There are several things my therapist taught me from a multitude of sessions I’ve had with her in almost five years, but the one that truly resonated with me the most is that, “You can achieve your goals without sacrificing your sanity.” In my twenties, I left my comfortable life in Manila, packed my bags, and flew to Australia to pursue my dreams and to prove to myself that I am a strong independent woman who can stand on her own feet. It wasn’t as glamorous as you would think, because my Australian-life had been a roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs, and lots of surprises. Back in my twenties, I was this fearless girl, making something out of whatever life throws at me. I was a daredevil, trying out jobs that I never had any background of, knowing that it would pay a bulk of my expensive rent for my posh Sydney apartment with a huge amount of Australian dollars. I tried being a door-to-door saleslady, a charity worker for Doctors Without Borders, a cleaner at this ginormous logistics company, ladidadida, and the list goes on. Those were jobs that paid, and at that time not the kind of jobs that I really wanted for myself.

As most of you know, I have a Bachelors Degree in Food Technology. It was a course that I literally put my soul into even before I stepped into college. My aunt was very successful in this field (God bless her soul), and I looked up to her as an inspiring example. I only practiced in that field for a year, and pursued my passion in Culinary Arts the succeeding year after. Nice combo, right? A “Chef Technologist” title looks good in every job application. However, when I graduated college and was trying to pave my career path, I wanted something else. I didn’t want to spend my youth inside a laboratory, wearing a lab gown, and feeling like I’m doing a research paper or a thesis my whole life. That’s what we do in the Food Technology field, it is very technical and crucial, and four years plus several months of on-the-job-trainings made me realize that it wasn’t exactly the job for me. Yet, I finished the course from a prestigious state university because from the country where I am from, you won’t get anywhere without a college degree. Maybe I can make something out of it, I thought. But as I grew older, my goals and dreams changed. I painted this dream board and on it was myself wearing a toke and a chef’s jacket, working for magazines, and making amazing things for the camera. But somehow, that dream board faded somewhere along the way.

Back then, I wasn’t sure, because a lot of opportunities have opened for me and being my adventurous self, I didn’t just choose one from those opportunities. I tried all of them! I was a night-market business owner having three branches at food bazaars, I was a café owner at one point, a full-time travel writer and photographer at another, a professor for college students taking up Nutrition and Dietetics course, an Australian Certified pastry chef, a Research and Development chef for a health café, a content writer… I realized that I wore a lot of hats in the past years. I was basically a jack of all trades, master of none. Sigh.

Burnout Problems

When I decided to fly to Australia to study Pastry Arts, I only had one goal – work in Australia as a glorified Australian Certified Pastry Chef (maybe mastering in chocolatery if I will survive). I knew I would excel in this field because I love making food that’s pretty and aesthetic. I focused on just doing that. For three awesome years, I gained experiences in Sydney and made my way up the pastry chef ladder. This time, I was an ace. Pastry was my calling. WAS. I know the next question you’ll ask me is, “So what went wrong this time?”

I’ve learned that in life, what goes around, comes around. While I was at the height of my career as a pastry chef, I was also working towards my goals. I wanted to earn so much because I wanted to fund all of my luxurious travels out of my career in the pastry kitchen. Yes, that was my priority at that time. I was young and tenacious, I wanted to explore and experience new things. I wanted to give myself only the best memories. I never thought of investing on a house, a new car, or whatever most “responsible millennials” would spend on. I wanted to travel the world and fly business class from my blood and sweat profession. I just wanted to be able to afford to go on adventures whenever I feel like it. I worked three jobs, while studying a Hospitality Course. I was working for the school restaurant as an apprentice, and I was working for hotels as a server aside from my real job as a pastry chef in another establishment. I didn’t mind the long hours, sleep-when-you-can kind of schedule, but then this lifestyle took its toll on my health. I started to have sleepless nights. I started panicking out of nowhere. My mind was always in a whirlwind, and my body was exhausted trying to get a lot of things done in so little time.

