Thank you for making my day (Feedback on feedback)

Thank you for making my day… I am always thrilled to read that (1) I actually have readers .. And my running joke is there are maybe 20 or so readers out there who keep my blog from slipping into oblivion. Those who have read up my posts about blogging per se know that I don’t really write to cultivate readership, so I am happy with my small group of readers!  In addition, I love to know that (2) what I write actually resonates with others– more so the younger generation. I know I have been given a gift to write like I do but to be able to do more than pull the words together — to actually be able to speak to someone out there– that, to me, is a blessing.

There are emails and comments that I cut and paste, but others that I prefer to just respond to.  This will be one of the latter.

Thank you, A, for writing.. for speaking your heart out, and for reminding me that I was a tad harsh with the reference to doubting in my previous post, “To each his own (So you made it!)“.  Please do not give up no your dream because there is that doubt present in your heart and mind.  That was not my intention, but I do realize it might have come across differently.

It appears that one particular paragraph I had written had struck a cord and had caused A to second guess her doubting heart.

Any half-hearted effort will land you someplace you wouldn’t want to be.  So ask yourself now if you’re up to it, because if there is even an iota of doubt in your mind or deep in your heart, you should seriously think of changing paths.  It is never too late to back out of a dream or a pursuit or a journey — whatever you may want to call it, for as long as you do it out of your own choice.  Do not put yourself in a position where your circumstances force you to change direction.  Put your heart and soul into it, give it 110% (everyday!), and pray, pray, pray!

Ah, those persistent doubts that hound you forever and will keep hounding you unless everything starts going and staying in your head that you are the best without a shadow of a doubt.  (Yes, the doubts will disappear when you start thinking and believing you are THAT good..)

You will always have doubts in anything you do, and that is good, because it means you haven’t lost touch with the real you. It means you have your feet still rooted on the ground.  You know that even if you’re 90% genius, there is that 10% that gives you space to doubt and make room for modesty or humility or both.  To doubt is to recognize that you are not perfect, and that should challenge you to better yourself, while at the same time preparing you for those times when you actually take a fall.

I often have doubts, too, and there were times when I was lost and weak in the knees — to the point of giving up.  And I tried to make those doubts work for me, and not against me, by reminding myself that I have a dream I am working to achieve.  It is when those doubts creep up behind you that you need to remind yourself how badly you want this dream, and when you must take stock of the fact that you probably did something right, because you are now in law school.

Keep writing.. Keep believing and keep fighting for the dream you have in your heart.. I am still dreaming and believing and fighting and getting disappointed occasionally and I’m 50! But see, I can say I tried.. I got this and maybe I didn’t get that– but I tried..

And I’m still trying.


Chasing Calm

There are a lot of things that would normally throw my day into a tailspin, but I’ve been lucky in that the previous years have helped me hone my ability  to take control and not let my circumstances take me over.  We often feel like we are (about to, or are ) losing control.  And in that moment when the reality of it hits us is when we are at our most vulnerable, because the realization often paralyzes us instead of pushing us forward to move in the right direction.

Anger, confusion, anxiety all cause us to exert so much energy either because we choose to wallow in it or fight it.  Neither helps.  I’ve been there too many times to know that fighting it or drowning in it will not bring me a solution.  If anything, it only serves to delay the whole process and just makes the dark more terrifying, or the storm more menacing.  We all cope in different ways, but I have learned to find calm in the midst of chaos to help me steady my footing.

I used to make the mistake of trying to do something grand to equal the scale of whatever problem or challenge I was facing.  Sometimes you just need to go “simple” and the effect will be more profound.

So here are some suggestions that work for me when I try to find my balance in the midst of the chaos… hope it helps you find your calm, too.

Take a walk.  I used to have the luxury of walking outside and just literally circling around the block to take in the ordinary and breathe some fresh air.  I am fortunate to be across from one of the quieter and smaller sanctuaries in Manhattan, and I don’t even have to go far — just walk across the street and I’m in my own little paradise.

