Quick shoot at the airport before my trip to Seoul yesterday afternoon. It’s 8 degrees here when we arrived at night, but of course I couldn’t wear my jacket yet in the sweltering heat of Manila, heh.
A lot of firsts come with this, like the first time to (finally!) visit a favorite city, first time to travel with the whole family including cousins, and my first time out of the country on Holy Week.
They say Lent comes in tandem with conversion—a change in attitudes, mindset, or principles. Sometimes, the change is temporary, like not eating meat or going on Facebook. Other times, the change is as profound as forming a new habit or subscribing to a different way of doing things.
"What is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words (let alone his name) weren’t easy to spell out for me as a seven-year old reading "The Little Prince." Of course, through the years we come to realize that the seemingly simple, innocent, unassuming stories of our childhood turn out to be filled with meaning. And on essence, Saint-Exupéry couldn’t have made more sense.
I’ve written about the five elements that make up everything around us: the essences of the physical world. At the launch of jewelry brand Pandora’s Essence Collection February 26, it was all about the elements that make up the essence of womanhood.
I love my job. I get to do the things I liked doing as a freelancer, but on a paycheck that allows me to spend on myself, my loved ones, and those who could use a little push, as a way to pay it forward.
It’s not just the material rewards though, or the opportunities for traveling and learning from successful industry leaders and inspiring innovators who care more about substance and less about shallow popularity contests. It’s not just about the flexible lifestyle it has afforded me, or the mentors and friends I’ve gotten to meet who helped reinstate values and virtues I seemed to have forgotten about. Sure, the benefits are awesome. But I love my job for what it represents.
Today is one of the most polarizing universal holidays. Love on a normal day is equal parts bewildering, captivating and frustrating as it is; on Valentine’s Day, whatever effects it has on a person is magnified a hundredfold—single or not, happily taken or secretly, miserably so.
I must admit that when I was younger (and thus more prone to angst), I wasn’t the biggest fan of February 14th. Sure, I was a hopeless romantic—still am, but it’s also why. I felt that Valentine’s Day tends to become a vehicle for lip service and phony, seasonal gestures of love, done more out of obligation and peer pressure rather than sincere intentions.
I don’t know about you, but I find social media consumption these days to be exhausting. Every five seconds, there’s an interesting new top 21 list (“21 Shapes You Can Make With Ketchup”). A new video of a child prodigy doing something we ordinary adults can’t do (“Watch This 3-Year-Old Dance Ballet While Playing Her Own Violin Accompaniment”). A new slideshow of tips you never thought would be useful until now (“How To Cook Fried Rice Without Rice”).
The dizzying pace with which we are served these small bites of information on a daily basis is no wonder the majority of us seem to be developing attention-deficit disorders. Can you imagine going into a café to meet your friends without your laptop to while away the time? Heaven forbid you have to sit at your dentist’s reception area withoutyour tablet to play with while waiting. Let’s not even talk about the time you had to endure a 45-minute car ride without 3G on your phone.
It’s been a while since my last Disney cover. Let’s kick things off with this. :)
"Frozen" is easily my favorite Disney movie. Sure, it is funny, and heartfelt, and is quite the antithesis to old-school Disney princess movies which quite frankly I am not a fan of. But more than these, the movie goes against the miseducation of girls everywhere that a man’s love is all they could wish for, all they should work for, all they would need to live happily ever after. It puts forth what true love means: not kissing someone asleep (or poisoned to death) because you were struck by their beauty, not dancing with someone all night and then deciding you want to marry them just because they were the prettiest glass-heeled girl in the ball, not pretending to be a prince when you’re really a street rat, or pretending to be human when you’re really a mermaid, just to be liked by the other person.
True love is searching for your own identity, seeing what you’re capable of and accepting yourself regardless of what others expect from you. It is persevering, knocking on someone’s door for as many times as it takes for them to open their heart. It is, as Olaf says, putting one’s needs before yours in sacrifice. It is the love of family, of real friends who appreciate you for all that you are. When you have this, there’s no need to be afraid, to care what others are going to say, to fear rejection or judgment. True love is what remains when even the charming prince turns out to be the villain.
