Hazy Days

October 25, 2015
My Journal Entry for the months of April, May, June 2015

apr, may, jun 15

On the first of April, I write on my journal:

“i feel different. a good kind of different, really. like a unique little peace of pearl except all sharp and messy inside, in beautiful ways of course. different, imperfect, but always still beautiful. if i’d have to be honest, i feel suppressed. like i can be real and true to myself the way i want to, except i can’t. because i’m a christian. and somehow that means i have to be this portrait of a perfect person. i used to ask god to fill my crooked, lopsided nooks and crannies with his love and goodness so i can be the best that i can be for everyone. but i’m just not perfect and it gets tiring to keep pretending. to keep trying, to keep pushing the imperfection aside when it’s a part of who i really am. at least right now. i’ve been beating myself up for not being good enough. it’s time to be selfish, to be absolutely imperfect even if it means being vulnerable, to be honest even though it may be terrifying. i know my god is faithful and for as long as i keep trying to be a genuine person — to radiate joy and share love and inspiration to all that i will meet — then that is enough. that makes me worthy of love too, of utter fulfillment and happiness.”

I’ll let that speak for itself.

Inside there is a war. Always these stabbing, unnecessary thoughts and fears. The worst enemy of them all. Just as expected. Now that I’m finally being myself, the vulnerability is realer than ever. The answers are beyond me but everyday, somehow, the fears and hesitation are always overcome by the honesty. That’s all that matters to me from hereon forward.

Over a long holiday in the beginning of April, my family and I stay at a serene island southwest of the Philippines called Coron. All we did was eat, sleep and swim. It was all paradise, on land and under water. At night, waves crashing on our simple home atop the sea, I tell my sister Trisha I can get used to this. When we get home, I feel sick and write:

“how can it be so unreal? yesterday ago you were surrounded by a vast sea, everything underneath so mysterious and unfamiliar. today you are back in your room, drowning in your thoughts. you wish things can be simpler but all you have are thoughts you have to act upon. your room is getting heavier again, and there are so much people holding you griply by the neck. you have to let go and it’s going to be hard but it will make you happier. you wonder why you’re like this — always overthinking and overfeeling. why you like listening to music that makes you cry. cry like a baby because you love b but he’s so nice and you’re a mess. you think of all the wonderful people in your life who support you. strangers who read your writings and make you feel so much better about being different even if sometimes you hate it. when you really think about it, the unconventionalness that you are (the thoughts, the dreams) are beautiful. the struggles are ugly but beautiful. the times you spent like this in your room are buttnumbing but are fruitful. your life is tangled up chiara. you have top stop making sense of it as if it were a puzzle, as if you can box each month into categories and name them as ‘transition’ or ‘adventures’. everyday your hair grows a couple millimeters more and everyday you are different. it’s okay, everything is okay. you’re not a bad person for wanting to leave home to travel the world or looking at flaws as beautiful. it’s not wrong to be in love and to be honest to the world about it even without vows. you have to learn more about your camera and grow even more as a photographer so you can blossom into a filmmaker. make stories that touch other people’s souls.”

It’s silly and messy but after then, I think I really do just let go. The payoff: April and May being the messiest, most random months of my life so far. Every single day was a real whirlwind of anything and everything, there was hardly any time to think any more thoughts. In my heart is only a noble fire pushing me to make the most out of my days, whatever it is, whoever it may be spent with. I pace myself back and forth across all my responsibilities — pre-planning for the launch of Benigne Studios with Phoebe, conceptualizing and arranging plans for Artists Haven with Marci, preparing for the relaunch of my online journal The Gypsy Soul, fulfilling all my client and personal photography projects all whilst taking care of myself and making sure I cope with all my other priorities in life. If work burnt me out a bit too much, adventures was the answer. And at the end of everyday, I’d lay at night no matter where it was — in the warmth of my sunlit room, inside my vivid orange tent, a friend’s house, a cottage in an island somewhere, on the 26th floor of a beautiful hotel in Lavender, Singapore or in a dusty Airbnb home in Penang, Malaysia — and only really think I’m insane to be living this kind of life. The frenzy so obsessive!

When I reflect on the greatest blessings in my life, the arrow points back to the connections I’ve made along the way — family that has loved and supported me from day one, friends I’ve made across all schools and places I’ve been, fellow photographers and creatives of all sorts, my brothers and sisters at heart whom I have nothing but affection for, then-strangers especially from online closer to me now than I ever dreamed. Each one so distinct and special in their own ways. My girl friends way back in high school make me laugh until I want to vomit, crazy funny Daphne makes me feel like a completely normal human being worthy of understanding and love, my wedding photographer-almost-brother Zeus has taught me so much about photography and life I wouldn’t have ever understood without our little lunch dates in pretty restaurants, Nikki has always been the best listener and I’ve always loved that warmth I felt whenever I was with her ever since, Gen should be like an older sister except she’s one of my most genuine friends and she’s brutally honest and loves me for me, Phoebe started as a stranger who had a similar outfit as mine in an event, a soul sister shortly after and then a business partner in a matter of months and it’s been such a wonderful friendship so far, amazing California-based photographer JM Dayao and I cross paths one day and he tells me the words I needed right at that very moment — to keep on going because my photographs are beautiful even though I don’t usually see it, my silly best friend Bryce is my polar opposite but he has been nothing but caring throughout the peaks and falls of the life I live after jumping off my world of comforts, getting connected with amazing creative girls such as Marika, Sofia and Mawee through Woman Create, and then there’s some of my kindhearted family and friends (all of which I wish to share about but there’s too many of them!) who constantly send me love and encouragement out of a pure, caring heart. Most of them I barely see in a year, some I may not even ever exchange stories and hugs with again in this lifetime. But no matter, each one has touched my life in quiet, unimaginable ways.

