FeelsFest2018: Gratitude, Love, and Other Feelings

Last Saturday, October 6, 2018, we celebrated feelings and all things kilig at FeelsFest2018. Organized by my favorite group of romance writers and readers, #romanceclass, the event had book launching, book selling, author meet-and-greets, sing-along sessions, and of course, the most-awaited live-readings of book excerpts. Suffice to say, I had the time of my life. I’ll never get tired of saying how grateful I am to have found and joined this community when I did. Love you, #romanceclass.

Some photos on this post grabbed from @braintabs and @konsuella on Twitter. Thank you! I was too emotional to take pictures or videos. Haha! The rest of the photos were taken by my super supportive mom.

 

“I am Divergent. And I can’t be controlled.”

Because the theme was #MCYourself2018, I decided to channel one of my favorite YA heroines and went as Tris from the Divergent series. I figured I needed some of Tris’ bravery if I was to come out of the live-readings alive. Haha! Didn’t have a Four though. Sad.

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Angeli as Tris-with-an-Arnis launched the paperback of Heartstruck, facilitated a mini-trivia game about arnis, and gave away some Heartstruck stickers. I still find it a little hard to believe that I managed to finish writing this book seven whole years after its conceptualisation. We did it, Alexa and Theo. We really did it. Thank you so much to the Flicker team for making this happen! Pugay!

I also had the opportunity to meet IRL the people I only ever saw online! Hahaha. What I failed to do, of course, was take pictures. But it was such a pleasure to meet all of you – fellow writers and readers, the bloggers, and the book enthusiasts. And everyone looked fab in their #MCYourself2018 outfits, let me just say!

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Look at all the pretty books!
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Heartstruck stickers designed by my awesome brother, Chino Dumatol. For more Chino art, visit him online on Twitter: @ChinoChooks or Instagram: @primoartph

Heartstruck was part of the live-reading program, and you can imagine just how excited and scared I am at the thought of having my words read for all the audience to hear and react to. Goodness. And really, nothing could have prepared me for all that.

Just look at that. Graie and JP as Alexa and Theo. The tough-as-they-come Arnis Girl and the Warrior Prince, come to life~ Huhu.

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I dare call myself a writer and all, but I really have no words for what happened. It was such an experience! And they just had to read THAT SCENE, right? They really had to, and it was all that and more. Ugh. Yes, I know. It’s been three days, and I still can’t form a coherent sentence about it.

I mean… Talk about LAGLAG.

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Here, go watch it yourself. To be honest, I still can’t watch this video myself. Haha! There’s just too many feelings. I have yet to subject my fragile heart to such attacking.

Thank you, Gela Uy, for everything you do. 

 

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The authors and the live-readers. All smiles. All full of feelings.
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My #FeelsFest2018 haul – hooray for books and stickers! I also got a gift from KB of Bookbed, and I love how perfect it is. Huhu. Again, I still have no Theo to share it with, but really. Who needs a Theo when you have a fun, loving community like #romanceclass? Am I right? Am I right? 
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Thank you #romanceclass for simply being. 
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Here’s a special shoutout to my super amazing mom, who not only accompanied me to the event but also stayed throughout its entirety. I warned her how ~intense we could be, but she really wanted to be there. She says we’re “weird”, but that she really enjoyed it. I’m blessed with the most supportive mom. Love you, Ma.

Check out our website for links to more #romanceclass books, our post-FeelsFest event wall, and all the other live-reading videos: http://romanceclassbooks.com.

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Heartstruck Cover Reveal

I’m so excited to finally show you the cover of my new contemporary YA novella, Heartstruck! And since I really don’t have the words right now, excitement, nerves and all, here it is:

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Isn’t it pretty?

Cover Models: Biel Faundo and JP Basco

Flicker identity design by Clarissa Ines

Heartstruck cover design by Tania Arpa

Photography by Alexandra Urrea for #romanceclasscovers

 

Heartstruck will be released on September 15, 2018 (digital) and October 6, 2018 (print) at FeelsFest 2018 to be held at the Maybank Theater Exhibit Hall, Bonifacio Global City.

