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Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
I just turned 32 last week!
And yes, I ended it with the right punctuation mark ;)

Most people dread the idea of growing a year older especially when they're in their thirties. People tend to expect a lot from us when we are at this stage in life - a stable career, a growing bank account, an accumulating list of properties, a growing family, a 'life well lived' in general. I guess this is why most of us feel a certain weight on our shoulders and completely forget how beautiful it is to add another year in our lives. These growing sense of expectations from both people we know and do not know have somehow diverted our idea of celebrating our birthday and I feel that it's making us miss a lot.

I admit that I somehow felt pressured the moment I turned 30. It felt like I had a timeline to catch or a template to strictly follow because in a time where cancel culture and instant result prevails, to fail is to be embarrassed, to pause is absurd. But at the end of the day, after a lot of heartbreaks and life lessons, I realized that I didn't owe people anything and that I didn't have to chase the standards of this puzzling world to keep up to say that I'm doing well and that I'm on the right track.

Around the same time last year, I've written a birthday blog entry here. I shared a bit about my growth pains and realizations and it's always nice to go back to it because it reminds me how much I've changed and how things have progressed as days went by. In one of my conversations with my husband a few days before the year 2020 ended, the anxious amy in me expressed my unexplained 'fear' with the idea of turning 32. Some may call it the Peter Pan complex, but it somehow felt overwhelming to realize that another unit will be added to my age. But as I laid down the things "I have not achieved yet", he reminded me of the things "God allowed me to achieve" in the past 10 years, from when I was 22 to this very date. That whole conversation during our drive made me realize how God really works in our lives and how much we worry over the unknown only to be blown away with the small but meaningful victories we were able to pull through if only we take a step back and count our blessings.

You may be in your early 20s or in the same age as I am, and you're probably at a certain stage in your life where you will at one point somehow feel or have felt 'inadequate' or 'unsure' of where you are in your life, I hope that in my own little way, I get to share a sense of encouragement to you! 

I wish to look back a bit and share 10 things I've learned over the past 10 years:

1. Don't be ashamed of the fact that you're starting from the bottom
Me at 22.
Taken during a Kenneth Cobonpue event
that I attended for our magazine.

I graduated BS Interior Design at the age of 21. Honestly even before I graduated I knew already that the life in a design studio wasn't the path that I wanted to take. I was inspired by Anne Hathaway's character from Devil Wears Prada, her energy and her hard work made me want to be in her shoes so bad. But more than the Hollywood reference, I have really always wanted to work for a Publishing company focusing on Design. I wanted to learn outside my comfort zone, I wanted to see what's beyond the design terms and styles that was taught to me in school. This dream all started when my godmother started sending me copies of House Beautiful, Elle DecorVogue Living and Country Living to keep me fed and updated with Interior Design inspirations while I was in college. It surely helped me a lot, Pinterest was not in the market at that time yet so we really had to go through all the motions of research just to be updated and fed with design tips. I found myself reading through the articles, appreciating the layouts and the curation of pages, and I started to see myself becoming a part of a team that produces these things for people to love, to enjoy, and to learn from.

So when the offer came in to me to Intern for a local design and travel magazine, I grabbed it. That's when I realized that the glamorous life movies portrayed about the publishing world was not even close to the actual life behind the glossy pages, event and product launches, and the advertisements. It took a lot of hard work, sleepless nights of editing, long days of shoots, and a whole lot of self-doubt and heartaches from the people who dedicated their lives to produce one beautiful and seamless issue. I was later on absorbed as an Editorial Assistant where I was in charge of coordinating shoot schedules, assisting our photographers and writers, organizing article assignments, content research, writing articles myself, and styling shoots. I was able to meet the designers that I've admired while I was in school and get to know and become a fan of those I still have not known about.

