Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Year That Was

It's hard to write my exact feelings on the year that transpired. 2013 was filled with both pleasant and heartbreaking surprises for me. If I can sum it up in a word, I'd say the past year was all about growth.

I'll remember this year for a long time, because in 2013, I...

...finally reached a wider audience with my writing.
Early this year, I took a bold leap with my writing career. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to see if I was good enough to join the insanely talented team at Pepper, the Philippines' best food blog (according to Google and anyone with good taste).

To my surprise, I got in. Prior to joining their team, I've only been writing mostly dull, predictable corporate bullshit in my former day job, and mean, sarcastic, "humor" posts in this blog. I finally had the chance to write funny stuff that wasn't just for me and my twisted friends. I was ecstatic with the opportunity, but also terrified with the responsibilities it entailed.

As expected, I made a few stumbles and cringe-worthy pieces, but overall I think I did well for my first year as a semi-pro comedy writer. I'm still going to need hard advice whenever I forget I'm not writing in my personal domain, but I'm learning to overcome that. I'm very optimistic about what 2014 could bring if I work even harder and explore other creative ventures.

...I got really sick
Health is probably the most under-appreciated asset in our busy lives. Last March, I got sick with a still unknown viral infection that had me worried about everything. I wrote about that horrid experience here. This year, I don't want something similar happening if I can avoid it. That's why I'm making a commitment to exercise more, and if I prove strong enough, quit smoking for good. 

What I can't promise is eating healthier. I have gained a deeper love and appreciation for food ever since I got into Pepper, and that won't change anytime soon. Or ever.

...I finally got a job I loved
Luck plays a bigger role in our lives than most people care to admit. And boy, was I lucky. I haven't even entertained other potential careers when opportunity came knocking. I was offered a job by one of the people I admired the most. I took it immediately, in spite of some personal concerns.

At the start, it wasn't so good. There'll always be a rather big gap between expectations and reality, and it became clear to me that it was part of my job to overcome that. Things got weird, painful and even ugly at times. But I soldiered on, with only one thought in my mind keeping me afloat.

These are all just growing pains. We will get better.

And soon enough, things changed. Everything improved, and I'm looking forward to being there for the long run. I will inevitably run into some similar challenges, but I'll be better prepared for them. Actually, I'm kind of looking forward to them. Nothing worth doing is ever easy or fast, so we must be doing something right. 

I just need to get better at bullying myself into giving it all I have. I'm not used to having a lot of freedom, and I'm still trying to find ways to improve my time management. I promised myself that the one resolution I can't break is to make the most out of this opportunity. I owe it to not just me, but to the people who've placed their trust in my abilities. And if I hate anything, it's disappointing people.

...I lost the person I loved the most in this world
Last August, my grandmother died. I cried more in that month than in the last 10 years before it. We weren't prepared for it at all. Sometimes, just remembering that she's gone forever tears me up. But that's life. Sooner or later, you'll lose people, for one reason or another.

I guess that experience was a wake up call to all of us about the shortness of life. Our busy schedules can make us forget what matters the most, and no amount of professional satisfaction can match the very human joy of being with people you love. Money isn't the most precious thing, time is. No one can buy it, and it's always running out. That's why I've become even more strict with how I spend my days. I simply can't afford to be as wasteful with it. Not anymore.

...I really felt like an adult
Work takes up a big part of your adult life. If you're not in the right place, you're essentially wasting your life. It's a tough pill to swallow. Life is the big bad bully armed with heavy hands called responsibilities and obstacles. If you're not prepared for it, your ass will get knocked the fuck out. 

This was the year I raised my own standards for what I should be doing. I became more mindful of the future. I worked harder than I ever did before, but I still felt that I fell short of my potential. You see, it's not enough to just work hard. I can actually work less, but what I really need to do is work smarter and be more efficient. I have to produce higher quality output in less time. And oh, meet deadlines, too. It's tough, but also satisfying to know you're earning your place in the world. 

This feeling was confirmed a few weeks ago, when I met some old friends I hadn't seen in years. They were surprised at how different I am now. I'm still every bit as loud and inappropriate, but they couldn't believe how "responsible"and "respectable" I've become. After all, I was the guy who used to cut classes to drink. I was the guy who got into a lot of trouble for gambling and other things. Now, I'm the guy who takes a time-out in a drinking session to borrow my friend's laptop so I can schedule fan page posts and tweets.

Seven years sure is a long time.

...I learned the joys of reading non-fiction
The fantasy genre turned me into a bookworm. There's so much wonder and splendor in those pages to make everyday life seem so boring. And for a very long time, I preferred to live in those fantastic, fictional worlds. 

After all, the mundanity of life was no match to the magic of dragons, wizards, and gods. But they do not exist in the real world, which is why people made them up. They're works of escapism. That's not a bad thing, but if you live more in the fantasy world, you might be missing out on the nice little quirks and stories of plain old life.

Since I no longer had enough time to sit back with a 600 page fantasy epic, my insatiable reading urges were unleashed on online articles and Seth Godin books. I used to only read a lot at, but I now have so many websites to visit daily for my regular information/entertainment binge. 

All this reading about the real world has given me a wider scope of how everything works. I learned the value of using a different tone to convey the same message. I learned why some businesses rise and fall. I even learned how incredible Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were. Turns out real life can surprise and delight you beyond just memes like Doge and the Harlem Shake. 

The bad side to this is that it becomes a constant source of procrastination for what I really need to do. One great article often leads to another. Before I know it, a couple of hours have passed already and I'm still stuck with a blank word document. 

... constantly thought long and hard about who I am, and who, where, and what I want to be 
I spent a good part of my year contemplating the present and imagining where it fits in my future. As a result, I've had to be more mindful of what I'm doing with my life. I've always been very self-aware, but none more so than last year. 

Every major decision I made has been thought out in advance, weighed relentlessly against other options, and with a post completion analysis for comparison against my projected outcome. It sounds so clinical, but all I'm really saying is that I think, imagine and compare choices a lot. About everything.

Our mid-20's is such an exciting time. Depending on who you are, it can be exhilarating or terrifying. To me, it's both. I'm frequently optimistic about where I'm going, even if I'm not too sure just where it is yet. I try to enjoy the ride, even when the road is rocky and occasionally lined with the figurative horse crap. 

It's hard enough on its own, but it gets even tougher in these times. With the constant loom of social media displaying everyone's yearly highlight reel like some sort of publicly viewable trophy room, you can't help but feel like you have to compare yourself regularly against their achievements. 

You think you've done awfully good for yourself until you see a younger batchmate get on TV, or someone you didn't think highly of get promoted in a great company. Everyone's lives are on full display, and it's only natural that some would look brighter than yours.

But here's what I'm really curious about:

Are their lives really as peachy as they and their friends make it seem? And even if it is, why should I even care about the life that's not mine to live anyway?

I don't know. The way I'm wired makes me obsess about trivialities like this. It might be my way of subconsciously measuring my own worth against others. I'm probably just looking for some confirmation that I'm headed somewhere, but it makes me feel bad knowing I'm unintentionally using my peers as either goal posts to aspire to or cautionary tales to avoid. 

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking this. The uncertainty of early adult life is intimidating. You never know what'll happen, as even the best laid plans can go awry. All you can do is work, dream and keep your focus. Because in the bigger scheme of things, no one will care more about your life than you.

That's why I can't wait to see where I'll eventually end up in 5, 10, or 20 years. I can only hope it's something I'll be satisfied with.

Happy New Year to you. Now go, make something.

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