Yes, I am 34 now. No amount of compliments that I don’t look like my age can change that. And I have to say that 34 feels a lot different from 33, or 30. Unlike the years before, that just blend into the next, 34 feels like a huge cog in the wheel resounding with a solitary click.
My birthdays used to be a big deal to me and I loved to throw parties to celebrate, but lately, I have been wanting more and more to be left alone as I see the day approaching. Maybe it’s because I dread the extra year, and for some reason I have forgotten why I celebrated my birthdays in the first place: it’s not about the years I have, but it’s the years that God has been faithful.
The more birthdays, the longer that God’s been great in my life.
And wow, how that thought just chased the blues away.
The best cure for whining is a better perspective.
So, for my 34th birthday, I’ll be listing 34 things I’m grateful for so far. Here’s part one, in no particular order:
1. I am always reminded that it is not that I ask too much of my God, but I ask too little. I always pray, “I expect great things from You, because You are great,” and He, in turn, helps me walk my talk, by showing me just how much greater He actually is as opposed to my definition of “great.”
2. Today, on my 34th birthday, I am off to a place where I haven’t been before. I’ve been wishing I could get away by myself for my birthday, and while I was willing to settle for someplace nearer and more familiar, I was given a business-class ticket to somewhere far far away, above and beyond my comfort zone. (And this also helped with me being ridiculously excited about my birthday again. hehe)
3. I have amazing parents. One of the running jokes in the family is that I get sick a lot becauseMom and Dad threw out the colostrum that I was supposed to have when I was a baby. But the thing is, from there, they have—by trial and error, with a lot of grace, patience, love and sense of humor—done a great job in raising me to be who I am today: still a work in progress, but far from a lost cause.
4. I am proud of my siblings. Would it sound obnoxious if I say that I think they are all exceptional? Well, I guess not if it’s true. If you know us, you know what I’m talking about.
5. I am 34 already and I still get great birthday gifts from my friends and family. Thanks guys!
6. A life of forward motion. I’ve always lived by this, albeit I do get stuck in ruts once in a while, but I’m grateful that God still moves me forward, whether or not I want to.
7. Growing up with pets. My mom said that my very first pet was a chicken—and that I eventually had it for dinner. After that, no more edible pets. Our house has always had a menagerie of different animals—dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, fish, guinea pigs, birds, an iguana (but that didn’t stay long), and a hedgehog. Loving and taking care of pets have taught me and my sibs how to be gentle, loving even the difficult to love, to forgive bites and scratches, to accept others how they are—although it was easier with animals because they are so cute—and eventually, about death, how to mourn and move on.
8. The gift of words. I don’t know how I could’ve survived my tough depression years if I hadn’t been able to sublimate my thoughts through stories and poetry. Reading gives me the satisfaction that shopping could never supply. Few accomplishments feel as good, or come as regular (since it’s my job), as finally finishing an article for publication.
9. My friends. You guys know who you are. It’s amazing how many you are who consider me as a friend too. I know I haven’t been the best kind of friend to have, you never give up on me. You pull me out of my hermit modes, drag me into adventures, challenge me, offer and give comfort, solicited and unsolicited advice, listen patiently to my complaining, remind me of what I have forgotten, love me despite my dubious choices in life, for telling me that I am beautiful, pointing me back to God whenever I’ve lost my way. You guys are awesome.
10. The opportunity to teach writing. I always say that I write better than I talk, and I still believe that. There are many evidences and witnesses to support this. So, it’s a huge deal for me to be given the chance to teach Writing for Print for the first semester of this academic year at the St. Dominic’s College of Asia. I still don’t think I’m a good teacher, there were many things that could’ve been done better, but it’s so gratifying to see my students’ works show improvement throughout the semester.
11. Being a magazine editor. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my career as a magazine editor (because it can get stressful), but it has given me so many things in my life—new friends, experiences, free food and swag, trips, interesting conversations with interesting people, stories and the privilege to practice my craft for a living. Thank you, People Asia, 24/7 Nocturnal Navigator, Metro Society, Metro Weddings, Lucerne Luxe, HOLA!
12. Mentors. My mom who taught me stories from the Bible and answered my questions even before I learned how to read, for teaching me about boys, men, and love by word and by example; my dad who first taught me how to swim, shoot a basketball, gave me my first roller skates, skateboard, and rollerblades, encouraged my pursuit of sports by supplying me equipment, lessons, he explained the mysterious world of professional tennis, golf and the Formula One, he’s always been my number one financier of everything I need to get ahead in life; Kuya JJ who let me play with his Transformers and Ghostbuster toys, who let me read his comicbooks on weekends with him and his high school buddies; Ate Lorna, for that year in Sunday School where, instead of the usual Bible stories, got us to study church doctrines and theology; Ilou, who showed me that notebooks can also be used to write stories, for those summer afternoons of just writing on the branches of the giant calachuchi tree in their backyard; Teacher Nina who helped me give grammar the respect and attention that it deserves, introduced new hifalutin words to our vocabulary every week, nurtured my growing love for reading, and coaxed stories out of me with some healthy dose of competition; Edgar Allan Poe (AKA Carlo Curay), who tolerated a highschool freshman who, just out of the blue, started writing poems about him and his friends and exchanged poem and poetry with me and called me Emily Dickinson (I had no idea people thought I had a crush on him, but it had never crossed my mind); Tina who opened up my creativity in new ways while in Baguio; April, who took me and my comic book geekiness to different places, most notably to Italy, hiring me as a research assistant and getting me to read the best of Philippine literature in English, and for introducing me to the best writers of our time, and she also gave me Merlin, my first official cat; Jacs took me under his wing and gave me my first real break in the magazine industry after I let him hitch a ride home with me to Cavite, this friendship has grown stronger professionally and personally, he is now one of my best friends; Rheea practically adopted me after an MRT ride after school, taught me the rudiments of making and managing a magazine on a skeleton staff, made me her firstborn’s ninang, and always welcome me into their home for a dinner and a nap; Tita Sandy, thank you for taking me in when I was in such a stressful mess and helping me make some sense out of this stage in my life.
13. My girl friends. I grew up getting along better with guys, so I took it as a sign of maturity when I started getting along with girls, and these friendships have helped me through times in my life that range from ridiculously shallow to honest-to-goodness earthshakers. They are my rock and fluffers, amazing women in their own right. Thank you for your lives, ladies, you are amazing.
14. My childhood friends. We’re scattered all over the place now: San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Fort, Makati, Sucat, and Imus. A few of us are moms, a couple of dads now; one of us is a famous singer/actor/host, then we have a pastor, photographer, designers, teachers, accountant, IT expert, and editor (me!). I don’t think we’ve had the whole gang together for almost 20 years now, but these people will always be close to my heart.
15. My childhood church. Imus Unida was like the incubator for my faith. It was safe, all my friends grew up there. We all attended Sunday School together, sang in the choir, went to summer camps, starred in Christmas and Easter cantatas, attended the youth fellowship, started Xchange, served in an outreach. This church taught me to serve joyfully in the ministry, I got to witness lives given to God time and time again, I may not serve there anymore, but it will always be home.
16. My church now. WinMakati is a church that I chose to serve in, no matter what the circumstances are. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to call it home, but it felt like it. I feel my churchmates’ love and support, there is safety found in there for me. I love WinMakati, sometimes I don’t know know why I do, but every time I wonder and ask if I should still be there, the answer is always a resounding YES.