Why Aging Rocks

I feel like a 20 year old trapped in a 30ish year old body. I know I’ve changed and (hopefully) matured over time, and I’d like to think of myself as a better person today than I was the day/month/year before, but all the same sometimes I forget my age! The activities I enjoy, the kinds of clothes I want to wear and the places I want to see are all still the same in my mind, so I can’t always spot the difference between 20 year old Me and present Me. Well… except, that is, for the physical ‘signs’ of aging: some discomfort with sky-high heels that I used to run flights of stairs with, slower metabolism, weaker knees (and it has nothing to do with seeing a handsome guy), lower alcohol tolerance, and so on.

There are days I wish I could turn back the clock, but you know what? There are more days where I don’t, because ‘aging’ comes with so many perks.   Read this list and see if you agree!

  1. Knowing what you want. This is, for me, the very best thing about getting older. It is now very clear exactly what you want in all the different areas of your life, and that knowledge allows you to choose more carefully where and with whom you spend your time. This maturity also empowers you to stand your ground according to what you believe in, and know that your friends and family love and accept you anyway, even if your viewpoints differ from theirs.
  2. Having a level of financial freedom. After having worked your butt off for what feels like an eternity, the reward is reaching a certain level of financial freedom. I’m still not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but at least I now have the flexibility to make adjustments in order to afford the things I want to spend on. Gone are the days of asking your parents for cash to buy stuff, and you sure as heck won’t need a husband to give you your loot either. There’s nothing like having your own hard earned moolah.
  3. Independence. With age comes independence. You can live on your own, learn to cook and prepare your own food, manage your utilities, change a lightbulb (or maybe even a tire), decorate your place, resolve a crisis, and pretty much feel capable to do whatever you need. This is the part where you really do have a choice as to how to live your life and what you get to do for the rest of it.  independent
  4. Confidence. I think this is the sexiest part about getting older—the love and respect you gain for yourself. You can enter a room and not feel insecure, because you know your worth and have honed a level of expertise and mastery in whatever area you’ve practiced. You don’t try too hard to fit in, nor need to compete because you’ve accepted you can’t be everything to everyone. What other people think of you does not concern you as much, and you don’t need to please others or just blindly join any bandwagon that rolls around. Basically this confidence allows you to love yourself, flaws and all.  redlipstick
  5. Gratitude.  When you look back on your younger days and realize all the things that could’ve gone wrong, all the scrapes you managed to get out of, all the challenges you have gotten through, all the people whose lives you’ve touched (and vice versa) I’m sure you feel a profound sense of gratitude and some pride too. After all, you’ve made it this far in one piece, you’ve managed to fend for yourself and reach certain milestones, you’ve come so far from where you started—regardless of what your issues are today, what’s not to be grateful for?
  6. Improved Style. I must say that almost all the ladies I know look so much better now than they did many years ago. I guess it’s because getting older also means that after years of experimentation, you now have a better idea of what styles look good on you, what you’re comfortable wearing, and how to execute the way you want to look. That makes a huge difference in one’s appearance.
  7. More Meaningful Relationships. Another awesome thing about years coming to pass is knowing who’s really got your back, and knowing/choosing who you really care about. If in your twenties it was important to build a network, explore, make lots of new friends, and run in certain circles, now it’s all about cultivating the relationships that bring out the best in you, and prioritizing that over shallow social commitments. This gives you a level of assurance and footing that you are surrounded with the right people, with true friends, and that’s worth a whole lot more than simply being popular.  friendship
  8. Being Happy. You know how when you were younger, happiness was dependent on ‘shallower’ things like having things, toys and gadgets, fitting in to a certain crowd or being with a certain person? When you get older, happiness means so much more—it means love and acceptance of yourself and of others, it means contentment, peace of mind, appreciation of the simplest little things. And that means, in turn, that happiness is far more real today than it ever was before, because it all starts with you.  happy


What are your favorite things about getting older? Email me at muskwie@yahoo.com , and follow @thekikaydiaries on Instagram for lots of Kikay updates!


For Career Girls

It was my dad’s dream, not mine, for me to be a ‘career girl’.  I think the main motivation for me to enter the corporate world right after college was to earn my own money to buy clothes and bags and go on trips with.  It’s been a long time since I started working, but I still remember clearly how demanding the magnitude of the shift was, not just on that first job but on every single change in role I’ve taken since.   Before I knew it, a bunch of years have passed and I have turned out to be, as much as I hate to admit it, a bona fide career girl. I don’t know exactly when all this adulting happened, but since I like to flatter myself and think I’ve actually been successful at this, I’ve made a list that might be able to help women reading this cope and thrive at work, whatever stage you are at.

