My First Month in New York: Managing Expectations

Being fragile and vulnerable to address my issues these past few weeks have given me enough clarity to figure out the things that matter to me at this point in time. I’m writing this and it’s been seven days of no app checking and maybe just once a day checking of Facebook (mostly just to chat with friends and family). I love the quiet. I forgot I craved this for the longest time.

The silence and freedom has helped me focus on myself more. Is it a good thing? I guess. I only assume I know myself to a certain level, but now that I’m older, I really do know my limits. It’s just been roughly a month since I arrived here in New York and I’ve changed a lot. Interesting how a place can just…change you in that way.

Did I mention how nice it is to not have to be updating my Instagram 24/7??? Here’s how life has been so far. Of course, I still document everything for the memz ~

Painting on a quiet Saturday afternoon is my new favorite me-time

Went to the NY Art Book Fair with Amber. We had Thai food after! I was so happy. Lol.

New tote I got from the book fair…because I can totes (ooh) imagine myself saying that in a very sarcastic tone.

(Thanks for the mail, Koko and Chinggay!)

Last weekend I was out and about even if the G train was down, lol. Had brunch with Adam and Mitchell, two lovely people. I met Adam in Graphika Manila last February and he’s an amazing artist and author based in Brooklyn (he has cool books out in the market and you should definitely get a copy for yourself).

I had a bad episode of…idk what to call it (mental breakdown? severe burnout? almost giving up on my career?) last week (as indicated in this post). The cure? A night well-spent with Hank and John Green (also, eep, signed copy of AART!). I finally met John Green IRL! Did you know the first artwork I hand lettered was from Looking for Alaska?

I had ramyun earlier that day coupled with some tears. TBH, I still can’t poach an egg. :<

Fall colors! I totally copped this Madewell top because it was on sale (ugh, excuses) and my school outfit is always a shirt, jeans, and jacket. That’s it. Also, there’s a nearby Japanese grocery called Sunrise Mart in SoHo—so guess where my weekly lunch go-to place is? *cries*

I needed to get a tripod for plein air class (ugh, bye money) but I also needed one to film my videos, so yay, more stuff coming soon. I updated my channel with some of my current NYC journaling things (yes, I got a basket and some organizers like a true OC person lol):

Decided to run at noon because it was freezing cold last Friday. This is my “I’m tired but I can’t believe I’m actually running” face.

Running has been teaching me a lot of things, particularly the importance of keeping a steady pace, and not to rush things too much (applies to all aspects in life, if you’ve noticed). Still a work in progress!

Explored Chinatown with Carly! Carly is one of Kaila’s friends and I’m so glad we got to meet up. I’m a very selective person when it comes to friends and I am just so grateful for the people I’ve been meeting in this city. 🙂 Just goes to show that having the same values and mindsets really help establish how I get to build relationships with people.

Goosebumps seeing this banner this year. Last year I was here touring the campus and telling myself, “I’ll make a way to be back here to study”.

This late brunch photo deserves to be posted here because it was this day that I had a light bulb moment for one of the projects I’ve been brewing…and it’s so far out from what I’ve done so far. I can’t wait to share it with you all but it has to be kept secret for now. 😛

I met one of my heroes, David Levithan, and I AM NOT OVER IT. I am not. This is so surreal and I am so grateful this happened.

If you’ve read my blog / Tumblr since 2013 you have probably seen me hand-letter his quotes or talk about how much I love Every Day, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, and so much more. Here’s the thing; David Levithan opened up my world to beautifully written and heartfelt stories—I remember I was in tears reading Every Day. I still reread most of his books especially The Lover’s Dictionary (I love his Twitter account by the way) and I have always, always said I would want to meet him someday. Well, that someday finally came!


Some notes from my first month in New York:

  • Hoodies feel like a warm hug. Like, they really do. I just put on a shirt, a hoodie, jeans, sneakers and run off to do errands. I’ve never been this happy over a piece of clothing, tbh. (And if you know me, I never liked hoodies!)
  • I have two art classes and design classes (four in total). I’m quite surprised I like design classes better—they make me think beyond the usual. Art class is giving me so much insecurity; I now realize how grateful I am I didn’t take up art as a degree. I’d probably drop out first thing.
  • Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Ask specifically, and people will respond. People are nice, you have to smile more often and make them feel important to you. Case in point: I’m really terrified of post office people so last week I was nice and asked questions. And the clerk didn’t get mad. Achievement? Yay!
  • How wonderful it is to be in this chaos of people in the subway, and realizing you are just a tiny dot in this universe? That your problems are little things that don’t really matter in the big picture of life. It’s a crazy analogy, but I have always felt like this. It’s nice to remember that feeling here.
  • But also tbh seeing so many people every day is just exhausting. I never end the day here not feeling tired unless I stay home. New York is that overwhelming, coupled with lots of walking.
  • An economically correct decision: choosing a $6.40 brunch meal (eggs, sausage, toast + $1 coffee) over a $5 oat milk latte plus tax. I now know where to dine if I’m lazy to cook at home. Also: preparing sandwiches for school dinners save so much money. This is college all over again, tbh.
  • Living in New York is not the same as visiting it. I haven’t even explored most of the go-to places here and I’m too caught up getting my daily sh*t together, you know? It’s crazy.

Since we’re here, thought I’d share about some things I’ve been consuming lately…

Books on my desk:

  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (done and loved it)
  • Goodbye to All That, edited by Sari Botton (halfway!)
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (I’ve been running so it’s apt to be reading this memoir, which I find very insightful.)
  • Someday by David Levithan

Podcasts I’ve been listening to:

Music on my current playlist:

I’ll be honest and say that I did not see all of this coming. I expected my stay here to be…ermm…I can’t describe it. Okay? I did know I was not going to see the city the same way again, from the starry-eyed self I was last year. I don’t hate that fact. It actually grounds me—you’d think New York is this glamorous place and it’s been romanticized that way…but when you look at how days go, you realize how mundane it is, how simple it is. But also, at the same time, very complex. It’s like this hodge podge of different people, different places, and you just have to keep up with the pace. I walk faster now, not because I’m rushing, but it’s what I picked up from a month of living in NYC.

I still have three months and I’ve felt a bit homesick the past few weeks. But I’m not one to give up easily; I’ll stick it out. October’s another story; I’ll let it unfold as I take my next flight to one of my dream destinations. If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that choosing to take this time off is one of the better decisions I’ve made so far this year. That’s something I’d attest to for the rest of my life.

Until then!

 

One Thing Leads To Another

“What we map changes the life we lead”, something I picked up from watching John Green’s TEDx talk about Paper Towns (my favorite book for reasons I will not try to comprehend, because people kept telling me why I preferred this over Looking for Alaska—it’s called personal preference!). It got me thinking how life can be surprising—how things can transpire and how opportunities can take its course and you really just have to be full-on open about it before they disappear again.

**

When I was in freshman year in high school, I started journaling. Not the one you see now on Instagram—it was more of a “dear diary” type where I wrote about daily thoughts and reports about my school days. There’ll be recurring anecdotes about how I’ve been trying to draw more (I had an emo phase, like most teenagers) and how I’ve been crushing over the same person and drawing inspiration from said person to make art (sorry, I was fourteen—go figure).

In my early years of blogging on Tumblr, I’d write about the most mundane things: where I went, what I did, art I made. It was my way of discovering my own curiosities about the environment I lived in. I found myself asking the same questions as I read every book, made every piece of art, watched every film, and experienced every life-changing encounter.

