Welcome to the new Live Trying!

Welcome to the new Live Trying!

Hi, guys, and welcome to the new space for Live Trying!

I’m excited to launch my new site with a bang so I’ll be posting new stuff every day for the next six days. *Hint hint* if you can recognize where the photo above was taken. Check out my Insta, too, for daily photo updates to go with each new post.

Regular readers of Live Trying, do not fret! Previous posts from the old blog are still here. First time readers, feel free to explore.

Thanks for visiting and come back tomorrow for my first full blog post at haciendera.com!

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J.J. 1988

Ten Ways Happy People Stay Happy. What Successful People Do Differently. How To Turn Your Passion into a Career. Signs That You’re Having a Quarter-life Crisis. Seeking a Meaningful Life.

My Facebook timeline is rife with these kinds of posts and they’re mostly shared by my peers. I have an idea why.

I just turned the magical age of twenty-seven a few days ago. According to my mother, I’m already old.

But I don’t feel like it. In my head I’m still just a kid pretending to be an adult who has her shit together, like Jennifer Garner’s character Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30.

I can’t deny though that a small bubble of panicky thoughts has surfaced upon reaching this age. I have less than three years to be, as Jenna put it, “thirty, flirty and thriving.” People’s tolerance of me making stupid life choices is at its lowest because I should’ve honed my decision-making skills by now. And it doesn’t help that a slew of inspirational ladies like Taylor Swift, Tavi Gevinson and Malala Yousafzai have already achieved so much at a younger age.

I was chatting with my friend (C.J. 1988) recently and he said that he feels like he hasn’t achieved anything or lived his life to the fullest. He doesn’t find fulfillment in his work and hobbies. He thinks he wasted his youth being complacent and now it’s too late to start over.

I get where he’s coming from because I also misspent my time as a teenager. My life merely ping-ponged between our house and school during college. I didn’t explore what the world had to offer or expose myself to more people. I was too scared to fail that I didn’t even try. If I did, then maybe I could’ve found out at an earlier age that writing is my thing. And maybe I could’ve done something about it like changing my course in college or joining a creative writing club.

But even if I were that young again, I still probably wouldn’t have pursued writing because my insecurities—my self-perceived lack of talent—would’ve prevented me from doing so. Not that my pursuing writing now means I’ve changed my opinion of myself. I just care more about the actual writing process and less about my lack of talent for writing.

My conversation with C.J. reminded me of this passage in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar because it perfectly illustrates what deciding to do with your life feels like:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

My friend’s concerns and this quote comfort me because it confirms that I’m not the only person who feels confused and helpless sometimes. I feel vindicated and grateful whenever someone shares articles on how to be successful because then I’m not the only one who isn’t. In the same vein, it throws me off when one of my peers achieves a milestone. When this happens I remind myself that “I have no desire for anyone else’s throne” and to “never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” (Thank you for your wisdom, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Anne Lamott.)

I haven’t achieved the usual success indicators like getting a promotion, finishing a post-graduate degree or getting married but I’m doing my own thing to achieve what I want for myself: to be a writer. I read constantly to learn what good writing sounds like. I heed the advice of writers I respect, notably those who were published later in life. I have more than two years’ worth of journal entries and it’s been a useful tool for putting thoughts on a page. I blog to discover my writing voice and to practice for when I actually get paid to write. My posts are not New York Times-worthy but I edit them as if they were.

It’s sometimes difficult to muster the energy to continue doing these things when I think about how pathetic I appear to some people and with my efforts failing to take me closer to my goal. Whenever I’m second-guessing myself and nursing my insecurities, I look at my life in terms of The Grand Scheme of Things.

I’m just a speck of dust in this universe. And the fact that I exist at all is a thing of wonder. However, I will still die. The people who will remember me will die. Our sun will die and our home will die with it. In short, someday, all my efforts will be in vain. It’s a depressing thought. But it’s a thought that frees me from worrying about my “unsuccessful” life. The thought of death and insignificance allows me to say “Life is short. Do what you want. And don’t hurt anybody in the process.”

I know that’s easier said than done especially if you have more pressing problems other than self-actualization. Feel free to discard my advice. The real reason I wrote this anyway is for the same reason we read those articles about happiness and success in the first place: for hope and solace. I am alone in writing this and my feelings are my own, but I know I’m not alone in experiencing them. And my hope is for someone to read this, understand what I wrote, and find solace in my words.