  1. Grin and bear it. It’s not going to be easy when you start, and honestly it never will be. All that stuff about ‘love what you do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’? Yeah, that’s not always the case.   You will need to start at the bottom, and that means, despite your Latin honors, top notch schools and whatever other accolades you’ve received in your scholastic years, you will do many menial, administrative tasks that you thought you were too good for. It is not a waste of talent. These things will teach you patience, humility, and will help you appreciate the work of others. Do your work to the best of your ability, no matter what task was given to you—but keep an eye out for opportunities to improve processes, and don’t be shy to share your bright ideas. Ideally you will earn more and more meaningful responsibilities and do less and less non-value adding stuff over time.  hustle
  2. Think.  It is not enough to robotically do all the tasks given to you, like simply crossing out a checklist as quickly as you can. You were hired to think. When you are given an assignment, be curious enough to fully understand it. Read about it. Talk to people about it. Be critical enough to ask questions that will help you, like what the overall objective is and why it is important, how this project can be sustained, etc. Get other people’s opinions and insights. Involve others. In other words—the goal is not necessarily to be fast and efficient, it is more important to be effective.  robot-cartoon
  3. Use your strengths. Not all the roles you will ever perform will fit to a T with all your talents and abilities, but find a way to weave these into your work. In this fluid, ever changing world, there will be lots of opportunities to do so. For example, your role is in finance but you also love to write. Is there a way to summarize financial reports into a digital digest that will be easy for executives from other functions to appreciate? Volunteer to do it! Yes, it is extra work but it is also an opportunity for you to put your strengths to good use, and hopefully will shape the course of your current and future roles.
  4. Be authentic. There are so many books that have been written to use tactics to manipulate others into liking you, buying your products, believing what you say, or doing what you want them to do. Are these techniques effective? Maybe some are, and maybe for a while. But people are generally not stupid and can read through the intentions of others. What I’ve learned over time is that everyone responds so much better to those who are authentic and honest. Take the time to get to know your workmates and build a good foundation. If you are in a leadership position, treat your team as human beings with real feelings and fears and motivations. Be honest about what you think about things, whether or not others agree with you, but at the same time be willing to consider opinions that do not match your own. No need to be a star. No need to show off. No need to kiss ass. No nonsense. All genuine. And if you ever find yourself in a place where you need to do all of these things just to get ahead—get out of there fast.  plastics
  5. Be willing to go the extra mile. There will be times when the work required of you will go well beyond what you signed up for. Stop whining and consider it a good thing, because an expanded scope, higher volume or more complex work are indicators that your leader thinks you can do more. If you show you can consistently handle it, you will eventually move up. Or, let’s say in a scenario where the work required of you is too easy and you find yourself with lots of free time, volunteer to help others out, and grab opportunities to work with new people from mixed departments. You never know what you’ll find.  500
  6. Keep learning. Learning should be intrinsic to what you do. There are so many different ways to learn that there is no excuse to remain stagnant. Of course there are workshops and specific trainings, but if you are pressed for time and budget to do these, then do research instead. Read articles. Observe others (they call this shadowing).   Talk to coaches and mentors. Understand new concepts, even those not directly related to what you are doing right now. Carve out time to consult your boss about areas for improvement. Yes, you are so busy with work—just like everyone else. But at meetings or even informal conversations, a person who takes the time to learn will show up far differently from one who does not.
  7. Find a mentor. Jack Ma said one of the first things you need to do is find a good leader. I have been very lucky in that respect, but I know that not everybody is happy with the bosses they encounter. So perhaps it is more important to find a mentor you can learn from.   A mentor is someone more senior who has a higher level of expertise (preferably not your boss) that can help you navigate your own journey through advice, personal experience, etc.  yoda
  8. Be a problem solver. Instead of running to your boss for every single problem needing a decision or a solution, come up with your own options and recommendations instead. By the time you present the situation to anyone, you would have already analyzed it and given them options, which show depth and effort instead of simply waiting for instructions.
  9. Develop others. When you become a leader, it stops being about you and it becomes all about your team. How can you develop others to be better than you at what you do? If you unselfishly teach, take the time to explain, delegate important tasks, trust and empower them to make decisions, you will be rewarded with a fully functioning, highly performing, and highly engaged team. That also allows you to focus on more strategic matters, or possibly prepare for a new role.
  10. Listen.  Possibly the most important thing you can do in the workplace is to listen. Before prescribing solutions, products, services or programs, find out what your customers need first (whether these are external or internal customers). Listen to their stories and see things from their perspective. Listen to your leaders and understand what they expect from you. Listen to your colleagues at meetings more than you speak. Do not be in a hurry to make a point or appear all-knowing. If you practice listening more and more, you will be able to better anticipate what people need, and by the time you open your mouth to make a recommendation, it will be far more solid than whatever your initial thought was.  listen


I encourage all of you Kikay working women to push forward and break whatever glass ceilings still exist in the world.   It’s time!

