MONTHLY META: A February Roundup

First of all, I still don’t have WiFi at home. What I do have for now, though, is this unpredictable LAN connected to my brother’s computer, which I can only use for 5 hours a day at most. While this may be a lot, I used this time to work on paid writing projects, so I never really got to draft any post. Of course, I did not think about writing on any of my numerous writing apps (even just MS Word or something) that I can access offline. This is because I kept procrastinating and hoping for my WiFi connection to start working again. But since I am trying to discipline myself, I need to force myself to find other means to write and stick to my blogging schedule.

Anyway, this post is mostly about celebrating what this blog has achieved, and February was a surprisingly great month for AMO.

Stats galore

In January, this blog received a total number of 32 views from 11 visitors, which was already good in a personal blog’s standards, especially since I only published 4 times that month.

In February, however, it got a total number of 149 views from 49 visitors, after publishing 8 times. This is a personal record, as I have never gotten so much love from fellow bloggers and curious visitors. A big thanks to my Empire Avenue buddies, who not only visited some posts, but also shared them on Twitter, reposted on their own blog, and even subscribed to AMO. If this isn’t proof that engaging with others won’t grow your blog or website, no matter what it’s about, then I don’t know what is. I’m also grateful to other bloggers I follow, who also took their time to visit and leave comments. Knowing that there are people who read the stuff I write is encouraging.

New weekly feature

What I didn’t get to announce in the last Meta post was the other new weekly feature, Motivation MondayYou will see this every Monday except the first of the month (which is reserved for Monthly Meta), and it’s usually about a motivational quote from someone I know (like my Dad) or from a famous person, followed by some insights from yours truly. I chose Monday to be something inspiring because it’s the worst day of the week for most of us–after just a short two-day weekend, Monday suddenly arrives and we are then forced to go back to the grind. I hope this feature will make your day a little brighter. So far, from the views they are getting, you guys seem to love it. Thank you for your wonderful feedback

Also, if you are from the Philippines or Australia and are confused why you see this post on a Monday afternoon instead of Monday morning when it’s ideal, I actually schedule it to be posted on a Monday midnight US west coast time, since most of my readers are from there. This will be the same for my other weekly features, they are published on midnight in the US. If ever majority of my readership suddenly changes, then I might reconsider changing the schedule.

February’s must-read

Here are my top 5 posts from February. Please check them out if you haven’t yet:

  1. MOTIVATION MONDAY: What is stopping you from getting what you want?
  2. The Sins I Haven’t Committed
  3. What I wanted to be when I grow up vs. what I am now that I have grown up, part 2
  4. What would your mental checklist look like?
  5. MOTIVATION MONDAY: Two ways of spreading light

One last thing…

If you have read this far, thank you. As a reward for your commitment, please enjoy this funny comic about The Sims, one of my all-time favorite games:

Posted by yrbff @ Tumblr

Don’t you wish the last panel was true in real life?

MOTIVATION MONDAY: Two Ways Of Spreading Light

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.

I saw this quote on Facebook once. I forgot who posted it, but what I remember was the comment she added. It was something like: “Let’s all choose to be the candle!”

While it’s awesome to be the source of light (or kindness, or creative ideas, or delicious recipes), what’s wrong with being a mirror? What’s wrong with being a metaphorical mirror, when it helps spread the light, whether it’s emulating the acts of kindness you have seen, supporting the creative ideas you have heard,  or trying out the delicious recipes you have found and sharing what you made with others?

It’s great to aspire to become a leader, we are all encouraged to dream big. But what if you’re not there yet? Are you going to give up? Are you going to stop trying? Are you going to try putting out the light just because it didn’t come from you?

Remember that there is always another path to get to where you want to be. I believe that we are all destined to be leaders, but in different ways that we may not expect or imagine. So when you feel unfulfilled, try to reframe your mindset and ask yourself:

How am I spreading the light today?

What would your mental checklist look like?

This post is a (late) response to the writing prompt Connect the Dots from The Daily Post:

Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.

