I bring to you this small update from the safety of my home. And I’m guessing – nay, hoping – that you too are reading this from the safety of yours.
As you may have caught on from the above title, I had my hair cut a couple weeks back. I had this planned since last year. I was going to have my hair cut in a long pixie… which isn’t really any different from my short hair last year. Except last year it was a super short bob and this year I have a long pixie. But I disgress.
Today, while listening to anime opening songs, I thought about how far I’ve come from high school. Haircut-wise. Back then, I was too afraid to do anything with my hair outside shoulder-length layered. (Man, seriously, the only variety year after year was whether I’ll have the edge blunt cut, v-cut or u-cut. Wow.)
That said, I made a short list of stuff I have yet to do with my hair:
I really want to try all of these someday, at least once.
And I guess that’s it. Me thinking wistfully, hopefully, of a future where I become a littlestudent more adventurous with my hair. It seems like a silly thing, and perhaps in the far future I’ll reread this post and think, “God, 22-year-old Kate is a drama queen.“
Well, to be honest, at this moment? With all of us right in the thick of things, I have no expectations. I don’t know what will happen. From where I stand, the future is a little blurry.
But I do have infinite hope.
Hope that we’ll all get through this, one way or another. That one day, we will step out into the concrete, onto the green grass. Smell the fresh air and shake hands with our neighbors and hug our friends. Happily and without any fear.
But for now, friends, I hope that you are well and staying at home for the duration of this pandemic.
I’ve always had it drilled in my mind that every human being – nay, every living
being – in this here planet is made up of a mishmash soup of so many
This idea started quite innocently in my angsty teenage years. That I am made up of so many contradicting things. A walking contradiction, if you may. Sassy yet shy, loud yet quiet, hopeful yet emo. (oh god, I was too emo akssksks)
But that thought really drove itself home to me when, years later in college, I watched a video essay on Hayao Miyazaki. It was about so many good Miyazaki things, but mostly it tackled on how brilliantly he instilled in his works the idea that everyone has both a good side and a bad side. I even wrote a post inspired by this same essay! If you’ve watched any of his films – particularly, Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa – you know what I mean.
But over the
past couple of years, I’ve come to realise how this Gray Area Thinking is
applicable in every aspect of life.
And this is
my focus for 2020. Not a word, not a goal, not even a project. (Even though I
love words and I’m rebuilding my relationship with goals and I have damn too
I want to
remind myself that seemingly contradicting things can exist at the same time
and that this is natural for so many things in life.
Yes, I am a
hopeless romantic and love reading kilig stories. But I don’t
necessarily feel that kind of romance in my life – and that’s a-okay!
Yes, I enjoy
interacting on social media and sharing very personal parts of my life online.
But I also enjoy my privacy and have every right to firmly establish my
boundaries whenever for the sake of my own wellbeing.
Yes, I worry
for our environment. But I also love to eat meat and use leather products – and
I will do so in the most sustainable and practical way possible.
Yes, life is
short and we’ll all die, one way or another. But that does not mean I will
readily submit to my fated end without proactively seeking a life well lived on
my own terms.
Yes, we all
need to try and get out of our comfort zone in order to grow. But we also need
to acknowledge the peace it brings at times when things get too overwhelming.
positivity is important. But acknowledging the negative things help too.
Yes, we are
all entitled to our own opinion. But it does not need to come at the expense of
others getting hurt.
Yes, we have to be mindful of how our actions affect other people. But this does not mean we need to be Mind Readers and instantly know what the other person is thinking.
only exist in the rarest of places like in the fields of science and data
programming. (I guess. I think…?)
This used to
make me anxious. If I can’t know whether someone or something is good or
bad, how am I supposed to choose? But with every new day, I realise the
kind of freedom it offers. I no longer have to place things in neat boxes. All
I need to do is imagine things – all the things – thrown in one huge
cauldron. Something can be sweet while also having a hint of spiciness. One can
be good but it can also be bad, and vice versa.
Paradoxical truths exist all around us. And we are all made up of mishmash soup of seemingly contradicting things. The whole lot of us. Things aren’t as black and white as one may perceive. The Gray Area is a vast, far-reaching creature. It blurs the line from either side of the spectrum.
For more reading on the paradoxes of life, check out the articles below:
I feel like this has been the go-to advice people give to others. Like ceramic cherubs are the go-to souvenirs in weddings, and McDonald’s is the go-to place for eating greasy food. (Except in the Philippines. We kneel only for our lord and master, Jollibee.)
And I have a problem with that. (The advice, not Jollibee.)
Let me be clear, though. I do not completely, wholeheartedly hate this advice. I am all for going after what you love and seeking your own version of joy in life through the things you are passionate about. Whenever I come across inspiring stories of people finding success in doing things they love, I telepathically send my congratulations and throw them colorful confetti.