An Open Letter to Friends

Hey, guys!

I feel like we haven’t talked in a while, even including that time when we were all together at the beach drinking bland, tepid beer. And I feel like we will have fewer chances to talk in any significant and vulnerable way in the coming days.

We live disconnected lives now. Margot has her bandmates and many other friends she can jump in and out of. The “Chubby Buddies” have their all boys’ club. Ari and Timothy (and probably the soon-to-be Dr. Remi, too) have their work. And Jordan and I have each other.

I wish I have a support group like Margot’s who’ll encourage me to pursue writing. I wish I have Jordan’s all-consuming love for Skyrim or Ari’s and Timothy’s focus on work to not care about how other people’s lives are progressing. I wish I have the camaraderie of the Chubby Buddies who always find time to see each other on weekends.

I remember when we used to scoff at Martin’s ex-girlfriend Lisa because she couldn’t understand why we always see each other every week. But now I’m no longer part of that group who see each other every week. And it’s not that I want to crash or be invited to these meet-ups. I just want to feel like I also belong somewhere. Anywhere.

You know sometimes I envy religious people because, by default, they have a community they are a part of. And at some point we were like that, a community of some sort.

Sometimes I miss that community. Sometimes I get lonely.

People are moving forward with their lives and it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one stuck in yours. We will soon be (if not already) busy paving our own paths and it will be one of those vague end-of-somethings again. You know that feeling? When you didn’t really say goodbye or end something in a definite manner but you feel like you’ve crossed a line and you can’t go back to whatever you had before. I feel like we’re getting close to that line because of our different priorities and interests. I feel like we will change in small and subtle ways that don’t really feel like change at all. Yet changes significant enough that the chemistry of the group is no longer the same.

I’m not trying to close any metaphorical door here. If at all, I feel like I’m trying to force it open as long as possible. And I don’t mean that we should stay the same people just so we could maintain our “group dynamic.” But I also don’t want to be the kind of friends who are perpetually nostalgic because the past is all they have in common.

This feels very high school, I know. But why does that have to be necessarily a bad thing?

If you can’t understand or won’t even try to understand what I wrote or if you think I’m being dramatic, stupid or sensitive, then maybe we really are different people now. But I hope that’s not the case.

All my love,

Jane

How to achieve that "Balik Alindog": Dieting Edition

There are people who despise working out and there are people who hate dieting. I’m the latter. I enjoy eating too much to be successful at dieting. Yet here I am writing about my fact-based, scientifically-proven insights on how to make dieting bearable for normal humans.

Almost four years ago, I started working in an office job where I sit for eight hours in a day. Fellow corporate slaves who sit through the same thing know that it gets boring. And when I’m bored, food makes a great distraction. After a month in that job, I gained five kilos. I would’ve loved it if some of that weight gain went to my boobs but they all just went to my arms and thighs. It was not cute. So I had to do something about it.

I want to get this body back, you guys. Or not. It’s okay, really. I’m glad I achieved it once and was well documented.

In case you’re expecting to be informed on what diet programs work, I’m sorry to tell you that this is not that kind of post. I don’t know any dieting programs because I don’t follow any. I only read dieting articles online and adapt the ones I could manage doing. Mainly, my “dieting” involves making small adjustments in my eating habits and way of thinking.

I’m the kind of person who always wants to do the thing that people tell me I shouldn’t do. If someone says I can’t eat fries, the more I crave for fries. This personality makes for a dieting disaster. So to make things easier, I ditched the mindset that dieting means depriving myself of certain types of food. Instead, I tricked my mind into believing that I choose not to eat them. It sounds silly but by changing the way I approached the whole thing, dieting became a positive choice I made instead of some imaginary, annoying healthy person telling me that I’m not allowed to do something.

The first thing I did that could be considered dieting was cutting my rice consumption to half. Then, I cut out fizzy drinks, fast food, instant noodles and chips from my life. Not forever, obviously. I mean, I’m not crazy. My love for freshly-cooked McDonald’s french fries is everlasting. I just stopped eating junk for a month.

After getting through that month, I didn’t crave for Coke or chips anymore (except when I’m PMS-ing). I actually don’t like flavored drinks as much now. And I rarely eat fast food. Additional dieting tip: if you do order fast food, don’t order drinks with it anymore.

