Things I’m Still Learning at 23

in at March 16, 2016

I like 23. Wait, I actually love 23.

I wish I could stay 23 because this time, I actually (try to) make good choices.

23 is an age of perfectly balanced careless abandon and adventure, righteous selfishness and responsibility, forgivable youth and self-limitation. It is all sorts of (crazy) wonderful and exhilarating. Do not be deceived. I still am much weak, fragile, and detestable things I wish I weren’t, yet I am comforted by the fact that I have my entire life to become a person I could be proud of.

The past year has led me to truly grow spiritually and emotionally. I have had so much breakthroughs that has caused a quiet, all-encompassing revolution in my heart. I can only pray that these things I have learned through the Lord’s constant wisdom and guidance – an emptying of myself, an overflow of Him – can be a source of light to you, friend.

Try not to plead for a future you have not yet earned.

My idleness and my need for greatness allows me to evaluate my life again and again. I panic and predict a future I have yet to live and arrive at. It wasn’t really as bad as before. There were familiar, somber days when I would find myself spontaneously breaking down – I actually thought I was clinically depressed. I was consumed by fear; there were too much choices, and the uncertainty led me to places I promised I would not stay. Thankfully, through time, and with grace in my heart, I have arrived at a place in my life where I am more certain about things – one being Christ.

There is much I desire to do. There is a spirited vision so alive in me; 24 hours is simply not enough to course me through this path. The journey is long, intimidating, tedious yet (sometimes) dull, but it is my noble duty to discover and keep. My timeline will always be my own; I claim my detours, my mistakes, and my breakthroughs. Progress is progress no matter how small it may be.

Patience is my ally, it will constantly keep me grounded when I choose to stray, when I am too apathetic to try again, and when I can no longer see purpose. The things I love may bring me to dark, strange places; may I have enough courage to follow. I know for certain that there is light in the end.

Ultimately, the tug of what I (choose to) love and offer myself to, brings me closer to Christ. I may go towards different directions – I still know nothing about – but His faithfulness promises for all roads to always lead to Him.

Stop romanticizing things that hurt.

For years, my blog has been fueled by my reckless, ephemeral emotions – it is alive because of it. I selfishly embraced the havoc, the hurt, the mess and created tender, sad things to make the past tangible, to make my hurt mine, and to not be forgotten. Well, through time, I discovered that the more I dwelt in the comfortable ache, the more I resisted the option of possible, saving joy.

On my 23rd year, I made the (unconscious) choice to stop writing about the ‘beauty’ of my sadness. I think it is one of the bravest things I have done for myself. I realize that art need not be tragic. I do not make my, nor anyone else’s pain invaild; do honor your memories, but don’t stay there for too long. I still am a shamelessly emotional writer but I am learning that I can actually draw so much from my joy, my strength, and my peace.

Moreover, I always have the choice to dwell on my pain or I can redirect my thoughts towards praiseworthy things. When I take a moment to step away from my sadness, I see how much people really need me. Indeed, the sea is my sadness, and He taught me how to swim.

Intentionally make space (and time) for what you love.

I almost gave up on blogging a year ago. I was tired, lusterless, and uninspired. My exhaustion led me to believe that I had to give up some things in my life because they did not seem to produce any results.

I constantly questioned my ability to create. I could no longer churn out organic content. I found myself losing interest in the things I love. For a year or so, my perception of my present made me lose sight of the treasures the Creator faultlessly put inside of me. Things then changed.

I learned so late that I can actually have a full-time job and still be passionate about other things…and intentionally make time for it. Work will always tire me but it is work – it is never easy. Make time for the things you love, and you will find that the weight of every day becomes lighter.

During the start of this year, I read a life-changing book, entitled Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert. It thoroughly discusses the essence of creating; for as long as we are alive, our human selves will need and aspire to create – with the presence or absence of results.

Your (pursuit of) happiness is closer than you think.

I lost more than ten pounds during my first few months of active physical training. I went to the gym every single weekday after work. Every (real, legitimate, and physical) ache in my body was worth it because my faith in myself was slowly transforming. I could lift heavy baggage, I could climb flights of stairs without stopping, I confidently started wearing sleeveless tops, I even bought my first two-piece swimsuit.

I also started writing on my journal again. I jot down Bible verses from my devotional time, I record quotes from books and my social media platforms, I write letters to Jesus (and even to my future husband), and I document my day to day on paper. I even purchased a grateful journal to constantly remind me of His inexorable faithfulness.

I took small, significant steps towards my happiness, and it was through discipline that I gained a greater sense of self and wholeness.

I deserve delay.

Unanswered prayers do not always mean a redirection. I finally understand that if there are good, selfless desires in my heart that remain unanswered, it means that there are other things that still need my full attention. My human desires need to be purified again and again before my hands are prepared to receive them. I deserve delay, no matter how long the wait, because I need to prepare myself for the best, not only the good.


My relationships would flourish more if I constantly teach myself to apologize. Humbly and respectfully submitting myself to those around me – family, friends, superiors, colleagues – means thinking less of myself and living beyond the individual self. I do not always have to be right. I do not always have to win. My relationships are more important than my pride.

Grow comfortable in the grace you have been given.

There is grace for my unbelieving heart. There is grace for the echoing shame. There is grace for forgotten convictions. There is grace for faithlessness. There is grace for misplaced affections. There is grace for unforgiveness.

Grace is inexorable. With grace permeating through my veins, I course through every little (dark, painful, sad) thing, and I know I will be rewarded with something infinitely greater than myself.

Elisa Aquino

Elisa Aquino is a portrait photographer, life(style) writer, passion blogger, and beauty rookie from Manila, Philippines. This platform exists to document her daily musings and to showcase the life-changing power of grace to transform women from ashes to beauty.