Days go by so quickly. Yesterday, I was genuinely shocked when it finally hit me that it’s March, and we’re almost into the spring/summer season. The last time I looked, it was still January 2021. And if I’m honest, it still feels like June 2018, when I had just graduated! But that was over three years ago now… how strange is that?
Because of how fast my 20’s seem to be going, I’ve made the conscious effort every year to sit down and write about things that happened that year. This formed my year in review posts. Heck, come to think of it, I’ve also been writing about my months since August 2016. Looking back at these, I’m glad that I’ve noted things down. As I read them, I not only experience nostalgia (which is one of my favourite emotions 😆), but it’s also a chance to look back at how far I’ve come.
Personal development and growth may seem like an overused word for Instagram captions these days. Sometimes I look through the content on Instagram or YouTube with the word personal development and think to myself, “what the fuck is it?” It’s not until I can relate it to myself – by looking at what I’ve done – that I truly understand it. We’re all consumed by the hustle and grind of life that self-recognition can slip on the side, and we forget to take a moment to appreciate the journey so far.
I’ve been emotional recently, so it may not come as a surprise when I say that I got emotional thinking about the small and big things I’ve done on my journey. I wanted to share some of them today — the before and nows, the grit and perseverance, the growth.
As a Filipina who knew little English when I first moved here to the UK, all I wanted was to fit in.
There was a time growing up where I’d go to school and sit there alongside my white classmates, wishing I could look and sound like them so I wouldn’t be so weird. Fitting in was all I wanted to do. It’s sad knowing that young me had imagined what it would be like if my curly, black hair were straight and blonde. Or if I had lighter skin and blue eyes… If I would be treated differently. I even wished this at times – dying my hair blonde at one point and avoiding the sun to stay as white as possible.
I felt ashamed of my Filipino roots. Because of this need, I unconsciously (and maybe consciously) took steps to ignore as much of my Asian roots as I could. I’d feel ashamed if anyone brought up, “where are you from originally?” I’d try to awkwardly change the conversation because I didn’t want to talk about it.
Masking myself like this was another way of trying to blend into the background and fit in. But over time, I learned that no matter what, I was different, and that’s OK. I knew that trying to speak, think, act like the majority, and shun away my roots did nothing but hide away and suppress who I am.
I don’t think it was until 2014-15 where this act of hiding who I really was sort of cracked. I decided that I was tired of trying to fit in with the majority and wanted for the first time in my life to feel good in my skin. This decision to own who I was didn’t come without its challenges, but eventually, I got to where I am today:
A proud Filipina.
I still have a lot to learn about my own culture and traditions after years of trying to “whiten” myself (it hurts typing that 💔) But every day I’m closer to my roots than I’ve ever been.
Being Filipina is only part of my identity, but it’s home, it’s my base, and it’s where I’m my most authentic self. Over recent years, I’ve finally been able to stop hiding and take up more space…as me.
Unlike most people leaving home to go to University, I stayed home with my parents. This saved me a lot of money, which I didn’t realise at the time. Because hey – my parents were paying for everything! So when I moved out after graduating from University and moving into a new city away from them, the anxiety and stress of being a real adult hit me.
I’ve written about this at the time, which I’m thankful for because reading it back now, I’ve realised how much I have grown since the first week living away from home. I would go home every single weekend at the start because I wouldn’t have been able to take the homesickness over the weekends. I was hardly in Leeds at all apart from the weekdays for work. Today, I still love visiting my parents and staying there for extended periods, but I’m less homesick and more accepting of my own company (oh, and Matt’s too 😉)
It’s also worth noting that I’m a better cook. Gone are the days that I would eat burnt meat (and cry about it). I now can create a reasonably good variety of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner! My dad’s food will always be king, but for the most part, I’m proud of how much I can make without too much difficulty.
That and all the other things that come with being an adult: paying bills, budgeting, sorting out personal finances, going to work, planning for the future, cleaning up after yourself, taking care of yourself as you try to balance everything etc. These were all challenges, to begin with, and now, I feel like I’ve hacked most of them. Is this growth? Yup.
