Skeletons in My Closet

I am currently enrolled in a positive living class. It’s basically a class about how to be positive in a negative world. So far it has been quite enlightening, especially for this cynical, pessimistic blogger.

Each week in this class, we focus on a different quality that will enable us to see ourselves and the world around us in a more positive light. This week we are focusing on character strengths. For our assignment, we are supposed to pick one of our top five character strengths (which were determined by one of those annoying online surveys where you decide if different statements describe you a lot, a medium amount, or not at all) and focus on that strength for a week in an effort to improve it. The “character strength” I chose was authenticity.

To be completely honest, I was a bit surprised to find that authenticity was one of my strengths. I have been told that I am a very “real” person, but what does that even mean? Isn’t everybody a real person? Or are some of you people out there a figment of my imagination??!

I guess, in all reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I try to be real, but the truth is that the person people see is not quite the person I actually am. I hide behind a facade of boredom and apathy toward life, but in reality I am quite strange and quirky, and I actually care a lot about people if they give me the chance to do so. BUT I have been hurt enough that I feel the need to hide a lot of my personality. It’s kind of sad, but for now, that is the way things are.

There is also that irrational but all-too-convincing fear that, if people actually got to know me, they wouldn’t be able to look past the skeletons in my closet–you know, flaws, shortcomings, past mistakes… the whole kit and/or caboodle! So yes, I hide.

Mayhaps it would be best for me to keep everything inside for now and just pull a Liz Lemon, allowing my inner demons to come pouring out of me while facing imminent death.

Or… maybe I should just start being more “real” now.

In my efforts to be more authentic, I might not be able to break down 10+ years of defenses I have built around myself, but I can take small steps to uncover those aspects of my life that I have kept hidden for so long. Therefore, I have decided to make a list of some confessions and post them here for the general public to see. In doing so, I hope to authenticate myself even just a little bit.

This, my friend, is a list of my deepest, darkest secrets.

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Sorry, I’m really nervous. But I have to get these things off my chest. Oh, forget it. Here we go.

I watched a whole season of Desperate Housewives on Netflix!!!!

I once went to a Twilight midnight showing. It was disturbing.

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I think clothes are the worst! If it were my choice I would never wear them!!!!!!

I’ve seen the Katy Perry documentary! Twice!!!!

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I have over 45 Nelly Furtado songs on my iTunes!!!!

I have a man crush on Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers!!!!!

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A beer commercial once made me cry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I used to write Harry Potter fan fiction!!!!

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In middle school I wrote a song about having a crush on Elizabeth Smart!!!!!

I listened to the new Miley Cyrus CD and didn’t completely hate it!!!!!

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OK, so those weren’t really my deepest, darkest secrets. Did you really expect them to be? Do you honestly think I’m going to reveal all my secrets through a blog post? That would be a bit too much.

It would probably be better if I just took small steps in order to be more “real.” The real me isn’t as strong or positive as I have made myself out to be in this blog. I have weaknesses. Sometimes I have days where I feel downright hopeless. I even have a bit of an…edgy side. Of course, that last part shouldn’t come as a surprise. Everybody has a dark side, as Kelly Clarkson once sang.

So I want this blog to be less fake and more… me. No more disgustingly cheesy posts about the more serious sides of life. Those posts served a purpose during a difficult time, but I feel much stronger now and more confident about who I really am! The real me is sarcastic, cynical, and yes, even a little imperfect.

You might have even noticed that I made a slight change to the title of my blog… again. No longer is it called Musings of a Silent Guy. I don’t want to restrict myself to being silent all the time. What if one day I wake up and decide to be the life of the party? Granted, I hate large crowds of people with a fiery intensity hotter than a thousand blazing suns, so the likelihood of me becoming the life of the party is slim to none, but that’s for me to decide!!!! Instead, it’s going to be called Musings of a Sarcastic Guy. I’d rather be known as sarcastic than silent.

So here’s to the start of a more honest, authentic blog: a glimpse into the real me. That means opinions both popular and unpopular. And if I ever talk about a serious issue, you’d better believe that blog’s going to be chalk-full of sarcasm. Because I’m a sarcastic guy. Deal with it.

