Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Photo source: lightstargod, Pixabay

William Paul Young, author of The Shack, revealed during his interview with Oprah that after hitting rock bottom, there had been a point when he had to juggle three jobs. And he was content. And the novel was written not as part of his “therapeutic process,” but during a point in his life when he was finally comfortable in his own skin.

Something within me lit up when I heard his answer.

I think it’s a beautiful gift–to be comfortable in one’s own skin–even during difficult times. Even when our dreams have crumbled and we’re still clawing our way out of the pit. Even when we are not where we hoped we would be.

I think it’s a gift I wish to give to myself.

So here I am, learning to be grateful for each thing that comes my way.  Gracefully letting go of what I don’t have, or may never have, while remaining thankful for what I am being given.

I also began checking articles online on how to be more of who I already am. And here are three articles I loved and my key takeaway from each.

Here’s hoping someday we all get to that place where we are finally able to accept ourselves fully, unconditionally. 🙂

20a5f766946705176245857c35d514e1--love-yourself-bitPhoto from this link

 

Following Intuition

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness. The talk was “You Already Have the Answer.”

Prior to this, I was beginning to craft my plans for my next career move(s). People kept saying, “Follow you passion.” But my passion for what I used to love is gone. Thing is, I don’t know how to move to another field as all the skills I developed were on only one field. Also, I don’t have any other passion.

So now I’m following my curiosity . . . something I picked up from Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk during the Oprah SuperSoul Session.

And as I was about to retire for the night, I asked myself, “If I already know the answer, what would it most likely be?”

The response was almost immediate. The answers were staring me in the face. I wasn’t watching those K-Dramas all these years, and watching movies for nothing. I was doing little things which I thought were just hobbies (or sadly, waste of what could have been productive time) for a reason.

So now, sitting beside me is a notebook with a list of things that bring me joy. They are such a massive deviation from the once-grand and great dreams I’ve had for my life. I know how to get to those dreams. I have had a taste of it. And I am not happy.

I knew something wasn’t right. Something important–a non-negotiable–was missing.

I still do not know what that is. So definitely I have to follow my “curiosities.” Even if I fail, I would have lived again. I would have learned more about myself.

Perhaps along the way, I will figure out what my next journey is going to be.

a84e06ce90f63404b4e0595a20e7979a--mcgill-walks

A Grounded To-Do List

Photo source: kaboompics, Pixabay

I love to-do lists. I’ve always had one for the past 10+ years. It’s how I organize my day, my weeks, my months. They were packed with a few fun things, but mostly filled with responsibilities, tasks, chores, meetings, deadlines.

But recently I realized, to-do lists can do more than that. They were not supposed to rule our lives. They were supposed to support our values and help us create a life we truly wish to live.

How did I start changing my list?

a. Books, podcasts, videos have helped me determine what I want. So far, the most helpful material I have read was James Altucher’s 20 Habits for Eventual Millionaires. At first, I thought this list will focus on work and finance. But nope. His list included habits like saying no, loving,  spending time with people who are kind to us and love us, doing 1 percent per day and doing something you loved as a kid.

b. I kept listening to my experiences. This is my journey, after all. And only I can tell which messages resonate with my experiences, which paths make me truly happy. So I actually tweak my to-do list as I gain new insights about myself and as I learn new things from others.

c. Recently, I also came across Lewis Howe’s interview with Eric Barker, Decoding the Myths of Success. Barker shared about having a personal definition of success. Some truly happy, successful people also focused on the following areas: happiness, achievement, significance, and legacy.

When I finished my to-do list, I immediately “implemented” it. And here were my challenges.

1. I had to deal with my own resistance. To-do lists, I used to think, were an outline of your responsibilities. I was supposed to be productive for the most part of each day. So I still find myself hesitating as I prioritize self-care, sleep/rest, and having fun EVERYDAY. My brain’s like, “Seriously, we’re playing a game first thing in the morning. This is fun! Uhm, but isn’t this a waste of time?”

2. As in the past, each day was packed with tasks. It was exhausting. So I came up with a more “chill” list. Some tasks would only be done on specific days of the week. Weekends are free days.

3. As I focused on learning 1% on topics I were interested in (or so I thought), it became apparent that I wasn’t happy with them at all. So I took them out of the list, and replaced them with topics I were curious about. It’s a beautiful experiment. I don’t have to spend so much, ex. enrolling on a paid course, just to find out if something is truly interesting for me. Through these little experiments and learning 1% each day, I do not exhaust myself as I continue to follow my curiosity.

