2017: Year in Review

(For previous year-ender posts: 2014, 2015, 2016.)

I was reading Austin Kleon’s blog and found this post about notes to self. I particularly liked #14: At a certain point, you must become your own role model.

I never think highly of myself. Blame it on my super low self-esteem at a young age, brought about by my inability to fit in as a teenager (profile: emo girl writing in her diary and drawing weird psychedelic patterns and calling them “art”—go figure) and my underdog state in high school (I wasn’t chosen by teachers to perform / get major production roles in programs because I’m not “good enough” and “pretty” in our batch). I regained my confidence once I entered college and shifted courses, and eventually found myself worthy of making art and giving it another try when I discovered hand lettering. When I took on a full-time creative career, everyone was questioning why some 22-year-old showed up and got a book deal. Mind you, I asked myself the same question two years ago.

Did I think I was good? No, not really. It’s now my third year of being an artist and author, and after so much internal battles between me and my imposter syndrome-filled self, I realize that what got me here was the persistence to prove people wrong—and eventually to prove myself wrong. Yes, I was wrong. How dare did I tell myself I am incapable of making art for a living? Oh, right, because that’s not what typical Fil-Chi people do as business owners. Oh, because I didn’t graduate with a degree in fine art. Really, my past self is shookt with my present self. But here’s the thing: now that I’ve (I guess I have) proven people (???) and myself wrong, I’m on a constant search of what’s next. What do I have to do now? Is that it? What else is in store for me?

And then 2017 came into the picture. This year was a wake up call I never knew I needed—it was a struggle. I found myself at the highest of highs and lowest of lows, on all aspects of my life. My personal life suddenly stepped in too, without warning (unfair loljk). I have feelings! *cue Inside Out, but mostly Sadness* The hard part was controlling them and letting some of them go. Not only that—I took a backseat after checking on my mental health. It dawned on me that my inability to let go of the past (see: teenage angst part of this post on the previous paragraphs) has limited me to recognize my self-worth at this point. Don’t worry, I’m fixing it slowly but surely. Small steps every day.

While I started to get ahold of my work life by building an efficient routine, I still found it difficult to juggle my different roles as a multi-hyphenate creative. Sure, it’s fun being an artist, author, shop owner, workshop teacher, etc. But let’s be real: IT’S TIRING. There are just days where I stare in space and ask myself if I need to work this hard. What for? Money? Okay, yes, money. I need funds for my future (+ future education). But do I really have to work and tire myself out 24/7? I don’t think so. Tita Abbey needs her self-care too.

They say being your own boss is such a treat; it is. But it’s also a challenge you have to face day-to-day and it is a conscious decision that you remind yourself of. My life looks like a perfectly curated account of an artist when you look at my Instagram. Recently, I’ve been more vocal on Twitter and my stories because I felt like y’all needed to see what happens behind the grid. Just like everyone who works at a 9-5 job, being a creative is not as easy as it looks. But for the most part, I think that challenge to keep creating and making content (cliche but true) has kept me going for the longest time. There’s no stopping now—only frequent pauses in between to recharge.

And since you’ve come this far into this post (thank you lol), here are some of the things I’ve learned after this (crazy) year. Mostly my own notes to self, but maybe something you can keep in mind as you welcome 2018 in a few days.

YOU ARE NOT YOUR JOB

I’ve become too attached to my job that I basically think it’s already my life. It was only this year that I realized how far off I am without my job occupation glued into my brain. Then again, some part of me started to unfold—the part where I realize I’m actually human and I have other things to attend to apart from making art and writing books 24/7.

Now that I’m more aware of this fact, I’ve learned that taking days off has really helped me adjust to my life in general. Let’s be real, 24 was so challenging. What more in the next month when I turn 25…I don’t know. Hahaha. *flips table*

IT’S A BAD DAY, NOT A BAD LIFE

There are so many instances where I just wanted to cut this off. To cut my job off, to do nothing—and feel like my life is a waste. There are episodes of that—lots of them—mostly caused by circumstances I can’t control. And then things become okay for a bit and then the same feeling fires back again. It’s a never-ending cycle, but now that I think about it, I don’t think I can compare them to all the better things in life.

SWITCH OFF, CUT OFF

The most vacation-free trip I had in my career was when I went to New York last September. I learned to switch off after realizing I don’t have to work my a** off every time I am connected to my phone or computer. It’s normal to just stay offline, read books, do things that require physical activity. I guess that’s why I enjoyed New York the most—lots of walking, exploring, seeing new things. Not being 100% attached to my devices.

I’m not very good at cutting off things that are toxic in my life. Heck, I don’t even realize they are that bad up until the point where I feel like my world is slowly falling apart. Have you encountered the saying that how something can be so good and so bad for you at the same time? It backfires, apparently. So, I learned how to cut off people, conversations, bad memories—and eventually remove them from my life. And then I go to a salon, get a haircut, and color my hair. And start a new journal. LOL. #ritual

I believe in preserving only the good things, and then finding closure in that. Things end, but they don’t have to end on a bad note. 🙂

(Also: wew what’s with this??? I think I’m 100% too invested in it. Moving on…)

VALUE REAL RELATIONSHIPS

I’m going to say this because most of my friends know it anyway: I have major trust issues. I only have a handful of friends I count on. I’m not very sociable, and I like to keep in contact with people who share the same values as I do. I’m not clingy with my friends (except my best friend whose house is literally across mine—hi Den lol) and this is probably why low-maintenance friendships work for me.