With the people I love I talk about everything precious to me. My past that shaped me, good change and growth and my wild plans for the future. I would never seem like an introvert but I so badly am, so when I find sweet time to be alone, I feel most like myself. A lot of times all I do is write. I sit and analyze the life that I am living, carefully sifting through the intricate chaos that is my life as a 19 year old, reorganizing my priorities and my workload, writing list after list of actionable steps toward all the humble dreams I’ve decided to pursue. Of course I don’t have everything figured out, and when I do this nothing is clear. I only know I have to change little things, overcome hurdles mostly within myself so I can live the life that I really want.

The busyness takes a toll on me early May and my system shuts down for an entire week. I see now that I’m overworking myself, guilty that I’ve been nothing but hard on the only body I am ever going to have. The only one that was meant to carry my impassioned, never-settling spirit. I needed a change and fast — to be kinder to myself as a whole, to care for my body as I really should. And that meant letting go of a lot of things that was holding me back from giving my body and my soul all the goodness it deserves. Soon enough.

When I am better, I decide May to be the last month I can run around the city like a maniac doing anything and everything I wanted. You can imagine I like making the most out of limits I give myself so I went a wee bit crazy — heading to different malls to people-watch and window shop, night swimming my thoughts away and getting massages in country clubs like I had so much money to spare, spending days in the Haven with Marci mostly singing Let It Go from Frozen or our favorite songs from musical plays, tagging along a complete family for an adventure to a therapeutic pool place and pigging out in a food bazaar by midnight only to find ourselves commuting on a story-filled sleepy bus ride home by 3am, hanging around people I hardly know but singing my lungs out to Disney songs on karaoke nonetheless, and I’ve always been known as the restless uneasy girl when watching movies (behavely staring into a screen makes me feel uncomfortably unproductive) but I finished the entire first season of SMASH in two nights (while working still) and watched movies like Love, Rosie or If I Stay to feed the cheesy, soppy girls that my sister Trisha and I only really are inside. Every once in a while we’d invite people over at our home, hilarious fun-loving friends from all over the metro and the sweetest nieces or little girls of family friends for a sleepover another time. Some days, feeling all pretty with my blue faded Topshop dress paired with a denim jacket or sporting flowers from neck to knee, I’d pull off a dancing plus driving gig to anywhere with whoever to eat out and exchange whatever stories we can. Marci and I score free passes to Zomato‘s summit where we enjoy a big buffet of both food and epic wisdom on running a business. On the ride back home, we don’t stop talking about having a creative space of our own, but sometime in the future when we’re ready and if the Universe says yes. I shoot two fashion shoots, Louie & Jake and Gela and then shoot for Benigne the rest of the time, witnessing and documenting a birth for the very first time and shooting adorable weeks-young babies afterward.

When I am stuck at home, I work half the time and follow my heart’s desire the rest. That’s the secret to living a creative life, I’d like to think. Reading through rousing pieces of writing, looking through board after board of inspiration over Pinterest, and then feeding myself with food while I’m at it. My days at home like that are pretty intense. So when I get restless, I’d clean my room squeaky clean out of impulse, dance to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off in my undies as a quick workout or lie down on my back with my eyes towards the sky so I can silently talk to my Creator. Just little things I do that make me, me.

To end my month-long childlike days some friends and I get together in a village down south, dressed up as if we were in the 80s, fighting about who wins which games and laughing out loud for all random reasons. I drive home, dizzy and sleepy, and I wake up on June 1st, aware that I am no longer Cinderella living a life of magical carelessness.

I start to work on The Gypsy Soul as planned, revamping it into a design I felt will help me want to share more. I couldn’t afford to hire anybody else to do it for me so I’d spend every other day locked in my room, customizing and coding away pretending like I knew what I was doing. The exact opposite is true but here we are and it feels so new, and I’m in love with sharing all over again.

Together with my family we fly to Singapore and then towards Malaysia. It’s only ten days but inspiration hits me a thousand times over, hyperaware of my environment and the smallest of details from one store to sight to stranger. Maybe I’ll share more about this trip soon but all I know is when I get back to Manila, I am ready to let go of everything that isn’t adding real value to my life and my dreams.

I bid goodbye to Marci and our plans for the Haven, don’t ever accept photography work that I didn’t feel inspired about, let go of a lot of massive plans I originally had that didn’t seem to fit the picture. And the more important? I let go of the painful thoughts, let go of yesterday memories and photographs that were holding me back from moving forward.

I didn’t know that was all I had to do. To simplify my life and zone in on all the more important things.

Things still aren’t perfect but I wake up to a new beautiful day every day, realizing that the massive and all the smallest undertakings fulfilled is a step towards the bigger, the brighter, the more fulfilling.

I won’t ever stop.

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