Perhaps my best takeaway from the Lewis Howes-Eric Barker interview was that we (well, at least I’m sure I did this) thought achieving goals were supposed to be a series of steps where we focus on only one area at a time. First we study hard, then we work hard. And then when we’re finally stable in our careers, we’ll have more time for our hobbies, our relationships, and for enjoying life.

If this is you, I respect your decision or whatever it is you are going through. In my case, I know that after things fell apart, the achievements were not worth the sacrifices. Some things can’t wait till we’re successful, or already confident, or fully healed of our pain. Most of the focus on career and achievement could be traced to a desire to cover past trauma, pain, and feelings of not being good enough.

I crafted my to-do list and life goals in such a way that the most important buckets are regularly filled, no matter what happens. But what helped me do this was to simultaneously heal my emotional wounds so I could finally reach a space where I don’t need to keep doing and giving just to be valued, just to feel whole.

And this is perhaps my best gift to myself right now: to be able to nurture what truly matters, even if my other buckets are yet to be filled. To finally stop running, and just take a walk through life. To finally live and value both the achievements and the simplest moments.

you-make-a-new-life-by-making-new-choices-quote-1

Photo source: Picturequotes.com

 

Navigating the World of Personal Finance

Photo source: LIOsa, Pixabay

Though I have passed my financial adviser exam last 2015, I am not a personal finance guru. In fact, what led me down the road of personal finance were a series of financial bloopers and very costly lessons.

And this post’s goal is simply to share some of these lessons. In the realm of personal finance, I am beginning to realize, I am probably still at the first-grade level. But hey, I began from the bottom! In my first 20 years, no one taught me about personal finance. Then the next 10 years were spent making expensive mistakes and conducting little experiments and finding a path to follow. The past few years I have spent learning (and paying for) those mistakes. More importantly, I am beginning to seek mentors, books, any reliable material I can find to guide me through this maze. Plus gradually replacing negative financial habits and limiting beliefs with more empowering, expansive ones.

If you, too, grew up knowing nothing about personal finance, I hope this post can help, or at least keep you from making the same mistakes I did.

  • I bought a property for the family. And while it wasn’t being used yet, we rented it out. The initial down payments and property improvements to make the house livable emptied my pockets. When we began renting it out, we realized that it could only be rented at a price slightly lower than our monthly mortgage payment. Having good-paying, long-term renters were blessings, lowering significantly the money we had to shell out for mortgage. We did have to cover for a two/three-month period when the house had no renter, plus occasional maintenance and property tax.

I would recommend any future homeowner to first assess their capacity to meet long-term monthly obligations and occasional expenses. And also to seriously look at the interest rates and projected earnings (if you plan to rent it out) before taking out the loan. In my case, I realized that most of our monthly payments actually went to interest rates; only about 20% was deducted from the principal. In effect, within a 25-year period, we would have paid an interest that’s more than twice the price of our loan amount. A friend who had the same dilemma recommended I make additional payments to be deducted from the principal, thereby minimizing interests.