Hug your true loves today! :)
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Each time the new year rolls in, many of us take to writing down a list of resolutions for things we want to change or improve on, as well as a wishlist of accomplishments and acquisitions. After all, we’re familiar with the law and powers of attraction: think positive, work hard, and we can attract whatever it is we want to happen in our lives.
The thing is, though, very rarely do we see all the things we’ve written get realized when we look back on our lists come December. Eat more fruits and veggies? Sure, until about two weeks in. Sleep eight hours a night? Okay, but you really need to catch up on all episodes BBC Sherlock and your neighbor’s Facebook life, so maybe four hours will do. Hit the gym for those six packs? Maybe… next time. So, why this discrepancy between the first and last weeks of the year? What makes us end up with disappointing lists when we start out so eager and motivated to become better versions of ourselves?
Some say 2013 was a rollercoaster. For me, it was an uphill ride. Here are my top 10 posts why.
10. Starting Over [link]
It is never a walk in the park to find out that someone you trusted and loved has been betraying you in every way imaginable for half of your three-year relationship. The pain, humiliation and anger are enough to reduce even the best of people into a shrivelling mess. But it’s the messy breakups that turn out to be our redemption. We are saved from people and situations that were never worth it from the start, and freed from having to be stuck with them for longer. It’s like spring cleaning: we throw away what’s broken and rotten, and when we get rid of trash, we make room for everything beautiful that we deserve. I will always consider this to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.
9. Meeting Troian [link]
"Days like these remind me that we must appreciate the small victories, the baby steps we are able to take towards becoming our better selves. And that, when things are meant to be, they will fall into place without us having to exhaust ourselves in struggle." This was the day I drove 85 kilometers to see Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams in the flesh. I got an interview and a photo with her, and I got this and a birthday greeting from him. As a fan of Suits, Pretty Little Liars, and these two, this post makes it to the highlights of 2013. What made it more special are my two best friends, Joanne (who made the videos possible) and Abi (who drove half the way, waited with me and took photos).
8. Graduation [link]
Written after my brother’s college graduation and my birthday celebration at a home for orphaned and street children. Coming back to Ateneo to attend the ceremony, and listening to the messages of Cardinal Tagle and the professors and Jesuits I admired, brought back memories of my late teens and early twenties and of the ideals and values I hoped to live by back then but had forgotten through the years. They say our lessons will repeat themselves until we learn them, and I realized just how true this was. Needless to say, it wasn’t just my brother who graduated that day.
7. Dive, Don’t Drown [link]
Few events are more life-changing for me than this. For one, I took swimming lessons thrice and failed. I can swim when the water is shallow enough that I can stand up in the pool… which is to say that I can’t. I’m not a beach person, either. I don’t even own a bikini. But my best friends Joanne (a wanderlust with a thirst for new experiences) and Magel (a certified diver and avid adventurer) have been urging me to try things I’ve never done before, and one crazy day, I found myself telling them I wanted to dive. I conquered my fears, found a new friend in an amazing person, and discovered new things about myself. I actually love the sea! I’m ready for that fourth attempt at swimming lessons.
6. Transition [link]
I have a pretty accurate read of a person from my first conversation with them, regardless of whether they’re being real or not. I turn out almost always right. Despite this, I found myself in toxic relationships left and right. I didn’t feel comfortable with myself, compromised my values for majority approval, traded secrets with and confided in people who I knew deep inside weren’t listening with genuine intentions. Afraid to break away and burn bridges, I chose to participate. When I wrote this post, I was seeing the consequences of this choice. I was able to see which were my friends for as long as they had something to gain, which ones left without hearing me out, which ones were afraid to rock the boat standing by me, and which friends truly cared how I was, asked what happened, reprimanded me for my mistakes and loved me anyway. They’re the ones I have with me now.