Pre-order your digital copy now in the Amazon store for only $0.99: http://bit.ly/Heartstruck

Add Heartstruck on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/HeartstruckGR

Follow the hashtags #romanceclass, #romanceclassFlicker, and #Heartstruck for updates on social media.

Pugay!

Heartstruck ARC Tour

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Pugay! I’m so happy to present my new contemporary young adult novella, Heartstruck! It’s a story about Filipino martial arts, first loves, true friendship, and finding your place in the world.

I started writing Alexa and Theo’s story way back in 2011 when I took up an arnis course for P.E., and even though it took quite a long time, I’m grateful that I finally completed it with the help of so many amazing and talented people. It wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it. I had a lot of fun writing this manuscript, and I sincerely hope you all enjoy reading it. And now, I can’t think of a better way to end my gap year (I’m hopefully on the way to residency!) than to launch a new book.

The Story

Seventeen-year-old Alexa Zamora looks as if she’s always been the beautiful and graceful center of attention. If you knew her in grade school though, you’d remember a sad little girl, who had lost her parents, and spent most of her time on the martial art arnis—a rough sport, not something girls were supposed to like. If you knew her then, you might have ostracized her for it.

She learned from this mistake, and has done her best to hide all traces of her sport and skill in a new school, and now she’s New Hope Academy’s It Girl. But transfer student Theo Guevarra, who happens to be her old arnis buddy and first love, arrives and makes her question the life she’s been living. How long can she keep up appearances, before it all falls apart?

~

Join the Heartstruck ARC Tour!

If you’re a book blogger / literary enthusiast / fellow YA lover, you might be interested in an e-ARC. :) Click the link above for the sign-up form.

~

This project was developed under the #romanceclass YA imprint, Flicker.

Digital release will be on September 2018 (particulars are still being finalized) while the print book will be released on October 6 at FeelsFest 2018 to be held at the Maybank Theater Exhibit Hall at Bonifacio Global City.

Watch out for more updates!

Thank you! Pugay!

TAIWANnaBeWithYou: Mommy and Me in Taiwan Day 2

On our second day in Taiwan, Mommy and I venture up north for more attractions and, of course, food. This time around, we joined the highly recommended Klook day tour, which definitely did not disappoint. Our tour guide, Jackie, was lively, accommodating, and entertaining, a person of smiles who gave us the ‘did-you-knows’ of our every stop. It was a really long day of lengthy walks under the sweltering sun and though my feet ended up sore and aching, it was all worth it to see the beautiful sights and experience it all first-hand.

Day 2 – July 20, 2018

Highlights: Yehliu Geopark, Yin Yang Sea, 13-Layer Remains, Golden Waterfalls, Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Waterfalls, Shifen Old Street

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Mommy and me, aboard the Klook tour bus! Again, capturing that fresh, ready-for-adventure look before battling the long walks and heat! || The drive from Taipei City to New Taipei City, located up north, took around an hour, with a few traffic jams greeting us as we passed through the highway.

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First stop, the Yehliu Geopark! Found along the seaside of Wanli, New Taipei City, Yehliu features several limestone rock formations brought about by erosion, weathering, and other earthly forces. The resulting rocks are of varied, unique shapes and sizes, resembling a mushroom, candle, and ice cream among others. The most famous of these rock formations is the tandem Queen’s Head and Cute Princess.  Battling through the hot Taiwan summer sun made it a bit hard to go around the entire park though, so we weren’t able to see all the marked rock formations. Still, the seaside view along the shores of the park is breath-taking!

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We went to see the Yin Yang Sea next! It’s a peculiar yet spectacular sight, that unique mix of gold and blue waters reminiscent of the Chinese principle of duality which has since became its namesake. The golden tinge is actually a product of iron deposits from the large amount of pyrite and other heavy metals in the area.