My personal experiences (post-grad, after resigning from my corporate job) led me to the conclusion that I didn’t have to settle for what was right in front of me. Once I opened up doors to walk right into, I stopped looking back. Of course, I didn’t have a clue what was waiting on the other side. But don’t we all? Uncertainty is real. Change is constant. That’s how life is.

I’ve been doing a career review in recent months—starting from 2014 when I cluelessly ventured into freelance (aka my YOLO year), up to the first half of 2018 as I’m three years in working full-time as an artist and author. I plotted out good things, I plotted out bad things. I wrote down my learnings for every year, and it eventually gave me the best conclusion: one thing led to another.

I put up a blog. I put up a shop. I started to make art more. I discovered my love for lettering, which led to teaching, which led to writing my first book, second book, third, fourth, and now, fifth. It’s been three years and counting. I’m working my way as I go, and nothing has been set in stone from the very beginning.

I just knew I wanted to do something that would not only benefit me, but others as well. It was a win-win, I always said. Nothing made me more happy than knowing people are learning. People are opening themselves up to creativity. Art is more accessible now, and it’s something worth celebrating.

And now, I slowly am trying to dig out the dreams I have long forgotten. Dreams I told myself early on were impossible to fulfill—until the pieces suddenly fit together. Timing is everything, they said.

Before leaving for New York, I had a percentage of my workshop income converted to dollars for my schooling allowance this fall. My earnings from helping others learn lettering and journaling for the past years have turned into a way for me to learn more and go to school. It’s a humbling milestone, and I’ve never been this fulfilled in the longest time. So thank you for being a part of it. For making me do what I do now. There’s still a long road ahead…but it never really is about the destination, is it?

x

Losing Sight

I couldn’t sleep last night. I spent the hours past midnight watching videos, reading, thinking about what to do with my crisis.

When I say crisis, it sounds like something I can easily solve. But I can’t; I’m aware of it now. Some days, I say I can sort it out, but really, I can’t. In fact, I don’t even know where to start.

In the last three years I have seen a version of me I had never seen coming: making something out of what I’m good at. I’m actually good at something! Can you believe? My angsty underdog teenager self who wrote in her diary and doodled emo song lyrics would have been surprised for sure. I’ve been able to inspire people to follow their own passions, to make art a part of their daily lives. I’ve managed to write 5 books, contribute to publications, put up a magazine (despite the one-off thing, I still count it as a dream come true), work with remarkable people and brands, to say the least. In short, I could say my years so far leading up to this point have been full of accomplishments and successes.

But somehow, I lost myself in it. And it is the worst feeling I have ever experienced in my life (could be like a break-up, but I could be wrong).

In 2014, when I was scribbling down all these ideas of wanting to do this and do that, I was so eager. Eager to get to the other side, eager to try new things, eager to evolve and excel. When I got into this “other side”, aka pursuing this as a full-time career, I learned the ropes of becoming an artist in my own right. Did that make sense? Being able to draw was one part of the equation, but there are several factors that get you from point A to point B. The possibility of luck. The effects of hard work. The people you know. The friends you make. The values you live by. The ideas you create. The confidence you give yourself to represent your “brand” and make it work.

I managed to work through all those. I built up a tough exterior to make myself respectable. Who takes a 22-year-old author seriously? Of course, no one. I made sure clients respected my work and I learned how to negotiate accordingly. I met the right people who believed in me, who told me I could do it even if I always doubted myself. My following on social media sprouted because I posted an Owl City doodle on Tumblr, and got suggested on Instagram. It’s not like I willed it to happen, but it did, and I’m grateful. I worked hard even if I didn’t post about it online (because did I really need people to see that? the work could speak for itself). I created opportunities for myself because I realized in the design industry, people probably didn’t take me seriously because I’m considered some sort of “content creator” or “influencer”. I’ve been rejected by several design institutions in possible ideas to collaborate. I submitted my work to prestigious competitions and of course, got rejected. I wasn’t good enough for a certain standard. My Instagram is a hodge podge of not just my art, but my creative life. But I was okay with it. It was fine.

What wasn’t fine is this: I now make art to please an audience. It used to be because I liked something, reinterpreted it, and put it out there in the hopes that people would feel the same way. As an introvert, that was how I connected with my audience. Social media helped me express my true self without having to go out in the open and make connections in person. I was allowed to experiment in the four walls of my studio, making sure I get to create more with what I can. I already knew what I could and couldn’t do, after working on projects that tested my limits and writing books that made me realize which skills I can carry with me in the later stages of my career. So I think I’m in this bubble of my skills and ideas that people started to take notice of, and now I’m scared popping it because I will fall. I will have to start again.

I’m twenty five. People still think my art is a trend. But I’ve lived through four years of self-employment and made sure I get to travel and experience life independently because of this “trend” I helped start. I’m also tired of proving this fact to the world, and I’m looking for a way to recalibrate my creative process. And this is exactly why I’m writing from here in my little room in Queens, New York—an hour and a half away from Manhattan. Because it’s the only way I can be here, and the only way I can take a break. I thought I could escape my own thoughts and episodes of self-hate, but that’s a different story. So I have no other choice but to face it, and deal with it on my own at a foreign place. It sort of makes sense, I’d like to think.

I never choose comfort. I always choose challenge. It’s not because I’m selfish, but because comfort is too scary. It’s too limiting. If I stay comfortable I will never grow. As an artist you always want to push boundaries and keep yourself afloat; always on the lookout for what else there is to discover. I am generally interested in many things apart from art. My travels keep me grounded at the thought that I will always be in search of something.

But right now, I am searching for the things that I have lost my sight on. Why I wanted to do this in the first place. Why on earth did I impulsively send a resignation letter to allow myself to make art for a living. Why I decided to go back to school. Why I am writing this post and shedding tears as I type out these words (listening to OTH’s soundtrack doesn’t help, either).

In hindsight, making choices scare me because it could cause a huge part of me to change and adapt to whatever life throws at me. But I know I’m making a right choice now—to take a short hiatus for a few weeks and sort my crisis together. It’s been too long. I can never do this in the Philippines. But what the heck, I’m in New York. I’ll do it here. Who knows where I’ll be next year? I will never know until I find out.

I’ve given 100% of myself in the books I’ve written, especially the self-help title I recently put out. I don’t regret giving my all because I had always intended to write that to make my past self shut up, and to remind myself that what brought me here is a series of trial and error, experiments, and lots of risks. Risks to prove people wrong. Risks to rebel against what was accepted in an Asian family. Risks to keep myself grounded in the fact that I am here to make something out of my life, and make it count the best way I can.

I’m not leaving social media for good, but I could do away with a few weeks of not updating often. I envy some of my friends who don’t need to post about what they’re doing in a day because as I got older, I craved for that privacy. The best conversations I’ve had with people are just happily buried in my journal where no one gets to see it but me. Nowadays, I don’t feel the urge to broadcast all of my thoughts online—I delete my tweets from time to time because I sound so opinionated, and I’m not sure if I really am that kind of person. It’s just been this weird cycle of not wanting to miss out, but guess what, I missed out on myself in the midst of everything. Big time.

I’ll be back soon. I just need a little self-healing.

Abbey

Photo by Ber Garcia

I (Sort of) Wrote a Self-Help Book

Jun 21, 6:46PM

I’m typing this out on the last night of my writing for my 5th book, which I call “ABCFG” (short for ABC Field Guide). It’s been a tedious summer (well, technically it’s rainy season now—the downpour outside is quite strong tonight) of putting the content together and working on this book. There were several encounters and situations I had to deal with in the midst of writing and illustrating: I had to take over a job I knew nothing about (being an art director is quite…challenging, I must say), I had to condition myself to veer away from my ~feelings~ because I didn’t want to burden readers with my emotional state (am I really a Capricorn? I’m skeptic at this point), and I had to move deadlines because of mental health problems (burnout is real). To be honest, quarter life has been all sorts of “WTF is going on” and has been involving a lot of adjusting, which I wasn’t prepared for at all.

