Written in December 2010. Kept this with me for five years.
Being 30 made me ponder about life. I realized that in my late twenties, I haven’t been making the most out of it. I have learned to settle and become content with what I currently have, thinking that happiness is best achieved when you are contented.
I chose to be happy and contented in three major areas of my life:
Relationship. For the past few years, I have settled for the comfort of staying in an undefined and complicated relationship. We called ourselves a ‘couple’ for two years, and then we broke up and stayed ‘technically single’ while still living together as roommates. I knew that I was no longer in love in a passionate and intense way, but I accepted that that is just how every relationship evolves. I could not leave behind years of togetherness in a snap. I imagined how complicated it would be if I moved out of our apartment just to seek out or be with someone else. I was no longer young enough to be swept off my feet and to do something crazy and adventurous. So even when I knew I wanted more, or even something else, I still chose to stay put.
Work. My 6-year-old business is still in a box, still thinking small, relying on referrals and not going out of our way to market ourselves and be exposed. I knew I have long wanted it to be in the limelight — to get awards, to meet new people, to get bigger projects by investing in big pitches, and to expand in terms of the staff and equipment. But I am afraid to take risks, with the fear of losing more. I just take things as they come, thinking that “slowly but surely” is the way to go.
Art. I am an artist and I have a conscious desire to create artworks, to write and shoot my own stories, to write and play my own songs. But I haven’t set aside time for these, discouraging myself by thinking that creating something that would meet my standards would be a long and tedious process. I regarded my art as something ‘leisurely’ and ‘selfish.’ I believed that things like these should take the backseat. When I started working, I told myself that soon I’d have time for my art. But up to now, I haven’t devoted time to create. My daily responsibilities involve other people who depend on me so I decided it’s wiser that I focus on what is urgent and important.
I’ve always thought that if you aspire for something too great to be achieved, you can never be happy. You risk getting hurt when you try too hard or anticipate something great and the world doesn’t cooperate. Making something grand happen is not entirely in your hands. Oftentimes, it’s even beyond your control. And so I made a conscious decision to be contented. But being contented has its downside: settling for the mediocre. I decided to accept what I have. I saw the beauty of the things that were right in front me. However, I only saw what my eyes could see. I never thought of expanding my horizons and looking beyond what could be better than the given scenario. I had forgotten to dream. I was convinced that dreaming is the opposite of being realistic. With that, I had set aside my bigger aspirations.
Whenever I’m about to tread a road that’s too hazy, I step back and choose the other clear-cut road instead. I knew that my heart’s set to take an adventurous journey with the dangers of not seeing clearly because there is a better chance of being rewarded with something so great and unfathomably beautiful. I had always looked at life as a win or lose situation, wherein you only get a 50% chance at winning. That’s why I went to the safe side — where I was sure of the outcome. I would rather have a mediocre kind of happiness than risk getting hurt. I used to believe in the quote: “What you risk reveals what you value.” But I had forgotten the word ‘risk.’ My favorite words became “safe”, “sure” and “steady”. I wanted to sustain what I had. If I knew I wanted something but had no idea how to get it, I would just shrug it off and forget the whole thing.
I embraced monotony. I loved its steady flow — but I was torn between loving and hating it. Going down that steady road was dull — with each step becoming mechanical. I was no longer thinking. I knew where I was going. Life was easy, yes. I was cushioned in my comfort zones. I loved the easy and secure life, but I also hated it for being that way. It welcomed an attitude of indifference. And ambivalence.
Eventually I no longer cared. There wasn’t anything to fight for, anyway. I forgot what I was living for. I just kept on walking because that was what was expected of me. I didn’t even bother looking around me. Life was no longer exciting. I no longer questioned being in an undefined relationship. I just took things as they came. I was no longer pressured to be committed. I stopped exerting effort to give. And with that, I also took my expectations away. I stopped fighting for my values, my sensibilities, and my point in every argument. I gave in just to avoid conflicts. I obliged and went on with plans I was not hundred percent sure of. I let myself be swayed.
Sometimes, I ended up enjoying myself; but in the latter part, I became remorseful. If I strongly believed in something and my companion thought otherwise, I would put myself in her shoes, and try to convince myself to believe her point. To me, there would be no more point in arguing. So I avoided it.
I was convinced that talking would just lead to arguments and so I gave up on meaningful conversations, on assessing things and on sharing opinions. I lived for the day and shelved my visions of the future. I focused on momentary happiness, but this left me so uncertain about where I was heading. My heart grew cold — and it died many times. I became a robot. I let forces control me. I just kept on walking a steady pace. The road stretched; my vision became blurred. All of a sudden I couldn’t see. I forgot where I was going. I found myself walking in a seemingly endless road.
Death. I was on the verge of it.