The seasons tend to make this a bit of a challenge at times but I’ve been at the park in the heat of summer, during the chilly days of spring and fall, and the barren cold days of winter.  I have found a spiritual anchor in this four-cornered space of green in the metropolis, and it’s a place that holds many fond memories for me.

Do something that you like.  This may sound like something you wouldn’t think of when your mind and/or heart is troubled, but you’d be surprised how many things you like to do that you don’t actually indulge yourself time to do on a regular day.  People always say they love to bake or cook, or read, or just go browse the make up counters in the department stores or for us lucky make up addicts here, walk over to Sephora and sample the wares.. so do it on the day when you feel like you’re suffocating or can’t think straight and you might actually find yourself free from the tethers of anxiety — even for a moment.

It might actually help for you to list 3 things that you like to do from the top of your mind and keep this on a post it note on your wall or your desk, or even the fridge.  One day you might need to remind yourself you just need to do one of these — simple and mundane, though, the task may be — and it might save you from falling deeper into chaos.

Try aromatherapy.  I won’t go into recommending scents — I have come to learn that our olfactory senses have a mind of their own and is unique from one person to the next.  We all have our own preferences.. from musky to fruity, to floral to sharp.  Certain scents tend to bring us home — fresh baked bread?  bread toasting in the oven?  Vanilla?  Handwash?  I remember I used to love the scent of Dial soap back home until they started changing up the scents for variety.  Just a whiff or a pop of flavor in the air can break you out of the doldrums so to speak and give you a second wind or whiff of the wind, literally.

List down 5 things you are grateful for.  Be it people, things, or non-tangible items that make you feel grateful.  List it down and keep going back to that list to remind you you are blessed.  It might help you focus on what is important and relevant, because you will only be grateful for that which really matters.  No matter what lands on your lap, if it is inconsequential to you, you won’t give a care whether you have it or not.

Eat or imbibe a favorite food.  People tend to think comfort food is anything but good — anything gooey and sinfully delicious that makes your tummy happy.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves about the saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Perhaps the way to finding calm is to make our own stomachs happy — even if but only for a moment.

Pray in silence.  While I know that many people have taken to being unbelievers, I personally have found solace in prayer.  That kind of prayer that just lets you be.  Praying without words, without chanting anything formulaic or spontaneous.  You just put yourself in that state where you are with whoever you deem to be the higher power in your universe and just fall silent.  No asking, no whining.  Just silence.  You might yet get the answer to the questions bugging your heart.

Find a task that calms you down and do it without hesitation when you feel like your mind and heart are all over the place.  I know of people who will clean their house top to bottom even if their natural state is spotless clean.  Others who will start working on focus-intensive hobbies like building things with their hands.  I draw my paper garden.  I start conditioning polymer clay — which is simply kneading a small block of clay to soften it before molding and baking.  When I feel like I’m starting to get out of the zone, I grab a pen, or I grab whatever it is I can to stop the onslaught before it comes.  Or when I am restless, I get busy and find my calm.

The thing is to find what works for you.  I can go on and on with my list and what might work for me might not do you any good. In our infancy, we were imbued by nature a gift for self-soothing.  We would suck our thumb or find ourselves swaying with a repetitive pattern or music that we hear and lose ourselves in that.  We somehow lost that gift when we found discernment as our brains started to develop.  But that ability to find comfort is there.  It is a matter of finding it and sticking to it to help us steer our moods when the storms come.

Find what works and you will be able to get up faster when you fall, or jumpstart the engine when it stalls.


To Each His Own (so you made it!)

The summer just ended in Manila was a busy time.  People were writing, messaging and asking about law school.  Some gave me updates that they made it (Yay!), while some, unfortunately, didn’t land their dream school.  I kept repeating over and over again that not landing the school you dreamt of doesn’t mean the end of the dream.  It just means you need to adjust and adapt and just steer things a bit differently.  It doesn’t mean having to abandon your passion.  In fact, if the dream is etched deep enough in your heart, it should be what matters more than which school you land to make that dream come true.

