Desk Tour

After eons of attempting to rearrange my desk area, I finally sorted it out!

Here’s the thing: my previous office / room was so tiny that I had to make everything work in a small space. And while I was resourceful enough, I found it really hard to adjust to a new space immediately. But I guess YouTube does know how to fuel inspiration, because after watching videos on workspaces and figuring out a system, I fiiiinally found my own.

Admin Area (left side)

This is where I am most of the time, because I process orders on my iMac and occasionally watch movies during or after work. I put up a drawer to store all my chargers, USBs, memory cards, etc. (aka best purchase from SM ever)

Overall Desk Area (right side)

This is where I do everything else that I don’t get to do with the iMac propped up on the adjacent side of the desk—computations, writing, drawing, journaling, laptop work, etc. Beside it is my Kvissle tray which has kept me organized for the past few months, as this has all my notebooks, journals, receipts and things I need regularly.

I initially had wanted to mount something here but I ended up arranging a wire basket, acrylic drawers from Muji, and selected pens for use on two pen cases (I have more on my Raskog trolley). Now I realize it has made my life much, much easier than putting all my pens here (honestly lessens decision fatigue).

In Progress (adjacent side)

While I’m still waiting for the renovations on my new studio (!) to start, I’m keeping a part of my room to be my office space, albeit a production factory too, lol. I recently bought an Epson professional printer and have set up my Cricut (cutter) and so far, things have been doing well. I still need an extra table to sort out my cutting projects (the countertop table isn’t wide enough for it, apparently) but all in all I *think* this is the most optimal way of setting up my workspace.

I also put up a grid wall here and decided this part could be my curated wall area—I’m proud of this P150 grid wall I bought from Divisoria (my Skadis is going to be for the studio instead) and put it up using Command hooks (#lifehack). My Ipevo desk camera is also here, 

Prior to setting up this area (this was before I went to New York) I really didn’t mind seeing a lot of mess hanging around this desk. But as I slowly rearranged things and cleared out the area, it has become more conducive for me work-wise and I’ve been able to appreciate the space more. It really makes a big difference!

Some things I’ve learned from rearranging my desk:

  1. Functionality always wins—fix your desk based on your workflow / system.
  2. Always clear out one area so you can work there. Make sure it’s neat on a regular basis.
  3. Drawers and organisers are always, always, the trick.
  4. Be resourceful and experiment on different ways to put up elements on your desk—from baskets to containers, etc. 
  5. Having a neat desk is THE best feeling ever. It doesn’t even have to be 100% neat, but neat enough to know it’s been used, and everything is in its place.

Full desk tour in this video:

An Impulsive Decision To Reopen My Shop

Hello.

I’m publishing this on the week my shop reopens. I’m not exactly sure what went into me the past few months, but long story short, it’s happening: I’m putting it up. 

After battling with several episodes of anxiety last year, the littlest decisions affect me on a regular basis. From what to wear to what items to put up on my shop, I have (unfortunately) became susceptible to the idea of failure ruining my life entirely. I’d expand on this but maybe not in this post (I’m thinking of writing about my mental health journey and experiences…maybe soon). I guess this has led me to have a certain level of decision fatigue that has greatly affected my career moving forward. So at some point, I was really scared.

Anyway!

If you’ve known me (online) for quite some time now, you would know that I am an overachieving type A go-getter because I’m a Capricorn. Yup, astrology backed up my personality accurately and I’m positive it has this huge effect on the way I work. I started a little business at seventeen (pre-Abbey Sy) and the years just flew by so fast (I realize I’m already 26). I had to drop my business to focus on Advertising, then eventually landed a job I ended up hating, then quit, and then this is where I am now—several projects and books later, still running a business centered on art full-time.

*If you’re not into reading, you can watch my vlog here instead.

If there’s anything I carried over from my years of being on the ~world wide web~, it’s that you always go back to where you first started (well, it applies for me). In the midst of working non-stop for freelance or writing books, running a shop has always been at the back of my mind. There’s an unusual kind of adrenaline I get from planning budgets, idea generation, accounting, assigning inventory, and supervising production. It feels so geeky and always very unpredictable, but I enjoy it so much.

There was really only one thing I had to factor in: running a shop does not equate to the money I make from freelance and writing books. I knew I had to wait for the benefits to come as time would pass, because a lot of capital comes in when a shop is in the works. Expenses are incurred early on in the production stage, as well as setting up shop, taking photos, etc. I’ve done several rounds of shop operations since h.e.a.r.t.—I started doing lettering by selling framed work of my art, and customizing notebooks. After my books came out, I decided to go all in and sell them myself too. I also made it available to other countries as I traveled and shipped orders from wherever I was. In short, I think I’ve done quite a 360 degree turn in terms of how everything worked in a shop.

So why am I putting myself in this place of uncertainty and (eventually) series of migraines? I don’t know either. But I realized one thing: if it’s going to make me happy, I will do it. At this point, I had thought about money. I have always thought about it since I travel extensively and have been putting my money into my upcoming trips (that I believe will also benefit my well-being and creativity). But I did some calculations and put into consideration that maybe shying off from freelance for a year won’t break the bank for me. I still make money from my books (I get a cut from each purchase, so thank you!) and this year I really just want to pace myself first. It’s easy to think I have it all figured out because I’ve been in this industry for four years now. But it never really gets easier as you get older. I guess it just comes with the maturity to make better decisions and take in previous failures and charge it to experience and learnings instead.

If anything, I never really ran my shop full-time ever in my life—it was always a “by the way” kind of thing. I remember having this problem while I was juggling my day job and freelance gigs at night. What if I had time to do one thing for the rest of my week? Would that be easier and more optimal? I still think about it now that I have decided to work on my shop and really focus on it. If I put my 100% into it, maybe it would become better than just putting 50% of effort into it. So I’m making that decision for now, and see where it takes me.

I designed washi tapes! *cries*

The shop was supposed to still open in September because I had so much on my plate leading up to the -ber months, but what the heck. I looked at my calendar last February, told myself it was possible anyway, so I immediately got to work. I will be gone the entire summer and have made sure the logistics will be covered while I am away. I only have less than two months to facilitate and supervise another round of production to make sure my inventory is covered until September. I also have a limited timeline to get into designing new merch, while still getting used to drawing on my iPad. So yeah, everything’s pretty much a learning curve still. But I’m enjoying it. I don’t mind making mistakes now, as long as I’m getting somewhere.

