Small fish in a Big Pond

Alas, after almost three years, I find myself in the same black hole that I was trying to escape from. There it is again – the feeling of of the familiar, the feeling of being a small fish in a big pond.

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Frozen Lake George in February 2015

Malcom Gladwell posed a very interesting question in his book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” – would you be better off being a small fish in a big pond or big fish in a small pond? We base our judgments based on those in proximity to us. There are times that I catch myself comparing myself and what I’ve accomplished to the people around me, to my colleagues, and my batchmates from college. And this leads to a very poor self-concept and can be very dangerous.

New York City is a very competitive pond that I’ve chosen to swim at and to grow up with. There are questions like, how are they able to get that job, and not me? I have the same abilities (and maybe better skilled), but why didn’t I get that job? Sometimes, I feel very much overwhelmed and pressured (but mostly pressured) to succeed and to get ahead in terms of my career. At this point in my life, I am an underdog, I am an outsider – the only way to get ahead would be to do what the Goliaths of this world refuse to do.

A very wise man once told me that people are different, and so there cannot be agreements in the absolute sense. We’re bombarded with ideas of uniqueness, of setting ourselves apart from the crowd, and of being successful at a very young age. But to what end?

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Lanterns in Lake George

Success, then, depends on how you define it. It can be in monetary terms, or in terms of being able to help others or bringing smiles to the faces of underprivileged. This definition is something that I grapple with – what do I want out of life? What do I want to do in the future? These are questions that I still seek an answer to. These are the questions that I also had three years ago.

I am but a small fish in a big pond called New York City. I am an even smaller fish in the sea of finance, where everyone is aggressive and very much eager to beat the next person. In this journey of transition, I hope that I won’t lose touch with what I hold dear and to not lose sight of what’s more important.

I am a small fish with nothing but my dreams – all I need is an opportunity to translate my potential into something concrete and real. I find hope in the knowledge that better things are yet to come, and that some things are withheld from us since we are better placed in situations where we can grow the most.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape

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Because memories are all I have.

Memories as a form of escape from the present.

Memories, I’ve found out, are two-edged swords. Memories are fragile, yet powerful – powerful enough to either make or break you (the choice always presents itself). Call me sentimental, but I greatly hold on to the memories I have especially the ones I know I could tell to my future kids/grandkids.

Above all, I treasure the memories I’ve made during my travels. Here are some of the fridge magnets and other trinkets I’ve collected since 2012 – some from my adventures and some generously given to me by my close friends. Noteworthy ones include:

  1. Guatemalan worry dolls (bottom left) – You’re supposed your share your worries to these dolls, place them beneath your pillow before you sleep, and they will take your worries away.
  2. Mercedes-Benz 190SL (center, top) – From the fascinating Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
  3. Innsbruck (below Edinburgh Castle) – What I believe is the most magical old town there is.
  4. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (top right) – The geek in me was happy. Amelia Earhart’s bright red Lockheed 5B Vega is on display (it’s the same plane she used to fly nonstop across Atlantic Ocean).
  5. Boston – I instantly fell in love with Boston! Also, it’s the first road trip I had with friends this year. Funny how we spent St. Patty’s Day in this beautiful city…without drinking beer. I remember having lunch in Chinatown instead (we all agreed that Chinese food in Boston tastes much better than Chinese food in NYC).

P.S. I should buy an NYC fridge magnet soon.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in my Life

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There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

A day in my life is characterized by a series of mini ups and downs, of boredom and excitement, of thoughts of the past and the future. The type of work that I do requires a lot of focus and concentration that I barely speak a word with colleagues, albeit unintentionally.

Magis is a Latin word which means “to be more”, “to go beyond the call of duty”. The Jesuits clearly have deeply ingrained their philosophy in me, as magis is something that I strive to incorporate in my daily life.

I’ve read somewhere that goals and positive thinking are much more achievable through repetition and if set into writing. I feel that I need a constant reminder to excel, because I know there is no other option but to do my best in everything that I do.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

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The main entrance to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa

Every one’s biased, that every one’s a little bit racist.

There. I said it. I think most of us can agree with that.

By operating under that assumption, we open ourselves up to different possibilities. Each judgment that we make cannot entirely be bias-free (no matter how hard we try). We view the world using the lenses of our unique backgrounds, experiences, and culture.

