the ability to successfully operate these things. The method that I find very effective is heightening my awareness. I found out how awareness can put me in a position of choice. I learned that consistently checking-in myself and how I feel will make a difference in my daily life. I learned that being in relationships does not have to have an escape route where I can fully tap out whenever I want to. I realized I cannot just waltz in and out of people’s lives when it is convenient for me. Above all, I have accepted that I am not the only one that should be driving. I got so used to being in-charge that I can always decide what speed the relationship should be in. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I need to know how to be half of a partnership.
Then I met James (not his real name) and started being truly awake. It’s not him, really. It’s just the circumstance we were both in when we met. Listen, it’s not like a God-like perfectly enlightened figure appeared on my doorstep that made me change the way I look at intimate relationships. There was just something about that meeting that was not solely about him or me. This encounter made me think about how I should take relationships slowly. I feel it in every vein in my body. I am so awake.
To be honest with you, the last time I did this was when I was in high school – hence, the outcome of long relationships. Adrian was my steady boyfriend from 15 – 19 years old. That was a very young age to be in a relationship. That was a different time though — I was only following the stages of relationship and wasn’t really free to decide when to see Adrian. My mother (and Adrian’s mother) did those decisions for us because both Adrian and I were rebel teenagers. We were allowed to be boyfriends-girlfriends but we needed to be moderated.
Our parents were a big part of the success of our childhood romance that lasted 5 years. I thought we were going to get married and have children together because that’s how it looked like. That’s actually the reason we broke up. He was 4 years older, he wanted kids. Culturally, our age was the perfect time to get married. But seriously, how could have a 19-year old girl like me survive a marriage? What did I know about it? In that 4-people relationship (with Adrian and our moms), I was the only one who did not agree to happily ever after. Everyone bought the idea.
I mean, come on guys. I know you’re all on-board. But who will carry the baby for 9 months, give natural birth (a process I can’t even imagine happening to my body), stay at home to watch the kids, clean the house, prepare dinner for my husband’s arrival for work? Who is tasked to do all that? In our culture, that’s me. Though what I had with Adrian was pure and real love, I am very happy I refused the offer. I am glad I said something.
I am still trying to figure out if this awakening is about James himself or something that I just came to realize myself. He’s not perfect and he is also not the most enlightened person at the time I met him. Believe me, I had the feeling that I was more clear about myself and how I wanted this “dating” turn out. But this certainly helped lessen my anxiety. It really assisted in my journey to learning about human attachments. I can say that I am very in control of my emotions because of the circles I now consciously choose to be in.
What I find very helpful is that I am in this learning process with someone. That we are in the same boat. I know you might be thinking: “this bitch is dating again while preaching about all these relationship enlightenment she’s going through. What a fraud.”
I thought there was something wrong with that too. But like I told you, the last time I was ever aware of the stages of relationships was when I was 14. That’s a long time ago and I have now chosen to be a different version of myself by consciously learning it with heightened attention while I am actually in it. It’s like on-the-job training where you don’t have to have a clear picture of what you are doing. You learn as you go.
In Stan Tatkin’s book We Do, he stated that these things are easier to learn if you are actually not in a relationship. The problem with us is that we only pay attention to details when they are fucked up. We don’t really want to give time for something that we think is already fixed. If only we can remember, working on ourselves is a daily tedious task. There is Nirvana, for sure, but look around you: do you know someone who has reached this highest point of enlightenment? I sure don’t. So I vowed to myself that I will always attend to self-improvement on a daily basis. Probably forever.
We Do will teach you how to say yes to a relationship of depth, true connection, and enduring love even if there is no partner to apply these learnings to. It does help when you are in the early stages of dating, like how I feel it is currently helping me tame my attachment.
What’s really fun about this is that James and I, for a short period of time, both appear to know something about how the other feels and we both care about that. It is a model of mutual respect and it’s something I have never experienced in my life. We do not expect each other to be different from who we are. We use this shared connection as a way to protect ourselves from both our public and private settings. I just realized this is the first time I am talking about James in public. My close friends and my family don’t even know there’s a James. I’d like to keep it that way (for now).