Another reason why I wanted to put this up asap is my stash of books here are piling up. I have been getting concerns about my books not being available in their local bookstore. This is the thing: I really don’t get to dictate what is available where and I can’t guarantee that all my published work are still found everywhere. Usually books like ABCs of Hand Lettering aren’t on the shelves anymore because it was published 4 years ago. So I’ve decided to take this into my own hands and resell copies to you all (thank you Summit Books for allowing me to do this!). More than anything, I feel that my mission is to really make it more accessible to anyone who wants to get a copy.

Anyway, that’s where this post ends. Thank you for reading—and if you haven’t yet, head on over to my shop and do some shopping!

Abbey

What I’ve learned from 4 years of being “Abbey Sy”

It feels like high school as I recall four years of experiences that led up to this moment. I know, four years? It’s honestly not that long. But in the context of my 26 years, with 70% of it being stuck in the four walls of school (which I both loved and hated), venturing out and being my own boss has been quite a journey I never knew would change my life.

Snippets from my first Moleskine, 2010. It was my first year on Tumblr then.

The moment I hit publish on my Xanga in 2007, I felt a twinge of possibility hit up on me—knowing that at some point, some stranger on the Internet would see it, read it, and know about me. This would go on until 2010 when I went on Tumblr, started a business, and then eventually Instagram, and the rest, they say, is history. But what I find ironic now is because I’ve become prevalently known for my job, my confidence has caged in. I’ve become more self-conscious about what I post, what I put out, and most of all, how people thought about me. I’ve disillusioned myself from the “Abbey Sy” you know online—I always say this is my Hannah Montana syndrome (or in general terms, imposter syndrome).

Color studies for Letters from ABC, a set of postcards.

“Ah, overnight success lang yan.” “Wow, 22 years old pero may book deal na siya? Swerte ah.” “I wonder how long this lettering trend will last in the industry, no?” were just some of the presumptions I got from meeting with some clients, dealing with critics, and finding my way to “fit in” this industry. In the midst of it I also had to take a step back and ask myself, “Why am I doing all of this? Have I proven myself enough to just let it go and let myself be?” and then I realized, wow, I am enough. For now. I really am. Also, let’s just put it this way: I’m tired. Like, really tired.

And because of that, I wanted to share with you some of the learnings I picked up from my creative career. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned these a couple of times already on my previous entries, but I will say that as I work on recalibrating parts of myself this year, so much of my perspective about work and life has drastically changed. 22 year old me and 26 year old me only have one thing in common: making art and writing books will always be my life’s work.

Put your best foot forward

I can attest to this because this is how I set myself up to get a pretty good client list early in my career—I put out all my work on Instagram, Behance, Tumblr. I wasn’t even required to; but I did. Funny enough, Bianca Gonzalez found my work on Instagram and I was hired to illustrate parts of her book Paano Ba To?! (but I soon realize my style there was non-existent yet). A few months later, Havaianas tapped me to design a pair for them. And then, Summit Books offered me my first book deal. Everything went on from there.

Some of my lettering work from 2015-2018.

When I met my publishers from USA and Spain, I asked them where they found me—and the answer was Instagram. How that platform transformed the way communication was for clients and artists / designs will always be the reason I was able to work on dream projects. 

Even if no one tells you to, put your best foot forward. I’ll admit I was bad with 30-day drawing challenges, but in my early years there was at least 1 or 2 lettering posts in my feed. I didn’t know I was setting myself up to get clients and an audience already. I just enjoyed it. And that’s what mattered.

Try everything (if you want)

I put “if you want” because if you had asked me, I’d say yes, I wanted to try EVERYTHING. From 2013-2018, I did wedding invitations for a time (NAH), I ran a shop (obviously I am still going to do this), sold merch in bazaars, taught workshops, worked on branding for small businesses, did freelance lettering work, projects that involved travel sketching, digital rendering, etc. and of course I did books. 

Try everything, because when you’re young, you have a lot of energy. You’re curious. As you experiment and try things out for yourself, you’re able to gauge what line of work feels right for you as you get older, and what kind of work you want clients to hire you for. Ultimately, you will also find what makes you happy in the process.

My first book, The ABCs of Hand Lettering

If anything, most of these require different work processes. I found freelance to be my “core” from 2015-2016 because I had room to keep reinventing my style to serve a specific audience (aka mostly the general public since I did a lot of commercial work like Toblerone, Havaianas, and Nestea). In my later years I did more books and exhausted my instructional writing skills (I don’t think I can do any step by step type of publication as of recent), and that required a rigorous amount of research, concentration, and time to sit down, write and draw. And then, there’s running my shop—a little difficult for a one woman team, but at this point, I want to dive into it full on and see how it goes. Another set of skills needed: customer service, production, marketing, accounting. The list goes on.

Don’t reach your limits

This was my biggest failure in the span of my career. It’s the reason I got burnt out and suffered from crisis last year. I pushed myself too hard—not just with work, but invested my energy into people that did not benefit me. Again, I thought I had to make friends in the industry to keep me in the loop. But I’m not good with faking friendships in order to get ahead. And I thought seeking extra help would be useful, but in essence I just lost trust in myself. It was hard.

This year I am taking everything slow. I decided to work solely for myself. No more managers, assistants, extra help. I want to be in a place where I can fully rely on myself and be 100% accountable. I no longer have the energy to work with people who are halfhearted while I am full-on dedicated to the goals I want to hit.

I’m also being more watchful of my work hours. I am vying on cutting down screen time and getting back to reading, cooking, and just immersing myself in things outside work that feel good. I hope by moving to a new studio I’ll be able to achieve this balance more.

Remember what YOU want

It’s nice to be presented with a handful of opportunities in front of you. For a time, this overwhelmed me—and by default, I would always say yes because I didn’t want to let opportunities pass. But as I did that, I realized not everything “sparked joy”, as Marie Kondo would say. Instead, I wasted my time working on things that exhausted me to my core—not even sure if I really wanted that opportunity.

I will admit I’ve been into this trap many times. Oooh, dream client! Oooh, dream project! Sure. But if anything, in recent years I’ve learned to take a step back and look at the big picture. And think of myself too. When I take on projects, I always look at how much it will benefit the audience I serve—which I think is okay, but if it reaches the point where I am no longer happy with how I work, then that is where the problem lies.

For years I have taken on work that seemed good on the resume. And while I don’t regret it, I wish I had made time to work on my own skills too, and invest energy into growing more as an artist.

But in hindsight, a lot of things I worked on in recent years have been quite unbelievable (I need a little pinch to realize it all happened…like getting sent to Germany for work). And I’m still so grateful for those opportunities.

Pausing is as important as pushing forward

I got this quote from JK Glei, one of my favorite podcast hosts and writers. It’s true—the act of pausing and slowing down does wonders to the brain. For a time I became an overworked machine and I was losing fuel. It wasn’t good. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it anymore (this was when I flew to New York).