But I have a bone to pick with how “follow your passion” has somehow become penicillin. A cure-all advice for any career and life woes.
Not sure what you wanna do? Follow your passion.
Unhappy with your job? Follow your passion!
Wanna be successful? Follow! Your! Passion!
I know this as someone who was given this same advice for many career and life struggles. Be that with my career, or with my identity as a creative, or with life as a whole. It was such a shiny new thing, this advice. So I heeded it and expended most of my energy into it.
To be fair, for a while, it worked. But that’s the thing with “follow your passion”: it only works for a while.
Why “Follow Your Passion” is A Bad Advice to Give
The more I think about it, the more I realize that “follow your passion” is a McAdvice. It’s a short-term fix for hunger, not supposed to be the sole composition of your entire diet. When I said I had a bone to pick with this McAdvice, I was lying. I have three bones to pick.
First off, it’s vague af
You know how in stories, the most clichéd answer to “Where are we going?” is “You’ll know it when we get there.”
Every single time I hear that line, I want to hURL something across the room.
It’s up there in my list of “Top 10 Clichés I Want Thanos-Snapped and Gone Forever.” And the reason why I hate that line is the same reason why I find “follow your passion” a bad advice. It’s vague as fuck.
Is it helpful? Perhaps. But can you go anywhere with this advice alone? I don’t think so.
You start thinking it’s that One Thing™
You know, as much as it’s good being told you’ve got that one thing by five good-looking boys, that’s not the case when it comes to finding and following your passion.
And “follow your passion” implies that you can only be passionate about one thing in your entire life.
People aren’t only passionate about just one thing. At least not everyone. Which is why I find it ridiculous advising others to find that one passion and follow that one passion for, like, ever.
As the popular saying goes, “Change is the only constant thing in this world.” Life itself is naturally fluid and flexible. The things we loved as kids may not be something we love now. I used to think McDonald’s burger was the superior burger but now I believe Jollibee’s have the best fast food burger. And even my burger loyalty may change in the future!
Why, then, must we limit our passions — the prime sources of inner exhilaration and excitement — to just one thing?
“Follow your passion” makes everything seem so freaking easy
There is this notion that by following your passion, the rest will just fall into place. Admittedly, that’s quite romantic but it’s also disregarding the nuances and complexities of life.
“Follow your passion” is an advice that does not consider human’s inherent changing nature.
Look, I’m not saying that, when it comes to a meaningful career and life, passion is a non-factor. Of course, it is! But it isn’t the only factor, nor is it the biggest one — at least, it isn’t the biggest factor all the time.
A happy, fulfilling life does not rely solely on finding and following a passion.
Which then leads me to ask: when trying to create a meaningful life, why must we be so laser-focused on passion?
Passion, Our Fleeting Friend
When you think about passion, you think about intensity. You think about how it’s burning into your very being, calling you to do The Thing and to do it now. And when you listen to its call, there is this sense of complete uninhibited joy. This mix of delight and accomplishment. It’s an amazing feeling.
That intensity may run incredibly long.
But it can also run incredibly short.
Passion is erratic. Like its close cousin, Inspiration, it knocks on the doors of our hearts at the most unexpected times. It likes to bring interesting goodies and playtoys, those both old and new. Passion urges us to do things and we oblige happily. Then it leaves whenever, and we are at a loss and with no clue how to finish what we’ve started.
As a creative, I’ve relied heavily on both Passion and Inspiration to forge ahead with my creative endeavours. And I can tell you that they are, in fact, not so reliable and not always available.
Will I stay friends with them? Abso-freaking-lutely. I love them to death. I enjoy their company. You know how some friends you meet once in a while and you don’t tell them your entire life story or share your insecurities? But also that doesn’t make your friendship any less precious? Passion and Inspiration are simply that kind of friends.
So rather than “follow your passion”, what can you do to lead a meaningful life?
Follow your curiosity.
Way back in 2017, I first heard these three words from Elizabeth Gilbert. It felt like a personal breakthrough. Here was my door out of this passion, be all end all mindset that I’ve been stuck in for a long time. And boy, it was freeing.
Passion is fleeting and finite; curiosity is everywhere. It works as a subtle nudge your way. I love how Robert J.K. Lee describes it:
Curiosity moves in ways that could be described as gentle, contemplative, unusual and even pensive. As an elemental metaphor, Curiosity acts like water. It is shapeless, but it interacts with you in different ways. […] Curiosity invites you to cast attention and notice something that you hadn’t before.
When I think of that one thing that Curiosity gently guided me towards, watercolor comes to mind.
I was scrolling through Instagram one time. Back then, I was new to the platform and didn’t know what it was for. But it recommended one video of someone demonstrating how to paint loose floral illustrations using watercolor.