I have chosen this area of my life to be private until it blooms to understanding myself 100%, until I am genuinely capable to love more fully — not just for James but for the people around me who I publicly proclaimed to love and support no matter what. I believe in the simple psychology of you can’t give to others if you don’t nurture yourself first. For the past few months, I have been feeding on my friends’ positive energies. I’d love to give that in return by taking care of myself and by cultivating a healthy being, in and out. This is the only way I can ever be a good daughter, sister, friend, lover — or whoever/whatever new person I will find in me for the next couple of months.
I also do know with all my heart that no matter how short or long this story with James be, I will still continue to write, explore, and understand my relationship patterns and attachment styles.
Failure: Trisha, the tormented artist
September 20 is my birthday. Yipee!!! I love bdays. My friends who don’t like celebrating their bdays are extremely annoyed by my enthusiasm about theirs. One time, my friend Wendy told me she doesn’t want to do anything for her bday and I said, “I don’t care. I do not have boundaries.” I showed up at her doorstep with Kirkland wine bottles and a lemon cake that didn’t fit her fridge.
I love bdays! I like Karaoke birthdays where I force all my friends to prepare a number even if they don’t want to. I once demanded the cake lady in my pueblo to make dog cakes for my babies. I like drag queen birthdays, dress up like Frida birthdays, piñata birthdays, wake up the next day shit-faced birthdays.
I love bdays!!! But this year, I am unhappy. Most of my adult life, I have projected the idea that my life is perfect. AND I believe it really is. Who can complain about this life? No one in their right mind. I had no way to identify why I was unhappy. Only real people who experienced real adversities in life get to be unhappy and miserable. Like Malala who was shot in the face by the Taliban. Or George Floyd’s family. Or the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped for forced marriage. I am not Anne Frank who was killed together with 6 million other Jews. There is no reason for me to complain. I’m ashamed to say I am unhappy when there are more people suffering more than I am. And they’re not complaining. At the same time, I wrote in my journal, “I am craving for aloneness. I need to find a way to account for my unhappiness. I need to find out why I feel miserable.”
Unhappiness for no reason is what I call the Tormented Artist stage. It does not happen to me a lot because I always take care of my creativity (aka my job) but when it does, it happens in a very excessive manner.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I started a project that instantly took off. People loved it. It fed my artistic ego and I always loved when I am popping fame and success out of nowhere, mostly because I am interested in how people react. The project did not fail but I did. I entered the dark, vicious belief about how artists should be when they are lost. Thankfully, it’s not in the form of substance or alcohol. I can never deny my addiction to tobacco which is one of the issues I am putting off for now but I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol — a persona or a role that we artists think we should be playing.
Think about Club 27, a list of popular musicians, artists, and actors who died at age 27. All of which claimed had problems with so much fame that they didn’t know where to go. I mean, if you are already Amy Winehouse at 27 years old, what else is to be done? Where do you go?
I am using Amy as an example because when I was 14, she changed the way I look at music. From Backstreet Boys, I found myself tapping my toes to her jazz tunes but more importantly, I admired how she wrote those songs. I aspired to write like her when Frank was released in October 2003. Now, Frank is never an album everyone knows by heart (just as I only know a few people who are familiar with James Taylor’s Gorilla album). But if you dig deeper into how Amy wrote her songs in Frank, it was dark, deep, full of anger, and traumas that she never had time to confront.
The fame she experienced and how people received her art made her go crazy. She gave herself built-in permission for terrible behavior. And that is our artist pass. We never said a thing when Amy was performing drunk in Dublin. We looked away when she misbehaved before His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini. We did not say anything when she refused to go to rehab. Her Rehab song is literally about this and we all enjoyed it. It’s because artists like Amy are special. Artists are creative. And in one point in our lives as an artist, we did something really great so people can look away at our dumb choices in life.
As a Tormented Artist, she got a pass. I am not famous like Amy but I also gave myself the Tormented Artist card. Using this card allows you to be excused from treating the people around you badly, from drowning yourself with alcohol, from smoking pot the moment you wake up. I swear, if you are an artist, people just have the automated understanding that you are going through an artistic phase and that you will go out of it. But nobody will say anything about the awful things you’ve done.
