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.

    fashion_roadkill_t_shirt-r702158aba07e452cb3362e1d00e2e592_k2gml_324

    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.

    konmari

    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.

    2-55

    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

    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.

    canoe

    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.

 

Xoxo,

Mia

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?

    baler

    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?

    soap

    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.

    img_4484

    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.

    prince

    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.

    cap

    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?

    ben2

    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.

    ross_and_rachel_4

    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.

    the-notebook.jpg

    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.

    harvey

    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.

    mary

    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.

Have You Met the Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

My friends and I have the most interesting, random conversations. In about an hour, topics covered can range from the lack of infrastructure to support tourism in the country, why Mystique became the heroine of XMen Apocalypse, how to deal with toxic people, Donald Trump, and just the other night, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG).   It was the very first time I heard the term, and when they explained it to me, so many things suddenly made sense.

The title ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ was coined by a film critic named Nathan Rabin after watching Kirsten Dunst in the movie Elizabethtown. He noticed a pattern among the characters that the brooding male protagonist usually falls head over heels in love with, and they all fit this mold. Interestingly, if you compare it with real life, the same pattern can be observed as well. It’s the same sort of girl everyone seems to have a crush on. If there are any boys reading this, match this list with your ultimate crush and see if it’s true.

etown1

Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, Elizabethtown

Meet the Manic Pixie Dream Girl:

  1. Comes into your life unexpectedly. It’s looking like a normal, humdrum day and then bam! She appears in a coffee shop, looking distraught in a wedding dress (cue Jennifer Aniston from Friends), or you reach for the same pair of gloves (cue Kate Beckinsale from Serendipity), or you happened to ask a hooker for directions (cue Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman). However it is you meet this dream girl, it’s definitely a story worth telling.

    Rachel

    When Ross met Rachel (again)

  2. Quirky and fascinating.   Maybe she can touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. Maybe she makes a house out of waffles (cue Drew Barrymore from 50 First Dates). Maybe she laughs like a hyena or says weird things that challenge your way of thinking (cue Zooey Deschanel in every role she is cast in). She is different, unconventional, not the usual kind of girl you hang with, and you just can’t seem to figure her out or stop thinking about her.

    Zoeey

    Classic MPDG.  500 Days of Summer.

  3. Has major baggage. While your usual MPDG is light and bubbly, she hides some kind of deep issue that you need to sort thru to get to her heart. For instance, she could be terminally ill (cue Charlize Theron from Sweet November), or is lost and confused (cue Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Maybe she has mommy problems (cue Ellen Pompeo in Grey’s Anatomy or Blake Lively in Gossip Girl). She could be angry, jaded, depressed, heartbroken- a damsel in distress, and the guy wants to be the hero that saves her.

    derek .jpg

    Hello, Mc Dreamy.

  4. Unpredictable.  The thing about her that keeps you up at night is that you are never quite sure of anything (cue Robin in How I Met Your Mother). You can’t read her mind and it drives you nuts. You have a hard time tracking her down, she never bores you with humdrum domestic details, and you never really get the whole story, just bits and pieces… what’s worse is, she could just disappear (leave, move away, stop replying to your messages) anytime.

    robin ted

    ‘How I Met Your Mother’ should have been called ‘Why Aunt Robin is the love of my life’

  5. Cute and childlike. This girl is beautiful and doesn’t know it (or if she knows it, she acts completely natural and unaffected about it), finds happiness in simple things, has this innocent, dreamy look in her eyes despite all her struggles, and you can’t help but want to protect her from the world.

    Breakfast

    But seriously, who could resist those eyes?

  6. Cool. Catnip for every man is the cool chick who knows how to play pool, actually drinks beer, watches basketball and cheers loudly, cracks green jokes, plays videogames. She’s the kind of girl who can hang with the boys but still look, act and sound absolutely sexy and feminine. She never nags or nitpicks, she’s just…cool with whatever. Gillian Flynn wrote a whole epic tirade about this on Gone Girl. If you didn’t catch it, Google it. Worth reading whether you’re a man or a woman.

