How To Survive The Age of Social Media

The thing is, it can be difficult to live in this modern world if you’re not strong enough. Wherever you look, there’s something or someone to remind you that you are not good enough; that where you are in life at the moment isn’t up to par compared to your peers; that you may be losing at life because your most recent photo in social media did not get at least 300 Likes; that you must be depressed or “anti-social” just because you don’t subscribe to celebrity news and gossip; that maybe you’re a failure because twelve months have already passed and you still haven’t traveled anywhere; that perhaps you’re disgustingly impoverished because the last photo of coffee you posted on your feed was already six weeks ago and it wasn’t even from Starbucks.

There are so many trivial things that somehow contribute to our anxiety and our feelings of defeat, disappointment, and guilt within ourselves. For a lot of people, living in this social-media-driven world can be so stressful that it literally puts them in a state of panic, sometimes without them really even noticing.

The unfortunate truth is, if you’re not a vlogger, a social media influencer, a celebrity, or somebody born rich, being on social media can give more stress than inspiration or recreation.

So how does one survive “the age of social media”? This goes not only to the older generations but also to the millennials themselves. So here it is:

You survive by looking at a former college classmate’s epic photo in Mykonos and reminding yourself that as much as sipping cocktails in Greece sounds like a lot of fun, you do not absolutely need to be there;

You survive by developing an attitude of being happy for someone else’s happiness and successes instead of being envious.

You survive by inspiring yourself, instead of comparing yourself.

You survive by skipping the Messenger chat and directly calling up a friend to invite him to lunch.

You survive by taking hundreds of photographs of you and your loved ones on a trip, and having those photos printed out to be filed in an album, even if you only do this once in a while.

You survive by putting down your phone when your parents are talking to you, and actually listening to them.

You survive by taking out the headphones on a solo trip and starting conversations with other travelers.

You survive by going to a concert, or a play, or a music festival, and actually living in the moment, hearing every word spoken or sung, seeing every movement, breathing in deeply and closing your eyes when a gust of wind comes.

You survive by being on the beach to watch the sunset and, even just for a moment, actually seeing it through your eyes and not through the lenses of your phone camera.

You survive by looking at someone straight in the eyes when they are talking to you.

You survive by going for a jog or a walk and actually being present in the moment; by allowing real thoughts and raw emotions come to you while you’re on the move.

You survive by spending less time looking down, and more time looking ahead, looking up, looking sidewards, backwards; just any direction other than down.

You survive by waking up every morning literally counting your blessings, out loud; by being grateful for what it is that you have, and who it is that you are.

You survive by acknowledging that you are the only person you should be comparing yourself to; that you must constantly seek ways to be not just better, but the best version of you.

You survive by giving yourself permission to breathe through the obstacles and breathe in the victories.

Speaking of victories, there are many tiny victories within your day, no matter how terribly you think your day is going — There is victory in you waking up, there is victory in you being able to taste and swallow your meal (and the mere fact that you even have a meal to taste and swallow), there is victory in you having limbs that allow you to walk and lungs that allow you to breathe. And there is victory in the fact that you are reading this right now, with your eyes, which allow you to see beautiful things, places and people.

And so you survive by reminding yourself that happiness isn’t just a destination but a journey; that success isn’t a race but a dance; that having money and fame doesn’t always equal having a good life.

You survive, quite simply, by being nothing and no one else but yourself.

That fabulous, alive, amazing self. 🍃

Prisoner

As I was lying down on my bed, legs up against the headboard with my back flat on the mattress and my eyes glued to the ceiling, I remembered two things:

1. This position is good for my overall health. My mother told me this releases stress by immediately encouraging blood flow to my upper body and my brain. And if I have enough time or patience to stay in this position for 15 minutes or more, there’s even the chance that my anxious thoughts and negative emotions would entirely dissipate.

2. I am and have always been the only person who truly knows what it’s like to be me. From the earliest moment of consciousness one fateful day during my childhood, all the way up to this very nanosecond, I have been the only one who fully feels, thinks, and acts the way that I do. My voice is the only voice my vocal cords have ever known; my eyes are the only eyes through which I’ve ever seen; my mind is the only mind with which I’ve ever thought, analyzed, overthought; my skin is the only skin under which every single inch of me has ever existed.

