Nostalgia is a sickness that hits harder as I’ve grown older. Music is the worst offender. A few seconds in, the first few notes of music is all I need to trigger even the smallest wave of nostalgia all over.
Today it was Utada Hikaru’s First Love while having tempura maki over dinner. It’s one of the many unintentional moments that make me go, aaaahhhh, this reminds me of high school innocence. For a short moment, I’m pulled back into a smaller world where everything I knew and felt were experiences with friends, or from Japanese drama, books and manga. A time when things were less complicated and relatively easier to handle. Happiness was simple; life was less cynical.
The older I am, the more there is to miss. When I was 16, there wasn’t much to miss about being 12. At 22, I was too busy running after dreams to reminisce. But at 28, going on an imaginary trip with the feels is a different story. Now people have come and gone, doors have closed and opened, paths have twisted and merged. Age blesses a person with wisdom (if you’re lucky), but that comes with the burden of knowing — what it feels, what it means, what it’s like. Ah, the burden of experience. Somewhere along the way, I became old enough to feel a twinge of sadness at moving on beyond a life of school uniforms, of structured schedules, of silliness, of old friends, of happiness within a smaller world.
On most days, nostalgia ends almost as soon as the last note plays. I’m back to the present day, to present worries, to present dreams, to present joys. Just like that.
When I got laid off at 27, I thought I was too young to be laid off. I should’ve known better — no one is. I knew what was going to happen the night before, because the calendar invite sent to me, at 9 pm, was from HR and the venue on the invite was set outside of the office. There was only one reason why I had to meet with HR outside of the office. I slept that night thinking, “I won’t have a job after tomorrow,” and dressed my hair up in lovely braids the next morning. If it was going to be the worst day of that week, I believed I should meet it splendidly.
When I was 19, I published this status message on my very new Facebook wall: “If you can’t blind them with your bullshit, dazzle them with your brilliance.” I can’t remember what possessed me when I wrote that, but I guess I was in the similar frame of mind eight years later. Ish. I didn’t dress up as fabulously as I should have. I was laid off along with 1/3 of the office. Some of them who also lost their job just moved to Singapore a few months before. They were probably going to break their lease. It was a good thing I was only renting a room. Their circumstances seemed more unfair, but no amount of silver linings made me feel any less uprooted than that moment when my big boss handed me that getting-laid-off-letter.
The closer it is to December, the greater my fears are. Like I’ve done so little, and I want to be so much, and aging is a curse happening every second. Maybe it’s just because I don’t feel fresh, or I’m full of self-doubt, or I link my self-worth to many external things, or all of the above.
Right before I published my first post in two years, I’ve asked on Twitter what some friends would like to read about, and Mica asked for weird/unusual expat life stories. It’s been four months and twenty days since I’ve moved to this city (it feels longer) and I’ve gone through new experiences and some struggles, but none of them are weird…or unusual. It feels like my move here is a bit more tame and less exciting than my first move to Singapore (where I had my debit card eaten by the ATM within the first week). I’d like to think I’ve grown a little wiser these past few years.
I’ve been in a melancholic mood over the weekend from tidying up this blog and skimming through memories.
I’ve been bulldozing through the last 12 months: 3 months looking for jobs, another 4 stuck in anxiety waiting for my work visa, followed by 2 months of misery and fear because of the Philippine government’s incompetency and OEC restrictions. Anxiety hovered around me during the last 3 months as I kept a mental checklist of things to do before I am settled down: get my tax number, find a place to rent, renew passport, file tax. Month in and out, there’s always something important I have to put in order. In the middle of all these, I might have conveniently underestimated what it meant to relocate andseeing some old posts, even from 2016, reminded me of things I’ve left behind.
It’s the last quarter of 2018 and I’ve finally punched the keys on my keyboard, and would have this published online in the next thirty minutes (best scenario). I’ve thought about reviving this blog many times. It’s been approximately 798 days since I last blogged. That’s two years, two months, and seven days ago.
This year, I’ve been thinking more about the kind of career I want. It’s becoming less hard for me to think of what my long-term goals are in the next 2, 3, and 5 years but I have a weakness that has been pulling me back: my lack of confidence. I’d describe some of my flaws as a mix of meekness, passiveness, and a lack of trust in my abilities. I am surrounded by friends who are supportive and aren’t shy in giving compliments, and it makes me even more aware of our difference in perspectives. How could they think I could accomplish so much, and why could I only see myself as so little? Losing that belief in my skills as a designer was a change that gradually happened, and I haven’t even noticed until earlier this year. I became determined to rectify it, and I’ve made some decisions that are helping me regain that confidence back.
I spend around 40-50 hours a week on a full-time job, which is 50% or more of my waking hours per day. These days, I’ve grown to truly value the influence that work culture and environment has on my happiness scale. People may have said to separate work and ‘personal’ life, but when half of it is spent in the office then it’s easier said than done. I’ve personally come to believe in the impact of an environment that cultivates and improves my skills, keeps me challenged, growing, and happy. When I was in the middle of transitioning jobs, this was a deciding factor that determined which companies I applied for.
Culture and work environment may not always be visible to a newcomer’s eye on the get-go, but a little bit of research definitely helps:
In between transitioning jobs, I asked Charlie to go with me to Osaka (and tour the nearby prefectures) since it seemed like the perfect time for vacation for both of us. It was the first time I’ve visited Japan in summer (an earlier trip with family happened in May, just as spring was ending, where the weather was cool and perfect). I may have gotten feet tan lines and facial irritations (getting better now, thankfully!) but experiencing two summer festival events made the trip worth it!
Of course, it needn’t be said that everything was made better because Charlie and I finally get to take a break from this Long Distance Relationship thing.
We just stayed at an Airbnb in Osaka for all eleven nights, then went out on day trips to Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe. We took it slow because it’s supposed to be a vacation, and I didn’t want to be too exhausted just before I start my new job, heh.