For Manny Sanoja, the journey matters just as much as the destination. After years of soul searching, the recently self-published author of Enlightened Awakening: A Practical Guide to Self Awareness, Hope and Healing credits his successes to personal experience.
Since he was a child, Sanoja dreamt of pursuing classical piano and later experimented in vocal performance, going through what he dubbed a “boy band era.” However, after the devastating death of his father in 2004, he turned to writing poetry to filter the pain and channel his emotions while simultaneously working numerous jobs and later moving to Arizona. After three years away from home, he decided to return to school to pursue his love for music. He moved back to California and attended Bakersfield College where he met a choir coach who praised his talent and believed in his capabilities, urging him to apply to USC’s Thornton School of Music.
Sanoja would go on to graduate from Thornton with a Bachelor of Arts in music with an emphasis in vocal arts and opera in 2014. After graduation, he performed in opera tours, but realized he needed a stable career in addition to music and writing and became a financial analyst alongside his two passions. Sanoja currently works as the associate manager for Prudential Financial.
“Eventually, I found a lot of comfort in reading self-improvement [and] personal development books, and it resonated with me,” Sanoja said. “Music and writing were hand-in-hand in finding … and reestablishing myself and finding my purpose.”
Although being an author was never in his original plan, Sanoja credits the process of self discovery in helping him understand his meaning and believes he has been called to write in hopes of helping others.
“I just thought that it was so cool — that my own difficult journey and experiences helped people,” Sanoja said. “It made me feel like I was giving back in using my talents and abilities. I think that was a really satisfying point in my life, and I knew from then on that I needed to keep writing.”
Sanoja’s book Enlightened Awakening is the first volume in a three-part series and was published within a month, released on July 26. It contains short pieces that aim to inspire readers. At the core of this daily guide, Sanoja challenges his readers to ask and answer the question of “why?” in reference to some of life’s most challenging queries.
To him, self-awareness means being cognizant of one’s actions and the affect they can have on others. He said this includes understanding that being vulnerable is important in the process and making the conscious decision to be a better person. His book is based on these observations, alluding to topics such as commitment to one’s own purpose and choosing positivity despite outside influence and external circumstance.
“It reminds us of our condition,” Sanoja said. “It’s easy to fall into the traps of what society tells us [that] makes us happier and what we need to be. It reminds people to focus on what’s important … and not what the world says. It’s really what’s in your heart.”
Sanoja will host a book signing for Enlightened Awakening at the University Bookstore on Oct. 6 from 12 to 4 p.m.
“I’m grateful USC is welcoming me back … I’m just happy to be there and hopefully give some inspiration to the students on campus who are going through hard times,” Sanoja said. “Hopefully the things I’ve been through can help them, and when they pick up this book … some of the words will resonate with them in a way that’s helpful to them. I hope it can bring the same hope and healing that it brought to my life because that’s ultimately what my goal is.”