2017 was not an ordinary year for me. In a span of a year, I’ve experienced so many new things, felt a rollercoaster of emotions, and had the chance to reflect on my life’s current situation. With these reflections, I was so excited for 2018 to arrive: a new year which brings forth a chance for a brand new start.
Two months have already passed in this new year but who says we still can’t have our new start now? Here, I have enumerated 8 things I’ve decided to let go of for this new start.
In a world where we’re all too comfortable with the known, we tend to overlook certain aspects that are perhaps already blocking us from being the best version of our selves. By letting go of these, we’d get a clearer view of new goals we can set for our selves. It is a process that takes time but acknowledging that these things do exist is already a step in itself.
#1. What Others Think
I always cared too much on other people’s opinion about me. And this very thought created a limitation for my actions. Instead of doing things I like or expressing my true feelings, I’d take into consideration first what others would think. When someone praises me and my work, I’d feel great; and when someone gives a disapproval, I’d feel bad.
I’d go out of my way to please others to the point that I could no longer distinguish what was the real me. Trying to please everyone is a hard habit to get out of. We all try to please everyone around us: our bosses or professors, our parents, our friends. And the price of trying to please everyone every single time is compromising our very self, the very thing that makes us real.
This year, prioritize your self (of course without hurting others in the process), stop letting other people’s opinion control who you really are. Set yourself free from the clutches of the society’s expectations. Trust your own judgment because this is your life and no one should dictate how it goes aside from yourself.
#2. Obsessing over a social media image
Being conscious of other’s opinion made me try to always portray some kind of image on social media: something people would “like”. But all those flatlay images of food or coffee that took so long to arrange, all those scripted candid poses, thoroughly-revised captions, and likes that came with it were becoming too far off from my offline self.
Being in social media and using its benefits to your advantage (especially when you’re trying to build up your own brand for your business) is not the problem, it is when maintaining that certain image consumes you too much that you eventually forget who you truly are in your attempts to have more likes. Remember, your social media image is merely an extension of your identity, thus, it must not be too different from who you are in real life.
Make this the year where you become comfortable with showing the world who you really are by uploading less-scripted but more authentic posts. So go ahead, don’t be afraid to show off that messy table setup or show off a wide gummy smile to the camera if that’s what you want to post. When we care less about the likes we’ll get, we can truly enjoy the goodness that social media brings without compromising our very identity.
#3. Negativity and Fears
The problem with me is that I have so many dreams, so many plans I want to do but before I get to do them, I always let the fears consume me. That little thought in my head saying I’m not smart enough to do this, I’m not talented enough to do that, or that I’m not good enough to be that person I imagined myself to be.
Probably what we all fear the most is failure. I’ve had enough failures in the past to acknowledge how heartbreaking it feels to experience one: your very core crumbles and you start doubting your ability in something you once thought you were good at. But think about it: is the fear of the unknown really worth the regret you’d feel if you gave up on your dreams? Would you let something that might not even happen get in the way of the life you’ve imagined?
Instead of avoiding these fears altogether, this year, let’s embrace them. Acknowledge that you have fears, allow yourself to feel them, and then as you get comfortable, slowly face them. Take a chance to at least try. If things work out, good for you; If they don’t, never beat yourself up because you can always keep trying again and again. Surround yourself with positivity and possibilities as you bravely listen to the wild beating of your heart.
#4. Toxic People
When I was little, I thought having the most number of friends was the most important thing in the world. As I grew up, I realized it’s not about the quantity but the quality of friends you have. It’s not always having the most number of friends, but having people who genuinely care for you.
Find those people who would make you feel that even if you don’t try hard, you are still good enough. The right people would embrace you as who you really are. You won’t have to change the way you think just to fit theirs.
So stop forcing yourself to the wrong people. Stop engaging with those who are always holding you back to get to your full potential. Instead, surround yourself with the people who are there by their own choice, those who you won’t have to cling on just to feel accepted in this world.
#5. Trying to be Perfect
I had so many ideas at the start of 2017, and I had so many things I planned to do. But only a few of those were actually implemented. This is because I was trying too hard to make them perfect that in the end, I never actually completed them.
Perfection is setting unrealistically high standards to which we often base from successful people we look up to. And when we fail to reach these standards, we beat ourselves up and end up feeling worthless. When we follow the standards of other people, we forget the most important thing: that is, each of us has different standards.
“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” ― Anonymous, The Bhagavad Gita
Instead of struggling to achieve perfection, strive for excellence. Excellence is when you do your best, making use of your entire potential, and being that which you can possibly be.
#6. Doing things later
I thought I had so much time, I kept delaying things I have planned. And next thing I know, it was already the last day of 2017 and I was rushing to check things off my bucket list. Looking back, I’ve actually had so many idle times, so many times I could have been productive and could have done so many things but I chose to spend them watching TV shows or scrolling mindlessly on my phone.