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Across the parking lot from the sea, one will be able to see the 13-Layer Remains. According to our tour guide, these are all that’s left of copper-smelting refineries and factories that used to be active during the Japanese occupation.

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Wondering where the water from the Yin Yang Sea’s coming from? Look no further! The Golden Waterfalls is a must-stop on the way up to Juifen. The golden waters resulting from the heavy metals are a sight to behold!

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Lunch time! All that sightseeing made us hungry, and what better place to catch a bite than the lively and culture-enriched Jiufen Old Street. So many shops! So many food choices! This old mining town is the inspiration behind one of my favorite Japanese animated films, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, with the unique architecture of the buildings and the red ornamental lanterns that decorate the alleyways and add to the festive atmosphere in these streets.

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Last on our stop is the lovely Shifen – we visited the majestic Shifen Waterfalls and the Shifen Old Street, or as I’d like to call it, the Railway of Wishes, because this is the spot of the famous wishing lanterns. The tracks of the Taiwan Rail, the conventional trains, run through this busy street that is lined with several shops and food shops (they’re everywhere, I tell you!). You can purchase a large paper lantern (NTD 150 for the single-colored one, NTD 200 for the multi-colored one – each color symbolizes a certain wish e.g. red for health and peace,  yellow for money and wealth, blue for career and promotion.) and then, you’ll be given a brush and some ink so as to write on the lantern’s four sides your specific wishes. Then, you’ll be ready to cast it off into the heavens. The friendly staff there will help you along, and they’ll even help you take photos and videos.

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Lantern, with all our deepest hopes, dreams and wishes, fly true! 

What a day! I basically slept through the entire ride back to Taipei from exhaustion. Tiring, but definitely worth it. We capped off the day with a delicious garlic fried chicken dinner and of course, more Taiwan bubble milk tea.

Halfway through our Taiwan vacation! Our historical and cultural trip is up next.

谢谢   #TAIWANnaBeWithYou

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TAIWANnaBeWithYou: Mommy and Me in Taiwan Day 1

A few months back, while browsing through budget flights using the ever reliable Skyscanner website, Mommy and I decided to stop second guessing ourselves and just book a vacation to somewhere. We eventually decided on Taipei, Taiwan, to make full use of the trial visa-free travel contract for Filipinos (newly extended to July 2019, according to some news sites), and it was a really fun mother-daughter bonding trip I’m very happy we took just before I plunge deep into residency preparations.

Day 1 – July 19, 2018

Highlights: Ximending Youth Shopping District, Xin Yi District, Taipei 101 Observatory, Eslite Bookstore Flagship Store (Xin Yi branch), Din Tai Fung, Shilin Night Market

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The trip from Manila to Taipei took around 2 hours, and our AirAsia flight, though slightly delayed, was quite pleasant and uneventful. Catching a snap of Mommy and I, fresh and eager to start our Taipei adventure!
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The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has its own Metro Rail Train (MRT) station, allowing for easy transfer along the country’s very efficient transport system. The Airport MRT has two lines: a Commuter Line and an Express Line, the latter of which only has two other stops before arriving at the very busy Taipei Main Station. || Their transport system is so efficient, I just can’t help but be envious. Ugh, why can’t they fix up our own LRT and MRT?  Anyhow, I highly recommend getting an EasyCard when you’re planning to go around and utilize Taiwan’s amazing system of trains and buses. The card itself costs a NTD 100, is reloadable, grants you a 20% discount of MRT and bus fares, and is usable also in convenience stores. Unlimited transportation passes are also available, if that’s more your thing. 