The same goes for the young teens who are now making their way through their college classes as Freshmen.  It’s a totally different world with more pressure and more responsibility.  And it can be frightening while it is, at the same time, exhilarating.

So how goes it once you’re there?

Keep your focus, keep your composure.  It is so easy to get lost in this new world of law books and case lists and hundred-page readings.  You find yourself doubting your choice.  You are thrilled pink but terrified.  It’s the real world.

My first bit of advice: mean it when you do the prayers before class.  I don’t mean to scare you, but you’re going to need it.  I used to have a nervous stomach before the first class everyday– and forget that I had a crush on our professor, something which my male classmates were so critical of because they couldn’t understand why.  (Let me leave it at that.. Lol). It will take time for your nerves to adjust if it ever does.  The thing is to be able to function despite it.

Do not be intimidated.  Someone wrote me about surviving in that presumed to be sosyal and elitist world — which, all things considered, should be the least of your worries.

First, there’s the dress code.  You don’t have to wear the latest fashion because really, your professors won’t care.  Just dress decently.  What they do care about is that your tie is neatly tied, and that you are not dressed as if you were going to attend a party.  Yes, some will mark you absent even as you’re pulling the tie to a knot during the roll call or if you’re not wearing your baring– or if you are not otherwise dressed appropriately.  They will not, however, care to distinguish if your tie is Burberry or Landmark.

Secondly, you have more to worry about cramming 18 hours worth of reading into a mere 12 hours, and that will include what little sleep you will afford yourself as a luxury.  Now, if you were working or are a mom or a dad, make that 18 hours in 6.  Good luck!  I wouldn’t let the twangs and the familiarity among those who grew up in the same circles get to you.  They are not trying to rub their social pedigree on your face — that is the world as it is and this is not a social ball– this is law school.  It doesn’t matter!

Third, forget about accents, too.  The number 2 topnotcher of my original batch spoke with such a heavy accent yet she answered on point (always!) and was just plain brilliant.  She was one of the humblest in class– had gone to college somewhere in the provinces — yet her simplicity belied the behemoth of a brain in that tiny head of hers.  What matters is what you spit back in answer to your professors, or that you are able to argue your answer coherently during the tests.

Fourth, remember that you made it past all the screenings– whether it was without a hitch or on a waiting list.  It doesn’t matter how — you’re in law school — that means you must have even just an iota of legalese in your coconut.  You didn’t win the lottery, so do not belittle the fact that you got yourself here.  Stop feeling small, or belittling yourself, because you have a bigger challenge up ahead: staying in.

Be creative.  Law school — in any arena– is an expensive undertaking.  You have to learn how to make ends meet– literally.  There’s always that urge to get your cases “in the original” and your books all new and spiffy, engraved with your name in front.  If you can afford to go that route, why not?  But learn how to spend your book allowance wisely by borrowing, if you can, or in finding a cheaper photocopying alternative to the library.  My classmates and I used to have one set done in the original, and someone would get the cheaper copies made outside.

I always underlined and highlighted my books cover to cover so borrowing was not an option for me, but I found ways to get copies made– again, by being creative.

Brotherhood or sisterhood?  It took me a while to land an answer to this, because I knew that no one answer was right or wrong.   And yet it was asked and I cannot gloss over it because I know that this is a nagging question for some.  The good things is that I know that most universities ban freshman recruitment, although that ban never stopped anyone from approaching a possible recruit.

To join or not to join a fraternity or sorority is a very personal choice.  I didn’t.  For one, the only sorority in law school back then had practically died out while I was there.  The boys, though, had two very distinguished fraternities to choose between, but I am not going to afford either one a mention here.  I have nothing against joining fraternities– I admire their camaraderie.   The connections seem to work for most.  I just don’t operate that way.  And neither did most of my classmates.  Two of my dearest and closest friends from college, though, had joined one, and I see how that had brought them closer and how their bond with their brods transcended their having had to leave Ateneo Law before they could finish the course.  (One had to take a leave of absence due to work and never came back — until last year or the year before, but in a different school.  The other fell victim to the QPI purge and ended up in the other law school that accepts transferees, and had enjoyed a very progressive career in the HR field with various multinational companies.).