The concept of tomorrow being another day has two possible outcomes. At one point, it gives us motivation that whatever bad thing that happens today is just another day and that there is a hope for a brighter day ahead. On the other hand, the thought that we have so much time in our life brings forth laziness and being too comfortable with where we are right now.
Remember those excuses you made last year: when you said you’d do something when you have more time or more money or whatever. As long as you keep making excuses for yourself and justifying your laziness, those excuses would just keep building up until you can no longer break free from that cycle of empty excuses. It’s an amazing feeling, that of finally finishing something you should’ve finished a long time ago. But wouldn’t it have felt so much more amazing if you’ve finished it earlier and on time?
The world doesn’t wait for you. Stop waiting for later that might not even come. Work with everything that you have right now and make full use of every opportunity that comes your way.
#7. Dwelling on missed opportunities
I spent the majority of 2017 thinking of the opportunities I missed. So many things I could have done if only I was this or that. And honestly, dwelling too much on the what ifs just made me have lower self-esteem and made me hate myself.
The irony of this is that as we keep wasting our time dwelling on the opportunities we’ve missed and ruminating over what could have been, we are also blocking our view of new opportunities that may come our way.
A common mistake that we all do is that we focus too much on the right things we have done, and yet we forget the wrong things we’ve done. Instead of completely forgetting these missed opportunities, look deeply into them. Evaluate your past actions and learn how you could have fared better. And then apply everything you’ve learned the next time another opportunity comes.
Ultimately, acknowledge that you are responsible for every action that you do. With this, you also learn to forgive yourself because you no longer define yourself through your past, instead, you realize that you are a self-improving individual on the way to being the person you want to be.
We are all guilty of comparing ourselves to others. We scroll through Instagram, look at the feeds of friends or bloggers enjoying their trip somewhere, and then we end up feeling bad about our lives. But the worst kind of comparison is when we compare our current situation to what we expected them to be. When I was younger, I imagined my 20’s would be more extravagant than it is now. And when I compare that to my situation now, I feel like I’ve failed my past self.
Comparison, while sometimes provides motivation, stems greatly from insecurity. It is when we equate our self-worth to someone else’s fortune or misfortune. It is also when we set certain standards for ourselves: to be successful or have various investments or own properties all limited to a certain age. The most toxic mindset but to which we repeatedly do to ourselves.
The world is our canvas: each of us having a canvas of our own. And how we paint that canvas lies in our very hands. Your tools right now may not be as advanced as other’s but still, you need to make use of what you have now because you can keep upgrading as you go your own way.
Let go of all expectations: from people around you and from your own. Look forward (literally) towards that bright future ahead of you. A well-respected Korean singer-songwriter, Jeon Inkwon, once said, “When you do your best at whatever it is that you do, your turn will definitely come. And when that time comes, it will happen in such a magical way. So just keep on doing what you do because your magic will happen”.
You are who you are until you are not. You have your own time; it may not be now but it will eventually come. Allow yourself to trust that your moment will come, and when it does, everything you’ve encountered, all the wait, all the tears and sweat that came with it, will all ultimately make sense.
As published in The Philippine Star on January 29, 2017 at the Sunday Lifestyle section, page D-2:
A trip to South Korea is a dream of many; I’m fortunate enough to have been given by the Korea Tourism Organization Manila Office a free round-trip ticket to the country last December as my prize for being the 3rd place in the 2016 Korean Speech Contest organized by the Korean Cultural Center. While this is not my first time visiting Korea, this trip has enabled me to see it in a new lens. It also made me relive my memories of being an exchange student in Korea two years ago.
For as long as I could remember, it has always been my dream to visit Korea. This started back in 2008, on my first year in high school, when I started learning the language for the first time. A transferee student from Korea, which I befriended, taught me the basics of the Korean language – from reading and writing Hangul, the Korean writing system, to phrases and grammar structure. Eventually, I became more confident in watching shows without the help of English subtitles, and after just a year, I started translating full Korean shows into English. I would say that the best way to learn the Korean language is not to just rely on books but to continuously immerse oneself into everything Korean –from watching Korean shows, listening to K-pop, and taking Korean classes.
My lifelong dream was fulfilled on 2014 when I got accepted as an exchange student in Korea University. I remember the variety of emotions that rushed through me the moment the plane landed in Incheon International Airport, Korea’s main gateway: I was finally in the very country I’ve only imagined and watched from dramas and shows. And, arriving on the very day of my 18th birthday just made it more special.
Being the only Filipino out of a thousand exchange students in Korea University, I was compelled to socialize with others. The anxiousness of being alone for five months encouraged me to really step out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, the buddy system offered by the Korea University Buddy Association (KUBA) is one of the best in the world, and was very accommodating. It is here that I found my closest friends, who I still keep in close contact up until now, and who I have been meeting in other countries for travel. We saw each other almost everyday for five months, and I became so comfortable with them that it almost felt like I have known them for years. Although I was alone when I arrived in Korea, I left with hundreds of new friends who all came from different countries.