I got sick. There came a point in my life when I just wanted to stop everything. I didn’t want to do pastry anymore, and it hurts because it’s one of those things that I was seriously passionate about, and I didn’t have the will to do it anymore. I wasn’t inspired. I lost my drive. I was diagnosed with a mental health disorder, which most of you already know. So let’s skip to the next parts.

I went back to the Philippines, built another pastry shop (this time focusing on cheesecakes), started a YouTube Vlog, and pursued my passion in Food Styling. Wow! I invested on something worthy again. This was it! For the entirety of my life in the Philippines, I was finally enjoying my time back in Manila, this time whole-heartedly attending my therapy sessions with my psychiatrist. I wanted to get better, because having dark thoughts all the time was something that was not easy to live with. It was a daily struggle, but my therapies were effective and two years into it, I was already in remission for my anxiety and I was somehow stable with my Bipolar Disorder. Everything was going well, until BOOM! Covid happened.

We got stuck again! Just when we’ve started our dream business of having our own pastry brand, life again throws us shit! We all know what the effects of the pandemic were, and it didn’t spare us. The money we earned from our long-standing jobs all went to drain. This wasn’t my idea of “luxurious travel”. It was a stand-still during the height of the pandemic and not knowing what would happen next was catastrophic to us as business owners. We have just started building the shop and all of a sudden, *poof* we had to lock ourselves up in our homes. It stayed like that for a whole year and God-knows until when. Several months into covid being around, people just learned how to live with it. Otherwise, we will all rot in fear from what others call “scam-demic”. We lived our days as usual, and tried our best to rise from those unfortunate events. We were doing well at some point, but as the days go by really fast, we were entering another fuckery (excuse my French). The world is probably in the brink of doom. The economy is not getting any better, and it results to sky-rocketing prices of raw materials for our shop. Truth was a hard slap! We can’t afford them anymore. Trying to push harder would result into further loss for the shop, not even a “break-even”. When will life ever be fair??? When something good happens, life has its own way of fucking things up for us.

2023 – The Year of Alignment

In my thirties, I have stopped becoming a daredevil. It’s my moment to pause and chill, and stay calm and enjoy the peace. My friends, family, and avid blog readers know my personality well. If I want something to happen, I don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen. I MAKE IT HAPPEN. I had a meaningful conversation with one of my closest friends the other day, as we were talking about building our dreams. The conversation went this way. “Sis, I want to acquire your skill.”, she said. I was just laughing at the back of my mind. “What skill? My singing skill?” I jokingly asked. She replied to me on a serious note. “No, when you have a goal, you don’t stop until you achieve it. I want to be like that too.”, she said. I quickly reflected on her statement and asked myself, am I really the type to do everything to achieve something? Or am I just going with the flow? In my eleven years after college graduation, what have I achieved so far? I don’t have my own house, certainly did not get to buy a new car, I don’t have much, and I feel that sometimes life still sucks.

But then again, if I ask myself those questions, I would be pressured once more to do overwhelming tasks until my body cries for help. No, I won’t subject myself to that torment again as I did in my twenties. The correct question should be, “When was the last time you pursued your goals without feeling burned out?” Every beginning of the year, I used to list down all the things that I want to achieve for the whole year. I create this massive book of to-dos and I consistently try to make all those things work in my favor. I used to dwell in frustration when I don’t make it happen in the time that I have allotted for it. However, this year I didn’t write anything.

This year, I have decided to focus on alignment. I have settled to align the desires of my heart to reality. I have destroyed the idea that I need to be constantly hustling and grinding for me to become successful. But don’t get me wrong. I am still working towards my dreams, but this time not slaving and burning myself out. I have embraced the concept of re-centering and resting. I made peace with the idea that sometimes we need to slow down to make progress. I am focusing on what aligns and what does not.

This year, I have decided to not push it when something drains me, literally and figuratively. I don’t engage in conversations that are draining to me. I have decided to protect my energy. It is saddening on our part to be closing our pastry shop this year, but I truly believe that what’s meant for us will find its way to us. If Sunday’s Cheesecakes is not meant to be, then maybe a better opportunity will present itself instead. It is heart-breaking, but I have learned the art of letting go.

