Looking alone-ness straight in the eye

I accompanied my friend and her daughter to the park this evening. While they were at the rides, I walked to the other side of the park to jog.

It’s a Sunday night and the park was full. Everywhere you look, people are in groups or in pairs: families hanging out, kids running around, lovers occupying the benches, friends jogging and taking photos. Once in a while, you come across people walking or jogging alone.

At that moment, I was one of them but I didn’t care. I had my phone, my earphones. I jogged and walked until I got tired. I did get amused with the lights at the park and people watching while listening to dance music. These days were supposed to be busy ones for me. My old self would have been spinning from one task to another, wanting to get as much done within a short span of time. But that was me yesterday. Now, I can drop everything for a while and grab moments such as this just to have fun. And quietly, I prayed “Thank you,” for this moment and many others when I have finally learned to take care of myself.

I only became conscious that I was alone while I was waiting for my friend and her daughter. I roamed aimlessly for several minutes … well, not completely aimless since I was really looking for something to eat. But as I did, a strange feeling of alone-ness began cropping up. It was one of those very rare times when it scared me.

Anyway, I kept walking and decided to let myself feel that feeling for a while. And as I did, it began to melt away. And for some strange reason, I was more aware of what was going on around me and appreciative of everything. While buying mango from a lady at the park, I noticed how young she was and she was pregnant. She opened a can full of bills while she looked for coins for my change. Silently, I wished her well and admired that she seemed to be working hard for her family.

I sat by the fountain, happily chewing that mango I’ve been craving for for the past, uhm, several days. (And no, I’m not pregnant.) I watched a man who looked like he was in his 40s as he played with this colorful toy with a little bulb on top, which you shoot up above you and you watch it glide back to the ground. I had that toy too and wished I had brought it! The winds blew quite strong at times, and the toy would land far from its owner. And a few times, too, the winds sprayed water from the fountain to those of us standing or sitting near it. Some bystanders shrieked then just laughed.

My friend then called and I walked to meet them. We went home and had dinner.

After not posting for some time, I suddenly found the urge to write about tonight. Because I was truly grateful for those moments, for the companionship, for the capacity to face alone-ness and not run away from it. And the grace to see whatever blessings are already right in front of me. Here and now, it’s always full of surprises, and living in it lets you see something special and make this moment count. And it didn’t matter if people thought my life was incomplete. I had everything I needed. I got the life I asked for. And for now, I would not have it any other way.

“The Obstacle is the Path” – Zen Proverb

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One day, my friend lent me a book about managing finances and growing your wealth. Instead of feeling inspired, I felt discouraged. Because I felt like I could not relate to the stories of people who come from well-to-do families, pursued their love for social development, and became successful entrepreneurs too.

Thoughts, mostly negative, kept running through my head. These are wealthy people becoming wealthier. But what about those who come from humble beginnings? Those who have to help their family pay the bills? Those who once found themselves in the same financial hole I’m in? Those torn between having to make a living and pursuing their passion? Those who could barely save enough?

So I texted my friend that in order to feel inspired, I need stories of people who’s backgrounds were closer to mine.

This happened several months ago. Up until now, I am still coming across stories of successful people I could relate with. People who had very little money, but had big dreams and brave and resilient spirits.

Here are some of them:

I have two favorite lines from the articles/videos above:

“And at the end of my day with Mr. Earl he told me that his success happened not in spite of, but because of, his disability.” – The Story of Earl Crawley

“.. and you know what I found? The only difference between the superstars making millions a year and the persons merely getting by, only difference …. It’s how long they feel sorry about themselves once they get hit.” – Barbara Corcoran on the Secret to Handling Rejection

Who says it takes money to live your dreams?

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Unexpected expenses – at home and for our MA subject project – cut off (more like gobbled up) a significant chunk of my limited budget. There were several things I was grateful for, though.

  • That I had kept an emergency fund. It was not enough to cover the expenses, but it was a BIG help. Since I already had some funds tucked in somewhere, I only had to add several hundred bucks to be able to pay the actual expense.
  • That I now believe you can be happy without spending a lot.

Your financial goals may be clear to you, but that doesn’t mean that habits that make you lose money will not creep in anymore. On those days when you just feel frustrated, you just want to spend for this and that, because it will make you feel better. On such days, when you keep yourself from buying something, you start pitying yourself, and you begin to tell yourself: What financial freedom? I want to be happy now!! Etc. You get the picture.

So lately, I’ve been telling myself: I will be happy without ruining my budget. I think when you just ask the Universe for what you really want, and take steps in that direction, it will really be given to you.