And this scared me for a bit. The panic started to creep in. It’s scary to realize that I am literally stuck inside my own body, and that I have to live the rest of my life stuck with my own thoughts and emotions. Just mine and nobody else’s. Forever. I will never know what it’s truly like to be my sibling — what does he think of at night when he lies awake for hours, unable to sleep? Or my bestfriend — what does he see when he looks at himself in the mirror? Or my father — what thoughts does he have each time I talk or act a little too feminine for his liking? Or the barista at the local café across the street — how does she hear her own voice inside her head? Is it raspy? Does she think it’s way too high-pitched? Is she one of those people who hate listening to their own voices? Or Angelina Jolie — what ideas come to her while she’s sitting on the potty at 10AM?

I will never truly know. And even if they all told me the answers to those questions, those are just answers that will be processed in my head by my own brain, through my own ears, taking into account my own experiences. I would still be the me that I’ve always been, regardless of how descriptive and in-depth their answers to my questions would be.

However, as I was capping off the yoga-ish position on my bed at exactly 15 minutes, I decided that I also find this truth comforting: I am trapped inside my own self, my own physical body. And I am also stuck inside my own head, only truly knowing what it’s like to have my own thoughts, desires and understanding. I figured, if my eternal biological prison was myself, that it would be best for me to try and make it the brightest, kindest, healthiest, most decorative prison my mind, heart, and body would ever know. I figured it isn’t too bad that I am stuck as me. This way, I get to choose what and whom I let in, what and whom I let out.

Roller Coasters VS. Ferris Wheels

My Symphony: Cartwheels / The Reindeer Section

I always preferred roller coasters to Ferris wheels.

I always thought it was better to go spiraling up and down at an irrational speed than to repetitively go around on a stabilized circular motion at an intermittent pace.

I always looked to roller coasters whenever I felt like life was boring me, or whenever I felt like people were boring me. I loved the feeling of an exciting danger and hated the idea of a stagnant safety.

I remember being in Enchanted Kingdom with my brothers and my cousins back in 2011. We went on the Ferris wheel, and there was a moment where we were stranded for about nine minutes at the top. It was hell for me. I felt so nauseous, and all I really wanted to do was get off. In fact, I was so nauseous that I almost vomited. But I was stronger than that, I thought, so I just closed my eyes, took a deep breath, swallowed my puke (yep), and promised myself never to go on the Ferris wheel ever again.

A huge part of my life had been spent obsessing over living on the edge at all times. Everyone who knows me can attest to this. I was not always this “chill”. In fact, I was the exact opposite of chill and everything else that “chill” entails. I was a daredevil, a relentless adrenaline junkie who couldn’t stop craving for adventure, even when it meant I had to look for it in all the wrong places.

And so I went on the roller coasters of life. I was way up, and then I was way down, all in a literal blink of an eye. I was screaming, and I was laughing, and I was cursing so loudly. And then in like five seconds, I was back to reality. I went from being on cloud nine to robotically forcing a can of Mountain Dew and a handful of cotton candy down my throat.

It was all amazing. It was all really, really exciting. I felt so daring, and so alive, and so invincible during all those years of my life – those roller coaster years. But it all changed. Not quickly. Not at all. It was such a gradual change of heart, that made me miss that Ferris wheel. I started to miss that feeling of starting and stopping, and then starting again, very slowly. And I started to miss being at the top for a moment, from where I could see all the lights before me, and from where I could hear the faint sound of the world around me. I missed how the Ferris wheel felt more like real life. I missed how it was slow and steady, but peaceful and romantic at the same time. It was like I just slowly stopped craving for danger and one morning I just woke up and I was okay with being still.

The meaningless acquaintances and the short-lived pleasures just didn’t satisfy me anymore. My skin somehow became numb and my soul started to take over. It wanted to be the one to feel this time. It wanted what I wasn’t giving it. It wanted authenticity, and calm, and a gentle yet powerful love. And then it hit me: the pain that comes with dangerous adventures just wasn’t worth it anymore. It hit me that excitement doesn’t have to be risky, and that stability doesn’t have to mean boredom.

