So Long, 2018. Thank You for the Lessons.

What. A. Year. 2018, in more ways than one, was the calendar year that changed me the most. They say hindsight is 20/20 and, looking back, I must say that 2018 was one hell of a teacher.

It started the same way as the previous years, with a few pitches lined up for the whole month. That was the easy and familiar part. The not so easy and not so familiar was the fact that January 2018 was the first time I was starting the year as a homeowner. Any free time I could get, I was looking at home ideas and Pinterest boards; my bookmarks changed from football and hiking, to condo living and furniture ideas!

I went to Boracay for the first time in my life a month after, and it was as fun and as beautiful as people told me it would be. Work was going great, and I was preparing for big international presentations. The thesis group I was handling at this time were chugging along nicely, and my personal life was calm and steady.

Needless to say, I was on a high, and I was happy.

Little did I know, a storm was brewing.

The second quarter was when things started getting, shall we say, tough. A work session out of the country wasn’t going so well, and home costs were starting to shoot up a bit. My decision to move much further away from the office also seemed a little less smart, with my transportation lifeline Uber seemed destined to be bought by its decidedly less reliable competitor Grab (and, as we now realise, we really didn’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone). My finances started getting just a tad bit shaky, too.

The biggest challenges, however, were happening at work. I like to think that I’m someone that my teammates could rely on, and that I’m usually able to help out to the best of my abilities. But for a span of several weeks, I was neither reliable nor able to bring out my best qualities. I was feeling the weight of expectations, and it didn’t help that I was going through moments of self-doubt; some call it ‘imposter guilt’, but whatever its name is, I was feeling it in buckets. I couldn’t sleep much, thinking of how much I’ve let down my team and people who believed in me.

To make matters worse, one of my closest and most important friendships broke down. Looking back, I should have addressed this earlier, but it would be six months of simmering emotions and frustrations before any steps to fix it would be taken.

It did not help one bit that I turned thirty during this turbulent, emotional period. I felt lost. I was confused. And I was unsure about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I was probably the worst birthday dinner date as well.

I needed to take a step back, calm down, and look at how the rest of the year could be saved – if at all. I didn’t want to believe that all was lost.

A time for learning.

The last 3-4 months of 2018 would be a time of maturity and emotional growth for me. There was a support system in place, both at home and at work, that has always existed; I was simply too caught up with my own negativity that I didn’t cry out for help soon enough.

A hiking trip couldn’t have come at a better time a couple of months later. The two weeks away from the office, I think, helped me fall in love with the work once again. The hours on the trail and on the mountains gave me time to think and remember why I wake up five times a week and brave Manila traffic to get to the office, and why I am where I am. The time off helped me reconnect to what motivated me professionally.

More importantly, a few days out of town with PJ helped me figure out why I was (wrongly) placing an enormous amount of pressure on myself. Why I was living other people’s standards. Why I was beating myself up with self-doubt. Time alone with her (which is rare) helped me return back to my centre, and helped me let go of so much emotional baggage.

The holiday season was the time when I took a more proactive role in my responsibilities as a homeowner and as an adult. I made a lot of mistakes throughout the year that caused a degree of money-related worries, and it was a time to reset and plan better. To look back at a full calendar year of errors and create plans to manage them in the coming year was a huge relief, believe me.

2018 was a crazy year, full of twists and turns, and peppered with numerous painful moments. I want to share with you the most important things I’ve learned, and maybe they can help you face 2019 with a braver face:

  1. Remember why you started.
  2. You’re not alone.
  3. Take time to unplug and reset.
  4. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
  5. Fixes need planning.
  6. Trust and be kind to yourself.
  7. Nurture your most important relationships.

If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time today to read this. I appreciate it! I hope that in some way, it has inspired you to be more prepared for the coming challenges of 2019. Cheers!

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