The book I am taking the sentence from is 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide To Insight, Survival, And Artistic Fulfillment by Stefan G. Bucher.

Photo by Nelle Z. 2015.
Photo by Nelle Z. 2015.

What would your mental checklist look like…

I do not trust my memory, so if I had to make a to-do list in my mind it would only say one thing: “TYPE WHATEVER YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT ON YOUR PHONE.” If you check out my phone’s Notes app, you will see it filled with random stuff that were important to me when I logged them but makes no sense to me now.

I like how the quote fits in with today's theme.
“Funny how sometimes you just find things.” – Tracy. I like how the quote fits in with today’s theme. By Nelle Z. 2015.

However, I do not rely on my phone for my daily to-do list. Despite being technically inclined, I still prefer to write by hand all of the important stuff, such as schedules, meeting notes, ideas, and checklists in my notebook planner.

Even though putting all of your notes in your phone is more portable, my writing on a paper is more about experience:

  1. I love the smooth texture of high-quality paper;
  2. I love the soft scratching sound my pen makes while it glides on the page;
  3. I love marking my notes with colorful markers for annotation ; and,
  4. I actually like my teeny handwriting.
A sample of my writing, also weak evidence that I may have mild OCD. By Nelle Z. 2015.
A sample of my writing, also weak evidence that I may have mild OCD. By Nelle Z. 2015.

So no mental checklists for me, thank you, unless you want me to forget what I need to do after 5 minutes.

…with no budget?

Keeping myself organized with lists is one thing, but with budget, it is a separate issue. Since I am currently unemployed I do not have any source of income, but I still have bills to pay. Fortunately, I still have some savings that can tide me over for up to six months, but I hope to have a new job (part-time or full-time) before my balance reaches zero. Without a budget, it is no longer a matter of staying organized; it becomes an issue about surviving.

But this question is about work…

I am not an artist, nor have I had any clients that give me a budget to finish a project for them. Right now, my client is myself, and my project is to get a job that can pay my bills or, even better, I can stick with for a long time.

Do you make mental checklists? How do you envision them in your mind?

What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up vs. What I Am Now That I Have Grown Up, Part 2

I went to college with the dream of one day becoming a CEO. To make my dream into a goal, I drafted my planned career path:

  1. Become an account executive, preferably for an advertising firm;
  2. Get promoted to supervisory/managerial position;
  3. Get promoted to directory position; and finally,
  4. Become a CEO.

However, because I did not do as well in school as I should, I could not get a job for the account executive position without any prior experience. After six months of fruitless applications, I decided to widen my search. That was when I landed my first job as a web copywriter for an e-commerce company.

While this position was under the company’s marketing department, its job description was not as “social” as an account executive’s. Also, we were not expected to dress up and wear high heels or anything, which was a bummer. But I still accepted the job offer because:

  1. After being jobless for six months I was desperate to start working; and,
  2. The pay was pretty high for a fresh graduate.

Overall, my experience at my first job was much better than I thought. On my first day, I gathered my courage to introduce myself to another new girl, and we became office best friends. She is still one of my closest friends today. I also adapted to the workload pretty quickly. It was there that I learned I can write 2,000 words per day. Our office encouraged a fun working environment–there was a game room where we can watch TV, play XBOX and foosball, or just lounge on the comfy chairs. Often after our lunch break, I and some of my teammates would head there to play a round or three of foosball. Our boss did not mind if we take long or frequent breaks as long as we reach our weekly quota. We also had company- and department-wide events such as scavenger hunts, karaoke nights, and parties.

Still, I have not given up on my dream of getting on top of the corporate ladder. After 4 months , I started to get bored with my job. Writing about cars and car parts for 8 to 9 hours got me wishing to be on lunch meetings, sending and receiving important emails, basically anything else other than writing my fifth article on how to troubleshoot your Toyota HiLux.

