29 Things I Learned At 29

Writing my 28th birthday post seemed like yesterday, but look: here we are, another trip around the sun completed and another set of lessons learned along the way.

Here are 29 things I learned at 29.

1. Always be grateful

This seems like a given, but for someone who was seemingly hardwired to be pragmatic all her life, constant gratefulness can actually be challenging. I've this bad habit of looking over my shoulder in times of happiness and abundance, certain that life will take everything away at any moment.

Yeah, that's not... that’s not cool. Take it from me, kids.

So this year, I've had to consciously remind myself to be grateful for all the things that I've been blessed with, for all the events and circumstances that have shaped me along the way.

This year, I learned that gratefulness is a constant, conscious exercise. It’s a ladder that I must climb every day.

2. Find like-minded individuals and collaborators

This was one of my favorite realizations this year.

Coming from nursing school, and then the BPO industry immediately after, I never had many opportunities to share my creative thoughts and ideas with like-minded individuals.

Sure, there was the rare book club meeting or an encouraging Instagram comment or emoji about a photo I posted, but everyone around me then was mostly busy trying to meet a deadline or a quota or was just trying to survive the next hurdle.

It was difficult for me to ask for constructive feedback or bounce ideas because, well, I didn't have people to bounce it off of.

I didn't belong to a "tribe" (God I despise that word) and for the longest time, I always felt like an outsider to the local creative industry.

And then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

(LOL, sorry I had to.)

Then this year came along and I found myself collaborating and working with so many talented and passionate people...and it's a big game-changer for sure.

After such a long time, I found groups and individuals who are equally passionate about the things that I love. Most of them are way smarter or more hardworking or more experienced than I am, so I'm learning so much while making good friends and connections along the way.

What did I do differently?

I begrudgingly got over my fear of answering DMs and emails and rejection and just worked with people.

I said yes to things.

I joined groups and events.

And let me just say--- doing all of these things were challenging for an introvert like me. This was no cakewalk, that’s for sure. However, once I got over the gut-wrenching apprehension, the collabs just started to trickle in. Slowly at first, but they were collabs from people that I really wanted to work with. And I still am grateful for those.

3. Growth is slow but keep going

A few months ago I had a mild anxiety/panic attack because I felt like I wasn't growing fast enough. I felt that everyone in my life was leaving me behind, that people believed that I had so much potential but I didn't have anything to show for it. I felt that I had so many bigas na kakainin, as the saying goes, and I didn't have a damned rice cooker.

Well, it felt like that, at least.

As I've mentioned over and over in my previous posts, patience is not my strong suit. I want to be good at things, and I want to be good at them RIGHT NOW.

Realizing that that’s not the way things work was frustrating, but it’s the truth.

Growth is slow and gradual and oftentimes, painstaking. Progress is not glamorous, especially if you have to make your way from the bottom. The only way out is through, you know? You just have to accept the fact that growth is a process. Trust it. Learn from it. Revel in it. Grow as you go.

4. Create for yourself

It seems like hard lessons are the main theme for this post.  A lot of my personal creative endeavors went to the back burner because I wanted to hit a certain amount of income each month.

I think I got what I wanted, alright, but it was at the expense of KFTI, my book blog, YT channel, and personal writing projects.

I invested so much time writing and creating for other people that I feel nauseous just thinking of writing and creating for myself. Blank pages felt daunting--- they still do, actually--- and that's something that I want to remedy this coming 2020. 

Ha, wish me luck.

Looking back, I now realize that I worked with almost ten different clients this past year. And that's on top of my regular nine-to-five.


Kinsa akong gibuhi?

Akong anxiety? LOL.

I honestly don't know how I managed to get through that, but I'm thankful that I did. And I learned a lot of lessons while doing all those gigs, too, but I'll save them for another time.

5. Learn from others

I love not being the smartest person in the room.

I love listening to other people's stories and views and ways on how to overcome challenges.

This year, I realized that learning from others is so fun. There's so much knowledge you can glean from people and their experiences. They're like self-help books, but better, because you can ask these people questions and get really insightful answers.

I mean Google can try, but nothing quite beats first-hand experiences, you know? Learn from others. Listen to their stories. Let them fill your cup with the good stuff.

6. Spend your time wisely

As mentioned earlier, I was obsessed with being productive last year. On the one hand, it's helpful because I get so much done in my spare time. For example, while being stuck in traffic on the super long bus ride home, I'd learn Korean or listen to podcasts or write book reviews.

On the other hand, I got stress-induced gastritis and premature under-eye wrinkles that even a 10-step Korean skincare regimen can not undo.

So when I say spend your time wisely, what I really mean is that you don't have to be working all the time.

