Arms Straight, Eyes Ahead: Learning to Ride a Bike at 30

If someone says, “It’s as easy as riding a bike,” they probably mean it’s hard.

Two weeks ago, despite not having the ability to ride a bike, I bought a mid-range one. I wanted to learn to cycle for a number of reasons.

  • To save on transportation expenses
  • To incorporate some exercise into my everyday life
  • To face a fear I’ve had my entire life
Actual footage of my first 15 minutes of practice.

It has not been easy, but a lot of things have helped.

  • I have a gentle and willing teacher.
  • Before our first session, I explained to him how I learn, what my fears are, how I have zero biking instincts whatsoever, etc.
  • We keep practice sessions short (around 30 minutes). This has helped splendidly, as it is enough to see progress, but not too long that I get frustrated or exhausted.
  • We practice in the evenings, when there is much less traffic and the judg-ey yet doubtlessly skilled-at-biking kids are likely asleep.
  • We don’t practice every night. Practicing every 2-3 nights has been working for me.
  • Whether it’s me staying on the bike for an extra two seconds, steering instead of stopping, or finally not falling into the soft embrace of the neighbor’s plants, we literally see little improvements every single session.

It’ll be a long time before I become a pro, but I’m happy with my progress so far. I didn’t even notice how it happened, or how fast, but I am now able to balance and pedal for much longer.

Tonight’s session will be on steering and avoiding my insurance scammer of a cat who keeps attempting to stage accidents by rushing and lying in front of my moving bike.

To the adult who needs to hear this, go buy that bike, and go get yourself some learning bruises.

If a fearful, indoor girlie like me can learn to cycle, so can you.

Emotions on a Workday

The girl I share my cubicle with isn’t around today. While I am thankful for the silence, her absence has unfortunately made me vulnerable to the worst and most powerful of my foes: my own thoughts.

A horribly-mixed upbeat song plays in the background. Everyone is…in the present. I hear the clacking of keys and soft laughter from the break room. I, however, am not here. I am somewhere else. I am back in my childhood home.

Face to face with the four-year-old version of myself.

Suddenly, I find that there are so many questions I want to ask her. But I’m sure she doesn’t have the answers. She is only four. What does she know?

What do I know?

We look so different, the two of us. Of course. I am twenty-six years older. But that’s not it. Our biggest difference is not that I have so many more marks on my skin now, or that I’m finding grey hairs here and there.

What’s so different is our eyes. Hers, they…sparkle.

I realize that now’s not the time. I take a deep breath and return to the document I’m working on. It’s almost 5.

Almost time to go home.

A different photo, c.1996

A Fresh, Leafy (Re)Start: 4 Ways Plants Are Helping With My Mental Health

My gumamela rarely produces flowers because I’m not allowed to have nice things but when she blooms, she blooms.

Yesterday, I bought some vegetables for my makeshift garden. Some girl had posted on Facebook about her nursery, and I immediately ordered three plants from this stranger, because delayed pay, it turns out, does not miraculously give one the gift of self-control.

I bought my first plant in September. At the time, I needed something to decorate my wall with for a program I was hosting. Plus, I thought it would add life to the living room (which it did). Today, I am a proud mother to some thirty indoor and outdoor plants.

The first time I told my therapist about my plants, I mentioned they were just nice to look at, and that they gave me something to do. But I realize, now that I’ve had half a year to think about it, that they have been doing so much more.

1. They keep me from going on autopilot.

It’s always something new with these leafy bitches (celebratory).

For instance, I learned that signs of illness do not always mean the same thing for every plant. Yellowing for one plant may mean it is being overwatered, while for another, it may mean the plant needs more sun. I love inspecting them, learning new things about them, and nursing the weak ones back to health.

Their different watering schedules and varying growth and maintenance requirements also help keep me mindful and give my brain something to monitor.

For me, growing plants isn’t easy. And with the way my brain works, that’s a good thing.

2. The compliments aren’t bad.

Every time I shyly tell people I maintain a little garden, they somehow only have good things to say. Often, they respond with wows and that’s amazings. Sometimes, the conversation turns into how incapable they are of growing their own plants.

If I’m being honest, that used to be the case for me, but I think the universe is trying to restore balance by letting 90% of my plants survive as compensation for having bestowed upon me three mental disorders. (I’m managing. I’m fine.)

3. Many plants are literally free.

At first, the idea of creating new plants out of existing ones seemed crazy to me because I had thought that biology only existed in science books. Anyway, at some point, I just started cutting away at my plants and those cuttings turned into…new plants, roots and all. For many plants, especially the fast-growing ones, you are almost ensured a lifetime supply.

But if it’s your neighbor’s plants, I’m told consent is important.

They’re…rooting for me.

As a bonus, plants are a nice, thoughtful, and personal gift. And because I like them, I’m obviously the easiest person to give gifts to.

4. Where there were once wounds, I now see potential for growth.

The other day, an officemate and I were talking about mindsets and perspectives. I shared how my plants are helping me see things differently.

Taking a cutting does always mean that that part of a plant has become useless. It can mean its purpose has elevated. Maybe those leaves are now being used to flavor a dish. Maybe that stem is now being used to create new life. Maybe that cut is what’s going to help the mother plant grow bushier.