Before I got the chance to leave on my own terms, however, we received bad news: the company suffered some huge losses because of inventory that weren’t sold. In order to make up for it, they had to lay off almost a majority of their workforce.

All I felt that day was confusion and shock–I had no idea what happened, everything was a blur, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. Even though I was thinking about finding a new job, I wanted to take my time searching. After all, I loved that company’s environment and culture. I wanted to find another company that is similar to them–minus the massive turnovers and layoffs.

After getting home, explaining to my parents what happened, and getting a good night’s rest, I came up with a plan. All I could think of during that time was I did not want to be jobless for 6 months AGAIN. So I sent out applications more often and more diligently, but this time I focused on sales and marketing job openings. In less than a month, I got a job offer for a marketing assistant position at a small systems integrator company.

Getting back on track

Despite wanting to accept the job offer on the spot, there were two things that concerned me:

  1. When I sent them my CV I expressed interest in the account management position. However, because of my lack of experience in the field as well as the urgency of the position, they asked if I would like to take the marketing assistant role instead. Because the marketing assistant worked closely with the account managers anyway, I figured that this would be a stepping stone to learn the ropes about sales and other stuff expected from my desired position.
  2. The salary they offered me was significantly lower than my first. But that wasn’t a big deal to me back then. As a fresh graduate, learning came first to me before earning. What mattered most to me was that I will finally be able to pursue my dream.

My first month as a marketing assistant filled me with adrenaline rush and I loved it. I got to do different stuff every day, compared to my first job where I just wrote articles 5 days a week. Also, I did not just stay in the office, we also conducted meetings elsewhere and went to trade shows. I also got to go out of town to assist in a training we gave to one of our clients. Soon I was assigned more tasks such as channel sales and bidding for new projects. When our marketing associate left the company, I was given her responsibilities as well.

After a month of working solo in the marketing department, I started feeling spent and demotivated. By that time I was already working in that company for 10 months, but I never got a reassignment to become an account manager, a pay raise, or even a promotion to regular employment, which would entitle me to enjoy company benefits. Feeling taken advantage of, I resolved that if I don’t get a promotion or a raise within a month, I would quit. A day before the month was up, however, I was given both a raise and a promotion to regular employment.

Still, I wasn’t as happy with my job as I was before. Although I did not actively look for other opportunities, I started responding to invitations to job interviews from employers. It wasn’t until August 2014 when, after reaching out to a LinkedIn contact and going to two interviews, I got an offer for the account management position at a startup company.

Achieving and living the dream

I finally did it. I finally achieved the first step towards my dream, and I was on my way to the top. Because it was a startup company and I was one of the pioneer employees, I thought that I had the chance to climb the corporate ladder faster than I expected. My inspiration was our own CEO who is only in his late 20s.

On the first few months, I lived my dream. I was out and about meeting with our partners, my phone glued to my hand because of the nonstop calls and messages, and my inbox filled with new work-related emails each day. I loved it. I relished the attention by both my boss, my colleagues, and our partners. I felt wanted. I felt valued. I felt important.

However, you must know that I am an introvert, and it is common knowledge that introverts get overwhelmed when thrusted into too much social interaction, which was what happened to me. While I do enjoy meeting people and get excited when I receive a call or message, I also needed a lot of time alone to recuperate. Unfortunately, my job took this away from me. I kept getting phone calls and messages as early as 6 AM and sometimes until midnight. My weekends and holidays were ruined by more phone calls and Skype messages. Heck, I even had to make some more calls on Christmas Day while I was on a road trip with my family.

When I got back from our Christmas break, I was exhausted. I started to dread Mondays, to the point that I get panic attacks the night before. I started to get tired of hearing my phone ring. I started to get annoyed having to go through 50+ emails every morning and getting more messages the more I reply.

My sad epiphany

After working in the startup for almost 5 months, I quit. I do not want to constantly think about work. I do not want to answer calls early in the morning. I do not want to be an account manager anymore or be at the top of the corporate ladder. After obsessing on my dream career for so many years, I realized I don’t really want it that much.

