personal reflections

Birthday Wishlist – Turning 24

Is it a sign of “growing up” that you begin to feel dread about an impending birthday, instead of excitement? That’s where I am right now. Twenty-three felt optimistic, but twenty-four feels like a rubicon that I have no choice but to cross.

The only “good” thing about aging up a year, perhaps, is that I want fewer tangible things. I used to do birthday wishlists every year–long and comprehensive lists of “demands”–but now that I’m able to buy my own stuff…I find myself wanting to want less stuff (please, save me from consumerism and online makeup shopping). Of course, this doesn’t mean I want less–I think wanting is part of human nature–just that the things I do want aren’t necessarily things you can get in a store.

It’s midnight, though, and I’m too sleepy to continue waxing poetic. The following list is a mix of those tangible and intangible wants for my twenty-fourth year. Some can be bought. Some, I suppose, I’ll have to work for.

In no particular order, my birthday wishlist:

  1. To get over my fear of driving. (I’m going to inquire about enrolling at Honda Driving School on March 11th. You all hold me to that.)
  2. To learn to stick to a budget. (No, I don’t actually need that new lipstick/dress/book.)
  3. Anti-Marcos Social Club/Never Again Shirt (Don’t know where you can get the former, but the latter is available from
  4. “Chubs” green crop box tee. (Can’t remember what online store had this, but it’s an online store. Also, yes, this is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo fan merch.)
  5. To sit in on a roundtable discussion/mentoring session with a veteran producer and veteran songwriter. (To see what I mean, please see this Buzzfeed video.)
  6. An out-of-town gig. (One for Ellie and The Elephant would be cool, but one for The Elinor Project (w/ Marvs Fabular and Dean Carayag) would be awesome also. Or one for Stories Told, of course.)
  7. To go up to Baguio with Dani, especially when it would be cold.
  8. Pop piano lessons. (As far as I know, The Music School of Ryan Cayabyab offers this. I just need to make time.)
  9. Coco Cabana swimsuit. (Most likely a high-waisted, bra-type bikini set, or else a one-piece. Ideally in black or navy blue.)
  10. Formal guitar lessons.
  11. A Zoom portable recorder (I can’t kidnap AJ’s stuff forever.).
  12. An editorial-style photoshoot. (This one’s frankly self-indulgent, but it was the only thing I wanted for my debut, and I never got a debut…so yeah. Shameless vanity. As if I don’t hold unofficial versions of this every time I figure out a new K-Beauty/J-Beauty trick.)
  13. A Samson condenser mic (or whatever brand Jian/Marvs/Dean would recommend that’s within my budget; the Apogee is okay but it’s not as crisp as I’d like it to be).
  14. To figure out how to use a loop pedal. Or loops in general.
  15. Not to be so scared of growing up.



Searching for “Wow.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 2.56.02 PM

My Facebook page has become one long trigger warning for a quarter-life existential crisis. My college schoolmates are speaking at TEDx or traveling the world. My high school batchmates/schoolmates are setting up businesses, becoming bloggers, getting engaged, and/or auditioning for reality TV shows.

I amsick. With yet another cough and cold.

A few days ago, I started learning guitar again. The last time I picked up Elinor for any extended stretch of time, I was in college, hefting her on my back from class to class, stealing practice time between reviewing for finals and crunching out the beginnings of my thesis.  I would play and sing everywhere, puzzling over tabs and timing, discovering a world of music made outside of my body, a method that physically challenged my idea of control.  It was exciting, then–every new song was a small victory against a nagging feeling of being “lost” that I’d had since leaving my college theater org.

Now, I’m only just re-learning what it means to be excited, what it feels like to have a world of music that’s really only mine (or, well, as “only mine” as you can get when you’re born with the urge to constantly be documenting things for posterity).  See, that feeling I had back in college–of being lost, set adrift, having to start over–is back and in full force, tugging away at the last constant I have: my music.  Or, specifically, my dreams of music.

It’s taken me a while to admit this, because it feels like a character flaw, but I am a natural performer. I like to “wow.” On that stage, in front of a crowd, you are both able to connect with so many, and remain at a safe distance, where none of those people can hurt you, like friendship without the risk of familiarity (and, ergo, contempt).  That moment of approval feels so much like being liked, the amazement and/or curiosity silencing self-doubt, even for a moment.  For a girl with a lot of very loud self-doubt, those moments can be intoxicating, and the constant quest for them all-consuming, because isn’t it elemental human instinct to run for safety?