And I was entranced. Like seriously. I felt like I was three years old again and I just watched Teletubbies for the very first time.
It was a whole new kind of magic. The way the paints flow to where water is, the way two colors interacted with each other. The way these tiny puddles of color turned into petals and then magically, a flower.
I was hooked.
Looking back, I could have simply stayed hooked and kept on watching. But already Curiosity was there, gently tapped on my shoulder and whispered,
What is that?
The first few months, I bought everything cheap from the department store office supplies. My first ever paints and brushes and papers were the ones you used in middle school, but I was too damn excited to try to even care. I tried painting flowers and leaves. I tried to do flat wash. (Because holy shit, you can make something close to solid from such a fragile-looking pigment??? 2016 Kate ain’t ready for gouache.)
And you know what? I SUCKED.
My flowers looked like rotting plants. When I tried painting a galaxy the first time, it was like a zombie wasn’t feeling well and it vomited brains. Everything I painted was godawful. There were definitely times when I wanted to give up and go back to my black and white ink art. But every time, I’d feel Curiosity lightly tapping behind me.
Hmm… what if I mix these two colors…
What would it look like if I sketched a person first?
I wonder what would happen if I use both inks and watercolor…
Curiosity, Our Guiding Friend
In retrospect, many of the things I’m now passionate about were born out of curiosity. I didn’t even realize it but at some point, Curiosity had already handed me over to Passion. Because that’s what Curiosity does.
I really want to stress this out. When I say follow your curiosity, I’m not saying it will eventually guide you to your passion or even your purpose. Following your curiosity may lead you to your passion. But sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s okay. That is not the point of all this.
Perhaps you’d feel excitement and delight. Maybe you’d even feel that complete and utter joy when the curious things become passion things. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’d lose the interest before it could become something grand.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
The moment you lose interest, let it go. Keep only the memories andand the learnings. Carry on following your curiosity. See where it leads you this time around. What adventure, or non-adventure, it has in store. Experience the moment fully and treasure what lessons it gives.
Isn’t that, in and of itself, what meaningful life is all about?
As I mentioned before, I spent my months-long slump (which is calling it lightly, to be honest) reading manga and Webtoon comics and watching anime. These are things I had to set aside for most of my university life to prioritize studies.
Now I get to re-indulge myself in all things animu and mango, and get back in touch with my inner otaku. Looking at all the various art styles also inspired me to get back into drawing.
And as you might have noticed, since um… March, I’m in a blog writing slump. I mean, I did have This One Draft™ I’ve been writing for weeks months. But it’s kiiinda heavy and maaaybe a tiny bit controversial.
So is this me deliberately postponing having to deal with said heavy draft?
Anyways, if you’re new to Webtoon or want to take a looksie, here are a few good ones I’ve been reading since I got into Webtoon comics this past year.
Premise: A modern retelling of the Rape of Persephone and other Greek mythology stories we all know and love. (Partly because our English/Literature class made us read ‘em and partly because of Rick Riordan sksksksks)
I was a bit hesitant to read this, to be honest. My experience with Greek mythology retellings and adaptations, other than Uncle Rick’s, is that they make it too dramatic, too action-packed and the characters too one-dimensional. (Yes, I’m talking about all the live action movies that came out between 2010 and 2015 *cough*)
Learning about the Olympians and the Greek heroes through an objective lens in school already gave me a disconnect with the stories and the characters. I don’t want that kind of feeling when I’m watching/reading it for entertainment as well.
But this comic—
Not only is it more relatable as it’s set in a contemporary setting, but the characters have more depth to them. It’s like the creator, Rachel Smythe, had a template to follow then added her own magical details into it. Ultimately, she made something incredibly unique and precious.
( And 80% of the series’ preciousness is Persephone, let’s be real here.)
And the art is sooo good too. Kinda like the Greek illustrations you see in ancient pots in museums? But in gorgeous technicolor.
Trigger warning, though: Since this is mostly based on The Rape of Persephone (and a modern retelling at that), this series has illustrated sexual abuse and actual rape in it. Also, toxic relationships.
Premise: Girl with a heightened sense of taste and smell realized her favorite restaurant’s dishes tastes differently which can only mean they changed staff. This leads to her mission of finding the chef whose cooking she’s loved for years.
Anything that has to do with food is an immediate yes for me. But I didn’t start Gourmet Hound the first time I saw it since it was on a hiatus. And if you’re a regular manga reader like myself, you know hiatuses (hiati?) are the devil especially when you’re following an ongoing series.
But then it returned to its regular posting, and I started reading it and—chokes.
To say that it’s all about food is both accurate and inaccurate.
