What's scarier than heartbreak?

One night, as a girlfriend and I were discussing the trials and tribulations of our single lives over dinner, we had something of an epiphany. The telling of the latest confounding dating episode had just been punctuated with a wrenching, "Why even bother?!" In that moment of singleton anguish, I had a flashback on my past life as a serial monogamist and suddenly clearly remembered how that wasn't entirely bereft of despair either.

"You know what? The possibility of getting my heart broken isn't actually the scariest thing I've ever felt," I told my friend. "The scariest thing was being in a relationship that had absolutely nothing wrong with it and yet, not being able to be happy."

She let this sink in before looking at me with surprised understanding, "That is so true!"

I've known heartbreak and I've known apathy. Apathy, for me, is infinitely more frightening. I remember what it was like to be in one relationship after another, each one devoid of any sort of conflict and yet, being unable to find contentment and happiness. I was completely petrified of my discontent, wondering if there was something inherently wrong with me that made me unable to be happy even in the best of circumstances.

I realized later that my discontent had less to do with the relationship and more to do with my overall state of well-being. I was profoundly unhappy with my own life, from my career that seemed like a dead-end to my living situation, which I felt was controlling me and not the other way around. I moved to New York, a city notoriously difficult to live in but, in my experience, a place overflowing with opportunity and possibility. I carved out my little place in this crazy city somehow, and in this state, I was able to be blissfully happy in a relationship that came with less-than-ideal conditions. When that relationship came to its rightful conclusion (as all less-than-ideal situations should), yes, I was absolutely devastated. But I had one comforting thought to hold on to: knowing that I had a fully-functioning heart capable of both all-encompassing love and soul-crushing heartbreak. There wasn't anything wrong with me after all.

My dating life has since been sprinkled with the inevitable petty little heartbreaks that come with putting oneself out there—but that's okay. I'm fine with it as long as I know that I've still got a heart that can be broken. I have yet to find the one to pour all that inconvenient love on, but I'm comforted by the thought that I've got it in reserve.

No rest for the wicked

When I was in my early 20s, I scoffed at sleep. "I'll sleep when I'm dead," I would say, as I ran in heels from intern parties to my actual internship with nary a wink of sleep. As I grew older and life (plus the possibility of wrinkles) got real, I realized the folly of my youth and began to give sleep the reverence it's due.

That was until last weekend when, in the span of 12 hours, these two things happened:
What didn't happen? Sleep.

As luck would have it, one of my very best friends' 30th birthday bash was slated to take place the night before the New York City Half Marathon, which of course I also miraculously got into this year. I didn't want to miss a minute of either so I decided sleep would have to be ... postponed until I'd done both. Now, I'm not a complete whack job; I never sleep well before a race so I thought, might as well spend that time having fun rather than tossing and turning in bed. It was a gamble but it paid off. I tore up the dance floor all night, went home to trade my dancing shoes for my running shoes, then ran 13.1 miles through the city, finishing with a personal best of 2:09:45* to boot.

*Cut me some slack, gazelle-like runners. It doesn't sound like much but it's a major achievement for a slow-poke like me!

My takeaway from this whole experience is on the shallow side, but I hope you'll indulge me. Let me start by pointing out that I am turning 32 in a few months—an age so significantly "old" that Filipinos have a special saying just for it: Wala na sa kalendaryo (Translation: Off the calendar—as in, the calendar only goes up to 31 days. OUCH!). With that in mind, here's what I find most thrilling about last weekend's events: I am psyched that at this age, I can still pull off burning the candle at both ends—and in a way my 23-year-old self couldn't. At no point in my 20s would I have been capable of pulling off an all-night dance party followed by a half marathon. Somehow, at (almost) 32, I've whipped myself into good enough shape to out-party and out-perform my younger self. It gives me hope that the relentless going by of years doesn't have to mean it's all going to go downhill from here—and damn, isn't that grand thought?

Cambodia: Where to Stay and What to Eat

In between trekking through temples and visiting historic sights, my travel buddy Mica and I squeezed in some quality R&R in Cambodia. The country has developed rapidly in the past few years, and beautiful boutique resorts and hotels have popped up to help accomodate the 2 million tourists that pass through its borders every year. We got to stay in some lovely places, thanks to the travel sleuthing skills of Mica's hubby and our unofficial travel agent, Jon (we should all be so lucky as to snag a man like him!). We also got to try some memorable eats, from the traditional Cambodian fish amok to the more adventurous deep-fried tarantula. Below, the highlights.

