Twenty-Nine

Hello from New York!

Winter is approaching and the temperature has been unkind to my tropical-tempered skin. It is a chilly Monday evening in New York City. I have been here for almost ten days, renting out a brownstone apartment in Brooklyn during my time here because I am an adult who cannot wrap her head around the idea of hippie hostels and shared bathrooms with strangers, especially when on a long trip, any longer. Personal space is very important to me now, and as someone who frequently needs to recuperate on her own, I need copious amounts of it.

It’s been a while since I wrote here, and after all the wild electricity New York has charged this tiny traveler with, it has finally sunk in—I am 29. Twenty-nine. To be asked for an I.D. at this age is something I welcome with pride.

I look back at 28, and I know I used to say 24 was my favorite year. But now, it is 28. I have a lot of good memories to look back on in my past year, so I hope you don’t mind if I indulged myself a bit:

1. Twenty-Eight – I turned 28 in Manila, and it was a great day. I officially signed into my new job and got my work visa. Isa took me out for lunch—we had sushi at Ooma, the kind I seek for comfort. I also spent a good part of the day in the company of my family, and I hugged my Rocket as I slept that night.

2. #WeeAreTheChancos – Andre and I got married! It was one of the best days of my life.

3. Japan! – We spent our mini-moon by eating our way through Japan—Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. I’ve never had so much sushi in my life, and each bite we had was incredible. I also cried so much in the Harry Potter ride in Universal Studios Osaka, even if I couldn’t understand a single thing in the voice-over (because it was in Japanese).

4. Bintan – Kaye and I went on a quick getaway to Bintan, where it felt so good to be back in our element—the beach.

5. A Third Chance at Life – I got really, really sick with URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection) and had to stay home for a week. I had countless blood tests, but I was just really thankful it wasn’t a second round of dengue. It was a pivotal season because I was scared shitless—I thought I was going to die because my temperature was off the roof, and I realized that I really wanted to live. I saw life differently after that.

6. Melbourne with the Chancos – Melbourne was where Andre proposed in May 2017, and we found ourselves back there with the Chancos this time around. It was such a fun, fun family trip.

7. #IScreamBeauty – We successfully launched a work project that involved a collaboration with Benefit Cosmetics and Sephora!

8. Casa Chanco – And during the same period of that project, Andre and I moved to our own place. It was an insane week.

9. Hello, Hanoi! – I had a handful of days to clear for work, so Andre took me to Hanoi with him. It was my first time in Vietnam, and I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. What a wonderful surprise.

10. Knowing Myself Better in New York City – I finally took a bite of the Big Apple and travelled to New York for my 29th—and for Hamilton, where I cried buckets. It’s been the most amazing trip so far, and I am loving every bit and crevice of this city. Before I flew out, my friends surprised me with an NYC-themed birthday party in Singapore. My heart is so full.

New York is a gift; a milestone present I gave myself to celebrate the last of my twenties. And on this perfect autumn day, I decided to stay home, glue my butt on the dining chair, and write. In Cheryl Strayed’s Write Like a Motherfucker, she talks about a second heart beating inside of her—a second heart, which I’d like to think we all have.

If we take some time to peel off the layers of who we are, we might just find it—I’ll use myself as an example. I do content and marketing work for an ice cream company in Singapore. Peel. I am a lifestyle columnist for an online publication in Manila. Peel. I am a wife. Peel. I am a daughter. Peel. I am a friend. Peel. I am a dog mother. Peel. Peel. Peel. And if I peel some more, I will find that there is another layer of myself, buried beneath all the others. This is where my second heart beats. I am a writer.

Now that I am 29, I’d like to spend more time writing for myself I know this will not come easy. The work needs to be done, and what I have been learning and unlearning in my time here in New York is that writing is my craft, and I need to respect it and take care of it. In my short time in the city, I have managed to enroll in a creative writing course. Our teacher told us that all art is about connection, and that it’s not about being perfect—it’s always about giving yourself permission to write.

Our job as writers is to make that second heart our first heart, too. We need to find and hone our voices because no one can tell a story the way we tell it, and the only way to do that is to write, write, write.

I write a whole lot for my work, but there is an unparalleled satisfaction (and pleasure) with writing for myself. I have promised myself time and time again—usually on my birthday or on a new year—that I will write more and fill this space with letters and thoughts and notes and experiences. But I have never been consistent.

Consistency is a simple word that takes a lot of work to achieve. It means trading hours of idleness and fun for not-so-fun and sometimes even excruciating hours of getting the right words out. Writing is not fun most of the time—as Isa said, it’s like banging your head on a wall over and over again…but to have written is such a glorious, delicious victory. And before I close the chapter of my twenties, I would like to do myself a huge favor, and be proud of myself for once, knowing I have written, and that I have written well. I want to hear the beat of my second heart pounding wildly with excitement until it becomes one with my first heart. I am a writer; there will be no more layers to peel. So, let’s get to it.

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