I look at all the relationships I’ve had in my life – those that survived and those that didn’t – and I see a great connection to my musings; I see that in this life, you have to be able to have fun with the people you surround yourself with even in the absence of a daring adventure. Because adventure is easy. This is what I’ve come to realize. It’s super easy! All the resorts, and clubs, and destinations, and music festivals, and trains, and buses, and yachts, and everything else that involves noise, and music, and booze and fun… It’s all easy. And it’s all good. It’s all great, peachy stuff that give color to life.

But age is a very linear journey, and none of us is getting any younger. So eventually, the question shifts from “What gives life color?” to “What gives life substance?”. You eventually begin to assess your life and who’s all in it, and see who can stand you when you’re hungry and sleep-deprived. You eventually take a pause and see who makes you feel like you’re on cloud nine without even leaving your house, or your room. You begin to realize who’s there just for the party, and who’s there to stay until the morning after to help you clean up the mess. And you will finally understand, that the high you get from going on roller coaster rides is absolutely nothing compared to the high you get when you simply look into someone’s eyes and feel like you could get lost in them.

XOXO,
KENN

P.S. I’m definitely gonna re-read this write-up when I’m 55 and probably laugh at how serious I was. But it will be all good. 

Today, I Turn Twenty-four

My Symphonies: Home / Day Wave

Wasting Time / Day Wave

Semi-rocking the guybun in 2016 (*Not a recent photo, thank god!).

So today, I turn twenty-four. 

I remember typing out almost the exact same words back in May 2013, when I wrote Today, I Turn Twenty. This time is different, though. When I turned 20, I felt a lot of uncertainty and discomfort towards aging. In fact, I used to be a self-proclaimed ageist. The mere thought of being a year older always made me feel nauseous and quite anxious. Every year, when I “celebrated” my birthday, I would always try to hide how upset I was with the fact that humans have to naturally age. I hated the concept of getting old.

But this year is different. For the first time, I actually feel very at peace with turning a year older. And not just that; I also feel very at peace with the fact that every year, everything and everyone else turns a year older. It is finally safe to say that I have come to terms with the way the world works – Things and people age; there’s nothing we can do about it.

I am writing today not just because it’s my birthday, but also because I want to acknowledge change. Change, who comes when it’s time for it to come. Change, who is the master of beauty and tragedy. Change, who is the initiator of bliss and chaos. And Change, who so effortlessly comes with aging.

When I think of my life from the beginning leading up to this point, I see it in chapters. And what’s great about chapters is that they tell us that apart from the end and the beginning of every book, there are tiny little ends and beginnings in between. And these little ends and little beginnings create something beautiful – something worth reading, worth telling and worth living. This has been my life:

The Childhood Years, when I first learned to take life one step at a time (literally); when I played in playgrounds and scratched my knee like every kid did; when I looked at grown-ups around me and wondered if I, one day, was also gonna be as big and as complex and as successful as they were; when life was a never-ending cycle of naps, tantrums, school, lunch boxes and Cartoon Network…

The High School Years, when I tackled so many things for the first time without much knowledge about life and the world I lived in; when I fell in love for the first time, got my heart broken for the first time, failed an exam for the first time, topped the class in something for the first time, made great friends and mortal enemies for the first time, and played in the field of teenage angst, romance, betrayal and overall drama for the first time; The High School Years was that one chapter that gave the first definite shape of my personality…

The University of the Philippines Years, which gets a special chapter due to the silent but steady impact it had on me. This chapter was when I learned that I can handle change (a major change) for the first time. I learned that simplicity doesn’t have to mean boring, and that modesty doesn’t have to mean defeat. I learned to take matters into my own hands, stand up for myself and carry on through the tough days without having to cry for help. This chapter was when I started to really genuinely appreciate sunsets, deep meaningful conversations and the importance of getting to know people outside of my shiny little bubble…

The Great Move, the chapter that tells of my move to Canada with my family. This, more than anything by far, has been the greatest teacher. This chapter was when I found myself in a world so different from where I grew up in. I learned so many things about other cultures especially when I was in Vancouver Film School. I learned so much about the sad realities of life, and how we all have a choice to bounce back from them. This was the chapter when I went through depression triggered by an unrequited love, and later on realized it was all just a lack of love for myself. I would say that without this chapter, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the next…

