I Like People…

…I’m just afraid of opening up to them.

I’m one of those unfortunate creatures who come off as snobbish upon the first meeting, particularly because I don’t talk much. Basically I wait for people to start doing the talking, and if they don’t, we just stare at each other until I get so uncomfortable I excuse myself and take my leave. If I’m lucky, there’s a second meeting and I open up more. It’s usually at that point when the acquaintance tells me about my ice-queen first impression, and how wrong it was.

When strangers meet, their primary concern is to reduce uncertainty about the other person and their relationship. As verbal output, nonverbal warmth, self-disclosure, similarity, and shared communication networks increase, uncertainty goes down, and vice versa.source

Of course, all this time I’ve been talking about meetings in real life/meatspace. In cyberspace, however, I seem to be more open about myself. Faceless strangers used to hit me up on my AIM account when I ran my tennis blog, and I would chat with them for a long time about shared interests, tennis or otherwise. I can stay for hours on end on bulletin boards, trading wit and wisdom with people living on the other side of the world. Even this online journal you’re reading now in which I reveal precious little about me is more of an open book than the me you might meet offline.

Maintaining a closed boundary can lead to greater autonomy and safety, whereas opening the boundary can promote greater intimacy and sharing, at the cost of personal vulnerability. — Littlejohn, S. (2002). Theories of Human Communication, p. 251.

Maybe it’s because I feel less vulnerable online. The computer screen effectively does screen how much I reveal about myself; I am in control. I can think first about what I’m about to say before hitting the “Post” button, in stark contrast to the verbal diarrhea I tend toward when speaking with people. Visual cues I give off in face-to-face conversations are almost completely absent in my text-based interactions online, so I can bluff my way through tough situations and can always be on my guard.

I know that my days of timidity and passivity are slowly fading away from my being. Such attitudes don’t really enrich life. In fact, they detract from it and cause you to wonder why you’re such a coward. And they make you wonder if you’re ever going to get to the point where you actually live… I’m talking about interacting with people for the mere sake of it and not being worried about the results.Lee Warren

So, you know, protecting myself is fine. It just doesn’t bode well for the development of good relationships, or even just for the broadening of my perspective on life.

A few months ago I realized what a small circle of friends I had: a smattering of friends from high school, college, and Bible study, but no one beyond that. I had only just decided to be a teensy bit more open about talking to new people when God plopped three such ones into my life. Since then, God has been placing me in situations where I meet people from various backgrounds — and then he allows me to muddle it out and figure how much to open up to them. I think it’s a big desensitization project (my stage fright is a related neurosis), and it’s helped me realize how much more interesting and rewarding life can be when you share it with people.

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I’ve decided to make my pages more search engine-friendly by turning Post Pages on. This means that each post of mine has its own page, and now people can link to each post individually instead of having to link to the entire month’s archive page.

I’m also going to start using Blogger Comments so that people like Kneeko can comment on my posts (since his ISP blocks Enetation servers).

Many thanks to my host J for giving me permission to take up some more space here. Hahaha. Ü My domain name plans are on hold for the moment since I have a mental block on what to get for my first domain.

Pride Cometh

“I never get lost! Well, maybe I do sometimes, but I figure a way out eventually.”

I posted this statement on my Friendster and MySpace profiles last week. You see, I take pride in having a good sense of direction; even if I’m in unfamiliar territory, I always manage to get to where I need to go once I have a general heading. Little did I know that this claim I made about myself was about to be challenged.

Last Friday night I set out for Makati (Power Plant Mall, to be exact) to meet with three of my college friends. Although I’ve been driving for three years, I’ve never actually driven myself to that place. However, I had been to that particular area at least four times and I was as confident as could be about my powers of navigation. After all, I reasoned to myself, there are road signs from EDSA leading to Rockwell Center, where the mall was located.

I arrived in Rockwell thirty minutes after setting out from my house. As I turned onto a road I thought led to the mall, I worried that I’d arrive too early. However, the road kept on going and I never seemed to be getting any closer to where I thought the mall should be, so my worries turned to whether I was about to get lost. I started looking for a U-turn slot, but after more than a kilometer of nothing like that the road suddenly spat me out onto a junction. I realized I was no longer in Rockwell Center.

The pressing matter was how to get back to Rockwell. I figured since I was still in Makati City, I could just drive along the major thoroughfares until I found a way back. I kept going, looking for landmarks — and then the road turned into a bridge that crossed the Pasig River. Suddenly, I found myself in Mandaluyong City.