My Tormented Artist rebellion was on other channels; in other ways. I did not drown in alcohol though I gave myself permission to smoke as much as I want. I am still working on the connotation of cigarettes to artists, especially to writers. It brings me comfort that my writing models are smokers, let’s say Barack Obama who is another person whom we will never think of as someone who has some bad shit in his life. Simply because he is great and he is Barack. He gets the Tormented Artist pass, too. I mean, if you are a doctor or a lawyer and you behave this badly, you’ll be called out as a total douchebag. You can’t use the TA pass if you’re in this profession.
But I can. And I did.
I complained, complained, and complained about not having this creative flow. I set up dinner dates with friends and flaked. I canceled all the trips I booked just because I didn’t feel like it on the day of the flight. I’ve had deadlines at work that weren’t met. Nobody said a thing, really. Nobody got mad when I chickened out. Nobody called me out for always canceling. I was inside a bubble where people just agreed I am an artist who’s just having a rough time with her creative mind. It was ridiculous.
My clients even rode this tide with me. Even if my work was a month or 2 months late, they never said a thing. Their point is that I get things done and that is more important. But for me, I think they are just really used to artists being like this and they let me go away with it. How lucky I am to be in this artistic state and every single person just falls in line and still pays me if the work gets done. I don’t buy it. I choose to change it.
Through these failures, my anxiety grew louder and stronger. I felt that people were always after me. I was paranoid that my movements and social media posts were always being scrutinized. I was ashamed to publish some work because of the fear of being criticized. The Tormented Artists phase was over only when I decided it is over. When it ended, I realized that all the paranoia was my own fabrications. I woke up to the truth that nobody cares about me and that the world goes on without me. This is not just me. You and I both know that we sometimes feel that people are always looking at us but really, I swear, nobody is looking.
One thing that helped me get through this self-inflicted scrutiny: people do not care about you because they are busy with their own life dramas. We all have it. We all want to be in the center of undivided attention. We all think that if we screw up, the whole world is watching attentively. But they are not. The spotlight is only on us when we do something really stupid, vulgar, and worth gossiping about. But after a day or two, people move on. Nobody’s thinking about how we royally screwed up. I mean, would you spend a whole day or even just 4 hours worrying about other people’s lives? Was there a point in your life when you did that? I mean just 100% thinking about how another person just did this very very very vulgar thing.
I bet your answer is no because you also have some shit in your life that you have to deal with. You do not have time to think about other people’s dramas. Nobody ever has this time to think about you. As humans, we are programmed to revolve our lives around ourselves. Seriously, nobody’s thinking about your issues so I hope that will help you in working out your best self without considering what other people will say. That is if they ever say something.
Passion: a re-assessment of my strong amorous feeling towards what I do
The authenticity movement is not the only crusade I lead in my life. There is also the thing about dreams. Do you remember when I told you that there are no right or wrong dreams? That whatever your passion is, it will take you to that direction of your dreams?
This year, I found all that bullshit. Our dreams will lay dormant until we do something about it. This was the point I failed to deliver. I encouraged people to dream, without discussing how to realistically navigate the road to that dream. I sometimes feel like I encouraged people to sit on their couch and look at other people’s Instagram and start daydreaming. I never said do something about it. Of course, not everyone in the world reads this blog. This is just for those who are already in my tribe and have this unbreakable belief in me.
I do not regret leading this crusade but I do not believe in it at all. I would always blame the wrong wordplay to “I am not a native English speaker so the message was not sent right” but then again, that is bullshit. That’s similar to the Tormented Artist pass. Having an influence on people’s lives, especially on the young girls in my country who have, at one point idolized me for having the life that I have comes with great responsibility. To tell you honestly, I never intended to be an Influencer, a word so famous these days we don’t really know the meaning. My being an Influencer was accidental. I started sharing publicly about my life 10 years ago because I love writing. Sharing was secondary.
