In the midst of hustling on a regular basis, I find myself wondering about how life has become in the past months, and overall, how this year has turned out — most especially on my off-time (like today). My impulse to write is interesting; I almost never find the best time to put my thoughts somewhere. They just end up being in either a blog post, a note on my phone, or mostly, on my journal.

This week was Thanksgiving, and while it’s not a big of a celebration here in the Philippines, I always try to make this an opportunity to reflect on the things I am constantly grateful for. Here’s a little roundup from my 2016 list. 🙂


1. My shortcomings & starting out small

I don’t think I’ve ever shared this, but I had a really rough time in high school. I was never an option to be part of a creative team, let alone be able to showcase my work in school events. Some of my teachers didn’t believe in my work; it was disheartening. I found no comfort in expressing myself at that phase in my life. My artistic pursuits were mostly intrinsic; I drew inspiration from my own experiences as I was growing up (y’know, I was very emo at that time, tbh). My friends came and went…I had to be alone for awhile. It wasn’t until early 2007 that I met some of the most amazing friends I now call my barkada.

Fast forward to college, I learned to appreciate the beauty of self-discovery, trying new things, and becoming the person I wanted to be. I started a little online shop at 17, built my Tumblr account, started making art and blogging for personal growth (and eventually getting to reach a handful of people who appreciated my art)…and then some. I shifted courses and found my voice in Advertising. I thought working at an ad agency as a strat planner was my end-goal during my thesis term in 2014…I was wrong.

My shortcomings taught me that I didn’t have to conform to what society demanded. Instead of thinking how I can fit in, I found myself building my own career from the ground up. Looking back, the struggles and the mindset that people thought I would never “make it” led me to become the strong-willed, fearless person I am today.

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2. Sharing my passion to others

My first intention of writing a book was for my own bucket list goal (I mean, I’m sure we all have that wish…or maybe it’s just me). Funny enough, I initially wanted to write a fiction book (a la YA HAHA) when I was sixteen, brought about by my obsession with Sophie Kinsella, John Green, and all the amazing books I spent my summers reading.

While those YA dreams didn’t come true, I’m very grateful for the people who believed I could do this — become an author. Sometimes I need someone to pinch me to make sure this is all happening. My first book opened me to numerous opportunities for growth — especially when it came to making art…and speaking in front of the public. 😀 Really though, my confidence level escalated to heights I never have imagined.

When I wrote my second book, I took things on a higher level, and I found myself thinking more of what my readers could benefit from the book more than what I wanted myself to be happy about. It was a combination of both — I feel like this was my way of connecting to others on a deeper level.

People have told me that these “trends” I “started” were at the right timing. That I was smart enough to think about them. I don’t believe any of that. For me, sharing my passion to others has always become the ultimate goal of these things I’ve been creating for the past years – books, merchandise, products that I personally believe in and want to share to others. A gateway for them to discover that they can be creative, and that they, too, can make good art. So I’ll be continuing it as long as I can, and for that, I’m ultimately grateful.

(BTW, that photo above is one of the many “ABC stalls” around SM Stationery here in the Philippines. So overwhelmed seeing that come to life!)


3. Doing what I love for a living

I will not stress this enough — a few years ago, I never felt like I deserved to become the artist I am now. There was no inner confidence in me that could actually say that. And when everything started to fall into place (at the right time, omg?), I had to stand tall and be ready for it.

Most days, I wake up to draw, write, shoot, manage my social media accounts…all mostly on my own (with a little help from my tiny team). I think I’ve reached to a point that I love it so much and it has taken over my life. But slowly, I’ve been keen on slowing down and learning how to take things one day at a time, or, like what my mentor said, one client at a time. Hehehe. 😀

I have two jobs – managing Abbey Sy stuff and working on freelance projects. The former is pretty self-explanatory, and that is my playground for new ideas that I can always build on (I have always had a heart for being an entrepreneur). The latter is always a challenge — a constant test of skill, grit, and the right kind of communication to get my work across to a brand, a client, or a publication. They’re basically yin and yang, and I’m thankful that they both have benefited into enriching my knowledge and experiences over time.


4. Missed opportunities & unlikely circumstances

“BORED” “READ” “ABROAD” – words I spelled out. My 23rd birthday shoot involved my six wishes this 2016. Shutterpanda took my photos and we shot them on a fun weekend in Pico — here’s the zine, ICYMI, made by my fave bb Maine. My main goal was to study abroad this year and really focus on my art. Well…I thought wrong.

This year, I worked on 2 books – one published in the Philippines, another in the USA. I illustrated for a sticker book, produced my own journal, collaborated with cool brands, worked on unbelievably amazing projects, got to teach in Singapore twice, started operating my shop out of impulse…everything was not according to plan. And while I’m supposed to be frantic that my goals didn’t all turn out to be the actual thing, I’m happy that things turned out like this.

2016 was a huge learning curve, tbh. Suddenly, I didn’t want to move. Suddenly, I can only think of the bigger picture, and wonder what could be ahead of me. And I think that’s a beautiful feeling — not knowing what could come. 🙂

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5. True friends & moral support

Above is a photo of me & my best friend Den — we’ve been friends since we were born…and yes she was my +1 at last night’s #YSProm (Happy birthday, Young Star!) 😀

It can be so daunting to have accumulated some friends over the past years, and to be honest, the only true people I can count on are a selected handful. And I don’t see that as something faulty — being an introvert, I know I am only capable of sharing my inner thoughts to a few people.

I’m grateful for all the people I have met, and have connected to on a personal level — friends who have become confidants of the vulnerable side of me (that no one really ever sees), friends who have become big sisters, mentors, people to remind me that I’m doing okay; friends that can double as travel buddies, workout buddies; friends that constantly renew my creative energies; friends that choose coffee dates & long conversations & shopping & working out as “bonding time”, friends who I can easily count on for the most mundane things. I can go on and on about how grateful I always will be, as this is one of my weaknesses as a person — having trust issues, and finding the right people to maintain good relationships with. 🙂

On another note, I was curious to know what you guys are grateful for — so I asked some of you a few days back. Here are your responses.

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It’s pretty amazing to see how everyone is grateful for at least something — and how we are all aware of how this life has turned out to become. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your answers!

Ending this post with a little reminder that at the end of the day, there is always, always something to grateful for, no matter how small. We just have to notice. 😀

How about you, what are you grateful for? 🙂