The Dark Ages, was a chapter that started out so magnificent, and so daring, and so adventure-filled and exciting. But I give it its chapter title due to the overall draining energy that surrounded it from the beginning, and more so towards the end. I fell in love with a guy that was ready to give me the world, but wasn’t ready to love me for who I am. I experienced physical abuse, verbal violence and worst of all, emotional manipulation. I learned that love isn’t enough – a relationship has to have friendship, compromises, acceptance and most importantly, respect. I learned that I am resilient, and that no matter what life was gonna throw my way after this chapter, I can absolutely handle it…

The Renaissance, cheesy, I know, but whoever said “There is light at the end of the tunnel” is hands down a genius. It’s true! Now I find myself in a place happier and brighter than anywhere I have ever been. I can definitely say that I am right where I am supposed to be in life right now, feeling exactly what I am supposed to be feeling at the moment, and being with the people whom I am most precisely supposed to be with at this chapter in my life. I am grateful for the genuine love I’ve found, blissful for the friends and family I have been blessed with, and ecstatic to take on the coming months and years of this journey called life…

I look at where I am today, and I realize that I should be happy about turning a year older. Turning a year older means I am still alive right now. I can still do whatever I want to do with my life, and go places, see new things, meet new people. Turning a year older means I have survived all the years before this; that I have embraced change time and time again, and that I have triumphed over obstacles and challenges that went my way.

Chapters. That word is subtly synonymous to “hope”, to “life”, to “change”. And today, I would like to celebrate turning a year older by thanking everyone in my life (literally EVERYONE, including those who are no longer a part of it in the present) for making me who and what I am today.

Because, girl, I’m slaying. ❤ ❤ ❤

Being Flawless Is Easy; Being Raw and Real Is Not

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Maybe the largest measurement of maturity in the context of romantic relationships is the levels at which you find yourself just being vulnerable around someone. It’s when you let your guard down and just be real with them.

I used to always make sure I looked my best whenever I went on dates. Is my hair sleek and perfectly in place? Are my shoes thoroughly polished? Is my leather wallet wiped spotless? Have I sprayed enough perfume so that my date can smell me from five miles away?

Yep. Small things like that were a huge deal to me. And even though I am in no way declaring that I nowadays go around town in my pj’s smelling like a homeless person on crack, I am, to a great degree, more myself around people than I ever was. Being flawless is easy; it’s being raw and real that’s a challenge – especially in this physical, materialistic modern world that we live in.

The reality is, when it’s real, no amount of physical imperfection actually matters. This sounds so cheesy and overdramatic to an extent, but it’s true!

In the film Juno, there’s a wonderful quote we can all be really inspired with:

Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.

Seriously, though. I’m telling you, based on experience, the right person really does think you’re the best even on your not-so-good days. And he/she will probably always think that way. Isn’t that just lovely?…

Skeletons In My Closet

Now that I look back on it from a higher, greener ground, I realize that the biggest pain I went through was far deeper and uglier than the sheer betrayal, physical assault and verbal belittling. I have come to realize that the absolute worst thing he had done to me – the gravest, most unforgivable thing he had done to me – was look at me in the eyes and not see me for who I really, truly, fully, was. The one heartache that’s bigger than any other heartaches: to be loved not for who you are but for what you can potentially be. Not you but the idea of you. A love not rooted in genuine passion, kindness and understanding, but a love founded in the depths of some sort of a superficial fantasy. The greatest pain, I have come to learn, was that he hurt me not because I was imperfect… but because I was just not enough. And the difference between the two (imperfection and incompleteness) is vast and overwhelming. It’s funny, though, how life works. Because as much as it was a nightmare, it was also an awakening. You get treated like shit first, and then you learn (the hard way) how you actually deserve to be treated. You get hurt first, before you can completely appreciate what it’s really like to be loved.

The Effervescent Flair Of My Peter Pan Love Affair

My Symphony: Magic / Colbie Caillat 

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Sometimes, life gets too hectic that I forget how quickly things can change at any given moment. One minute you are so deeply in love with someone with everything that your heart could possibly give, and the next, you are broken up with that person. Your eyes are red and puffy from crying yourself to sleep three nights in a row, and all you really want to do is disappear for a solid month or so just to give yourself ample amount of time to heal.