Siem Reap
Navutu Dreams Resort & Spa served as our base for exploring Siem Reap, and what a lovely home away from home it was. Located away from the main tourist drag, Navutu was an oasis we could retire to at the end of a long day of trekking through dusty temples, and relax with a complimentary foot massage and happy hour passion fruit caipiroskas. 
While in Siem Reap, we made sure we sampled the local fare. Our guide took us to a spot that probably qualifies as a tourist trap, but after experiencing food poisoning at a Cambodian restaurant of our own choosing, I was happy to follow our guide's suggestions. It was interesting to try the fish amok, a coconut milk-curried fish flavored with kroeung, a paste of Cambodian herbs and spices, and mixed with noni leaves. The flavors were new to me—a heady mix of turmeric, ginger and lemongrass with a slightly sweet undertone. I prefer a spicier curry but it was nice to try something new. I couldn't get enough of the Cambodia mango salad—tall piles of julienned green mangoes and carrots, tossed with lime and fish sauce, and topped with crushed peanuts, basil, and seafood.

Kampong Thom

On the road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh we had one of our favorite meals. The driver we had hired to drive us, in heart-stopping Gran Turismo-style, stopped at Prey Pros Rest Area so we could take a quick lunch. It was touristy but very picturesque, with thatched huts on stilts and a view of the Prey Pros River. We had a lovely green mango salad with dried fish and copious amounts of Thai basil and chili. The vegetable fried rice and morning glory sauteed with garlic and chili were also delicious.

Phnom Penh
In the Cambodian capital, White Mansion Hotel was our beautiful base. Once the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, it is a beautiful structure with Roman columns, high ceilings and intricate moulding. It is located near the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, and is a quick tuk tuk ride to most of the restaurants we sought out. The hotel cafe makes a delicious loc lac, a stir fried beef dish that's a close relative of the Vietnamese bo luc lac likely brought to Cambodia by the French colonists. 
Our most memorable meal in Phnom Penh was at Romdeng, a restaurant that takes kids off the streets to train them in restaurant service and give them an alternate future. Funny enough, the most delicious thing we had here were the fried tarantulas. It was disconcerting to bite into them at first, but once we got going, we agreed that the tarantulas tasted very much like soft shell crabs. I would have them again.
The best part of my trip to Cambodia, however, was the wonderful company I kept. I was lucky enough to have one of my very best friends, Mica, to go on this trip with—just us girls! At this stage in life, when most of my friends have settled down with their husbands and started building families, it was a treat to be able to "borrow" my friend for a great adventure through the Khmer empire. One of the great benefits of life as a singleton, I've found, is that I can look back on years of adventure and marvel at the range of wonderful people I've been able to share amazing moments with. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but for me at least, this is one of the best parts of my happily ever after.

Cambodia: The Killing Fields

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
- George Santayana

With heavy hearts, we paid our respects at Choeung Ek, a place on the outskirts of Phnom Penh that remains in infamy as one of the sites of the Khmer Rouge's Killing Fields. During the Khmer Rouge's rule from 1974-1979, over one million people were executed as a result of "social engineering." City folk, intellectuals, capitalists, monks, poets, celebrities—all were considered tainted by the West and singled out to be eliminated. Entire families were murdered, including children and infants, because the Khmer Rouge wanted to remove the possibility of any offspring taking revenge in the future. This maxim they operated by is a chilling look into the psyche of the Khmer Rouge: Better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake.

Choeung Ek stands today as a memorial to the victims of this tragedy, and as a way to educate the rest of the world on the atrocities that took place here. We walked through the site while listening to an audio tour that recounted, with stark honesty, the painful details of what went on here. We saw numerous open pits, more often than not with stray bones and tattered fabric still poking out of the soil—these were the mass graves from which numerous bodies were exhumed, and from which human remains still surface after a heavy rainfall. Glass displays hold piles of bones and clothes recovered from the graves. I could hardly hold back my tears at the sight of a tiny pair of shorts in the display case, not wanting to think about the fate of the child who once wore them. In this place of such pain, there is none more heartbreaking than The Killing Tree, where far too many innocent children and infants were slaughtered in keeping with the Khmer Rouge maxim: To kill the grass, one must dig up even the roots.

A Buddhist stupa stands in the middle of Choeung Ek, holding within it piles upon piles of human skulls recovered from the Killing Fields. Within the stupa, one can make an offering and say a prayer for the repose of the numerous souls that perished here.

The Cambodian government encourages tourists to visit Choeung Ek, in the hope that awareness will prevent such horrors from taking place again. While facing the painful past of Choeung Ek is difficult, seeing how Cambodia has rebuilt from such a horrific past brings me hope that the human spirit is a resilient one, and that ultimately, good triumphs over even the most unimaginable evil.