  • My mindset began shifting because of books. I first read Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I no longer remember which of his books contained something about Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass. The gist of the message was if you somehow believe that there is another reality beyond what you are living now (ex., earning solely through employment), then you will take a risk and walk through the glass.
  • I also began reading books by Bo Sanchez (such as The Turtle Always Wins, The Abundance Formula) and Francisco Colayco’s Pera Mo, Palaguin Mo and Pisobilities.
  • I attended seminars. But I learned NOT to buy products they sell immediately. Some people (including agents) truly care about your financial future and honestly believe they are helping you reach your financial goals. But some products may not fit your needs, or what you can afford to pay for the next several years. It is so tempting to shell out funds right after a seminar, get carried away by all the hype, and immediately join or avail of their products. But give yourself some time to think this through. Keep reading. Consult people whom you know are better at managing their personal finances.
  • I opened an account with COL Financial so I can purchase stocks. I shelled out Php5,000. It was a good learning experience. I relied on my friend for advice on what to buy though (since I had no idea about stocks). Contrary to what I’ve heard from many, I did not lose money. Somehow, I did earn via a buy-and-hold strategy. But eventually, I had to pull out all my investments. This leads me to my next valuable lessons.
  • Take care of your health. When I got sick, I had to stop working for more than a year. That was when I realized how important it was to . . .
  • Build your emergency fund. When I got sick, I only had two-month’s worth of salary saved. Since I was an output-based worker, I had no health insurance. So apart from my living expenses, I also had to shell out money for my medical expenses.
  • I did have insurance though, a value life insurance. For the first two or three years, I had no fund balance (investment/savings component) because the funds went to setting up my fund. After which, I was so happy to see my fund balance growing every month. Then, I got sick. I asked my agent if I can withdraw my funds to cover my medical expenses. But I can’t, since there was a policy on minimum withdrawals and my fund balance has not yet reached this amount. It’s been over a year since my last payment. In a year, my fund balance has dropped significantly (equivalent to about 1/3 of my yearly premium payment), as insurance and administrative charges were deducted.
    • Good points: My illnesses were not among the critical illnesses covered by the insurance policy. (Thank God!) The fund balance covered the insurance and administrative charges. Thus, my insurance coverage remained in force even if I have not paid monthly premiums for a year.
    • Not-so-happy points: I was relying on the fund balance as a retirement fund/investment. Now, my investment has not just stopped growing; it is even decreasing. And I could not tap it for more urgent medical expenses.
  • So now, while I’m recovering, I’m back to reading and learning. I have been going through Burton Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street and Eric Tyson’s Personal Finance for Dummies. I’ve been tracking all my expenses, opening up passive and active income streams, and exploring other financial products that may better meet my needs and capacity to pay.
  • I’m once more building up a savings and investment fund. I remember my college professor in Microfinance teaching us that the only way to save is to follow this savings equation: Income – Savings = Expenses

This is so difficult to do now. But I’ll keep trying.

  • More importantly, I am taking care of my health and my personal life is ongoing a major makeover. I’m also learning to set boundaries, with myself and other people, so I can better manage my finances. I have crafted a new life goal and definition of success, to serve as my guidepost as I choose how to invest my time and resources and how I live my life.

I remember my therapist telling me it is a blessing that I am learning some difficult lessons while I’m in my 30s, instead of later in life. It did not feel that way at first, but now I know she’s right. Rock bottom sucks, but I would rather learn to build back better now rather than never.

Pisobilities

When “life warriors” surrender

Photo source: Unsplash (Pixabay)

I have learned that life will keep bringing you the same set of experiences until you learn what you needed to learn.

This phase of my life, I guess, is about surrender. How did I know? I got another rejection letter.

This is the only time in my life when answers were always NO. I could no longer understand why. My previous plans have failed. Then I crafted a life direction for myself, a new vision of what I want my life to be like. And guess what? Almost every step forward is impeded by another rejection or failure.

For someone who survived by taking charge of things, this is a horrible state to be in. If everything is beyond my control, what else am I left to do?

After reading my latest, beautifully written rejection letter, I opened my journal and poured out my frustration on several pages.

When I was done, I took out Melody Beattie‘s Beyond Codependency. (I have been reading books and articles as part of my self-care routine.) And I reached the chapter on surrender. Its title was: “Letting the Good Stuff Happen.” This quote in particular stuck with me.

“Surrendering and letting go are about willingness and trust. They’re about having enough faith to want something so much that we can taste it; then deliberately letting go of our desires and trusting our Higher Power to do for us what He wants, when He wants. They’re about believing in God and His love for us even when it hurts.”

~ Melody Beattie, Beyond Codependency

The rest of the chapter acknowledges how difficult it is to surrender and let go of something we want so bad and we know we deserve. It’s hard, it’s scary, it’s sad. I should know. And I had a good cry as I went through my hopes in my mind, and acknowledged the reality that they may NOT happen. I also began entertaining the idea that if these don’t happen, then perhaps other good things would. It’s been this way all my life, I realized. I wasn’t given everything I asked for, but I ended up getting something just as good, or even better. As Ralph Waldo Emerson had put, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

Beattie pointed out that we do not have to learn to surrender everything all at once. We can begin only with what we are ready to let go of.

May we learn to give our best, and still be able to let go. May we keep showing up. May we be okay, whether our dreams come true or not.

“Surrender to the pain. Then learn to surrender to the good. It’s there and more is on the way.” ~ Melody Beattie, Beyond Codependency

 

Additional read:

 

autumn-1246856_1920.jpg
Photo source: Unsplash (Pixabay)

Deep within, do you feel enough?