But when it gets really interesting is not in the beginning nor the end. Just like with all of this world’s greatest stories, the juiciest part is in the details – in the middle of everything. When it gets really amazing and worthwhile is in the little moments that make up this large, exhilarating mental collage of love, life and everything in between.

I am at the point in my life where I am no longer a kid, but also very far from being an adult. I am in this blank emotional space that puts me in a tight spot between wanting to settle down with someone, and wanting to explore the world around me. Given my restlessness, my occasional histrionic antics and my constant indecision, being in this space hasn’t been easy. I have to admit I have always felt like I am on the edge of a precipice, just letting the wind cradle me back and forth, waiting for life to happen.

And then, out of nowhere, I find myself in a completely different place. Quite magical, very surreal, somehow scary but nonetheless invigorating. What do I mean by this? Well, you know that feeling when you were a kid and your parents brought you to the candy store? That has been me lately. I feel like a little kid in a candy store just completely overjoyed upon the sight and the scent of sweet treats right in front of me.

In this case, though (partly because I am 23, and partly because I have outgrown candies), my source of joy has been a boy – a boy who has gotten me on a sugar rush that never ends, inside a candy store that sells no candies.

I honestly never thought that love could be this simple. I guess maybe that’s why young love is so special. Unlike mature love (a.k.a. the rational type of love), young love is straightforward. It is fearless, it is bold, and it is so many kinds of wrong in all the right ways. And if it were up to me, I would continue giving my heart to people as if I had never gotten my heart broken before.

With you, I feel like my young self again. You make me fall without fearing getting hurt in the process (because it is inevitable, anyways). You make me want to take miscalculated risks, because we know those are the only risks we’re not going to regret having had taken by the time we get older.

Instead of settling down with you, I want to take it off with you. I want to go places, see other cultures, learn languages and embrace every single living thing a little tighter than I already do. You inspire me to grow, but not necessarily grow up. And it’s a good thing. It means that you keep me centered, but just enough so the tip of my toes can still reach out to the sides and feel the edges. You make me fearless, and you ground me just enough so I can eventually be catapulted into action.

Whenever you kiss me, I do not feel owned; I just feel loved. I do not think about the logical side to kissing whenever our lips meet. In fact, whenever our lips meet, I do not think at all. I do not have to worry about the next move, or how I am going to slide my lower lip and press it against the tip of your chin after I bite your tongue casually. I just let go.

Even hugging you is playful in the most romantic way. The second our bodies meet, I melt into yours and you melt into mine. There is nothing complicated about it. Just two bodies with like-minded souls coming in contact. I think it’s beautiful.

When we talk, we do not have to compete or make the effort to sound smarter than the other, because being smart or not is not the point. Conversations in this young love are filled with ideas, unfiltered thoughts and realities, and the sheer pleasure of learning more about each other, one verbal paragraph at a time.

At night, when I go to bed, I feel like I am sleeping right next to my bestfriend. There is no heavy emotional stuff to discuss before bedtime, so we talk aimlessly and then we laugh. And then we laugh a little more until we find our eyelids getting heavier with exhaustion. And then we fall into slumber. That simple.

I hear your name and butterflies fill my stomach. I see you and I instantly become giddy. It is love we have, but it never has to be overly complex and dramatic. It is love, but I still have a crush on you. It is love, but you still somehow make me speechless and occasionally stumble on my words. It is love, but you give me momentary speech impediments.

We are young, and what we have is definitely young love. And I like that.

I like that our normal is other people’s crazy. I like that we have allowed ourselves to fall for each other without thinking of any consequences. I like that we get to be lovers and friends at the same time and build each other up without even trying. And I like that, even just for now, I get to spend my life with someone so alive, so pure, so amazing. Someone who definitely makes any ride worthwhile.

We are young, and we have so much more to learn. But, boy, I have decided. You are one of the rare ones. And I am keeping you in my life forever, no matter where this zigzagging road called life will take us.

Afterall, little boys can never be sad inside a candy store. 🙂