Video: Trisha Velarmino’s TEDx talk in Manila, Philippines – nobody’s got life figured out

I did a Tedx talk in Manila, Philippines and here’s the transcript of the talk. Read along and watch the video below!


I don’t know you and I am pretty sure you don’t know me but I am willing to bet you are going through something very difficult at the moment.

You wake up every day and think about how life passes you by, what kind of life you want to live, that no one understands you.

Maybe it’s your last term in school and the thought of finding a job and being out there in the real world terrifies you. Maybe you are thinking of shifting to another course?

Thinking about people who are not supportive of what you want to do? Or maybe you are asking yourself every day: Where am I headed?

While you’re at it, you are being pressured by the people around you and the situations that come your way every day. Tita number one said, “So, what have you achieved lately?”

If you can’t come up with anything, she will start comparing you to your siblings and your other cousins who she thinks are more successful than you are.

It’s becoming repetitive and you are getting sick of it. To the point that you don’t want to attend family gatherings anymore.

Tita number two is like a fortune teller. She will look at you from head to toe and from that, she can have a “clear vision” of what you will be 5 years from now.

Of course, she will come up with ridiculous predictions. But sometimes, you actually wish tita number two is a real fortune teller.

You actually wish that this tita can really fast forward time and see what’s the future like.


I know this because 3 years ago, I was 25 — in a continent where I did not know anyone nor did I speak the language. I was pushed down, pressured, criticised, taken advantage of, rejected, broken into 50,000 pieces.

But these adversaries helped me become stronger and more resilient. So believe me when I say you need it, too. It will always come. Challenges are never ending..

It happens to all life forms. We are totally in control on how to respond. Don’t reject it. Embrace it. Don’t move past it. Go through it. Don’t anticipate. Stop bracing yourself for the war.

The future should be exciting, not scary. The future will work itself out. It will happen slowly. Quietly. And it will be a very very beautiful journey.

As long as you have passion and enthusiasm, you will be fine. You just need to believe that what you are doing really makes you happy and that it is important. Because it really is.

No matter how big or small, as long as it feels right, it will fit. It’s about the strong feeling towards a certain thing you want to pursue; not if the choice is wrong or right.

Do not go through your daily life just to get by. Do it right and do it with all your heart. Getting by will eat you alive! Whatever it is that you do, passion is essential to happiness.

You have the steering wheel. You are holding it. Go in the direction of your dreams, be anyone you want to be and do what your heart really desires.

Challenges will make you become a warrior princess. Darthvader. Captain America. You will feel stronger than you’ve never been before.


I am going to tell you a secret: Humans are programmed to believe the older you are, the wiser you are. Do you believe that? It’s partly true but what I want to tell you is that you don’t always have to have a clear picture of what you are doing!

People who are 3, 4, 5, 10 years older than you don’t have shit figured out. Even the cum laude of this school or the smartest person in this room dont have shit figured out.

All the people you admire who appears to have their shit together, believe me, they don’t have shit figured out.

You don’t believe me? Once you get home, ask your parents. Or your older siblings. “Mom, Dad, Ate, Kuya, do you have everything figured out? Do you have your life figured out?”

But please don’t say shit. As soon as you get their answer, send me an e-mail and let me know what they told you.

Millennials are the most obsessed when it comes to “finding themselves.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not excluding myself. I am a part of this generation, too. 

We keep obsessing about things before it actually happens. We keep putting drama and misery to our being “single.” We keep fantasizing about how our future should look like.

We are filled with overpowering sadness and discouragement for no reason at all. Our generation is so eager about the output we always skip the process. We like shortcuts because the long road terrifies us.

In a notebook where you pretend to write your weekly BIBSTUD lectures, you drew a timeline you created for yourself that’s not meant to be broken.

“2015: I am going to find a good internship.”

“2016: I will finish my thesis defense.”

“2017: I will graduate college.”

“2017: I will have a high paying job.”

These are beautiful dreams and there is nothing bad about plotting the time of your life. I can’t blame you. We grew up in a society where we are shaped to be always prepared for battle. For war. To compete. To be on top.

But what if it doesn’t turn out that way you want it? Because the reality is, things never work out the way we planned it.

No one respects the timeline we made for ourselves because times change and we should respond to that change.

I understand why you are planning thoroughly and worrying too much: insomnia, panic attacks, nail biting — you feel like you will not amount to anything in the future but that is not true.

There is always something out there for you because there are no right or wrong choices. This is the best time to explore the many different versions of yourself so don’t hold back.

You might finish a degree in MMA and be a professional surfer after graduation.

Or …

You can work in an office with a good salary. You can be a freelance artist with part-time gigs. You can be a lawyer or an office clerk, full-time mom or a pre-school teacher, a factory worker or a pastry chef.

You can travel the world, too. Let me tell you that all of these careers are good and never regard it as foolish. Have you met someone who is good at doing what he doesn’t like?

You have all the right to choose whatever you want to do in life because that is where you will thrive. This is where you will excel!

Don’t think about what he wants, what she wants, what your teachers want, what your parents want, what your titas want: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

It took time for me to answer this question because I was always bracing myself for the war. I didn’t think about what I wanted. I was obsessed about the career idea that the people around me will praise me for.