That “wow”–and the things I’ve done to get it–have been my safety for years, to the point that I’ve come to define myself as what–or, rather, the very many whats–I do.  Except, now, things are changing. It’s harder to juggle all the hats I’ve chosen to wear. Music, arguably my “number one life priority,” has now become my biggest struggle: it’s hard enough to steal time from your thesis, but reaching for guitar after work, when your body is screaming for mindless TV and sleep? Nigh-impossible. I’ve had to watch my slow stagnation, standing still in stark contrast to my bandmates who improve in leaps and bounds, threatening to render me obsolete. They have side-lines and gigs and a future.  I have…Keynote.  That, and a nagging sense that my chance at “wow” is getting farther and farther away, possibly too far away to ever reach.

It all came to a head when I lost my voice.  Jian–bandmate, remember? I mention him a lot, so you should.–is probably going to kill me for admitting this, but I got extremely sick recently and had to be forced into vocal rest. I say forced because I only called time after pushing through with a gig I had no capacity to sing, my bullheaded determination to “be professional” and not back out at the last minute causing a vocal catastrophe.  We took a break for two weeks, which became a month, and now, six weeks after my vocapocollapse (see what I did there?) my bandmates are back refreshed, ready, brimming with ideas and new experiences…while I am struggling to find my footing, afraid I’m being left behind.

For the first time, at twenty-three, I am having to look in the eye the chance that this glittering dream of a music career may dissolve in the murky reality that is a corporate nine-to-five, with its “adulting” and financial responsibilities and reality checks.  I never saw myself becoming just another working millennial, but ironically the truth is I might have to trade security of identity for security of a more terrestrial, pragmatic kind.

A girl has bills to pay.

Am I scared? Very. Watching the highlights reel that is my newsfeed, with everyone on it doing something new and big and different, it’s hard not to start fearing obscurity. The promise of having a stage and leaving a mark have become such constants in my life that having to face the very real possibility of those things never happening again has left me more than a little shaken. What do you do when the destiny you spent all this time preparing yourself for turns out to not be your destiny at all?  How do you start over, take back the years you feel you wasted building a dream that was made to fall apart anyway?

If there are easy answers for these questions, I don’t have them. But I have my guitar. And my iPhone camera. A few days ago, when I decided–or, rather, was half-encouraged, half-coerced–to try learning guitar again, I turned on Facebook Live and started recording a video of what it looked like to start from zero–a throwback to the first days of Elinor and I, those private video diaries that showed me fumbling with painful steel strings and dreaded chord shifts. I took a while to ramble, talking about my bandmates’ advice and my new guitar set-up and the song I was about to do. Then, I started to play.

The first time, I screwed up, and had to start over. That happened again a second time. And a third. Over and over, I missed notes or hit wrong ones, laughing nervously as I noticed the numbers of live audience rise and fall.

Frustrated, I stopped looking at the screen and instead stared at my fingers, picking slowly through the pattern until…I got it.  And again. And again. The notes were clean and sharp in a way they hadn’t been in ages.  I tried to sing along, but the timing failed me, and my playing fell apart again, so I kept quiet and watched as my fingers plucked at the strings faster and faster until the tempo nearly matched the original.

When I looked up, no one was watching. But, oddly enough, that didn’t matter. I’d done something I thought I couldn’t, and that was exciting. That was new, and different, and doing it felt like something slotting back into place, an anchor finding its mooring. Perhaps no one would ever know what I could do, but I did.  I did, and the “wow” that resulted from discovering that perhaps it was still possible to grow and reach and try and be myself–a self that I liked–without those big dreams to propel me…

…in that moment, it was enough.

~a Roaming Tsinay~

LINER NOTES: I wrote this as part of an assignment for an office writing workshop where we were asked to write a short essay based on a random word we’d drawn from a hat. For the curious, my word was, well, “wow.”

Also, this post is partially inspired by the work of a fellow MGC New Life alum. If you’re recovering from dreams of athletic (versus musical) stardom, I recommend you check out this blog by Johansen Aguilar.  

…I can’t believe I just plugged an HS classmate. What is the world coming to?

The Friday, Currently 011: Our Weakness Shall Be Our Secret Weapon

hkxe7rTold you not to panic.

Last week was a bit of a rollercoaster.  A positive one, for the most of it–Stories Told released its first single on Spotify, which has me incandescently happy on the days I can bear to be incandescently happy (it’s a lot of work, guys)–but a rollercoaster nonetheless.  By the time Friday rolled around, I was D-E-A-D.  I spent most of the weekend in a coma, and the moments I was awake were spent pondering the significance of my existence.