In 2013, I was asked to write an essay on Rappler, a big publication in the Philippines. I asked my sister if it’s alright for her to be part of my story. She is a very private person so I needed to ask permission. She asked what that entails. I said, “nothing. Nobody reads my work anyway.” After 72 hours of publication, my article got a million views.
Actually, sharing my work was originally for my family who was very worried that I am wandering off the Amazon jungle for days without contact. When I told my mother I will be staying with a family in Brazil, she did not even ask who the family is. She was automatically taken to the images of how dangerous Brazil is. The same thing happened when I stayed with strangers in Colombia – the imagery of this country for many is drugs, cartels, and well… Pablo Escobar.
My writing taught me that I can choose to tell a different story. And I did, I did it for myself. I just never thought I will come to a point where people will ask me about life advice and religiously follow it. I was never prepared for this but I still continue writing my thoughts anyway.
Then writing became my passion. The word passion, as we know, means a strong desire for anything that we choose to love. I often preached of passion and have been telling people “As long as you have passion, you will be fine.” But now I am feeling totally against it. Like dreams, our passions are just passions until we do something about them. The only difference with passion is that we already know what it is. It will never go away. Passion is already in us and we do not have a choice. But sometimes, it does leave us feeling confused and insecure, especially when we do not know how to manage it.
I am a very passionate person myself and it has been one of the strongest things that make me go on with life. When my passion was solidified with an actual output (aka my career), it contributed to my decorated life. As someone who was actively inspired, I published all my work without hesitation. I did not have fear of whatever people will say about my work. Most of all, passion fed my ego: I am never wrong. I know everything. The general public will always accept what I say or write.
Now, I was advised to replace passion with curiosity. Something that was in my daily grind but I lost sight of. When you are being curious, your passion develops on different levels and forms. For example, I recently got back to Mix Martial Arts (MMA) — a subject I have not touched since I was 21. I was curious why I stopped doing it when there was one point in my life that I was actually so into it. I enrolled myself in an MMA class. These days, I only go to physical classes/activities that have been paid in advance because the monthly payment I did is somehow motivating me to go daily. I really should work on that kind of thinking but more on that in the future. I do not want to overwhelm my self-development with different subjects. One at a time, as I say every day when I wake up.
During my first day in class, I was curious if I will like it or not. After all, 21-year old Trisha was into it. I don’t see why 32-year old Trisha would reject it. And I did! I loved it! I still continue doing it. It is not something that I will make into a profession but I am very open to other things that will make me passionate as long as it is coming from being curious. Curiosity first. Passion second. I hope you get the picture.
Fame: more so, recognition
I have been published in different magazines like Lonely Planet and Forbes. I did one season of a show for CNN. I was on a cover story for Cosmopolitan, a women’s magazine. I was part of a radio show on BBC UK. The list of my achievements can go on and on. For most of my life, I had the idea of making that list go non-stop, without a cut. I have obliged myself to keep decorating my life from the outside, but never from the inside. What does that mean?
It meant (past tense) that I was only doing the things I was doing for recognition. I am proud to say that I have maintained the integrity of my blog by being honest and by not sugar-coating anything I write about. But when it comes to social media, it is a different ball game. The way I presented myself on Instagram and Facebook were from the broth of the success I achieved. Meaning, I only did things when people are looking. For most of us “Influencers”, this can be very challenging to admit but I am saying it right now: since I was 27, I have not done anything in my life that was not televised nor published. Everything I did was publicized by choice.
This enlightenment and understanding came when I talked to the same friend I had lunch with two days ago. Part of my new ways in life is to identify who I am outside of the job that I do. So, right now, I am not allowed to do any work just so I can focus on finding out a different version of myself.
In the beginning, the struggle was about being irrelevant. I have friends who are over 50 years old and they always told me that one day, when I age, I will not be relevant. I am only relevant now because I am young, skinny, and traveling the world, they said. I did not think that the feeling of being irrelevant will come to me as early as now. But I do know that it is because I do not know who I am outside of P.S. I’m On My Way. I am used to the fame, the recognition, and the idea that no one will ever go against what I write.