The characters are so well-developed. No matter how small a role they may have, Leehama certainly put just as much thought into the side characters as she did with the mains. And that says a lot about her dedication on the series. Not only that, all the characters have food-related names. And I mean all the characters – even the very cute dog who has the most important role of them all. (If you’ve read the series or you’re at least twenty chapters in, you know what I’m talking about.)
Best of all, the cast is diverse. And I mean, it has a Filipino in the main cast. Do y’all know how much I SCREAMED when I realized Graham is Filipino???(Hint: I got scolded for being a disturbance to the neighbors. As usual.)
Premise: In a bakery where you can buy baked goodies like “love” and “confidence”, a certain witch-in-training with a certain unique power is a regular and she always buys the same thing: “romance.”
Another food-related series, although this one is relatively new. Crumbs is all sorts of soft and fluffy. Even the art style is soft and fluffy.
So far in the series, there isn’t a huge overall story arc revealed. Maybe because this is more character-oriented than plot-oriented. (But y’all won’t see me complainin’.) You can tell from the get-go that the characters have gone through some shit, though.
Overall, it’s a story about finding your worth and following your heart. And it’s just so so cute uwu-ma-heart.
Premise: Under the sea, a Beacon of prophecies and a prince of a crumbling kingdom meets. The Beacon is the guiding light that will supposedly bring a prosperous future to all. The prince is tasked to kill said Beacon for his own people’s future.
This series is so gay and so soft, I’m cRYING.
The prince, Siren, is precious and must be protected. (Like seriously, he must be protected.) And the Beacon is the cutest, shiniest sea creature ever, Tamatoa would weep green (shiny) tears of envy.
At time of writing, I’m wary of the heavy drama of the recent updates. But I like to believe that this is just one arc among many many more arcs. And I just hope they’d be together by the end of this. Goddammit, Siren’s mom.
Premise: A tourist gets interrupted on her date and shopping when everyone around her, including her pathetic now-ex-boyfriend, turned into zombies. Having no choice but to protect herself, she wields an axe and meets a zombie on the way. A zombie who can, somehow, communicate with her.
The humor in this series is god-tier. It’s also another series with food heavily integrated into its story. (Yes, most of the comics I’m reading are food-related. And no, the food in this particular series are not human brains.)
The canon OTP is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. This is a pair that’s arguably legendary by now. Like, you’d place them alongside SSS-rank canon OTPs like Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase. At least I would.
(Final edit notes: I’m pretty sure there have been some serious development in the past couple months’ updates but, in preparing for the holidays, I haven’t caught up to them yet hehe. But you can start reading it here.)
My Deepest Secret
Premise: A sweet girl with a tragic past + a very handsome, very kind and very caring boyfriend. One of them is clueless. Both are keeping a secret from each other.
I’m not really into stories with yandere characters in them. I mean, the closest one I could think of is that one character in Tsurezure Children and that was mainly for comedic purposes.
The yandere here is definitely not for comedic purposes.
This is a thriller series and you get that feeling just from the first chapter itself. But, surprisingly, it’s also super soft and fluffy??? Which is why I’m reevaluating my morality a bit every time I’m reading an update.
Trigger warning: there are chapters that hint at past instances of domestic violence and abuse, and some chapters can get bloody.
Premise: Proving that love needs no words, this is a story about a girl who met a guy who works at a café, serving beautifully made lattes… and who turns out to be her schoolmate.
While the story is not the first of its kind, I absolutely enjoy reading Choco Latte. So far, it has every single trope you’ll find in a shoujo manga.
Girl meets boy
Adorably protective father
Lowkey mischievous little brother
Potential love rival (although female MC does not yet realize she likes male MC – but we KNOW she does)
LOTS OF MISUNDERSTANDINGS
It’s fun. Even the art style is reminiscent of late 2000s to early 2010s shoujo manga art styles so it’s super cute.
What makes Choco Latte different, though, is that there is no dialogue at all. The most they use words is when two characters are texting each other. I think this adds to how adorable the story is. And if you love reading shoujo manga such as myself, you don’t need them dialogue at all. Either way, I love it!
Premise: A beloved princess of the Pastel Kingdom is the living proof that not all princesses have it all. She stumbles across the Cursed Princess Club and her life will never be the same.
Another series with god-tier humor.
I love everything about this series. I love the small details on each character, like how the prettiest child of the Pastel King is his son – and his daughtersare okay with that fact.
This story plays around with the idea, “Do not judge a book by its cover” oh-so-often. And I promise you, you’d be surprise at what you think you know about the characters here. To me, that’s what makes it so FUN to read. You never know what to expect!
Premise: Middle school girl embarks on a magical scavenger hunt when she starts finding a mysterious trail of letters all over her new school.
This is the series that started it all.