And if this works out well, maybe I can even start being more authentic in person, rather than just through the internet. But this will do for now.

Watch out, world. The craziness inside is about to be unleashed!!!! You have been warned.

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Europe–Chapter 3: A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

OK, maybe only the best of times.

For this chapter of my Europe-themed blog posts, I will be focusing on the two most famous cities that I visited during my trip: London and Paris. Mostly London, because I spent three weeks in London and just two days in Paris.

I considered writing multiple blog posts about London and a completely separate post about Paris, but with school starting and whatnot I realized that, if I were to keep blogging at that rate, I would still be blogging about Europe in February of 2017! I cannot allow myself to dwell so much in the past, and if I think too much about my study abroad, I fear I will fall to the ground and start twitching out of utter despair because of how much I miss it. Or maybe I’m just being a tad bit over-dramatic. As I tend to be.

So here goes. I will avoid focusing so much on the sights that I saw while in London and Paris. Instead I will focus on what made my trip to those cities unique. In doing so I hope to emphasize the fact that everyone can have a truly unique and wonderful experience while traveling. No two experiences are the same!

So here are some of my favorite memories from London and Paris:

4th of July, London Style

We brought in the wonderful all-American holiday in a bit of a non-traditional way. Even though we ended up traveling to London on the 4th of July (kind of ironic, if you think about it), we still managed to find time to gather as a group and celebrate being American. A-MUR-ica! We played games, ate marshmallows and hot dogs, and just enjoyed each other’s company. And though I got along quite well with the others before getting to London, I feel that it was in London that close friendships began to form between me and my fellow study abroad students. I remember after the 4th of July party, sitting outside of the apartment complex like unto a HOOLIGAN and talking to some of my new friends until the late hours of the night! It was one of many late-night conversations.

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The London Temple

We had the opportunity one day to visit the London Temple. It was nice going into the temple and also exploring the temple grounds. We got some nice pictures that showed off just how attractive we all are!

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Platform 9 and 3/4

A trip to London would of course not be complete without a journey to Platform 9 and 3/4! I went with three other people in my group, and since there were four of us we each got to represent a different Hogwarts house! The decision was unanimous for me to represent Slytherin, since apparently I’m the most evil one in the group… even though I have told everyone on many occasions that I am not as evil as I make myself out to be! Though I have to admit, this picture of me looking suspicious as my green scarf billows in the wind–well, let’s just say, it’s a good representation of my personality. Maybe I really am evil. Oh well!

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The Old Hide-and-Scare Tactic

One night some of us decided to do a ghost tour of London. For obvious reasons, many of us were put slightly on edge after hearing about the different supernatural phenomena that supposedly take place around London, including the statue in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral that, as legend tells it, dismounts its plinth every August 1st at midnight, runs around in a circle, and then resumes its position as a statue. Creepy! As we were heading back to the tube station that night, two of the girls in my group were lagging behind a bit, so the other three of us decided that it would be funny if we hid from the rest of our party so we could scare them. We found the perfect hiding spot that allowed us to remain in hiding while we could still see the two girls coming. As they walked by, the three of us yelled and ran out from our hiding spots. The two girls screamed bloody murder, and I’m pretty sure they each almost had a heart attack. Not surprisingly, they did not speak to us for the rest of the night as an effort to punish us.

Sunset in Hyde Park

At a loss for what to do one evening, Jacob (the only other boy in the group) and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Hyde Park. While we were there, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, a sunset that rivaled even the desert sunsets of Arizona and the tropical sunsets of the Philippines. As a sucker for nice sunsets, I was pleasantly surprised.

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The London Night Tour

Three of my classmates and I took a tour of London by night on a double-decker tour bus. We basically saw all the same things we had seen by daylight, but it was a different experience seeing everything at night. Though it was difficult getting pictures as we sped through the streets of London, I managed to get this rare shot of the London Eye and Big Ben in the same line of vision.