    Serena

    That first date with your dream girl and she beats you at billiards..

  7. Fun and spontaneous. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the type who will convince you to loosen up, coax you into midnight drives to nowhere, convince you to dance in the rain, make you chase her all around town, send cryptic text messages in the middle of the night, or go off on prank adventures (cue Cara Delevinge in Paper Towns, Emma Watson in Perks of Being a Wallflower).   This is usually the part of the movie where there’s lots of laughter and teasing, and comes with happy upbeat background music.

    emma-watson-perks-of-being-a-wallflower.jpg

    Yes let’s stand on the back of a pickup right before it hits a tunnel to feel aliiiive!

  8. On the verge of having a dream come true. So this girl has potential to be great, but for one reason or another she’s stuck (cue Winona Ryder in Reality Bites). This agonizes the brooding male lead because he can see it but she can’t, and he wants to help her get there but she won’t let him (at least not right away). It’s that addictive need to ‘fix’ somebody.

winona

It was like an epiphany discovering this, because for ages I always wondered why guys gravitate toward the same kind of girl like moths to a flame. For example: my perfectly capable and self-sufficient friend (who is pretty, smart, and all that) was dumped by a boyfriend for some girl who threatened to jump out of her balcony, because ‘she needs him more’ and ‘you just can’t choose who you fall in love with’. As another friend put it: ‘How come the more you have your act together, the less guys like you? ‘ As though it’s your fault for having a stable career, no deep dark issues, and being able to afford to get whatever you want.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl per se. It is a phase some (or maybe all) of us were in at one point or another. There is nothing wrong with being in love with one, either. But what’s important is that you both grow out of it because this is a romantic, glossed-up notion of a dysfunctional relationship. Girls, whether or not you have a hero to save you, you need to learn to stand on your own two feet, clean up your own mess, and live your life the way you want, not the way people expect you to. And guys, you need to open your eyes and see that your choice of woman defines who you are, what you think of yourself, and what you feel you deserve. Your MPDG won’t be so dreamy anymore when it’s 5 years down the road and she’s still the same, because some people cannot be fixed. Sometimes the most sensible, ‘boring’, predictable, responsible and ‘safe’ girls that you overlooked—I mean wow, just typing those words made me cringe, it’s the antithesis of sexy—make for the best life partners. Look for the woman who inspires you to be a better man because she is, herself, already strong and accomplished. She won’t need you to save her, she’ll only need you to love her.   Ain’t that a sweeter deal?

How to Be Single

‘Why are you single?’ I never really know how to answer that question. Sometimes, it is asked with simple curiosity, sometimes with disbelief (maybe you’re too choosy), sometimes with suspicion (there must be something wrong with you), and sometimes with pity (you poor thing, you’ll grow old alone). It doesn’t bother me, but I wonder–what is it about being alone that scares people so much?

I get it, though. Love is a wonderful thing and life can seem pretty cold without it.

Being a hopeless romantic, as soon as it was ‘legal’ to date, I ended up getting into one long relationship after another, which means for most of my adult life, I was always part of a couple.

And then one day, I became Single. Everything seemed uncertain. I wasn’t even sure who I was, what I wanted, and what could be because for years and years, my plans and dreams always included another person. It was scary…but in retrospect, it may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I was finally free to grow into the woman I was meant to become, to explore the world, to do what I loved. I traveled to places I always wanted to visit, made lots of new friends, got lost a few times, lived for the moment, mustered up the courage to talk to strangers. I focused on my work, learned new things, built a stable career. I saved money, made investments, planned for the future. I joined a civic organization, worked on projects for the community, and tried my hand at leadership. I spent time with my loved ones, strengthened bonds with friends, made my mom my best friend, got comfortable in my own skin. It was–and still is– the time of my life.