My time in New York was a period of growth, albeit a hard one.

During my four months in NYC I’ve been working on ideas I otherwise would have ignored given my busy schedule in Manila. I remember having sleepless nights brainstorming about my magazine for class (which I will hopefully publish soon, and currently giving it a test run in the coming months) or jotting down endless ideas upon doing research on trends or new platforms to try. Learning to let go of daily work for a few months helped me refocus on what I really wanted and how I wanted to go about it.

While I haven’t really paused intently, I’m hoping the next few months will do just that. I used to be so overly organized with how my career will turn out but this year I’ve decided to lay low for a bit and see how things go. If I focused on one thing, would it be better? Would I be able to pour my 100% into it? Will the returns be equally good? If I tried illustrating more of my travels, would I possibly have it published as I’ve always dreamed of? I don’t know. But it’s okay. I’ll find out soon.

Possibly the hardest thing to say is to take it one day at a time. For someone like me who has always been focused on the finished line, this is difficult. But I have to keep myself at a pace that is manageable, especially knowing that I’m doing this for the long haul.

Celebrate little victories

A mentor once told me this and I never forgot about it. It’s why I’ve learned to mark March 20 on my calendar every year as my “work anniversary”. I remember crying in the elevator as I left behind my Advertising job (for the record, I missed the people, not the company) four years ago. Now, I treat it as a huge sigh of relief that I am doing this for a living.

Let’s be real. I cannot imagine doing anything else in my life except making art and running it as a business. Writing books is such a privilege, and I am so, so grateful to have written five (and hopefully more in the coming years). I know I am not cut out for a 9 to 5 job but can diligently finish my projects right on time, and I’m capable of creating frameworks and endless spreadsheets and all those geeky things earth signs love (doesn’t help that I’m a Capricorn).

A big chunk of my journey has been centered on proving my past self wrong—there are the teachers who said I wasn’t cut out to be creative. There was also the fact that I knew being an artist was not a viable option in the Chinese household. Fighting through everything already felt like a huge burden I can never let go of, and I’ve been distancing myself away from “Abbey Sy” because she was the impossible version of me I had never seen coming.

During the launch of my 5th book, Always Be Creating.

But I keep forgetting this is real life. This is really who I am: whether I’m Abbey, Abigail, Claudine, artistic-dreams, ABC…the list goes on. It’s high time I become at peace with this fact and enjoy the journey that is yet to come.

Thank you for sticking it out with me. For witnessing my journey from then ‘til now. There isn’t any specific destination yet but I hope wherever it is, it’ll be worth waiting for.

“The journey is the thing.” – Homer

cover + workspace + book photo: Ber Garcia

workshop photo: Raniel Hernandez

2019 So Far

Hello. 

I’m not supposed to be writing since the website is going to be under construction in a few weeks’ time (and also I have a deadline due this Friday before I fly out for a 2-week vacation), but there’s an empty feeling inside me that made me just want to put something here for the time being. 

One of my good friends told me something along the lines of, “Abbey, I have a feeling 2019 will be a good year for you. You’ve been through a lot, and hopefully things become better this time around.” And that reassurance from someone I really trusted made all the difference, you know?  

For the first time since 2014, I’ve never felt freer. After what felt like years of hard work and perseverance, I’m consciously taking a step back to reassess everything and see what else I can carry over as this year slowly unfolds. 2019 has been interesting so far, because… 

My shop is relaunching sooner than expected 

I had initially thought of renaming Shop Abbey Sy but with everything going on right now (and the demand for my previous books which cannot be found in most bookstores anymore), I’ve decided to launch this earlier and see how things unfold. I also spent February working on new merch (thanks for the responses, you guys! They’re all in production now) so it’s been quite a month. My shop relaunches on March 23, with a new domain: abbeysy.store

I’ve also worked with distributors in the USA, Europe and Singapore (huuu, thanks friends!) so in the coming months, my products will be available in these parts of the world. Can’t believe this is all happening. Honestly, it’s quite a lot of work but moreover, the fact that I can make my books accessible to more people is more than enough motivation to keep doing this. 

Also: geez, how many times will I mention that running my shop is still my first love? If I could do this forever full-time, I would (but let’s not get to that yet). 

I’m moving to a studio 

I know, I know. I moved with my family last June to our new house (which is wonderful, I now realize). My mom had offered the old house to me, and honestly, I didn’t want to take it at first. Initially, I had wanted to work from the attic, but space-wise, it was just too small (I think the space I used up was only 5-10sqm) and with the prior knowledge that I will work on shipments, film videos, and do a lot of administrative work moving forward. 

I was inspired by my good friends Kaila, Val and CH who have their respective studios separate from their rooms. As much as the room I currently have is huge (around 40-50sqm), I had designed it as 20% home office and 80% room. The tables constructed here are generally for my computer and some basic stuff, not designed for a real office. 

So the other day, I randomly asked my mom if she could help facilitate the renovations for the living room. It’s funny because I had just mentioned this last week and as of this writing, I managed to purchase 50% of the furniture needed and have finished my studio layout and measurements table (lol my excitement is above the roof). So this is probably my big project for the year! I can’t wait to see how my mental health will improve once I start working here. I’ll definitely document this journey and share it to you soon.

I’m going somewhere (again) 

I signed up for something impulsively and will be spending a good chunk of the year out of my comfort zone (again). I have not thought this through (except booking flights + renting apartments lol) so it’s definitely going to be quite an adventure I’m setting out to do for myself. I’m more than excited. Anything that requires me to do painful growth is always necessary and beneficial. 

I’m learning to decide on my own 

I spent most of my career having someone help me make decisions. I know how useful this is, but in essence, developing a sense of trusting myself has been ultimately the hardest thing I’ve had to learn to do over time. It’s because I never believe I am good, and my confidence level is always, always, always going down (don’t ask; I really have problems in this department). 

So now I am left with no choice but to believe in myself. This is the hardest challenge ever but better to work through the cracks now than let it pile up later. 

I’m finding ways to connect with you, my readers, more 

You can find me updating regularly on YouTube but in the coming months, I will be active on Patreon (targeting sometime in May). I’m looking for another platform that I can provide more quality content (because let’s be real, Instagram’s algorithm sucks and Google Adsense hasn’t verified me on YT, so in short I *still* don’t earn anything). Everything’s still a blur now because it will depend on the project lineup and my energy to do work while I’m away. 

I’ve been through 3 years of toxic work habits and I’m now becoming more aware of how my energy works and how I can better create content that would benefit you, my readers. What would you like to see from me? I know I have books put out, but I am more than willing to share more insights and teach more as long as it is needed. If you have ideas you’d like to shoot me, e-mail me at hello@abbey-sy.com 🙂

Anyway, that’s just about it. I just really missed blogging. I asked you guys a couple of weeks ago about blogs and whether you still read them and most of you said you did. So hopefully this will still be up for the long haul.  

