top of page

everybody's free to wear sunscreen (2023 version)

Visual storytelling by Desiree Llanos Dess and Nityalila Saulo of

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, listening would be it. Listening creates opportunities for different perspectives and deepens relationships. Listen to podcasts about pop culture while doing chores–you’ll learn something new while folding your clothes. Put on your "listening face" during meetings (even when those meetings could've been an email) to build trust.

Sample of my listening face

Your days no longer involve webinars and workshops with masks on. Life is back to "normal," and you've forgotten whatever promises you made with yourself about the "new normal" (e.g., setting boundaries, taking it slow, etc. etc.). You hear yourself complain again about scenarios you said you wouldn't take for granted, like having to dress up to go to an event or scheduling work trips that put you in a constant state of packing and unpacking.

Hours and hours of packing and unpacking my and SPS's things

Your age is inversely proportional to the size of your social circle. The bond you have with your friends remains, but the format and familiarity have shifted. You are no longer the friends for a wild night out, but the "let's have brunch" friends, the "what are your thoughts on the latest episode of And Just Like That..." friends, the "what book do you recommend" friends, the "I need a break from my kids and other commitments" friends. Your intimate brunches and group chats--and subsets of those group chats--have passionate discussions on appliances, cleaning hacks, thread counts, and show recommendations.

Best of the best

Musical theater will always be music to your ears.

Schedule dates with nature. Leave your phone behind and listen to what’s around you. Savor the sound of waves kissing the coast and the orchestra of frogs and toads croaking at night

Dates with nature in Costa Rica, Mabini, Dipolog, Tubbataha, and Sweden

Sing along when "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" plays. 

Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it. (You saw that on Instagram and on most days, you believe it. On other days, you don't.) Listen to your body; it has a way of telling you what season of life you’re in. Drinking alcohol and late nights disrupt your morning routine and sleeping in the wrong position makes your back and neck ache. Listen to what your body tells you it needs: a stretch, a rest day, a workout that leaves you breathless, sleep, vegetables, more sleep.

No, really, listen to your body.

A year of indoor rowing in Saddle Row and another year of strength training with Nica

It is difficult to watch your parents and grandparents age. It hurts to notice how fragile they look, to watch them long for who they once were, and to witness how easily their memories slip away. It gives you a preview of your own mortality, and it scares you more than you'd like to admit.

You constantly remind yourself to be present. Joy is still clearly present. During family gatherings, listen to your relatives’ anecdotes with intention. Listen to your tito repeat the same story for the 56th time and laugh at the same punchlines. Pay attention to what you capture differently on the 56th time. 

Love, too, is present. 

Love, this time, is steady. It’s no longer a place with fireworks, but a fireplace. It is warm, comfortable, often predictable, and steady. You no longer have to play it by ear. Steady is a gift.

You cannot choose who your family and friends love, what hairstyle they get, what career paths they pursue, what city they live in, what values they have (or don’t have), or how they grieve. You can only choose how you react, so you tiptoe between giving space and taking up space. You sometimes resist being honest, because you know your point will fall on deaf ears. You often hold back from offering advice because it may rob them of the work they need to do.

Instead, you gauge if they’re ready to listen. If so, you ask questions in hopes of nudging and empowering them towards a direction that they see makes sense for them. You exchange voice notes that could be podcasts. You don’t say anything about their uneven bangs and unflattering highlights. You show up. You listen.

Listen to what is said.

Listen to what is not said.

You no longer feel like you're flailing at work. Even if the daily tasks carry a heavy administrative weight, the people you work with make the load lighter with their laughter and grit. You are more sure of what your time and expertise are worth and the impact that you and your team can have. Don't listen to anyone who tries to undervalue you; the negativity must go in one ear and out the other. Stick to those who believe in your potential, strengths, and quirks. Seek constructive criticism so you know what works and what needs work.

Dream teams for Change the Current, Commservation, Shark Conservation Week, and Marine Litter Learning Kit

You now understand that the outcome is not always dependent on your effort. Continue keeping an ear to the ground, so you can keep your feet on the ground. 

Your stack of unread books is a source of emotional support. Keep them by your side.

Listen for the pat-pat-pat of your dogs' paws meeting you by the door when you come home. Their excitement to see you never fades. Neither does yours.

Ham and Egg

One evening, watch Barbie with your girlfriends or sisters or nieces or daughters. When you hear the first few notes of "What Was I Made For?" you turn to them with tears in your eyes and catch a glimpse of their damp cheeks. Cry together. Then laugh at yourselves crying together.

And trust me on the listening.


Get Annalysis straight to your inbox.

Thanks for subscribing to my occasional blog posts!

bottom of page