I've been described as "simple" one too many times in my life. For instance, you know those "farewell" events in school where teachers tape pieces of paper on our backs, and we go around the room, and our classmates write down the word that best describes us? Yeah. The word I'd usually get is "simple."
And it's been coming up a lot lately. Each time Nicollo tells his friends and colleagues about me, he says, "Ah, si Laika? She's simple". Or when birthday greetings come: "Stay simple!" And most recently, the other day, our company had a little Christmas party. I announced the usual Secret Santa mechanics: describe your Baby, and the rest of us'll try to guess who it is before the gift is given. Our first employee comes up. He says, "itong tao po na 'to. Ano po, simple lang po s'ya. Mabait. (This person, she's simple and kind)." Lo and behold, he's handing ME the gift. SIMPLE. AGAIN.
I don't know why it affected me so much*. Why am I always being described as simple? At the time, in my mind, it felt like a consolation prize, you know? Being described as "simple" felt like, "Oh Laika isn't stunning, she isn't so pretty. She's pretty basic. She's simple." It felt like describing someone as "nice", because there's no other word that fits. I was so frustrated because it made me feel like just the average joe, being described as something so... basic.
But thankfully, after careful reflection, I remembered that simplicity is a wonderful, wonderful thing, and foolish me just forgot that it was. I've been too engrossed in the world of Instagram, following all of these rich, beautiful, glamorous, sexy celebrities, and almost immersing in their seemingly problem-free, perfect lives. I didn't even realize that it started to affect my aspirations. Suddenly, the standard for a life well-lived was being rich enough to travel in style, always being glammed up even just for a casual day out, having flawless skin and hair, being dressed to the nines every single evening, owning the fanciest cars, living in a huge house with x number of helpers in tow...
My own standard for my "word" became impossible, and I subconsciously rejected "simple" as my word because of it. I craved bigger, grander, "Instagram-celebrity" words like "beautiful", "gorgeous", "unique", etc. (of course, they all pertain to physicality. Gotta get over this, Lai) because of this ridiculous self-imposed standard.
Embracing my word
As I reflected on my reaction to the word that I've so often pushed away, I suddenly had this "Audio-Visual Lock" experience: I looked inside myself and saw that I really am simple, and I actually love simplicity, and I just needed this experience to spell it out to me. It's not just the way I look; it's also the way I've lived my life and made my choices. I dress simply because I love being able to move around and actually function in my clothes. In creating my website, my primary consideration in choosing the elements was simplicity. I wanted it to be easy to navigate, fresh to the eye, and straightforward. In my wedding plans, my criterion for choosing one element over the other has been, again, simplicity. Our wedding invitation, for example, was so clean and white, that before I sent it to be printed, my sister pushed back and made me think twice: don't you think it's too simple? I went with my gut, and stuck with simple, and when it came out, it became reflection who I am and how I make my choices (and hopefully how the whole wedding will turn out): simplicity always wins in my world.
So in the process of this reflection, I'm learning to be realistic about who I really, truly am. Embracing my word as ME almost feels freeing: like the burden of the standard has been lifted, and I can finally operate in, and be excellent in my own parameters. There's no more aspiring for a word that I'm innately not, no more trying to fit into a mold that I will probably never fit. I'm grateful for the grace to have realized this now, because the pursuit of a word that isn't mine would probably end up a desperate pursuit, leaving me unhappy and bitter.
Embracing my word is realizing that simple is okay because I am simple. And the more I embrace it, the happier I know I will become. I love that I'm easy to please, I like that I'm low maintenance, and I really, really love that I find joy in simplicity. Today, I'm becoming more and more decided about how I want to live and direct my life in the spirit of simplicity, and I desire more and more to become relentless in the pursuit of the simple.
Remember this as you age
As I write this, I recall a short status I wrote on Facebook a few months ago that I want to add here so I can always look back on it when I feel lost or forget who I am:
These were my parents in 1999. Dad was 28, Mom was 27 with 5 kids and 2 on the way. I was 6 then, and my parents were my heroes. My Mom was the ultimate housewife; she cooked every meal, every single day for us. It was in this little cottage that our family-run business, Everything Nice, was born. She perfected the Chocolate Crinkle in this cottage, and began a backyard business distributing our Cassava Cake to the Club. She bathed us, and once even trimmed our hair right outside our cottage after she learned a thing or two about hairdressing. She also made sure that we did well in school, such that during exam season, she'd wake up at 3AM and review each kid for an hour each until it was time to prepare breakfast. Talk about dedication, right? True enough, Aki and Julia topped their classes every single quarter and got medals, while Robbie and I proudly accepted our Certificates of Recognition for our hard work. Haha!
My Dad, on the other hand, had one of the best jobs ever - he was the Golf Director of the Camp John Hay Golf Course. My Dad's job was so close to home, that it allowed him to come home frequently in one day to eat or to take a nap. We would often go with him to the Golf Course where he once tutored Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo how to put. We met her once, and I was so surprised to find that at 7 years old, I was already as tall as she was. Haha! Looking back, he was really a hands-on Dad. I recall that once, in our short stay in CJH, my siblings and I wanted bunnies, so he bought a black and a white one (and if my memory serves me right, we named them Blackey and Whitey - very creative!), and Dad built a little bunny house for them right in front of our cottage, and painted it green to match the house.
Life was slow and simple, and we didn't have much, but I remember being perfectly content. All we had was good food on the table, a playground outside to keep us entertained, a fireplace that kept us warm on cold nights, a handful of siblings to annoy, and crazy young parents who, at 27 and 28, learned to love and care for 5 ... 6 ... 7 (!!!!) equally crazy kids.
Reflecting on this photo and on our life back in '99 reminds me that life doesn't have to be too fast or too luxurious or too grand to be enjoyed. Now, I look at my goals and aspirations, and temper them, so I can refocus on what really matters as I begin life with Nicollo in the next few months: being 100% present in the little moments, just like my parents were; and being 100% happy and content in the now, just like I was when I lived in 569/570.
Finally, as I end, I think of my Dad, who graced me in my dream last night. He was and still is the simplest person I've known. He always had the simplest phones and wore really simple clothes. He had one signature work outfit: khaki shorts, his favorite boat shoes, and a polo shirt. And one time, as we drove along the wide roads of Ayala Alabang together, I asked him, "Dad, what's your favorite house here?" He pointed to a simple, unassuming house. I responded, "Dad, seriously? There are hundreds of other houses you can choose from. Why this one?" He said, "It reminds me of our house. It's so simple; so me."
Dad, help me see the world through your eyes and ground myself in simplicity the way you always did. I miss you, and I wish you could be here to witness my simple wedding. I hope I make you proud!
What about you? What is your word? I pray you find it, and stay true to it always.
'til then, Onward & Upward!
*Then again, I think I know why I was being super sensitive - someone blatantly told me something that made me feel really unattractive. But all is well now, everything's forgiven. :D