March is coming this weekend, I hope you have a great month ahead. 

Abbey 

Twenty Six

Previous birthday posts: Twenty one  | Twenty two | Twenty three | Twenty four | Twenty five

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m officially old. No one argue with me on this, lol.

In my dictionary, anything beyond twenty five is already considered old. A longtime high school friend and I were talking about turning 27, 28, 29, and eventually 30…and we both cringed at the thought. Another of my good friends and I discussed the next steps of being an adult by that age: get married, have kids and raise them well, start a family, and let your career slowly die down (unless you can manage it up top with your family).

Oh my god. Let’s focus on the present for now, please!

Society has this construct of a woman’s timeline and while I am trying my best to keep up with it, it seems like I haven’t. I spent my early twenties focusing on my career headstrong, building it, nurturing it, taking big leaps to maximize it. And as I turn twenty six, I realize one thing: I still have a whole life ahead of me to make art and share stories (and possibly fall in love. Ha!).

Maybe it was good that I set the groundwork early—I’m the type who likes to set myself up for uncertainty so *at least* I could breathe a little, but honestly, uncertainty is creeping up as every year goes by. It’s never really going to go away. So might as well stay put for now.

As I always say, birthdays feel like a rite of passage for me, for the mere reason that it coincides closely with the new year and “new beginnings”. I usually cling on to the whole “new year, new me” concept but actually, I never really change. Sure, some things transpire in a year’s worth of time, but I’m still the same old me…with a bit of an upgrade.

I’ve never been this lowkey on celebrating birthdays, but after last year’s party, I just wanted to spend this day doing things I love and taking a mandatory day-off. Last week I had my pre-birthday reading from Practical Magic (thanks, Chinggay!) and it was a very intense reading. Over the weekend, I decluttered 70% of my things, and it’s been giving me a lot of mental clarity, to say the least. Today, I drove to yoga at eight in the morning and never felt more energized than ever (it’s been months since I last took a class), then I had a quiet brunch at my favorite cafe. Spell #titalife, lol. The years just make you realize how drastic things change, no?

I have to say though, twenty five was a whirlwind. But I did pick up a lot of life lessons: from the basic ones for survival, like how to reverse park or make a swift u-turn in congested roads, to the most complex ones like figuring out how to survive 3ish months in a first world country. In between, I’ve learned so much about myself, how I think and behave as a person, and how the world coincides with what I do (although it doesn’t align most times, sometimes, it does anyway). Growing up I have been accustomed to following the rules, and my early 20s have proved to me that breaking the rules once in awhile makes life 100% more interesting (and risky). My 25th year was full of anxiety, depression, and vulnerability—and while I have spent the last few months sulking over my inability to deal with quarter life crisis, I’m happy to have picked myself up and promised to rise above this. So, I’m carrying this confidence with me as I turn a year older.

It’s so funny to look back on my past self and see a big discrepancy between who I am now and who I used to be. Sure, things change, circumstances change, but I felt like a bigger change was in the works. I no longer have to cage myself just because this is what ~people think~ I should be, or maybe how ~I think~ I should be. All my life’s been a series of “I can’t do it” and “this is not possible” and once I consistently broke out of that shell, I was left with more problems. The possibilities being endless always worry me, because my instinct is to always jump on things and just do the work while it’s there, you know? I’m slowly learning that some things need to wait, and timing is really essential. The universe may not be aligned with your timing, but it’s up to you to really draw the line.

This “getting past 25” stage is both exciting and scary, like most years. I am now more in control of my life in many ways, and at the same time, I’d like to think I’ve lived long enough to know how life should go…so far. So far! I mean, there are going to be a lot of weird things happening here and there, I’m sure, but as long as I’m nurturing this relationship with myself then I’ll be fine.

No birthday wishes this year. Universe, you know what I want. Surprise me, will you? 🙂

Abbey

 

 

 

2018: My Year of Self-Discovery

(For previous year-ender posts: 201420152016, 2017)

It’s been four days since I got back from my 100+ day adventure in New York, and I don’t miss anything about it. In fact, I missed my life in Manila that I’m so glad to be finally home.

Call it complacent, but I’d say it was a real wake-up call for me. I had taken this year for granted, and it has been one of my biggest regrets.

Like most end-of-year posts, I had hoped I would start this entry by listing down all my achievements for 2018. But I couldn’t even pick up a thing or two that I  would say made my year such a memorable one. In fact, I’d like to encapsulate how 2018 was for me in this statement: it was a year of self-discovery.

Being in the zone of “accomplished” and “successful” at twenty five meant nothing to me (at some point, I thought this was what I really wanted). Moreso, the whole idea of me rushing to get to the finish line had been evident—strike while the iron is hot, the famous saying goes. I did that, and worked like a machine for three years. I held onto my job so tightly as I feared that it would one day just slip off my fingers. “The work you’re doing is just a trend, how long will you even last?” I remember a potential client telling me this (don’t worry, I ended up declining the project. She was rude.)  It was good training overall, but when other priorities got in the way (brought about by work stress), I realized I had to take a step back. I had lost myself entirely.

This blog has probably seen most of my worst days compared to my picture-perfect Instagram feed. I have dreaded most months, swamped myself with work, impulsively booked trips to get away from it all. I even managed to use New York as an excuse to escape from all my problems—only to find out that it was living in that city that I had been tested to my core. I had never been so vulnerable in my life, and I have reached that point this year. And I’m glad I did.

I turned twenty five with several expectations. Maybe I’d fall in love this year, I said (I didn’t). Or maybe I’ll lose a few pounds because I’ve been stuck in this weight-fluctuating body since college (I didn’t, but I’ve learned to be comfortable in my body now, after 25 years). Maybe I could write another book (I did, I wrote two). Maybe I could move to another city (I didn’t). Maybe I could…

It was a lot.

And so as I was figuring out how to properly put my thoughts in this entry, I had nothing coming out of me.

I can’t say this year sucked. It didn’t. I felt most alive this year. It wasn’t even about the big milestones, like getting to speak at Graphika Manila (which had been on my bucket list since I entered college), or writing a self-help book, or finally enrolling in class and going back to school, or even pitching that wild idea of visiting Germany for work. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of everything that transpired this year. But that wasn’t what was on my mind the whole time.

I found joy in the small things: the kindness friends and strangers alike have shown me in different parts of the world. Train rides that linger in my memory, as I went from one place to another. Finding comfort in the chaos. The ability to be resilient in times of trouble. Realizing that I’m pretty self-aware of my conditions and constantly finding ways to become better.