You could also employ “out of sight, out of mind” just like when you unfollow or block your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend on all social media platforms. Hide your food so that they don’t taunt you to eat them. If you do your own grocery shopping, tell those chips and soft drinks as you roll past them, “Not today, Satan.”

If you think your family members are going to be fine with it, tell them you’re trying to eat more healthy and maybe they could join you in this endeavor. Whoever cooks in your house won’t be happy because you’re asking him/her to create new menu items. Make the transition easier by extending help in the kitchen.

If your family wants to stick to the food they’re used to eating, then change the time you eat instead. Tell your cook that you’d appreciate it if you can have dinner ready by 6 PM. I read somewhere that you should eat dinner three to four hours before you sleep. I don’t know the scientific explanation for it but it works. And if you really have to munch on something before going to bed, eat something fibrous like oatmeal or a fruit.

Even if there’s no way to change your family’s eating habits, you still have one meal in a day that you don’t share with them. Eat healthier meals during lunch and then when you get home for dinner, eat slower and spread your food around your plate so that it looks like you’re eating a lot. Give yourself enough time to adjust to your new eating pattern, at least a month. Don’t crash diet. It’s going to make you miserable.

Full disclosure: After I took this photo, I ate so many BonChon chicken wings and japchae.

When I’m preparing for something, say a beach trip, I still eat out whenever I want. And I don’t consider it my “cheat day” either. Having cheat days implies that you’re doing something bad. And you shouldn’t have to feel bad about eating what you want. Besides, having a cheat day gives the impression that this is the only time of the week when you’re “allowed to eat as much as you want” and as a result, you might pig out on so much junk food that it nullifies your healthy eating for the rest of the week.

If you don’t want to change the food you eat, then just change how much you eat. Let’s not make it more difficult for anyone. But again, you really have to drop the soft drinks and the chips. You don’t need to drink Gatorade after every workout especially if you only work out for 30 minutes. Water is fine. You also don’t need granola or protein bars. Those things are loaded with sugar and you don’t need them in your life. If you have to drink alcohol, avoid beers and mixed drinks. Go for hard liquor like vodka and drink it straight or on the rocks. You can also opt for wine if you’re fancy like that.

I only really diet the week before my goal or event I’m preparing for. This means eating hard-boiled eggs, corned tuna with SkyFlakes, yogurt and fruits. I hate eating fruits but that’s what I snack on during this week. Romaine lettuce become my chips and Kewpie roasted sesame dressing is my dip. I also eat more fiber like oatmeal and whole wheat bread.

I love whole wheat bread. My body is basically powered by whole wheat bread. I can eat it with anything. For all the lazy people out there, here are some stuff you can enjoy with whole wheat bread:

  • (chili) corned tuna
  • Vienna sausage
  • cheddar cheese slices
  • cheddar cheese slices and butter then heat it in a pan if you want to make it a grilled cheese sandwich
  • cream cheese
  • smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Spanish sardines
  • Spam
  • corned beef
  • fried egg and ketchup
  • bacon
  • bacon with cheddar cheese
  • bacon, lettuce and cheddar cheese
  • smoked ham (see: bacon pairings)
  • peanut butter
  • Nutella
  • your hopes and dreams

Of course I’m assuming that you’re working out the entire time this meal adjustment is happening. Some people diet hard because they don’t work out. I don’t know if that’s okay. I love eating more than I hate working out so I diet a little and I work out a little. This way, I maintain my sanity. It’s all about moderation.

Having said all this, there is a way to feel great about yourself without dieting and working out and it’s called “accepting yourself for who you are and not giving a fuck about what others think.” This is a much longer process than dieting and working out though. I heard it takes many years. I want to achieve that, too. But in the meantime, I’m working on feeling good on the outside. Baby steps.

How to achieve that "Balik Alindog"

I’m not an expert in nutrition or physical fitness. I’m not a professional trainer either. And I most certainly don’t have abs to brag about so of course it makes total sense that I write an entire blog post telling you how to work out and live your life.

Seen here: Me without abs. But I’m going to go ahead and share what I know anyway.