Of Goodness

I know what you’re thinking—this is going to be one of those preachy articles about charity. Probably written by a person who wants praise for it, to feel better about herself. That’s not entirely false, actually, but give me a chance and keep reading.

Let’s start by establishing the fact that I grew up pretty self-involved. I am an only child of two people who waited a long time to have a baby, so I was doted on and cared for every minute of every day. Sharing was not really in my vocabulary, as you can imagine. I floated through school being responsible, studious and obedient, and it pleased me to often be referred to as ‘good’. Life, as far as I knew, was also always ‘good’. I did not see or experience anything to show me otherwise.

And then, in my junior year of college, I happened to be in a Theology class that required a semester of community immersion. Our group was assigned to go to the Cribs Foundation in Marikina every Saturday for the duration of that sem. We were tasked to help out with the orphaned babies there, feed them, play with them, put them to sleep, etc. I remember my first thought was that we were lucky—we would get to hang with a bunch of cute babies instead of living in the slums or visiting prisoners, which would have been umm, uncomfortable to say the least.

So we went to the orphanage that first day and it was fun, everyone loves babies after all. The hours flew by, and before I knew it the immersion was over. On our last visit, one of the babies was crying and clinging onto me before I put her in her crib, as though she knew that would be the last time we would see each other.

Then it hit me—how many more goodbyes would this child have to say in her lifetime? The babies could only stay in this orphanage for a few years. If they were not adopted within that time, they would have to be placed in different shelters. How many volunteers, caretakers, foster families and adoptive parents might she go through? Who would care to cherish and celebrate any of her milestones, her first steps, her first words, or when she started to read and write? Who would hug her in the middle of the night when there’s thunder and lightning and bad dreams? Who would defend her from bullies? Who would encourage her to pursue her dreams—or worse, would she even have the luxury to dream?

I cried that day because it became all too real to me that the world isn’t fair. Here I was, brought up with the very best my parents could offer. While there were 25 other children in that center, and a multitude more around the world, who may never experience that kind of love, that kind of care and support. And I cried too because of how shallow and insignificant I felt, to not be able to do anything much except offer a few hours of my time that semester, in the midst of partying with my friends, studying for exams, having crushes on boys and planning my future career in the corporate world.

In my mid twenties, I realized my life felt quite empty, like something was missing. I wanted to give back somehow, so I sought to join a group of girls called the Zugbuana Jaycees, who were known for community efforts around Cebu. In the seven or eight years that I was an active member, and eventually leader, of that group, my friends and I managed to complete a lot of projects, from huge fashion show fundraisers for the benefit of sexually abused women and children, to granting scholarships to children from impoverished families, to livelihood or hygiene workshops at children’s centers, medical missions, activities for the handicapped, and so on. After every event I would give myself a little pat on the back and tell myself—‘you did good today.’ But you see, that wasn’t all. Because at the back of my mind, I wasn’t sure if I was doing all that because I really wanted to help, or because I wanted to feel good about myself, to tell myself I’m doing my part, I’m doing what a good person is supposed to do, or perhaps I wanted people to think that I was a good person. Maybe it was all of it, and somehow it just never felt like it was enough. I let that thought simmer for some time and moved along.

Today, at thirty plus years old (ha!), I have finally come to realize there is nothing to prove to anyone, nothing to prove to myself. I know whatever I do will never be enough to make a real dent in the world. And you know what? That is ok. For as long as I can make things just a little better, just a little easier for someone, it is good enough. For as long as small acts of kindness might inspire others to do a little more for others as well, it is good enough. As a wise friend of mine told me, the concept of depth is relative to everyone—what might have been a random thing for me, like smiling at a stranger, might have meant the world to that person on a really bad day.  So for as long as you accept whatever shortcomings you have, start each day with an earnest heart, and do whatever you can, yes it is good enough.

