Just My Past

Growing up, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I thought my diagnosis would always define who I was. Back in school, I struggled so much with my academic subjects and was always chosen last by my peers when it came to group projects.

Because I knew I was lacking, insecurities and lies overwhelmed my mind. One of those lies was that I was dumb and unworthy of enjoying what I love doing. I felt like the people around me in school were saying, “Under probation ka na nga, may oras ka pa mag-extra curricular activity?” (“You’re under academic probation, but you still have time for hobbies?)

“Probation” was a term that they used for students who got into a prestigious school because of a special consideration despite the grades.

The saving grace during this season was that my parents knew they needed to transfer me to a non-traditional school. For my 2nd year of high school, they sent me to a Christian school.

Though I didn’t know Jesus back then, it was in that school that I realized how much I really enjoyed creating with my hands. I was actually good at it.

Where the Dream All Started

In college, during the boom of the Project Runway reality show, I entered Sofa Manila, now called “School of the Fashion and the Arts Design Institute.” I took up Fashion Design and Merchandising.

Being in a non-traditional college setup was a joy for me. I was not only surrounded by like-minded artistic people, but also with so much creativity. That season sparked a dream in my heart not only to establish my own creative business, but also to make a name for myself as a respected and talented designer.

What Looked Like the Beginning

In 2010, just a few months of being a fresh graduate and having accolades from fashion design competitions and magazine features, I worked as a freelance fashion designer and as an intern for a fashion stylist. I was finally making a name for myself and living the dream!

Or so I thought…

In the hype of all this “glitz,” I had an opportunity to showcase my designs internationally at the “Singapore Fashion Week.”  For weeks, I tirelessly worked non-stop on my designs for the show, only to end up redrafting and piling up papers of mistakes. Apart from not being able to pay for the show, I started to lose hope, and it brought back all the insecurities I had back in childhood. This eventually caused me to experience months of anxiety and depression.

Where I Met Jesus

You see, I always thought that if people would get to know my name and my brand, I would be respected in my craft and be happy. I thought that it would erase how people perceived me back in school.  But with all the recognition and what looked like a blossoming career, I still felt depressed and purposeless.

Little did I know that God was setting me up for an encounter with Him.

Because of my semi-midlife crisis, I started looking for the meaning and purpose of life. I tried seeking it through long hours of repeated prayer, only to end up bored. I also read new-age books and almost tried laughing yoga.

One evening, I couldn’t sleep. I was about to cut myself with a blade when I suddenly heard this voice in my mind saying, “If papatayin mo ang sarili mo ngayon, alam mo na ba kung saan ka mapupunta?” (“If you would kill yourself now, do you know where you’d end up?”)


What happens next to Noelle Paula Llave? Find out in Part 2 of her story, “Awakening the Dream” only here in One Voice Magazine.

Noelle Paula Llave

Noelle Paula Llave, known to her friends as Paula or “Pau” and to her colleagues as Noelle, is in her early 30s. She is a designer and creative entrepreneur who loves Jesus and K-dramas. She is a co-founder and creative designer of O’EL Designs, The Seed Concept Designs Graphic & Branding Studio, Every Juanita, and Every Juanita Kitchen.