No one who exercises does it because they want to. At least if you’re like me and you’re reading this for inspiration, then you work out because you feel like you have to. I mean, if I were like my boyfriend who doesn’t get fat no matter how much food he shoves down his mouth, I wouldn’t exercise at all.

The beginning is always the hard part. The first thing you need to do before starting a workout routine is to determine what you like doing and what you want to achieve. If you’re hyperactive, maybe you’d like an intense workout like circuit training or CrossFit. If you want something more relaxed (and your body is flexible), do yoga. If you’re competitive, maybe you’ll thrive in a gym where you can race against other people running on treadmills or bench press heavier weights than the guy next to you. If you love to dance, there are lots of dance workouts to choose from. You can also take up group sports but this will be harder to organize because you’ll rely on other people’s schedules. Also, group workouts usually end up in group eating.

I’d like to join a gym or do those pole-dancing or aerial yoga things but the problem is I hate spending money on anything exercise-related. My rubber shoes are gifts. My dumbbells are given by a friend. I bought the cheapest exercise mat I could find. And I just go to YouTube for my workout programs.

I love online workouts because you could do almost all of them whenever you want at the comfort of your own room. I always recommend Jillian Michaels’ 30-day shred to friends because it’s just the right pace and even though it’s hard, it’s not too hard that you want to quit on the very first day. It’s also very short for a relatively intense workout—less than 30 minutes. You can also try Shaun T’s Insanity workout if you want a challenge. There are also a lot of 10-minute workouts online and you can do three of them in a day if you get easily bored with repetitive exercises.

Once you’ve decided what workout you’ll be doing, you have to find a motivation to keep at it. It has to be something bigger than “Balik Alindog.” You need to have a concrete target. It can be anything like attending a wedding, a beach trip, buying an outfit that would only look good on you if you’re fit, or making your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend regret leaving you. Or it can be something less superficial like doing it for your health or whatever. Just find that motivation. For me, I work out so that I can keep fitting in my clothes. Even though I enjoy shopping, I’d be depressed if I had to buy new clothes because I got bigger.

It’s hard to stay motivated, I get it. On days when I’m feeling lazy, I get up and change to my workout clothes anyway. Sometimes that’s all the incentive I need because I’ll be too lazy to change back to my regular clothes so I might as well work out. But sometimes I really can’t or don’t want to exercise. And if that happens to you, it’s okay to take a break. Don’t force yourself to work out because you might end up hating it altogether. But you have to work out at least three times a week.

Get a workout routine going whether that be in the morning or once you get home from work. I prefer working out in the morning. It jump-starts your day. There’ll be fewer clothes to wash because you won’t need to shower twice a day. Your belly is empty in the morning so after a morning workout you have the illusion that you’re that much closer to achieving a flat tummy. And there is better lighting in the morning which is great for after-workout selfies. The only downside is you have to wake up earlier than usual.

If you’re working out by yourself, you have to have a semblance of discipline. And I hate to break it to you but I can’t give you discipline through this blog post. No amount of reading could help you if you don’t plan on doing it. Please seek the services of a trainer.

Try working out this week and see how it goes. If you’re still up to it, next week, we’ll talk about dieting. (Yikes.)

We can do it, guys!

New Year, Old Friends

A study says that the average length of friendships is seven years. If your friendship makes it past the seven-year mark, then you will be friends for good. The friends I’m close with have been my friends since high school and my longest friendship is already twice as long as the average. My friends and I see each other without needing birthdays or other occasions as an excuse. We constantly chat over Facebook and Viber. I’ve traveled with most of them which I think all relationships should go through. I know their middle names and their parents’ names and they know mine.

I didn’t make many new friends in college because I had this group to hang out with. And if we weren’t hanging out, I was too comfortable being alone that I didn’t feel the need to find other people to replace them in their absence. Plus, social media wasn’t as big then so the FOMO (fear of missing out) when they hung out with other people wasn’t as crippling. Now I feel like having a big social network is such a major factor in our lives and that I need to grow mine.

The problem is I have trouble making new friends because I care too much about what people think of me. I make myself forgettable by stifling my personality because I don’t want them to think I’m bossy, opinionated or attention-seeking. People have said I don’t look approachable. I’m also uncomfortable with an acquaintance kind of friendship where all you do is have small talk and exchange compliments. The friendship I’m used to is insult-based; the closer we are, the coarser my language is toward you. When making friends, I just want to skip the awkward, “nice” stage and jump to a level of closeness where “Fuck you” means “You are hilarious and I love your sick humor.”