 

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We stayed at the East Dragon Hotel, a short walk away from the busy shopping district in Ximending. It’s convenient in that the food stalls, the shopping areas, the MRT station, and basically all the excitement are readily accessible, but at the same time, the hotel’s a good distance away to allow a peaceful, good night’s sleep. || The Ximending Youth Shopping District is filled with all sorts of shops, and it really comes to life come the late afternoon,with all the food stalls, street performers, and hundreds of people looking for a good time. [MRT Travel Guide: Take either the Xindian Line (Green Line) or Bannan Line (Blue Line) and alight at Ximen Station. Exit 6 takes you right in front of the shopping district.]
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Leave it to me to look for a bookstore even on my overseas vacation trip! Here I am, browsing through the wares of the Eslite Bookstore flagship store in Xin Yi district. The five-storey building consists of a different offering on each floor – a bookstore on one, a department store on another, as well as food court on yet another one. There are a good number of titles in this store, mostly in Chinese but also in English. And let me just say, the Chinese titles have such pretty covers! Sometimes prettier than their English counterparts. [MRT Travel Guide: Take the Bannan Line (Blue Line) to the Taipei City Hall station. The Eslite Bookstore – Xin Yi has a direct connection with the said station.]
 

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No trip to Taipei is complete without visiting this one! It’s the iconic Taipei 101 Observatory! Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, this skyscraper houses one of the fastest elevators in the world, able to travel at 37.7 mph. Cool, am I right? The view from the observatory decks at the 89th floor boasts of a breathtaking view of the city. There’s also a Taipei 101 shopping mall attached to the building. || This photo was taken from right outside the Taipei City Hall. Perfect spot to view the tower in its entirety, in my opinion.

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We dropped by the renowned Din Tai Fung restaurant branch at the Taipei 101 mall to get a taste of that authentic xiao long bao. When we arrived, there was a 20-minute wait to a seat but while we were ordering our food for them to prepare in advance, the number of people quickly blew up and the waiting time increased to 50 minutes just like that. Lucky call! And when we finally got to eating, we were certainly not disappointed. Xiao long bao = heaven! The service was also great and efficient! I guess I can understand why people wait for practically an hour for this restaurant’s food. It’s AWESOME. Definitely a Taipei must-try! [MRT Travel Guide: You can get to Taipei 101 via the Bannan Line (Blue Line) and alighting at the Taipei City Hall station, like we did, if you want a good view of the tower from afar. Otherwise, riding the Danshui Line (Red Line) and alighting at the Taipei 101 / World Trade Center station takes you right at the entrance of the Taipei 101 mall and Din Tai Fung.]

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Capping our first day by diving right into the action! Taipei’s quite famous for its night markets, where you can treat yourself to delicious street food, some fun carnival games (similar to the ones we have at home – mga laro sa perya and all that), and of course, shopping, shopping, shopping. The Shilin Night Market is one of the biggest and liveliest. The food stalls occupy a good stretch of the road leading to the main market area, and the shopping stalls are also quite numerous. I enjoyed all the free tasting of wares – meat jerky, oolong tea, salted-egg crackers, pineapple cakes, and everything else. [MRT Travel Guide: Take the Danshui Line (Red Line) to Jiantan Station, then follow the stream of people and inevitable smell of delicious street food to locate the night market]
We covered quite a lot for our first day at Taipei, but the fun’s just starting! Our adventures in Taiwan will be continued in my next travelogue entry, where I detail our trip to Northern Taiwan.

谢谢   #TAIWANnaBeWithYou

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The Art of the Novel: the ALBWW2018 Experience

The 3rd Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Writers Workshop was held last July 11-15, 2018 at the University Hotel at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. This year’s workshop focused on the novel / nobela, and I was blessed to have been chosen to be part of the 12 participating fellows.

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The fellows of the 3rd Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio Writers Workshop – First day freshness? :) || Seated, from left: Angela, Angeli, Miguel, Erik, PJ; Standing, from left: Kat, Ernie, Jane, DJ, Rommel, Boon, EJ || Photo courtesy of UP Likhaan

Writing is like baring a part of your soul and putting it into paper in the form of words. You can never get the writer out of the words she puts down on the page, so it goes without saying that my anxiety levels shot up high at the thought of having my words read by no less than some of the finest authors of the Philippine literary scene. As if that wasn’t pressure enough, we were also going to spend an hour and a half of the workshop discussing nothing but my words.