Joining a fraternity or a sorority is a lifetime commitment.  It isn’t an easy task to join one.  If you feel the need and believe you have the stomach to go through the rigorous initiation rites of any of these groups, for as long as it parallels or equals your commitment to your dream, then go.  (My pain threshold is extremely low, and I am of the belief that that shouldn’t be the basis for my acceptance in any group.  Unfortunately, there will always be some form of physical pain involved, and I am NOT THAT brave.)  And to those not so inclined like I was not way back when, you aren’t giving up anything that you can’t have even sans that pledge of brotherhood.  It helps, maybe.  But it is not the be all and end all of succeeding in the world out there.  At the end of the journey, it is what you make of yourself that really counts.  It is how you choose to conduct yourself as an officer of the law in whatever field that would matter.

Find your own study mojo.  Everyone has their own style of studying, and you will have to adjust to the course load as you go along.  You will always find case digests aplenty and reviewers handed on from year to year.  You will eventually find yourselves organized enough to work systematically by assigning groups to do certain cases or reviewers.  All good– and yes, it helps — but at the end of the day, you have to be able to stand on your own two feet.

Not all case digests will be as good as the next, because it depends on (1) the writer’s ability to grasp the facts, issue(s) and ratio decidendi of the case– so you are relying on someone else to sift through that for you.  If the writer misses out on salient facts the professor asks about, you will get stumped.  (2). Although you would expect everyone has some writing skills tucked under their belt, not everyone will write with an eloquence or crispness that would make for easy reading.  Yes, you will come across classmates who can’t seem to write coherently enough for others to understand what they’re saying.  (3). There is always the temptation to copy an older digest already available without checking if it is on point with the original.  Again, you end up with a dud.

When time permits, read the case in the original.  It will train your minds to look at the forest and then see the trees and the nests tucked high up in those branches.  You will also find the different styles of ponencia that will sometimes just sweep you off your feet for their sheer elegance, or the straightforward yet  very detailed point-by-point dissection of a case.  It may not strike you at the time you first read them (mainly because you’re too busy worrying about how much more you need to read), but the writing skills of these great minds will shape your own thinking and writing in the real world.  And even when there is no time, there are simply cases that you WILL HAVE TO READ IN THE ORIGINAL, come what may, so you need to put in the extra effort to get that done.

Do not make the mistake of dismissing a dissenting opinion for lack of time.  There will be times when a dissenting opinion will become case law and be more relevant than the majority opinion that closed the case.  In certain opinions, it is here that you will find a clearer explanation of what the majority based their decision on.  A dissenting opinion, though, does not make the majority opinion wrong.  It just provides us another perspective strong enough for the dissenter to have taken pen and paper (figuratively) to make his or her point.  It is a contrary opinion which can help us see the other side of the coin.

I was a full time student during my first year but worked through my second year onwards.  There were times I was called and I actually stood up and told my professor I didn’t read the case.  One time, my professor was kind enough to go to the next case on the list, and the next (which is rare, because the first one would’ve merited a 5)– and still I had to sit down because I came unprepared.  I would often be stumped by my inability to weave provisions together — and later I realized it was because my brain was trained to read and memorize them individually.  But I persisted.

I learned to stay up late and find study guides.  I drank vitamins to keep myself on my toes and hopefully to make my brain work better.  I don’t know if those things did their job, but it had a placebo effect of reassuring my brain that I was trying to keep it healthy.  In that respect, they did work because I survived.

When your name is called and a question is asked, keep things simple.  Anyone would hate having to listen to a roundabout explanation of something which could have been stated in a straightforward manner.

Say yes or no.  State the law.  Give your reason.

