Real talk from a former party girl.

Last week, Ames was cleaning her closet at Odessa. (Odessa is the house we lived in during college. She’s lived there during med school as well.) While tidying up, she stumbled upon relics from college — notes we wrote to each other, hilarious photos, and gaudy clothes we retired because we had to be respectable young adults after graduation. (We’ve been reminiscing about and laughing at our misadventures ever since.)

The blast from the past prompted me to peruse old entries in my college livejournal. That person is foreign to me now. But I can see her motivations more clearly than I did at the time. During college (and even in LA, to some extent), I jumped headfirst into experiences so that I would have stories to tell. My worst nightmare was to wake up a shriveled old woman who had no exciting memories from her youth to stave off thoughts of her impending demise. (Morbid, I know.)

Most of the lessons I’ve learned between then and now are enumerated in this poem, but each new year calls for reflection. The new year isn’t a blank slate — you can’t erase the previous year’s events in hopes of achieving what you aimed yet failed to do.

Here’s some wisdom I gleaned (so you didn’t have to) from last year (and the previous two) a.k.a. real talk from a former party girl:

  1. Going out and getting hammered can be fun. But if you don’t enjoy it, don’t feel pressure to do so just because you’re young and should be partying every chance you get. If you would rather curl up with a glass of wine and marathon TV shows on Netflix during the weekend, you should. You will be more comfortable and will spend less money that way.
  2. You are in the relationship you think you deserve. If you want to be in a monogamous relationship, don’t settle for being someone’s booty call. If you want to be single but are passive aggressively trying to get your significant other to break up with you, put on your adult pants and end it. Figure out what you want and never convince yourself that you’re happy with something else simply because it’s convenient.
  3. Surround yourself with people who support you and let go of those who don’t. You don’t have time for bitchassness. You don’t have time for toxic relationships (of any kind). If they guilt you for minimizing (or eliminating) their role your life, that should reaffirm (not revoke) your decision.
  4. Don’t dread being by yourself. (This is different from being alone, which implies that you have no one to talk to at any time.) Don’t be self-conscious about grocery shopping or even going to the movies by yourself. “You” time consists of peaceful moments where you don’t have to entertain anyone or worry about saying/doing the wrong thing.
  5. Find at least one positive thing that happens each day. It’s easy to get bogged down in the things that frustrate us. But I’ve found that I’m in a better mindset when I do this. You will find yourself expressing more gratitude and being more patient, if you do this.

But what do I know?

My boss likes to give unsolicited life advice.

When I started working at the firm two years ago, I made an unfortunate discovery — my boss likes to give unsolicited life advice.

My boss is clueless in a Mitt Romney kind of way. He grew up and stayed in Buckhead, one of the most bourgeoisie neighborhoods in Atlanta; his brothers and parents’ houses are also on the same street. He’s never lived in an apartment.

Since my boss got his driver’s license, all of his cars have been new BMWs — that’s forty years of driving nothing but BMWs, y’all. Aside from a few of us people of color at work, he’s insulated from diversity. I’m the first Filipino person he’s ever met.

I had been working at the firm for several months. On a Friday afternoon in September, my boss called me into his office.

“Sam! Have a seat.”

I sat in the chair in front of his desk and fidgeted nervously.

“You’re not in trouble — don’t worry!”

“That’s a relief, sir.”

“Whadda y’all young people do for fun these days? Like, this weekend?”

“My boyfriend and I are going to the Music Midtown concert tomorrow.”

“Didn’t know they were bringin’ that festival back! I went in the ’90s when I was single. Who all’s playin’?”

“A lot of indie bands — I’m looking forward to seeing Walk the Moon, The Joy Formidable, and Young the Giant. Coldplay is headlining, though.”

“Never heard of any of ’em, ‘cept Coldplay.”

I suppressed a laugh. “What are you and your family doing this weekend?”

He sighed in exasperation. “Prolly somethin’ lame like takin’ the kids to the park or some shit.”

“That should be fun!”

“Nah, it’s borin’ as hell! Lemme let give ya the biggest piece of advice that anybody’s gonna give ya.”

I gestured for him to continue.