And so, about 15 years after that first visit to Cribs Foundation, I found myself back there again, with some of my close friends, this time bringing things to help the orphanage. It still breaks my heart to see babies as young as 13 days brought there because they were abandoned at the hospital, to think of what happens when they get sick, or scared, to know that we cannot really shelter them from the evils in this world. But to see how many people were so eager to help and give, to spend time on a weekend, to hold a child and make her smile, hoping that she will find her way to a loving family and grow up to be a fine young lady someday, hoping she will think of all the volunteers, caretakers and donors at that center, and somehow feel there is still some kindness and goodness left here—that is not just good enough. That is everything. Because in as much as we were helping these babies, they were helping us too: they were teaching us hope, they were strengthening our faith.

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So the point I’m making is that we all need to believe that everyone can make a difference. Whether it’s for a cause like these orphans, or for the sick and elderly, the soldiers fighting to protect our country, animal welfare, prisoners, farmers, victims of abuse and human trafficking, the environment, or even for causes closer to home like taking care of our household help, extending more patience and understanding to family members, being sincere to people at work—we can all spare a little kindness, a little charity. J.K. Rowling says it perfectly: ‘We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.’


*In case you want to know more about the Cribs Foundation and wish to help out as well, check out their website at www.cribsfoundation.com.

The Elegance of Saying No

Sometime last year, I wrote an article entitled ‘The Magic of the Yes’.   It pretty much stated all the reasons it would be a life-changing experience to say Yes to new experiences, new friends, new challenges, to seize the day and grab the bull by the horns. Over months of reflection though, while I still strongly believe that our default answer to life should be a deep, resounding Yes, I’ve come to realize there are certain things we need to learn to say No to as well.

‘Elegance is refusal’, Coco Chanel once said and I’ve come to understand what she meant. To live a life you love, a life you can be proud of and look back on without any trace of regret, you need to leave some things behind. Here’s my list. You should make one for yourself too.

  1. Say no to harmful substances. This is the most obvious. There are some things in life that can give you a heady rush but a bad fall, and it’s just not worth it. Examples– Drugs. Too much liquor. And umm, bad boys?
  2. Say no to bad food. Life is too short to scarf down canned food, fast food, junk food, and basically anything that is not natural and nourishing. You think your body will never know the difference, but it does– and you don’t want to regret it by getting sick, having a bad mood or feeling weak when you are supposed to be in the pink of health, enjoying every moment. So yes, spend the extra cash on your proper nutrition. That is one expense you’ll never regret.
  3. Say no to empty conversations. If it’s gossip about other people, gleeful accounts of somebody else’s mistakes or downfall, a stream of name dropping and bragging, or random nonsense small talk with people you can’t truly connect with, just avoid it. Spend your time with people who broaden your horizons, feed your imagination and enrich your soul.  modern-prints-and-posters
  4. Say no to fake friends. There are ‘friends’ who are only your friends when times are good—either they ride on the winds of your success, enjoy freebies, social media attention, or benefit from you in some way. There are also ‘friends’ who are only your friends when times are bad—they cannot handle seeing you do better and secretly resent it when you are living a good life. Lastly, there are ‘friends’ who are neither of these, but are simply not good people. They drain the life out of you, backstab and bitch about others, and just aren’t a healthy influence. All of these people do not need to be in your life, and it’s time to cut them loose.  lose
  5. Say no to one-sided relationships. It is one thing to go the extra mile for love, to bear hardships and whatever else, to make extra efforts to make a person feel special, to understand moods and quirks and bad days, bad months, or even a bad year. It is quite another to keep doing this and not receive enough in return– to be taken for granted, played with, set aside, talked down to or ignored. It’s really very simple. Choose people who choose you.  1960339864-sometimes-you-need-to-give-up-on-people-not-because-you-dont-care-but-because-they-dont-quote-1
  6. Say no to being too busy to enjoy life. Since we really aren’t sure how much time we have in this world, stop procrastinating and start enjoying life. Do what you’ve always dreamed of. Yes, you can be busy. But sometimes ‘busy’ becomes an excuse and a fallback for not taking that long deserved vacation, for not spending enough time with your family, for not getting out there to meet new people, for not learning new things like languages or hobbies, for not starting a business of your own, for not really living. Because really living requires courage, and passion, and energy, and love. So what’s it gonna be?  life
  7. Say no to settling for less than you deserve. This applies to everything. If you are not getting the customer service you deserve or paid for, then say so. If you are not getting the love and care you give, then go. If you are not getting the respect you earned through your work, or simply for being who you are, then leave. Enough with the ‘puede na (this will do)’. Life is too short to make do with scraps and crumbs. If you deserve better, believe it and go get it.  heels
  8. Say no to status quo. Do not be afraid to rock the boat once in a while, because the only way to remain relevant in this world is to change. Do not keep doing the same thing but expecting a different result. There is always a better way, there is always room for improvement. Keep setting the bar higher for yourself and know that you have the capability to surpass even your wildest dreams.
  9. Say no to ugly clothes. This column wouldn’t be called Kikay and you wouldn’t even be reading this article if you don’t appreciate the importance of good aesthetics. And to add to living out your full potential, make sure you always look your best anywhere you go by only wearing what really, really looks good on you. I mean c’mon— surely you know that a trend overkill usually makes people look like roadkill? So if you’re going to open your wallet and spend money anyway, it better be to pay for only the very best you can afford. Never mind if you have fewer things and simpler clothes, as long as anything you put on makes you look like a million bucks.


