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Life Moves Fast (Apparently So Do I)

I bought a condo in the middle of a pandemic.

I didn’t think I’d be uttering those words in 2021, but somehow, three months into the new year, this is what’s happened.

I told myself I wanted to be a homeowner by 2022—the only silver lining to lockdowns is I had found myself saving more—but, life had other plans.

Isn’t that how it usually goes?

When starting out on this buying journey, I figured that if I started looking around my birthday I would find something by the summer (hopefully, fingers crossed).

I found it in less than a week: I viewed my condo on March 5th and had it sold conditional by the 8th.

I only started viewing places on the 2nd.

If that wasn’t enough of a surreal and slightly emotional whirlwind (wanting to be a homeowner was surprisingly emotional I was not prepared), what made this entire thing even more hectic was the fact I had just gotten out of a relationship (and living with someone I was seeing, for lack of better terms) a week before.

Cue all the feels.

But, apparently, I like to distract myself. Anyone else like to take on new projects when they feel their life falling apart? No? Just me?

The day I went back to my parent’s place with my heart shattered in pieces and tears down my face, my mother jokingly said we’d, “Window shop for houses.”

That turned into actual shopping.

But heartbreak to homeowner, right?

While I spent most of the past few months casually scrolling through to see what was on the market, a unit had caught my eye at the end of February. I immediately texted my agent Marjorie from Maison Real Estate Co. to schedule a viewing, but alas, it had sold before I even had a chance to view it.

Welcome to the downtown Toronto market.

Fast-forward a few days later to another unit I saw close to Cityplace that Marjorie suggested I view (even though the photos were horrendous). I really liked the unit the instant I saw it, to the point that despite it being the first unit I had ever seen I was ready to put in an offer.

That excitement lasted a whole three hours before the panic ensued.

This was too easy. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that. It cannot be this smooth.

Those were the thoughts racing through my mind as I tried to comprehend what exactly just happened.

But, when making one of the biggest decisions of your life during a very emotional time in your life, sometimes it’s really important to pump the brakes just a little and ask yourself is this really for me?

Of course, Marjorie calmed me down, but we agreed I should look at a few more units just to reassure myself before placing an offer.

The next three units I wanted to see had again sold before I could get a chance or just weren’t open to viewings.

And then came the one I ended up buying.

Again, like magic, Marjorie had chosen a spot I didn’t originally think to view (because the photos on the website just weren’t doing the place justice).

But I kid you not, the second I walked in, I knew it was mine.

I’ve found through all of this, the buying process is part logic and part emotion and in that moment, unlike that first unit, without even a moment’s hesitation or self-doubt (after a quick FaceTime call with my mother), I told Marjorie to put the offer in.

The second she sent it in I knew it was mine.

And three days later it was (sort of).

The buyer’s journey is one filled with status certificates and financing calls and talks with a lawyer to figure out a land transfer tax and closing costs, and all that jazz (all things I am happy to help you with if you want some insight!).

And it’s one that I somehow completed in 27 days (I had a very early closing date… whoops).

But, in that crazy race I had found myself running through the month of March, I really could not have done it without Marjorie’s help, insight, and support (not only as an agent but as a friend). From all my freak outs to my never-ending questions, she was there to help me achieve my goal when it came to finding a space I could call home.

And achieve it, I did.

Although one millionaire once stated we had to stop eating avocado toast so we could afford houses as millennials, I have to admit in all transparency, I wouldn’t have been able to purchase my condo without the help from my parents.

They provided the financial support (and my dad’s SUV to help move) to make this happen.

And, as I get ready for one of the biggest changes in my life to-date, for the time being, I am breathing and taking pause.

The past month has been a smorgasbord of joy and sadness, of heartbreak and healing, of closing old chapters and beginning anew.

I am nothing short of excited because what a birthday present to myself, but I am also reflecting on just how much can change in 30-something days.

As I slowly pack up my apartment in the downtown core—the one that saw me as I lost my job after moving out for the first time, the one where my roommate and I solidified a friendship forever (even though we’re now in different timezones), the one where I got a new job and hit new goals—I can’t help but reflect on how metaphorical packing and purging has truly become.

If it’s not the clothes that no longer fit or the pieces of furniture that won’t move with me to the next stage of my life, it’s the relationship and friendships that no longer work, it’s the goals I had for myself that have somehow shifted, and it’s the realization that while some things last, others don’t.