Now I’m back to square one.

NEW Motivation Monday: Challenge your doubting self–and win

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Photo taken from Unsplash.

My dad smokes one pack of cigarettes a day and drinks at least 3 bottles of beer every night, sometimes an additional glass or two of scotch during the weekend. Given his job and status among his peers, he attends a lot of social functions (hello food and alcohol) and receives a lot of gifts (which most of the time are food, cigars, and alcohol) from his boss, colleagues and friends, and people who want to gain his favor. Just knowing these facts about my dad, what is your impression of him? Unhealthy? Sickly? Neglectful of his body?

While I do agree that he has to quit his vices, I do admire how he tries to make up for it. You see, my dad maintains his weight–and he does it well. When he notices that he is a little overweight, he will immediately cut his food portions and he will put on his running shoes in the morning to jog several kilometers. Sometimes, he will even go back home, get on his bicycle and go around several more kilometers–all these in one morning before he heads to work. Then one week later, poof! He’s back to his ideal weight. My dad doesn’t just do this when he puts on a few pounds. He also gets back on track (literally) when he feels weak or easily tired.

But what sticks to me about my dad’s fitness non-routine is what he says–mostly to me, his lazy-ass daughter–when he gets home after his morning workout.

I beat myself. When I woke up this morning I thought I can’t run [or bike], but I just did and I proved to myself I can do it.

Wonderful, isn’t it? Somebody said that we are our own worst critic. For most of us, we are our own worst heckler, too. But what should you do if a part of you is saying you can’t do something–whether it’s to lose weight, or craft something, or lead your own team? Should you listen to him/her, or should you prove them wrong?

I hope you choose the latter option.

The Sins I Have and Haven’t Committed

"Sometimes the sins you haven't committed are all you have left to hold onto." - David SedarisI just had a bad week. I fell short on my two main commitments: blogging and weight loss. Not only did I only work out twice this week instead of my minimum target of 3, I also over-ate for a few days. And then, AND THEN, I was not able to finish what I was originally publishing for today, which was the second part to last week’s post. I have tried to write it since last Monday, but I don’t know…I think I’m losing my drive again. And I’m so scared of this because if I fall I don’t know how long before I get the courage to get back up. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to have to start over and over and over.

I’m not entirely sure how the image above (with a quote I received from Goodreads‘ newsletter) relates to what I’m writing now, because I definitely have committed a lot of “sins” this week. This picture was also supposed to be in the post I was planning to publish today because (Spoiler alert!) it ties together what I have wanted to say for weeks now.

But anyway, I hope that you have had no regrets this week–that you have no “sins” that you wish you committed. But if you have any regrets, learn to forgive yourself. That’s what I’m doing. Tomorrow, Sunday, is a new day and the start of a new week. Tomorrow I will continue what I started–Week 1, Day 3 of my C25K challenge, my diet, and keeping this blog active–and at the same time starting over with a new determination. I hope you will do the same.

NEW Meta Monday – February 2015: A Mozzarella Orange v2.0

We are already into the 2nd month of 2015–time sure flies fast! I made a promise to myself (and you guys) that I will post more regularly, and even though I am still struggling with this, I believe that things are looking up and soon you will see more of me and my writings on your Reader and/or in your email.

To show that I am taking this blogging thing more seriously, I made some major updates for AMO, which I would like to geek out about in this new themed post called “Meta Monday”–

New theme: Penscratch

I chose Penscratch as my new theme because it’s minimalist, which gives me a lot of room for customization. Of course, I started taking advantage of this by putting my first custom header everrr.

cropped-amo-header.jpg

I created the header in Adobe Photoshop, following the header dimensions specified in the Custom Design page. I got the fonts from dafont.com, which offers a lot of free fonts for personal/non-commercial use.  As for the orange and pink backgrounds, I used one of the default brushes and veeerrryyy carefully slid it across the letters. Guess how many times I did that before getting satisfied with the results? Wrong. Just kidding, I actually didn’t count.