    Sometimes I want to give people these shirt as a gift… 

  10. Say no to anything that doesn’t light you up from the inside out. Once upon a time, an organizing consultant named Marie Kondo came up with the ‘KonMari’ method of tidying up, and it became a runaway hit. The basic principle is that you keep only what ‘sparks joy’ in your home and in your life. You are supposed to pick up the object, study how it makes you feel, and if it brings back a happy memory or is simply something you love, then keep it and find a proper place for it. Everything else needs to be discarded. And yes, this does not only apply to things but to the rest of your life too. Make room and free up space for only those that matter. The rest of it is just noise.


    Read this book!


So you see? While there is magic in Yes, there can also be elegance in No.


Follow #kikaycebu ‘s adventures on Instagram at miazamora116.

Living It Up in 2017

Happy new year, all you beautiful people out there! It’s 2017 and I couldn’t be more excited…as they say, every new year brings with it 365 opportunities.   Every day we wake up is a gift, and we would have a much better world if we all started acting like it!

It has always been a tradition for me to start the year with a list of resolutions—and yes, as corny as it sounds I do try my best to actually check them off.   I’d like to think this practice has made me a better person, because articulating my goals has made me more aware of what it is I’m really trying to do. It is very important to choose your goals well, because they will then shape your thoughts and behavior. This year though, instead of a to-do list, I decided to make a list of principles I’d like to live by. Have a look at this and see what you can come up with for yourself this year:

  1. Quality always trumps quantity. This one applies to everything! It is better to keep a smaller group of true friends who have your back come hell or high water rather than a large number of fair-weather friends who are nice to you one day but gossip about you the next. It is better to have fewer clothes, bags, shoes or jewelry as long as the quality is impeccable, none of it is fake, and they can last years, decades, even generations without falling apart or going out of style. So this year, instead of having a mindset of amassing more, be more mindful about who you spend your time with, and what things you spend your hard earned money on. You deserve only the best.


    In shopping and in friendships– look for quality over quantity

  2. Low risk, low return. I first learned this principle in finance, but quickly realized it translates to many things in life as well. Sometimes, you really need to take bigger risks and step out of your comfort zone in order to get what you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s leaving your predictable 9 to 5 job to start a new business, shifting careers, moving to a new country, pursuing a passion, or even falling in love, there comes a time in your life when you need to go beyond the safe confines of what you know. It doesn’t always work out, but the experience will teach you much more than you could have learned if you never tried. And—there’s that small encouraging voice that whispers—what if it does?  pros
  3. Health is wealth. You never really value your health until something goes wrong. What’s worse is if the damage is irreversible and you get stuck with a medical condition for the rest of your life. There is nothing more important than ensuring your wellness because it affects, well– everything, especially your disposition. So make this the year you are finally going to get healthy, not just to look good but to feel good too. Get active, be it through dance, running, spinning or yoga, and make an effort to eliminate junk and eat only fresh, nutritious food.


    Zink at Banilad Town Center offers one heck of a fun workout!