I loved the job, I loved the people I worked with because they trusted me and made me fully involved in every process, I loved the magazine, but I certainly did not love my paycheck. Looking back, I couldn't even remember how I survived financially! I was told that If I was wise enough and chose to go with another job, I would have saved up a lot. But honestly, would I? There were a lot of times where I told myself if it was still worth it, if I should just quit and choose to live the safer and more steady route. I've had a lot of dialogues with myself during long commutes and lull times. But each and every single time the freshly printed copy of a new issue landed in my hands, I get reminded of the pure reason why I even decided to start - I loved it, I wanted to do the work, I knew that I could be useful and I could also grow in return. It built my creativity in the same way that it built my character.
My first major feature was to research
and produce a feature on 100 chairs from
designers all over the world.
I truly enjoyed working on this one
as I was able to speak to different people
across the globe, that to me was amazing!

I did not design, I did not draw, I did not call the shots - but in those two years with the magazine as an Editorial Assistant, I've learned a whole lot about design, building working relationships with different types of people from different walks of life, forming a familial bond with my team, discovering new skills, and most importantly, absorbing the value of humility, hard work and passion.

2. Don't be scared to admit your mistakes, own up to the consequences, and move forward
If you're a regular reader, you'd know my fear of failure and committing mistakes. Being the people pleaser that I am, I was always scared of disappointing people - my parents, my friends, my workmates. I wanted to always be the best version of myself. But the more I tried so hard, the more I made mistakes, the more I hurt people and myself in the process.

It was only at the later parts of my 30th year when I realized that there really is nothing wrong with admitting that we've committed errors. It's probably a bit to late for me as some have already discovered this early on, but it is indeed a process. Admitting that you're wrong takes a lot of humility, but it is also liberating for the heart, mind, and soul. By admitting your mistake, you are able to move forward to the next step - either to make amends with the person you wronged, process the errors and do damage control if it's work related, and eventually move on from it.

Mistakes will always have consequences, and that's another bitter pill to swallow. But in the process of admitting our mistakes, we are also able to forgive ourselves and truly understand the reality that our previous actions or decisions have also greatly affected another party or another process of a job. So in the process of owning up to the consequence, let's not be too hard on ourselves and focus on how we could improve ourselves so that we can avoid committing the same errors again.

I have realized that admitting our mistakes is not a form of defeat, it's a process of growth and development.

3. You need to do it and give it your all before you say that it's really not for you or you're not cut out for it
I'm blessed with parents who have not strongly imposed what they wanted me to do in my career. They have always been present to listen, to guide, to correct, to boost me up, but they have never forced me. I guess this is also one of the reasons why I didn't want to fail, I dreaded the idea of making them feel that they made a huge mistake by trusting me and giving me the liberty to decide on which path to take. But one of the only requests that my Dad told me before taking my publishing job was to take the licensure exams, he said that by acquiring this, I wouldn't really have to worry because I will always have a strong support if in any case my publishing job does not go well.

Long story short, I've avoided taking the board exam for two years. It wasn't because I didn't want to, but because I was scared. I kept telling myself and my parents that I didn't see myself in a design firm or spending long hours designing. But honestly that wasn't the case, I just didn't want to face the idea of failing the exam and embarrassing my family, my school, and my mentors. But sometime in the middle of my publishing stint, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with my mom and expressed to her how lost I felt in my career and if I was still doing the right thing. After a bucketful of tears and prayers, my mom suggested for me to take a break and re-evaluate what I want to do next with my career and I will not forget this line: "Whatever it is you decide to do, and whatever happens, we will always love you and support you. We are you biggest fans."
It was the assurance that I needed and at the same time it became a fuel to challenge me to try. Few months after that talk and a whole lot of seeking the Lord in prayer and reading His Word, I found myself in a studio apartment just around the corner from my review school. Inspired by the story of Gideon in the Bible, I learned that God is the one who enables, even the most timid heart and soul. I realized that it wasn't through my abilities or strength alone and that in our fear, God encourages us to face the challenge head on and trust His work in and through us.
The 6-month period of living away from my family for the first time to focus on studying allowed me to learn the art of disciplining myself. The more I stayed in the review center, the more I realized that there were a lot of things I did not know. The more I knew this, the more I feared. But in my fear, God has also enabled me to do my best and give everything to what I was doing. I was physically alone, but the love, support, and encouragement from the people who cared and prayed for me became the anchor that I needed to keep going.