But there’s a beauty in that.

There’s a beauty in the ebb and flow.

There’s a beauty in progression.

And there’s a beauty in being open to whatever is next, in the be.

While the next little will most likely have me on an interior decorating binge, I’m also excited to see what milestones, adventures, and memories my new home will see me through.

Because, undoubtedly, life comes at you fast friends.

And sometimes, all you can do is hold on for the ride.

P.S. I also promise I’ll dive into the process, journey, and story a lot more in some future videos and posts, soon (because what else is there to do in lockdown number three except to get creative with new mediums?).

A Good Day for a Spa Day

It’s funny sharing a birthday with the global pandemic: while I celebrate yet another 365 days around the sun, I couldn’t help but hate that we had somehow made it through 365 days of social isolation and no travelling. Emphasis on that last point.

So while I didn’t have the option of hopping on a plane or taking shots at a bar, my friend and I booked a last-minute overnight stay at Ste. Anne’s Spa.

It was the closest thing to a vacation we could get without hopping on a plane.

Disclaimer: It books up fast folks, so the earlier you book the better. We somehow got really lucky with our timing.

For those who aren’t familiar with Ste. Anne’s Spa, the cute cottage-like building is located in Grafton, ON about less than two hours from Toronto’s downtown core (on a good day).

Overnight packages are generally cheaper on weekdays and we had booked just a one night stay. For the weird seasonal purgatory between spring and winter, Genée and I thought it was the perfect amount of time.

I have to say though, we got really lucky—the weather felt like summer at some points!

Prior to your trip, you can book your spa treatment and all the timeframes for your afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast, and lunch (yes, you get four meals included with your package price!).

When we first arrived at the spa, we were given an orientation where we filled out some forms and were given our robes and bags for the day. We also went over some COVID-19 precautions and procedures and felt reassured that the sanitization and safety went above and beyond.

Now the one downside is that our room wasn’t expected to be ready until 4:00 p.m. (we had checked in a round lunch). So, while we waited, we signed up to go on a guided walk tour of the property.

It probably wasn’t the best idea to walk outside in our fall boots (we were not prepared for the snow). Being the klutz I am, I may have slipped one too many times…

But I imagine the trails must be gorgeous when there’s actual greenery outside. Plus, with the three various trails you can choose from something short and sweet to something longer. We followed our path to the farm just up the road where you could feed and pet some horses.

We then returned to the main house to get ready for our spa treatments. The package we received gave us a $120 credit towards any spa treatment, so we both chose a hot stone back exfoliation. After having not seen my RMT in months, it was so needed (especially after an unintentional workout).

And, because we only used $100 of our original credit, we could put the remaining $20 towards a purchase from the gift store!

We followed up our massages with some afternoon tea, where I highly recommend you ask for extras of the salmon (don’t be afraid to ask, they are very accommodating. They also had great vegetarian and gluten-free options!

But, it’s no surprise that for this Piscean, the outdoor hydratherapy pools were my favourite part of the entire day. The temperature was perfect and there were enough pools and space to stay socially and physically distant from other guests.

While we thought we’d only spend 30 minutes turning into prunes, the water coupled with the pretty lights had us enjoying the heat for over an hour.

I really should have just dedicated a blog post to the food at Ste. Anne’s, because delicious doesn’t even cut it. Created with farm-to-table in mind, the quality of the meals were better than most places I’ve been.

For dinner that night, the four-course meal started with an amuse-bouche followed by appetizers. Genée ordered the pork belly and I chose the mushroom risotto. You’ll want both for sure.

We followed that with duck and Osso Bucco respectively. If I wasn’t so full I would’ve asked for seconds (which you can technically do…). Sadly we were too full for dessert, so we passed on that, but the options looked amazing!

Note: I think it’s also imperative to mention that Ste. Anne’s doesn’t serve alcohol but you are more than welcome to bring your own beverages to enjoy at any meal (or even by the pools).

Now for my birthday breakfast.

If you don’t know, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and I don’t just mean the hour it is, I mean even the food involved in breakfast is my favourite thing in the world.

Unsurprisingly, I chose to ring in 28 with an order of Eggs Benedict (my usual go to). Genée ordered a classic breakfast (with hard boiled eggs). Then we proceeded to ask for extra sausages and bacon. (I am allowed to be gluttonous on my day of birth).

