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everybody's free to wear sunscreen (2018 version)

If I could offer you one tip for the future, growing a plant (or 20) would be it. What you learned in science class holds true: plants are living things that give off oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. What your teacher didn’t tell you is that Plant Parenthood brings happiness, decreases levels of certain pollutants, and reduces stress (except when your succulent is dying).

View from my bed. February 2018.

RIP sweetheart joya. November 2018.

Turning 30 gives you the symbolic license to give less fucks. It becomes much easier to say no to “exploratory meetings” that can be accomplished over email or Skype; to unfollow/unfriend people whose social media personas annoy you; and to let go of relationships that don’t add value to your life. You finally FINALLY walk away from those who have been reckless with your heart. You do not have to forgive them.

You will be asked over and over again by strangers, relatives, and friends alike why you’re not married, why you don’t have or want kids. Remember, hard as it may be, that you do not owe anyone an explanation about your life and your choices.

Switch to the menstrual cup. It’s intimidating AF, but if a baby can fit in that opening (among others), then a silicone cup can. It cannot get lost; it has nowhere to go. Repeat this when you wiggle it out for the first, second, and tenth time.

A Direct Message over Instagram can lead to a collaboration. Take chances.

You move out of your parents’ house and into your own 76-sqm concrete jungle. The bachelorette life isn’t quite like Sex and the City. Adulting has many hidden fees on top of your mortgage (e.g., association dues, real property tax, shared utility fees). When you get an allergy attack at 3AM, you imagine yourself dying and no one discovering your body until it has been eaten by flies. The shelves you assembled in your parents’ house collapses in the basement parking, so you take multiple elevator trips up and down 30+ floors to carry them in pieces.

And yet, every time you open your front door, you are comforted by the teal and seafoam green walls, the three bottles of red wine and popcorn tucked under the cupboard, and the company of your plants and dog-eared books, lining the shelves you reassembled over two hours.

Do not switch to shampoo bars if the formulation makes your hair look like a rag.


You hit a career plateau. You look for a new challenge, and your restlessness leads you to say yes to one opportunity after another. One pushes you to the region you claimed you’d work in five years from now, while another pulls you to places you said you didn’t want to work in. Either way, you get to work in crazy rich oceans! Home is no longer a structure; home is found in spaces (a hotel room, hut, wooden floor) and relationships. The isolated island communities bring you back to the basics by collecting rainwater for baths, eating what’s in season, and conversing with locals. In some areas, you do not speak their language and they do not speak yours, but the connections you create are almost palpable. The army of moms in Papua New Guinea treat you as one of their daughters and offer you food and flowers. The biodiversity in Raja Ampat fuels your wonder. The youth in Boracay tell you their candid thoughts about the closure and you try your very best not to cry.

Students in Papua New Guinea. September 2018.

Sawandarek, Raja Ampat. October 2018.

You hear from others how exciting your life seems, traveling from one #nofilter destination to another, appearing on TV shows and magazines. And while you are grateful for the privilege to follow your dreams and get paid for it, the relentless pursuit of your passion carves a depth of loneliness. You miss milestones of family and friends. You get nightmares and anxiety attacks about forgetting flights and deadlines. Your seven-year relationship — the one you promised you would commit to this time around — hangs by a thread. Corruption looks at you in the face more than once, and each time, you draw the line, disgusted, disappointed, but also angry at yourself for believing in the best in people.

You love what you do so much, too much, that you choose not to take a day off for months. Your mental health withers without you realizing it.

Boracay right before the re-opening. October 2018.

One Tuesday evening, your dad walks into your room and finds you on the floor, packing for another five-week trip. The only time you see your parents is between packing and unpacking. He asks you a question on subject-verb agreement, and you answer while squeezing three pairs of shoes into your suitcase. After a few minutes, he sticks his head back in your room and tells you that he’s really, really proud of you. You mumble a thank you while stuffing socks in your sneakers. He leaves.

You cry.

Mask. Double cleanse. Drink more than eight glasses of water a day.

Read. Read the novels you’ve been meaning to. If you can spend an hour aimlessly tapping through Instagram stories, you can spend an hour with a book, lost in the tale of Tara Westhover or Rachel Chu.

Develop the discipline to workout. Seek support to achieve your fitness goals. Cut down on junk food, artificial sugar, and alcohol.

This lifestyle change will make your alcohol tolerance drop. The next time you party ‘til 4AM and mix tequila, wine, whiskey, and gin, you w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ cannot get up ‘til 4PM.

Send help. December 2018.

You are no longer 20.

You are a tita.

Your greatest lessons in love come from your friends. There's a subset of friends who will tell you that you’re wrong when you’ve made a bad decision. There’s another subset who will be on your side no matter the consequences. In this Venn diagram, you’ll have a precious few in the middle: the one who joins you during True Value sales without judging your purchases; the one who enables your obsession/interest in skincare, malapropisms, and Michelle Obama; the one who leaves work early to have beer and sushi with you when you can’t string sentences together; and the one who tells you, with so much love and kindness, that you need to get over your ego and that you need to stop wearing the skirt that no longer flatters your butt.

Atoms girls in Italy, May 2018.

#SquidGoals in Bohol. November 2018.

The OG and the 2nd Gen. December 2018.

Famunee. December 2018.

Making bad decisions doesn’t make you a terrible, unloveable human being. But it will make you feel like a terrible, unloveable human being. You will meet a version of yourself you hate, and grapple with the co-existence of the good, bad, beautiful, and ugly. Tita Whitney was on point when she sang, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” What she didn’t say was that it is also the most difficult of all. Patience isn’t just a fucking virture, it’s a work in progress.

Put in the work.

Last sunrise in Timor-Leste. August 2018.

And trust me on plant parenthood.

Original version of "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)"

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