Well… technically, I started reading Webtoon comics because of Shen Comix and Cheese in the Trap (which was not to my taste so I never bothered to finish it.) But this is the series that first got me hooked.
If I may describe this series, it’s like a story with an Owl City vibe. All whimsical and wholesome but not afraid to talk about dark, important things we go through life.
There are only ten chapters. Ten delicious, emotions-filled chapters but it ended satisfyingly and cleanly. The art is super super beautiful and the characters are all my children. Even the old witch who lives in the school’s greenhouse.
I’ve read more series, albeit more sporadically, but MS Word is telling me I’ve almost hit 1.5k words so I’m leaving it at that. Tell me, though: have you read any Webtoon comics? What are some of your faves? I’m always open for new recs!
Way back in the middle of July, I decided to try out bullet journaling again (for the third time) and that I’d start in August. But then August came around and I was just too occupied with wrapping things up in my previous job that I did not have the time to set it all up.
Well, now that I’m basically jobless for two weeks, I’ve decided to finally set it up – this time, in preparation for September – so yay!
Before that, a bit of history between me and bullet journaling
The first time I heard about bullet journaling, I thought it was interesting. The idea of a systematic way to organize your life (or certain parts of your life) and add in a touch of your own creativity to it? Brilliant. Million dollar concept. Where do I sign up.Then, the idea that it’s all personalized, and therefore you must completely make the entire thing yourself, sank in.
This is too much work, I thought and gave up.
I think I only managed to make a monthly calendar that first time. I didn’t even get to use it. The subsequent times I attempted bullet journaling, I had a similar pattern. A vicious cycle, if you must.
My life (as usual) was in utter chaos > desperate for a semblance of order > thinks bullet journaling is the solution > finds it laborious > gives up.
The reason I decided to try out bullet journaling again isn’t really that different from the first two times I tried it out. A part of my life needs tidying up Marie Kondo-style and bullet journals are still very much a huge thing. I enjoy seeing people share their journal spreads online like Myrthe with her aesthetically pleasing Instagram page, and Lauren with her fun blog posts on all things bullet journals. These rekindled the teeny tiny interest that I had for bullet journaling. And as they say, three times the charm, so I decided to give it a third try.
Trying out bullet journaling for the third time
I thought I’d be more intentional this time around and so I did a bit of research (aka watched bullet journal videos on Youtube). One key thing that I learned from them bullet journal masters is that no one started out with Pinterest-worthy spreads. And you might notice, this is me relearning the whole “nobody started out perfect” thing all over again. An especially great tip I got from AmandaRachLee is to know your purpose for starting out a bullet journal. In my case, it’s to KonMari the heck out of my creative life.
Which is why I only have four spreads on my September bullet journal: a cover, the monthly calendar (+ goals for the month), art habit tracker, and a special “books/mangas/anime I watched/read” spread.
My September bullet journal
The cover is, essentially, um… useless. I only made it because I’m using an old journal already half-filled with sketches and doodles. (I am not buying a new journal for this.) And also, it’s for funsies! I like the botanical lineart I got going and it’s also the general theme for the rest of the spreads.
The monthly calendar is there to help me remember commitments I pre-booked mostly. I find that the older I get, the more my memory is becoming that of a goldfish. (And I’m only in my early twenties *llama cries*)
I also have a box underneath where I listed my goals for the month. I wrote down some personal stuff I do not wish to share at the moment so you’ll just have to settle on my prettily painted hands. But yes, one of my goals is to finish reading ONE BOOK. As you can see, my bar for progress right now is so low. But that’s okay – progress is progress. <3
Art Habit Tracker
The art habit tracker is really the main spread, I guess. I’ll be using it to track how many times I drew during the month and which of my many art ideas became an illustration on that month. I have tons of spaces left which I’ll probably fill in with additional stuff, if I so deem fit. But other than that, it’s really just me building and tracking my art habit.
What I’m Reading & Watching
Finally, there’s the books/manga/anime page that’s a more self-indulgent section. I’ve been reading tons of manga and Webtoon comics lately and just having a physical place where I list brief thoughts on them would be great.
Also, I love the quote on the next page because I know I will have moments where I’ll be lazy and won’t want to check in on my journal.
Overall, some people may find this too simple but I’m good with that. I don’t want to overwhelm myself (again) so a simple bullet journal for this month is good enough for me.
Do you have a bullet journal? How long have you been doing it? In what other ways do you KonMari your life?
We know this. I know this. You know this. That old man sitting at a nearby park probably doesn’t care about art improvement but, still, even he knows this.
It is the one of The Most Frustrating Thing Ever. Why couldn’t I just be good at the things I like to do in an instant? Like, why do learning curves even have to exist?? Why can’t I just become the next Einstein or the next Picasso or the next Marie Curie tomorrow???