Photo source: johnhain (Pixabay)

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with striving for growth and wanting to be the best you can be.

I just realized that not being good yet at a skill, is not in any way related to my worth as a person.

On one of those days when my schedule was packed with a long list of to-do, articles I wanted to read, skills I wanted to learn, I realized: “What am I doing all these for?”

On the surface, I was growing my skills and knowledge. But deep within, I was trying to fill a feeling of not being enough.

That awareness, and the constant reminder to myself that I am already enough, that these skills cannot add anything to my self-worth, made things so much easier.

I have Pema Chodron to thank for this realization.

“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves . . . never touched our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”

~ Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are

At first I struggled to understand this quote. Still, I tried to live from that place.

What if, all this time, I had already been enough? There is no need for the credentials, the fancy toys, there is no need to reach a particular set of achievements to finally be able to say: I am good enough. I am worthy enough.

What if, all we have to do, is have faith in that brilliance within us, and uncover all that hinders our light?

There’s a really huge difference between uncovering your brilliance and acquiring something outside of you (achievements, recognition, wealth) just to feel you are good enough.

May you and I always remember that while our futures may feel uncertain, our self-worth has always been the same . . . and has remained untouched by everything that has happened to us.

 

 

 

Transforming our views on failure

Photo source: skeeze (Pixabay)

The first time I went through a series of failures, I was 31. Two years later, I am still failing A LOT. I have failed more in 2 years than I have in my 30+ years of existence.

When you are not used to successive losses, every failure is like a kick in the gut, or a wound to your ego. It takes so much time just to pick yourself up.

But after a while, things become easier. The pain is still there, the rejections still hurt. But you become more resilient.

You look at failures not as proof of your lack of worth. You cry, wallow in the misery for a while (or for as long as necessary for you to move through your emotions), perhaps skip a bath for a day or two.

Then you get back up. You’re ready to look at what happened and do better next time. You identify the lessons. You know better what you want, what you don’t want, what works, what doesn’t.

When I was at rock bottom’s third level (yes, just when you think things could not get worse, they actually do), I scoured the Internet for articles and videos on failure and success. Here’s my personal take on the topic and a few materials that helped me pull through.

1. Feel those feelings. Fully.

While setting aside your emotions might seem practical or easy, it’s actually harder in the long run. Sitting with your emotions, on the other hand, allows you to gradually clear a space within–a process that helps you unload your emotional baggage, regrets, and pain, and fully face your situation. This brings you clarity, and allows you to move forward at peace with your past.

2. Know that you can grow

I used to think that my back-to-back failures and rejections were reflections of my capacity. I was not fully aware that I was carrying around this limited belief until I heard Carol Dweck’s TED talk, The Power of Believing That You Can Improve. Carol, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, discussed the concept of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset, and how this propels or hinders our success.

I was one of those consistent honor students who worked really hard and, almost always, I saw my efforts rewarded and recognized. So I moved through life thinking when I work hard and give it all, success was guaranteed. I was afraid to make mistakes. To me, mistakes = a failure = not good enough as a person.

Shifting your mindset won’t happen overnight. But it’s definitely worth the effort. Plus the process of exploring and developing new skills is super fun.

3. All paths to success are filled with failures

I kept hearing people say, “Failures are the stepping stones to success.” But it just wouldn’t sink in. I could not grasp it. To me, failure is failure. Why are people sugarcoating it? It pulls you away from success, not closer to it.

But after several months (or more like a year) of failures and rejections, I finally got it. My journal was now filled with pages and pages of lessons, of what I did wrong, of what was no longer in my control, of the changes I will make to avoid the same mistakes.

Cathy Collaut’s work has helped me a lot on this. When I was binge-watching failure videos, I came across Marie Forleo’s interview with her about overcoming devastating setbacks. I loved that she broke it down into four steps. And I downloaded her free e-book, Failure and Confidence: How to Overcome One and Retain–or Regain!–the Otherwhere she further discussed these steps.

To close this post, I want to share with you a quote from Pema Chodron, which has been on my wall since my life began falling apart. It’s a gentle reminder that while challenges will keep coming and things will continue to hurt, we’re gonna be okay.

“It isn’t that the waves stop coming; it’s that because you train in holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart, the waves just appear to be getting smaller and smaller, and they don’t knock you over anymore.”