A week ago, a friend called to ask if I wanted extra tickets to Ateneo Blue Symphony’s concert, Lean on Me. It was a benefit concert for the Philippine Red Cross’ relief efforts. The concert also featured the Ateneo College Glee Club and the Ateneo Grade School Choir. So I went and I REALLY enjoyed the show.

Then, that same day, my friend told me she has a ticket to Untold, the anniversary concert of CADs (Company of Ateneo Dancers). Of course, I asked if there was still an extra ticket. And on the day of the concert, she told me she wasn’t sure she could get one for me. So I just said, “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.” I was already telling myself I’d jog if I don’t get a ticket. One way or another, I’ll have a fun and relaxing Friday night. In the afternoon, she called up and said she was able to get one for me.😀 And I just loved the concert. They were not merely dancing. Each performance was telling a story. Most make you laugh, some make you teary eyed. I just really, really loved it.

So two other things I am grateful for are these:

  • Having friends who share their blessings with you. I hope I can do the same for them.:)
  • Both concerts reminded me of my dream to play music and learn how to dance. If these college students can find the time to pursue their passion, I can, too. So I asked myself, “What’s my excuse? What’s holding me back?” I guess it’s time to pick up that guitar, take that violin lesson. And maybe, it’s time to simply dance.

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Save. Invest. Be Fashionable. Keep learning.

I strongly believe handling personal finances should have been taught as early as grade school.

Until recently, I believed it was impossible for me to save because:

  • I have a limited salary.
  • I am taking (and thus spending for) my masters.
  • I have debts to pay (which I incurred also to help my family).
  • The funds are simply not enough.

But I have long learned (though did not practice) the equation that, in order for you to save, should be:

INCOME – SAVINGS = EXPENSES

I did not believe this was possible until I simply began setting aside a small amount per month. This amount continues to grow.

I also used to believe that I can’t invest. There simply isn’t any money left to invest. But my friend lent me books, and as I continued reading (even articles online), I began to realize, maybe there’s a way for me to do this.

Late last year, I found a way to raise funds to begin investing in stocks. Yes, it’s a risk, but I was also relying on recommendations of my friend who is a member of the Truly Rich Club. Would I recommend this to everyone? I don’t know. Have I earned significantly? Not yet. But whenever I would look back and recall how only last year I started from nothing and thought I could not do this, I realize, I have made some progress. Here I am now, reading about stocks and other investment options, learning more and more, taking risks. Then I realized, even if it was hard given the tight budget, I was able to set aside a small amount each month just for this.

I have also begun tracking all my expenses. It was depressing most of the time, but it helped me realize where I had been very irrational in terms of budget projections, and also where I am spending unnecessarily.

I continue to work on growing my knowledge about investment and managing personal finance. More importantly, I am beginning to address my own poverty mindset. I only recently realized that despite my high educational background and my skills, deep within, I could not comprehend getting paid a lot for what I can do. I thought this was all I could have. I was also scared of trying something new. I turned down opportunities. I also did not pursue others which may open new doors for me. Because I was scared I’m not good enough. And because I could not believe I deserved a prosperous life, and have the capacity to get there, I keep sabotaging my own success.

So now, as I learn to say “Yes!” to life, I also say “Yes!” to financial freedom. And I know it is going to be one of the most exciting and fulfilling adventures of my life.

And to those of you who are also starting from a place of negative balance sheets but have the desire to finally make a change, I’d like to share with you some books/articles/sites that helped me and continue to help me in my own journey.

  • Wealth Within Your Reach: Pera Mo, Palaguin Mo by Francisco Colayco – This book is a step-by-step guide to wealth building. I love how concepts were explained in layman’s terms. This is only one of several books written by the author. He also has a blog. Go check it out.
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • How to Turn Your Passion into Profit by Bo Sanchez and Dean Pax Lapid
  • If you wish to learn more about investing in stocks, you may check out COL Financial’s site. You can attend one of their free seminars too.
  • The Simply Luxurious Life. One big reason why I love this blog is because of the author’s several articles about keeping a certain standard of living without ruining your budget. You can be fashionable and enjoy life’s perks WHILE being smart about your money. Here’s one article I loved, Why Not … Build a Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget? 

Happy reading! And may you begin applying the things you learn … starting today.:)

Searching for answers, breaking away

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I have just watched an interview with Leah Vincent on her book “Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood.” I have not read the book. But I watched the entire interview, even if it was over 15 minutes long. (A confession: I tend to skip from one article to the next unless something really catches my attention.)