  4. Be authentic. Stop living your life according to the expectations, opinions and standards of other people. It doesn’t matter what they say. What’s important is you do what makes you happy. Say what’s on your mind instead of what you think people want to hear. Act on how you feel. Accept your mistakes and shortcomings. Live your truth. Be at peace with yourself. Remember it is your life, not anybody else’s, and you only get one shot at it. Make it your best one.  dr-seuss
  5. If you could choose to be anything, be kind. You can be driven, successful, brilliant, whatever, but if you are not kind, it doesn’t count much. When your life is over, you cannot take your money, belongings, titles, or achievements with you. What will be left behind is the memory others have of you– how you lived your life, whether you spoke compassionate words, found ways to help those in need, or smiled often, or did your best to make others happy. If you could leave a legacy in this world, make it one of kindness, because that’s the only way it can become a better place.  SONY DSC
  6. Happiness is a choice. An important realization is that you alone are responsible for your own happiness and contentment, regardless of your circumstance. Whether you are single, married, employed, unemployed, rich, poor, popular, or not, you can choose to be happy. You can choose to appreciate what you have, to count your blessings instead of complaining about your burdens. You can’t make anyone responsible for your happiness—be it your family, your friends, your boss, or your spouse. It is all a mindset, there a people with so much less who are so happy. So wake up with a smile, don’t sweat the small stuff, and carpe diem.  happy
  7. Change is the only constant. That’s the thing about life, it doesn’t run out of surprises. Be prepared for change, and buckle up for all the twists and turns that are bound to come your way. Nothing lasts forever, you will not always be high and mighty, and you will not always be downtrodden. Trials are unavoidable but for as long as you’ve done your best to live your life right, you should emerge from them not only unscathed but even better than before. And only then do you realize that this is what makes life beautiful.  Butterfly Metamorphosis
  8. No expectations, no comparisons. The quickest killer of happiness is expectation. It should be like this, it should be like that. I deserve this, I deserve that. She has this, so I should also have that. Why can’t we all just chill out and let things be? Appreciate things and people for what they are instead of whatever you think they should be or do. If you learn to see everything as a gift instead of something that the universe owes you, not only will you be happier, you will also be more grateful. And if for some reason you don’t get what you want—maybe that in itself is a blessing too. expectation
  9. Life is not a race. Success is relative to a person. Not everybody is cut out to be at the top of the corporate ladder, or married with kids, or loaded with money and expensive things. That’s just the way it is. There’s no guarantee that if you have all of that, you will automatically be happy. So base your success on what truly makes your life meaningful instead of the standard, cookie-cutter criteria, and know that you are where you are for a reason. There’s no need to compete with others because we are all on a different journey.


    Might as well enjoy the view…

  10. There is always room for improvement. That said, never stop growing, find ways to keep learning, explore new places, do new things, and stretch yourself to the very best of your potential. That’s the least we can do with the talents and abilities we’ve been given! Make 2017 your year of positive transformation and share your gift with others.  onward


Here’s to another fabulous, colorful, adventure-filled year ahead with all of you.




The Magic of the Yes

Being an only child with overprotective parents, I grew up using ‘No’ as my default answer to everything. Let’s go outside and play in the rain? No. Let’s ride a boat to the deep part of the sea and jump in? No. Let’s play hooky at school and go to the mall instead? No. So of course, as a result, I grew up being sheltered from everything. No wounds and scratches, no accidents, no disciplinary action, no big mistakes. That worked just fine for me (and my parents!)—I was the dream child, never got into trouble like some of my cousins, focused on my studies and got into the college of my choice.   I grew up believing that for as long as you do everything right, avoid mistakes at all costs, and just be a good girl, the world will reward you with the best of everything.

But little by little as I got older, I started to realize that while this mode of living has its merits, it was not a guarantee for anything.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there are some things that are not meant to be yours. No matter how nice you are, people will still judge you. No matter how careful you are in avoiding mistakes, life throws you a curveball.   No matter how blindly you trust and put your faith in people, they will disappoint you. And yes, when these things happen, it isn’t fair and you feel like the butt of all jokes.

Guess what though—nobody ever told us that life is perfectly fair, and that the world owes us something for our efforts. We hope for that, but we get angry when we don’t get what we think we deserve or when we get hurt despite our checklists, rules and precautions.

And so, after a particularly difficult blow—the type that cracks your heart up in places you never even knew existed—I decided to defy the odds of being jaded and bitter, and to instead open myself to more Yes-es. Here’s what I learned so far.

  1. Say Yes to new adventures. This year I’ve been on more adventures than the last three combined. From camping in a deserted cove in Zambales, driving 8 hours just to see the waves in La Union, discovering a secret piece of paradise and an ancient tree near Baler, living in a foreign city all by myself to take up a course– every single time I said Yes to something I never would have done before, I was not disappointed and the world seems like an even more magical place. Who knows where your Yes will take you?


    Where will your ‘Yes’ take you next?