When asked to recite a case, state the facts, state the issue, give the ruling.

When you don’t know the answer to the question, just say so.  There is no use pretending to know when you don’t because your professor has a lifetime of experience that will make him catch on even before you end your recitation.

With all that said, you have to prepare yourself for the worst by being your best.  I am not going to say here that it’s something you will enjoy, because that comes much later, when you get your groove going.  And the enjoyment really might not come until after you get the “Atty.” attached to your name.  And that’s a long ways to go.  But I will say it’s not impossible, and it IS doable — for as long as you want it badly enough.

Any half-hearted effort will land you someplace you wouldn’t want to be.  So ask yourself now if you’re up to it, because if there is even an iota of doubt in your mind or deep in your heart, you should seriously think of changing paths.  It is never too late to back out of a dream or a pursuit or a journey — whatever you may want to call it, for as long as you do it out of your own choice.  Do not put yourself in a position where your circumstances force you to change direction.  Put your heart and soul into it, give it 110% (everyday!), and pray, pray, pray!

I would love to hear from anyone who has something to chime in with — I’m at pinaynewyorker at gmail dot com… even if only to tell me you passed by my corner of the web and read this post.  And maybe I might even be persuaded to do a digest or two, as long as the original is accessible online.  (Ha!)

Back then, I was excited, I was terrified, I was often “lost” — but I always regained my footing in knowing I wanted this for me so bad that I would take any humiliation, any challenge, to make it through to the end.  I prayed very hard.  I struggled to make ends meet — and while I’m not a practicing lawyer now, I know I achieved that big dream I had always pinned my hopes on eversince I realized I couldn’t be a doctor.  (My gut reaction to touching my mom’s extracted tonsils in a specimen bag was the big reveal.)  Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.  I’m good with that.

Related posts can be found here at Lawyer Wannabe (Please see navigation bar.)

In Photos: Looking Up

Photo Challenge: Looking up

Way before I arrived here in New York City, someone told me that there was that running joke in these tourists walking around Manhattan.  Barring the obvious about only tourists wearing shorts in the summer, they’re the ones who keep looking up.  They are always awed by the concrete jungle that this part of NYC is, whether they are from another state or another country.

When I started on Instagram not too long ago, I found upward looking shots as a creative way of showcasing the obvious.  It was a different way of making the ordinary stand out.  More than that, it literally showed my world from a different perspective.  Much like stopping to smell the flowers, many of us here tend to forget how there is much to be awed by if we stop looking at what’s street level and looked up instead.  There is a totally different world many levels above us.

Below is a compilation of some of my #LookingUp posts in answer to this photo challenge.