5. Skinny Love [link]
Thoughts at a Coffee Bean while Birdy’s version was playing. “All we really want, deep down inside, is to be loved… But are we really willing to make do with a love founded on co-dependency than none at all? A love of two halves desperate to have someone complete them at the cost of losing their individuality? Skinny, undernourished, lightweight love? When you’ve had one too many, you tire of chasing after a kind of love that is bound to last only so long as the novelty and euphoria of the feeling is there. You resolve that this time around, you will love yourself first… that perhaps, when you are whole and with so much to give, another whole will come by when you least expect it.”
4. Charmed [link]
Reflections on being twenty-something, and wearing a charm bracelet for the first time. “The cross with heart to be reminded of the One who makes all things possible and beautiful. The flower, as a reminder to bloom where I am planted, and my birthstone aquamarine (March) as a reminder that we are born for a purpose, and it is up to us to seek and fulfill it… Two turquoise beads to represent sea and sky, because adventure is out there! The white hearts to represent pure love—what I believe in and look forward to finding, feeling and keeping.”
3. Wildcard [link]
Baseball caps were all the rage this year, so the sport became a springboard for this post. “In many other sports and competitions, it essentially means the same thing: a second ‘in,’ a chance to redeem oneself despite failing to make it under normal circumstances. Many times in life too, we only either win or lose. And when we lose, there’s no going back. But every now and then, wildcard opportunities present themselves and offer a way back in… This time, we know so much better… We are more than ready. This is why many wildcards end up as winners.”
2. Autumn [link]
I have a fascination for the five elements and the four seasons. This post is a conclusion to the parallels I made between the seasons and the events of this year. “Now, it is autumn. The season for shedding the bits and pieces that aren’t needed, in order to make room for an eventual and inevitable rebirth. For more amazing challenges and experiences. I’d like to believe this is the season I have come full circle.”
1. In Order To Bloom, You Have To Pull Out The Weeds [link]
A celebration of the outpouring of blessings that has come my way. “I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Family, old friends, new friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.”
To everyone who has touched my life this year, please know that I think of you every day and I thank you and wish you all the happiness in the world. You have made 2013 the best year ever, and it can only get even better next year. Happy New Year! ♥
All the love,
Getting caught in toxic relationships isn’t easy, especially in the Filipino culture where people tend to move in flocks and herds. Never mind that some interactions are tinged with manipulation and quid pro quo—you scratch my back, I scratch yours—in order to make it, we are told, you have to keep scratching and conforming to the status quo and grinning and bearing things (and people).
But as a favorite quote of mine goes, “You can’t fly with the eagles if you keep scratching with the turkeys.” What I was too afraid to admit earlier this year has turned out to be an amazing gift.
In order to bloom, you have to pull out the weeds. Trials are the best way to filter out your foes from your real friends, my mom said. Not everyone who listens to you is there to listen; some do for the gossip and now you know which is which, my dad said. Those who won’t believe you or stand by you didn’t deserve to be with you in the first place, my sister said. No one will be weighing you down anymore. You can finally grow to be the person you were meant to be, my brother said.
I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Family, old friends, new friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.
Whoever’s reading this, I’m sending you these same vibes. May you also have the courage to stand up for what you deserve, to let go of everything that’s keeping you from growing and be surrounded with good people who will be happy to see you bloom. :)
Outfit details: Forever21 Girls (yes, the kids’ section) top, Forever21 skirt.
SM Accessories necklace.
Titan “Raga” watch.
SM Accessories bangle and bouquet ring.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath. Scared to rock the boat and make a mess.
So I sat quietly. Agreed politely. I guess that I forgot I had a choice.
I let you push me past the breaking point. I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.
You held me down.
But I got up. Already brushing off the dust. Get ready ‘cause I’ve had enough.
You hear my voice, you hear that sound. Like thunder, gonna shake the ground. I see it all, I see it now.
I’ve got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire.
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar.
Now I’m floating like a butterfly. Stinging like a bee. I earned my stripes.
I went from zero…
To my own hero.
It’s an anthem everyone can claim for their own. But for those of you who know me and my story—the real one, not the one passed on through a friend of a friend of a friend embellished with amnesiac truths, then you’d know exactly why I wrote in Katy Perry’s lyrics instead of my own words. “Roar” is the life story of this (girl born in the year of the) tiger, and there is very little need for elaboration.
