My ‘I cannot do’ list

Photo by Mary Antonette Abello

Whilst many people have their ‘list of things to do before turning 30’ or ‘1000 things to do before I die’ or what have you, I on the contrary have a list of things I was sure I cannot do. One these things is knitting. Strangely, I already concluded that I can never knit even before I got my hands on it. Just by looking at a knitted sweaters or a scarf, I could not imagine the intricacies of making such a masterpiece. I thought, even if I could make one with the guidance of a teacher I could never do it the second time around on my own, so why bother? It was my colleague who made me realize how wrong my assumptions were.

We were in a taxi, stuck in traffic in Bangkok. Me and my colleague went to the Thai Immigration to process my visa renewal. Knowing that we will either have to wait for a long queue at the Immigration or get stuck in traffic, she brought her knitting materials. It was in that moment while waiting for the taxi to move an inch that I intently watched her knit, her hands skillfully moving along with the needle and yarn. It was then I realized it isn’t so difficult after all. In fact, it looked super easy! Surprisingly, I also felt so relaxed just watching her knit. It felt as if all the stress I was feeling suddenly disappeared, washed away by a wave of calmness.

Scientific benefits of knitting

I decided I will try to learn how to knit. Before I left the office that day I searched for knitting shops in Bangkok, determined to start right away. It was then that I stumbled upon articles about the scientific benefits of knitting. I learned that knitting is indeed therapeutic and is in fact included by psychiatrists as among the activities they give to clients battling with mental issues. A woman who suffered from depression also recovered with the help of knitting. It is the process of making something, of seeing it coming close to completion, of seeing progress each day that makes knitting a good outlet for those depressed or felt stuck in life. Also, the process of using both hands when knitting improves motor functions and cognitive health.

These new discoveries made me even more excited to learn how to knit. I already felt the calming benefits of knitting by merely watching someone else do it so there is no doubt I will enjoy doing it myself. Indeed, knitting became one of the best things I loved doing. It puts me into a meditative mode. Instead of scrolling on my phone when I am free, knitting provided me moments of online detox. Here is one of the scarves I knitted which I gave to my cousin as a Christmas gift. I was so thrilled to see her wear it in her trip to Paris.

It’s been over a year since I stopped knitting, when I moved to Australia for grad school. It was only now when I saw my cousin wear the scarf that I am reminded of my love for the craft. I shall find myself purchasing some good yarn anytime soon and knit again. Oh, and I shall review my ‘I cannot do’ list as well and see which ones I can start learning. I’ve already ticked knitting off and now I am in the process of learning how to drive a car. Life is full of possibilities and the way to start is to change our mindset that we cannot do things.

A Taste of Interior Design

I’ve always had this interest in interior design stemming from my love for all things pretty although it’s not until recently that I’ve actually got my hands on it. My cousin asked me to furnish her empty condo and told me specific things to buy so I’m not so sure if I can call that interior design. But since it left me so giddy to see an empty place transform into a pretty habitable one for the first time, then pardon my misnaming the process. Besides, even if I was told what items to get and she was the one who decided which one to buy after I sent her photos, I am happy to say that she picked all the items I recommended except for one furniture. Here are some of things I learned from the process for those of you who have no experience yet.

It’s not all pretty work
I like looking at pretty interior photos on magazines and online but it never occurred to me that the process to achieve such a masterpiece can be painstaking. When we arrived at the condo, since it was my cousin’s, the first thing we did was clean up as it has gathered a lot of dust from more than a year of being left aside. I then proceeded to the first step of the work which is to get ideal measurements of the furniture. That part is easier but looking for the ideal designs that came with those measurements is the tricky part. It would have been a little easier if we have some stuff custom-made but that’s out of the question at that point and since the condo is in a city that I am not familiar with, it’s also difficult for me to find and manage the carpenters. I made do with what’s available after exploring several malls and furniture shops.