No, seriously.  Last weekend was my quarterly existential crisis, made worse due to my usual PMS deciding to manifest as inexplicable sadness akin to my bout, last year, with something-like-depression-so-maybe-let’s-call-it-that-but-maybe-it’s-not.  So, as you can imagine, I was not well rested and ready for the week ahead.  But I managed.  Sort of.  Maybe.  You’ll see.  For now, it is Friday, and I am C U R R E N T L Y . . .

R E A D I N G  The Drowning Treeanother Carol Goodman thriller and one I haven’t actually read before.  It’s been sitting on my TBR pile for the longest time, and I only managed to take a crack at it after giving up on The Lake of Dead Languages (probably not the best thing to read when PMSing and questioning the strength of your most valuable relationships, as you do).  Not that The Drowning Tree is that much better a choice, mind: dealing with the thin line between artistic genius and madness, it’s maybe a little too self-aware for a girl who generally wobbles her way across that borderland on her best days.

Best read while consuming copious amount of Pik Nik and listening to podcasts.

W R I T I N G  …quotes, I guess?  Little snippets I hope lead to bigger ideas.  I’m in a Thought Catalog kind of mood lately, which may mean I actually submit something to them (probably not) but most likely will result in a blog or a song.  Or a letter.  I’m still big on letters, to be honest: when I was in sophomore year I kept a notebook of them, all written to boys that I’d “loved” (varying definitions of “love,” from eros to philia).  It was sort of a diary, and even now I tend to frame my own inner workings around perceptions of people, in case you haven’t noticed.

I might write about again.  Maybe.  Or, well C‘s coming back from his trip to the States and he’s brought me home a TARDIS scarf as pasalubong, so I might just write about him instead and inflate that ego a little.  Because TARDIS.

L I S T E N I N G 
over and over to Say You Love Me by Jessie Ware.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to imagine myself in any sort of relationship, so I’ve been listening to love songs in an attempt to gain back some of the optimism.  Unfortunately, it’s been the sad ones that sound the best to my ears, so I’m not sure how my music’s been helping…


W A T C H I N G or rather listening to an old TED Talk that I’ve honestly not paid enough attention to: Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability.”

F E E L I N G  irritated that my laptop’s slowing down again.  Our company president likes to joke that Macs can smell fear.  I’m beginning to think he might be on to something.

S M E L L I N G  the scent of my Avon cosmetics.

W E A R I N G  my PJs, as you do.

L O V I N G  Studio Fix by Alex Carbonell.  I don’t give enough love to the amazing people who work with my pin-straight hair and shape it into something that I can be proud to #selfie.  Sir Billy and the lovely individuals who work at the Greenbelt 5 branch of the salon are absolutely wonderful, and it boggled my mind when I walked in today and saw a sign on the reception desk asking customers not to yell at, lambast, or publically humiliate the staff.

Why would a person, let alone enough people to justify having a sign, actually do that?!  I’m as mean as the next judgmental, insecure, arrogant prat on the street (if not meaner), but even I don’t get how anyone could be on a warpath bad enough to justify not one, but two signs.

W A N T I N G  my Mac to stop lagging!  It’s making typing up these blogs annoyingly difficult.

W I S H I N G that I had a higher emotional quotient. Not that I won’t eventually get to a normal point, of course–that’s what maturing is about, after all–but it would have helped to start on a more “normal” level.  At least I wouldn’t keep inadvertently offending people.

Ah well.  You play the cards you’re dealt.  If it’ll take me a little extra elbow grease to get the hang of this “growing up” thing, then I’m sure there must be a good enough reason for it.

T H I N K I N G about just how vulnerable I should let myself be.

Up until recently, I’d always seen myself as an open book, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of person.  In fact, I’d used to be proud of that fact.  But lately I’ve begun to question just how true that image of myself actually is.  See, I’ve been getting quite a few comments lately that I’m not quite “real,” not quite “there.”  There’s a disconnect, they say, between my declared image and how I actually appear.  Some of it I’ve chalked up to the aforementioned emotional ineptitude–I can come off as a prat sometimes because I don’t realize (until too late) the shades of meaning my statements might seem to hold for others–which is something I’m working on, in the same way that Scorpion‘s Walter O’Brien frequently consults Cabe and Paige on how to navigate the “normal” (read: socially acceptable) world.

(Not that I’m a super-genius like the aforementioned Mr. O’Brien.  I do, however, empathize with his interpersonal ineptitude and the scrapes he gets into because of it.)