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The London Theatre

While in London I had the opportunity to see not one, not two, but three musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Once. We also got to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

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The Eiffel Tower

One weekend some of us took a side-trip to Paris. It was a scandal-and-a-half because I was the only boy there! Without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip was going to the Eiffel Tower. We not only climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower but also took the time to watch the Tower light up at night. Nothing can really describe the surreal feeling that overcame me as I took a picture of the Eiffel Tower’s shadow while standing in the tower itself. And while we sat at a nearby fountain and watched the Tower light up, we experienced a few unexpected slips and splashes as we navigated the slippery grounds and tried avoiding the jets of water that burst out at random intervals.

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Chill-axing by the Louvre

I cannot forget, however, the time we took earlier in the day to rest just outside the Louvre. We found some lounge chairs by a fountain (there seems to be a certain fountain theme in association with Paris, doesn’t there?) and relaxed for a little bit before carrying on with our day. To describe my Paris trip as hectic would be quite an understatement, so it was nice to take some time to rest.

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Inside Notre Dame

There were two main landmarks that I wanted to see while in Paris: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. I saw about 763 cathedrals, minsters, etc. while I was in Europe, but the Notre Dame Cathedral was probably my favorite of all–if not partially because it was the most famous one I saw! And I was glad to not see any hunchbacks or gypsies while I was there. No offense to all my readers who are hunchbacks or gypsies, I’m just not a fan of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Sorry.

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Exploring the Streets of London

During my last Saturday in London, I found myself alone as half of my group had gone to Stratford (I didn’t go because I was weary of both traveling and spending money), others wanted to go shopping (which is basically my version of hell, so no thanks), and the rest were going to spend some time packing (I repeat: my version of hell, no thanks). So I took some time to explore the streets of London on my own. I started by taking the Underground to Elephant & Castle, just to see what I could find in such a strangely named place. I was slightly disappointed that I found neither elephants nor castles, but the day was not a waste: I ended up wandering until I got to the Thames, then I saw a number of interesting characters and sights on the South Bank. I saw graffiti art that inspired me to action as well as a man dressed as a cat–basically, things you don’t see every day! It ended up being one of my favorite days in London because I got a deeper look into just how much character the city has.  It was at this time that I realized how much I had grown to love London and how at-home I felt there.

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An (Almost) All-Nighter in London

As our time in London came to an end, we all experienced mixed feelings. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I for one was excited to be visiting new places (mainly Scotland) but also sad to be leaving London, which had really become like home for me. So we decided to make the most of our last night in London by enjoying each other’s presence. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s only going to get cheesier, so you might as well get used to it. We gathered in one of the girls’ flats and undoubtedly pigged out on food (probably chocolate, as was tradition) before playing a game of truth or dare, which actually just turned out to be a game of truth: basically, it was an excuse to get to know each other on a deeper level than we already had. We then each took turns saying what we liked about everyone else in the group. By the time we were done with these heartfelt shenanigans, it was somewhere around two in the morning, so Jacob and I went back to our flat. This would have probably been an ideal time to sleep, but instead Jacob and I spent almost three more hours talking. By the time we finally called it a night, it was almost 5:00 A.M. And we had to wake up early to catch a train to York. Needless to say, we were exhausted over the next few days. But it was worth it!

Europe–Chapter 2: A Whale of a Time

Today I will be writing about Wales, the second leg of my unforgettable six-week adventure in Europe.

We left Dublin early in the morning in order to catch the ferry that would take us to Wales. I mentioned to one of the girls in my group that at some point I would have to get on top of the ferry in order to take some pictures of Wales. She gave me a confused look and asked, “Do you honestly think we’re going to see whales?!” I explained to her that I was referring to the place, not the sea animal. Eventually, after becoming better friends with her, I made fun of her endlessly for the misunderstanding. But it was an honest mistake. English can be quite confusing!

I must admit that I wasn’t all that excited to see whales… I mean Wales. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t like I was dreading it or anything. But I had never heard much of anything about Wales, so I wasn’t expecting much from it.

Little did I know that Wales would end up being one of my favorite locations of the trip! It may have lacked the grandeur of London or the majestic views of Scotland, but the simple beauty of Wales was something that, in my opinion, could not be matched by any of the other places we visited.