With a tiny surge of panic creeping across my heart, I took a U-turn right there when the road cleared. The street lights were turned off, so I missed the way back across the bridge. I kept on going along the riverbank until I was forced to turn left. The road got narrower, I passed a market or two, and the neighborhood got seedier. Blindly, I kept pushing on, looking for road signs to Makati but unwittingly going deeper into Mandaluyong.

When I realized I really did have to turn back, I had been traveling the wrong way for fifteen minutes. Not a familiar thing was in sight; the landscape had turned from one of multi-storey buildings and neon-lit establishments to one of flat hollow-block houses with pedicabs parked on the sidewalk. I could barely breathe as I realized I had truly gotten L-O-S-T.

Once I made a U-turn, though, all of a sudden there were road signs everywhere pointing to Makati. I followed them closely and after ten minutes I was on the very same road that had taken me out of Rockwell. I sighed in relief as I spotted a sign pointing to Power Plant Mall underground parking.

Well, at least I did figure out how to get to where I needed to be. Eventually.

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Deer in Headlights

I’m just going to come out and say this: I have terrible stage fright. There’s just something about the way all those eyeballs are focused on me when I’m up on stage that turns me into a deer in headlights — frozen still as a statue as the 10-wheeler of shame bears down on me.

I think I’ve always been like this. When I was three years old, my church had a Christmas pageant and each Sunday School class had to present a special number. My class was supposed to do a dance routine to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Unfortunately, I didn’t know we were going to present something; while I mastered the steps, I treated our rehearsals as just another Sunday School game. On that fateful Sunday, I got dolled up in a frilly white shirt, red skirt, black Mary Janes. When we got to church, they put antlers on me and colored my nose red, just like the other kids. I still didn’t quite have a clue even as my class filed out onto the stage and we took our positions. Then the music started.

The rest of it is a complete blank in my memory, which is pretty much close to what I did anyway: I just stood there on stage, my eyes as big as saucers, frozen in front of that sea of eyeballs. (It didn’t help that I was smack in the center of the formation.) The shame of it came later, when I saw the photos my parents had taken of that performance. The other kids were captured giving their all on the stage, while I just looked lost and forlorn. It was embarrassing.

Stage fright has dogged me for the rest of my life. During elocution contests and class reports, despite knowing my material back to front I still get butterflies in my stomach, my voice shakes, and my muscles go rigid. Sure, stage fright is warranted in such situations because you’re being evaluated. However, I’m prone to getting stage fright while ordering at a McDonald’s.

To psychoanalyze myself: I’m trying to make up for that first on-stage failure. The perfectionist in me wants a flawless performance in everything, but it’s self-defeating because I tense up even more. Maybe if I pretend it’s all just a game (and you’re allowed to make mistakes in games), I can get over it.


The Eyes Have It

Ever since I was seven years old, I’ve had to wear prescription lenses to correct my nearsightedness. Professor Tiger by gabetarian, from Stock Xchange My first pair of eyeglasses was a big, chunky, clear plastic monstrosity. I blame that fashion mistake on watching reruns of Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter wore huge red frames that hid half her face when she was playing Wonder Woman’s alter-ego Diana Prince. I suppose that’s fine — if you’re a superheroine intent on hiding your true identity. If you’re a bookwormish kid with thick lenses, hiding your true identity isn’t your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is looking like a goldfish and getting called “Four-Eyes” by the playground bullies. Pair those goggles with dental braces and you’re asking for the complete and utter death of your social life. Welcome to Nerdyland, Fish.

Okay, so I was exaggerating about the death of my social life since in my school nobody had social lives anyway, and the smart kids could be popular, too. However, in my last year of high school, I was finally released from the tyranny of having my nose pinched by a pair of eyeglasses when my mom bought me my first pair of contact lenses. No longer would I feel like I was living behind a glass pane. Facing the world bare-faced, I felt pretty, oh so pretty, I felt pretty and witty and… you know the rest of the lyrics. Heh.

I’ve worn contact lenses since then, but still have a pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses at hand. Based on what people tell me, I look better without eyeglasses but I look better with eyeglasses. No, you haven’t gotten cross-eyed and I didn’t make a typing error: people have truly presented such contradictory evidence, which I think depends on whether or not my current pair of eyeglasses flatters my eye shape.

Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses had become so routine that I hadn’t paused to think how these have changed my appearance, for worse or for better. That was before my mom bought me a pair of green contact lenses last Saturday for my birthday. Green Eyes by Noelle De Guzman, on Flickr My eyes are naturally a dark brown, but the colored lenses were on promo and I was itching to do something new with my appearance. Green is a subtle color change from brown, but I did notice that the new color makes my beady little eyes look bigger and softer. This changes the character of my face; I think it makes me look friendlier and more approachable.

It’s definitely a far cry from thick plastic frames.

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Cleaning Up on the Floor

2nd day of monsoon 2006 by Flypig, on Flickr I’ve come to believe that the condition of my bedroom reflects my current state. I’m not a clean freak, but I do tidy up periodically. In the interim between my bursts of Stepford Wife-like activity, my room deteriorates from “spic-and-span” to “lived-in” to “monsoon aftermath.” When it’s neat, I’m neat, but when it’s a mess, I’m a mess.

There’s no set trigger for me to start cleaning up, but last week the switch flipped to “On” and I put my room to rights. Each time I do this, it’s like hitting my internal reboot button, instantly clearing all the collected junk from both room and mind. It’s invigorating and catharctic and makes me feel like I can take on anything. Plus, I have a floor again — at least, one I can actually walk on and not trip on piles of clothing or paper.

Dancing Lovers by Autreyu, on Flickr Having a floor is important when one wants to practice dance moves in the privacy of one’s room. I know it’s only been a few posts since I talked about the hiphop dance class I attend weekly, but the gym pulled the schedule rug from under us. Now, instead of Hiphop Grind, we have Nike Rockstar Bollywood. Yes, you read that right: Bollywood, and it’s being launched in Fitness First gyms in the Philippines this month. This means that instead of just straight hiphop and R&B; steps, we’ve got to master stuff inspired by Indian dance. And we’re stuck with this choreography for the next two months starting from today.

I’m not aiming to be the next Aishwarya Rai, but I felt like such a goof today since I kept making mistakes and basically messing up on the floor. What made it doubly embarrassing was that there were only five of us in class, counting our instructor (who is still the same guy who led us in Hiphop Grind). I really did stick out like a sore thumb, to overuse a cliche.

I made it through the class without dying of shame, and I’ll probably be back for more punishment next week since I’ve got nothing better to do on Monday mornings. Ü Seriously speaking, though, I enjoy the challenge of mastering something new. The instructor warned us that the moves are asyncopated and aren’t based on the 4- and 8- beat counts that we’ve been used to. He wasn’t able to show us the entire routine today because we kept messing up, but I’m sure we can clean it up eventually. Now that I’ve practiced the new moves on my clean bedroom floor, I find that they’re not as difficult as I initially thought. Hopefully, enough practice will keep me from turning the dance floor into a disaster zone.

UPDATE (July 13): Today was the formal launch of the Nike Rockstar Bollywood workout at the Fitness First Ortigas branch, and I went so I could get the extra practice time. The workout is divided into four parts: the warm-up, the across-the-floor, the main choreography, and the cool-down. The steps are definitely easier the second time around, and I realized that most of the later move combinations were introduced in the across-the-floor section (where you do a move and try to work your way across the dance floor at the same time) and in the warm-up.

We had a different instructor since it was a different time, but I was the only one who had done the Bollywood workout prior to the launch. Of course, I really tried to work it (teacher’s pet much? Ü). After class the instructor and I were both at the front desk for a time, and he tapped my shoulder and said, “See you next week, okay?”

Oh, yes, you will.

UPDATE (July 18): They rescheduled the Nike Rockstar workout to Tuesdays at 6:30am, so I can still get my Hip-Hop fix on Mondays. Woohoo!

Check the Nike Women Philippines and Fitness First Philippines websites for more details about this workout and class schedules.

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Moody by Noelle De Guzman on Flickr People say that every birthday celebrates another year of new experiences. That is true; in my case, this is the first year I don’t have a concrete thing to do. For the past 22 years, I had school, and now… I don’t. I feel kind of aimless.

Instead of looking to January 1, I usually use my birthday as the jump-off point for introspection on my life, and I have to say I’m a little blue right now. I feel like nothing I’ve done matters. I’m doubting myself and fearing the unknown future.

But God catches me, and I cling to Him. I may doubt myself, but in Him I have no reason to doubt. He is the certainty amidst my uncertainty, the One I trust to lead me where I cannot yet see.

(On this day last year and two years ago)