Resting is productive, too. It means taking a pause and allowing your mind and body to recover. Slowing down doesn't necessarily equate to slacking off. Being mindful of how you spend your time and health is important. Remember: recuperating and recharging is worthwhile, too.

7. Learn to unplug and enjoy the quiet

That being said, this year I learned how to unplug and enjoy the quiet.

Lol, who am I kidding, I'm still learning this lesson.

It's a challenge, especially if you're on the internet all the time. Especially if you work on the internet all the time. But this 2020, I'll do my best to take breaks from the noise of the internet. 

You know, try to read a book in silence. Plant a herb garden. Take longer walks. Learn how to draw properly. Try to sew something together. Learn an offline skill in case an electromagnetic pulse attack wipes out the power grid and we'll all be left scrambling for purchase. I bet it would be awesome.

8. Stay healthy

Early this year, I was plagued by intense migraines. Stress-related acid reflux. Bad colds that lasted two whole freaking weeks. They were bummers with a big fat capital B. Staying in bed and feeling like crap can kill your momentum.

Lesson learned: don't get sick.

Eat good food. Stay hydrated. Take long walks. Do skip ropes. Health truly is wealth, and don't you ever forget it.

9. You're never too old to wonder

My man CS Lewis once said: "Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."

Dudes, you're never too old to wonder, never too jaded to see beauty in even the simplest things.

Here's one of the most important things I've learned thus far: adulting is hard AF, but you don't have to be a miserable adult. If anything, adulthood should be a journey of constant wonder. 

Sure, you have to juggle so many things: your work and finances, relationships and mental health, fitness, and spirituality, but don't let life turn you into a hard person. It's always easier said than done for sure, but don't forget to take joy in the little things.

10. Keep learning and skill up

This is super important in the context of work, especially in a field as fast-paced as digital marketing and the creative industry. There are more opportunities for writers and other creatives today than ever before, but competition has also become fiercer than ever.

How do you stand out?

How do you get high-paying projects or jobs?

Most of all, how do you make sure that you work with organizations that mirror your own goals? 

Personally, I think that you can do most, if not all of the above, by learning valuable and marketable skills.

The trick is to invest in yourself. Sounds preachy? I know, but it makes sense.

See, the thought of being a replaceable asset didn't sit well with me, so I wanted to be someone who was, well, the exact opposite. I wanted to be someone who brought value to a team or business. Someone who people trusted, you know? Someone who didn't have to chase after penny projects or shitty clients.

So here's what I did: I learned the shit out of this year. I may have lost a couple of brain cells along the way, but the stuff that I learned helped me become better at what I do and have also opened a lot of doors for me.

When I started writing full-time two (wow, just two? It seriously feels longer) years ago, I barely knew what I was doing. I was just flinging spaghetti on a wall and hoping that something sticks, you know?

But this year I learned to be a tad bit more strategic.

I learned SEO (still learning. My gulay, this skillset just never ends) and email marketing. I sharpened by copywriting and branding skills. I had to learn how to produce online videos that would rank well (super helpful if you also run a small channel).

Then there was the small matter of editing and coaching other writers.

Whoa. Looking back now, I really don't know how I managed to do all of this without falling apart into a sorry pile of exhaustion. Oh wait, I did. LOL. I'm just really thankful that I can do all these and still get paid for my trouble.

Takeaway: regardless of what your background is, you should always try to improve yourself. Resting on one's laurels doesn't do anyone good unless you're like Master Yoda and have learned all you can in this dimension.

11. Respond to emails promptly

This is not my strong suit.

Emails and calls induce anxiety to introverts but there's no way around it. You just gotta wear your big girl panties and answer those emails. If you're working on freelance projects, be ready with your rate sheet and portfolio, too. You don't want to scramble stuff at the very last minute.

12. Be picky with projects

Selling one's soul to capitalism seems to be an apt theme for this year. My pen (or laptop) was for hire to anyone who can afford it, which isn't really a good idea for two reasons:

  • some projects just aren't worth your effort
  • not everyone you work with would be a perfect fit

Sometimes there are perfect clients and employers. They’re the ones who know your worth and allow you to grow. However, there are also people out there who will try to low-ball you, and there will be projects that are so hectic that you have to turn them down for the sake of your well-being and mental state.

Then, there are other clients who pay well but otherwise have really sketchy business practices that you should definitely be wary of.

Don't say yes to everything that comes your way. Sometimes it’s okay to be picky. Know your worth and only work with people who understand what you can truly bring to the table.

13. Network is important

For an introvert, networking is like the 7th darned circle of hell. It’s awkward, it’s excruciating, and what are you even supposed to say after you’ve run out of small talk topics? 

Still, I learned that having a healthy network of friends and connections can help you in so many ways. Some events drained my introvert energies for days, sure, but they were worth it. You just have to know where to spend said energies.