I also learned to handle being alone, and in the process, I learned that I am much more independent than how I put myself to be. Actually, some of the greatest moments I had were spent getting lost and wandering around all by myself. I was able to grow independently in an unfamiliar environment. I got lost so many times in Korea, but it was okay because I was able to pass through places I would have never seen had I passed by the usual route. It’s amazing how from not even knowing how to take the train or being unable to take a taxi by myself in Manila, I became a person that could take the subway and roam around the streets of Seoul late at night until dawn.
Perhaps because I had limited time in the country, I ended up saying yes to everything that I was invited to. I went paragliding and conquered my fear of heights, I ate raw octopus and raw beef, I went to Busan all by myself and ended up missing the last train going back to Seoul, I had my first fall and snow experience, I reported in front of a class which was being broadcasted live in China, I shopped until 6AM at Dongdaemun, and many more. I ended up doing so many things I never imagined myself to have ever done.
My fangirl dreams were also very much satisfied as I got to attend so many K-pop concerts for free, got to watch filmings of Korean shows, and I even got to meet K-pop stars face to face. In one of my classes, Korean Media and Popular Culture, I got to meet Alexander Eusebio, a former member of K-pop group U-KISS, who sat right in front of me for an entire semester. There were also times when we ran into each other outside class, in cafes or restaurants, and he was nice enough to approach me and talk with me for a few minutes. It was surreal how someone I used to watch only from my laptop screen was right in front of me and was actually talking to me.
Studying in Korea was everything that I expected it to be, and even more. The fulfillment of a lifelong dream, meeting different kinds of people, gaining a family away from home, and having memories that are mine to keep forever made my stay in Korea more than a mere experience. In fact, I would say that it has been the best decision I have ever made in my life yet. Spending an entire semester in Korea made me fall in love with the country – from its people, the language, and the culture. Thus, when it ended, I was absolutely devastated. The minute I set foot in Manila, it felt like I just woke out of a beautiful dream: like building a life for five months and leaving it forever in order to go back to the life that I temporarily left for five months.
On the other hand, it is true that coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. Being away and living in a foreign place made me appreciate the Philippines more. I realized that there is so much more about our country that I didn’t know about, so many more beautiful things that I haven’t recognized before. And as cliché as it sounds, I came back as a different person. On my fourth year in college, I joined so many events and became more confident in myself as a person. This was how I was able to have the confidence to participate in the 2016 Korean Speech Contest. Through this event, I was able to talk about my experience as an exchange student in Korea, and encourage other students to apply for an exchange program.
Little did I know that joining this contest was also an opportunity to bring me back again in Korea. When I was informed of my free round-trip ticket, I was ecstatic and nostalgic. I decided to stay in Korea for two whole weeks in order to get to do a lot of things. Instead of going to the usual tourist spots, I opted to visit places I have never been to yet, mostly to small cities outside Seoul such as Guri, Suwon, and Gapyeong. Since I was alone for this trip, I decided to become more adventurous and spontaneous, I just ended up walking to anywhere I could go to. I also became more confident with my Korean language skills that I ended up talking in pure Korean.
I also got to meet up with many friends. I spent Christmas Eve with my Korean high school friends who I haven’t seen for like five years now, and we also spent Christmas day in Hongdae whose entire street was filled with performances and people giving free hugs. I also met up with Korean buddies and fellow exchange students from Korea University, and was glad that even after two years our friendship still hasn’t changed and there were no awkwardness between us. Most specially, I reunited with one my best friends from exchange who came from Hawaii who was with his friends for this trip. I spent my last three days in Korea with them where I volunteered to be their tourist guide, and I experienced so many things I couldn’t have done alone such as: riding a zip line to Nami Island (in the middle of winter), strolling around the palaces in a hanbok (the Korean traditional attire), and playing in the snow on the streets.
This recent trip made me realize how comfortable I am being in Korea, and how much I consider it as my second home. Even when this is already my fourth visit and even when I’ve been to so many places and done so many things here, I still can’t get enough of this country. There is just so much more left to explore, and so much more to experience.
I ended my speech for the Korean Speech Contest through the words of Ahn Jung Geun, a patriot of Korea, “A man keeps a great ambition through stepping out into the world”. My entire stay in Korea has enabled me to learn more about the world and myself, and also left me with so much more to wonder about. Through this article, I would like to encourage other people to find an opportunity where they can step out more into the world, because just like how doing so made me who I am now, I guarantee that it would also change their lives for the better.