We then checked out and hung around in the massage chairs and gift shop while we waited for lunch. For appetizers (man, we were really well-fed during this trip) we got beef carpaccio and a fish cake. I then ordered the grilled cheese and would highly recommend with a side of tomato soup! The service at Ste. Anne’s is impeccable and they were very flexible about getting Genée’s food ready for take-out instead.

(A good friend of mine also mentioned she once took seconds home after she had lunch… it is an all-inclusive spa for a reason!).

For those who are curious, Ste. Anne’s Spa did come at a bit of a higher price point, but by the end of 24 hours we thought that for accommodations, spa treatments, four meals, and access to the hot pools, it was worth the money.

Overall, the environment Ste. Anne’s Spa creates is nothing short of relaxing. From the music they use to the aesthetic in each room, it really is a nice little break from city life.

Plus the staff are amazing! While the rooms didn’t come with TVs, we were able to request one from the front desk where they had a selection of DVDs for us to choose from.They even called us a couple days later to ask how we enjoyed our stay.

For our first visit to the spa (it was something we’ve been talking about for a long time) we were really pleased.

Would we go back? In. A. Heartbeat.

Honestly, if I could do it monthly… I would.

P.S. For all my friends in relationships consider it your next getaway with your boo.

Also, because I am terrible at taking photos of the room we stayed in, enjoy this video where you can catch a glimpse of it.

Embracing the Gold

Lately I’ve been reminded of the Japanese art of Kintsugi: putting broken pieces back together with gold. It’s a metaphor that reminds us to embrace the flaws and imperfections – that in those cracks you can find something new.

But lately, as I think about it, it’s reassuring to think our hearts can do that, too.

It’s only two months into the new year, and I’ve already had to implement so many resolutions and face so many uncomfortable truths about myself, my traumas I’ve never dealt with, and healing the scars I’ve never let fade.

But it’s reassuring to know that despite all the jagged edges and broken pieces, just like Kintsugi, I’m not worthless or damaged. I just need to take the cracks and emptiness and fill it with gold.

They say healing is a journey. They never said it’d be an easy one.

Healing is crying and screaming and self-deprecating moments of defeat. It’s waking up one day feeling great and then maybe not so great the next. It’s accepting that sometimes life sucks… but also that it won’t always. Some weeks it’s feeling off and not yourself and internally yelling because, “Why can’t I do this?”

But I also think a huge part of healing isn’t just about facing or dealing with the bad, but in filling your life with the good (even in small doses and even when you don’t feel like doing that at all.) For me, healing has taken the form of drawing on Procreate, of trying to feel healthy and strong and safe in my body and my own skin, of talking it out (sometimes yelling it out), of setting up that therapy session I’ve been avoiding, and mostly, as always, just writing what I feel.

Lately healing has slowly taken the form of finding the little gems and holding onto them, especially the ones within myself.

Because what I’ve learned about healing, above all else, is that the biggest part of it is choosing to lead with love, even when it hurts, even when it’s hard, and even if you can’t love yourself.

You see, if you can’t start with self-love at least start with self-like.

Start with one positive thought a day you repeat over and over. Start with being grateful for what you have. Start with believing in that little light in yourself, even when it feels so dim.

And most importantly, start to believe you’re not alone.

Full disclaimer: I am not perfect. And I will never again strive for “perfection.” It doesn’t exist.

But what I can strive for is to constantly choose myself and find myself. What I can do is put the pieces back together and admit that I haven’t been okay for a long time.

And don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t some overnight epiphany. This was constant late nights and 3 am pillow talks and fights that made me finally realize while I was terrified of hurting others, I was always only ever really hurting myself.

The last few weeks have been a serious wake-up call.

You ever think about how winter just buries things with the snow, leaving them to thaw when spring finally comes?

That has been me, burying things so deep, covering them up with bandages and distractions. But the thing with winter is spring always comes, these things resurface, and then I’m left to face the fact what I want isn’t exactly what I might need.

I have only just started this process of finding myself and putting pieces back together.

And truthfully, I don’t really know why I’m writing this (this level of vulnerability is absolutely terrifying) and to be honest I have no idea if any of this made sense… but maybe this is all to say that once upon a time I felt truly alone, completely broken, and maybe even a touch worthless.