However, what we can always do is to see beyond what can be seen by the naked eye. Sure, first impressions last and there is incredible power in the judgments that we make in the blink of an eye. But, there is much more to a person than he or she appears.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

Yes, the second week of 2013 has just closed in and this post’s two weeks due, but let me take this opportunity to reflect about 2012 and to share how I’ve grown this past year. There were a lot of things to be grateful for – even missed chances and missed trains, bitter tears, and failures – and I’m glad to have shared it with people who understood and mattered the most.

The overarching emotion that I had for 2012 was one of excitement, as I braved and welcomed the uncertainty that was What happens after graduation? I knew what I wanted to do but had no concrete plans of achieving that goal. I guess the intrinsic problem was well within me: procrastination and shortsightedness. Being a control freak, I tend to become apprehensive when faced with things that I cannot control.

I guess history has a funny way of repeating itself until you learn from your mistakes. So I learned, little by little, to just let go and let God.  Attempting to control the situation is but a futile, fruitless effort but I can always change my perceptions and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. 2013 is ridden with more uncertainty as I have no idea where I’ll be come February. I know I’m not yet ready to go back home (that’s for sure), but I have faith that wherever I find myself in the future, I know I’ll be at my best and will continue to be the cheerful person that I am.

As Virgil aptly puts it, “Perhaps someday we will look upon these things with joy.” This 2013, let us be bold and take chances.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

IMG_0022bMost likely to run a regression using her Blackberry as a way to calm her nerves before graduation. Now, isn’t that award a wonderful surprise?

I got this award during my class graduation more than a year ago. Really funny how this “superlative” perfectly captures my personality. Just a little backgrounder: when I went to South Africa for a study abroad August 2011, I didn’t bring my own laptop (because I thought the school was near our dorms and that we could use the computer lab anytime) and so I had to write my final paper in MS Word and work on calculating data in MS Excel on my Blackberry. And it also has to do with my being a math major at some point in my life. A few friends and I went skydiving a few months before graduation – I was really scared but I’m glad I’ve done it. Funny, too, that right after we came to back to New York after skydiving in Pennsylvania, I still had the energy to go to a secret show of The Fray over at the Lower East Side.

So, why is this a surprise? Because if I were to look back at my self three or four years ago, there’s just no way that I would’ve or could’ve done what I just mentioned above. My past self was risk-averse and content with the here and now, not thinking of what’s more, of what’s out there.

Indeed, it’s surprising how life works things out and turns things around. If life gives you lemons, squeeze the juice and MAKE LEMONADE out of it.

Here’s to more surprises that life would throw my way, to the lemons that I’ll make lemonade out of, and to the bullets that I am about to dodge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

584Thanksgiving morning in Virginia.

It’s my third Thanksgiving this year but my first time to really celebrate it with family. I was telling my boss that it feels weird to celebrate something that I didn’t grow up with. But I’m really glad I decided to go spend my Thanksgiving break in Virginia.

I woke up to the tune of Christmas songs that beautiful Thanksgiving morning. Then my cousin and I went out to hear Mass, shopped a little bit, and then had Thanksgiving dinner with my aunt and uncle – it did feel like Christmas the way we celebrate it back home in the Philippines.

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Christmas is really in the air. Oh, how I miss Manila.

Special Photo Challenge: Inspiration

Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody – no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.

~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

Blyde River Canyon in South Africa

I am a firm believer in the old adage, “There’s a reason for everything.”

I started this blog almost five months ago because I felt I needed to divert my energies away from my job search from time to time. You see, there was this emptiness growing inside of me back then. I questioned my capabilities to the point that I even doubted my future. What have I been doing with my life? For chrissakes, I was already 23 but it felt as if I was fresh from college, with no relevant work experience to back up my achievements. It was a dark and lonely road, but now I completely understand why I had to take that road. Whenever I blog and scan the pictures I take from all my travels, I feel a certain kind of peace and awe and happiness – that I have the potential to be who I want to be, to accomplish what I set my mind to.

Right now, I feel so happy and blessed. Thank You.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

You’re not fully dressed, they say, without your smile.