Speaking of adjusting, we moved houses last Sunday—and I’m working remotely from my new room, my digital workspace area, to be specific. It’s been weird settling into a place that is much more spacious and bright than my attic—growing up, I have been accustomed to such a small space that I managed to make something out of it (in my 5-year stay). Taking in this new space has been good so far, but it’s also a good thought that I worked on my book on both my old and new HQ. Nothing like a change of space, right? And also maybe a change of perspective.

As someone who has written four creative nonfiction instructional books in the past years, I always knew I had a way with words. I mean, English was my favorite subject back in school, and I have a thing for essay writing. Putting those books together felt like doing thesis for four times (and getting to illustrate, which is actually fun) again and defending it by sharing it to the world. I learn more about myself on every book I make, mostly because each book project challenges me to perform at a pace that is (at first) uncomfortable for me, and pushes me to cut through the cracks and eventually, make it through. But nothing prepared me for a self-help book—not even reading about self-help titles or working on my previous books.

So why did I write it?

 

Good question.

I was fixated on who I was a few years back. This clueless, aspiring young artist who wanted to work her way into the art world, expecting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or something. But of course, as time passed, I never found that pot of gold. I never found that “end”. I’m still swimming in my own pool of creativity, still in my journey, still making my way. And you know what? I don’t think about the end anymore (for now). It always made me wonder, though, what sort of end goal I had in mind back then—I only knew I wanted to get validation for what I do, and of course, at this point, none of it matters anymore. Being self-validated is always, at the end of the day, the most important.

With the abundance of new, emerging artists coming into the picture, I knew I needed to put out something that would be useful for them—because I was once that person. I made my way through this industry without a clue, mostly through trial and error, but armed with a hunger for new experiences and the tenacity to keep going. While this book won’t give you all the answers, it serves as a guide for you to figure out how to navigate your own creative journey—the way you want it. I’ve put in some stories and personal experiences in some pages, as these have eventually shaped me into the person I am today. Of course, I, myself, still have a long way to go, but I always try to remember that most of what has transpired in the past years was accidental. I did not see all of this coming—even getting to writing five books. Five! I was already so happy writing my first book. Deciding to quit my job was not part of the big picture plan either, but running my own business was. It didn’t seem clear at first, but eventually, I found my purpose, figured out what I wanted in life, and worked my hardest to get it.

Now that I have it, I’m still at a crossroads. What’s next? Where do I plot out my next steps? I don’t know. I’ve been here long enough to know in my heart that with a strong vision, enough motivation to propel me forward, and in the right timing, I’ll get to where I want to be soon. Right now, I feel like this part of me—the part you will meet as you read through this book—is something I want to immortalize on paper. Three years doesn’t seem like much, but my first encounter with art at five years old was a strong connection to link my past to my present.

I want you to remember that your life is made of so many choices. Choices that can change course of where you’re headed. So make sure to act accordingly; and be open to possibilities. Trust me, living a creative life seems so perfect, but it’s not. And the imperfections make it bearable and fulfilling. It’s no doubt that you will fail sometimes and you will be able to get back up and learn from your mistakes. There’s no guarantee how things will go, and that uncertainty has always been a driving force for the future. Sometimes I ask myself if there’s such a difference of living creatively. Is it really just a state of mind? It kind of is.

You’re already living it; you just don’t know yet.

Oftentimes, I read up on books and encounter almost the same set of advice—but there’s just that moment when it hits you hard, and you’re reminded that you’re supposed to take into heart these words and keep them in mind. I guess that’s what this book is for. For you, it can be a friend, a mentor, a future reference in case you want to pursue a creative life. For me, it’s a reminder that where I am right now is a series of yes, nos and maybes, and what ifs. And a reminder that it is a remarkable feeling to be able to live through this.

I have a lot of people to thank for inspiring me to write this book: friends old and new, mentors, the people whom I’ve entrusted a part of me with. People who have taken a chance on me, who believed in me, and brought out the best in me. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed (did I??? lol) working on it. Honestly, it felt like I did a life evaluation of sorts, and everything came full circle as I wrap up the last few words before submission.

My new book is entitled Always Be Creating: A Field Guide to Living a Creative Life. It’s a mantra I live by from the moment I decided to live a creative life on my own terms. Inside is a repository of life advice, creative insights, worksheets and DIY activities for you to get a headstart on your creative journey, wherever you are at. This book is also a glimpse into my own creative journey—something that unexpectedly turned my life around. From tracing back to my artistic dreams in my younger years, to discovering my passion for travel and adventure, to taking on an entirely new path of becoming an artist and author. Inside this book, I share personal anecdotes, insightful tips and life hacks on how to live a creative life. Learn how to find your passion, set goals, develop your own creative process, and define success on your own terms.

ABC Field Guide is launching this August 25 (Saturday) at National Book Store Glorietta 1. Hope to see you there! RSVP at bit.ly/fieldguidelaunch

Photos by Ber Garcia

2018 Work + Life Updates (New Book, Going to School, etc)

Hi!

Obviously haven’t really been active writing lately. Even my journal has been abandoned for reasons I will try to articulate once I have more free time. I just had a few sips of rosé post-work day (lol) and thought of putting up something here. Some updates below!

My new book comes out this month

(Tricie shooting the cover! Plot twist: this layout wasn’t chosen haha)

I’ve been working all year on this self-help title that it sort of took its toll on me (quarter life crisis included). But the process itself was such an interesting one that I’ll forever remember in my life. I can’t wait to share more about this when it comes out soon!

Also: this is probably a little good bye gift before I leave this year (for the record, I’ll be back). Hope to see you at the following events in line with my new book coming out:

Readers and Writers Festival, Aug 11: Inspiring the Creative Process. RSVP here.

Book Launch, Aug 25: Always Be Creating (A Field Guide to Living a Creative Life). More details soon!

Since we’re here talking about books, I’ve finally made a video explaining all my lettering books. Take a look at it below:

Settling in a new space

Work(space) in progress 👀

A post shared by Abbey Sy (@abbeysy) on

I mentioned in this post that I moved houses. My new space is still a work in progress. I had to cut coffee and switch to tea (it’s been a week now) in order to sleep before midnight and wake up with full energy; it’s weird. But I like this place, and I’m slowly making it into an extension of myself. Posters around the walls? Check. Books organized by genre (but of course)? Check. Lots of stuff taped on the workspace walls? Check. Now all I need are plants and some flatlay stations to get my work juju going.

My favorite parts of my room are my travel shelf and IKEA cart (which I recently organized). I’m still rearranging other parts because I’m OC like that, lol.

Room tour soon! But if you missed out on my HQ tour series from last time (huhu I miss my old place!), watch them below:


I’m going to school in a month

Did I ever mention that I hated school at some point in my life? The only reason I loved it again was because I got in the Penmanship contest final round in 3rd grade. After failing a couple of Chinese geography exams in 5th grade, I learned the value of putting in hard work to pass and get good grades. So I guess my relationship with academics now is fairly okay. But I’m not going to complain this time because I get to choose the courses (of course I’m getting art courses) and study in a city I love! Aah <3

New York is finally happening. It’s this far-fetched lifelong impossible dream I’ve been keeping since I was a kid. Last year I wouldn’t have even bothered to actually do this (these things really come when you least expect it, I SWEAR) but now that it’s nearing, I can’t help but think about the person I can become in a hundred days. It’s not much, but it’s something! I’m looking forward to discovering the world (also going to all the museums on my bucket list!) and going to school. And taking art classes. And traveling in between. I hope to share a bit about it here soon but I promised myself to not be glued to my phone or worry about my Instagram feed while I’m there (I can’t believe Instagram feed curating is part of my job??? It’s crazy). We’ll see!

