lessons, one year later

Exactly today last year, I got my first horrifying blood test results. It has been a year. I always go back to the experience because it was a defining moment in my life—so much so that I’ve clung on to it, afraid of the thought of going back to who I was pre-disease.

I always tell people, “God is so good—He made my sickness long enough for me to learn, but short enough so that I could get back on my feet again.” One year later, I can say that it had to happen, and that it was a blessing I didn’t know I needed.

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From that time I got sick, I got to meet a few people online who have autoimmune diseases or have family members who do; One of them a mother whose 12-year-old is going through Lupus, another girl in her 20s with System Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and a friend who was, like me, absolutely fine, but suddenly got an eczema flare-up that required her to take a leave of absence from work.

I’ve had an almost 3-hour phone conversation with someone from Bacolod whom I’ve never met. She has Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO), an autoimmune that’s pretty rare and way more complicated than what I experienced. She was diagnosed in 2015 and her disease is still very much active. She started seeing my doctor in LifeScience just a few months back, and is on her way to changing her approach to healing through clean eating and better lifestyle practices. We talked for hours, exchanging notes on our sickness and how to get past the hard times.

I’ve talked to people who are absolutely fine, but have decided to shift their lifestyle and become wary of what they eat or how much they exercise. They too, have started taking small steps towards becoming better, and have shared how much doing small things like meditating, lessening certain junk and putting more effort to eat clean and make time for exercise has shown some satisfying results.

As part of my rest time, I try to read more, and I’ve fallen in love with leadership books. I could say I’ve become a little obsessed, reading one after the other. Never in my life have I felt so much excitement when it comes to reading (I was never a reader, except if they were articles or magazines).

I’ve realized that learning isn’t just figuring something out and changing your perspective of things—it’s sitting through the difficulty, and giving something that’s hard to give, like time, or a smile, to a situation that’s not in your favor.

I have a different appreciation for people—people whom I’ve never really gotten close to, but who I learned have gone through a lot, and can share life-changing experiences and lessons.

I’ve learned that when you put your guard down, others do so, too.

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Don’t aim for success, or at least your idea of success. Aim for purpose. Last year I was excited with the thought of my hunger to do well, perform, earn this, achieve that, be known for this. I was proud of myself for wanting to work so hard, for being responsible, and for wanting to be independent and make something of myself, not knowing that those were superficial wants—wants that all just pointed to myself and benefited no one else.

I’ve always been one to share, whether in writing, photos, videos, or conversation. I can’t help it—when I learn something or see something nice, I always want others to see it too, even if it’s just as simple as shadows from morning light, textures in plants, or random color combinations in the most basic things. And when I think about everything that has happened and why God made it happen this way, I see it as a message that I, being the sharing type, somehow have to be a voice for others who may not be the sharing or vocal type, even if not everyone listens. This is not a fame game. It’s about sharing what blessings you’ve been given. And if that means being able to share and influence just one or two people in this lifetime, I’d consider it a major feat.

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Today, I’m still learning. Everyday I struggle between the person I was last year and who I want to be, but the difference now is that the latter person is clearer to me. I still cry, act up, get frustrated, do wrong and get told at—but now, I acknowledge and accept it. It’s hard, and the feeling of shame and regret are way stronger than before. But it’s all part of the learning process. And the heavier I feel, the more I know the learning is great, so I embrace it.

I’ve put up @_g.row  on Instagram, a space I want to use to encourage overall growth in people, mainly focused on lifestyle and leadership. After what I experienced, I am truly convinced that how you approach the small things in your everyday affect all the other things you do in your life. The things and people you choose to engage with or how much care you give your body—these things are the foundation of everything. Because if you neglect the one thing that gets you going (aka your HEALTH), everything stops once it’s taken away from you. On the other hand, I’m also convinced that leadership qualities (true leadership qualities, and not the shallow thought of someone at the top dictating), is truly living a life that is selfless. A leader thinks of putting together an environment where others can grow and thrive. He/she looks inward first during the good and the bad situations, versus blaming others or conditions. These two things, when acted upon, are very difficult, and really take a lot of patience and understanding. It is also truly humbling, and I think that’s what a lot of us in this world really need to see the beauty of life, instead of always complaining about our personal situations.

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I was always taught that life is a gift from God, but I also used to wonder why there was a lot of shit going on in it. Now I realized that that “shit” is the gift in the ugliest wrapper, and it’s only those who choose to go beyond the aesthetic and superficial that are rewarded with the greatest, most beautiful gift inside.

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