Removing flower buds used to go against my instincts, until I learned it can help a plant focus its energy on growing fruit.

And uprooting and repotting a plant does not always disturb it. Sometimes, these give the plant more room and give that life a better environment for growth.

Plus, plants are nice to look at.


For six months now, I’ve been telling L, “This is just a phase.”

That joke gets funnier every passing month.


In May of 2019, I posted the following:

In a year, I want to have the following:

• my own place
• a dog (the cat shall follow)
• the financial capacity to support me and my son (the dog)
• a small oven
• a bicycle
• my graduation photo and diploma on the wall

Mariz the Menace

Well, it only took around four years, but now, I have the following:

  • my own place (I moved a year ago, and the place comes with a partner of 6+ years, so that’s nice)
  • a dog of my own AND the aforementioned partner’s cat (both former strays. The dog and the cat.)
  • some capacity to spoil the pets
  • no oven yet, but I have an air-fryer (I owned one before it became cool. Don’t start.)
  • no bicycle still
  • a graduation photo, but it’s on a table in the living room, beside my partner’s and framed photos of the dog and the cat, for some reason

And… This wasn’t on my list but it’s kind of a big deal:

  • I started going to therapy. 🙂

Just now, I went over my last few posts, and it felt so strange knowing I had been the one to write all that, at the time I had not been getting help. But because I’m not in the mood to cry and confuse the dog, we’ll talk about this another time. For now, I’d just like to say:

I’m here. I’m okay. I think I’ll stay. 🙂

The dog.
The cat.

The Re-emergence of Unstable Mable

I need help.

It is Monday. I write this while I dry my thick hair in front of the fan. It is the last week of the five-week-long midyear term and I am not okay. Late last week, I changed my entire study. I start this week, again in the pre-empirical phase of my research. Next week, my (graduating) class presents the first drafts of our theses. So yes, I am academically screwed.

I feel the pressure, but I am not panicking as much as I think I should be. This is bad, but here’s something good: looking back, four weeks ago, I thought I wouldn’t be able to graduate, that I would have to re-enroll this coming semester. I thought I needed to re-do my internship because of problems with my records. Thankfully, people at the university were able to locate the evaluation my supervisor submitted, and I was able to start with my thesis (I couldn’t do both the internship and my research in the same term).

Here’s a recap of everything that’s been going on the last month.

Week 1

  • Revised and submitted the files I failed to submit the same semester I did my internship. My evaluation could not be located. Called people up. Got yelled at. Was able to remove the grade of INC (incomplete) I was initially given. This took loooooong.
  • Requested a change of adviser, as my former adviser was attending a conference abroad and I was running out of time. My new adviser and I talked about my study and how far along I was in it. I told her I was further along than I really was.
  • Found a statistician who could assist me in this project.
  • Thought everything was going to go well.

Week 2

  • Drafted letters to the colleges in the university, requesting information relevant to my study.
  • Brought the letters (on a Tuesday) to a relevant unit/office in the university, requesting for their endorsement. I was told the director would be back that Thursday. I was unable to meet him the entire week. (That happens.)
  • I e-mailed him, explaining my study and its significance, and sent him a copy of the letter I left in their office.

Week 3

  • No response. I was advised to address the letters to a different officer. They were signed after a day.
  • Delivered the letters to the colleges.
  • Three colleges disapproved my request because of the Data Privacy Act. Three colleges approved (two gave me the info I needed and one said they needed time). Never heard back from the rest.
  • Wrote a letter to the registrar requesting the same information. My request was denied.
  • I was running out of time. We were halfway through the midyear term. I consulted with my adviser and asked if I could change my study.

Week 4

  • Began on a new study, a content analysis of the materials produced by this relevant unit/office. I could still use parts of my existing research proposal.
  • Bam! This unit/office’s materials were not sufficient. There was no way I could possibly conduct a valid study using the materials they had at the time.
  • The only way to graduate was to change my study for the last time.

Week 5

  • I have this one week left and it is Monday and I am dying.

I am trying my best not crash. I do not feel the panic, but I do notice I find it impossible to focus and actually start writing. At times, I find it difficult to get out of bed. It’s happening again.

I bought aloe vera gel. It helps relieve stress and makes me feel like everything is going well. I make it a point to take vitamin C every day. I have fruits in the fridge. I’ve been including vegetables in my daily diet. If you knew me in real life, you would know how big of a deal this is. I have been trying to cut back on caffeine. I hope I succeed.

I have not consulted with my new adviser regarding this second change of study. When she gets back on Thursday (she is currently abroad), she is going to skin me alive. But I need to finish this. I have to be ready with at least 60% of my paper by Thursday. Also, who needs skin, really?

I’m going to end with this, because I have to work on my review of related literature. I’m working with a new theory and a new framework, and a methodology which is very new to me.

If you know of any spells that can help me, let me know. Haha. Kidding?

It’s really easy to talk about the right thing to do when it’s not your life.

– Michael Kelso, That 70s Show

I have this penchant for watching shows and movies that aired years before. I love seeing the way humor, conversation, and entertainment had changed over the years.