By God's grace, I passed the board exams in one try and became a licensed Interior Designer. The rest of the things followed through after that, I decided to try working for a Design Studio and got mentored by someone I truly looked up to in the Design Industry and eventually found my place in Interior Design. I realized that it was also a process that I needed to go through and face head on in order to grow as a person and as a young professional. I never saw myself teaching in University as a Design Lecturer but lo and behold, I became one and loved every single bit of the experience.

Looking back at the things that went on in my life for the past ten years, I realized that each and every single time I said I could not do it, the Lord will actually allowed me to be in a situation where I had to face the tide and keep trusting Him. And right now as I write this, I now see that I had to do things outside my comfort zone because I will be able to use it in the next stages of my life.

Never say never indeed. You need to have faith.

4. They don't always have to like or love you
Growing up, I was never the popular kid. I was impulsive, expressive, too outspoken for my own good. I was always misunderstood for the way I spoke and acted. I was labeled the strangest things and have experience being called different kinds of names. As a teenager, I didn't understand it and I wanted to be accepted so bad. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be "liked".

But as I grew older, especially now that I'm in my thirties, I learned to love the small circle of friends that I have. I realized that I didn't need to be liked or accepted by everyone because the more I tried to please, the more I lost myself and who I really was. Of course, in the process of growth I have learned to be selective of the things that I say or express, I became more tactful and at the same time become more aware of my actions and be quick to respond and correct it if needed.

This goes the same with my teaching and work relationships. Instead of trying so hard to please and chase people, I realized that it's more important to pursue self-awareness, kindness, compassion, and intentionality. The right people will see this, appreciate this, and value this. But remember that they don't always have to verbally express this for you to keep going.

5. Whichever age you are in, listen to your parents or well-trusted mentors as they are appointed in your life to guide you
Let's face it, we all went through a phase in our lives where we felt that we didn't need to be "told" by our parents anymore. Especially when we start working, earning money, and establish a life of our own. I am surely guilty of this.

But no matter how much I've avoided asking for help, seeking for advice, or simply running to them when I have nobody else to run to when I feel like crying, I still come back to the arms of my mom and dad. I still seek for the counsel of my trusted spiritual mentors, I still yearn for wise advise and guidance. That's just how it works, we're never designed to be alone. There will always come a time, no matter how old or seemingly successful we get, that we'd need to rely on someone and simply take a step back to ask for help or simply lend us their ears.

6. Live within your means
When you start earning or whenever you get a pay upgrade, the first thing you'll think about is to treat yourself for a job well done. I've been a victim of this especially when I was just starting out! I would always find myself in a clothing store after getting my pay, I'd treat myself and other people to meals and coffee even when I know that I still have to consider my daily expenses afterward. I didn't live within my means and was not able to save up earlier than I should.

So I'm writing this down to remind those who are younger than me, to save up and invest for your future. I have only learned how to invest my money and make it grow when I married my husband. It was only when I experienced some hard times when I realized the importance of 'saving up for rainy days'. But I'm not only asking you to live within your means to save up for the future, I'm also laying this reality on the table because I have experience the pressure to keep up with the people of my age: Rent a place higher than my means just to show people that I'm succeeding, purchase the latest gadget, keep updating my wardrobe so that people won't think of me as someone who's lacking for my age, and a whole lot more. More than anything, it was psychologically draining to keep up.

So live within your means, and be proud of it. Be proud of living the simple life, be proud of being able to maintain a 4-year old gadget, be proud of having good quality clothing for years, be proud of yourself and how much you're making no matter how small or big it is in the eyes of people.

7. Accept criticisms, accept it well and don't take it to heart
I've always been 'pikon'-it's a Filipino term for someone who gets easily offended or irate over small jokes or snark remarks. As a creative, you don't like people criticizing your work and whenever you hear it, it always feel a bit personal. But I realized through the past few years of working in different arms of the creative design industry that, criticisms will always be present, people will always have something to say about your work or you as a person - it will never stop. 