“Put off gettin’ married ‘n’ havin’ kids as long as possible.”

“I’m twenty-three, so I’m not in a hurry.”

“Good. ‘Cuz everybody says the day yer kid’s born is the best day of yer life — they’re lyin’.”


“Not to say kids aren’t great — ‘cuz they can be. But they wear ya out and are a money pit.”


“Forget about doin’ what ya wanna do — yer life’s gonna revolve ’round them ‘n’ their schedules.”


Enjoy yer freedom. Y’all hafta live it up for the rest of us who’re stuck with our balls ‘n’ chains.”

I glanced around, waiting to be dismissed.

My boss nodded, grinning. “Glad we had this talk, Sam.”


Instead of surrendering to the mundane

Don’t believe a boy
who sighs in exasperation
as he gravely says,
“It’s complicated…”
(yet doesn’t explain
how that prevents him
from being with you.)
Don’t trust a boy
who hears but doesn’t listen
and treats you
as a microphone,
(an amplifier for
his own voice)
not as a confidante.
Don’t be thrilled by a boy
who blurts his “secrets”
prematurely and all at once —
vulnerability isn’t brazen,
it’s embarrassedly meek
(not an strategic ploy
to garner sympathy).
Don’t fall prey to a boy
who worships you as his muse —
you’ll always fall short of
his idea of who you are
(remember: you’re a flawed,
still lovable woman).
Recognize the man
who doesn’t invent excuses
because his and your baggage
make a full set
(every adult carries some 
into a relationship).
Trust the man
who (slowly) opens up
and shares the things
no one else knows
(his dreams and fears
aren’t common knowledge).
Cherish the man
who remembers that
you refuse to
be bothered before
your first cup of coffee.
Appreciate the man
who understands you —
especially when you cry
over books and TV shows
because you feel
the characters’ pain.
Love sustains when
you embrace both the
beautiful and incorrigible,
while making every day
an adventure
instead of surrendering
to the mundane.

Yesterday would have been my grandparents’ 70th anniversary.

Lola & Lolo's wedding photo.

Lola & Lolo’s wedding photo.

Yesterday would have been my grandparents’ 70th anniversary. (They were always excited to share the day with their youngest grandchild’s birthday.)

Lola and Lolo were together for 64 years before Lolo died. They met in the Philippines during World War II; Lola was a nurse for the U.S. army and Lolo was a mining engineer. It was love at first sight. Three months later, they married. They had my three uncles two to four years apart and my mom a decade later. Their life wasn’t perfect (no one’s is), but they did everything together as a team.

Lola was a chronic worrier, so Lolo always made her laugh. When he became diabetic in middle age, she managed his medication and administered his insulin shots. He doted on her, picking up her favorite flowers or jewelry just because. They called each other “my dearest darling” and were still sweetly affectionate even as octogenarians. As Lolo was dying, he told Lola not to fret. For the five years after his death, she was inconsolable. Life was unbearable with her other half missing. When she died last December, she was finally at peace because she knew she would see him again.

My grandparents were one of the few couples who I consider to be role models for a healthy and happy partnership. My mother disregarded the epic love she witnessed while growing up. The only similarity between my parents’ and my grandparents’ marriages is that my parents got married after dating for five months, while my grandparents did after three. Lola and Lolo were in constant communication, but they didn’t fill the silence with meaningless chatter. They didn’t avoid their issues by buying each other expensive cars or watches. They didn’t use their children as pawns in fights. When things got hard, they leaned on each other. They were each other’s best friend. All of us grandchildren aspire to have a relationship as long-lasting and fulfilling as theirs.

Lola gave me one piece of advice about men, which I’m sure she would be happy to know that I followed:

“Find the man who you will be happy to wake up next to — not just because he’s handsome, but also because he’s a good man.”

Dave Grohl is right — the “guilty pleasure” music concept is bullshit.

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. […] Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” […] Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit. — Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl is right — the “guilty pleasure” music concept is bullshit.