I don’t know when it was precisely when I decided that I would take control of my life, be active and make my own decisions. But it was a day that I’m grateful for every day.
Before that day, I was mostly passive and floating along with life. I did what I was told by my parents and the other adults in my life (teachers, tutors, lecturers etc.) When my parents told me to study the sciences at school to secure my future, I went with it. When my parents told me to try and get into medicine to be a doctor, I went with it. When I failed to do that and told me to do Biomedical Sciences, I went with it. I kept just doing things my parents told me to do. My teachers would chime in with their own opinions and comments, and I would find a way to do them too. I was never even attempting to make any of my decisions.
There comes a moment in your life where the fog is lifted, and you can finally see again. That fog cleared randomly after my second year at University when I realised that I hated all these choices that were made for me. I couldn’t do it anymore. There and then, I decided to take things into my own hands.
For a while, I didn’t tell my parents or anyone else about this newfound energy to take control of my life in fear that it might offend. So I quietly got on with my plans which were at the time bullet points on what I wanted to explore:
😂 Not exactly how it panned out, but you get the picture. Since then, I paved my path away from what was expected of me. I rebelled even if it meant that short-term, I might upset my parents over my choices. But I’m so glad that I did. It turned out well!
The next few years that followed leading up to today was crazy. I began to live authentically, and unapologetically was myself leading to so many great things. I had never felt a sense of purpose like this before: helping others get into tech, speaking at conferences, gaining recognition for my efforts and then landing my first roles in tech… I was over the moon. I still am.
My parents are proud of me; I still graduated with a degree that I’ll always be interested in but will never use (probably) Today, I’m in a fulfilling role, and you know what? I’m still just getting started. 🤩
I trusted myself, showed up as myself and did this. Something passive, timid past me would have never ever done before. I did it for me. Growth.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll probably know my history with bullying. I wrote a blog post about it if you’re interested. My history of being picked on led to an anxious, nervous version of me growing up. Over time, bullies moved on, and I grew up and away from them. I also grew in confidence in myself, which helped me build up my resilience. I always thought that it sort of ends there at school. Kids are mean, after all.
But I didn’t realise that some of these bullies never really grow up, and some may even become older bullies sitting in corporate environments. Unfortunately, I had to learn it the hard way. The worse part is that I was no longer getting called names to my face as kids would do. Oh no, in the real world, it hurts more. It would be behind my back (where I’d overhear it) or in the subtle language used to gaslight or manipulate. It sucked and tormented me.
Every single time though, I found myself wiping my tears away and getting back up, putting on a brave face to “get on with it”. Building up resilience is something that I believe you get better when a challenge is thrown at you.
Fortunately (and unfortunately) for me, I had many challenges come my way, which has contributed a lot to my overall resilience. With that said, resilience isn’t about just putting a brave face and getting on with it (although it can be). Sometimes, it’s about self-care, self-respect, which comes in the form of reporting it to someone. This is what I did when times got tough for me, and it helped. 💜 Ignoring it and putting a brave face on is the easy part. The hard part is making a stand for yourself, but eventually, I got there. That’s what self-care looks like.
Another growth area here that contributes to resilience and mental health is my growth in physical strength. You can read my health journey, which started in 2016, here. Since then, I’m proud of how far I’ve come when it comes to prioritising my health. Most recently, I’m pleased that keeping healthy has become a habit that hasn’t left me even during lockdown. I made it work.
Yo girl went from unable to lift 2kg dumbbells to increasing muscle mass and deadlifting her body weight (and more, pre-COVID 😬). I’ve also improved my push-ups and pull-ups a lot over the past year. From weak upper strength to pulling/pushing up 57kg (my body weight) is a massive milestone that I wouldn’t have even imagined I would be able ever to do. That’s growth, right there.
I encourage you to take some time today to recognise how far you’ve come because I bet you’ve not even realised how much that is!
Often we are looking for inspiration from others, when sometimes inspiration is right there: with us, in us. Happy International Women’s Day, friends! Celebrate yourselves. 🥳 Tell me something you’re proud of 💜