The view from my bus stop this cold, cold early evening in NYC. #lookingup #ny #mynewyork #myny #manhattan #42ndstreet #midtown #ilovenewyork #onmywayhome #thebigapple
May 19, 2014: The view from my bus stop this cold, cold early evening in NYC. #lookingup #ny #mynewyork #myny #manhattan #42ndstreet #midtown #ilovenewyork #onmywayhome #thebigapple
#LookingUp #SomewhereInTheFlatIrobDiatrict last week while waiting to go to #dinner. It's always good to look at a different view every once in a while. It refreshes your #perspective and gives you a new way to appreciate things.. And appreciate the peop
#LookingUp #SomewhereInTheFlatIrobDiatrict last week while waiting to go to #dinner. It’s always good to look at a different view every once in a while. It refreshes your #perspective and gives you a new way to appreciate things..
Looking up: once in a while you have to look up to put things in its proper perspective. #mynyc #mynewyork #lookingup #perspectjve #ilovenewyork #midtown
Looking up: once in a while you have to look up to put things in its proper perspective. #mynyc #mynewyork #lookingup #perspectjve #ilovenewyork #midtown
#Lookingup: running late for brunch but almost there .. Of course, had to stop and snap a pic of the #EmpireStateBuilding. #sunny day today so grab your piece of #sunshine, #nyc ! #Manhattan #mynewyork #mynyc #ilovetheempirestatebuilding
#Lookingup: running late for brunch but almost there .. Of course, had to stop and snap a pic of the #EmpireStateBuilding. #sunny day today so grab your piece of #sunshine, #nyc ! #Manhattan #mynewyork #mynyc #ilovetheempirestatebuilding
#GlassCanvas: #perfect #sunnyDay in #Manhattan. Such a #gloriousfriday it is! #weekend #Friday #NewYork #newyorkcity #skyscraper #glass #glassfacade #lookingUp
#GlassCanvas: #perfect #sunnyDay in #Manhattan. Such a #gloriousfriday it is! #weekend #Friday #NewYork #newyorkcity #skyscraper #glass #glassfacade #lookingUp
#LookingUp from #lutrellstowncastle on a #sunnydayInDublin. We'll be back here #Wednesday for #funandgames and #dinner with the team. #ireland #Dublin #workcanbefun #loveWhatYouDo #GothamChickInDublin #sightseeingInDublin #castle #castleindublin #beckha
#LookingUp from #lutrellstowncastle on a #sunnydayInDublin. We’ll be back here #Wednesday for #funandgames and #dinner with the team. #ireland #Dublin #workcanbefun #loveWhatYouDo #GothamChickInDublin #sightseeingInDublin #castle #castleindublin #beckha
The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC: Looking Up - We always have a grand time visiting here #Washingtondc #smithsoniannationalairandspacemuseum #lookingup #space #nasa #museum
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC: Looking Up – We always have a grand time visiting here #Washingtondc #smithsoniannationalairandspacemuseum #lookingup #space #nasa #museum

Celebrating Freedom

Another Fourth of July weekend just ended and we’re heading back to work today.  It’s  one of those Tuesday’s that feel like a Monday and make you wish that the weekend didn’t just end.

I have been here, there, and everywhere with around three posts wallowing in my draft folder here.  So not for lack of trying, but it’s been quite the effort to get something published.  I did go on vacation (yay!) and before I get started on dreaming about that and getting stuck there again, let me just say that Fiji was just paradise!  (Fourth post to be drafted!)

I didn’t have any special plans for the long weekend that just passed, probably due to the fact that I am still “recovering” from the week-long taste of bliss — and I am glad I didn’t push it because I think I finally got rid of the jetlag.  16 hours ahead of New York isn’t that easy to get back from, more so since I plunged back into work the day after arriving at past midnight Monday.

This is is now my 17th Fourth of July celebration  and I’ve mostly celebrated it  just watching the fireworks on television, except the two times when I watched it “live” in the city with my sister in 2001, I believe — (Or might’ve been 2002..), and the last time in 2013 with BFF Donna and her family.  It’s a spectacular show but one which, once you’ve seen it, you can chalk up as an experience under the “been there, done that” category.  It’s just too much hassle to get close to the city on this day of days and then make it back to wherever you came from.

But one thing struck me yesterday as I was reminded by a friend’s Instagram post on how we celebrate freedom in these parts.  She quoted Erma Bombeck who said:

You have to love a nation that celebrates its Independence Day every July 4th not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

I never took notice until I read this the other day, and I must say it speaks for the American way of life in volumes.  While most Americans are unaware the the basic freedoms they take forgranted are denied many people in other parts of the world, the way they celebrate the birthday of the nation emphasizes the very core of what those freedoms have evolved to: the right to do what they want on this day.

I was a Martial Law baby and I grew up under a regime that has curfews and where the basic right of the writ of habeas corpus was suspended.  That is a concept and a world that many wouldn’t be able to visualize or imagine outside of the Philippines.  Even now, many young people back home hold their strong opinions about the curtailment of those freedoms back then, without actually having experienced their curtailment.  I was not a victim back then and I have my own opinion about whether or not we were better off then as a people, or if we are better off now— but the flood of freedom in a country that lives it as a way of life is not lost upon me.

There is much to celebrate and be grateful for.  Happy birthday, America!!