Erlebnisse. I used this German word as a blog title when I was in high school. It sounded so serious that I have to change it to what it is now – Pens and Needles – which I think represents who I want to be today: a writer and a registered nurse. I used “erlebnisse” because it somehow captures the intent of the blog. I wanted my blog back then to be a platform where I could share my experiences, both good and bad, and have an insight as to how they affect me and the people around me. My current blog still has that purpose but I’m trying to make it more useful and relevant by publishing articles related to my chosen field which is nursing. Today, I use this word as a title of a year-end blog post to summarize the year that’s about to end. Perhaps, 2015 has shown me both the good and the bad in ways I could not have imagined. Thinking of how fast the year flew and how events in the past were played beyond our control is just as exciting as the year that’s yet to come. Here are 5 key lessons I learned through my experiences this year:

  1. You don’t have to ‘fit in’ in order to ‘belong’. You don’t have to live your life the way society wants (or expects) you to because you basically have that freedom. So what if you’re a guy who chose to wear pink? So what if you’re in love with the same sex? So what if you get left behind after standing up for your principles? It doesn’t or may not matter because it doesn’t have to. Who are we even to say what is right and what is wrong? Who are we to judge and identify what’s moral and what is not? Let us challenge the status quo. The time where everyone could enjoy true freedom and real acceptance (and not mere tolerance), especially among those our society labels as “LGBT” (I choose not to label anyone), is far from imaginable today. But we will get there, hopefully soon. I believe there will come a time when people get to enjoy the freedom of expression – a true freedom to express our thoughts and feelings in any way that’s possible without the fear of being judged or ostracized. It is human nature to want to belong or be liked and accepted by other people but never at the expense of one’s integrity. It is only when we get to have a deeper understanding of each other that we can truly find our way to accept a person for whoever he/she is.
  2. You do not always get what you want (or need). I’ve been known as a person who plans way ahead to ensure a smooth run. Some would even say that I tend to calculate every move or decision I make. Yes, that’s true. However, I often end up “miscalculating” things and the worst part is when you end up losing your friends (and other resources).  We tend to have all these expectations and dreams of what an ideal life will be (or must be). In the long run, we realize that’s not the reality of life. And, that is okay.We will fail and go wrong but we need these failures to find the right course, the right direction. Soon we’ll realize that most of the “unpleasant” events we had in the past worked out for the better things in store for us – or maybe we already did.
  3. Compete against yourself. Most of the time, we look at unsuccessful people and use their failures as criteria of how to improve ourselves. We veer away from those who gracefully made their way to success. Finding inspiration from people who we regard as “successful” is a good thing if and only if we look at their lives both during the good and the bad times. I used to do this and found that moving towards the same path as other people doesn’t make me stand out but simply one of the ordinary. In the recent years, I kept challenging myself to do better than my personal “best”. But no one, ever, has the energy to continuously do their best every single day.  Instead, turn the focus on the average which simply represents the baseline of the skills we have. Always aim to do better than your personal average. Stop trying to do the best. Break the average and let the results speak for themselves.
  4. It pays to be humble. It is hard to put our guards down but it is harder to lower the pride. We cannot have or know everything. We cannot even have all people on our side or do things for us as we wish. We have to accept the fact that we need other people to thrive. And in order to thrive successfully, we need to think of ourselves less. Thinking of ourselves less drives humility. This humility, in turn, pushes us to embrace the truth about our weaknesses and imperfections. Humility slaps us to realize that we’ve been trapped for so long in a world where we feel great, in a world that engulfs us with arrogance and overconfidence. In humility, we live in a life of contentment with an unending thirst to continue our long journey to success.
  5. We are all called to serve. My experiences inside and outside of UP opened my eyes to some of the realities taking part in the every day life of an ordinary Filipino. Needless to say, I despise those who fail to see them or worse those who pretend not knowing them at all. Graduating from UP is not merely an honor but a responsibility to uphold the university’s principles and strive to be part of its mission of giving the service that all Filipinos deserve. Regardless of educational attainment, socioeconomic status, or gender, we are all called to serve our fellow Filipinos. We are called to be para sa bayan. “Para sa bayan” simply means offering oneself – your knowledge, skills, and talents – to the country. It is being with the Filipino and doing for the Filipino. It is my hope that in the coming year, we will elect people into public office those truly deserving of our trust and not only because of their family names, their CVs, or their party principles and ideologies. I hope we elect those who will work for and with us, the ordinary Filipino.

Life’s lessons are sometimes, if not always, learned the hard way. We need experience to teach us these lessons. But we can always go one step ahead by asking people, especially those born years before us, what life taught them and how they handled the things they never expected to happen.

As we put 2015 to an end, let us not simply sit and appreciate the persons (or even things) we love while we still have them. Let us strive to let them feel the same: valued, loved, respected. After all, change is constant and life could easily change in an instant.

To a year that was and the year that will be, thank you! To a greater year!

9 Best Instagram photos for the year 2015 generated by

9 Best Instagram photos for the year 2015 generated by


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