Slowly learning to celebrate life

 

After a wild wave of personal and work-related issues I had to sort out the past couple of months (I can’t even begin to enumerate them; they’re quite a lot), I’ve been feeling much better. I owe this to my doctor (who I’ve been visiting for a year now) and to Aueeie, my life coach. I’ve had two of her sessions (Discovery & Simple) these past few months and it has made me realize two things: (1) I hate myself too much and this self-hate attitude has taken over my life, and (2) I’ve been so focused on what’s next that I keep forgetting how much I’ve managed to get through in order to be where I am.

I always carried this burden of angst from growing up with a mindset that I wasn’t capable of doing things. Well, I’m 25 now, and you know what, f*** it. I’m just going to do things and leave all the emotional baggage behind, because I worked up to acquire this life, and to be this person I am. I’m slowly letting go of my harsh inner critic and giving myself the recognition I deserve.

IDK where I’m headed and it’s ok

I’m taking an indefinite break with work. I feel like I still have decades ahead of me and I’m getting too ahead of myself that I really lose sight of what’s important (and right in front of me). At this point, I’m uncertain with what’s to come. But I’ve given up on anxiety episodes (“seen” remarks on chat included lol) that I’ve decided to, you know, just wing it. My 21 year old self would agree, she was so fearless and open to anything and I wish I could become that person again. I’m still undecided with so many things in life. I just know I want to keep making art for the rest of my life, soooo that’s a start. Lol. Slowly but surely!

Hope your year’s been doing great. See you on the other side, then?

Always be creating,

Abbey

50% of 2018: Recap + Roundup + Realizations

I’m lying in bed on a Sunday night, feeling sick (or I actually am), still on vacation mode (forced; because I’ve been feeling under the weather since last week), just finished watching two films, and realizing I miss writing daily things so much. I stopped keeping a daily journal and only write when I feel like life is not cooperating, because sometimes, my feelings meter just goes beyond me (sometimes I blame being an INFJ for this).

To be honest, I’m becoming less open about sharing bits of my life now that I’m older. It’s so typical to want to blame the age thing, really (I started blogging at 15? I’m now 25)—but I feel that I now prefer to keep most of my personal thoughts private because I want to keep making art and sharing things about art, not exactly things about my life. Maybe I’ll get to weave it in, maybe not. We’ll see. I’m still working on it.

However, my boundaries have always been a blur because I do hand lettering and journaling—two art forms that sort of have a way to subtly share about things that are in relation to my life. I letter quotes that make me feel things; I am particularly drawn to words that inspire me and push me at certain points in my own creative journey. I document mostly about my life, my travels, my experiences—none of those are unreal. I also write, and my most vulnerable self is captured in words, sentences, paragraphs, blog posts, articles. And that’s also why it’s relatively not easy for me to just whip out a bunch of stuff if it doesn’t personally mean anything to me. As much as half my job is sharing my work to the world, I want to be able to understand that I share it because I love what I made first and foremost, and hope that somewhere out there, you will love it as well.

Recently I’ve been drafting a lot of blog posts about my quarter life crisis. I’ve deleted them all; they all made no sense. I’ve been so fixated on how crazy and chaotic the past few months have been that I almost forgot I actually enjoyed them. I’m writing this post as a little ode to my past self, how she’s been able to hold up, and how things are going to be different from here on out.

Here’s a little recap on how my 2018’s been. And some learnings. And some notes. And a roundup of things I’ve consumed for the first half of the year.

Turned Twenty Five

Nothing like the start of the year to turn a year older—it’s always been a way for me to manage my own expectations of the coming year. We had a little party (which I enjoyed DIY-ing!) to celebrate quarter life, and overall, I really enjoyed my birthday. But, well, that was just the beginning.

Halfway in being twenty five has made me realize that I think way too much beyond my years. I’m not interested with keeping things around that no longer serve me—people, things, experiences. How jumping from my naive (and marupok) 24 year old self to this strong and independent adult is quite a leap.

Spoke at Graphika Manila + Taught Classes

For someone who told herself in her college years (upon seeing Jessica Hische on stage at GM 2012) that one day, she will be on the same stage giving a talk for Graphika Manila, she surprisingly fulfilled that dream six years later—all in good timing. I’m so grateful to have spoken in GM this year not because I ticked something off my life bucket list, but because it felt rewarding to be able to share my story to a new generation of artists and designers. Plus points was getting to meet a roster of amazing speakers (hello, I fangirled over bonding with Adam over the GM weekend!) and spending two days celebrating nothing but creativity and design.

I also have been putting off teaching for a few months now because I haven’t really given it that much attention (but also because I’ve been really busy). Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to collaborate with L’Occitane for a travel journaling workshop, go to Baguio to teach lettering, partner with Kaila for a journaling x brush lettering workshop in Japan (!!!), organised a meet-up / session with readers at Common Folk, participated in Design Week Philippines, and put up a few classes with Art Bar over the summer. It’s been great; I always say teaching is something I love doing because I get to talk to my students personally and find a way to help them hone their own skills. Thank you so much to everyone who attended / enrolled / took part; I’m on hiatus until next year for the time being (in the Philippines)—but who knows, maybe I’ll have a few more events before I leave in a few months. 🙂

Read more books + started on my fifth book

Partly why I love my friends (and the Internet) is I get to borrow books or get recommendations on titles I might have otherwise not considered to read. This year I’ve been trying my best to get back to reading—and I think it’s quite timely that I’m working on a book. I get a lot of reading done during book writing period, for some odd reason.

A list of favourites from this year (so far):

The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider

Probably the most accurate set of comics I have read as it talks about, well, the shape of ideas. I love the interpretations and visuals!

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

I was 100% convinced I am on the right path in my career / life after reading this book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The kind of tough love I needed when I told myself I couldn’t do the things I am doing now.

On Writing by Stephen King

Wise words and sound advice from one of the greatest writers of our time.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

A repository of procedures and steps to get you from idea to execution; breaks the concept that creatives should not be organized people (they have to be! I attest to that).

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Since we’re on the topic of books, I’ve been working on my fifth book for quite a while now. It’s not as easy as I expected; and honestly, the energy being drawn out of me to produce this book is beyond what I imagined. I think this is how most writers feel when they work on biographical stuff with a side of nonfiction and a pinch of instructional tips here and there. Needless to say, we’re halfway through it and I’m hoping to get all the nitty gritty details together. It comes out in August; I’ll share more about it soon!

Traveled purely for leisure + Saved up (yay!)

Not to a lot of places—I’m saving that for September. I’ve managed to keep track of my travels recently because of course, I need to save up for school. Haven’t figured out the budgeting and all yet, but I’m quite positive everything is within budget for now (if you must know, I am a stingy person when it comes to money and spending, lol). In adult accomplishments, I was so happy to have converted part of my Singapore workshop earnings to pocket money for school. HUHU. It feels like things are coming full circle from here on out.

