We all want a happy and fulfilling life. But the question is how do we find it? That joyful state of ikigai, or the intersection of doing what you love, what you’re good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs.
As a girl, there’s the added pressure of people telling you what you can and cannot be. If you’re dealing with self-doubt, you’ll need an assuring voice to remind you that you will find your way—in this case, through the stories of successful women who have gone through the same struggles you’re facing.
On this note, we welcome National Women’s Month with heartfelt “slam book” conversations with our #FutureOfYoungPinays ambassadors.
Here’s hoping you find the inspiration and advice you need to succeed in your own path.
Pursue your one true passion, they say. But what if you could do more than one? Apple Nocom merges her love for writing and mental health awareness—personal passions that have turned into an outward purpose.
The writer-mental health advocate has written for local publications like Scout Magazine, and maintains an introspective blog about finding yourself and recovering from depression, living with it herself. She also gives talks in schools about her own depression story to spread awareness on mental health issues.
For the young writer, words can heal and empower; this belief is what drives her to dedicate her life to writing.
Apple shows the value of trusting your inner compass and how it could point us to a path where we could be happiest and most helpful to other people.
Favorite subject in school and why
I loved English Literature. Aside from loving writing from the very beginning, I loved deconstructing and understanding stories to make meaning out of them. It always felt so intimate and insightful at the same time.
School and course in college
AB Communications, Ateneo de Manila University
Why did you choose your course?
It was a childhood dream to be a writer and, among my course options, COM (Communications) was said to be the one [that] would get me a more “stable” career. Spoiler – I wish I didn’t listen, and that I had taken English Literature or Creative Writing instead!
How did your course help you become the person you are today?
A lot of our classes were focused on principle and theory: understanding how communications or messages worked, the kind of creative power and impact they had. For me that was just a more technical way of saying “This is how you tell a story.” And what do you know, storytelling is everything I do now.
What’s your biggest insecurity as a student? How do you overcome it?
While I’m full Filipina, I was raised abroad my whole life until college, and so I always felt so clueless, naive and sheltered. I didn’t express myself very well in person and didn’t socialize a lot. It took a few years, some practice and a lot of self-grace to get better at both of those.
I also spent many, many months struggling with episodes of depression. It affected my ability to do the best I could as a student, and it changed the way I related to people.
I often feel like I lost so much time trying to “fix myself” and just keeping things together that it still made waves into the rest of my life to date.
I can’t say I’ve overcome it, but I know a hundred times more than I used to about living with mental illness.
What achievement are you most proud of during your school life?
The fact that I was able to adjust and make it through with all my insecurities, struggles and mental health troubles was a pretty big achievement on its own. Despite everything I went through, I was able to forge some friendships, I volunteered for orgs (and got student leader positions!) and managed to learn many things that shape how I think to this day.
I thought I wouldn’t get to do any of that.
I thought those few dark years in my school life would leave a gap in my life’s timeline where nothing happened – but I think I was able to make the best of it, and I try to remember to celebrate that.
What’s the most important thing you learned in your student life?
A very important lesson I wish I had learned way earlier was that you have to ask for help – and you have to be okay accepting it when it comes.
I didn’t take the time to ask my professors for help the many times they offered, I tried not to tell anybody that I was struggling so hard, and I passed up on a lot of opportunities to bond with people because I was too busy trying to prove something to myself.
Imagine how much earlier I would have learned about mental health issues if I had realized back then that I just needed help. Imagine how much sooner I could have worked on recovering. When you’re a student there’s such a huge opportunity to forge real, lasting connections that, unfortunately, you don’t get that much more of when you get older. You should take those moments when they’re there in front of you.
My all-time favorite is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The heroine gets married and begins what should have been her dream life – except she was living in the shadow of her husband’s late wife Rebecca, who was brilliant, beautiful and beloved.
She spends most of the book insecure and trying to live up to Rebecca’s role because she didn’t think she was good enough to make her own rules. Imagine – the heroine never even gets named in the story, the book is titled “Rebecca!” That’s just how small she felt.
This book is what I think about whenever I feel insecure or unsure of myself, because it’s a reminder that I will always have my own power and my own story to write.
Who’s your life peg? Why?
The writer and TED speaker Hannah Brencher!
“HB” found her community because she just HAD to write her way out of depression, heartache, and struggle. She wrote and wrote and wrote until she found people who resonated, and she continued to write for herself and for them.
She now has two published books, and a four-year-old nonprofit called More Love Letters where she gets people to write and send encouraging letters to strangers via snail mail. That’s it – she just built a supportive worldwide community by the sheer power of a beautiful, honest word.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about the magic of words. I get so thrilled and uplifted when a few of the right words result in a very visible, positive impact on a person. You can see their face soften or light up immediately, and you just know you made a mark.
What’s your advice on finding and pursuing one’s passion and purpose?
I think you can have more than one passion, and you can have more than one purpose.
You can find your calling in what you love and feel strongly about, which for me is writing; or in the things that you’ve been through, which for me is my mental health advocacy. If you’re lucky, some of your passions or your purpose will overlap.
It’s important to realize that any one of your choices can be the “correct” one. It’s not destiny that will make one life path more amazing for you than the other, it’s what you choose to give your time and energy to. It’s about the heart and commitment that you put into showing up for the choice that you made.
Conviction beats passion any day, I promise.
What’s the hardest thing about being a girl?
There are just so many opinions out there about what you should or shouldn’t be like, what you should or shouldn’t do with your identity, your life, your talents, your mind, your body, your heart.
People think they know you, your capabilities and your purpose better than you do.
What’s the best thing about being a girl?
Sisterhood, and proving people wrong about your limits!
In your own words, what is gender equality?
Gender equality means that all genders (including the way they are expressed) are equally valid, equally significant, and equally valuable.
What is something that makes you proud to be a woman this National Women’s Month?
Hope I’m not too far getting ahead of myself, but I’m working on setting up a nonprofit that raises funds in support of mental health patients. Not only am I really excited about our vision and plans, I’m proud to be setting it up with a pool of smart, dedicated girls, some of whom are so much younger than me!
There’s a Swedish proverb about the magic that happens when we openly talk about our troubles and achievements: “Shared joy is double joy; Shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”
When we see the relatable struggles that other women face, our own obstacles seem less insurmountable. And when we hear about people who succeed, it sparks a confidence in us to work toward our own goals. Moreover, these success stories point us back to ourselves—with an encouraging inner voice that asks, “What are my strengths? What more can I achieve? And what achievements have I already made that are worth celebrating?”
Many, for sure.
The National Women’s Month Celebration every March is part of the worldwide observance of the International Women’s Day (IWD). Since 2017, the National Women’s Month in the Philippines has been highlighting the empowerment of women as contributors to and recipients of development.
Find more stories that will inspire you to be the best that you can be.