In the course of deciding on how life should go, there are always crossroads that make you reassess your decisions and give you time to think. I have always overlooked this part, and made leaps as far out as I can imagine, because I figured the only way out of the door is to storm out of it as soon as possible. But that wasn’t really the best option. I had kept looking at the other side, always assuming it would be what I had in my mind. I was so fixated on the end goal (and I know I keep saying this on and on until I die I guess) that I keep forgetting to sit still and just be. Not everyday needed to be an accomplishment. Some days are just meh. Some days, you just have to let it pass. Some days can be great, but not all are.

As I sit here, typing this out on a warm Thursday morning in Manila, I think about my breath. I have suffocated myself for the longest time. What for? To keep proving that I deserve to be here, despite not being an artist at the start of my career? To keep explaining myself and justifying my purpose in this world? I have grown tired of thinking about others first before me. I have stretched out way too much to know what I can and cannot do. I have consciously cut off things that hindered me from growing, even if it took too long to realize it. And for once in my life, I tell myself I am enough for now.

My grandfather passed a week before I left for New York. The last time I experienced death was when my father passed in 2002. My visual memory is generally very strong, but I was not allowed to witness my dad’s cremation (due to zodiac conflicts), so I had vague memories of it. Until now, it hurt. It hurt too much I have always buried it in the farthest part of my memory. But this time, as I saw my grandfather for one last time before he was brought to the crematorium, it hit me—what do you bring with you when you die? Your achievements? The recognizable amount of success in your lifetime? Nope. No one will even remember that. They will only remember how kind you were. How much of a difference you’ve made in people’s lives. And that was the very reason why my definition of success has changed.

It’s easy to assume that success is THE ultimate goal of most people—me included. I have always put it at the forefront of my life, working towards goals that are way beyond my expectations. I have always expected that by the end of each year, I have something to be proud of, something tangible I can prove to people that hey, I deserve to be here.

But this year, I have nothing to show you. Instead, my “success” this year was all about looking inward. Who was I, at the end of the day, when I am stripped out of my job? Apparently I am (or have become) this strong tough girl who knows what she wants, and can fight for what she wants. I am resilient and filled with grit, and these are two things that have kept me going through life. I am anxious about the future but also wary about the present, which is why I spend most days working towards a better tomorrow. I am capable of doing things that exceed my expectations, and that’s something I’ve been proud of since day one.

But I am also this girl who sometimes needs someone to take care of her. Who needs to be reminded that work is not everything, and that there are limits to all things. I am weak, and it is in weakness that I find my strength. I am terrible at making decisions, and have learned that decisions don’t always have to be right anyway. It’s up to you to make that decision right as it unfolds right in front of you.

Some things I learned this year:

  1. It’s okay to not be okay.
  2. A good cry always helps.
  3. Not everything needs to be broadcasted on social media.
  4. You are 100% in control of your life, and you have to know what’s best for you.
  5. If things don’t turn out the way you planned them to, there will always be another way. Don’t give up.
  6. Sleep is your best friend, through and through. Sleep and lots of water.
  7. Being upfront has made my life 1000x easier and helped me save time and energy prolonging arguments. I’m tired of having to act nice when things aren’t anymore. In fact, I hate being nice. I’d rather be kind. (those are two different things)
  8. You will always meet people and connect as long as your values align (and your zodiac signs are compatible, lol). And they will change you, too.
  9. It doesn’t hurt to ask for help, in any way you can.
  10. There’s no place like home, however way you put it.

2018, you have been eye-opening. That was quite a ride. Can’t wait where 2019 takes me…literally and figuratively. 🙂

Abbey

 

A (Love) Letter to New York

Dearest New York,

Let’s get one thing straight: it wasn’t you. It was me.

I arrived in JFK at the first of September, played “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift as I glanced a peek of the city through the plane window, and finally arriving at Queens. This is it, I told myself. This is the moment I was waiting for since the day I left in October 2017.

I was smitten; you showed me how wonderful Manhattan looked—under the bright lights in Times Square, past the sea of people in Bryant Park, and as I hurriedly made my way around the city. It was good. But it also wasn’t. I knew something was up. It was too good to be true.

Then it hit me—what did I do to deserve ending up here? To get to take a few months off work? It should have meant I would be planning my life for the next few years now. In fact, I went as far as saying I wanted to live here.

But months passed and I was dreading every part of you—the long commutes. The crowds. The overpriced coffee. I could easily point out every flaw of New York as I walked—no, brisk walked to every part of the city. The hustle gave me so much anxiety, to the point that I micromanaged myself to make sure I survived each day successfully. I saw the darkness and my demons slowly come up to me, and I trapped myself in the process.

Then school came into the picture. I had been waiting for this! I loved the idea of learning. But you made me realize the importance of never settling; so I didn’t. I dropped two classes because they weren’t helping me become better—they did the opposite. And I wasn’t going to waste my time doing things that do not serve me. I stayed with design because it made me appreciate my way of doing things, and how it’s being perceived.

In the weeks before I started writing this, it finally hit me—why did I hate you so much? Almost everyone I knew had this “New York dream” wired in their heads, a glimpse of hope and possibility because people said “anyone can make it in New York”. I, too, held onto that hope, feeling uncontented with the successes I’ve achieved in Manila. I wanted to start from square one here, expecting opportunities to swing by here and there.

Of course, again, I was wrong. I was too judgmental. I judged you because you couldn’t give me what I wanted, and what I expected.

And I’m sorry.

You’ve probably seen my crying episodes as I walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, or as I walked past 8th Avenue after feeling guilty over taking short breaks. And let’s not forget sleepless nights in Queens on my first month, thinking about the future and how much I hate myself for not keeping up with my own expectations.

The thing is, New York, you’ve become a testament to my growth—and that in itself scared me so much. I became weak, and I also became strong. You taught me how to become tough, as I always sport a resting bitch face on the 7 train to Manhattan. You reminded me of how important it was to trust my own instincts, and take no shit from others. You gave me more reason to look closer—and look deep into myself to find answers. You made me see darkness and helped me realize that being vulnerable is okay.

In the past few months I’ve been here, friends and family had come visit. I’d tell them, “You’re lucky you’re on vacation. Living in a city like this just takes out all the energy out of you.” I’d talk about how every day here was a struggle, how getting from point A to point B required a lot of energy. How sometimes, you just want to get away from it all and take comfort in silence.

I left you for a few weeks when I went to Germany. I couldn’t help but compare everything—Berlin was better in so many ways. You disappointed me so much. I didn’t want to go back; I was in tears as I rode the U-bahn heading to Tegel airport.