In the past months, I went to Singapore twice (mostly to visit my friends and see an exhibit!), La Union twice (lol), Baguio, Tokyo and Osaka. You can read up on my Tokyo roundup here and, well, my Osaka one is still a work in progress. But it’s definitely coming out in a few weeks’ time! It was nice to not have to worry about work so much. I think I took a lot of work trips last year and it was just overwhelming. You never really get to do fun things except eat and sleep apart from the work shifts (in my case, workshops). When I travel, I always hate being rushed and not having time to appreciate what’s around me; so traveling just for the sake of exploring is really important to me. I’m glad I managed to do that more this time.

Enrolled myself in a yoga studio + Started meditation

Might have mentioned it somewhere but my mental health is not really in 100% good condition, and meditation (so far) has helped me immensely—so I took another step and enrolled myself to yoga. It’s been doing me good; I’d like to think. I’m the least flexible person out there but I enjoy every class because I have this tendency of forgetting to breathe and stay present, and that’s exactly what yoga requires.

I’ve been having a recurring habit (or preference) of going to class at 2PM on a work-from-home day. No idea why but my brain sort of attributes it as a break from the hectic workday, which should be okay. I’m nowhere near becoming a flexible person but I’m trying. I’m tryingggg. Growing up, I was the chubby girl to the point that our dance teacher ousted me out of the group because 1) I was fat and 2) I couldn’t do the gymnast poses she required. Of course, I’m quite pleased I didn’t end up becoming a dancer (but mind you, I love to sing and dance…alone in my room LOL). Anyway, I hope I get to do a full wheel soon.

Realized I needed a break + Took responsibility for my health

Break in the form of Netflix and endless movie marathons on weekends. LOL, kidding. But really, though, I’ve been watching a few films every so often (always in genres that I favour the most). Here’s a few of my favourites:

Love, Simon (a new film! I loved it!)

Wonder (plus points for Passion Pit’s Moth’s Wings playing in this film)

Lady Bird (Christine reminds me of…me lol)

Call Me By Your Name (Sufjan Stevens and that heart-wrenching final scene. And Timothee Chalamet!)

The Shape of Water (this was eerie but I actually liked it)

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There have been lots of things I had to pay attention to recently because I’ve always been focused on the end goal. Which is weird, because it got me thinking, “What the hell is my end goal, anyway?”. I keep forgetting to live life day by day and always wanting to look for what’s on the other side. Little did I know that my health has been catching up on me—let’s just say being a girl is quite hard. Hahaha. I’ve started taking meds and my daily dose of nausea and migraine is definitely not bearable. So here I am *trying* to just trust that I’ll get to recover soon.

 

In other news, I’m sure you’ve heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I am in deep damage upon hearing this news; because these are people who have reached some sort of “pinnacle” of success by doing what they love, sharing it to the world, and then it dawned on me that what else did they ever want? It pains me to know they have battled with their demons, but their demons have won. It breaks my heart taking in the fact that while they embodied qualities of who we wanted to become (well, I know I am one of them), it wasn’t enough to save their lives. Truth be told, mental health has been an invisible sickness most people don’t acknowledge. I hope this helps us realise how important it is to be kind, talk to people, and to address issues that you know you can’t deal with yourself.

Planned my upcoming NYC trip + Pitched New Ideas

OK, booking the tickets wasn’t so bad (lol, I did it a week after my birthday, hello? I’m an impulsive traveler)—I’m still waiting for enrolment, actually. But while that was ongoing, I came up with the craziest idea—well, it wasn’t impossible, now that I think about it (until now I’m so shook but it got approved! AHHH!)—that will take me to places I never imagined I’ll actually get to visit for work. I’m going to Europe (alone!) and it’s been something I’ve been looking forward to since I’m visiting a dream city (!!!!!!!!!!!!!! legit dream because I have finally found a reason to go…not just for work). Also, collaborating with a few folks and traveling across the US (and down south) to visit some relatives and teach…and watch Taylor Swift live. That is all. My sixteen year old self will thank me for this (I’m referring to the TSwift part for context).

I still surprise myself sometimes. Suddenly, I’ve found this immense courage to just go after what I want by finding ways to get there, and plotting out the possibilities. I leave some of it to luck and good timing (more on the timing part actually). It doesn’t hurt to try…I kept asking myself “what if I did this? what if I did that?” but my life right now has been all fingers crossed to the nth power and all, “whatever I’m going to do it anyway and let’s cross the bridge when we get there”. The spontaneity keeps me going. And it keeps me inspired to constantly go after bigger dreams and bigger goals (that don’t have to be just in one place). It’s a wonderful feeling. 🙂

Finally made personal decisions I won’t regret (I hope)

As someone who’s always on social media 24/7, I’ve gotten what, tons of messages from readers saying, “Why are you leaving us? Why are you going on hiatus?” as if I have to keep myself accountable for actually doing this and wanting to impact other people BY leaving.

Ok, first of all—I am going back by end of the year. Whether or not I’ll decide to move to another country next year, that’s for me to figure out soon.

At a very young age, I have always envisioned an alter ego of myself—one who went to art school, became an artist, and pushed the boundaries of what she thought were limitations. Guess what: I became an artist, I pushed the boundaries. But I never went to art school. I’m going back to school to make an impossible dream come to life. It has nothing to do with wanting to prove anyone wrong. I just want to give my past self a bit of justice and it is not, by any means, anything I should feel guilty about.

Being a full-time artist is a hard path to take on, career-wise. I wish I could sugarcoat it for you, but my life is just as disorganised as everyone. I struggle with constant self-doubt and live with uncertainty every day of my life. My goals are ever-changing, because not only do I think about what art I should make, but what I want others to get from it. I know most artists create for themselves, and I’m fine with that. But that’s just not me. I feel that as someone who holds a responsibility to somehow influence a set of people, I want to be able to share what I can in the best way. You can call it paying it forward, but for me it’s just been hardwired into my mission as an artist and author.

There comes a point when you feel like you’ve just given yourself too much already, that you’re finding a way to replenish yourself without feeling toxic about it. Naturally, I’m a curious person—I question things every single time. My interests for other non-art things has always given me a reason to keep exploring, keep wondering, and to keep learning. I don’t want to always be in a state where I have to put out art “for the sake of Instagram”, be constantly online “for the sake of being there”.

So yeah, that’s one personal decision I don’t regret on making. I have a few more lined up…but I digress. It’s too early to tell whether it’ll work out. Decision-making has been such a daunting task for me, mostly because I trust on my instincts 100% of the time and am kinda scared that it might not work out.

I listened to this podcast episode featuring Scott Belsky and he was talking about how making decisions is just half the battle…the rest is for you to take action. It doesn’t matter if you make the “right” decision at this point, but know that you have to be accountable for it in the long run. Whether what you decide on works or not, it all boils down to how you take it from there. And it’s such a comforting thought, you know? You can always make decisions that feel right for you. If it works out according to plan, great! If it doesn’t, then you have the capability to make it better—for your own sake.

I’m not sure how to end this post. But I did mention I’m relatively bad with ending things, right? So I’m just going to cut it right here.

Hope your 2018 has been all sorts of interesting and amazing. And crazy. And memorable, maybe?

Always be creating,

Abbey

En Route: Drifting

I’m not sure how to start this post. If you’ve been reading my blog since 2014/2015, you’d know I always go to La Union for some specific reason.

But for the first time (ever), I didn’t have any particular agenda when I booked a trip to LU last month, complete with my laptop (I was expecting to write, but the universe had other plans) and a book (which I have not finished), plus a trusty journal for some life analyzing (as if I needed more of it).

I’ve been meaning to book my own out of town trip because sometimes, taking yourself out to “retreats” is a good way to reconnect with yourself. At least, for me. Living in a busy city where everything is 24/7 calling for your attention (ahem, work) is not exactly as pleasing as it sounds. So there, I took the bus (biyaheroes.com is so efficient!), met up with my LU friends, caught the sunset, did some writing, had a mental breakdown, and finally learned to stay put for the first time in 2018.