You’re probably not as dramatically ambitious as yours truly, but I bet you’ve been frustrated and impatient before, right?
The Case of Improvement for Artists (hint: iz torture)
I love progress. And if you’re a self-improvement junkie like myself, obviously, one of your biggest goals in life is to consistently be a better version of yourself. But progress is slow and tedious and it kills me. (Well, not really literally. But you know what I mean.) Creative progress, especially, is a specific kind of torture for me.
See, I’ve always been an impatient person. But I’m more so an impatient creator. When it comes to my art and my writing, I want to hurry, hurry, hurry.
Hurry up and improve on your anatomy, Kate.
Hurry up and draw good noses, Kate.
Hurry up and write engaging stories, Kate.
Hurry up and create awesome content, Kate.
Hurry up, Kate.
I keep on pushing myself to hurry hurry hurry. That I need to keep moving forward. That I need to get better. And the thing is, in art, you don’t really see you’re improving. So I become even more greedy. I become more and more frustrated, and more and more impatient of myself.
Sometimes, to a point where I’m mentally scolding myself for not seemingly getting better.
We are our harshest critic already. But with myself and to myself, I am unforgiving. I never tolerated even an ounce of imperfection. It’s sad. Because we are also our most frequent company.
Can you imagine being in the company of someone so critical of you?
That drive for art improvement became toxic. I made it toxic, and it backfired. And so, in an attempt to gently remind myself that um Kate? You HAVE improved tho, I did the #DrawThisAgain art meme. It’s where you try to draw an old art and see the differences and changes.
I chose a really old work, one I did in 2016. Back when I still a complete watercolor noob and just starting out. I loved it — I still do. But recreating it with all the creative arsenal I picked up for three years, it was amazing.
And once I was done and took a step back, I thought to myself, “If 2016 watercolor noob Kate could only see me now…” I mean, I know she would never see the me now. That’s just how it is.
Who you are, right this second, will never get to see how much you’ll improve in the future.
But who you are, right this second, is also the only one who can look back to where you’ve come from and see how far you’ve come.
I now take comfort in having this truth. I’m probably going to tuck myself into it forever. Because, man, it’s far far better than the rusty old thoughts of “Not Being Enough.”
In business and management, looking at historical data is a sensible way of self-evaluation. But looking back is also a gift. A gentle reminder to your all-too-focused self, a small shift in perspective. That you are doing just fine.
So here I am, doing exactly that.
I first published this post on my Patreon page but I added a few words and wrote additional thoughts. You may see the original post, in its infancy, here.
Finally getting the guts to actually write something for this here blog. After months of burying myself into a mound of Webtoon comics, manga, and anime series. And subconsciously forgetting about my art, my blog, and the rest of my creative life.
Sure, I’ve put out a few great artworks the past few months, but even the dopamine hit of posting them into my art insta and being praised for them was short-term.
Work has ultimately taken up much of my daylight hours. Which is weird because, honestly, I have not done a lot at work these past three months. The “busy” moments happen every start of the month but even those days don’t exactly feel exhilarating. Plus, there were other things happening in my personal life, like my grandma’s passing, that I don’t exactly want to talk about too much.
At the end of the day, only one thing mattered:
I felt deeply depressed and completely unsatisfied.
Allowing myself to be buried underneath all that, I did not do anything. At least, nothing actionable or noteworthy.
I simply made myself be carried away by the flow of life. Wake up early, ride the bus, get to work and clock out by 5:30pm, ride the bus home while probably reading a manga or watching an episode.
And it really hit me: how utterly boring and glum that is. How you basically have zero agency on the one thing you should hold influence the most:
Your own fucking life.
Excuse my French but, really, there was no sugar-coating this.
My art is suffering. I’ve been consuming great masterpieces — on Instagram and Webtoons and various anime — and yet have not taken what inspiration I got from them and mold them into my own creation.
My blog is suffering. I’ve been having doubts with writing in the personal development niche recently. I did not want to read any “Simple Tips to Live Your Best Life” kinds of blog posts because I started to find them empty and repetitive.
Consequently, my life is suffering.
…Buuut that’s too complicated a topic and too long to tackle in even a 1000-word post. So let’s focus for now on what’s next in line up there. Which is also what is, quite frankly, the most important points I should be discussing.
On blogging and the personal growth niche
I’m not gonna deny it — I LOVE the personal growth niche. The community built around this like-minded desire to grow and improve is a fascinating one. I’m so happy to be a part of it, no matter how small my contribution may be.
But there’s a huge difference in writing about the truth you discovered to live a happier life and listing down “6 easy tips” to be happier.
I’ve read the same kind of posts, given the same kind of advice over and over again. (“Take a long walk” is one of those advice that, as of writing, is currently fueling up a massive discourse over in MH Twitter, by the way.) And the thing is, for me right now, these kinds of advice just feel… lackluster. Empty. They aren’t enough.