So imagine if you always let those consume you, what will remain of your being? I've learned to accept that we all have different tastes, different opinions, different ways of dealing with certain topics or situations. My current mentor at work would occasionally remind me about this truth: If you let it get to you and if you take it personally, you'll be the one left defeated because the person who criticized you more or less do not even care about how you feel.

There are two things to take from this: One is that, people criticize for the sake of. They could either be critical by nature, or they could purely be one of those who dislike you or Two, the criticisms could make you re-evaluate yourself or your work and find ways to improve it and help you grow. I wish to take number two with me, because at the end of the day I cannot do anything if critics do not like me or my work but I can do something to be better.

8. You're not always right, you're not the first one to know, growth is not a competition
When I was younger, I'd always get irritated whenever I notice someone getting into the same things as I did. It felt like they were copying my style. Writing that irritates the heck out of me now. I don't even know why I thought that way instead of using that as a leverage to create a community for people of the same interests and grow together. I was this naïve young lady thinking that I was the first one to get into a certain hobby or style in design and art. I regret being that girl.

And so I wish to tell you this truth, you won't be the first who thought of an idea. You could be the first to think about it in a certain process, but the whole picture will amount to almost the same idea as other people's. And this is okay, this is normal, this is a way for you to evaluate the key points of your common things and see how you can further develop in in your own language or style.

Creativity and growth is not a competition. You can be as old as I am, younger than me, or older, but it's never to late to try if and when your heart desires to do it. You want to practice calligraphy? Do it. You want to paint in watercolor? By all means, create and practice daily. You want to start blogging? Start it and stop worrying about the rest of the details because it will come along as you progress.

You're not always right, you're not always going to be the first one to do it, but do it. Do it because you're curious, because you love and enjoy it. Do it for your growth and development, support the people who are doing the same thing as you, admire those who are already at their peak, never complicate things by competing and overthinking.

9. People will outgrow you and so will you
But that doesn't mean that you'll stop caring for them and loving them. Outgrowing does not always mean a complete stop to a relationship. It simply tells us that it's time to be with people who share the same values and goals as us at that given time and moment. I've always been so hard on myself every time I feel that a friend is drifting away or have shown signs of disinterest in my company, but as I grew older and experienced outgrowing as well, I realized that it wasn't just the right time and place for us. We need to give people space, a room for them to grow and explore their abilities and strengthen their connection with other people.

Of course outgrowing could also mean putting a complete stop to a friendship or a hobby. It could be because it isn't helping your growth anymore or it's pulling you elsewhere, far from what you envision. This is the painful part of outgrowing and I've learned to accept this hard truth now. The challenge for you, who have been outgrown, is to remain constant and caring and to learn that it's part of life and adulthood. I also have realized that I've outgrown a couple of people and things, not because I hate them or found them disinteresting, but more of my desire to discover things on my own, open up to other people and possibilities, and simply grow outside my comfort zone.

People will definitely outgrow you, and it's fine, don't be too hard on yourself. In the same way, you will outgrow some people too, but don't be harsh, don't close off your doors or burn bridges, you will at one point in your life meet again and might need to build each other up or simply catch up to inspire each other.

10. Give yourself time to grow. Read, Meditate, Pray, always, anywhere, anytime
People will disappoint and hurt us, at one point or the other. Also, there are some things in our lives that cannot be solved by others. This is why it's always important to ground ourselves with our spirituality and know that we are not alone in every step of life. I encourage to pray, pray when you're happy, pray when you're sad, pray when you're lost, pray for people. I admit that I'm late in the game of daily Bible reading and I still have a lot of things to learn, it's actually one of my goals this year. But in the past 10 years, through highs and lows, prayer has been my source of solace, of comfort. I get to express myself in the truest form, I get to say what I couldn't say to others, I get to be myself in the confines of my personal space. 