It is important for the client/owner to be able to visualize your ideas
Before I went window-shopping, I bought a red masking tape to outline the size of the furniture at the spot where they will be placed. This will ensure that my cousin who is now in California is able to visualize how big or small they are and how much space is left for her to move around once they are installed. I sent her not only measurements of the furniture but also the distance between them. I also had my companion stand on those spaces so my cousin can get a better perspective. When I had photos of the furniture from various malls, I placed them over the photo of the empty condo so my cousin can imagine how the area will look like once the furniture is there.

Harmony is key to achieving a cozy ambiance
There are several elements to consider in interior design and I must confess that I don’t have background on any of them nor made the effort to actually learn them prior to working on my cousin’s condo. I just trusted my instincts and well my eyes. I made sure things are in harmony with each other. To do so, I made sure the colors are not in contrast with each other which is why the condo ended up with gray, white, brown, black and a bit of accent colors. I admire designs that are bold with red and black colors or lively with rainbow colors but oh how my eyes hurt when I see houses that have a mixture of different colors and patterns (imagine a blue patterned floor tiles, pink patterned curtains, and green and yellow patterned sofa all in one living room!). My cousin’s personality is one that speaks of classic elegance hence the choice of those colors for her condo. I also have to credit my mom for suggesting a gray curtain, which placed everything in order.

I know my experience was very far from the real interior design thing and that it didn’t give me much knowledge and skills to qualify for a career change but still I consider it essential to my growth. It made me able to exercise my creativity on a level that considers and meets another person’s preferences. It allowed me to navigate an area that I don’t know much about but that didn’t stop me from making things happen.

The book I will read every year

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari inspirational book

It’s a brand new year once again and this season is always filled with enthusiasm, mood for a fresh start, ‘material detox’, renewal and resolutions. Every time I think of coming up with New Year resolutions however, I noticed that I keep repeating the same things over again, which is a sad indication that I was not able to stick with them. So I decided to break up with this tradition and just vowed to always keep a list. Mobile apps don’t work well with me when it comes to organizing my life so I always carry a small notebook where I can jot down pretty much everything as I can be very forgetful, though at work I can be a walking directory.

There is one thing though that I never failed to do every year despite my New Year resolutions failure and that is to read Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari book. I got this book as a gift in Kathmandu in 2014 though strangely I never heard of it before then, even if I read a lot on meditation and was surrounded with meditators. Honestly though, I wasn’t very eager to read the book when I got it because I thought it is another story of a person who gave up everything to become a monk and promotes a life void of any form of attachments. But when I did read it, I finished it in a day! It’s not the typical story that I expected nor about how to empty your mind. Instead, it offers insights on how to live a simple but passionate life, what truly matters, and teaches us the value of time.

I resolved to read this book every year to constantly remind myself of the lessons it offers. I find it a good grounding especially when I feel I’m slipping out of direction because it also offers practical guides on how to live a life of purpose. I won’t talk so much about its contents so as not to influence your impressions of it. However, I’m happy to share some of my favorite quotes from the book.

“Never overlook the power of simplicity.”

“You truly cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought – not even one.”

“…the best thing you can do for yourself is move beyond it.”

“…never get into the petty habit of measuring your self-worth against other people’s net worth.”

“You will never be able to hit a target that you cannot see.”

“The only limits on your life are those that you set yourself.”

“Fear is nothing more than a mental monster you have created, a negative stream of consciousness.”

“Never forget the power of music. Spend a little time with it every day… When you feel down, play some music. It is one of the finest motivators I know of.”

“…truly enlightened people never seek to be like others.”

“Live for today – there will never be another one quite like it.”

“Slow things down. Enjoy the beauty and sacredness of all that is around you. You owe this to yourself.”

“There is a huge difference between making a lot of money and making a lot of life.”

“Starting today, learn more, laugh more and do what you truly love to do.”

Click here to see the list of the books I’ve read.