To my 30-year-old self

I’m writing this days before our birthday weekend. I’ve actually tried to write this earlier, but something felt off. And the truth of the matter is, I think I was trying to write that letter too smug. We may have learned a lot in the past decade, but we’re still a work in progress. Some days, months or years may come better than others but we’ll still need to work on ourselves every day. Not necessarily to reach perfection, just to be a little bit better every day. Better on ourselves, other people, and the world. 

20s was a decade filled with memories for the ages. Exciting adventures at unfamiliar landscapes, heartbreaks, disappointments, achievements and new beginnings. You’ve shown up for yourself in ways that you never thought you needed to. You’ve grown to love yourself and actually like yourself, even if you do get snotty sometimes and may need some reassurance from time to time. You’ve accepted the freedom of being wrong and being wrong often (sometimes we still need to accept this more if we’re really being honest). You’ve started to have more faith and trust, even when times feel desolate and futile. You’ve allowed yourself to feel every crashing wave of emotion instead of holding your breath until it passes. And you’ve been humbled, and continue to be humbled, to know that you didn’t do any of this on your own. You’ve been gifted the strength to fight through circumstances, but nothing compares to the grace, love, joy, courage, wisdom, peace, and power that surrendering to Christ brings. He is your most trusted friend, heavenly father and faithful partner.

There’s so much to look forward to, even if they are unknown. Many more things to learn and unlearn. And even if sharing with your best friend, Tatay and Nanay, may not be physically possible, they’ll be here in mind, heart and sometimes with a little attitude to bring yours down back to Earth. It’s okay to miss them and wish they were here. That’s part of grieving and moving forward.

Lean into your discomfort. To access the deepest and undiscovered parts of you, you have to let yourself sink into the discomfort. Floating only keeps you on the surface, wandering and wondering – half in and half out. You and I know that staying on the superficial surface has never been our style. So sink. Forgotten shipwrecks remain dormant underneath the surface could still carry treasures. You found the one true refuge amidst a shipwreck, remember?

And one last thing before I leave, you’re going to hate this but I’m going to say it anyway, fall in love with someone else again. You know how to love unconditionally, that’s not what I’m saying. Fall in love again slowly, and let yourself be loved… I saw that eye roll. Do it for us and because we deserve to. 

Always,

K

P.S. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Re: Growth charts

Months ago I wrote about how plants are like people and the impact our environments have in our growth. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t follow up with the diversity in the ways in which plants grow, the varying ways we grow.

I’ve been joyfully growing different plants since that post in October. More recently experimenting growing red bell pepper seeds and an avocado seed from food scraps. Sustainability is something that I value, but we’ll dig into that later (yes, pun intended!) After a few weeks of nurturing my bell pepper seeds, I started to notice how fast certain seedlings were growing, while others held a much slower pace. And so, even if they came from the same bell pepper their growth charts were not equivalent, the ways they developed roots were not equivalent and the direction that they were growing were not equivalent. My avocado seed actually took more than 100 days to start a stem, and the root is much thicker in comparison to the roots found on a bell pepper seedling. I watered all of these plants the same way everyday, yet their outcomes are not totally the same. Why? I’m not going to pretend to know why because I don’t. Although, not knowing does not limit how much I can and want to take care of these plants. The uncertainty of their growth charts don’t dictate the love I want to shower them with and the joy I receive seeing them flourish at their own pace and at their own time. So why is it so hard for us to translate the same level of compassion with fellow human beings? One word: expectations. 

As only Christ can speak to me in such a way that I may be saved, so others, too, can be saved only by Christ himself. This means that I must release the other person from every attempt of mine to regulate, coerce, and dominate him with my love. The other person needs to retain his independence of me; to be loved for what he is… 

Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pg. 35-36

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together shares a powerful message about what it means to live in community as Christians during a time of hatred and great division, a hopeful byproduct of experiencing Nazi Germany. Who would have thought there was such a thing? Nonetheless, I was humbly reminded by Bonhoeffer’s book while tending to my seedlings and feeling the frustrations of navigating through difficult relationship dynamics. To put it simply, I was reminded to meet people as they are as God meets me as I am, wherever they may be in their life journey. And yes, I recognize that this is easier said than done. But if I can’t make room to see humanity being reflected in front of me, how could I carry the same level of compassion I’m willing to pour over my plants? How could I connect with people meaningfully? How could I love people truly? We learn and grow in so many ways, because we are beautifully diverse in nature. 

Always,

K

P.S. Be brave, curious and kind. 