But when I was back here, it was a bit better. I started to see you in a better light. I stopped putting you on a pedestal and embraced your imperfections. I became less worried about my daily survival. And most of all, I’ve been more appreciative of who I am, what I am doing here and what I’ll be doing when I fly back home.

I’ll miss you, New York. I’m currently on the Q train writing this, heading to Brooklyn (one of the rare weekends I’m free), my favorite borough (sorry, Manhattan). I’m trying to hold back my tears because locals might think I had a bad breakup of some sort. Nope, we’re not breaking up! Not for now.

I keep thinking it was mostly made up of bad days, but I keep forgetting that there were actually good ones: the quiet days spent in Queens writing, making art, and working all day—just like in Manila. Walking to SVA and walking home after Editorial Design class feeling refreshed and inspired. The people I’ve met by chance, who have made my stay here an amazing one. Impromptu sleepovers and experiencing a dive bar for the first time in East Village. That Monday I took a day off and went to Chelsea, and finally picked up my pen and started drawing again. A weekend well-spent in Bed-Stuy exploring Brooklyn. Partying like a true 25-year-old at West Village because who cares?

I’m wrapping this up on my last Monday in the city, with a cup of my favorite Carolina Honey tea on hand at Argo, writing an “NYC Things I’ll Remember” list. Earlier today I worked at the New York Public Library for the last time—I couldn’t believe it. In September 2017 I was in the same library, writing down “I will study in New York” on my notebook and flew back home, and now, that part of me is done. I turned around and walked away from 42nd street without looking back, because I didn’t want to face the fact that I won’t be here again anytime soon.

Sorry I judged you. Sorry I loved you too much. Sorry I’m leaving you, but I know you have more people to take in your city. May they find what they’re looking for and make the most out of their journey here.

As I make my exit and go back home, I will always keep you in my heart. I can go on and on about the things I’ve learned from staying in your city, and no other city can attest to that. Who would have thought some introverted 25 year old would actually do this? Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be able to pull this adventure off. Ever. Things might not have turned out the way I planned, but I keep forgetting it’s these surprises that made this experience even more memorable. You made me feel alive for the first time in 25 years, and that in itself is the best thing that ever happened to me. I guess it’s true that cities change you; I’ve always wondered about this fact, and now I can attest to it.

You will always be a part of me—a part that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

I’ll see you soon.

All my love,

Abbey

En Route: Berlin, Germany

October 25, 2018 | 9:08AM | Seestrasse U6 en route to Alt Tegel

You know you’re in love with a city when you get on the U-bahn for the last time, say goodbye, watch the doors close, and realize you have never felt more alive in the last few days as some tears make its way down your cheek.

I never put Germany on my bucket list because traveling to Europe always seemed impossible. Growing up I have always taken trips that show you merely tourist spots that all look the same: old towns, churches, photo op sites. That was it. As much as I didn’t like it, it did give me a sampler of what being in Europe would be like. I always thought it was intimidating, but I guess it took a good dose of courage and “what if” questions to make me take this trip.

I boldly plot all the possibilities as if they were limitless—maybe I could do this, maybe I could do that. For months I was surrounded with maybes and slept uncomfortably at the thought of “too good to be true”. I have never flew to Europe alone or took the trains here on my own. It didn’t help that I didn’t know anyone in Germany (back then) so there wasn’t any reason to go (until now).

***

9:24AM | Bus 128 en route to Flughafen Tegel (Berlin TXL airport)

You know how you see someone for the first time, get smitten, and immediately fall head over heels with the person? (Oooh, familiar!) Then you realize this person is not all that. That’s how New York feels to me. I think things started okay between me and New York, as I saw it unfold right in front of me as I landed with a view of beautiful city lights right before my eyes. Two weeks of exploring such a place was convincing enough for me to say I could go back and try out what living is like in New York. I held back my tears as I flew out of JFK in 2017, promising myself to go back and make my dreams come true.

But I’m quite aware some expectations don’t really keep up with reality. I liked school, but I suffered with anxiety every day, especially when I decided to drop a class and pick out ones that will really test my abilities. Every few weeks I’d be okay, then the cycle repeats itself. It’s like the past few months has made me more vulnerable and I’ve never felt this weak in my life.

But Germany just washed out everything for me. I landed at noon, was greeted with a pleasant view of trees and a clear sky. It wasn’t much, but it was nice. I panicked for a bit as I got out of the Tegel airport and booked a bus ticket to HBF. I entered this huge building that had Berlin Hauptbahnhof written on it and I was in awe. I made it! Well, almost.

After what felt like minutes of walking around the huge train station with two heavy luggages, I just wanted to hop on my train to Nürnberg and call it a day. My friend picked up my stuff (huuu thank you, Lorenz!) and I ended up carrying just one bag as I boarded the train and spent the next four hours staring out the window, waiting for what’s ahead.

My week in Nürnberg was amazing—from meeting the people behind Faber-Castell to spending every day learning something new, exploring the city, and getting a glimpse of what Germany looked like, I was in awe. I liked it. I was blown away. (You can read more about it here)

I left Nürnberg after four days feeling sad and longing to be back (how could I even leave such a beautiful city?)—but I was surprised to have spent the train ride to Berlin with a newfound friend from the workshop I held at Faber-Castell (hi, Emily!). On the four hour ride to Berlin, Emily told me about Berlin, and told me I’d love it in the city. That was a good sign, I guess?

I arrived at night, half past ten, at the same HBF, now freezing as I carried my things out of the train and met up with Lorenz and headed home. I was tired. I’m just grateful he had lavender oil and I could just shut myself off after a busy couple of days (my jet lag has been really bad). Life had been so busy that I didn’t even bother plotting out a set itinerary for my five days in Berlin.

Exploring the city fully wasn’t on my mind. I knew I’d be back, but I did manage to see quite a few things during my short stay there. Apart from seeing the sights, I was keen on seeing how this city worked—how everything operated. Mind you, I was amazed. Here’s a photo diary of my trip. Maybe some commentaries here and there, but mostly observations as I made my way into this city that unexpectedly caught me off guard.

Brunch at Distrikt Coffee. I look so happy??? I love brunch!

We were on our way to our walking tour and found a Photoautomat (photo booth)! Our first attempt was a fail. I think I was more shookt when the flash suddenly came out of nowhere, lol

BTS of Lorenz taking this photo of my artwork (now his). Also gave him a crash course on making content lololol

I’ve known Lorenz for maybe 5ish years already? But we only became friends after coincidentally wearing the same outfit on New Year’s Eve in Hungary last year…and finding out we both love Abstract (yes, the Netflix series). He’s a scientist currently taking up his PhD and residing in Berlin (ikr, he’s cool), so it was a no-brainer that I visit.