Maybe I’m writing this because if you were in that place or are in that place, or like me go in and out of this place, I really want you to know and wholeheartedly believe you aren’t alone.

I’m right there with you.

There is a season for everything and in time this one will go too.

Because, your traumas and scars and hurts do not mean you’re broken.

We just might need a little bit of gold.

The Year of Be

This is a book review. But it also isn’t. It’s almost like a reflection, a series of word vomit if you will, as I ponder the past year and the year to come.

But while reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the humanity that exists in all of us. Of the shared happiness and fears and anxiety and joys that come with connection.

It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made fall in love with reading again.

In Anxious People, Backman takes you through a whirlwind journey of a moment in time shared by so many people all hiding behind their neurotic tendencies, cold exteriors, and longings—a longing to just be and belong.

It reminded me that in this weird purgatory of a pandemic, there are still so many connections to be made, so many stories to share, so many moments we may be missing if we don’t stop to look.

The past year, let alone the past few months, have opened up so many avenues of grief and sadness, but they have also opened doors for “new”—new beginnings, new hopes, new gratitudes.

It was so vividly seen in Anxious People that even in the uncertainties and the doubts and the fears, all it takes is just a little bit of kindness to help us realize we’re never really strangers, we’re never really alone.

When talking with my friend Shujanaa, we were summarizing our one word for the year. After pondering for the last few weeks I chose the word “be.”

It’s a word that holds so much weight—but only as much as you let it.

Let the year be what is. Let life be what it is. Be the best version of yourself. Be a better version of yourself.

Ultimately, be still, be present, be persistent, but also be proud of how far you’ve come—and how far you have left to go.

Tita Tess and Me

It’s Funny the Things You Remember

“Do you work here?” my Uber driver asked, as he pulled a three-point turn.

“No,” I said, as I tried to stop the tears. “I just had to see my aunt one more time.”

My first memory of my Tita—aunt in Tagalog—involved a plane. I don’t remember too much of my life pre-immigration, but I distinctly remember the feeling of pain in my ears being up so high.

And I don’t know how my Tita did it, but she walked me down the aisles of what, at the time, felt like a giant mall, and said hi to a flight attendant as they pushed a door open and let me stand in the cockpit, peering over the pilots’ shoulders.

Since March 2020, I’ve been thankful COVID-19 hasn’t directly touched my family. Despite my sister and cousin working in a hospital, despite my father going into work, despite the cases soaring, the virus never impacted us too greatly.

Until it did.

Tita Tess and Me

When I was four, my sister was born.

And on that day, Tita bought me a gift: a Starcastle mermaid princess castle with two little dolls. It was made with shells and glitter and came with a carriage and pearl ring.

I think she didn’t want me to feel too left out going from the sole focus, to now the oldest.

I played with it every day.

In the 1990s, I lived in Ottawa, while she lived in Toronto in a bustling neighbourhood by Yonge and St. Clair. I don’t remember much of the city then, but I remember the park filled with squirrels, the McDonald’s down the street where I got a Mulan in my kids meal, the papasan chair in her lobby that I loved to lie in.

During Christmas she’d always make her crinkle cookies. She loved her Filipino dramas, showing me the new purses she got, and writing.

From letters voicing her opinions to politicians to a poem for her mom to a children’s book she was working on called Lola Osyang’s Magical Wok—based on her grandmother—like me, Tita had a love for words.

I should have asked her to share more.

When I first started my website What is Love, Tita mentioned she wanted to tell her story one day. She wanted to share how in her 30s she prayed about wanting to love and be loved. And how God answered with a baby—her babe—who became her world.

When you watch wildlife shows about mothers who protect their cubs, there’s no denying the lengths they’d go.

Tita was even more protective than that.

I still remember the day she moved to Ottawa. How my family, her and her daughter, and my Lola lived under one roof.

It was a house of fun and fullness, of chaos and comfort, but most importantly it was a house that felt like home.

Tita as a teen

It happened so fast.

So soon.

A reminder that this life is fleeting.


Sometimes you think you can handle it, that you can be ready a second time around.

But we weren’t. I wasn’t.