I’m sure there are people out there who just wanted the quick reminder or that tiny push. And maybe, for them, these posts are exactly what they need. Heck, there have been plenty of times when they were exactly what I needed too. But right now, it’s not what I’m looking for. It is not what I need. And in effect, these kinds of posts are not what I want to write about.
It took me a long time to come to terms with this. Because continuing felt like an obligation – and in effect, quitting felt like a self-condemnation. This “duty” I think I have for the readers of this blog. But then, I realize:
Wait a sec.Forcing myself to write a topic I don’t like is a disservice to myself AND to my readers.
And this is an advice I often give to fellow bloggers too.
Like, gee, Kate. At least follow the advice you made, yeah?
With that said, here’s what’s going to happen with All the Trinkets moving forward.
No empty listicles.
I’m not going to totally abandon listicles. Besides, it’s the kind of blog post that’s very easy to write. But I vow never to create those empty, repetitive listicles in my blog from now on. No more “6 easy steps for a happier life”.
Life, I found, is much more complicated to go through. But at the same time, life is simple – but no, it is never easy.
Instead, I just want to write about the truth. My truth, anyway. The truth I learned along the way. The small ones, and the ohmigosh-this-is-a-huge-eureka-moment ones.
Outside of these blog posts that borders on “life” and “personal development,” I also want to write more about art and creative living. And, like, no more of those general, all-around, free-for-all creativity topics. Starting today, I want to write only about my own creative experiences. My creative truths. (Which is kinda fancy-schmancy but, whattayouknow, it fits.)
This all may seem selfish but…
To be honest, for a long time, I write with you, my readers, heavily on my mind. Sure, I think about myself too. And it so happens that, for the past couple years, what people enjoyed reading and what I enjoyed writing aligned.
But the fact is, I no longer enjoy writing the same topics. In these same perspectives and this same format. Maybe in a few years, I’d go back to loving it. Maybe. But for right now, I need to step away from all these. Explore new ways to write and express myself in this ever-changing blog of mine.
Speaking of my blog changing…
To align with this kinda sorta new way of me blogging, I’ve decided to change the look of my blog. Yes, again. Don’t worry it’s going to be a long project and I’ll tweak some elements here and there gradually. But it’s gonna happen.
The way I think it, my blog changes and reshapes and transforms when I, too, change and reshape and transform.
Before anything else, this is my place in the Interwebs. My small, humble place.
And like with any kind of challenge we face in life, if the way forward for me and this small humble place of mine in the Interwebs is to change things up, then… Challenge accepted.
To all the readers who have followed me up ‘til now, I truly appreciate all of you. I hope you continue with me as I embark in a new chapter with this blog. And if not, well no worries. Thanks for being with me anyway, however long that may be.
At 11:23 in the morning, a young girl who has only ever cooked eggs and rice in her life was in the kitchen with the stove top on. She was chopping an onion, preparing for her younger sister’s meal when she accidentally sliced her finger. As she ran around looking for Band Aids, she heard her uncle laughing in the living room. It was the kind of laugh that was three-quarters snort and a quarter derision.
“If you can’t even chop onions without hurting yourself, you’ll never be cut out as a chef.”
Now, the girl never thought she would ever be a Michelin-star cook. She has never even aspired to run her own restaurant. But those words still cut through her heart and crushed her.
I’m telling you this story for a reason. And I hope by now you get it.
We all have that one person in our lives, that young girl’s uncle. Someone who aces at being a Jamie Raincloud. A put-downer. A positivity vampire (you know, someone who sucks the positivity out of you).
And sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if what they’re saying is actually a big deal to you or not. You would still be hurt.
And as much as I want to explore that complicated area of feeling hurt on things that ultimately don’t matter, I want to take a rain check on that for now.
What I really want to focus here is that subtle nag at perfection and success the uncle in the story did. It’s like he was saying that the young girl, who has barely cooked a meal in her life, cannot be a chef just because she hurt herself in the middle of cooking. That someone completely novice can’t become a master all because of committing one common mistake.
Now, as an avid fan of Masterchef Australia for the past couple years, I think that’s loaded bullcrap.
I know for a fact that even home cooks, those people who are passionate about food and cooking, can hurt themselves in the middle of a panicky situation. Those well-renowned chefs only seem effortlessly perfect and successful in the kitchen now because of all the mistakes and little injuries they got early on in their careers. Mistakes that, well, they learned from. Their so-called perfection and success are only achievable by learning through their failures.
For years, I’ve had this voice whispering to me, my very own inner negative uncle. That perfectionist, positivity vampire telling me every tiny mistake I’ve done is pushing me farther and farther from perfection and success. I guess, these voices contributed to the anxious-filled, overthinking perfectionist that I have become.