About page

I remember impossiblebebong once looked for my About page and wondered where it is, and I admitted that I haven’t made one yet. See what kind of a blogger I am? This part of any profile is the most difficult for me to fill out. Even in my social media accounts like Facebook, I actually left “About me” blank. However, a blog needs to have a page that explains what it is and who’s updating it, so I finally created one. I looked at several blogs’ About pages for inspiration and this is what I came up with. Let me know what you think.

Widgety Widgets

I also updated my widgets that I thought would suit the current state of this blog. These include:

  • Disclaimer – Sometimes, my opinions may ruffle some feathers. Of course, the actual disclaimer paragraph sounded too serious, so I put up a silly version instead, which I found here.
  • Subscribe/follow button – When you click this, you can receive my new posts via email or see them on your Reader, you know, in case you find my blog interesting enough.
  • Archives – So you can go through ALL my posts from the beginning. No idea why you’d want to do that, though.
  • Tag cloud (which doesn’t look like a cloud at all) – In case you want to see what I usually blog about.
  • My Twitter posts – I deleted my old account a few months back, which I regret now. However, as part of the big plan I have for this blog, I decided to make a new one and am trying to post regularly there as well. Follow my feed if you find them interesting, and I promise I’ll follow yours back.
  • Blogs I follow – I am continuously discovering and following blogs on WordPress and I thought I should showcase them so my readers can check them out as well.

New posting frequency and more

Before, I only aimed to publish once a week on a Saturday. But starting February I will post once or twice a week–specifically every Monday and Saturday. And as part of the greater scheme of things, posts on these days will be under a different theme–which I have put up in the menu on top as categories, as follows:

  • Storytelling Saturdays – This is when I will publish posts that usually contain around 1,000 words that would look like a journal entry or my responses to writing prompts or writing challenges.
  • Meta Mondays – I will publish posts just like this one every first Monday of the month to share some of the site’s new features I want to bring to your attention as well as a roundup of the previous months’ posts you may have missed.

Posts you may have missed

Last month, I published 1 aside post and 3 standard posts. While I only put up the aside post to greet everyone a happy new year and explain my absence, I was able to share long posts that were published on a Saturday or Sunday (here in the Philippines, at least). These are:

An Obligatory New Year’s Post – In which I shared what I learned in 2014 and what I resolve to be/do this year, including my promise to make this blog more active.

Daddy Dearest – Inspired by one of caseyalexander’s blog posts, I shared an old travel article I wrote for my feature writing class in college.

What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up vs. What I Am Now As A Grown Up – My most recent post, it is actually the first part of a series I am writing about my career aspirations.

I also republished an old blog post from January last year that used to be private. It’s funny and frustrating how I can’t remain consistent. First I warned that I’ll be writing a lot about my SO, then I said I will avoid writing about him, and yet I still managed to publish a couple of posts about him (1, 2). Well I’m not sorry, this is my personal blog after all, but I still maintain my promise to not make my writings all about him. That’s what secret diaries are for.

IT’S YOUR TURN TO SHARE: What recent change(s) did you make on your blog that you are excited/happy/satisfied about? What blog post did you publish last month that you are most proud of?

What I Wanted To Be When I Grow Up vs. What I Am Now That I Have Grown Up

When I was a kid, I never thought much of the future–of my future. For 5-year-old me that was just a dream, something I did not want to deal with until it was actually there. Sometimes, I thought about what I would do when I grow up, but it was more as an angry reaction to my parents when they didn’t want to give me what I want, such as:

“When I grow up, I will buy all the toys I want!”

“When I grow up and live on my own, I will never eat vegetables, and I will eat all the chocolates and ice cream I please!”

“When I grow up, I will go to the mall every day!”

But when I was asked what I want to be when I grow up, I was stumped. 20 years was too far away for me to think about. I could not even imagine what I would be like when I turn 8 years old, much less what I would be like when I am 25.

What do you expect to hear when you ask a 5-year-old what they want to be in the future?

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