(Above: Particularly amused with my friend Maka’s office because of the library of books, which I obviously went crazy over. Spent a good few hours after lunch reading and dissecting a few titles while waiting for check-in at Vessel.)

I’ve been eyeing Vessel Hostel since it opened a few years ago. Something about the architecture made me want to book a bunk bed; and I was right. It was amazing. It felt like you were back in time with the simple and straightforward interiors. Obviously an old soul and a sucker for anything wood, so I easily enjoyed my two nights here (except for my noisy roommate who snored the whole time I was there on the second night. Horrible!).

As someone who travels alone a lot, I’ve always been at peace with myself (not necessarily with my thoughts). But being in La Union was hard. I tried to shut off parts of myself, tried to make sense of my thoughts, pulled tarot cards, did some work. But nothing was going as planned (especially if you count the part where my InDesign software crashed and my files got deleted). My brain had its own internal crisis. I started to realize it just dawned on me how pathetic I was for not realizing that 1) I’m so tired (no, more like fatigued) with the rate I’m going, work-wise, and 2) I’m so frustrated for only acknowledging this as a weakness, when in fact, it was the strength I needed to act accordingly (and make decisions that would help solve this problem).

You’re probably going to read this and say, “OMG, what is she even trying to say here?” Lol. Here’s the thing. I’ve been suffering with quarter life crisis since this summer started. I’ve been so fixated on leaving and figuring out where to go next (and what to do) that this “breeding period” aka my last few months here has always been a blur to me. I just know I was going to work and get all my deadlines done before I board that plane to New York. (And for the record, I’m going to be back in December, and eventually decide on where to take things from there.)

But little did I know that several factors were at stake here. First off, my physical health has been deteriorating lately. Then, there’s my mental health. There’s also the part where I become lethargic / I get migraines every day / I end up asking myself why am I still forcing work if my brain is just giving up on me. So right now, as I type this out, I’m slowly trying to pick up the pieces and watch over myself more. Obviously, this trip was square one of “road to self-improvement”. Let’s just say that’s my ongoing project for the rest of the year.

I’ve always liked La Union. From the first time Mikka brought me here in 2014, to unexpectedly meeting a set of friends (now my LU barkada) last year. It’s always been a place I like revisiting for the same reasons that I always visit Singapore and Japan: I see self-growth in places where I used to wander. Is it weird that I like doing this? It’s also why I send myself postcards every year at the same countries…I write a bit about how things are and see how one thing leads to another.

So yeah, that’s how LU’s been for me. I even told myself I won’t be back because of how things ended up last year, but the universe is I guess pretty tricky with these things.

 

My favorite part is always the morning. There is a silence I can’t comprehend, a silence that keeps me in tune with the present. I read a few pages of The Art of Thinking Clearly and went up and down the stairs to take in some more of the quiet ambiance, the morning sun, and do a bit of writing.

The sunlight is nice, the quiet is nice, everything is nice. I like it that way. Nice and quiet.

How ironic is it that when you are away, you think of home? You also think of other places, places that you’d rather be in. Sometimes I find myself drifting away from where I am at this moment, daydreaming about the next trip, the near future, the unlimited possibilities, the reality of it all happening…and then it all goes back to the present in a snap.

That’s been me lately with life. I’ve been so stressed that I’m often looking past this struggle and go straight to the other side, to the part where things are making sense, where I get to go away for a short time. For when I don’t have to worry about work, about trying to prove something, about trying to be who I am for others. But I’m slowly learning that maybe looking too far ahead won’t give me the answers I’m looking for. It helps to ultimately focus on what’s right in front of me for now and get my sh*t together, because as much as I get tough love and good advice from friends and family, I’m still responsible to act on my own choices and make decisions that truly matter. And for now, that involves making a conscious choice to stand up for myself, address current concerns, and most importantly–take good care of myself, while I can.

I don’t want to sulk in and feel shitty about these last few months just because I’m still here. The problem comes with the drifting: drifting of thoughts, drifting of dreams, drifting of the totality that is me. I’ve lost touch with who I am and what I really want in life because I’ve been finding ways to escape. But as they say, really, the only way out of this crisis is through.

<3

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Photos from my iPhone and disposable camera

Everything’s An Experiment (For Now)

I feel like a huge chunk of my 2018 is about experimentations. Lots of trial and error, actually. Not necessarily in the creative sense, but if it counts that I’m trying out new mediums like graphite and gouache for a change (I’m sorry, I love watercolor, but I’m getting a bit sick of it), then okay. Either way, yeah, I’ve been testing the waters on many things and while I should be terrified about it, I’m not. I’m also not as particular anymore with the outcome, just as long as I put my mind into starting it and doing it. The outcome will come…soon. I’m just going to make sure I do my part in making it the best I can be.

As much as I am fascinated and interested with astrology, I never quite felt affected with the Mercury Retrograde until this recent wave that just ended (last April 15). It’s in Aries (I’m a Capricorn) and I’ve read this article saying that you tend to lose control over things (and yourself) during this period. True enough, I got sick, I couldn’t get myself to sit down and work, and I was constantly in a state of apathy up until last weekend’s field trips to Old Manila and Art in the Park. Finally, I’m better today. I’m hoping I get to fix my life more in the coming months.

Here are a few things I’ve been experimenting on…literally and figuratively.

Writing my first self-help book

I never thought a day would come where I’d actually pitch this idea to my publisher (which was approved), let alone get to write it. I’ve been giving talks for around 5 years now, and I feel like all of these sort of contributed to my growth as an artist and as a writer. I’m working on a book to be released in a few months’ time, and it’s a mix of things I’ve learned over the course of my career and a bit of exploration into what it means to live a creative life. As someone who accidentally ended up here in this creative career, I’ve been gathering lots of stories and anecdotes from my past experiences and weaving them into this book. It’s so surreal, and it’s like a self-imposed journey into myself too, so it’s kind of special that way.

I guess I’ll say this project is one of my 2018 highlights. I’m 20% in it and I’m keeping my fingers crossed things will turn out well. (At this point, you don’t really know. Brb, holding my breath!)

Working on projects that scare me

One of which is a set of tarot cards. I casually brought up the idea of illustrating cards after a reading with Chinggay early this year, and now I’ve been working on my illustrations for the said project. It’s exciting! But I’m also doubting myself half the time because I suck at drawing human anatomy (well, to be fair, the elements are less people and more objects). Digital coloring is also relatively new to me but I’m both curious and nervous to see how the final designs turn out. Go, me!

Side note: Love the color scheme of the original Rider-Waite tarot deck!

Organizing more classes (and closing the shop)

Okay, last of the work updates in this post. First of all, let’s put the sad news out first: I’m closing Shop Abbey Sy. I just can’t manage it anymore with all of my workload, and I don’t have the courage to complete leave it to someone else. I’m still opening USA orders though, and I’ll be running the shop while I’m in New York. So if you’re from the US, you can pre-order here.

I’m making use of my weekends this summer for workshops, mostly because people have been requesting it for the longest time. I still think teaching is one thing I love doing, and I told myself this year to keep doing it and to make art more accessible to everyone. For a list of my 2018 classes, click here.

Last week was so much fun! I got to spend a Saturday morning with a few readers for Coffee & Creativity at Common Folk. It was lovely discussing about journaling and basically the beauty of documenting things. Of course, with a little chat of random things in between.