At 17, fresh off High School, I had two things I really wanted: football and politics. I wanted to be a lawyer so my mother enrolled me in an all-girls school to take up my pre-law.

I was also lucky enough to be admitted to the College’s football team but after a year, I found myself not liking my course. So I transferred here and took up MMA.

Football was still a part of my system. I played for the Lady Blazers and I was really happy. I thought I was okay with MMA until I met Mr. Robin Serrano who said, “you might consider doing Arts Management. You are very good with PR.”

At the time, I wasn’t excelling in MMA because I don’t know shit about design or editing or animation or whatever it is the MMA people are doing. Even if I knew my mother will possibly kill me, I shifted to Arts Management.

Again, I thought I wanted to pursue Visual Arts or Theatre Marketing but come thesis time, I told Sir Robin, “My thesis is about Fashion.”

I was doing fashion internships left and right, focusing on trends and communications. The change of heart happened when I had the chance to be an intern for Roberto Cavalli in Milan.

After all these, I did not work in any field related to politics, MMA, Arts Management, Fashion. Not even football. I traveled the world because that was the opportunity presented before me.

I also became a writer which is so crazy because I never had any formal education in Journalism. I just loved writing, To get to what I am doing right now, the one I can say I really love with all my heart, I had to try the many versions of myself.

From this experience, I learned I didn’t have to get it right the first time. It’s trial and error. It was like trying different outfits every morning and finding the one that looks pleasant when I faced the mirror. I took whatever was in front of me and found the pair that worked.

Another opportunity my passion lead me to is to be an Ambassador for Girl Rising, an organisation educating millions of girls who are not in school. 

While we are here, comfortably figuring out, worrying and stressing about where we are heading, 40 million girls all over the world are not allowed to go to school. In Nepal, boys can go to school but girls are forced into bonded labor at age 6.

In Africa, millions of girls are child brides at 7. In Afghanistan, 9 year old girls are already giving birth. This endeavour brought me to different places that made me understand what it was like to be a girl in every part of the world.

I am not saying this to make you feel good about other people’s challenges. I am saying this because it is happening and you need to know that.

All these happened 5 years ago and up to now, I am still writing and traveling the world. It’s not all me, though. I strongly believe that having a good community who always have your back is one of the biggest factors that will lead you to a good life.

Surround yourself with people who love you, with people who support you. Anyone who will contribute to your positive self counts. They are essential to your well being and they will help you go far.

Traveling, writing, educating…. Ahhh, now I can say I have found what I want to do in life. However, I am not sure if these are the things I will be doing for the rest of my life.

Maybe at 30, I will move to Hong Kong and marry the love of my life? Maybe at 40, I’ll have midlife crisis and decide that I want to be a chef instead?

Maybe at 50, l will write a best-selling book in my own apartment in Mauritius? I don’t know that. You don’t know that. Nobody knows that.

What about success, you might ask. The end game of all these is being successful, right? It depends how you define success versus how society perceives it.

In my case, success is waking up with a kick ass mood, freely writing whatever I want, inspiring, touching the lives of the people I met, sharing and loving.

I wanted to put it as “we are all successful in our own ways.” Look closely and you will have all these concrete ways of measuring your success.

Something to live by, from none other than the Dalai Lama: The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.

Another thing that our generation is forgetting is living in the present. Friend, life is right now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not next week, definitely not in a month. It’s right now.

Life is happening while I am talking on this stage, as you are listening to me, as your minds are playing tricks on you about the things I am saying. That’s all happening right now.

Stop thinking about the future and focus on today. The sooner you learn how to live in the now, the sooner you will be happy and be your unapologetic self.


This is a school that actually allows you to be whoever you are. The morning you wake up to come here, you already have the freedom and I want you to see that.

The fact that you can decide what to wear in this playground (whether you want to look like a punk, an anime character, a hipster, a nerd, etc), all these are accepted in these grounds.

The teachers are incredibly supportive and I don’t understand why some of you fear them. They are not monsters. They are your teachers. They are your second parents.

These are familiar faces you see on a daily basis in the school grounds. Why worry? They here to help. Not scare you. There is no reason for you to feel limited, pressured or confused.

You have all the resources to lead a good life here. All the people who will inspire and change your life are here.

The journey to finding yourself and growing up is harsh, painful, exhilarating, heartbreaking, exciting and confusing all at the same time. 

There’s never a certain answer. Nobody’s got life figured out. 

Sit back. Relax. Enjoy Be a child. Make beautiful mistakes. Pick yourself up from adversary. Be a person full of love. Live like every day is the first day of your life. Choose your battles. Enjoy silence. Learn how to keep quiet. Accept defeat. Learn to forgive. Fear but stop figuring where you are headed. Have a little faith. Even just a little.

Above all, feel. People who experience deep emotions are actually the ones who are living the best life. Even though I did not promise you that life gets better, soon enough, you will find something you will have strong feelings for. This, I can promise you.

I would like to close this year’s TEDxCSB with this passage from the 1996 movie, Jack. Robin Williams was the lead character and in one of the scenes, he said this:

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end none of us has very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me, make your life spectacular.”

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