This year, I have decided not to obsess on the things I can and cannot control. My whole life, I have focused on achieving so much and proving myself for what its worth, but then again, I have come to ask myself why do I constantly want to be called “successful”? What does the word “success” even mean? When do you know if you have already reached it? When do we stop trying to achieve it?

When they’re all about making your twenties awesome and successful…

Looking back at my dream board eleven years ago, I drew myself as a chef wearing a jacket and a toke, working for magazines, and making amazing things in front of the camera. That was my twenty something self, fresh out of college, drawing a dream board with the title “10 years from now I want to be this”. I even told my Mom about it so she enrolled me at a Culinary School and bought me my first DSLR camera. She’s been supportive all the way, even if I thought I would not be a successful chef or just successful in life in general. Part of me used to tell myself that after all those years of experiences, I am still a failure.

It is only now that I have come to realize that I am exactly the person on that dream board. It did not fade somewhere along the way. “Fading” was not the term for it. The proper word is “becoming”. I wore those hats and experienced a lot of those things as the years went by because life was preparing me to become who I am today. I am now a professional Food Stylist in my own studio, (maybe not wearing a toke and a chef’s jacket when I work) but as I have said before, I like to create pretty and aesthetic food that’s why I thought I wanted to become a pastry chef. But this time I do creative visuals for many brands, establishments, and magazines. Even hotels and celebrities try to partner with me after looking at my portfolio which I really worked hard on even during the pandemic. I experienced all those jobs before and they were essential in understanding my clients’ needs now. If I did not become a chef, I wouldn’t know how to plate things. If I didn’t become a sales agent, I wouldn’t know how to offer my service. If I didn’t become a travel writer and photographer, I wouldn’t know how to use a camera in work circumstances. I have come to a conclusion that everything that happened to me and everything that I went through was especially tailored for the life I am trying to pursue.

This time, I am making sure that I am doing what I really wanted to do and not forcing myself. Life has taught me a valuable lesson in the expense of my health. Choosing a career and running after your goals is literally like sand in your palms. The tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers. Just like you, putting too much pressure on yourself. The more you want to hold onto your dreams and slave yourself to achieve it, the faster it slips away. But, if held loosely it is likely to remain more intact. I am not telling you to let go of your dreams. I am saying, slow down. If we hold into things tightly and possessively, the more they become harder to achieve. Just give it time and a chance to work effortlessly without trying to micro manage every aspect.

I did not exactly achieve anything in my twenties, but those years surely imparted so much lessons which I am now using in my thirties. It was one hell of a ride, but it was all worth it. I have found myself, my real passion, and what really drives me. Being a Food Stylist and Food Photographer now is something I really want to do and pursue and I feel like I’m at my best and happiest when I’m working on it. I feel fulfilled after every job done, unlike with my previous jobs that were physically and mentally tiring. I was just trying to survive those times and forcing myself and repeatedly telling myself that pastry was my passion. I was wrong. It was not the beauty and art of pastry that I wanted. It was styling it and capturing it in photos that I was passionate about.

You may stumble into so many struggles all at once, and that’s ok. It’s a normal life cycle. But remember, it’s not always “success” we are after. What is “success” anyway? How do you gauge success? You become successful and then what comes after?

For me, the true essence of my life is not having millions of money to be able to do things. Sometimes it’s doing what makes you happy and contented, and having the freedom to choose what brings you peace.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming a luxurious life (that was what I thought I wanted in my twenties), and I punished myself so hard for wanting it. What has to be managed is not to let NEED become GREED, because needs can always be met and paid for, but you can never be satisfied when it becomes GREED. Always be grateful for what you have, even just surviving for a day is a big blessing. It may not be a material reward, but whatever it is you’re going through might be teaching you an important life lesson. Be thankful no matter what life throws at you, and the rest of it will follow.

PSALM 128:2
“You will definitely enjoy what you’ve worked hard for — you’ll be happy; and things will go well for you.”
“I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.”