It’s funny how just one person’s smile could light up a whole room. Or how the joint movement of those 17 facial muscles could uplift someone’s mood and change your perception of things and circumstances. I am not really into taking photographs of people, as you might notice from my regular blog posts. But the first thing that came to mind when I think of renewal is smile. This photo I’ve taken of my friend’s niece perfectly captures this idea – there’s that sparkle in her eyes and the innocence that comes with youth.

Smile more, people! 🙂

 

Up, up and away!

Flying is definitely one of the best sensations in the world. And the best view, I think, is the sea of unassuming puffy, white clouds against a blue backdrop.

2012 has been really good to me. It’s just October and so far, I’ve been to 12 flights:

  • Dec 31/Jan1: NYC to Beijing; Beijing to Manila
  • Feb: Manila to Singapore; Singapore to Manila
  • Feb: Manila to Tagbilaran City; Tagbilaran City to Manila
  • Feb: Manila to Beijing; Beijing to NYC
  • Apr: NYC to Zurich; Zurich to NYC
  • Aug: NYC to Chicago; Chicago to NYC

Funny that in 10 out of those 12 flights, I was completely on my own. And I really don’t mind traveling alone. In fact, in a weird sort of way (that many people might not completely understand), I actually enjoy it. I appreciate that I get to think things through and evaluate my life and the choices I’ve made.

In my flight from NYC to Beijing, I was seated beside a Chinese tattoo artist who works in Chinatown. He showed me samples of his work and what an artist he really was! Beijing to Manila was unforgettable – I arrived in Manila thirty minutes after New Year, and seeing Manila and its flickering lights, with my family at the airport patiently waiting for me, was such a wonder to behold.

My trip to Singapore was also unforgettable. I remember booking my trip six months in advance, overly excited to visit some good friends I haven’t seen in years. I was supposed to make a detour to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be – my passport was forcibly destroyed and I had to cut my trip short and go home, apply for another passport if I wanted to go back to NYC. The trip to Tagbilaran City and Panglao was really awesome, as I got to be on a vacation with my block mates from college. Oh, I could still feel the fine, white sand in my bare toes and the heat of the sun giving me a glorious tan. On the other hand, the trip to Beijing then to NYC was something that I truly despise. NAIA Terminal 1 clearly is one of the worst airports I’ve been to (Kyiv airport takes the number one spot) – and I hope it gets renovated in the coming years. However, I’m still thankful for the safe and uneventful flight and for being able to try Air China for once.

I’ve always held my flight from NYC to Zurich very close to my heart, just because Switzerland for me is the most beautiful country there is. I recall missing the check-in luggage deadline, that’s why I had to give away the liquids and toiletries I had in my luggage back then. Zurich to NYC was such a sweet sorrow, for I had to say goodbye to Switzerland while I looked forward to my graduation a week after I came back to NYC. Lastly, I went to Chicago last August to attend my roommate’s second (yes, second!) wedding and to meet up with a good friend of mine. It’s really awesome to be friends with a flight attendant! Haha.

I look forward to being at the airport and the plane again, anxious to board my flight and to embark on another adventure. No matter where I am or where I’ll be or who I’ll become, I’ll always be that same girl who took the first step of traveling halfway around the world to study again, to explore what’s out there, to make her dreams a reality.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine

Aww. They’re one of the things I miss in Manila. I miss giving these puppies a bath and drying them until they’re all fluffy again. Most of all, I miss playing and running with them! 🙂 I’m really happy to see them again whenever I go on Skype with my family. Seeing them bark, albeit happily, and having that faint recognition of my voice? PRICELESS.

Aren’t they the cutest? 🙂 Now, time to watch the Presidential Debate on TV!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

SOLITARY. It’s something we all share at some point in our lives.

Being solitary, however, plays a very important role in my life. I’m neither outspoken nor outgoing; I’m reflective and I’m more of a thinker. Above all, I treasure every moment that I am preoccupied with my thoughts. I love taking long walks and taking in the beauty of everything I see. It’s surprising that despite its hustle and bustle, New York City has a lot of parks and museums that I could just go to whenever I want to be alone.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

I’d like to share with you this picture of Coney Island boardwalk – a place that only lives on the memories of summer. Have you read the book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom? When I first laid my eyes on Coney Island’s boardwalk and Brighton Beach, the first thing that came to mind was the setting of the first few chapters of that wonderful book.

Thought that the photo looks better in sepia, thus giving a glimpse of the old charm that the place is known for.