Forever21 tiger shirt, Miss Sixty shorts. Special thanksJoanne Pecson (pictured above) and ETC Channel for inviting me to be the inspirational speaker on personal style during the ETC Campus Tour in UP Diliman a few weeks back.
Antler Accessories necklace to go with the shirt’s studs.
Forever21 nude stockings with cross prints, Skechers +3 wedge sneakers.
Gel nails by St. Nails Spa.
Hype this on Lookbook above, favorite on Chictopia below.
How we use our freedom speaks of our priorities. It’s been a week since Yolanda, but thousands will be reeling from its aftermath for weeks more. For those of us who won this lottery and were spared, offering a bit of our time, resources and sensitivity is the least we can do.
Despite that (or, because) we are not directly affected, we can make use of our freedom to help out, just as we would if the storm struck one of ours. Yes, life goes on—given enough time to recover. Would we be comfortable showing our shopping loot to a friend who just lost everything in a fire? Sharing PDA photos with a friend whose loved one just died? Recounting our fancy dinner to a friend who just got laid off his job? We’d be free to, but we wouldn’t. We’d let them know that we are one with them in their suffering. We’d be responsive to their needs.
This weekend, the Ateneo de Manila college covered courts is open 24 hours to donors and volunteers. While there are many other centers (there are actually two other courts for relief operations on campus), this is where I always go to help out. It’s like coming home. This is where the OrSem is held, where freshmen are first taught the Ignatian value of magis: the pursuit of excellence, not merely for one’s own benefit but to be men and women for others. Sentimental reasons aside, it’s also because volunteer work here doesn’t feel like work at all.
Five months ago, I wrote “Transition.” It was the middle of spring, and although I live in a country that only has sunny and rainy days, the events in my life seemed to be changing the way the seasons do. I had just come from a harsh and dark winter, and in time, the cold melted and ushered in a lush, vibrant spring where everything was growing.
In the summer, I moved on to a fresh new start and decided to “Keep Walking.” When I turned my back on all the baggage weighing me down and the garbage bringing out the worst in me—the things and people that were keeping me from being my best and most genuine self—everything became clear as day. That “Clarity" made me take responsibility for the choices I made in the past couple of years. I saw clearly the short-term consequence: a wounding, a purging, an emptying out.
I also saw the long-term consequence: a healing, a rediscovering, a filling up with real love and genuine happiness. Now, it is autumn. The season for shedding the bits and pieces that aren’t needed, in order to make room for an eventual and inevitable rebirth. For more amazing challenges and experiences. I’d like to believe this is the season I have come full circle. ♥
Outfit details: Shop Enna olive green one-shoulder bodycon dress. I enrolled in 360 Fitness Club last September and aside from most obvious reason being to take good care of my health, clothes like these are why.
The birthstone for March. I also wore it with this sporty outfit.
Hype this above and vote on Chictopia here.
Filipinos are still on a high from Megan Young’s Miss World win, and rightfully so. It isn’t every day that a simple lady from a small town in Olongapo gets to fufill her and every other girl’s childhood dream of becoming a princess (in this case, a queen).
Wearing glamorous gowns, beautiful heels and a glorious crown over your crowning glory? Bringing honor to your country amidst pork barrel scams and celebrity sex scandals? Being given a chance to make a profound difference in the world? Check, check and check.
I possess neither the height nor the body proportions it takes to even make it to the preliminaries of any significant pageant of beauty and physiological symmetry (save for the occasional local santacruzan, which hardly counts), but here are three reasons I’m completely okay with that.
One, I’m average. I’m only 5 feet and an inch tall. My skin is far from perfect, with little scars here and there and breakouts every once in a while when I wear makeup for more than a few hours or don’t drink enough water or get enough sleep. My hair is always all over the place: if I comb it, it looks like I have a household broom on my head. If I don’t, it looks like I slept on it and headed out. I have braces to align my crooked teeth, but there are no braces for my crooked grin. I may meet society’s standards in terms of butt size, but I can’t say the same for my chest size. Haha. I am average, and I say that with pride and loving self-acceptance, holding the torch for average girls all over the world.