Just last month, I was on my way to my first ever job interview. And I forgot to bring any valid I.D. to get inside the building. All throughout the bus ride, I kept thinking how I have screwed things up. They’re never gonna interview me because I’m incompetent. The HR of the company will whisper it throughout all the HR of all other companies in the city. No one will hire me. And so, I am an utter failure.
All these thoughts… because I left my I.D.
But see here’s the thing: I am still here. I’m still alive. And little by little, I’m moving forward. Making progress and achieving small successes.
We, as a society, have reached a point where we condemn or ridicule every mundane mistake a person has made. And to be honest, it’s not a great time to be in. We can be so hung up on the smallest details and the tiniest flaws. So much so, that we forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
And I’m not saying mistakes are great. They aren’t, obviously. Mistakes suck balls. But judging someone’s character based on the mistakes they did is a bit… unfair, don’t you think?
So if you’re like me, beating yourself over every small mistakes you commit, here’s a reminder:
As my boy, Li Shang, famously said, let’s get down to business. If you’re here right now, I’m willing to bet you’ve been in that kind of sloppy hell: The Slow, Sloppy Hell of Feeling Unproductive.
It isn’t exactly painful outright. It’s one of those slow-burns. And it burns from the inside out. It targets your self-confidence and motivation and self-determination ever so gradually until they’re nothing but ashes.
Sound familiar? Don’t worry, friend. I’m here.
Let me help you douse that flame now before it continues to spread. Here are three reasons why you’re not achieving anything right now and what you can do about it.
Why You are Feeling Unproductive Today and What You Can Do About It
1) You are busy doing other less important things
Look, I get it. We’ve all been there. We’ve all said we had an unproductive day. That we weren’t able to accomplish that one thing because we were too busy on other things.
But were you?
Were you really busy with other things? Or suppose you actually were busy, were you too busy on something that’s actually relevant?
Maybe, like me, you were only doing this thing they call procrastination.
Take it from someone who went to the Procrastinators’ School of Making Excuses. There is a difference between being occupied and pretending to be busy. Learn it. Know what signs to look for.
Be self-aware when you start making excuses. Over time, you’ll find it easier to spot them. I noticed that excuses always have a different tone than truth — even those we say in our heads.
What You Can Do:
You’re probably familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix. Where you arrange the tasks you need to do under levels of importance and urgency. This way, you can eliminate a task that is neither important nor urgent. And then you can focus your energy and present time on things that are actually important or urgent. Or both!
2) You’re a perfectionist
It may seem counterintuitive, saying that being a perfectionist is making you unproductive. Like, won’t my perfectionist tendency make me more productive?
I know this because, aside from being a Master Procrastinator, heck I’m a Master Perfectionist too.
When you’re so focused on having everything — and I mean, every tiny detail — perfect, you end up getting fewer tasks done.
See, perfectionism takes up a lot of time by forgetting time. When you’re nitpicking on the small stuff, when you’re putting 120% of your attention on that tiny area in your project, you forget about everything else. Including time. And if you have that special hybrid I call perfection procrastination, you waste time by doing mundane, unimportant tasks. When you should be working on the ones that matter.
What You Can Do:
Give yourself the permission to fail.
Remember: choose finished, not perfect.
Let that sink into your mind. The idea of not succeeding at first try isn’t so bad. What’s important is that you learned from your failures and mistakes. And these lessons will actually help you get closer and closer to success.
3) You’re feeling unproductive because you’re mentally or emotionally stuck. Or both.
Being stuck stems from various causes. Perhaps you’re having a writer’s block. Or experiencing a creative draught. Maybe you just have zero inspiration to write or do anything.
The thing is, a lot of our physical tasks are partly powered by our inner resources. Some even more so than others.
This shouldn’t come off as a surprise anymore. The immediate connection between our physical health and mental wellbeing has been proven in so many studies. Our physical health is as affected by our mental wellbeing as the other way around.
Which means poor mental health can be the cause of physical fatigue. And therefore, you feel unproductive.
In order to do the things you need to do, you must also pay attention to these inner resources–inspiration, motivation, and mental stability, to name a few. Because when we lack or don’t have such resources, we become mentally or emotionally paralyzed. Literally unable to work even when we are physically able to do it.
What You Can Do:
Along with your physical health, take care of your mental and emotional well-being too. Exercising is just as good for your mind as it is for your body. Having a well-rounded healthy lifestyle that takes into consideration your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is imperative — whatever life you may live. Create that balance, yes? BIG YES.
I WANNA HEAR FROM YOU!
Have you got more tips for those who are feeling unproductive? Share your wisdom in the comments below!