2018: My Year of Self-Discovery

(For previous year-ender posts: 201420152016, 2017)

It’s been four days since I got back from my 100+ day adventure in New York, and I don’t miss anything about it. In fact, I missed my life in Manila that I’m so glad to be finally home.

Call it complacent, but I’d say it was a real wake-up call for me. I had taken this year for granted, and it has been one of my biggest regrets.

Like most end-of-year posts, I had hoped I would start this entry by listing down all my achievements for 2018. But I couldn’t even pick up a thing or two that I  would say made my year such a memorable one. In fact, I’d like to encapsulate how 2018 was for me in this statement: it was a year of self-discovery.

Being in the zone of “accomplished” and “successful” at twenty five meant nothing to me (at some point, I thought this was what I really wanted). Moreso, the whole idea of me rushing to get to the finish line had been evident—strike while the iron is hot, the famous saying goes. I did that, and worked like a machine for three years. I held onto my job so tightly as I feared that it would one day just slip off my fingers. “The work you’re doing is just a trend, how long will you even last?” I remember a potential client telling me this (don’t worry, I ended up declining the project. She was rude.)  It was good training overall, but when other priorities got in the way (brought about by work stress), I realized I had to take a step back. I had lost myself entirely.

This blog has probably seen most of my worst days compared to my picture-perfect Instagram feed. I have dreaded most months, swamped myself with work, impulsively booked trips to get away from it all. I even managed to use New York as an excuse to escape from all my problems—only to find out that it was living in that city that I had been tested to my core. I had never been so vulnerable in my life, and I have reached that point this year. And I’m glad I did.

I turned twenty five with several expectations. Maybe I’d fall in love this year, I said (I didn’t). Or maybe I’ll lose a few pounds because I’ve been stuck in this weight-fluctuating body since college (I didn’t, but I’ve learned to be comfortable in my body now, after 25 years). Maybe I could write another book (I did, I wrote two). Maybe I could move to another city (I didn’t). Maybe I could…

It was a lot.

And so as I was figuring out how to properly put my thoughts in this entry, I had nothing coming out of me.

I can’t say this year sucked. It didn’t. I felt most alive this year. It wasn’t even about the big milestones, like getting to speak at Graphika Manila (which had been on my bucket list since I entered college), or writing a self-help book, or finally enrolling in class and going back to school, or even pitching that wild idea of visiting Germany for work. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of everything that transpired this year. But that wasn’t what was on my mind the whole time.

I found joy in the small things: the kindness friends and strangers alike have shown me in different parts of the world. Train rides that linger in my memory, as I went from one place to another. Finding comfort in the chaos. The ability to be resilient in times of trouble. Realizing that I’m pretty self-aware of my conditions and constantly finding ways to become better.

In the course of deciding on how life should go, there are always crossroads that make you reassess your decisions and give you time to think. I have always overlooked this part, and made leaps as far out as I can imagine, because I figured the only way out of the door is to storm out of it as soon as possible. But that wasn’t really the best option. I had kept looking at the other side, always assuming it would be what I had in my mind. I was so fixated on the end goal (and I know I keep saying this on and on until I die I guess) that I keep forgetting to sit still and just be. Not everyday needed to be an accomplishment. Some days are just meh. Some days, you just have to let it pass. Some days can be great, but not all are.

As I sit here, typing this out on a warm Thursday morning in Manila, I think about my breath. I have suffocated myself for the longest time. What for? To keep proving that I deserve to be here, despite not being an artist at the start of my career? To keep explaining myself and justifying my purpose in this world? I have grown tired of thinking about others first before me. I have stretched out way too much to know what I can and cannot do. I have consciously cut off things that hindered me from growing, even if it took too long to realize it. And for once in my life, I tell myself I am enough for now.

My grandfather passed a week before I left for New York. The last time I experienced death was when my father passed in 2002. My visual memory is generally very strong, but I was not allowed to witness my dad’s cremation (due to zodiac conflicts), so I had vague memories of it. Until now, it hurt. It hurt too much I have always buried it in the farthest part of my memory. But this time, as I saw my grandfather for one last time before he was brought to the crematorium, it hit me—what do you bring with you when you die? Your achievements? The recognizable amount of success in your lifetime? Nope. No one will even remember that. They will only remember how kind you were. How much of a difference you’ve made in people’s lives. And that was the very reason why my definition of success has changed.

It’s easy to assume that success is THE ultimate goal of most people—me included. I have always put it at the forefront of my life, working towards goals that are way beyond my expectations. I have always expected that by the end of each year, I have something to be proud of, something tangible I can prove to people that hey, I deserve to be here.

But this year, I have nothing to show you. Instead, my “success” this year was all about looking inward. Who was I, at the end of the day, when I am stripped out of my job? Apparently I am (or have become) this strong tough girl who knows what she wants, and can fight for what she wants. I am resilient and filled with grit, and these are two things that have kept me going through life. I am anxious about the future but also wary about the present, which is why I spend most days working towards a better tomorrow. I am capable of doing things that exceed my expectations, and that’s something I’ve been proud of since day one.

But I am also this girl who sometimes needs someone to take care of her. Who needs to be reminded that work is not everything, and that there are limits to all things. I am weak, and it is in weakness that I find my strength. I am terrible at making decisions, and have learned that decisions don’t always have to be right anyway. It’s up to you to make that decision right as it unfolds right in front of you.

Some things I learned this year:

  1. It’s okay to not be okay.
  2. A good cry always helps.
  3. Not everything needs to be broadcasted on social media.
  4. You are 100% in control of your life, and you have to know what’s best for you.
  5. If things don’t turn out the way you planned them to, there will always be another way. Don’t give up.
  6. Sleep is your best friend, through and through. Sleep and lots of water.
  7. Being upfront has made my life 1000x easier and helped me save time and energy prolonging arguments. I’m tired of having to act nice when things aren’t anymore. In fact, I hate being nice. I’d rather be kind. (those are two different things)
  8. You will always meet people and connect as long as your values align (and your zodiac signs are compatible, lol). And they will change you, too.
  9. It doesn’t hurt to ask for help, in any way you can.
  10. There’s no place like home, however way you put it.

2018, you have been eye-opening. That was quite a ride. Can’t wait where 2019 takes me…literally and figuratively. 🙂

Abbey