Because there are more of us, and we are faced with a happy challenge: that of learning to love our physical average-ness, while at the same time discovering which aspects about ourselves enable us to be above average. Intelligence? Charm? Sense of humor? Musical talents? Artistic skills? Numerical aptitude? A penchant for finding the perfect gift or gesture for anyone’s birthday? Whatever they may be, they are the brushes with which we can paint the beautiful portrait of our above average-ness on a blank canvas of average-ness.
Two, I am unique. I may be average, but I am not generic—big difference. Average has the chance to command attention by standing out; generic stays in the background unnoticed, with nothing new or different to offer. I can pull things out of my pocket that no one else can have up their sleeves. The movie Hugo got it right about unique individuals: “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.”
Three, life is one big pageant anyway. Society is one big panel of judges, and there are universal criteria wherever we go. We are judged by how we look, what we wear, how we carry ourselves, what we want to say and how we say it, the culture and values we represent, the people we associate ourselves with, the beliefs we express and convictions we uphold, how we answer questions we are presented.
In this way, the world indeed is a stage, and every day is a part of the competition where we get to prove our grace, poise, skills and intelligence—not only to the judges and audiences, but more importantly to ourselves. In this way, we can all aim for peace, love and balance in the world, even in our tank tops, jeans and sneakers. :)
SM Accessories transparent cuff and bird-and-flowers pendant.
Bags In The City “Xavier” handbag.
World Balance “Vanity” sneakers. Apt sneaker name for today’s thoughts, yes? Apt, and ironic that there is none of the discomfort or superficiality that usually come with the word: these sneakers are about as simple, soft and comfortable as you can get. If you’re following me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you can win a pair for yourself.
Earth, fire, air, water. The Greek classical elements fascinate me, but it’s the fifth one, æther, that I find most magical.
In Greek mythology, Æther was the first-born elemental god, the personification of the clearest, brightest sky in which the gods of Olympus lived, and the pure upper air that they breathed. He is superiorly illuminated, and this brightness shone down all over the mortal world. At night, Æther’s mother Nyx (“The Night”) called upon her husband Erebus (“The Dark”) to blanket the world in darkness, and in the morning Æther’s sister Hemera (“The Day”) dispersed this dark mist away so that his light may be seen again.
Thus, in classical Greek science, æther is the quintessence (“quint” meaning fifth) that is not of this world. Medieval philosophers believed that the cosmos and the stars were formed and surrounded by æther. Whereas the first four elements were earthly and subject to change and corruption, æther, the “air of the gods,” was heavenly and unchangeable. If earth is green, fire is red, air is yellow and water is blue, æther is purple: a color that, unlike the colors of the earthly elements, is rarely found in nature.
In fact, it is common knowledge that purple is the color of royalty and power and this is why. Before people discovered how to synthesize dyes, the only way to produce about 1.5 grams of purple dye was through a painstaking process that involved the beating, drying and extracting of mucus of some 12,000 Murex snails!
In color psychology, purple is associated with noble things: good judgment, fulfilment, inspiration. It is the perfect balance of red (masculinity, warmth, energy) and blue (femininity, coolness, stability). For those who believe in chakras, purple is the color of the crown chakra (top of the head) that connects the spirit to universal sources of energy and wisdom.
Æther. Heavenly air. Purple quintessence. The perfect balance. People turned to mythologies and associations to explain the way the world around them worked. Going back to the basics, breaking everything down into the simplest, most essential parts of which they are made. Believing that the balance of elements leads to harmony and the disturbance of this balance leads to chaos. Looking to what’s tangible to explain the intangible. I guess no matter how scientific and modernized we have become, my fascination for the old ways of looking for answers in the mystical and mythical would always hold. Some things are best learned when felt with the heart rather than explained with the mind. :)
Outfit details: Shop Enna peplum dress. Check out their shop for flirty and feminine frocks.
