Looking back, the things I did during playtime and countless afternoons were activities I eventually made careers out of.
If you’re hitting some on-the-job roadblocks and feel like it’s time to branch out, perhaps all you have to do is look back on those summers you spent as a child. What appealed to you the most? What made you look forward to those days without school? Or what subject in school was your ultimate favorite throughout your academic life? You’ll be surprised to put two and two together and come up with a promising and potentially perfect career mix.
Here’s my own trip down memory lane, plus some realizations along the way.
Makeup and Playing Dress-up
When I was little, maybe around 3, my mom gave me a small green shoebox filled with old lipsticks and other makeup she no longer used. Around that time, I’d also successfully bitten my aunt’s strawberry Chapstick and discovered that how it smelled and lingered on one’s lips wasn’t necessarily how it tasted once you’ve chewed a chunk of it.
Eventually, at 7 or 8, when my parents were out working, I spent afternoons rummaging through my mom’s closet trying out her Splash Cucumber astringent and Mary Quant mascara. I also wore her high heels and oftentimes wrapped a blanket around me pretending to be a Miss Universe contestant. (My cousin and I loved doing this. That year, Miss Thailand won, and we both wanted to be her. So in our version of the pageant, the commentator would say, “And the winners are, Miss Thailand 1 and Miss Thailand 2!”)
Working in magazines was not unlike all of that. I got to wear a lot of makeup—and also put it on other people—and play dress-up, and got paid for it(!).Who would’ve thought?
Cooking and Baking
In the 80s, my aunt had a flourishing baking business wherein she made beautiful birthday cakes and formed them into famous cartoon characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all those cool caricatures from that time. She was also known for her araro [cornstarch cookies] and Sans Rival, and at some point, she sold egg pan de sal from her home bakery.
I used to spend plenty of summers and weekends in her shop. In retrospect, I’m surprised at how generous she was that she just let me tinker about. I had free reign on the sheet pans, candy thermometer, and powdered sugar, and I even made my own frosting using Anchor Butter, like there was an unending supply of it. I also learned early on the difference between butter and shortening, a.k.a., vegetable lard (the latter is gross).
Fast-forward 20+ years and I’m wielding my own electric mixer, sifting flour, and making my own sweet treats in the kitchen—going through sticks and sticks of good butter. It’s a delightfully decadent example of history repeating itself.
Reading and Writing
Growing up, I was only allowed to watch TV on Thursdays—that was when Okey Ka Fairy Ko aired—and on weekends. So I spent many quiet nights reading and going through children’s encyclopedias and fairy tale books to my heart’s content (my dad also owned bookstores back then).
With all that reading came writing. My earliest memory of being ‘published’ was in second grade, when I wrote a poem(?) for Mother’s Day that came out in the school paper. I still vividly remember because that was the only time I didn’t spend my 10-peso allowance for a day (or two) so I could buy my mom this red-orange lipstick from the store beside my school.
As the years went by, writing and reading have been mainstays in my chosen career path. When I got a copy editing job at a famous fashion retailer in New York, I was stoked: What could be better than reading all day while getting to look at beautiful clothes in the process? When I had that job, I also did my writing projects at night. To me that was the perfect work balance doing both the things I loved to do.
These days, I still try to maintain that equilibrium of doing the things I enjoy and, even if it’s sometimes literally just pennies, earn an income in the process. Like my dad said (and that I always repeat), “Do something you love to do and the money will follow.”
Now, I’ve never really fancied myself a drawer. I’ve carried what I call ‘drawing guilt’ ever since that summer when I was about 8 and my mother got me a portrait sketching book. I got impatient following the steps, so I traced the faces. When my parents got home that day, my mother kept on raving about how talented I was and how marvelous my drawings were. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I cheated.
So all my life, I simply assumed that ‘art’ wasn’t really my thing or calling. After all, I’d worked with so many amazingly talented artists and art directors and there was no way my stick drawings could have been up to par with what they produced.
When I got into makeup artistry, I did wonder why I was able to shade people’s faces, but was still ultimately clueless when it came to sketching and drawing. I figured, I probably just had to take up an art class to learn technical skills.
It wasn’t until years after that I would find out from a ‘real’ artist that tracing was actually a start, and that it was perfectly okay! So instead of feeling guilty about tracing those portraits, I could’ve persisted and become really good at drawing. Oh well.
My mother recently cleared her storage room and unearthed some ‘paintings’ (I really am uncomfortable with the whole artsy-fartsy thing in relation to myself) I did when my little brother was younger and had this kid easel set up in the living room. When I saw them, I was surprised: They actually looked better than what I remembered. So maybe I could pick up ‘drawing’ and ‘painting’ as sensible hobbies after all, without being embarrassed or feeling pretentious, and maybe someday, no longer underestimate my art skills.
I’m not saying I’m going to ditch everything and live in the woods to take up painting full-time, or anything extreme like that. What I do want to do is get to know other tools—I am now absolutely curious about Adobe Illustrator—that could further hone any skill I may (or may not) have. If I now draw like a 5-year-old, maybe 10 years from now I’ll start drawing like a 20-year-old, and so forth.
My ‘art’ skills may never catch up to my real age, but I’m only happy to explore.
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