But the nerves eventually all went away as I immersed myself in the experience of learning and basically just having fun with people who were just as, if not even more so, passionate about literature and creative writing as I am. We had lectures on craft and publishing, all providing much insight as to the ways and means of writing the novel. The panel workshop sessions wherein we discussed each other’s manuscripts brought forth allowed the sharing of opinions and ideas that gave a new take to the works-in-progress.

We talked about character development, the many ways of driving a narrative, setting a scene, and pushing forth a message. We talked about tone and voice and metaphors. We talked about world building and the power of imagination. We talked about the importance of research and how to translate it into a fictional story. I found myself very much blown away at the knowledge and talent around me.

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Leave it to a group of writers to use their free time to take a field trip to – where else – a book store! :) #ALBWW2018 hits the UP Press || Photo courtesy of Gela’s phone
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An artistic rendering of one of the panel workshop sessions, featuring me in an animated conversation with the one and only Jun Cruz Reyes, as well as the fabulous Miguel || Art by the amazingly talented Erik Pingol

It was truly an experience! Though, ironically enough, I didn’t get a single word of writing done during the 5-day event, I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating discussions and was able to take home advice to help me improve my craft. (The free food certainly helped in completing the whole experience. As in. My stomach could not keep up with the immense amount of food.)

At the end of the day, what I’m most thankful for is gaining a place within a community of artists, all intent in using their God-given gift of words to express, to educate, and to inspire. Writing may be a solitary activity, but behind that single byline are so many people who shaped and influenced the writer to bring out the very best in her words. Being amongst fellow word weavers who were going through the same joys and pains of the life of a novelist is truly a gift. I think sepanx (separation anxiety) hit us not long after parting! Haha!

I end this entry as the Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio did her speeches during our welcoming ceremony as well as graduation: Write.

No other words. Just that.

Write.

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Ending the 5-day workshop with big smiles, immense gratitude, and matching T-shirts. :) A big thank you to UP Likhaan – Institute of Creative Writing, for this opportunity! Thank you to all our panelists and lecturers! Thank you co-fellows! || Photo courtesy of Roge Gonzales (UP Likhaan)

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An Elegy for the Lost

I miss you .

 

The way you happily welcomed each new day,

Greeting everyone with a “Good morning!”

Not just with your words, but with your smile

That lit up your face, much like the sun does to the world.

 

The way you wore kindness on your sleeves,

Matched with untarnished sincerity,

Never thinking twice about trying

To see the best in other people, no matter what.

 

The way you pursued the things that meant a lot to you,

With passion and drive to reach for the stars,

Certain that anything less will not be enough,

And that nothing more is just too much.

 

The way you felt so secure in your own person,

Self- assured but never arrogant,

Not minding what other people thought or said,

Just content to be able to do what you wanted in life.

 

I miss you,

And I mourn for the loss of you every day,

Wondering if you’ll ever find your way back to me,

Or if I’ll ever be able to finally move on.

The Decision

The Decision

 

You’ll probably never get to read this,

(because you never read any of my stuff )

but I still want to write it all down.

When you made the Decision three years ago,

when you chose to walk away from it all

to go after what you really want

to be the person you really want to be,

I thought you were crazy.

And yet, some part of me understood.

Some part of me was envious even.

Because you were able to make the choice I never could.

You were brave enough to make the Decision.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to gather as much courage.

I don’t even know if it’ll make a difference if I do.

But I’ll try to be brave in my own way,

so that come one day,

I’ll be able to embrace the Truth as you did.

A Pledge to the Written Word

I did it. I finally did it.

I’ve finally made the decision to put writing first for the coming months. God knows I’ve always put it last, compared to all my doctor stuff, but now that I finally have time on my side, I’m going to put it first. I want to see what happens when I give it my full focus, when I give it my 100% and more, when I give it priority.