14. Active anticipation

Again, waiting is not an easy task for me. I’m impatient AF. To fight my restlessness I got used to doing active anticipation, aka not sitting idly while waiting for things to take their course. Cue: the Korean lessons, the books, the digital drawings. Looking back, I find that they’re not too bad.

15. Get used to discomfort

…because discomfort is a symptom of growth. At least that’s what I’d like to believe. Make friends with it. Get used to it. Welcome it—-begrudgingly in the beginning—-but welcome it all the same.

16. Seek your own way

I’ve a niggling feeling that I frustrate my parents and other older relatives because I think society’s views of success are but constructs.

Why don’t I have kids yet, like everyone else?

When will I get myself a car, like everyone else?

Don’t I want to go abroad and be the nurse that I was meant to be, like everyone else?

Why don’t I take out a housing loan and settle in the burbs, like everyone else?

At the risk of sounding really dumb and foolish— I just...don't think that we should do what everyone else is doing.

Here’s what I learned: we all walk different paths, at different paces. No two journeys are the same. And so, even if it’s hard not to compare oneself with the success of others, I try my hardest to seek my own way and walk in it with confidence.

17. Everyone's arc and timeline is different

That being said:

Life isn’t a checklist. There’s no one standard path. Everyone’s just figuring stuff out as they go. Each of us has a different timeline, too. We all have different journeys and arcs, so why should we follow just one path like it’s the only one?

18. Sad ain't bad

Mourning and grief take so very long and so much. They don’t stay with you forever, but often, they’ll overstay their welcome. I realized the importance of mourning properly, and taking your time to honor what you’ve lost and what you’re left with. You’ll be okay, in time, but until then, recognize your sadness and make peace with it. Sad ain’t bad at all.

19. Find joy in little things

Little things, like cool weather and a nice walk. Pens that write smoothly on the page. A little message from a faraway friend. They’re precious.

20. Enjoy the present

The past is gone, the future isn’t here yet, so just...live a little. Have fun, you idiot, it’s not a crime.

21. Read books you're not used to reading

This is a huge chore for a mood reader like me. I need the familiarity of my tropes and characters and formats. But where’s the growth in that, right? Reading books away from my comfort zone has made me discover a lot of cool material. It’s a work in progress, for sure, because I’m wont to miss my guilty pleasures, but it’s been really eye-opening so far.

My favorite, not-so-usual reads include Haruki Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore, and Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

22. Be consistent

Oh, baby. The muse doesn’t exist and you can’t wait for her to come ‘round. As someone eloquently said: inspiration is for amateurs. Just show up every day, and do the work. It will be a chore on some days, but you can do it.

23. Be happy for others' success and yours

Ah, there’s nothing like being happy for your success and the success of the people around you, especially when you’ve seen firsthand how hard they worked to achieve those goals. I love celebrating little wins. I love taking a step back and tell myself, once in a while: you’re doing okay. It makes my heart feel good. Even if we’ve so many bigas na lulung-agin and kakainin, celebrating tiny victories help you stay on track. 

24. Invest in the following: mutual funds, good pillows, and ergonomic chairs

Life’s too long to be spent on low interest rates, lack of sleep, and bad backs.

25. God is so good

So, so good. Always with us through hardship, blesses us with things beyond our wildest dreams. Thank You, God.

26. Home is where the heart is but boy, independence is sweet

I moved out of my childhood home late this year. It was scary, overwhelming, and expensive but it also felt...right. Who knew that having your own space would be this refreshing? I loved picking out duvets and hated having to deal with my lack of actual kitchen, but so far it’s been good. I got to discover a lot of things about myself (spoiler alert: I actually like sleeping in and eating healthy) and it’s made me appreciate everything my parents provided for me.

I still miss the island, sometimes, but I like where I am right now.

27. Learning a new language is so fun

Last year, I tried to teach myself Korean. And it’s been so freaking fun. Not only do I understand a bit of my favorite K-dramas better, I also got to discover the nuances of another culture. There are just some things that an English translation can’t do justice on, you know?

If you have time, I highly suggest learning a new language. It’s so much fun.

28. Be kind.

It’s not easy, but we’re all given choices to do good and be kind.

29. We must say goodbye to some things

That being said, dear reader, I want to let you know that this will be the last post I will be making for KFTI. This blog has been my safe place for the past 5 years. It has been filled with wonderful memories, photographs, and more than a dozen dumb musings.

And now, it’s time to take on new journeys.

We’ll see each other again, for sure. The internet is wide, and hey, you can’t get rid of me that easily. My Instagram account will still be posting prose and photographs every now and then.

If you made it all the way here, I want to thank you for your patience, love, and support for KFTI all these years.

Thank you, and see you around. 


K x

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