I am still growing, and these 10 things are just small things that I've enumerated but they mean a lot to me as I grew older through the years. I know that there is so much more for me to learn, discover, and accept about myself, the people around me, and the events that take place. But if I can put a theme or word to reflect my life, it would be HOPE. I always will cling to the joy of Hoping. Without hope we will falter, we will lose our core. Without hope it will be hard to surpass the dark days and be able to rise over the challenges, without hope, life is nothing but a meaningless journey.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

To comemorate my 32d and document it, I'm sharing with you some snippets from my birthday this year:
Immediately went out of my room to pray and enjoy the sunlight. I realized I've gained a lot of weight since 22, I've also aged, but I'm learning to accept this and love it nevertheless!
Had brunch with my husband in one of my favorite restaurants in Tagaytay.
Enjoyed a cup of coffee at this new cafe called Ruined Project?. The view and the breeze was beautiful and comforting.
Stopped by at a local furniture maker's shop to have our Dining Table made. The owner was so accommodating and lovely, she also gave me a bit of a background about them as craftsmen which was nice.
One of my high school bestfriends, Patty surprised me with a pre-birthday meal. The food was prepared by her lovely sister, Claudine who is a talented chef running Spice Grounds Siargao
A dear brother and good friend baked me the cookies that I loved so much when he first gifted it
Our dear friend and spiritual mentor sent us a tasty meal to enjoy with the rest of the family
Had a simple celebration at home with my family and shared mom's handpicked cake for me
One of the things that made me cry are the simple but meaningful gestures of people around me. I wasn't really expecting this much but it is indeed an amazing feeling to be able to know that dear friends and family will go out of their way to appreciate you. 
My high school bestfriend, Nari and I caught up via video call and just updated each other about the recent events in our lives. She sent me this photo as it snowed heavily in Seoul during my birthday. It was magical to say the least!
The day after I went to work and got surprised by my workmates with a simple meal that we shared and this witty cake
My in-laws cooked a meal for the whole family to share together and this cake was just too pretty. My 4-year old niece loved it so much that she didn't want to have it cut out just yet ;)

I was able to celebrate my birthday this year with so much gratitude, knowing that God has been faithful and good. I know that I do not deserve these things and yet they are given for me to experience and appreciate. It felt a bit overwhelming to receive calls from dear people just to greet me, get a care meal from friends, and just have my family around me. I cannot really ask for more, the people I have around me are enough for me to go through life and face it head on.

I do not exactly know how much time I have left in this lifetime, and I want to treasure each and every moment of it. I hope that in the process of doing so, I can extend the experience and learnings to you, and hopefully get to inspire you a bit too. I hope that no matter how tough life may get, we'll both remember to rejoice and cling onto the unending hope that the Lord gives.

I hope you're all having a good month so far, if not, I wish to send you my virtual hugs and support.

Wishing you love, joy, understanding, peace of mind, and a Happy Heyday!



  1. THIS IS AMAZING!! It's like I'm reading a page of your diary. I agree, being in your early twenties or early thirties --- it's just so burdensome with all the expectations to have a life well lived as you said. So personal, raw, and honest. I loved your highlighted lessons too. Indeed, growth isn't a competition and you shouldn't be scared to own your mistakes. Really loved this! I'd love to subscribe! I feel like this should be read by more!

    1. I'm glad that this resonated with you, Monique. It's really comforting to know and hear about how each one of us are feeling the same thing and sharing the same thoughts, it makes everything lighter knowing that the burden is not carried by one and that we have a choice to go through it together as a community who supports each other ;)

      I'm happy to have you here, it's great meeting you! Let's keep in touch!


  2. Happy belated birthday! I'm close to my 30s and dread the idea of it because like you said there is that pressure to have your ish together and I'm not there yet. From what I heard from my friends and family your 20s is about figuring your stuff and your 30s are embracing your life. I hope that true for me. ♥

    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for the greeting! Although the idea of the 30s could be a bit intimidating for us, I would say that acceptance comes in once you're wearing the shoes already. It's the age where we'll eventually learn to let go of some things and embrace others as well. You won't be alone in the process, I'm here and so is the rest of us! ;)

      Hanna / Heydays With Hanna


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