Berlin’s transportation system is SO EFFICIENT. A train comes in every few minutes, and you’ll manage to get to your destination in no time. I’m so amazed! It took maybe only less than 20 minutes getting to the city center from where we were.

There’s the U-bahn (underground), the S-bahn (older trains that are still in use), and the buses and trams that are around the city. I love that you can check Google Maps for the time and not be late—which meant we had a lot of running to catch our tram heading to Mitte. Lol. #cardio

A piece of history right behind me, the Berlin Wall.

A very touristy photo of me behind the Brandenburg Gate (please don’t mind the tourists behind me). We booked this walking tour (it’s free, you leave a tip at the end of the tour) around Mitte and it was really informative! I learned so much about Berlin’s history in an entire afternoon.

We walked to the Jewish Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie, as well as the underground bunker where Hitler killed himself. So surreal to be in this place! I was just writing about wanting to go to Berlin during my trip to Eastern Europe last year.

Lorenz introduced me to Currywurst—”You’ll like it!” I did. We had it twice at the same currywurst spot because it was the cheapest (and the best).

Went to this neighborhood called Schöneberg which was brimming with beautiful architecture and this ice cream place called Jones. Who eats ice cream in cold weather??? *raises hand*

I did mention I didn’t do much research, did I? I think the spontaneity made it easier for me to not worry about most things, and just take each day as it comes.

Lunch at Umami was sooo good. I haven’t really had a bad meal in Berlin, tbh.

Sunday was spent at the East Side Gallery. This part of the Berlin Wall boasts of mural artworks by different artists and continues to attract tourists and locals alike. It’s a long stretch and there are quite popular ones we did manage to take photos of.

A fellow tourist was nice enough to take our photo (the framing was A+ too!).

We went to another Photoautomat (because it’s so pretty? I mean, yellow!) to take more photobooth pictures. Each photo took around five minutes so we were basically just bored…so…*takes more photos*

Picked up some autumn leaves (and lavender stalks??? because they’re free) in Tiergarten, a huge park right smack in the middle of the city. We were tired already but if I had more energy, I would have walked the whole stretch and explored more.

 

The next day was rainy, but I made my way around the city. I went to art stores and walked around the small neighborhoods. I love how quiet it is during the daytime. 

Modulor has been on my go-to list for the longest time, and I spent a good two hours going crazy over everything, lol. It really is “art heaven”.

Bits of color here and there.

Dropped by Do You Read Me?!, an independent bookstore housing various titles and magazines.

Polly Paper was another hidden gem, just a few steps away from Do You Read Me?!.

The next day was still rainy. *sigh* I ended up leaving for Museuminsel early, because I told myself to pick at least one gallery I’ll like. I picked Altenationalgalerie, which houses a lot of classical art.

Obviously, I made the right choice. I learned about German painters and how they paved the way for impressionism to take shape in Europe. It was nice listening to the audio guide with explanations of notable artworks and what their purpose is.

Some Monet spotting because he is an all-time favorite.

I met up with Emily and she took me around some of her favorite art and stationery shops in the city. I was surprised to find myself buying a few things I’ve never seen in my life—from cute notebooks to autumn-colored highlighters (!!!) to fountain pens. Fountain pens! Omg. Hahaha.

Thanks so much Emily for the fun afternoon despite the rain~

On my last day, I took a train ride up north to Pankow—and ran to the next tram that I missed (I told you, trams here are really on time). I went to an art institute to check out the facilities and was in awe. I was probably out of breath when I got back to the city center because of all the running…and panicking…and navigating with my phone battery on 1% (I hate myself sometimes, you know?). Anyway, that’s why this photo (above) is so memorable to me. I was just staring out the window for a good few minutes taking in the view.

10/10 will live in Berlin for scenic routes, tbh

Just some evidence of how messy my desk was. It wasn’t even my desk, technically. LOL. *hides*

My last night in Berlin involved a good serving of Turkish cuisine (I finally tried the döner!) and some People Watching IRL. I’ll never forget it.

I’m in the New York Public Library as I wrap up this post for the last time and queue up all my videos on my channel. I keep revisiting this and figuring out what to still say, but again, I’d like to think not having a plan helped me love this city so much more. The spontaneity opened me up to the beauty of finding happy accidents in between. Maybe that’s how life should be, you know? I’m so tired at having to make sure everything goes according to plan.

I’ll just leave it at this: it’s not yet over, Berlin. I’ll see you in 2019.

Abbey

PS: Germany playlist below~

 

Halfway There

October 31, 2018 | 3:48PM | E train to Port Authority Bus Terminal (uptown) | New York City

This week marks my two month stay in New York. It’s been surreal. I realize the person I was in September 1st is no longer the person I am now.

Last week I was in Germany on a work trip (and vacation), and it took that trip to make me appreciate New York a bit more. I always take it for granted that I’m studying here, because if you peel off the layers, the daily anxiety I have to get by with here has really put me to my maximum.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#Berlin, documented 📷🇩🇪✍🏻 #ABCEnRoute #Germany #journal #travelersnotebook

A post shared by Abbey Sy (@abbeysy) on

The past few days have been exhausting. I haven’t gotten around to rest from my trip as my family is here to visit (I picked them up from the airport hours after I arrived from Berlin). I’ve been lucky to have been seeing some people that remind me of home in recent weeks—from the first week of October (my kabarkada, Alyssa, visited New York) to my quick trip to Texas (where I met my godmother’s family), to Germany (one of my good friends lives in Berlin) to now, as I took my mom and brother around the city.

Growing up, I have remained distant with my family. Ever since my father passed when I was nine, I have become independent and more self-reliant. Which, of course, is a good thing—but also, it isn’t. I grew apart from my mother and siblings. I preferred spending my weekends with friends because they seemed to care more about me. It went on for maybe three years (ever since I started my career, basically). It wasn’t until I had to face the fact that I had to tell my family I had no more plans to settle in Manila, and maybe New York would be where I was meant to be (spoiler alert: nope, I am not living here, no doubt) that we became more open to communicate as a family.

So getting to take them around the city this week was really fun. I found out my mom liked museums (we went to Guggenheim and she spent more time looking at artworks than I did), and my brother is pretty cultured for a 17-year-old (he picked up a book at Strand which is an anthology of stories in North Korea, and reads George Orwell’s 1984 during downtime) who happens to take good pictures (hahaha). I found out my brother and I are stingy AF and are quick decision makers when it comes to shopping (finally, I have someone exactly like me!). These are things I never really took time to discover about them since I mostly work when I’m in Manila.