There are really people you meet at a certain point in your life because of timing (…which can be a bitch or it can be everything—your call). I’m lucky that I’m surrounded with a good few people who accept me regardless of my job: who are more concerned that I am a well-rounded and happy (?) young adult. This year taught me the importance of valuing real friendships and the bonds that never break. That time is not even a deciding factor of realness—when you talk to people and know that there’s a connection, an instant click—everything goes forward from there. And that when you’re surrounded by an amazing set of people, you grow in many ways you never thought you would.

DREAM BIGGER DREAMS

Living in a third-world country and being raised in a traditional Filipino-Chinese home is not exactly an avenue for dreaming big (idk if that made sense but anyway…it’s just not ideal to dream big given my ~restrictions~). I’ve mentioned this quite a lot already, but I pre-conditioned myself to not be able to attain my own goals because I had a certain responsibility to fulfill as a Filipino-Chinese here in Manila. I was wrong.

Last April, my first international book, Hand Lettering A to Z, came out. That was such a challenge to work on, but I learned a lot from the process. I also saw that said book in New York, and Singapore, and Bangkok—basically all over the world. It’s been translated into 9 languages. I released ABC magazine in June, which made work this year extra fun (plus points because I learned so much from working on it with my team!). I joined my first international art fair last month in Tokyo. Next year, I plan to take a few months off, live in New York, and study continuing education courses. These were all dreams I already told myself I wouldn’t be able to achieve in my lifetime, and that I’ll be okay with it.

Who was I kidding?!?! That anything is possible quote is freaking true. As cheesy as it sounds, sometimes, the universe just knows what to do when you put in the work, too. So keep dreaming big—don’t settle for what’s in front of you. There will always be something more.

GOING AWAY

This year, I spent almost every other month traveling—booking impulsive flights, going on roadtrips, meeting new friends, experiencing new things. I went to Baguio, La Union, Iloilo, Singapore, Tokyo, Busan, Seoul, New York, Bangkok, and now I’m in Poland en route to Slovakia as I finish this post. It’s funny because I wasn’t as tired as I used to be—but also because now I know how to manage my time better (aka: finish work before leaving and/or not working on most trips).

I’ve been so concerned with having to write about how I feel on my trips but now I realize that isn’t necessary. At this point, I like how my problems feel like a bubble because I’m in a faraway place. It’s given me the much-needed hope and inspiration to go back home with a fresh start and the motivation to make things. I’ll always be a city girl but taking 4 trips (LOL) to LU this year (for work, for vacation, for ~socials~) has made me love the beach more. But I’ll still say I love cities more. Heh.

CELEBRATE

…the little things. In a world where every little act is given some sort of instant gratification, I don’t really take those as valid acts of “celebrating small wins”. The problem about being a type A person (like me) is my inability to give myself a nice pat on the back for finishing a project, releasing a book, making it through the year in general. I’m never like that. I’ve always been focused on the future, which I realized was wrong. So this year I really made it a point to have a little treat every time something is over—a dinner with friends, movie marathons, wine nights, those things. Self-care but a bit more #extra because, of course, the little wins are always worth celebrating.

Anddd—thought about this just now. Here are my 2017 bests and worsts:

Best parts of this year

  1. That ~awesome~ dinner, long-form conversations in between, capital city tour, and adulting/life talks—all in one night.
  2. Seeing the ABC Magazine proofs for the first time—and feeling proud of myself (a rare moment).
  3. My first 5-hour long drive to La Union, my favorite place up north. Verdict: I survived!
  4. Video editing: putting together clips, telling stories, compiling footage, adding last minute touches.
  5. Inspiring days with music & podcasts on loop, a good cup of coffee, and just drawing for the whole work day. #introvert5ever
  6. Walking around Eastern Europe half tipsy and just laughing all my problems away, because I act my age sometimes.

Worst parts of this year

  1. Waking up tired, exhausted, and fed up on life (it happens).
  2. Anxiety attacks, depression episodes, and sleepless nights.
  3. Staying up until 1/2AM trying to work and at the same time wonder why I work overtime on most days.
  4. Waking up late (in relation to #1) and feeling like the day has already passed me by.
  5. Having to end things. I’m bad at endings; always preferring to stay in the middle part of things, really.

Sorry for the long post. I guess it’s a valid (???) compensation since I haven’t written here for quite some time. To you, reading this, have a happy new year ahead! I hope 2017 gave you a lot of lessons too, and hopefully good memories to keep. All the best to you as we welcome 2018.

But also: BYE 2017 you were too full of plot twists quota na si acoe let us move on to another new year, okay? Okay. LOL.

Always be creating,

Abbey