Everyone has at least one band (or genre) that is largely considered uncool, but still listens to it. For me, that genre is emo — particularly, Dashboard Confessional. I started listening to Dashboard Confessional in high school, when “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar” was released. Like all emo music-obsessed teens, I scribbled my favorite lyrics from “Hands Down” (and later, “Vindicated”) on my Converse sneakers. I listened to that album on repeat while typing angsty posts in my livejournal. Later, I discovered that my favorite albums are the earlier acoustic ones.

In college, my journal-writing ritual was this: I’d crawl into bed, put on headphones, and blast “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most,” followed by “The Swiss Army Romance.” If I still wasn’t done sorting through whatever it was in my composition notebook, I’d put on “Dusk and Summer,” and then “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar.” There’s something so earnest about Chris Carraba’s lyrics and voice that’s lacking in similar songwriters today. Like Bon Iver — people will wax poetic about “For Emma, Forever Ago,” but fail to address his smugness about being heartbroken and the fact that his voice is terrible.

I digress.

I started listening to Dashboard Confessional out of curiosity, then quickly fell down the rabbit hole of becoming a huge fan. None of their music is a guilty pleasure to me. People think it’s lame because Chris Carraba sings about the full scope of his feelings. But I’ve always thought that was admirable. The root of why people listen to so-called guilty pleasure music is because it makes them happy. It’s contradictory that emo music would make me happy, but it’s the music I’ve always listened to while writing. It’s cathartic. As I write this post, I’m listening to “Alter The Ending” (the deluxe edition with the acoustic versions of each song, naturally).

At some point, you have to stop worrying about being perceived as cool. It’s exhausting to have to keep up with what’s acceptable to admit that you listen to and what isn’t. Most people won’t judge you based on your music taste. They have better things to do. And honestly, self-proclaimed music snobs can be pretentious yet shallow assholes. You don’t have to qualify why you thoroughly enjoy a certain band or artist with “well, it’s my guilty pleasure, but…”

Own it.

Your disregard for people’s opinions will trickle into other aspects of your life and you will be happier for it. 

Reminders to help you live a happier life

Slow down & don’t spread yourself too thin.
There’s a fine line between efficiency and doing too much. Never take on more than you can accomplish. Learn to prioritize what needs to be done, so you can do each well. At the end of the day, you should be ready for rest but not completely drained.

Embrace the positive.
Don’t bemoan the things that don’t go your way. Don’t get stuck in a rut from the daily work/school grind. Instead of getting bogged down by what goes wrong, embrace the positive. Consider what goes right in your day and focus on that.

Let go of toxic people & surround yourself with supportive people.
Stay away from toxic, joyless people. Being around those who constantly complain will bring you down. Don’t put up with people who belittle and degrade you. It’s difficult when family members or former close friends are toxic people, but remember — you’re entitled to be happy on your own terms. Build a support system of people who can handle what life throws their way and who will help you do the same.

Be thankful.
When your alarm starts ringing, it’s natural to dread getting out of bed. Rather than begging your significant other to let you sleep for five more minutes (as I do, most days), be thankful that you woke up to a new day. Be grateful for the awesome people and opportunities in your life.

Enjoy every moment.

Five things to consider before getting a tattoo


Monaco, Monaco. 09.09.12.

Five things to consider before getting a tattoo

1. Your threshold for pain (and if you have a fear of needles):

Anyone who tells you that getting a tattoo is quick and painless is a liar (or a masochist).

When you get a tattoo, the artist takes a giant needle gun and drills ink into your body for twenty minutes to over an hour. If you shudder at the pain from a phlebotomist collecting a blood sample, don’t bother. If the sight of needles makes you ill, don’t do it.

If you truly believe that you will rise to the occasion once facing your fear, go for it. But be aware that, typically, you can’t change your mind in the middle of a session. (Nor would you want to — an intentionally half-finished tattoo just looks sad.)

2. How you feel about permanence:

Can you commit to a decision, or are do you often tend to change your mind?

If you’re thinking, “I can just get it lasered off later if I don’t like it!” then you shouldn’t do it. Getting a tattoo removed is costly, painful, and doesn’t restore your skin to its previous, unmarked state.

A tattoo is a piece of art that will become part of you. It should be something that you would be happy to have (and look at) forever because of its significance.