My friend asked what being relevant means for me and I answered: I think it’s when you are bringing forth the change you want to be in the world. It’s about doing something meaningful. It’s about contributing to this world so it will become less wretched. I am not a huge game-changer but I was convinced that maybe, just maybe, I will change the world. I still keep that belief up until today but my friend’s response struck me: “so, you’ve helped girls in the Middle East learn about the importance of education through your humanitarian work. That’s in the past but you can do that again. That is something that makes you feel relevant, correct?”
Yes, yes yes. I am proud to say that I have contributed to how mothers in Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Senegal, and Western Africa see the importance of their daughters going to school. I do want to clarify this was not a crusade, but a volunteer job where I was following an organizational structure on how to navigate things. I did not do these all on my own.
“What if you do that again but this time, do not televise it. Do not publish it. Will it make you feel irrelevant if no one is looking while you’re doing all this awesomeness?”
I looked at her and I did not know what to say only because I have a job that requires me to publish everything. Then I thought if I can privatize my current dating life with James, why will this be an exemption? Why am I telling myself that I cannot NOT publish this because this is my job when in fact, I am one of the lucky ones who can actually decide what I want for my business?
Anxiety is not the only one traveling with me. Ego is there, too. Ego has joined the road trip. I told Ego to stay in the backseat though. Having anxiety in the passenger seat, letting it do all the navigation for me is already heavy enough. Ego must not be allowed to touch the gears nor demand to pull over for a smoke break. Ego will be there to talk and talk and talk but not have a say.
Ego always means bad because that’s what we are taught to believe but according to psychologists, “if we don’t have an ego, we would become mentally ill. We need it to mediate between the unconscious and the conscious. Your relationship with your ego can turn into either an enemy or an ally. The ego causes most of your suffering, but it can also save you from further pain.”
It is not bad and I do not plan to dump Ego on the side of the highway. However, on this trip, I would like Anxiety to join Ego in the backseat, too. Both are contributing to my ties to recognition; to that chain to fame I used to believe I cannot break.
Life is disorderly. I knew this the very first day I left home to travel the world. I grew up in a dysfunctional household anyway. I went out here knowing that life will not organize shit for me. That the Universe will never respect the timeline I made for myself. As I go through this process of real change, some thoughts in this article might stay, some might go. I am not saying this is the solid direction I want to be in especially if it is very recent that I have decided to give time to my well-being. There is lots to learn about being an adult and there’s usually an overwhelming layer I do not expect myself to understand and live by right away.
I also would like to mention the fact that when we are going through big life changes, particularly if it’s a change in us, we will lose some people along the way because once we’ve changed, we are not the same person that those people liked in the first place. At this time of being a few days in this journey, I am already seeing patterns of who will go and who will stay. It’s not really a choice I made for myself but it’s the energy. It will happen, and you will see.
I was really worried about losing friends but every time I get panic attacks about that thought, I think about this psychological fact: “I have disowned an aspect of me in order to be part of other people’s lives. It is the process of socialization that creates the subconscious mind.” Most of us are just copies because we already buried who we are in our subconsciousness. We do this in order to be accepted by a person, or in a group. I am currently re-evaluating the relationships I call ‘friendships’ and I can’t believe what I am discovering without even choosing who stays on who goes. I am excited to see who will stay with the new me.
I looked back at my yearly recaps and they were all saying the same thing: new year, new me. But that new year new me adage did not really happen. I’ve been the same person for the last 5 years without being aware that something was wrong.
I do, however, have a genuine feeling that 2021 will be different just because of this 8,000-word essay I wrote. If you made it to the end of this article, I sincerely hope you will be awake in 2021, too. Put an effort and see how it will truly change your life.
There is nothing wrong with dreaming and hoping for a “new me” – on the 365th day of the year, the hype is real. But if we really do want to improve ourselves (stop bad habits, leave toxic relationships, etc), we can do it any time of the year. We barely do it but I feel like the most exciting part of the beginning of the year is embracing our beautiful mistakes and taking them as valuable life lessons that shaped who we are now.
And who we are, no matter how screwed up, our love for ourselves should remain constant.