How to Be Single

What an epiphany it was to find that there is a way be blissfully single, without thinking of it as a waiting period for Mr. Right to come along! Here are some tips I learned along the way:

  1. Pray. For peace of mind, for a strong heart, for forgiveness. Pray for guidance. Pray for your questions to be answered in time. Pray for pain to teach you kindness instead of anger. Pray for the courage to pursue your dreams. And I assure you, one day you’ll wake up and find yourself a much better, much happier, much stronger person. It is all worth it.
  2. Travel. This has always been my favorite balm for the soul. Travel with friends or family if you like, but if you can, travel by yourself at least once- where you decide exactly where to go, what to do, what to see, who to talk to. Get caught in a hailstorm, lose your shoes at a club, talk to random people, live like a local. It is truly an awakening and gives you a great new perspective on life. IMG_6986
  3. Push your limits. If you have always lived within a box, done things a certain way, or played by the rules (like me), maybe now it’s time to break them and experiment a little. Do more than you ever thought you could, be it at work, with your talents and interests, and even how you live your everyday life. Surprise yourself. You don’t want to live the exact same day 1 million times. Yes, you can watch a movie or eat out by yourself and actually enjoy it. I never thought I’d say this, but yes, you can text a guy first. Yes, you can casually ask him out too. Yes, you can go on a blind date or try a dating app. It’s not going to be the end of the world if it doesn’t go well, and who knows, it can even be fun. What’s important is, you like yourself and you know what you’re worth. Don’t mind what people say about you too…it’s your life, not theirs.
  4. Try something new. Have you always wondered about something but been too scared to try? Now’s the time to do it. Can you imagine what it will feel like when you’ve succeeded—in running a marathon, or skydiving, or mastering a language, or opening a business, or creating your first painting? This may just be the Universe’s way of telling you that there is so much more in store for you if you’d only try.
  5. Keep getting better. Assess and refine all aspects of your life. Are you in the best physical shape you can be? How much have you learned in the past year, at work or outside of it? Is your spiritual life solid? How about your relationships with others? If you can make little changes in all these areas, you’ll rack up a huge difference. It is amazing what a little extra effort can do. So yes, eat healthy, work out, read and learn, set time aside for meditation, spend your days with the people who value you. You’re in for a kickass transformation (and no, you don’t need to cut your hair).
  6. Be compassionate. You will never be as attuned to the challenges of others as you are today. You’ll see yourself in their struggles, you’ll be more open about your experiences, you’ll be more receptive to listen, you’ll be humbler. You will be a better friend, a better leader, a better daughter. Maybe it’s true what they say—sometimes the only way for God to get into your heart is to break it. So let the light in, bask in the intensity of your feelings, and shine on for everyone else.
  7. Forgive.  Forgive all who have hurt you, and forgive yourself for your mistakes and for the hurts you have caused others. Realize that the world doesn’t owe you anything, and stop expecting for any of your efforts to be appreciated nor reciprocated. Just let it all go, and smile because the slate is wiped clean again and the very best of your days are yet to come.
  8. Enjoy.  Yes, enjoy! Go out, laugh at silly things, shop till you drop, dance the night away, get tipsy (but don’t drive), wear red lipstick, dress up, drag your friends out if you have to. Life is short and every day is a blessing. There’s so much fun you could be having right this very minute, all you need to do is get up and go. Decide to be happy.
  9. Trust.  You can’t let any disappointment scar you in such a way that you build walls around yourself. Continue to trust people, let them in, keep your heart open and free. There is a reason certain people cross your path, and it’s up to you to allow them to add color to your life. Imagine the possibilities!
  10. Love yourself. Yes, it is great to be head over heels in love, to be ‘kilig’ (hey this word made it to the Oxford English dictionary!), to feel like you can go through all time and space for that one person. But what if that person is you? Take a cue from Tita Whitney and sing with me…‘Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.’ Then one day, you might meet someone with a sweet, shy smile, and pretty boy eyes…and maybe…?

The point of this whole article, my dears, is to remind you that your singlehood should be so sweet that it would take a truly wonderful person who rocks your world to make you want to consider the alternative. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed you’ll meet that person soon.  But if you don’t, that’s ok—you are wonderful all on your own.

lips