Perhaps, I consider it conceit. I would need to be in love with myself to embrace it.

It’s not that I have not been there or I don’t go there. I allow myself to visit the place every now and then. When I was younger, about 15 years ago, I was there.

You know when people say, “Been there, done that…”? I say the same.

“I’ve been there, done that, and I didn’t only get the t-shirt. I was the mayor of that and there were t-shirts with my face on them.”

The last part is a joke!

But I was there. I opened a modelling agency and a fashion store called, “Anna Aguilar”. I loved my name. I envisioned to make an empire called me!

I was in love with me. Some might have called me vain. I was head over heels in love with me. My idol was me who could do anything and could make anything happen.

I loved me.

Because I had to. I think. It was a subconscious thing.

I loved me not because I thought I was worth it. I didn’t use L’Oreal. So no, I was not worth it. I loved me because I needed to love me.

And –

I had the energy.

I had the dream.

I loved the thrill.

All around me was a world of adventures waiting for me to soak into.

But energy depletes and slowly, the dream fades. Suddenly the thrill of the adventure is nothing but a distant memory. Oh heck! I sound so clichéd! I am so cheesy, I reek! It’s blue.

Anna Aguilar went poof! Harry Houdini couldn’t compete.

I went back to being Anne Botes.

It is exhausting to just keep swimming and the thing is that it is especially gruelling when you can’t swim.

It is agonizing to keep looking for the good in everything every time. It is a mission to stay positive every day.

Can’t I just be my pessimistic self sometimes and have a bitching binge?

I can’t!

I am too afraid that I will be seen by the powerful force to be ungrateful. Then, my blessings will be taken away.

I have to keep smiling.

I have to let the sunshine float above my head.

I do not wish to have writing as the only thing that occupies my days. I am grateful for my day job. I am fine with writing only when I have spare moments. After all, I can’t bloody write to save myself.

I used to dream big. It must be that a restless spirit comes with huge dreams complete with fireworks and a music score. I didn’t even let my mother dampen my spirits. She told me (still tells me) that I dream too big. I think she wanted me to clip my wings and just plant my feet firmly on the ground. I didn’t listen to her. I went for IT! IT is, of course, everything I could think of doing.

I quit my finance job. My CFO said that as much as he would like me to stay, he felt that I needed to spread my wings.

I opened a modelling agency from nothing. I knew zilch. I had a handful of models with lovely photographs and a massive confidence that took me knocking on doors I didn’t know would open to an unknown with no knowledge of the industry.

I opened a fashion store.

I was learning. I was growing. I was having a ball. It was fun.

But –

The bills screaming for attention pulled me back down to earth. There was quite a difference between the fun, new thing and the stable, senior finance management job.

In the same way that reality shook me silly so that I could wake up from my dream of becoming a best-selling novelist!

What was I thinking. A novelist? A best-seller? I don’t have the training. If I wasn’t born in the 70s, I’d be a millennial with a sense of entitlement. Forgive me for that comment, millennials who don’t suffer from the dreaded entitlement ailment.

So, I started writing non-fiction… and I founded another company… and other companies with friends… I am now employed – again.

Oh, life can be such a downer.

I am not only talking about dreams and aspirations. I used to be a romantic as well. I believed in fairy tales and happily-ever-after love stories. I loved being in love. Love was life.

However, unlike Peter Pan, I went through the growing up free-falling.

And, I lost many loves. Countless. Some cheated, others just disappeared. Fine, I left the rest. But, my first husband even divorced me. Yes! He divorced me. I was not a wife and a mother, he had said. I was a career woman. So, I embodied that independent, career-obsessed, young-ish urban professional female.

Eventually, love became something functional. It was a gradual process. Every break up added a layer of bricks on to my wall.

But I didn’t give up. I may have done so every now and then but not completely.

I have not given up entirely.

I don’t have the white flag to raise in surrender. Dido borrowed it and didn’t return the darned thing.

I may want to moan, protest and be a baby but I the truth is I am a grown-up and I have discovered as I went through my life – so far – that this really is just life. “C’est la vie!” says the French. And the Spanish responds, “Si, que sera sera.”

During my self-excavation process, with the help of Sarah Ban Breathnach, I dug up and uncovered the issue that I have been carrying since childhood. I learned my coping mechanisms, too.

I have cried and laughed.

I have kicked and screamed but I have also sat in silence appreciating all the little things I have that make up a huge thing that is me and my world.

I have lived a good life. I have trunks and chests and boxes – huge ones like those Filipino balikbayan boxes* – of memories that I will never ever trade for anything else.

I actually think I must share those memories, my stories, with you.

I have learned and accepted that I am not fully recovered from my feeling of inadequacy but I have confidence and for now, that suits me just fine. I am able to steer myself back to self-worth, albeit with a lot of struggle at times, when I get lost.

And that is me: A restless spirit who won’t let go and won’t give up and I leave trails of smiles and cheers as I go along.

Life is crazy. Life is beautiful!

So am I! Not crazy. Not beautiful.


© Anna Jailene Aguilar

*repatriate boxes, according to Wikipedia.


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