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.

An Evil Prince and a Pixie

Theirs is a love story that wasn’t meant to be.

He is an evil prince who’s cursed to roam the Earth for eternity, perpetually unsatisfied with any type of happiness that love brings. She is a pixie, a minuscule of his size; tasked to bring about happiness to every soul while she absorbs all of their sadness and despair.

Until something or someone comes along… What that something is or who that someone is, no one knows. It’s something that wasn’t written anywhere or prophesied by anyone.

One afternoon, the evil prince went for a walk. Upon reaching the forest, it suddenly rained. He just stood there, getting drenched. It suddenly occurred to him that he gets kinder when it rains. He can’t explain why, it’s just the way it is.

Now it so happened that the pixie was nearby. She saw the evil prince in the middle of the forest just standing there, getting drenched. She thought about how lonely the evil prince looked. She thought about how one creature could endure such sadness and discontent. For she can feel what others feel. Full with curiosity, she carefully approached the evil prince ready to sprinkle her pixie dust of happiness.

“Don’t even think about it!”, the evil prince snapped.

The pixie let out a squeal. She didn’t know that she’ll be visible to the naked eye.

“I know what you are. It will not work.”, the evil prince continued.

“How can you see me? How do you know me? Who are you?!”, the pixie don’t know where to begin.

The evil prince looked at the tiny being, amused. It looked like it’s trying to talk but all he can hear are soft tinkling sounds. It reminded him of tiny little bells hanging by the window, blown by the wind.

The pixie repeated her questions for the evil prince appears to be frozen, until a tiny smile formed at the corner of his lips. Is that a look of amusement she sees? The evil prince was now looking at her closely, squinting his sharp, black eyes, still smiling.

“Are you trying to talk to me?”, he asked. “I can’t understand you if you are…”, he continued.

The pixie stopped talking. This is the first time she’s hearing that she cannot be understood by a human. But then again, this is also the first time that a human has spotted her and know what she is.

“My mother told me stories about your kind. How you sprinkle happiness into the world and just absorb all of the sadness. But she didn’t tell me that I can see you. From her stories, I always assumed that you are… well.. invisible,” the evil prince told her.

The pixie was afloat in the air, wings flapping hurriedly. Her wide blinking eyes showed him that she can understand every word he’s saying.

“It’s quite unfair, isn’t it? You can understand me but I can’t understand you. You have the ability to absorb loneliness, except for mine. For I have no capacity for happiness,” the evil prince said, looking sadder than normal. He reached out his hand. The pixie felt his soft fingers, his palms enveloping her wings and her whole body.

So this is how it feels like, being held by a human. I know that he’s full of sadness but why do I feel happiness?”, the pixie thought. She did not even bother to say it out loud, for fear that he might suddenly understand her. Smiling, she closed her eyes and just lay there in his warm, soft hands, feeling happiness for the first time in a long, long time. Those years and years of absorbing all of the sadness and despair in the world has made her nearly forget.

All of a sudden, she felt his grip tighten. She looked up at his sharp, black eyes still looking at her, but his smile is no more. She saw his jaw clenched as he tighten his grip once more. The pixie is now turning blue, she cannot breathe under his coarse, cruel hands. By the looks of him, he doesn’t plan to stop until she stops breathing.

“So this is how it feels like, being held by a human….”, this was the pixie’s last thought before she let go of her last breath. As she sighed, a chockful of pixie dust emanated from her and hit the evil prince straight in the face.

Surprised, the evil prince coughed and blinked. For a brief moment, he felt what he thought was happiness… but how can he be sure? He’s never felt happiness before…

He looked down at the pixie, her wide, blank eyes, staring into his. Her once luminescent skin is now an ugly shade of blue, and it appears to be crumbling, too. With a look of disgust, he flung the pixie out of his palm, and closed his eyes. He heard a small thud when her frail, dead body hit the ground. He opened his eyes and looked up at the sky.

It has stopped raining.