3. The design & size:

Do you want a picture, text, or both? Do you want color(s) or a black outline?

Larger and more colorful designs will be more expensive. Pieces that stretch across your chest and full sleeves take several sessions. Personally, I thought that colored inking hurt less than black inking.

4. The placement:

Where do you want to get inked?

Any place where there’s bone will hurt worse than where there’s muscle. Rib and chest pieces are not for the fainthearted. Aesthetically, pieces like arm bands and knuckle tattoos only tend to work for people who look like The Rock.

If you’re applying for a job that wouldn’t hire you because your tattoo are visible and you want to get a full sleeve, reconsider your placement choice. (Or be okay with the fact that you won’t get hired for that or similar jobs.)

5. Which parlor and artist you want to go to:

This decision is crucial.

A great tattoo artist will meet with you beforehand to discuss what you want. He or she will give his or her input as to what would work best (technically and aesthetically).

Different artists within the same tattoo parlor specialize in certain types of work. Choose wisely and you’ll have an awesome piece of art for the rest of your life.

*Photo was taken by my boyfriend, who took it while we were in Monaco.

Dear 21-year-old me

One day, you will realize that
being surrounded by people
doesn’t cure loneliness.
Time spent with friends
who leave after last call
is the same as staying home.

One day, you will realize that
your parents project their issues
(with their parents) onto you.
Your siblings will be
the only people to
understand completely.

One day, you will realize that
not caring doesn’t make you strong
and being vulnerable is courageous.
Boys never made an impression
because it takes
a man to do so.

One day, you will realize that
piecing together the nights before
(the memories of which were
obliterated by tequila shots)
isn’t as fun when
you’re too old for that shit.

Fatherly advice

“Never trust a boy’s words. Words are bullshit.”

There were only a few times throughout my adolescence that my dad discussed boys or dating. Prior to the handful of instances, he joked that as soon as I hit puberty, he would inject me with fat cells so no boys would think I was pretty. When I was twelve, he warned me of a (supposedly) universal truth.

“Boys lie.”

People lie, Dad.”

“That’s not what I mean, anak.”

“Then what do you mean?”

“All I’m saying is, you should never trust boys. Especially at this age. In fact, you can’t trust them until you’re in your late twenties. Even then, I’m skeptical.”


“Because boys will lie to take advantage of you.”

“Like, take my money or…?”

“Maybe in some cases. But mostly, they lie to take advantage of your virtue.”

“Oh. But what if –”

“No what if’s. It’s a fact.”

That sentiment resonated for years, resulting in my inability to take any guy (liars and genuine ones alike) seriously.

“The only lasting trend is good taste. Dress accordingly.”

My dad has worked in corporate retail since I was in elementary school. He’s disdainful of all things trendy and favors classic pieces and designers. In high school, I had a collection of pink shoes — flip-flops, ballet flats, hightop Chucks, and regular Chucks. My dad was appalled.

“How old are you, anak?”


“Don’t you think it’s time to stop wearing pink shoes?”

“It’s one of my favorite colors, Dad.”

“But those in particular –”

“What about them? They’re ballet flats.”

“Where did you get them?”


“Looks like it.”

A few months later, I returned from going to the movies with friends to find that a certain pair of shoes were missing.

“Dad, have you seen my pink ballet flats?”

“Which ones, anak?”

“The ones you hate so much.”

“I don’t know which ones you’re referring to — ask your mom.”

I didn’t bother asking my mom. The ballet flats were buried under potato peels and egg shells in the bottom of the trashcan. I bought more sensibly colored shoes after that.

“A boy’s actions are a reflection of how he feels about you.”

During college, my dad realized that I would (at some point) meet a guy that I would date (for real). Resigned, he offered an amendment to our last conversation about boys.

“Anak, remember when I told you that boys’ words are bullshit?”

“It was a long time ago, but yeah.”

“Well, it’s still true, for the most part. But what I also meant was that you can gauge how a boy feels about you by evaluating how he treats you.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”


Years later, I told my boyfriend three words. Before he said the same back, I had fleeting moments of insecurity. Every day then, (and every day since) he made me feel cherished. That was just as important as (possibly more important than) three words.