Janine Laddaran, 20, is a recent graduate of Ateneo de Manila University. She was an exchange student in Korea University under Ateneo’s Junior Term Abroad program on 2014. She also won 3rd Place in the 2016 Korean Speech Contest hosted by the Korean Cultural Center.
I’ve thought of sending an article to Thought Catalog a year ago, I even already had certain topics in mind that I wanted to write about. But having been a senior in college at that time with so much stress and school work to do, I never had the chance to finish writing them. It was only round the first week of December 2016 that I finally forced myself to finish one of the articles I had, with the goal of submitting at least one article before the year ends.
The article I wrote about, “To Those Dreams I Had to Give Up,” delves on a topic I’ve always written about in many papers during college. Here, I talk about how the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” transforms from a simple question of an adult asking a kid his dream to a question that gives us intense pressure on deciding our future career path. Even for me, there hasn’t been a time that I have been sure of my future. Especially now as a 20-year-old recent graduate, I have never been so frustrated and anxious with what to do in life. This was probably why I was able to finish the article immediately since the topic was so apt to my current situation.
After google-ing the selection process for Thought Catalog articles, I ended up lowering my expectations. It was said that editors have become much more selective now, and some people have even sent in 5 or more articles but have never been accepted. So I just kept it off my mind since then. It was only when I Googled my name (in my defense, I’m not usually this vain, I was just trying to see if the SEO for my website was working well loool). And lo and behold, I actually found my name under Thought Catalog, with my article published for the world to see.
Here is an excerpt of the article:
“TO THOSE DREAMS I HAD TO GIVE UP”
As kids, adults would often ask us again and again in various ways possible, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We used to dismiss this question and answer nonchalantly. However, at some point, that once-so-simple question deepens and complicates: “What do I really want to be?” As we get older, this start to keep us awake at night and haunt us as we begin to make decisions for our life.
My answer to the question kept on changing as I grew up; I blame this on my changing preferences and interests. At 5 years old, I wanted to be a singer. At 8, I wanted to be a fashion designer as inspired by watching Project Runway. At 11, I dreamed of being a pop star. At 13, I wanted to be a surgeon. At 14, I wanted to be a journalist.
However, in my last year in high school, I was asked the same question again. But this time it was different: I wasn’t just being asked what my dream was, I was being asked to decide my future. I was being asked for my future career, what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.
From then on, I started to consider various aspects and became more practical. I realized I was no longer that kid who thinks she can achieve everything she wants. I was too shy and nervous to become a singer or a pop star. I can’t be a fashion designer because I suck at drawing. Thinking about opening up a body and drawing blood from patients makes me cringe so there was no way I could be a surgeon. I had a passion for writing but I chose to major in IT instead, thinking I could get a job easily with this major. And so I had to let go of my childhood dreams.
Fast forward to the present time, at 20 years old and as a recent college graduate, I am currently stuck. I don’t have any idea on what I want to be nor what I want to do in my life. I have been asking the same question to myself every single day but the answer to the question does not come very easily. Now I often think about the childhood dreams I used to have. They may seem absurd or impossible to reach now but at least I had dreams before. At least then I was actually excited of the future, not caring whether my dreams will come true or not.
To those dreams I used to have, I miss you. I wonder, if I had tried hard and actually pursued you, would things have worked out? I’m sorry that I’ve given you up too soon. Sorry for thinking you were impossible to reach when I haven’t even started yet. At some point, you were the one that pushed me past my limits. You were the ones that kept me going and encouraged me to dream further. For us to have to let go of these wonderful dreams just makes me hopeful that somewhere out there, something much more wonderful awaits.
After much deliberation, I have come to realize that maybe the answer to what we want to be is not something definite. There could be countless possible answers for which we will find out along the way.
I’m still very much unsure about my future, but that’s the thing, no one really is.
It’s like buying a new camera and trying it for the first time. On that first shoot, we realize that the lens is out of focus. As we get used to the new camera, we learn to fix the lens and somehow the pictures we take become much more clearer and sharper. But then we know that we’ll never be able to take the best picture. Why? Because we could always buy a better lens, upgrade to a better camera, and improve ourselves the next day.
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” — Anthony Bourdain
When we were younger, there were no limitations for our dreams. There was no such thing as the impossible in our world, we could dream about everything we wanted to be – we believed in magic, fairytales, and Santa Claus. But as we get older, we realize the harsh reality of life: not everything is possible. And so we had to let go of our impractical dreams and give up our deepest passions just so we can fit in the world. But doing so, we ended up being so consumed with figuring out our lives that we have forgotten how to live it.
Yes, not everything is possible. But we don’t know yet which ones are possible and which ones aren’t. So we just have to keep on trying, and find them out on our own. We’ve got a lifetime to figure this out, anyway.
You may view the entire article HERE. If you could relate to the article, I would really appreciate it if you share it or provide comments on my writing so I may improve on my next piece. 🙂