A writing mentor of mine once advised me to treat writing as a job because that’s what it is. It’s a job. But I could never fully treat it as such when I only turned to writing when I can have ample breaks from my medical life. I think I’ve lost a lot of writing opportunities because I was so busy trying to become a doctor. Furthermore, I think I also  failed to give my all into my academic work because I was likewise concerned over the stories that were demanding to be written and yet had to be downright ignored. But that’s another blog entry to be told…

I miss the good old high school days when I could seemingly manage to do multiple things all at the same time and with much success. Academic and extra-curriculars at school gave me a relatively full daily schedule that was more-or-less balanced out by the privilege of being able to go home as well as enjoying weekends off. Somehow, back then, I was able to keep my spot on the honor roll, while heading two student organisations, representing the school in a number of competitions and seminars, maintaining a semblance of a social life, and getting ample time to write. In the words of my dad, I am truly amazed at how [Past Angeli] could do all these things…  I keep reminiscing about those times, trying to figure out if there was something I lost over the years or if there’s something I’m doing wrong now. God knows I’d like to know.

I still think it’s possible to one day be able to reconcile my two loves – medicine and literature – without ever compromising one over the other. But for now, for the sake of my peace of mind, I’m going to go at it one at a time. I know that I still want to pursue residency, but applications for regular training aren’t until September – October, so I’m giving myself the remaining months to enjoy just being a writer. My heart’s always been with the written word, so I think it’s only right that I give myself a chance at this.

It’s not going to be easy. In fact, a few months may still not be enough, but it’s way more than I’ve ever had. But because this has always been a dream of mine, I’m willing to put in work to make things happen. This, I pledge.

Exploring Horizons

I spent a good amount of the day thinking, so much so that I had absolutely no progress with my writing, reading, or studying. I have absolutely 0% progress with that latter, since I’m still having an internal debate with myself. With certain opportunities opening its doors to me, I just had to take some time to explore my horizons.

How do you know if a certain thing is for you? I hate these moments of indecision so much. I’m so afraid of making mistakes, so afraid of choosing wrong, of getting my spirit broken and wounded yet again when it still hasn’t healed completely. As much as I don’t want to compare myself to my peers, I can’t help but do that, and be envious of the determination they possess, of the paths they’re exploring, of seeing the path they know is theirs. I’m envious of their pursuit of their dreams.

I used to have dreams. I think I still have them, but they’re currently all so blurry in my mind. I miss the days when I have such a clear vision in my head, something that’ll provide me with a drive to succeed and better myself. Right now, because of the gift of time, I’m inclined to think long and hard about what I want to achieve, and so far, I unfortunately still can’t give a 100%.

Some part of me is thinking about going back to school, but circumstances would require me to pursue a public health degree and I don’t know if I’m up for that, not because I’m not interested in it, but because I’ve never imagined myself in that kind of work. Thinking about it terrifies me.

One thing I’m really sure about, though, is that I want to spend time writing. God knows how desperately I want to complete my long overdue novels. Maybe I should take a complete year off and just write? Mom and Dad say I have to at least do something medical so as not to lose hold of my knowledge and skills. I’m amenable to doing hospital duties, but I think what I just want for myself is an OPD post, something to do in the day, so that after work, I can go home and comfortably write.

In fact, if I’m really going to be honest with myself, I’m having an extremely difficult time deciding because what I really want is a medical field that will allow me time to write. Yes, it’s such a big part of my life that I really don’t want to sacrifice writing for a hardcore specialty. I love the OR, and it’s my happy place, but a lot of things are making me hesitant about pursuing Surgery or OB-GYN primarily because of the toxicity that will never allow me time to write (let alone time to think about writing), as well as the physical and mental demands of both. The relatively lighter field of Ophtha was what attracted me the most to the field, and it still seems like what can give me the best balance of my two wants. But the field is dangerously competitive nowadays and because I’m so afraid of getting my heart broken again, I want to be 100% certain that I want it before putting myself out there again.

Sigh~ This is so hard. I just want to commit to something. I wonder when I’ll ever reach, or even go near, 100% certainty.

Lord God, help me.