This Too Shall Pass

Madam Toastmaster, fellow members, my name is Kirstene B. Villanos. Most people call me “Dada”, which is a nickname given to me by my Lolo. Don’t ask me why. It’s not gonna be my ice breaker today and I will never tell anyone… Ever. 

Instead, I’ll be talking about my favorite quote of all time. And no, it’s not “Do or do not, there is no try” by Master Yoda even though I’m a huge Star Wars fan. 

It’s actually just four simple words: THIS TOO SHALL PASS

Four simple words but it always helps me get past the many hurdles that life throws my way. 

I can’t quite remember when I first stumbled upon this quote or who I heard it from, but I vividly remember when I first used it to calm myself. I got lucky enough to qualify in one of those very competitive science high schools. As freshmen, we were continuously told that we were the “cream of the crop” but spending 4 years there, I came to think that it might just be the opposite: We were, in fact, the “crap of the cream”. Haha! Sorry for the language! 

Anyway, during my senior year, just a few months shy of graduating, I got so stressed by our research paper. I remember that for weeks I would wake up in the middle of the night, when everyone in our dormitory is already sleeping, and just being so anxious about it. It came to a point when I would ask myself if this is how it feels when someone’s going crazy. Our experiment is not going as planned and half of our team is not being helpful with the tasks. My greatest fear at that time is not being able to graduate because our research paper is a failure. And so there I was, on my bunk bed, wide awake in the darkness and silence, when these four words rang in my head. This too shall pass, this too shall pass. And it did. And we passed. And we all graduated. 

It’s the same thing when I went to the university, which, as we all know, is much much more challenging than high school. Whenever I feel like the academic pressure is too much, I always go back to these four simple words: THIS TOO SHALL PASS

It even went beyond the academics. Whenever I feel so stressed at work, I go back to this quote. Whenever I feel like quitting and calling in “sick” because of the pressures of an ongoing project, I repeat this quote over and over in my head until I find myself getting out of bed and just going through the day. 

Same thing whenever I’m in a not so ideal situation – speaking in public, a difficult job interview, boring meetings, a very bad first date, awkward family reunions, working out when you’re really not in the mood, and even personal problems. 

Speaking of personal problems, I’d also like to share the greatest challenge that I’ve experienced in my life so far: Three years ago, I had a miscarriage, and I would say that it was the lowest point in my life. I lost my sense of self and I felt like I also lost control of my life. For months, I was just drifting through it, without a feeling of purpose, without feeling anything really. 

But like all of my past life challenges, big or small, this quote helped me, saved me. And same with all the other challenges I’ve encountered, I picked myself up, and started my journey to healing. Every time I feel like giving up again, every time I feel like I can’t move on, I will myself into going back to this quote which basically became my personal mantra: THIS TOO SHALL PASS

At this point, I would say that I’m healed. It’s not gonna be a 100% because as they say, you can’t really fully recover from a loss. But I’ve never been more hopeful, full of purpose, and feeling more alive than ever. 

Prior to the pandemic, I found out that I’m pregnant. I went through it with the quarantine and lockdowns and controversies about vaccines. It was a very trying time but also a very exciting one. Now she’s here and I can’t help but feel so blessed whenever I look at her face and hug her. It’s the happiest I’ve been in a while. 

Now, before I bore you to death and you use my favorite quote against me, let me close by saying this: I hope that through my ice breaker, you learned something substantial today. I hope that despite everything dire that is happening right now, you see the positives in the negatives. And you realize that This Too Shall Pass.

Thank you so much!

This is the second time this year that I delivered an Icebreaker speech for Toastmasters. The first was with my previous company, which unfortunately underwent a dissolution. So I was really glad when I saw that ING Manila has its own Toastmasters club.

I contemplated on preparing a different speech but decided to go with this again in the end. It scared me because it made me vulnerable in a sea of strangers. But at the same time, I feel this push to tell this story in the hope that it’ll give hope.

At Both Ends

Hey! Let me know if I can call you.”

I checked patiently for a reply.

There was none.

Maybe he’s asleep.. or maybe…

The familiar call notification on Messenger played.

It was him.

On video.

“Hey! What’s up?”

“I heard about what happened. How are you now?”

“Yeah… we’re getting old…”

I can’t remember the last time we talked. It could have been months. It could have been a year. I’m not sure, but what I’m sure of is it’s been a while given that I can’t exactly remember.

You told me about the ‘incident’ as if it was an every day matter. Like it’s a given, given where we are now. It could have been an awkward conversation but we quickly fell into our old pattern. You with your snide, witty remarks, me with my self-depreciation humor and the tendency to wrinkle my nose while laughing.

We talked about the present and yet it felt like we were back in that small creek beside our classroom. The one we usually go to after class, right before we go our separate ways for dinner and bed time. We talked about our current struggles. And even though we’re no longer as updated as before, it felt like we were just talking about them on the roof deck of your condo, in our drunken state, while the chilly air of the wee hours touch our faces.

Things are very different now, I know, but it never felt like it during those 24 minutes of digital conversation.

That’s what I love most about our friendship. No frills, no dramas, no reading between the lines. No passive aggressiveness, no guilt trips, no secret resentments.

Most especially, we have our pause. That even though we don’t talk as much as we’d like to, we just pick up from where we left off last time. As if nothing changed even though it’s very apparent from the the aged, weathered versions of ourselves we see on our screens.

I would like to talk more but our rant fest about how shitty life is at the moment both made us at a loss for words.

“Hey, I have to go. It’s midnight here and I really need to rest.”

“Yes, I have to prep for lunch, too. The little one’s calling.”

We both said our goodbyes and I love yous, smiling at each other, miles and time zones apart. I don’t know when we’ll talk again. It might take weeks, months, or even a year. But I’m not quite bothered.

We both know that the phone rings at both ends.

It doesn’t really matter who makes the first call. The other side will always pick up.

Friday 13th

It’s been a very busy work week — me catching up on my new role with an ongoing transition, and the husband caught up in their upcoming weekend release activities. Despite this, we were able to squeeze in some family time to mini-celebrate this important date – our Friday 13th.

People who know us must be tired of hearing how special this day is for us. Heck, I started this day thinking that this date might be starting to lose its meaning as we grow older and be occupied with more adult-y things. Until I got a message from a friend: Randomly remembered you. Happy Friday 13th.

And it instantly reminded me to keep holding on to our little things — the little things that are ours and ours alone. That no matter how old we get or how adult-y things become, we don’t forget to be silly and be giddy and believe in seemingly illogical things like fate and luck.

I’m happy that we get to celebrate this date now with our Bellabot. She was almost born on a Friday 13th, did you know? But the rulers of the fate must have decided that enough is enough and so they willed all of their powers to let Bellabot out in this world a day before.

Forgive me, my imagination goes wild when I’m happy.