In fact, Wales turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise! Here are just some of the “surprises” that turned Wales into an unexpected gem:

The longest place-name in the world: Llanfair­pwllgwyn­gyllgo­gerychwyrn­drobwll­llanty­silio­gogogoch

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My favorite castle: Conwy Castle

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Llandudno: The seaside town with the awesome views… a place where everyone was so delightfully friendly… and the location of my future home!

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The evil Alice statue that would forever distort my vision of Alice in Wonderland.

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Snowdonia!

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Tintern Abbey

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St. Fagans: the traditional Welsh village.

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23 Goals While I’m 23

I’m happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.  It’s miserable and magical…

Those are the feelings that, according to Taylor Swift, come with “feeling 22.”

And I must say, I’d have to agree.  That is exactly how 22 felt.

But as of today, I am done feeling 22.

So what does that mean?  Well… nothing, really.  Honestly, how different can 23 be from 22?  On the other hand, a new year marks new beginnings, and since I “forgot” to make new year’s resolutions at the start of 2013, I thought I’d take this opportunity to come up with 23 goals I have while I’m 23.

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  1. Tell people what I want, and do what I can to get it!  I’m tired of being that passive guy who never lets his opinion be heard because he doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.  Over the years I have had a difficult time getting people to read my mind, so it’s about time I’m more forthright with people in expressing my opinions.  If I don’t like the way you’re treating me, then I’m going to tell you.  This may cause some people to be offended, but as a wise man once said: “Are you offended?  I don’t care.”  I’m not going to let people walk all over me anymore.  And that brings me to my second goal.
  2.  Be more direct.  I tend to beat around the bush like no other when I’m trying to express something that might qualify as being even slightly uncomfortable.  But there was one glorious night a couple of years ago when I was able to be direct and to-the-point, and it was awesome.  I would like to be able to do that all the time from now on.images
  3. Enjoy my alone time.  This year, I want to reacquaint with an old friend.  He’s someone I’ve known my whole life, and when he’s at his best, he’s pretty cool.  His name?  Matthew Gilliland.  When I was little, I loved to be alone.  I could entertain myself for hours and hours using just my imagination.  In recent years, however, I have found it more difficult to get along with myself.  But since nobody likes you when you’re 23, I need to learn to like myself better in preparation for turning 24, when people will start liking me again.  (I’m aware that this last paragraph must sound really depressing, but it’s all in good fun, I promise.)
  4. Keep up with my blog more.  I have already kind of started this one.  I think I must have already written more blogs in the first two months of this year than I did all last year combined.  And if I had planned things a little bit better, this could have easily been my 23rd post, which would have brought things together quite nicely.  Anyway, I hope to continue my consistent blogging as the year continues, especially considering major upcoming events like my Europe study abroad and my wedding.  OK, I’m not really planning on getting married.  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
  5.  Catch up with old friends.  I want to be better at keeping in contact with my friends, especially my friends from home as well as those from my mission… even if it is just through Facebook.  
  6. Go to Europe.  Even if something freaky happens and I end up not continuing with the study abroad program, I am determined to go to Europe this year!  Even if it means losing a ton of money, which makes me anxious just thinking about it.
  7. Simpsons_couch-1-Spend quality time with my family.  Ugh, I wish there was a less cheesy way to say that.  Cue the Full House music, please.  I’m in somewhat of a difficult position to do this right now, seeing as I’m living in Utah and my whole family is currently in Arizona, but I will definitely go back as much as circumstances allow… even if that’s just a couple weeks in the summer and then the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays.  I see my family as one of my most reliable support groups, and I will do anything to maintain that… even if we are actually not so much like the Tanners from Full House but more like the Simpsons: violent and dysfunctional.
  8. Give myself to the Lord.  This is kind of broad, but honestly this is as specific as I feel I can get at the moment.  I have tried most of my life to just do things my own way, but after almost 23 years of doing it, I must say that I understand what Taylor Swift means when she says “This is exhausting.”  It’s time to quit trying to drive myself down the highway of life and let Jesus take the wheel!