But even that EQ-deficiency doesn’t explain everything, and so I’ve been forced to take a good long look at myself, as is the overthinker’s custom, and figure out why this divide might exist.

The answer, in the end, was as simple as it was surprising: I am not an open book at all.  What I always thought was spontaneous, unfiltered “me” was, in truth and in fact, largely a calculated act that had become so routine as to be subconscious.  I’d become so good at “performing” that I’d managed to fool myself…but not so good as to be able to fool everyone else.  Examining my own motivations for behaving a certain way, I found a common thread: “They want me to be like this.” “I need to be this way so they can respect/befriend/accept me.”

“I need them to like me.”

So I became my persona: this high-powered, hyperactive, exaggeratedly expressive, indestructible supergirl.  I became the drama queen who could also conquer boardrooms, the resilient martyr who saved the day.  Reliable Frankie.  The Energizer Bunny.  The consummate entertainer who could always be called upon to take a fact, blow it out of proportion, and dramatize it for the amusement (or irritation) of others.  These multiple layers became my armor, my way of exercising control over others by filtering how they would be able to perceive me.

I suppose (because I no longer remember when I wasn’t carrying on in this way; possibly before kindergarten) this must have started as a way to protect my real self, my softer, more breakable parts with the flaws that I feared would turn people away.  But over time, as the layers of artifice accumulated, I began to lose sight of whatever I was protecting.  Now, being invulnerable is all I know…and now I’m at a loss as to how to resolve the aching alienation that said invulnerability is beginning to cause.

As an ex-theater kid (who still dreams of going back, truth be told), I’m extremely familiar with the Brene Brown talk on “The Power of Vulenrability.”  I know it exists, and I have an idea of what it says.  In fact, I actually have watched it a few times.  But until I was faced with the consequences of my own “invulnerability,” I never truly understood Brown’s point.  Being “vulnerable” isn’t about being an emotional maelstrom or wearing your heart on your sleeve.  It isn’t about being expressive, or out there, or overshare-friendly.

It’s about the admission that I have those soft, fragile, breakable parts: flaws I haven’t yet been able to fix, questions I can’t answer, feelings I’m not 100% able to explain.  It’s about admitting that I have been hurt, that I will be hurt again…but accepting that fact as a given instead of trying my hardest to hold the world at bay.

I always thought that maturity was about learning how to look like I had it together.  That instead of crying or thorwing fits or wallowing, if I could somehow convince everyone that I was fine, then I was doing something right.  But while part of maturity does mean that I don’t start crying at random and do exhibit some degree of impulse/emotion control, the realization has hit that I am not fooling anyone with this disguise.  The only person I’m deluding, really, is myself.  And it hasn’t protected me at all, this armor.  If anything else, it’s made the hurt much worse, made me more afraid of the big bad world.

I’m still too gun-shy to subscribe completely to the idea that my weakness should be out there for all there world to see.  And, I think, I’m right in that resistance–after all, there is still such a thing as discretion.  But while I do still abide by the principle that not everything has to be shared, I’m realizing that I do have to share my life with people in order to live it, and that means occasionally admitting that yes, I’m upset or sad or scared or out of answers.  That I’m not okay.  That I don’t have it together right now.  That admitting I am not okay does not discount the fact that I eventually will be.

Weakness is not a disadvantage.  It is a strength.  It is was makes me, not an act, but a human.  And that, I realize, was Brene Brown’s point.  In weakness, there is strength. With the admission that I will get hurt, and that I am not perfect, comes an ability to survive those inevitable moments.  Best of all, it gets people to understand.  Maybe not enough to prevent some from deciding to hurt me…but enough perhaps to connect with the people who won’t.

It’s a risky world out there.  I guess getting hurt is unavoidable.  But that tendency to get hurt can be my secret weapon, because it makes me human.  Makes me real.  And, maybe, will make it easier for me to survive a world full of real humans.


N E E D I N G  Coherence.  Or, at the very least, a discernable point.  But, since I haven’t yet managed to master having a “thesis” to prove in any of these posts, I’m guessing it might be a while until I find one.  Until then, this has been the eleventh edition of  The Friday, Currently, and I remain, yours ever…


(P.S. The abrupt ending is frankly because I suddenly have to cram recording vocals at home for the Yellow Room Battle of The Bands so…yeah.  Will find time to revisit this.)

The Sunday Currently was created by Siddathornton. I’ve added/subtracted categories for the sake of the narrative, and also because I’m copying the format of