A Brave New Year

I can still remember the time I sat at the airport in 2004 with eight virtual strangers, waiting for our flight to Singapore. I had just graduated from college and was about to participate in an ASEAN exchange program for five months. I was excited, sure, but mostly I was terrified. It was the first time I was traveling without my family, the first time I would live away from home. I was tempted to turn back, but despite the fear, I left anyway. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life—and those strangers turned into some of my best friends.

When I joined AMCI Mountaineering Club in 2005, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t know I had to run every training day, climb the toughest mountains, and push myself to the limits. I was afraid I wouldn’t survive. But after all the hard work, I made it! And I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. Plus, that’s where I met the love of my life. 😉

I’ve always been a fearful person, but when I was younger, I managed to push through those fears and take big leaps of faith. But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to take risks. Somewhere along the way, I got stuck. I got lazy. I got too comfortable. The fears grew so big that they blocked my path. They said, “Just stay where you are. Stay where it’s safe. There’s no need to move forward.”

Last December, I celebrated my 35th birthday. It was fun being with family and friends and eating to my heart’s content. But deep inside, I had this gnawing feeling. I felt anxious about the future. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? If I died tomorrow, could I honestly say that I lived life to the fullest? That I reached my full potential?

So when 2018 rolled around, I knew I had to do something about it. I couldn’t just sit around and let my fears get the best of me. I had to BE BRAVE.

I know it’s going to be challenging. I could just as easily slip into old habits. That’s why I’m committing to a few things to help me stay focused.

1. Write in my journal once a week.

I love journaling because it helps me make sense of the things going on around me. This year, I got two unique journals.

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The Best Year Ever kit is a tool to help you review the past year, set new goals, and set your intention for 2018. Made by my good friend Micah Sulit, together with life coach Aurora Suarez, the kit is also filled with surprises you can open when you hit your milestones. (Spoiler alert: The inspirational stickers are a part of it!) Available at ShopEdenStreet.com.

Also crafted by Aurora, the Sunday Night Journal is a weekly “self-care ritual.” It contains insightful questions to help you reflect on the past week, and start the coming week with gratitude and positivity. I’m hoping to make this a weekly habit! Available at YourSundayNight.com.

2. Join The Purposeful Creative’s Braver Goals Bootcamp.

When pursuing a goal, it always helps to have a mentor and a supportive community cheering you on. I joined Arriane Serafico’s Purpose Driven Branding class last year, and it was so useful in terms of helping me define my personal brand. Since I joined the VIP community, I was also able to meet wonderful new friends who took the class with me. This year, I decided to invest in her Braver Goals class—it’s just perfect since my intention for the year is to be brave! Care to be brave with me? It’s not yet too late to join! Just log on to join.bravergoals.com.

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3. Stay healthy, stay TRUE.

Last year, I had a host of health problems so one of my main goals this year is to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. To ease myself into it, I’m doing Adriene’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge on YouTube. I love how her theme is to be TRUE—as she says on her site, the challenge is designed to “trim, tone, and circle you back to YOU.” And really, what could be braver than staying true to yourself?

4. Pray daily.

One of my favorite bible passages of all time is Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus Walks on Water. Whenever I feel anxious or afraid, I always take comfort in the words of Jesus: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” If you need a guide to prayer, I’ve found the Sacred Space app to be very helpful. Or if you simply want to meditate, Insight Timer has plenty of guided meditations on different topics. My favorite is the one entitled “Transforming Fear” by Sarah Blondin. You can also listen to it here.

Have you set your intention for the New Year? If you have other tips on how to face your fears, I’d love to hear them. Cheers to a #Braver2018!

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On Heat Levels and Live Readings

As a writer, there are so many authors I admire and aspire to be like. Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery for the classics. J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and J.K. Rowling for epic fantasies. Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith for YA. Elizabeth Gilbert and Gretchen Rubin for self-help and inspiration. And so many more!

When we talk about authors, it’s usually the foreign ones who get more credit, but there are so many Filipino authors who also write great stories. I attended The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival last weekend and it was truly a celebration of local talent.

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The panel I attended was “Clever Hands: How to Write Steamy Scenes in New Adult Lit.” Featuring local authors Brigitte Bautista, Six de los Reyes, Clare Elizabeth Marquez, C.P. Santi, Ines Bautista-Yao, and Mina V. Esguerra, the discussion was definitely eye-opening. To summarize, there are several heat levels in romance, ranging from zero (clean), one (sweet), two (sensual), three (sexy and sizzling), and four (erotic romance). These heat levels can help clarify who your readers might be, and they will affect your characters, plot, and word choices. (I’ve read books across all heat levels, but in terms of my fiction, I think I’ll stick to level one… for now. Haha!)

The authors gave great writing tips, but the highlight of the session was definitely the live readings, done by actors Gio Gahol, Rachel Coates, and Fred Lo. It was thrilling to see the written word come alive before my eyes. Check out these videos to see what I mean. (Thank you to April of The Reading Belles for uploading.)

All That Glitters by Ines Bautista-Yao, a sweet romance about college kids Carlos and Billie. I’ve read this and highly recommend it!

Bucket List to Love by C.P. Santi. I love that it’s set in Japan—and after hearing this excerpt, I just had to get a copy.

I wish I could have attended more talks (and bought more books), but sitting in on this panel was definitely worth it. It inspired me to keep reading, writing, improving—and having fun along the way!

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On Letting Go

Have you ever had to let go of a person, a place, or a thing you loved dearly? Saying goodbye is a natural part of life. Every day, seasons change, people pass away, relationships end, things get old and have to be thrown out.

As a writer, I often have to let go of the words I love. It’s easy when the work is not my own. As an editor, I go through every article that passes through me with a sharp set of shears, snipping away at unnecessary words in order to come up with a well-groomed piece that meets my required word count.

But when it comes to my own work, it’s a painful process, like cutting off my own fingers. When I wrote the first chapter of my new adult novella a few years ago, my words were like my children. They manifested themselves in my brain and my heart, and I was so inspired as I typed them out on my computer. I carved and polished them to perfection, before sending them off into the world.

When that novella was rejected by a local publisher last year, I had to take a good long look at my manuscript, and eventually made the tough decision to let go of that first chapter—the one I had carefully crafted and poured my heart into. It was hard, but necessary, if I wanted my first chapter to be strong and exciting enough to hook my reader.

This year, I had to let go of a lot more than just my words. I said goodbye to a dear cousin who recently passed, to a hardworking and talented team that I love, to a job that was as enjoyable as it was stressful, and to a company that I considered my second home for the past twelve years.

Of course, there were tears. There was—or rather, there is—fear and anxiety. But there is also joy. And there is hope. Because when one chapter ends, a new one begins.

Sometimes, it’s easier to hold on to the familiar, to stubbornly stay rooted in one place. But every time we let go of something, we make room for new things to grow—for new people, experiences, and stories to enter our lives. We just have to learn to welcome them with open arms.

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The August 2017 issue is my last as managing editor of Good Housekeeping Philippines. After 12 years and having handled several titles for Summit Media, I can truly say that it has been a wonderful and fulfilling journey. I will be eternally grateful to all the people I’ve worked with, the opportunities I’ve been given, and the lessons I’ve learned in the process. Today, a new adventure begins and I’m excited for what lies ahead. #PassionOn