But when I really think about it, I might not be able to juggle many friends after all because I end up getting too invested in people’s lives. Plus, I will always want to do stuff with them like watch movies, eat out, shop, and travel. Just thinking about planning all those stuff with many sets of friends is exhausting.

Maintaining friendships with many people entails rationing the time you spend with each of them so that you have a constant presence in their lives. However, you might only end up as a filler friend to many people and a close friend to none.

I like and love my friends and I know that if I really needed them, they would drop whatever it is they’re doing to show up at my doorstep. But this doesn’t stop me from yearning for new ones. I’m still hoping for a feminist, atheist person who will share my love for American TV series, movies and shopping, someone who would regularly tell me that I’m amazing and is very vocal and sincere about his or her support of my dreams and outfits, someone who’s as clingy as I am, and someone who will challenge me to be a better person and vice versa. I still haven’t found one person who is all of those things. But the great thing about friends is that you don’t have to have only one.

Photo by Elaine Tacubanza

The Virtue of Talking Behind People’s Backs

People who find themselves the subject of gossip like posting the quote above. And it’s ironic because, if we look at it closely, Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as the people who quote this, is actually talking about people. As much as I would like to be considered a great mind every so often, and with ideas being as fascinating as they are, I still don’t want to talk about them all the time. Let’s admit it, life would be boring if we only talked about ideas.

The topic of other people is a great conversation starter. It’s human nature to want to talk about thy neighbor, thy neighbor’s boyfriend, and their recent breakup. Discussing people doesn’t automatically equate to having a small mind. What will make you narrow-minded is if you only talk about people and judge them based on what they did that one time. I’m talking to you, people who gossip about Amber D’Alessio.

Discussions about people can evolve to discussions about ideas. People are as fascinating as ideas because no matter how much we talk about them, we will never fully know their whole story and what their motivations are.

A wise man said, “True friends are those who only say nice things behind your back.”

You need to love someone to be true to them. Yet you can love your friend and not like everything about her. As imperfect humans, our friends have trivial shortcomings that get on our nerves like always being late, never confirming or rejecting an invitation to hang out, or having an annoying laugh. The wise man would probably say that if you have issues with your friend, you should work things out by talking to them about it. But then how do you say to your friend that her laugh is irritating?

This is when the virtue of talking behind people’s backs needs to be practiced. While it’s true that communication is key to any relationship, communication during the height of frustration will do more harm than good. So when you’re annoyed at your friend, the best thing to do is to talk to someone else about it—not immediately to the friend you have an issue with.

Maybe this other friend can give you advice on how to approach your annoying friend. Maybe, by talking behind your friend’s back, you will realize that you’re annoyed because of some other personal issue that had nothing to do with your friend in the first place. The important thing is that you’ve let off steam and reflected on the problem so that you can deal with your friend better.

Facebook and Twitter have become our collective “other friend” when airing out our frustrations. There is never a day when no one has a complaint or life drama that they post online. The hardcore ones just post expletives without any explanation.

Imagine if we didn’t talk behind people’s backs. Imagine all that pent up rage if we didn’t tell our friends about how our boss is being unreasonable again. Imagine if our bosses told us what they really thought of us. There’s this episode in the TV series Bob’s Burgers where Bob hired Randy, a filmmaker the family dislikes, to make a commercial for the restaurant. On the day of the shoot, before Randy enters the restaurant, Bob told his family to say all the mean things about Randy that they want to say so that they won’t feel the need to say it to his face later—to let it all out. In short, talking behind people’s backs can be therapeutic and sometimes the more decent to do than saying what you really think.

I’m not advocating for people to gossip about their friends (although I think that’s also unavoidable.) But you don’t need to feel bad talking behind your friends’ backs if that’s what it takes to not bite their heads off the next time you talk to them. I know for a fact that there’s a group chat out there created because of some nasty jokes I said. And if the person who made that felt that he had to create a safe space where he could rant about me behind my back, then I support him. I would do the same.

Remember that scene in Mean Girls where Tina Fey asked the junior girls if they’ve ever talked about someone behind their backs and everyone raised their hands? Everyone does it. It doesn’t make it right, sure. But it also doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

Images via, via