  2. Say Yes to new friends. I used to shy away from hanging out with new people and generally prefer the company of old friends and familiar circles. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it can be limiting too. There is so much you can learn, discover and experience with a new friend. Dare to step out of your safe little cocoon and get to know people, and they may just surprise you. Sometimes the most unexpected friendships turn out to be the best ones…
  3. Say Yes to new interests. Life is too short to not try new things or cultivate new (or old) interests.   Learn to make soap! Mold pottery! Bake cookies! Enroll in a digital class! Join a marathon! Redecorate your home!   There’s an unlimited buffet of choices and instead you sit on your couch watching TV night after night, wasting precious time. A hobby can release a creative side of you that you never knew before, and it can even be something you enjoy so much that you can make a business out of it. That way you’re both fulfilled and productive—what can be better than that?


    Soapmaking.  Who would have thought??

  4. Say Yes to new challenges. It is always easier to stay in your comfort zone, especially in terms of your career. You’re in a stable job in an industry you know, pretty good in terms of rank and pay… that’s great, but once you stop learning something new and feel you are no longer at peak performance, it’s time to broaden your horizons. What if an opportunity arises in a different field or function? Or you are offered a leadership role, or one that will allow you to build a new skill set? Take calculated risks, of course, especially if you are supporting a family, but don’t discount possibilities to grow. Because remember, following the theory of Charles Darwin, either we continue to evolve, or we die.  evolve-or-die
  5. Say Yes to the unknown. There are some things in life that cannot be calculated or predicted. You don’t know how things are going to turn out, how a story will end, and whether you are going to make it unscathed or not. For a control freak like me (who reads the endings of books first just so I don’t get disappointed), that is a difficult thing to accept. But does that mean we should all just keep ourselves locked up, staying safely under the radar? Low risk, low return my friends. What if you miss out on possibly the best parts of your life—the greatest love, the most fulfilling job, the craziest trip, just because you were too scared to try?  taking-the-leap
  6. Say Yes to change. It is normal for people to want to reinvent themselves at some point. Whether it is a physical reinvention (like a different hairstyle or some sort of make-over), an emotional or a spiritual one, don’t ever feel like it is not ok to change. Sometimes we outgrow people, we outgrow things, we outgrow our old identities. I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes, by Paulo Coelho: That is why it is so important to let certain things go. To release them. To cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability or arrogance, but simply because whatever it is no longer fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are.”  butterflies
  7. Say Yes to happiness. If you’ve been stressed out, angry, bitter, disappointed, afraid, or depressed for a while—maybe it’s time to stop blaming other people and situations, and instead choose happiness and hope. Yes, it is easier said than done but it is entirely possible. All you have to do is wake up and decide to be happy no matter what happens that day. Try not to sweat the small stuff (like traffic, petty work conflicts, etc) and focus on gratitude for all that you have been blessed with. It just needs a change of perspective: you may not be able to control what happens around you, but you can control how you react to situations and how you let them affect you.  happy
  8. Say Yes to love. All I will say about this is another quote, this time by the poet Rumi: “Open your hands, if you want to be held.” Because every potential love story starts out the same way—with a Yes.


    Trust the magic of beginnings

The Art of Being a Gentleman

I have come to the sad conclusion that the specie called ‘gentleman’ is slowly becoming a thing of the past. There are a lot of nice guys, yes, and they can be funny, attractive, smart, interesting or cool—but I’m sorry, they aren’t gentlemen, at least based on my honest opinion.

In the first place, do guys even still want to be gentlemen in this day and age? It certainly isn’t required of them anymore. It is more of a rarity than the norm to find a person who holds himself against very high standards. Not that it is their fault, as the world has become so tolerant of people’s behavior that it’s almost impossible to abide by any sort of rule, especially when they think nobody is watching or noticing, or when they think they can get the same results with less effort. Why bother, right?

Well, I’ll tell you why you should bother: because it makes you a better person.

How does one define being a gentleman though? Is it just the way a man treats a woman, especially one he is interested to pursue? No, that can’t be it—because that means the behavior is deliberate and just for show. Being a gentleman is something that should come as second nature, a way of being that is innate, without having to think. It is a consistent manner, regardless of who he is dealing with or talking to– man or woman, young or old, of the same socio-economic status or not. It is not something you switch on or off whenever you want.

Here are some suggestions for training yourself to be a modern-day gentleman:

  1. Be punctual. One basic element of respect is to respect a person’s time. If you set an appointment, a meeting, a date, or whatever other commitment at a certain time, you definitely should be there on the dot, or even a bit earlier. If something urgent comes up that derails your schedule, (and I do mean urgent not just dilly-dally stuff), then make sure you inform the person as early as possible that you will not be able to make it on time. Do not expect people to wait around for you to get your act together. If the CEO in my company, or the Prince of England can manage to show up on time for anything, there is no excuse for the rest of us.