I seem to be fumbling here and there about how things are because honestly, I have not had enough time to digest everything and be in a state of calm for the longest time. Being here just makes your thinking even more fuzzy with all the distractions and overwhelming things you encounter on a regular basis.

***

4:36PM | 42nd St, Bryant Park

For a time, I have always asked myself the same question: why suffer when you can just live comfortably and settle in Manila? Why keep going? Trust me, I can’t find the answers either. I just keep pushing myself to my limits despite the fear, because I honestly have nothing to lose—maybe time, but that I have already factored in.

I look back early this year as I started plotting out this “New York adventure”. I had planned on living here. I had planned on “making it” here, but after awhile those dreams slowly faded away into the distance. Did I really want to make it? What does success look like now, for me? I can’t quite figure it out either. So I think in hindsight (also because I’m a Capricorn who likes planning waaaay ahead), knowing these are out of the picture both scares and relieves me.

Back then I have always wanted to keep writing books, to keep making art for the rest of my life. But how can I keep going when I am in a crossroads? I felt like the Abbey Sy persona I have become online has evolved into someone new. Someone I am not quite sure I know, either. I’m scared of this new thing unfolding. I always have been generally scared about so many things—crippling with fear as I consciously make decisions that could make or break my own journey. It’s always been that way.

***

October in New York was hazy. I flew to Texas on the first weekend, finally getting to see Taylor Swift do her thing on stage. I was amazed. I was inspired. Also, for a twenty five year old, wow I was tired after the show. LOL. Then, I had idle time on most days wandering around the city, and I managed to break in a pair of heeled boots I got (#priorities). I also toured a few friends around Chelsea and SoHo.

Sometimes it’s nice to be able to speak in Filipino or Mandarin and feel so comfortable, right? That’s how it’s been seeing friends tbh.

I went to Brooklyn with Carly on a Sunday—the week before I left for Germany. The temperature suddenly dropped and I wasn’t ready. Three layers of sleepwear? The sudden gush of wind breezing through my hair as I walk out the door? Those were uncalled for. Fall is finally here, I realized.

I wasn’t in my best state, leaving for Germany. I knew I had a lot of issues to sort out before flying to another country. So I addressed them one by one because who else will? And if I don’t, who will suffer the consequences?

Case in point: I dropped one of my classes because I couldn’t help it. My professor was so judgmental. Initially I assumed I could be wrong, but I wasn’t. She shamed the brands of watercolors I used. When I’d call her attention for instructions, she’d do her best to speak less to me and move to the next student. It’s been 5 classes and I have not finished a single painting. 5 classes! That’s fifteen hours!

I impulsively e-mailed the school and asked to drop courses (they issued a refund, fortunately). I can’t believe that I’m still being treated this way—she reminded me so much of my 5 year old self, who was told that she wasn’t equipped to paint acrylic because she wasn’t good enough. I realized I’m not defenseless—I will always, ALWAYS fight for myself, if that is the least I could do. I can’t bear to endure things that no longer serve me.

I keep saying I’ve been negatively going through life because that’s how I’ve always seen life through my own eyes. Fighting little battles and facing my demons bit by bit as my own story unfolds. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I wish I looked at life from a brighter scale. I’m trying, I really am.

But it’s not like I dislike New York a lot. I love and hate it at the same time. This week I got to explore the city like a tourist, but with a bit of judgment because I feel more like a local now (choosing to walk instead of taking the subway, skipping the overpriced coffee and leeching internet everywhere).

The Upper East Side was nice. So was Central Park. But I realize it’s too posh for me. Today we went to East Village and explored downtown Manhattan—my favorite part of Manhattan, tbh. Lowkey and just the right amount of people.

I’m currently in Bryant Park (my favorite park for many reasons, Project Runway included) with a few minutes to spare before I head to class. They started to open the skating rink here, and there are an array of shops surrounding the lawn, making it festive in time for the holidays. Oh, right, the holidays are coming up. I’ll be home in a few weeks. I’m actually looking forward to it.

I still don’t know where home is, but I know it will not be in New York. Manila is a default, but where else could I be? I have another year to figure it out ‘til then.

And this time, maybe it’s best to not plan everything out and let nature take its course. Sounds exciting. And scary. Two things I always feel, anyway.

Then Vs. Now

Do I feel like the past twenty five years went by without notice? Does it really feel like this—thinking that maybe you missed out since you’ve lived in one place all your life?

I don’t think the past few years were nothing. They were something—they became the reason why I am in this foreign place, figuring out how to navigate this busy city, thinking I was well-equipped enough to survive it. For the record, I’m doing fine. But the “I can’t believe I’m here” episodes start to disappear one by one. Train rides feel longer now that I realize how far my travel time is every day. The energy to power through goes downhill as I wake up realizing I’m tired every day. When you get sick, you suddenly have a wake up call without warning and decide to just tend to yourself. That’s how it’s been for me these days.

I don’t know whether my customizable future has been a problem since I started this career in 2015. I never really looked far from where I was because that was what I was conditioned to be in at that point in time—location was not part of the picture. I think it has always been the variable anyway (just like in experiment set-ups during science class). Now that I managed to slowly break out of that bubble, the more I get myself to ask questions like, “are you out of your mind?” “which city are you living in next?” or “why suffer when you can just take the easy route?” I can’t even begin to enumerate the reasons why I’ve decided to move away for a while. They’re a lot.

I feel like I have reached my maximum in Manila. Is that valid enough of a reason? And as I slowly make my way through my classes in New York, I have begun to realize the things I like and don’t like about art. About design. About what I want to do with my career, and which direction to head to. They’re all just brewing in my head, and have become a daily afterthought as I make room for ideas to flourish and grow. This growth can’t be done elsewhere but New York. And here I was, thinking I was going to do plan A—but now I’m ending up doing plan B, C, or D. Or maybe a combination of all. I haven’t really thought about it yet.

So far in New York, I have pulled all my strings. I have spent mornings feeling recharged and ready to face anything after a good run; I have also dreaded the early afternoons where I sulk in disbelief and ask myself why I’m doing this. There are also numerous question marks as I see my classmates in art class being such pros and wondering why I am not as talented as them. I tell myself, “but you never went to art school, what do you expect?” but also I say, “that’s not even the point.” I have given myself enough leeway managing my emotions and expectations with the circumstances around me. Life is hard. But for it to be worthwhile, whoever said it was going to be easy anyway?

I have always been told that I’m still young and there is a whole lot to look forward to in this lifetime. Sure, that’s noted. But somehow, I’m torn between the person I was then to the person I am now, and the person I will be in the future. I know myself best, but also, who knows? I could be wrong.

I guess I’ll just have to work it out as I go along.

Abbey