I’ve been ignoring these voices — -
“You can’t keep on waiting for things to change. You need to initiate it.”
“You can’t just stay put waiting for forces to sway you.”
“Is that what makes you really happy?”
“Do not stay just for comfort.”
I used to have many sleepness nights — chest aching, crying silently and helplessly seeking for clarity. I felt sorry for myself. Why was I settling? I felt that I had already lost myself and that I no longer knew what I wanted.
I was constantly haunted by the ghosts of my past. I was determined to ignore them. I could not face them. I couldn’t take risks. I couldn’t mess up my life now and get hurt once more.
When I turned 30, I challenged myself to tell the truth. Was I really happy? Was this what I really wanted? Yes, there were no conflicts and life was easy; I avoided risks. It was comforting, yet I felt so lifeless.
The comforting cushion that enclosed me felt like a coffin. I was trapped in that cold, dark box. I knew that I was still breathing but still I refused to open my eyes and move. I was scared to get out, afraid of what I would see; afraid of the world outside of it.
Would I be trapped here forever? I was caught in a win or lose situation. Leaving that box meant finding myself in either heaven or hell. The question was: should I risk getting burned for a chance at eternal bliss?
I knew that there was something that I really wanted, but which I chose to leave behind. I let it go because I knew and I was convinced that there was no clear future with that, anyway. The world managed to convince me that it was wrong. It was wrong because it was selfish. It was wrong because getting it meant something else would have to be destroyed. Although I wanted to defy everything and simply base my decision on how strongly I felt, the whole world would still be against it.
My heart has always yearned for something big. And I am now ready to take bold steps to achieve my aspirations.
I am a very passionate person. I live for passion. I should always be crazy for something. There should always be something that’s worth fighting for, worth living for, worth dying for — that’s how I want to live. When I lost my passion, when I let it die, it was like dying with it.
I had a chance to ponder about where I am, and if I were really happy, when I turned thirty. After opening my ears and hearing all the voices in chorus, in culmination, I made my first big move and decided to finally let go and revisit the passions that I had left behind. I decided to finally set myself free and pursue what I really wanted without thinking and worrying about all the risks and repercussions. I have decided to pursue what I really wanted and I was ready to face anything. I finally let go of all the baggage I carry.
I am now in the process of making bold moves to focus on what is truly essential. I realize that time is running out and so I am letting go of clutter, focusing only on the things that matter to me. I will focus on what I want, on my aspirations. Every step I take should lead me closer to the things I want to achieve.
My Art: I have forgotten that I am an artist. But I have been ‘consuming’ art for the past years, rather than creating it. I want to create works that can influence and move people. As a photographer, I want to move people with powerful images. If I don’t have enough powerful images then I will shoot some more. I want to paint again. I have a blank canvass and an untouched acrylic set sitting on my table. It’s been there for four years, when I started telling myself that I will set aside time to create art. I have always aspired to become a great filmmaker. A director-cinematographer-editor. I have been exposed in the industry for eight years. But still, I haven’t created my own piece, and I given up that dream.
I have always wanted to sing my own songs. I want to create music that moves, music that inspires. But I just don’t know how to start.
All of these are stalled because I fear writing. I always aspire for perfection and I quickly judge my piece in its early stage. Being a producer, a critic, has hindered me from nurturing and developing the early stages of my work. I choose to set them aside with the fear of creating something that does not meet my high standards.
My Business: Six years ago I made a bold move. I resigned from my first regular job as a video editor and production studio manager to set up my own graphic design and video production studio. As the creative director of the company, I am able to make use of my artsy background through the designs we create, the videos we produce. As an artist, being able to produce artworks that communicate and influence people has been a very fulfilling mission.
I am lucky to have it alive and going steady for six years. I have managed to keep it afloat. Unfortunately, it hasn’t taken a big leap. I have to make a move soon so my business will lead me faster to financial independence. So I can do what I want with all my loved ones while we are all still alive. I want to be able to give back and be able to give significant contributions to causes that I support.
My Family: I want them to feel consistently proud for having raised a successful kid. I want my mama and papa to stop worrying about my health. I don’t want them to see me working too much, working too hard, waiting for my slow business to take flight. I want them to feel the rewards of my hard work. I want to spend more time with them. My parents are getting old. My siblings will start their own families in a few years.
My One Great Love: I have found my soul mate, but we can’t be together in a free world. The existing space and time is not ours to have and to share. And so we felt imprisoned, not being given the freedom to express what we truly feel.
I can make bold moves to follow my heart. But I still should be in harmony with the world.
I cannot be the master of everything. I cannot be in full control. Even if I know and I am certain what I want, you can’t just have it overnight. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes hard work. If I want it, I will work for it until the universe conspires and everything falls into place.