  9. Keep my Taylor Swift blog references to a minimum.  As of this post, I have decided that I have quoted/mentioned Taylor Swift far too often in my blog.  It has to stop.  I think I need serious help… an intervention, maybe.
  10. Serve the crap out of everyone.  Not literally, of course… that would be awkward and gross.  But all stupid jokes aside, I really do want to serve more.  Maybe then I can stop focusing so much on my own problems.
  11. Exercise… all year this time.  It seems like I’m always good at exercising during the summertime.  But then the winter comes along and my exercising comes to an end.  But since I will be living much closer to my school’s free gym next year, maybe I can actually motivate myself to exercise during all four seasons while I’m 23.
  12. Write in my journal at least once a week.  Whether my future kids like it or not, they will be able to read a detailed account of what their dad was like at the age of 23.
  13. Use my disappointments to my advantage.  I will not let myself be affected by the disappointments in life.  Instead, I will turn those disappointments into opportunities.  For example, in the not-too-unlikely scenario that I get a C in one of my classes this semester, I will celebrate my first-ever C by having a C-party.  Included will be C-shaped cake and foods that start with a C (chicken, carrots).  And then I will hang a banner that reads: “C’s get degrees!”  Actually, that sounds like too much effort… effort that would probably be better used trying to make sure I don’t get a C in that class.  But you get the idea.
  14. 100_5710Work, work, work.  No two-month breaks from work this year.  If I want to survive the financial toll this study abroad trip is going to take on me, I need to work as much as I can (and maybe even take a second job).  Also I need to do an internship or two before I graduate if I want to impress prospective future employers.  If I were to adopt a motto for this year, it would be this: work hard and play hard.
  15. Make a bucket list.  This may sound morbid, but for a while I’ve been wanting to make a list of things to do before I die.  After all, I’m not getting any younger!  Literally… I actually just recently aged a whole year.
  16. Maintain/improve my Tagalog.  Once upon a time, I lived in the Philippines and spoke Tagalog every day.  Now that I live in America, I rarely speak Tagalog more than once a week.  I am finding that my Tagalog skills are suffering as a result.  So I am going to do everything I can do to use my beloved second language, including speaking, writing, and praying in Tagalog.  I also want to finish reading my Tagalog Book of Mormon.    Ayaw kong makalimutan kasi ang aking pangalawang linguwahe.
  17. Go on another camping trip.  My twelve-year-old self would have literally thrown up at such a suggestion, but I actually like camping now as long as it doesn’t last for more than a night or two.  And as long as it’s nice outside.IMG_0261
  18. Quit hiding my true self from others.  I once had a companion point out that I was “good at hiding.”  He was not talking about physically hiding, and I think anyone who has played hide and seek with me could attest to that.  What he meant is that I put up a front so convincing that it is difficult for other people to see the real me.  Well, I’m tired of doing that.  I need to start being who I am and not caring how other people react.   If other people don’t like it, they can leave me alone.   I’m done hiding.  After all, I’m getting a bit too old to play hide and seek.  Actually, if I’m being honest with myself, I’d kill for a game of hide and seek right now…
  19. Get back into photography.  As I touched on briefly in my last post, I finally have a camera again, which gives me the perfect chance to take some legit pictures… especially when I go to Europe!
  20. Go on a road trip with friends.  I fully expect to go on at least one road trip with my family this year because we have already planned one (we’re going to Disneyland!!!  No, seriously.)  But there is just something about taking road trips with friends.  So I feel like I need to go on at least one this year.  Even if it means that one of those friends will inevitably end up married in the near future.  Confused?  Stay tuned for my not-too-distant-future post about how everyone around me tends to get married.
  21. Stress management.  I want to be more optimistic this year.  I want to allow just a small part of the day to let myself be stressed, then spend the rest of my time thinking positive thoughts.  I want to not worry so much and allow myself to be happy.  It won’t be easy, but since I would like to actually live another 23 years, I think it will be worth it to better handle the everyday stresses of life.
  22. Make mistakes.  This should be easy!  So maybe I should say that I want to become more comfortable making mistakes.  After all, it is trohugh our mstiakes taht we lraen, rghit?
  23. Move on.  Last but not least, it is the simplest goal to say and yet the hardest to do.  I feel like I’m still hung up a lot on the past, but I will work this year to move past all that.

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And that’s it.  I’m glad I did this, even if it is ridiculously long.  I feel really hopeful about my 23rd year now.  This is going to be the year of Matthew!