Isn’t the lace back gorgeous? Just the right amount of sexy and sweet.
Japanese Candy contact lenses. They’re in chocolate brown so it’s not really obvious, but they basically round out the irises and make them look bigger. I wear contacts to help with my 750/750 vision, but it doesn’t hurt that this online store has some seriously cute pairs.
SM Accessories eggshell and gold bracelet and necklace. I don’t really mean to choose matchy things, but their collections are always well-curated that the pieces usually end up complementing one another.
Renegade Folk heels. Still as wonderful as when I first got them close to two years ago.
Photographed by Anton Holmes. Special thanks to Noni Mortel.
I write this from the balcony of my hotel room overlooking a ridge whereupon bright city lights are sprawled as far as the eye could see, twinkling and substituting for the stars that have opted to go into hiding this rainy night. The breeze is the kind of cold that makes you long for a warm embrace or a fluffy hoodie (I have the latter), and ever so slightly smells of pine trees. Today was 11 hours of being on the road for ocular visits and meetings here in Cagayan de Oro, but I don’t feel tired at all.
Let me tell you a secret—well, it’s not so secret actually. I can be quite stubborn when it comes to pursuing my passions. I graduated X years ago, but this is my first full-time job. I’ve always seen corporate work as very rigid and constricting, compared to working freelance where there are no dress codes, no time records, no company memos to adhere to. You get to do what you want, when you feel like doing it, where you want to do it and in whatever outfit you please. Never mind that there isn’t much economic stability and career sustainability—so long as you’re happy and following your heart, right?
That was my mentality about pretty much everything else, not just career. So long as you follow your heart, everything else will fall in place. Inversely, if you do things you have to even when you don’t want to, your success won’t be as fulfilling. I saw it as a battle of the heart and the intellect, and I always wanted for the heart to win. But I’ve seen the glaring holes of this naive polarity in events of the past few years that it got me questioning. Does it really have to be one or the other? Can we not find a middle ground where we would be able to do the right thing as determined by the mind, and still be able to do the happy thing as determined by the heart?
As it turns out, of course we can. The confusion and frustration of not knowing which path to take, of waking up in the morning very unsure of our next step, of every uncertainty that comes with that familiar experience we all like to call quarter-life crisis… all of those things are not because we lack the skills, the knowledge, the experience or the clarity to find the answer to our questions. Chances are, the only thing we’ve been lacking all along is the willingness to listen to what that answer is.
My phone’s Viber just beeped: three messages. From my family’s group thread, my boss, and a friend, all asking about my day and telling me to rest well. The rain has mellowed down into a light drizzle. I can hear the drone of the TV in my room: Cesar Millan’s voice and the excited barking of small dogs. Except for these sounds and the humming of the airconditioning, everything is quiet on all fronts. How did it get from the noise and chaos of uncertainty to the peace and silence of clarity? I stopped being stubborn about always doing what I wanted, and tried this time to listen to my elders and do what I needed. I tried a path I never would’ve tried had events early this year not transpired.
That choice led me to a job where I get to do everything that I’ve always known I wanted to do since I was five: write, tell stories, shoot pictures and videos, travel. There is a dress code, but the women of Suits have been teaching me how to dress up for work, and it’s been fun. It’s a nine-to-six job, but even when I’m not traveling like this week, my boss encourages me to get out of my desk every now and then and do whatever I need to get my creative juices flowing. “Less bureaucratic. I trust you,” I was told. The pay and perks are more than enough to enable me to pursue all my other passions and still have a lot saved for the future. Working for a company that values God, family and work in that order results in office people being nice and contagiously positive. Above all, I no longer wake up in the morning not knowing where I’m headed. “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” :) It amazes me and my loved ones each day how much things in my life have changed for the infinite better, and if there’s anything I’d wish on others, it’s this same gift of clarity.
Look details: Philosophy top, Veva Deeluxe pencil skirt, Janylin peep-toe heels, Euphoria chain necklace and bracelets, SM Accessories ring, Nail It nails, Japanese Candy contact lenses. Hype on Lookbook here, vote on Chictopia here.
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