Life Lately is a Long List

Life lately is a long list.

The list is made up of things to do, to remember, to start, to finish; things that seem eternally in progress. On most days, I can only tick off a few items out of the lengthy roll.

It’s the important things we often forget to put down. They get pushed out by misleadingly pressing items – your grocery list, bills to pay, broken appliances that need fixing, chores, errands, and a train of things you dread doing. The mundane but unavoidable tasks exhaust brain space and patience. They easily win a spot on your list. But not the essentials.

We rely on the idea that the important things, those critical for survival and integral to our existence, are naturally remembered. Like breathing. Having a meal. Taking a dump. Or even having your morning coffee. It would be crazy to forget anything so simple and necessary. And yet we do.

Over time some of the significant stuff gets overlooked.

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First, it’s the non-essential essentials that go. The things that can wait once a deadline looms ahead or when a financial responsibility stands over your shoulder.

Play. Daydreaming. Listening to your favorite song. Your sport. Writing in your journal. Calling up an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Stargazing, cloud watching, or sun spying. A strong drink at the end of a long day. Whatever gives you a refreshing time out.

Anything that can wait another day will wait another day. (And another, and another…Who needs fresh air, right?)

Once those are edged out of your schedule, the pressure begins to cook.

To focus on just one thing at a time soon becomes a luxury that you mock. You decide that multitasking your way through the day works just fine.

Then it’s the non-negotiables that are neglected.

You shave an hour off your daily log of sleep. You barely sit down to enjoy a meal. Everything is eaten on the go, or in between one thing and another. An hour does not exist without glancing at a gadget, screen or checking one of your five active social media accounts. You drop your weekend hobby. You forget about quiet time. You never have a conversation that doesn’t have an agenda, a list of tangible outcomes, or a connected social media post. You forget to pray.

Then we’re at a rolling boil.

You shave two to three hours off your daily log of sleep. You replace each hour with a shot of espresso, or two. Or with your poison of choice.

The invisible, but fundamentally important, list grows longer, (who needs sleep, proper meals and long showers anyway?) and you remain fixated on your list of things to do.

You wonder why the to-do list never runs out, and feel certain that the solar system has been taunting you by shortening the days. coffee to do 2

It’s the trivial things that we usually put first on the list and dare not to overlook. The more difficult items stay a while, because it takes us so long to get to them. The meaningful items are compelled into the list when friends call us out on abandoning the pack, when we’ve forgotten a birthday (even with the help of Facebook notifications or your Google calendar), or when we chance upon the list of dreams we wrote in adolescence (read: must achieve this before 30, or 40 or 50 years of age!)

Now maybe you don’t keep a written list of anything. Not a calendar. Not an agenda. No to do list in sight. No reminders. And yes, I may write in exaggerated theory. But take a look at your busy day, and I’m almost certain you will find that there is something wobbling dangerously close to the edge. A friendship. A childhood dream. An unpaid bill.

There are threads in your life that will naturally fray and come loose. But there are also threads that we must fight to keep in the loom, threads that we must keep untangled, and weave in with the rest.

Time to rewrite my to-do list. How’s yours?

California: Five Things That Inspired During this Vacation

On the first day, I couldn’t even remember what it was supposed to feel like.

Slow mornings. No pressure to look at my inbox. A completely reconstructed to-do list (containing names of people to see and coffee shops to visit). Vacation.

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I’ve been wanting to plan a creative sabbatical, a clean and generous slice of time just for my art. I’ve been dreaming of one for over a year now. My normal life schedule is full, one thing rolling into another, mornings of Paper Project spreadsheets into a train of Plana Forma classes to teach until closing time. Weekends for the kids of Buhay Makulay. The best I could do was an hour or two of ink drawing on the rare free Saturday.

But thanks to friends being wed, a vacation was set, and I think the creative sabbatical found me.

Here are five things that have been inspiring me creatively while on this trip:

1. Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate.
Flying Goat Coffee. Melange Market. Peet’s Coffee. Saint Frank Coffee. Coupa Cafe. Cafe by the Green Library. Alegio. Beacon Coffee and Pantry. Philz Coffee. Sightglass Coffee. Réveille Coffee Co. Station. Blue Bottle Coffee. And everything homemade in between. Yes, there’s been a lot of coffee shop time!

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2. Wandering.
Magical moments come to you when you don’t try to look for them.

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3. Being a student in a class, not a teacher.
It’s good to take a break from teaching – good for the soul, healthy for the ego.

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4. Old friends / new friends.
Reconnecting with friends from years ago and dreams ago, help re-ignite dreams on pause. New friends remind you how much of the world you forgot you were longing to meet. I’ve had a great balance of both.

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5. Different views, different air.
Sorry, Manila, I love you dearly, but a break from your stoplights, standstill traffic, scary swervers, humidity and heavy pollution was much needed for a short bit of time.

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Hello, California. You’ve been good to me. And you’ve been good to my friends. Thank you for giving me room to be.

C is for Coffee

My brain hasn’t taken a break since 8 am today. Even if it’s tried.

I blame it on the caramel macchiato that I started my day with. I haven’t been so relieved to find a Starbucks open on a weekend in an office building. I was running low on sleep, after a busy week and I did something out of character: kickstarted my day with a generous helping of iced coffee.

Har har har. Joke’s on you girl because twelve hours later your brain is still raring to go, but at the same time, blindly seeking the likings of a pause button. Or a break pedal. Or an open field with wild flowers to run my energy off, and cold, soft grass on which to crumple with relief.

Let’s just say I don’t do coffee. In the past it has, for me, only resulted in heart palpitations, feelings similar to that of a panic attack, or lost hours of sleep. I love everything coffee flavored. I love everything coffee scented. It’s coffee that I can quite manage in heavy proportions. Even if it’s poured over ice and drowned in milk. Heck, I can get an energy kick out of a bead of chocolate. Or a drizzle of caramel. Or a glass of water. Or a smile. Seriously.

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Thus, even if I want le brain to stop. It just keeps going.

Which was probably a great thing today. Saturday was non-profit work day! 🙂

From 2006 to 2008, I studied at an incredible school called  the United World College Costa Rica. Those two years changed me. Changed my life. UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. The network is global, as each campus has about 200 students each year, representing more than 100 countries. The exciting part is that the real UWC experience happens after graduation. I have not stopped being surprised with how the movement continues to challenge me, as well as open doors. Not to mention, some of the most interesting and talented people I know, I’ve met through UWC, even in the years since graduation.

Today I worked with the UWC Philippines National Committee, helping facilitate the selection of two new young scholars to be sent out to international campuses. What an exciting process! This being my first year home since I was selected myself, I loved meeting the candidates and connecting with other members of our committee. I helped facilitate round table discussions on loaded debate topics while the formal interviews went on. I had so much fun (especially since I purposefully played devil’s advocate) that I would love to organize conversations like this just for the pure joy of the experience. Conversations like this were a norm at UWC, often without prompting. Would you give cash to the poor to reduce poverty? Should prostitution be legalized? Is bribery sometimes acceptable? Should developing nations place restrictions on rural-urban migration? 

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The second highlight of my day, which took the late afternoon and early evening, was meeting with the Board of Directors of my non-profit organization, the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project. It’s been a long time coming, and I finally had this key meeting. And just like my brain has been foreshadowing all day, I am now raring to go. Might I remind you that I moved back home because I wanted to focus on Buhay Makulay? Wait and see, wait and see. And pray for me. Big changes are brewing, and you can be a part of this story too.

In the meantime, hydrate.

More soon,

T