From the one who got away

You’ll see me live a joyful life without you. See me smile and hear me laugh. 

You’ll see the radiant woman that I’ve become at the most unexpected time. 

You’ll wonder why things didn’t work out. 

Was it really about you or was it because of me? 

Maybe it’s both? 

You’ll wish you could have treated me better yet continue with the same patterns. 

You’ll wish you could talk to me the way you used to. The way I understood you – accepted all of you.

You’ll wish you made different choices because you didn’t think that I’ll actually leave. 

What you didn’t realize is that committing to you was always a choice,

Not a necessity. 

Looking back now, would you rather have regrets or loss?

Would you rather have a home or a house? 

Would you rather fight than hear silence? 

Would you rather feel afraid or empty? 

Would you rather tell the ugly truth or transfixed in a beautiful lie?

Most of all, would you rather love than pretend? 

At the end of the day, you’ll see me as the one who got away. And sure, there might be moments when I would wonder what could have been… before it becomes a faded memory. Remembered, but not part of the reality. 

Always, 

K

P.S. “You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them. You can miss a person everyday and still be glad that they’re no longer in your life…

I think we do love a real disservice when we make it about control and power and changing people. That’s not what it is. You love people, you give them that for free. And you decide if that’s something that you want to have in your life. The alternative is to say, ‘Well, I’m going to change them and then I’ll have them in my life’. And that’s not love. That’s not what love is and that’s not what it does, and that’s not the power it has.” 

– Tara Westover

P.P.S. Because of some circumstances and choices, you may read this from the lens of “the one who got away” or “the one someone got away from”. Now, it doesn’t really matter which camp you’re in. What matters is you are continuing to live. God has a funny way of sorting things out. As my 23-year old self once said, “Forgive always, love and laugh endlessly and be bold with your endeavours.”

Dear 2020

When we think about 2020 years from now there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the first word that we might all be reminded of is coronavirus or COVID-19. You’ve (2020) descended upon us with the same jolly smiles on new year’s day only to completely shatter any notion of expectation of what the year ahead may turn out to be. How it continues to be. But we would all be remiss if we didn’t see the flip side. You gave us many gifts, one of which is compelling us to be still. Surfacing the things we value most. Rooting us in the comforts of our homes. Challenging us to develop a grateful heart despite of it all. And humbling us to hope for something bigger than ourselves because in the grand scheme of things, we’re really not that important. 

Reflecting on the last couple of days of 2020, the word that comes to my mind is forgiveness. It took me 28 years of existence to notice that forgiveness is actually made up of 3 words – ‘for’, ‘give’ and ‘ness’. I guess it’s not the kind of word or concept that I’ve meditated on deeply. After all, as children we’ve been taught to say sorry, to forgive then forget. Although as I’ve been schooled [the hard way] the past year, forgiveness is so much more than that. Pain precedes forgiveness, but so do choice and most of all, love. 

If we break down the 3 words that comprise forgiveness an incredible truth comes out. 

For – with the object or purpose of; intended to belong to or be used in connection with; suiting the purpose or needs of; in order to obtain, acquire or gain

Give – to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; to place in someone’s care; to make a gift or gifts

Ness – a headland; promontory (a high point of land or rock projecting into the sea or other water beyond the line of coast); cape

Nowhere in each word definitions require (or even in the literal definition of forgiveness as one word) reciprocation or reconciliation contrary to expected conventions. So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a purposeful gift that knows no bounds. And yes, I hear you when you say that it’s not that simple in practise. In fact, it’s probably the most costly gift that we all have the choice to give/receive especially when the pain runs deep, hope is depleted and trust annihilated. I get it. I have a hard time doing it too without anger or bitterness offering reasons why I shouldn’t. But who am I to withhold forgiveness when I have been forgiven?

Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongue, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words or knowledge are forgotten. 

1 Corinthians 13:8 (Passions Translation)

In a word, forgiveness is love. The kind of love that allowed for all of us to receive second, third, fourth, unlimited chances to correct our mistakes through Christ. The kind of unconditional love that sees and accepts us for all of who we are, come what may. So I ask again, how can I not extend the love that Christ freely gives me every single day? 

2020 may have reshaped our lives in ways we didn’t expect or wanted, and we may not know what 2021 may bring with new strains of the virus popping up. But this is all just part of experiencing real life – the bad, the painful, the beautiful, the fulfilling, the extraordinary. So thank you, 2020, for giving me marked moments. 

Always, 

K

P.S. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5 (ESV)