    Speaking of the Prince of England…

  2. Be consistent. As mentioned above, regardless of whom you are talking to—a colleague, a pretty girl, an old man, a child, or the janitor—your behavior towards people should be the same. That means pleasant, reasonable, non-abusive language and tone of voice. Consistency also means that regardless of mood or disposition, it doesn’t give you the right to lash out at other people who have nothing to do with your misery. So yes, punching someone out of rage, unless you or a loved one is gravely threatened, is not acceptable. Shaming someone, especially in public, or using coarse language and insulting words, is unacceptable too. Arrogance is a total turn-off.


    Well here’s a gentleman through and through!

  3. Make an effort. Enough with the ‘Sup’ and ‘Hey’ texts—that’s lazy. If you want to talk to someone, whether it’s to keep in touch with a girl you like, or catch up with your parents, coordinate with a friend, greet happy birthday or whatever else—pick up the damn phone and call. Sometimes it takes even less than 5 minutes but counts a lot. And if you cannot, for whatever reason, make a phone call, but you still want to say hello, then make your text messages at least the most thoughtful that you can.   In fact, why stop at a phone call if you can randomly drop by and visit?


    Ben Affleck’s character in Pearl Harbor.  *SWOON*

  4. Listen.  It is so common nowadays to be out having dinner with a group of friends but everyone is checking their phones, catching Pokemons, fiddling with social media, chatting with someone else… I really miss the days when nobody had any gadgets to distract themselves with and could pay total attention to the conversation, to jokes, to faces. So if you want to be a gentleman, be present and listen well. Ask questions. Remember details. Be interested in the person you are with. There is plenty of time for all the things you need to do afterwards.


    I’ll never get over these two. 🙂

  5. Practice courtesy. The basics–say please, say excuse me, say thank you, return calls and messages. Try to be thoughtful and considerate of others. For example, hold the door open for the next person, especially if that person is elderly, a lady, injured, or a child. Give up your seat on the bus for someone who needs it more. Offer to help a person struggling to carry their stuff or struggling to finish their work. Smile and say hello. Send birthday and holiday greetings to people who are a part of your life in some way, including those who serve you. You don’t lose anything by being nice, and yet the impact it has on the other person goes a long, long way.


    Come on…. this guy set the bar impossibly high

  6. Be respectful. Please do not assume you are the center of the Universe nor God’s gift to humanity. Respect other people’s space, attention, energy, privacy, and don’t assume you are entitled to more that what you are given. Avoid being loud, rude and intrusive. For those feeling ‘fresh’, please don’t send lewd messages or leery looks or touch a woman anywhere unless you have a clear indication that you are welcome to do so. Remember that the more you force something, the more unlikely you are to get it, and the more likely you are to get slapped.
  7. Be open. I honestly believe that being a gentleman stems from having a good heart, because it takes someone attuned to the needs of others to understand how to respond. And so that means, be open. Be generous and brave with your heart. It won’t kill you to care. It won’t kill you to give, to love, to spend time with people, to observe what makes them happy, to pay them a compliment, to say something kind. Yes, this is not a guarantee that the world will be good to you in return. But isn’t it enough to just be good?
  8. Be honest. Some people think that to be a gentleman you need flowery words and lots of chivalrous acts. On the contrary, the more honest you are, the better. There is no need to butter someone up if it is not a sincere compliment, there is no need to say something you don’t feel or mean, there is no need to play mind games. Just be honest, tell it like it is, but manage expectations and choose your words well. More importantly, don’t stop at words but prove yourself through actions. People will appreciate you for it.


    Hello, Harvey.

  9. Keep your promises. Don’t make promises you can’t keep (or have no intention of keeping). And when you do make a promise, better make sure you can deliver. So if you say you will accompany your girlfriend somewhere for example, or if you promise to complete a project on a given date, or return an item on a given date, then do it. It’s that simple. A man is really only as good as his word.


    Ben Stiller in There’s Something About Mary

  10. Be responsible. Life is tough, but being a gentleman means facing it head-on and not running away from your obligations. Work hard, regardless of what position you hold. If you were entrusted with something, take good care of it (especially if that something is a person’s heart). Show up where you’re needed. Give the best that you can. Yes, even if you’re tired. Even if it’s hard. Even if it hurts. That’s what it means to be responsible.


So there it is.   We’ve all got our work cut out for us, but let’s try to make the world a more pleasant place to live in. It’s the least we can do with our time.