Aaaaand we’re back!
Happy New Year dear friends, readers and fellow literary lovers, from my bookish heart to yours. I know this post is long overdue but the holiday season, along with other end-of-the year matters got the best of me and I haven’t been able to update the blog (and you all!) with what’s been cookin’ and brewin’ at Libromance.
Before diving into a fresh pile of books this new year, I wanted to share a few highlights from the past year. 2017 was my second year of running the blog, and I’ve been able to accomplish so many things — some planned, some unexpected — in a myriad of surprising ways.
In the past year, I was able to publish 44 book reviews which is less than what I initially intended. I had a few consistent streaks, where I was constantly pumping out post after post, keeping with my weekly and monthly editorial. And there were also days when life in the real world got the best of me, that I wasn’t able to sit down and write as much as I wanted to. Earlier last year, I published a list of things I wanted to accomplish called 2017 #ReadingResolutions. I had lofty goals, of which I was only able to accomplish half. In spite of “falling behind,” I was amazed to be given opportunities to publish my book reviews Libromance-style in different places, ones in which I’ve been really lucky to be a part of (Hella Pinay and New Life Quarterly).
With each book review, with each feature, with each reading that leaves my eyes moist with tears come a lot of lessons. These lessons penetrated my own consciousness, and I am grateful for all of these books coupled by experiences to impart the kind of wisdom I need. Here are five things I learned in 2017:
The past year was a year of reckoning of all sorts for me—as a book blogger, as an activist, as someone trying to make their way in the world, as a student of life. In addition to blogging and pursuing other literary pursuits, I have a 9-5 job that pays the bills, I’m active in the local Filipino community, along with endlessly trying to take care of myself and those I love. With deadlines and commitments always ’round the corner, I’m always on the go go go mode, never stopping for a moment. To catch my breath, to savor what’s in front of me. And when things don’t go as planned, I’m usually the hardest on myself. This year has taught me to be gentle with myself in different ways, specially during stressful moments and in times of crisis. What I’ve discovered is that this gentleness, this kindness in the midst of the worst situations is one of the things I need to help me get back up. It works wonders. Read: the Libromance reviews of The Revolution Starts at Home, Oscar López Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance
When 2017 started, I had major plans on different aspects: for the blog, for my career, for my personal life. As much as I wanted to keep up with my editorial, schedule and (overly rigid) planner, things happened. Nothing is ever really between the lines, and I’ve learned to make room for mistakes and things that could happen. For the first half of the year, my planner was filled with things I needed to do and places to be at. Brought up as an overachiever (I’ll save the story for another post), I was always trying to do 5 million things at one time. While that made me feel productive and accomplished, I wasn’t necessarily happy. For every box I checked off, there was a tiny part of me that wondered whether I wasn’t missing out on something else. I got tired, burnt out. I crashed. It wasn’t until then that I started to make more room for unplanned things, away from the capitalistic cycle of doing and producing. And sure enough, opportunities started coming my way — the ones that were in line with my vision. Read: the Libromance review of Economics as if People Mattered, Autumn: A Novel
When I finally came to a point of deep understanding, that I couldn’t function the way I’ve been doing for the past years, it was another reckoning. I needed to stop and slow down for the sake of my mental and emotional health. The second half of 2017 was this period, where I started to take my health more seriously. Turns out, it wasn’t about adding more stuff to do (as in, I needed to go to the gym more, I needed to see my therapist more, I needed to engage in other activities that would spur mental and emotional health). It was actually about doing less. I purposely made my planner clear, only putting in things that were necessary, things that I answered with an enthusiastic Yes! to. The results were remarkable. My hair wasn’t falling out as much anymore, and my relationships with my partner, family and friends got so much better. Everything became clearer. As soon as I paid more attention to my overall health, I felt lighter, better. Read: the Libromance reviews of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Her Body and Other Parties
I’ve never been an “outdoorsy” person but this year changed this. Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve discovered that I felt the most ease, most at peace when I’m in fields or landscapes of natural beauty. From the ocean to the desert to rain forests, I am happiest when I’m surrounded by nature. 2017 was the year I finally hiked more than once! I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who love the outdoors as much as I do, who are as enthralled by the beauty of the natural world as I am. Read: the Libromance reviews of The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, The Botany of Desire, Poems of a Half-Finished Heaven
What I also found out about myself last year is how restless I am. After my trip to the Philippines, I came back wanting to get away again. In my mind, I needed to go to another place to get over my homesickness. I ended up flying to Mexico City a little over a month later. I made more trips after that one, each one satiating a need to get away even for just a few moments. I come back home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. One trip though felt like an ultimate reset, which I needed at the time to ground me. But as much as I love to travel much like everyone else, it can get expensive. I don’t really make enough money to be traveling all the time, although I try to make do with what I have. And then I realized that I really didn’t need to buy a plane ticket or book a hotel or take some time off work to travel — all I needed was a good book to take me to places. I looked at the piles of titles at home and knew that all I needed was to sit down and let my imagination take over. The traveling I get from reading not only encompasses physical and geographical landscapes, but emotional, spiritual and intellectual ones. Read:the Libromance reviews of 4 3 2 1: A Novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, Do Not Say We Have Nothing
With these in mind, I’m excited for another year of reading and learning. I’m about to finish Anaïs Nin’s first diary which is giving me all sorts of insight and inspiration. I’m also getting ready for more projects this year, of which I’ll share in a separate post. I hope you’ll continue to join me for another year of Libromance love!
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.