Doing daily draws

I purchased this Art Oracles deck in Singapore because WHY SHOULDN’T I? LOL. Kidding aside, this set of oracle cards features artists and prominent historical people and their corresponding “messages”. You know me and my love for these people, right? Well, Yayoi Kusama was on the box. Of course, I had to get it!

I never quite opened it because it’s too pretty, but just because I’ve been curious about these daily draw things, I decided to pull out daily this week. Whether it’s to set an intention for my day, or to serve as a reminder for my creative pursuits, I’m looking forward to doing my daily draws to keep myself inspired every day.

Practicing yoga

I’m actually just writing this for accountability. I’ve been meaning to enroll myself in a yoga studio since two years ago (haha) but never managed to. I felt like I wasn’t flexible (I’m not!) and I’m not skinny…so I don’t think I can carry my own weight (I’m sorry I really have issues with myself). I did Bikram yoga for awhile (I liked it for a time), but the repetitiveness just didn’t appeal to me (also, it’s so hot in Manila right now, I don’t want to suffer in an equally heated room). I started practicing at home (thanks, Yoga with Adriene!) last February and I really enjoyed it. With a bit of encouragement from friends, I finally signed up for class. It’s just two weeks, but I’ll definitely enroll again when I get back from my Osaka trip.

There’s a different feeling after yoga that I can’t quite explain. But I felt it. And I feel 100x more alive than usual, so that’s cool. So if that’s going to make me have a happier and more productive disposition at work (and life, in general), then of course I’ll do it.

I’m obviously way far ahead when it comes to headstands and balancing poses (sorry, I can’t strain my hands because ~werq~) but here’s to taking baby steps to finding inner peace and listening to my body more. It’s been mad at me for mistreating it since forever. Haha!

Reading new books

I saw a lone copy of On Writing by Stephen King on display at a nearby bookstore and I knew I had to get it. Mikka has mentioned this book briefly to me a few years back, so I picked up that same copy and it’s now beside my bed as I try to read through it as often as I can after work. I’m halfway through it and I love it so far.

Tricie gave me a copy of Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe for my birthday. I asked her to choose from three books I linked out from Amazon (one is about adulting and the other one is about Hygge, I think) and she does know me well for getting this Universe book. It’s an illustrated book by Yumi Sakugawa, and I told myself I wanted a copy when a kindred soul sent me photos of the inside pages. There were stories about having a cup of tea with your inner demons, and I was particularly attackedt (with a T) when he sent a story about letting things grow (which directly translates to just putting yourself out there and make your way into the world, and eventually you will succeed in due time). It hit me right in the feels, like real hard. #feelings

I’m excited to read this tonight before going to bed. I’ve been consciously turning off my wi-fi every night (and mostly during the day now) in order to focus more on real life. I love my digital tools, but let’s be real, analog forever.

Also: I’ll share a few more of my summer reads in a separate post. Writing a book means I read more at this point of the year, so watch out for my list soon!

Fixing my life (for real)

Okay, literally, this means clearing out things at my HQ. I’m moving houses soon (not moving out) and I’m moving to a new room which excites me a lot. I love my HQ and its charm, but the space isn’t enough for my work requirements (I need to shoot most days and it gets dark here easily) and I just really want to lie down in a couch and read books by the window, HUHU. I still have my books here, but I’m slowly getting rid of other things to make way for the move, which IDK when will happen. Hopefully before I go to school.

In a figurative sense, I did mention a few posts back that my 2017 was toxic. After having experienced several issues (money, trust, etc), I’ve decided to just cut myself out from people who no longer serve a purpose in my life. I keep my relationships with people private, and now that I’m “clearing out” things that no longer “spark joy” (Marie Kondo reference, you guys) in my current state of living, I’ve decided to give myself the freedom to choose who to stay close to, and who to keep in check with. Let’s just say it has paved the way for better things. 🙂

Planning future trips

Every time I feel like thinking negative thoughts, I try to visualize myself in my dream destinations (two of which I get to visit this fall!) and remember that I will be there soon. I know, I know, so superficial. My work breaks now consist of intense researching on the best museums, art stores, bookstores, parks, and tourist spots in these locations (which I will not talk about yet until I book my tickets). I still am also waiting for enrolment to open for the fall classes so as much as I’m looking forward to be in New York soon, I’m constantly telling myself to sit still here in Manila and make do of all the work I have pending here at home.

But yes, I’m excited. It’s one of the reasons that’s been keeping me on my feet as I work through my deadlines and take a few deep breaths in between this crazy few months. I’ve posted a few sad accounts of being overly busy and my constantly recurring overworking state (still something I carried over from 3 years’ of maintaining my career, ugh!), and I’ve gotten messages from readers and friends alike about taking care of myself in order to not feel burnt out. Thank you, I appreciate it! I’m okay. I’ll be better.

Maybe I just need a legitimate break from everything. That’s one more thing I’m experimenting on…not sure how or when. But I’m working on it.

Abbey

En Route: #ABCngapore Year 4

En Route to Changi airport via SMRT East West Line | 10:34PM, Thursday, March 1

I visit Singapore every year since 2014.

Okay, I visit Japan every year too (since 2014 too lol), but this is different. Four years ago, I flew to Singapore a few months before my college graduation (and after thesis—around summertime) to do some “soul searching” at 21 years old. No, really, I just wanted to go café hopping and buy a few art materials to get me started with my creative pursuits (I was just dabbling into hand lettering at that time; nothing serious—just a hobby). Singapore seemed to be a safe choice—only three hours away from Manila via plane, looked like it was a safe place (visited last 2013 as a “layover” from Paris with family), and luckily, my cousin had a unit at that time (aka: I could stay with her and my mom had no choice but to permit me to go—I paid for everything anyway!).

So I did, and so it began. Let’s just say I came home from that trip (also my first time getting drunk and hungover haha I was twenty one then!) with a new perception of what travel was for me—a reminder that I’m just a tiny dot in this universe and that there are so many things to still see and make sense of. That I can discover the world through my own way of seeing—no need to be all touristy, because apparently, all I really needed was caffeine (by default!) and a good dose of culture in the form of museums and galleries, bookstores, libraries, and visiting offbeat places and quaint neighbourhoods.

Years passed and I would impulsively book flights to Singapore on odd occassions: a sidetrip during a 30-day backpacking trip to Southeast Asia (also a soul searching trip lol), and an instant destination when a piso fare popped up on my feed and I decided to book on the spot—both of which were just my attempts to get out of Manila on my own terms. (Looking back, what was I thinking?!)

And then opportunities suddenly came in for work. I started teaching a few lettering classes, and ended up going to SG thrice to do that. How this Manila-based artist got ahold of the Singapore market is something I’m still trying to figure out (hi, Singapore-based readers!). In the process of flying back and forth to Singapore, some of my close friends have moved to this place I call my second home—and it’s because of that that I’ve given more reason to find a piece of what I call “home” here. And as they say, home is not a place—it’s really the people in it.

Lately, Singapore has been a justified excuse for “research”, as I’ve been going here more often to see exhibits, restock on art supplies, and stay in their library.

(Side note: below’s a vlog featuring my favorite art and bookstores in Singapore!)

I’ve seen Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit last June (aka my shortest trip to date—two days! Impulse booking never felt so real) and it was a visual treat. Last January, my big sis Mikka tied the knot and I came to SG for two and a half days…and while commuting, I saw a poster announcing the Century of Light exhibit at the National Gallery, which had just started at the time. Here’s the thing: I love exhibits, but I’m particularly picky. But I saw both Monet and Luna in fine print and I knew I had to go. I only look up to a few artists (Van Gogh, Monet, Kahlo, Warhol, to name a few) so give me at least a few moments to process the fact that I’ll be seeing a lot of Monet’s work in real life. Yup, sold.

