I remember welcoming 2014 and having no idea at all what that year would hold for me. I was eight months into my first year off college and that one decision has changed my life and transformed me in ways I never thought it could. My heart aches from happiness when I remember those days. It’s only been more than a year since but I remember that Chiara — eighteen, a fierce daydreamer. I spent many days locked in my room just planning and daydreaming endlessly — dreams of traveling the world and supporting my wanderlust through photography and writing. I’d pray at night and cry a lot when I was alone because I was grateful for many things (for life, for all the blessings, all the good decisions I made for myself, for the adventures everyday, for all the people I love who love me back, for my God, for art, for all my passion) but at the same time it felt like nothing made sense a lot of times and the truth was, behind all the courage and the positivity, I was really afraid more than anything. Although my thoughts and dreams were all over the place and I had no defined direction in life, my head and heart always perched far into the future, I found so much light and love everywhere, adventuring my way through each day and I have never loved life more than I did starting then.
The first few months of 2014 was different. I felt like a different me by then. Somewhere along the way my pathway became clearer and I finally had the guts and the grit to say I know who I am, what I want and where I want to go and I’m going to get there. No matter what it takes. I had very little insight on how but I told myself ‘it’s okay, I will let this year unfold by itself.’ And it did. I bought a camera on January and the entire year was filled with a whirlwind of shoots, events, travels, scenes, good conversations, yummy food, new friends-turned-family, family-turned-friends. Love and passion was everywhere and I took every opportunity to grab anything with even a single hint of it.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned (of a life without plans) and too soon after heading back home from a month long trip across Australia and New Zealand I found myself back in a college campus. My parents enrolled me for a Multimedia Arts course in an art school up north (we all know it here in Manila as De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, School of Design and Arts) with all hopes in the world that things will work out between college and I. I’m not going to lie — it all felt so familiar to me — of scheduled classes and being surrounded by hilarious, talented peers my age. I remember feeling excited to be around my crazy friends on lunch breaks and enjoying the ease of learning from a teacher after a year of self-learning. I loved my Math class and the never ending Algebra equations we had to solve. But I think I just really adored our pretend-terror professor most whom I always teased from time to time but hated my Jose Rizal class and wondered how I’ll ever get to use all that stock knowledge in real life. Every day before leaving school, I’d sit on one of the stools by the lobby and watch all the students coming in and out. I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of youths studying here, millions more across the world, working their hardest to prove themselves worthy of well dones and passing scores. And then I think, no matter what, all these people will have a place in this world. A special purpose of their own. And that makes me feel less frustrated at how society was established and more hopeful about everything settling down in time, like puzzle pieces that eventually fill each others’ empty sides to build a whole, pretty picture.
Seven days into formal college and feeling utterly uninspired, I dropped out again. Of course most people in my life are fazed about my decisions but I guess deep down we all knew that was going to be short-lived. No matter what, I have to be true to myself and what I think is right if I’m going to be truly, wholly happy and fulfilled. So I enrolled myself in a professional photography course.
Finally. It all feels right. I’m back to school, respecting my parents’ requests, and at the same time doing what I am most passionate about. That phase of my life was nice — learning about photography with and from people who love what I love, sharing fueling discussions about the beauty of documenting life through photographs and ah, those cold afternoons in the dark room watching shadows and shades of gray appear on our photo papers submerged in D76. Whenever I was off school and not shooting for projects or personal creative shoots, I was off to dinner dates and sleepovers with people that I love, running endless errands or spending some time in the ministry, staying in and coloring photographs and dreaming some more all whilst still in my pajamas. That was how my life was from May to December.
I can’t quite explain it but I know that there is so much more beyond school. School makes me feel productive but not fulfilled. How do I explain it? Perhaps a basketball would be a good illustration — all fat and full on the outside but really just all air and hallow in the inside. It’s that feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day, but for doing things that don’t really make my heart full. It’s all complicated, and it won’t make sense for everybody, but it’s what I feel is best and so I made up my mind to leave, and this time, for good.
I guess if I can give 2014 any general theme, it was about letting dreams settle in my heart. I’ve been more lax than I should have been last year, for good reasons, yes, but this year is all about making things happen.
This year my life starts. And it all starts with thirty goals to live by.
• Finish what you start.
• Don’t be sluggish. Work quick but with quality.
• Stop postponing and chasing after to-dos because you allow them to build up. Tick them off as soon as you can.
• Make better, more conscious decisions for yourself.
• Reflect on the life you are living constantly. Transform and grow unendingly.
• Exhale all the negative thoughts, inhale the good.
• Stop hating on habits and routines, establish them.
• And yes, that includes your diet. Choose to eat healthy and be healthy to live a longer, more fruitful life.
• Drink more water.
• Have an active lifestyle. Exercise, cycle, dance like crazy to good vibes music.
• Sleep earlier, rise earlier.
• Look good and feel good. Let goodness and positivity radiate from inside out.
• Spend less time on the internet.
• Focus less on inspiring. Rather, be inspired. (Watch more movies, read more books, listen to music that make your soul feel alive.)
• You stopped caring about what other people have to say a long time ago. Carry on. Know when it’s constructive criticism or just pure judgement. Learn from what will help you improve, shrug everything else off. Prove them wrong, and use all the negativity as motivation.
• Work work work. Always out of love! But also save money. (Because face it, you need the moolah if you want to travel the world, too.)
• Know when to rest. But don’t overdo it either.
• Connect with all sorts of people — with like-minded creatives especially.
• Strengthen your bonds with the people who have stayed all these years. Give love to those whom you love even more.
• Share as much as you can.
• Bring your camera wherever you are as much as possible.
• Shoot constantly. Shoot at least one personal creative shoot or short film a month, just for yourself.
• Print your photographs. Hang them on the wall or give them away.
• Wander. A lot. Way more than you think you can.
• Constantly get rid of things that you don’t need. Leave only the essentials.
• Never stop learning something new. Push yourself beyond your limits and do things that scare you. Every single day.
• Those goals and dreams that you have — you know and believe in them. Now make them happen.
• Love yourself deeply and intensely. No one else will do that job for you.
• Always remember you are not alone in this. It’s you and Jehovah along the way. Keep close to your heart what is written in Proverbs 3:5,6.
If there is anything I can promise, I promise to be real. I’ve done enough pleasing others and hiding away for 18 years, now it’s my turn to be honest. To be wholly, genuinely true to myself and what I believe in. To do things that make me feel downright fulfilled even when others doubt my capabilities. To take the plunge and push myself beyond my limits even though the voices in my head try to overpower the courage.
At the very core of my being is a simple storyteller. Through writing ever since I was a child, photography for the past few years, but this 2015, finally short films of pure raw emotions and moments. With that is another promise: to share more often. Words, photographs, films — all that I create from the heart. I hope you hang around here more often.