~ Pema Chodron, Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better

“My feelings are real.”

Do not fight against pain

I finally reached a point when I am able to experience my emotions as honest messengers and friends, instead of enemies to be extinguished or kept at bay. Well, at least 25-40 percent of the time. That’s a huge leap, given where I began.

I grew up thinking it was bad to cry or embrace my emotions. Before I was 10, I had a notion that tears = weakness, and I just can’t afford to cry when around me things were already falling apart. Perhaps some of you also grew up thinking that pain, insults, boundary violations should just be brushed aside. Hearing comments like, “Forget about it. That was nothing.” or “You’re just too sensitive,” I just thought that perhaps my feelings were wrong. So I shut all emotions tight in a box.

Until of course I couldn’t contain them anymore. Sadly, in suppressing pain and hurt, fear and anger, I had unintentionally suppressed joy.

Now, I’m working on recognizing that my feelings are valid, real, deserve to be respected and recognized. Also, that they are neither good nor bad. So I won’t burn in hell for feeling so-called “negative” emotions like anger or sadness.

Second, I’m working on distinguishing feelings. Another effect of suppressing emotions was that, now that they are surfacing, I could not distinguish which is which. This is perhaps the only time, or perhaps one of the very rare times when someone truly asked, “What are you feeling? Are you angry, afraid, sad, glad?”  with the intention to understand me, not to judge me and make my feelings wrong. As months pass, it’s becoming easier to allow myself to feel my feelings fully, and be able to tell myself, “Yup, that emotion is anger. That one’s fear. That’s sadness and pain. It’s okay. You’re okay.”

And to that part of me that shut down my emotions to protect me as a child, I say, “Thank you for doing your best to protect me. I’m a grownup now. I can handle this. I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.”

I’d like to share with you links to the handouts I was given, and end this post with a quote from Rumi, inviting us to treat our emotions and life’s dark moments as “a guide from beyond.”

This-being-human-is-a-guesthouse
Photo source: Anne – Lieke

 

 

There’s something about writing

writer-1421099_1920 (1)
Photo by voltamax (Pixabay)

There was a time when I thought I was a pretty good writer. That was back in high school, when the batch population numbered only a few hundreds.

When I entered college, one of my friends (whom I knew could write well) was required to take basic English classes. I wasn’t required to do the same, so I thought I was doing okay.

Almost all my papers in my English classes came back with so much red or green marks, depending on what ink my English professor used. Prior to this, I don’t think I had seen that many colored marks, circles, arrows on any of my school papers. But by then I already knew I wasn’t a very good writer . . . and I was so far from being among the best.

By the time I joined the workforce, gosh, I was just a normal kid. Among creatives, among more experienced writers and researchers, I was below average.

I’ve been failing so much since then. Despite those heartbreaks, I just can’t stop typing away.

Because there is something about writing.

. . . that feels liberating.

. . . that brings joy.

. . . that makes me feel alive.

I have read and reviewed some good manuscripts, but I have also seen some that took much time to edit. But even the not-so-well-written manuscripts had something in them. I could sense the writer’s joy and the personality she was trying to give to, or express in, her work. There were also very practical and helpful messages the authors wanted to share to the youth about businesses. As my friend had put it, these people have brilliant ideas; they just need help putting their ideas on paper. It would be our loss as a society if these lessons never get shared.

So a toast to us who have struggled as writers, but have not stopped writing because creating makes us happy. Let’s just keep moving forward. We, too, have ideas we can share to make someone’s life even just a bit better.

When I was down in the dumps, one thing that got me to write again (and be at it for hours or days) were writing contests. Winning would be lovely (of course!) but my priority was getting my work out there. And as I kept writing, I felt my joy growing, and my love for writing flooding back. Ideas pour in too—while I’m at the grocery, or washing my clothes, or eating . . . .

I’d like to share with you this list of FREE fiction and nonfiction writing contests with cash prizes, posted by Kelly Gurnett at The Write Life.

For those in the Philippines, there are also contests in the list above which you can join. You can also submit your work to some local competitions. Or you can write for periodicals. A few such opportunities are listed below.