The Colors of Impressionism exhibit was my favorite, and what I’ve been looking forward to viewing. I loved the transition of color as refelcted in the works of several impressionist painters. From black to white to snow-themed sceneries, to blue and greens and finally, to incorporating pastel hues with their work. Between Worlds was another visual treat. I loved seeing most of Luna’s works exhibited beautifully in pink-colored walls. There was an art activity outside which I enjoyed too. Galleries with post-exhibit activities for the visitors are always a good idea.

Also, made a vlog compiling two exhibits I visited at NGS: Yayoi Kusama’s Life Is The Heart of a Rainbow (June 2017) and Century of Light (February 2018).

Spent a quiet morning writing and being a full-on introvert in Drury Lane. Above is a snap of their beautiful wall full of coffee packaging.

Two afternoons were well-spent reading piles of books and taking lots of notes at Library@Orchard. Was also surprised to see my book as part of their library! So kilig. You can check out my pile of reads here. My favorites were Way More Than Luck and Lonely Planet’s book on Travel Writing.

Apart from the usual visits to Bras Basah Complex, IKEA, and coffee shops around the vicinity of Singapore, I was really looking forward to see my friends in SG. There’s my best friend Nicole, my long-time high school friend Peter, and my “big sis” Mikka. Usually I book these spontaneous trips in the middle of deadlines, and this was no different. I ended up getting a good fix of life catch-ups and self-care while I was away. Long distance, low maintenance friendships are the best, really. Idk if it’s just me, but I find myself significantly closer to those farther than me, geographically. How ironic.

This trip has been both fun and tiring, and emotionally draining. I had a panic attack inflight and that’s something I rarely get nowadays, so I really had to fix it up once I arrived (through meditation). I also had to deal with a lot of work errands in the middle of the trip so I tried to keep myself together as the days went by. All was well.

I’m going to head home with a reassurance that nothing is permanent. Even episodes of anxiety that may seem like a long stretch to recover from (aka me when I landed in Singapore last Monday) feel like something I’ve deliberately forgotten. And I’m going home feeling more than excited to dive in to writing my next book—about self-enrichment, which is coincidentally what I did mostly on this impulse trip away from home.

*70% of this post was written in transit.

Related posts:

En Route: Out and About

Workshop Weekend in Singapore

Singapore Roundup: Art, Books, Crafts & Coffee

En Route: Singapore 2016 Photo Diary

Life in Transit: Highlights

Art Hoarding in Singapore

Soloing Singapore

Soloing Singapore: Year 2

 

My Third Work Anniversary

Deciding to write this is one of the most impulsive tasks I’ll ever do, only because I never write about these things anymore. Is it because I’m busy? More often that not, yes. As much as my job requires me to be on social media 100% of the time, I find myself keeping a lot of thoughts private in an attempt to get the “balance” that I’m looking for.

But that’s not the point of this post. I’m sitting here on a Friday night (8PM), skipping social things (sorry, friends!) and working on deadlines while I keep myself busy with music and a liter of water (I love drinking…water. Haha!). My table’s a mess as usual—I did some brush work earlier and now moving to digital work with a bit of administrative tasks in between. Probably in two hours I’ll start to slow down as my energy depletes, and I’ll change into sleepwear and wrap up the last few minutes of the night with some reading and (hopefully) relaxing, because it’ll be my last free weekend for the summer.

Work has been toxic these past few months. After surviving December last year (and getting a good vacation out of it, unexpectedly) and turning a year older (with an extra AF pre-quarter life party to make way for the real QLC) in January, 2018 surprised me (wow, what’s new) with an influx of things I didn’t see coming. And it’s been the kind that’s exciting me and scaring me and getting me all uncomfortable about my current state. Life’s been always glitchy in a sense that I am always unsure of my next “move” (not literally…but ok). I always try to segment my career into months because I don’t know how next year is going to look like for me. Usually, towards the end of every year, I have a rough idea of what the next year will look like. But most of the time, these circumstances change and I end up experiencing entirely different things.

So getting this far into my creative career is some sort of milestone. Well, I’d like to think it is? Okay, I’m claiming it. It is a milestone. I’m quite proud of myself, and that’s a very rare thing.

Looking back, the years that led to the present felt like such a blur; did everything happen so fast? Did I see it all pass by without blinking. Let me try to remember.

2014 was my “growing up” year. Being twenty one gave me the freedom to go partying, take on freelance work, start venturing into new things (such as putting up my first website!). Oh, and finally finishing college and getting a headstart into the ~corporate life~.

2015 was my “transition” year. After struggling to try to stay where I am, I decided to question my own actions and found answers in the process. I gave a TEDx talk, passed my resignation letter, and wrote my first book. And tried to justify that maybe being an artist was a possible career.

2016 was filled with self-doubt. Am I really an author? Am I really going to make it in this industry? It was also a year of realizing I am weak, and in weakness I can find my own interpretation of how it is to be strong enough to take on this career.

2017 was dramatic a wake up call I never knew I needed. I worked on dream projects, continued writing books, traveled a lot. It’s safe to say it was the year I finally told myself there are more things out there than what’s in front of me right now.

2018 (so far) has been very eye-opening. Suddenly, new things are starting to unfold. New things I never would have imagined to transpire in my career. My dream to study abroad is coming true in a few months. I’m finally writing a book that talks about how everything (all of this) came into the picture. I’m also in the midst of figuring out what else I can do with this career, in my attempts to help make art accessible to more people.

Side note: My good friend Mikka interviewed me about The ABCs of Adulting on her column at Preen online: click here to read. I’d like to say this is the realest interview I’ve done in my (quarter) life.

***

I started to flip open a copy of Hand Lettering A to Z earlier (as I’m currently doing a workbook that will be an accompanying material to my book) and realized how everything started to make sense after three long years. I’m bad with committing (lol) in general, and that’s probably why my multi-hyphenated job keeps me on my feet 24/7. Today I can be shooting content, tomorrow I can be curled up with my laptop watching a movie for “research”, and the next day I can be locked up in a cafe writing a chapter’s worth of text for my next book. The week after, I’ll probably be catching a flight to see an exhibit overseas (which really just happened last February, lol). And you know what, I like it that way. Despite getting eye rolls for being a millennial twenty-something young achiever, I realize that the important part of this whole journey is finally getting to a place where I can be complacent and telling myself I’m actually doing good. I’m still here, and I don’t think I’m quitting anytime soon. 🙂

I won’t bore you into the whole “how I got here” story since I’ve done that many times. Yes, I’m that girl who decided to quit her 9 to 5 advertising job in an effort to pursue her passion. But that’s not the only reason I ended up here. A big chunk of it is hard work. Hard work that never sees the light of day (because not everything needs to be proclaimed on social media). And maybe, a little bit of luck. But I’d like to think everything just deliberately happened in the right timing.

Behind this so-called “success” is a multitude of people who have believed in me and brought me from point A to point B—friends, people I’ve worked with, family. People who’ve come in and out of my life and left a dent in it. Behind it is also a series of chance encounters and opportunities that led me to where I am today. And behind it is a series of decisions that could’ve gone in different directions…but now that I think of everything that has transpired in the past few years, maybe it was meant to be. It just didn’t manifest earlier than expected. Heck, I’m still stuck in this bubble that everything is just a dream. I need a good slap in the face and realize this is all real.

Happy third work anniversary, self! You’re doing okay. You’ll be fine. Here’s to more years of making art and sharing stories.

<3

PS: A little before and after, because I still stick to this mantra every day of my life. 🙂