I do this alone. I have tried, in the past, to do this with other people, but I haven’t yet found another soul who finds as much joy in this as I do. I had a dog once, Goliath, who did. We would… *gasp* Oh, no. I get it… It was the cuddles that he loved!

“Ha-ha. Yes! I, too, enjoy these…situational comedies. Might I sit on your lap and burrow my snout into the crook of your arm whilst you—er, we—watch?” Photo by Amal Santhosh

Anyway, Kelso’s line hit home. At times, I get really preachy on Twitter even though, I’m sure, even a three-year-old can see that I don’t really have things figured out. So thank you, Michael Kelso, for keeping me in line.

Another Body in my Grave of Dreams

I’m glad age and reality work the way they do, because if young me knew present me and how she turned out, she would have been horrified and lost the will to live.

When I was younger, I wanted to become a journalist (among other things—I also wanted to be a princess, an astronaut, a scientist, and a stay-at-home mom at different times in my life). I wanted to write both in English and in my native language. Whenever I rode the bus home, I lost precious sleep just looking around me and documenting everything. I could spend an entire trip home (around 6 hours) typing drafts into my phone. I wanted to write about everything and everyone. I wanted to figure out what made people human, what held societies together, and how the life of the cologne-smelling stranger beside me was connected to that of the grimy beggar on the street with her palm (and a breast) out.

That dream did not and probably will no longer come true, but I still get to drink as much coffee as journalists in movies do. Is that close enough?

Since I was young, my teachers, along with so many parents and guardians I’ve met, had been telling me I had so much potential. That I had pretty eyes and the shiniest black hair. That I had a beautiful voice. That I was going to do great things. But life happened. And over the years, I realized something.

I am not special.

It is currently 1:27 AM. There are two weeks (out of five) left this midyear term. I am revising my thesis—the whole thing—because I couldn’t get respondents for my original research. It’s fine. I’m bothered, but probably not as much as I should be. Because I’m used to this. Because now, I’m no longer that kid with potential; the girl who had dreams, represented her schools in contests, collected medals, and made her family proud. Now, I’m just a student in my tenth year of college.

I’ve often felt that writing helps me manage stress and organize my thoughts. This is why I haven’t began reading yet, why I’m writing this now instead. I know I’m going to be overwhelmed a few minutes from now. I want to be ready.

Most of the time, I want to die, but today, I want to win.

I have to go. If I don’t move now, I just know I’m going to end up in that creek under that one bridge in campus. That may sound dark to some people, but I mean that in a positive, encouraging way. It’s me telling myself that I have to move and go get that diploma.


As I typed that last paragraph, my spirit guide quietly stood beside me and muttered, “What the hell brand of optimism is this?” It made me giggle.

This is Where I Want to Be in Life in a Year

May 27th, 2019

1:49 PM

In a year, I want to have the following:

  • my own place (it doesn’t have to be big, just comfortable and has the necessities + plenty of sunlight)
  • a dog (the cat shall follow)
  • the financial capacity to support me and my son (the dog)
  • a small oven (for garlic bread and snacks because c’mon)
  • a bicycle (and…the ability to ride one and not perish in situations that require escape—no, nothing crime-related)
  • my graduation photo and diploma on the wall (th-this should be at the top of the list, what am I doing)

I understand that regardless of what I want, what is bound to happen will happen, and that’s okay.

Note: These are the things I want for myself. What I want to be able to do for other people requires a separate post.

I hope you know where you want to be in a year and I hope you get there. Here’s to my and your happiness!


The woman who has one week left to achieve all this (as of May 18th),


I wrote this a month ago because I was informed that goals are, like, super important.

If you ask me, we’re all in the same boat. And it’s leaking.

– Bruno, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I have just finished one of the seven books I bought last month. Immediately, two more were added to my pile of unread books when my dorm mate lent me Paul Tremblay’s The Little Sleep and I wanted to finish John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas just so I can convince myself I am being responsible and productive with my time. I cannot believe I have been putting off reading this book for years. To have come across it again at this point in the world’s history is quite heartbreaking, to say the least.

I am currently halfway through and Bruno’s innocence is making my heart ache.

Anyway, I have to get back to my book, as it is already 1:11 AM. We do not need to discuss the fact that I am trying to finish reading as many novels as I can when I only have to weeks left to finish writing my thesis. No, no, no.

This, after all, was the commonest, the most banal of personal tragedies. You loved someone. They didn’t love you. Worse still, in defiance of their own personal interests and to the destruction of your peace, they loved another. What would half the world’s poets and novelists do without this universal tragicomedy?

– P.D. James, Shroud for a Nightingale

These days, I have been allotting more time to reading, much to the dismay of my thesis adviser and my thesis itself (oh, and to the dismay of the people around me whom I keep disappointing with my inability to graduate from the university).

For the past month or so, I have been alternating between this and What Would Machiavelli Do? by Stanley Bing. Meanwhile, beside my office computer, Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife collects dust, as it is impossible to read at work.

I have four other books on my bed and many others scattered around the room. This way of living works for me. How about you?