  • Short+Sweet is accepting script submissions until 31 May. The form is available here.
  • The 1st Lampara Young Adult Story Writing Contest, sponsored by Lampara Publishing House, is accepting entries until July 14, 2017. The details and forms are available here.
  • The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards seems to be the most prestigious writing competition in the country. The deadline was last April, but you can add this to your list for next year.
  • The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and The National Library of the Philippines (NLP) sponsor the Salanga Prize. Entry submission closed last December 2016. But start writing that story . . . and you’d be ready when the 2018 Salanga Prize starts accepting entries in the latter part of this year 🙂
  • The Philippine Daily Inquirer accepts contributions from young writers. (I know there’s an age limit.) The article should not have been published prior to submission. Selected articles appear on PDI’s Youngblood section.

There are also a lot of articles on self-publishing. I will update this list as I come across new information on writing contests here and abroad.

For now, I’d like to close this post with this quote:

Natalie-Goldberg-Quote-630x473
Source: The Write Practice, 29 Quotes that Explain How to Become a Better Writer

 

 

 

A Case of Self-Love Deficit

heart-583895_1920
Photo by Poky (Pixabay)

Its been months now since it dawned on me that the depth of my lack of self-love was, well, really deep.

Reaching this realization was a downward spiral, and sometimes, the drop was too much to take in. The good thing for anyone going through this is that the fall may be brutal, leaving you sore all over, but it’s survivable.

As I tried to understand why things happened the way they did, I stumbled upon the term codependency, and countless videos, blogs, and articles. And I got hold of books by Melody Beattie, Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency. And for a time they became my constant companion. Her books are still with me and every once in a while, when I felt like I was forgetting what I have learned, I would pull her book out of the little shelf at the foot of my bed and read a chapter or two.

Then recently, I came across a video post by Lisa Romano and Ross Rosenberg. Ross had coined the term self-love deficit disorder. I found the term perfect for what the condition was. Adults who grew up in chaotic homes at times do not learn how to take care of themselves, what is their responsibility and what isn’t, how to love and accept themselves and their emotions fully. Moreover, the term helps us focus on the core of our healing, which, at least for me, was truly learning about healthy self-love. I had to learn that it was necessary, not selfish, to do so, and that this is actually my responsibility and not somebody else’s.

Written this way, it sounded simple. But anyone who had been, or is in, this journey knows it’s difficult. It’s not easy to unlearn patterns of thinking and behavior that you developed as a child to protect yourself and survive. These things have been ingrained in your psyche. It was like realizing you had blinders on all your life, and decades after you are only starting to realize and grieve the losses, see through the lies. There was actually no way of escaping grief. But I can honestly tell you that once something has been properly grieved and finally accepted, you’d feel so much lighter.

If this journey resonates with you, I hope you can find time to sit with your emotions, read more about the topic, or find a good therapist who can handle cases such as this. There is a wealth of information online, but there are a few I keep revisiting whenever I need a reminder.

To us in recovery, may we find more beauty along this journey of recovery, and may we always receive the strength to push forward even if it seems like the cards are stacked against us. Many have recovered–and so can we.

There is something about books . . .

narrative-794978_1920 (1)
Photo by Comfreak (Pixabay)

There is something about books. There is something about beautiful stories that stay with you days after you’ve read the last page and put the book down. There is something in your soul that awakens when it recognizes you in a character, or in the author’s own struggles. There are moments when they validate your own experience, and assure you you are not alone in this journey. Others have been here and they made it through.

There are pages and chapters that seize you because they resonate with your soul. There are books that give you answers, or give you questions to ask yourself.

They make you think . . . and think hard. They open your imagination to possibilities. They open your heart to other people’s realities. Some books will change you, or perhaps uncover something that has been in you all along.

To be honest, I don’t read books just for fun. I read them because I want to learn things I can use. I want books that deepen my self-knowledge and enrich my understanding and appreciation of life.

Every so often, I read fiction books. I let myself be taken into their world. I let myself read just for the pleasure of spending a day or days lost in another fictional character’s adventures in a make-believe world.

But when I put these books down, I realize that the emotions, the losses, the struggles of each character, these were real. These happen to us. We lose people we love. We fight for things we believe in. We protect what we believe is ours. We seek love, we seek fame, we seek power. Sometimes we win in life and at times, our losses overwhelm us. In this sense, every fictional work bears within it a piece of our own reality.

I hope you have found, and will continue to find, such books–books that change you, books that bring you joy. I hope you find books that, instead of taking you away from your real world, they help you dive deeper into it.