My first month in Berlin

June 10, 2019


M13 to Albertinenstraße

So in the past week, I have found trust in people I met just a month ago, admitted my feelings for someone after six years of chickening out, unexpectedly reconnected with two old friends after two years and six months (respectively), and am suddenly learning to develop a proper relationship with none other than myself.

In short, I went peak vulnerable and whoa, just…whoa. Who am I becoming? WHO?

It’s been a wild couple of days, to say the least. As of this writing, I don’t want to drink alcohol for a few days and I’d rather brew a cup of coffee every morning for sanity’s sake. Because let’s be real, I’m still a Capricorn who needs to get her shit done. And earn money. And live her life.


There is an unexplainable comfort in being a city that does not know and judge me. Like what I said in my first month in New York last year, a lot can change in thirty days. I keep thinking of the right way to explain this, but I really find parts of myself in places I barely have familiarity with, and that in itself makes me more inclined to always travel, and to always take steps that go beyond what comfort means to me.

My first month at my art residency program gave me the go signal to reconnect with myself. We had a series of classes and lectures that helped shape my creative philosophy further, and moreover, have drastically shifted my thinking when it came to how I perceived my work. All this time, I have come to terms with knowing I draw pretty letters (which is true). I also know I like drawing about my travels (also true). But what I didn’t know what how important the latter one was in forming my identity as an artist until now.

Two of my good friends, Stine and Nicola

Before, I would always try to be in control of every detail in a drawing. Each window of a building had to be properly sketched with pencil, lined with ink, then painted over. Once I started leaving out the pencil part, everything changed. I started to loosen up, I started to enjoy the process more. I started to become free.

There was a point where I started to have a mindset of “I have to finish this travel spread so I could post it to Instagram today!” and you bet, I hated it. I also attended a plein air class in New York and the professor told me I was doing it all wrong. That hit me so hard. So I stopped for a while. It took a huge amount of effort to get back to it (also buying a Moleskine was a key motivator because it was expensive) and yet I was still struggling for a good chunk of 2018.

But now I have been drawing a full page a day and I think I am on my way to making it a part of my daily practice. We’ll see what happens. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so I’ll keep you posted.

I also started moving from small sized paper to bigger ones (with the urge from most of my colleagues). My sketchbook is now an A4 (it used to be A5), my papers at the studio are now big enough to be taped on the walls instead of laying flat on the table. Slowly, I have learned that I am learning to free myself from all these limits. And I’ve never felt happier.

My studiomates have also been pivotal with regards to honing my process. It’s nice, because they all see me work and give advice from time to time. It helps me gain new perspectives on how I could further improve my work in ways I would not have thought about doing. 

I always say that growing up in a city and an environment that didn’t value art was the reason that I have successfully worked within my limitations and built up this career. And is also the reason I applied for this residency and live in a city that is full of art and life. It’s true, but also, I realize, maybe it isn’t. Maybe, all this time, I am the reason I prohibit myself from growth. From freedom. I’ve been locking parts of myself away in the hopes that someday, I would make something out of them. But when will that someday be? Who gave me these regulations? 

I did. And it was about time I did something about it.

“Abbey, no offense but, you’re 26, you need to LIVE YOUR LIFE and experience things!” was what a friend told me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I live in a 26 year old’s body but my life experiences don’t even match up to my age.

I spent the past years just working and proving to the world I am capable of being an artist. Everyone has been watching me paint pretty artworks, publish books, post regularly on Instagram—essentially, making a living out of something that seemed highly impossible back then.

I’m finally realizing that fuck, this is my life. I can do whatever I want with it. Social media should not affect this in any way. I deserve to give myself the love I am supposed to receive. I deserve to make art in the way that pleases me, without having to please everyone else. I deserve to see the world because it fuels me to keep going, and most of all, I deserve to be free. Free from everyone else’s expectations, free from what society told me I should be, free from all the self-hate and negativity I used to give myself.

Yesterday I finally put up my personal account on Instagram. Do you know how many years I’ve been wanting to do this? Four. Four freaking years. I’ve never been so happy. All this time, I’ve been trying to forget who Abigail Claudine Sy was. But what the heck, I like it when friends call me Abi, or Claudine, or just call me by the name they please. I like that I could just write in Filipino or put silly captions that don’t have to be too perfect “for the gram”. It’s just nice to not be a perfectionist in some aspects of my life.

I’ve lived most of my early adult years in the confines of avoiding failure. Of avoiding rejection. That’s why I’ve delayed most of my actions. But you know what? I should stop. I should just let things be because that’s how life has become for me right now. I’ve even went as far as thinking this whole life change happening since I got here is maybe a sign that a new me is evolving anytime soon.

So, will I finally cut my hair short? Impulsively get a tattoo? Finally fulfill my 10-year long dream of being Avril (Abbeyril) Lavigne? Apply for an artist visa? Move away from home? 

I don’t know. I’ll find out when it happens. I’m just relieved to know I don’t have to hide anything anymore. For now, at least. 

Okay, I’m one stop away from Pasedagplatz. I swear, I get a lot of drawing and writing done on the tram. It’s crazy but also, who’s to stop a productive Capricorn, amirite?

Tschüßy ciao ciao! (Something I learned from my friends. Hahahahaha.)

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