So what grabbed my attention? Two things: the host, the guest, and the topic. (Okay, make it three.)

Watch the video here

As a researcher, I sometimes find myself asking respondents sensitive questions. I would often ask myself: “Would they trust me? Would they tell the truth?” How I ask, how I phrase the question, the tone of my voice, my gestures–they all matter. I wanted them to know I will not judge, I will try my best to protect their identity, I am doing this for a good reason, you can help us make things better by telling us exactly what you’ve been through. Throughout the interview, I was observing how the host would swim her way through the sensitive topics. I felt like she delivered the probing questions in a very careful way: she can probe without being offensive or insensitive. And somehow, maybe because of the way the questions were delivered and how the guest answered them, the topics covered gave viewers a better idea of the difficult journey the author went through. And I admired how honest and open the author had been. I feel like, “Yes, this woman has no pretensions. She’s not preaching about something she’s never been through. She really went through it all and had to figure things out. And she knows herself better than to allow critics to put her down. I admire her strength.”

This is not to say I’m recommending her life path, or that I’m going to follow the same route. But I come from a conservative background too. I’ve asked questions. What pushed me to move away from my religion was a struggle to make sense of the chaos I had to live through. The difficulty in breaking away is you find yourself with limitless choices. You realize there was nothing to replace the structures, the “certainties”, the beliefs you had before. Now you are left to figure them out yourself. And when all that is “certain” begins to unravel, you feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of nowhere. There is no tradition, no structure, to hang on to. It’s you trying to make sense of something so huge. The decision, the choices, now lie in your shoulders. And it is a burden, that eventually turns into a gift.

And just like Leah wanted to fit in, I too, tried to fit in. But I no longer could. I have questions I needed to ask. And somehow, I found myself with people who had a less judgmental view of the world. Who were free to ask. And who have made mistakes, some of them considered “immoral”. How do I judge these loving people whom I would still choose to be my friends if I am to live a thousand lifetimes more?

But nothing brings more pain than to be seen as sinful, as in need of fixing, and to be judged by the people you love. Because by their standards, you’re not worthy, you’re not following “proper behavior.” You’re just not like them.

Maybe the most important lesson I’d hope readers and viewers would take away is this: you can’t show a Higher Being’s love by judging those who are not like you, or share your worldviews. There is so much goodness in other people outside your world, if only you would choose to see that there’s a piece of God in everyone.

I have not figured things out yet. But I can tell you that I continue to try to live by the many values I learned during my conservative childhood such as simplicity and using one’s blessings to help others. Whereas most of my beliefs have been shaken up, I continue to hold on to these values, and two more truths I have believed more strongly after I broke away: love yourself and your neighbor, and there is a Higher Power you could trust in.

I wish you peace, and faith that a Higher Being continuous to look after you, even when everyone, including yourself, thinks you’re beyond the reach of grace.

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Image sources: 

http://amyjalapeno.com/

http://www.thequotefactory.com/

Wall climbing and second chances

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The first time I tried wall climbing, I came up of course facing the wall. But since I didn’t know how to go down, I ended up sliding down the rope WHILE facing the crowd below. That was the UP Fair a few years back. I assure you, there were many people and I even heard a not-so-nice comment from a stranger.

Then last year, I did it again, in a resort in Batangas, while my officemates watched from below. This time, we were taught how to climb down, before we were taught how to climb up. Some said it was a 40-feet-drop. Maybe it was more. I never bothered to ask. Only four of us dared to do it, and we were all shaky as each of us went to the edge, tightly held on the rope with our shaking and sweaty hands, and stepped off the board and started “walking” down the wall. (You get the picture.)

And when we finally got down, we had to climb up. It was tricky at times, when you only have a few small rocks to grab onto, but I kept trying to remember what the guide told us: make a step first to push yourself up. If you think about it this way, you’re not really pulling yourself up (which is harder actually), but pushing yourself up using your legs (instead of pulling yourself with your arms).

Somehow, we were able to reach the top, and slide down just fine for a second time.:)

I loved every moment of this experience. It taught us to be brave. More importantly, I was able to overwrite an embarrassing experience, and replace it with this one.

I hope you, too, could find the opportunity to try out one more time something you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe a fear you wanted to conquer. Or a bad experience you’d like to overwrite. Give yourself the gift of a second chance. If helps to have supportive people around you, so I hope you find yourself surrounded with them too.:)

Courage is something we need not just in climbing walls and conquering fear, but in continuously creating a life that makes sense to us. Here’s another article on the subject.

How to Be Brave

Wishing you courage, and loving people to cheer you on!