I didn’t expect that in five days my family’s world would be completely shaken. That we would have to navigate grief in a pandemic, where the air already feels so saturated with a similar sadness. We didn’t expect living in a time where there were limits on funerals, restrictions that wouldn’t be able to fit the extent of love my family and friends had for my Tita.

A love that could almost rival her strength as a single mother.

We weren’t ready.

And maybe we never will be.

For the longest time I’ve been so grateful that COVID hasn’t directly touched my family.

Until it did.

Until COVID and the other “c” took something from me.

Until COVID took away my chance to hold my Tita’s hand one more time. Until it took away my chance to comfort my one cousin as she watched my Tita, to comfort my cousin as she pressed herself up so tightly against the palliative care window.

COVID didn’t take my aunt. Cancer did.

But what COVID did was make this precious final moment in time feel like a zoo—watching, waiting, so close, but so, so far, distanced by glass.

When all we wanted, in those final hours, was to hug each other in grief.

Let’s Talk, For Real

I woke up today and realized it’s #BellLetsTalk Day.

So I figured, it only seems fitting that after waking up from a night where I spent an hour in a panic talking to a West-coast friend to calm me down, that I do talk.

It’s time. For real.

Right off the bat, I have to admit, it feels weird to be writing this because I can’t help but wonder if people will look at me and think, “Why would you of all people have anxiety?”

I’m often told I have such an optimistic or happy-go-with-the-flow-personality that it almost seems strange someone like me could be this panic ridden.

But I am.

And I can’t help it.

Since the summer of 2019, I have struggled with the strange sense of fear, panic, and dread on a day to day basis.

From running to the ER from my apartment one morning where I couldn’t stop crying to the nurses on duty; to waking up at 2 am in the Dominican where I crawled into my parents’ hotel room so I could feel some comfort as I curled up against my mother; to crying many nights to whichever of my Facebook friends or cousins was online in the dead of night, I have faced my fair share of paralyzing fear.

Some nights I wake up thinking I can’t breathe.

And most nights I can’t help but ask: why now and why me?

For the first time in four years, I am at a job I love, without the constant fear of financial instability.

For the first time in a long time, I am emotionally in a good place.

But for the first time in my life, I find myself struggling some days to get out of the comfort of my bed.

Most days it doesn’t make sense to me.

Other days it does.

For those who know me, you know how much my grandmother’s death affected my life.

In a lot of ways she was one of my strongest confidants, the person I knew I could go to for anything and everything (for the most part, there were some things my Lola didn’t need to know).

And almost two years later, I’ve only slowly come to accept that the trauma surrounding her death—being in the room when we pulled life support, burying her the day before my birthday, losing my job weeks later, and not having her there (as she always was) to hold me through it—is finally coming to light.

I once wrote: Something happens when you watch someone you love die.

I just didn’t realize, until now, that ‘something’ would be mentally in me.

When you’re stuck working a minimum wage job for a summer while scrambling to find a full-time job in your field because you need to figure out how to pay rent since you just moved out, fight or flight truly does kick in.

You don’t really get time to stop and think.

That is, until you finally do.

That is, until you finally have no distractions and you’re faced with the scars and fears of death and uncertainty that manifested from that point in your life.

That is, until you realize how saddening and maddening the world can be one month into the new decade and you’re forced to face your triggers daily.

I am not okay—and I’m writing this because I didn’t think I was allowed to be.

In most areas of my life I am blessed, I am more than okay.

But I’m also not.

Most times, I go through my day feeling fine, healthy, and strong.

Then other days, I feel the walls close in on me as I stress about the current state of my health (maybe I’ll talk about that another day).

Other days I’m in a grocery store feeling like I have no control over my body.

And once in a while, I’m hanging out with childhood friends watching TV, lifting my legs up against a fridge as I lie on the floor to slow down my heart rate.

The most reassuring thing about being on such an anxiety-ridden journey is discovering you really aren’t alone.

While I often find myself apologizing to people for pouring my feelings and fears out to them, they often shake their head and tell me to stop.

That I shouldn’t have to feel sorry, as they hold my hand.

That it’s okay, as they try to make me laugh.

That I need to just breathe, as they look me dead in the eyes.

“Just breathe,” they repeat, over and over and over again. “Take a deep breath and breathe.”

I don’t know when I will be fully okay or if I ever will be.

But, for now it begins with breathing.

And slowly but surely, I’m learning to start to know how.