Three Key Takeaways from 2017

…and 2016 too (because I was too distraught to write anything last year)

Writing year-end notes has always been part of my system, long before people actually termed it as New Year’s Eve Essay Writing Contest. And while some people feel irked with such pompous display, I’d still share this anecdote as a reminder of my context at this point in my life — and NOT to impress people about the depth of my realisations.

Here are the three main themes that have painted my 2016 AND 2017. Yes, two full years so expect a rather lengthy post.

3. Perfect timings eventually arrive — but with a catch.

Post-college years had been plagued with constant questioning on where I should be. With its unconventional wisdom, the universe answered through presenting mismatched opportunities.

Fate seemed to be tricking me. Thinking I could not win by resisting, I joined and played the game by its rules. Which meant assuming roles I never wanted. Worse, taking jobs with skill sets I suck at. Those were risks I had to take — at the expense of intensifying the negative self-talk at the onset of a trivial mistake.

Fortunately, IT consulting and its technical aspects did not eat me alive! I came out victorious, realising that our limits exist when we entertain them. :)

I was once again tested when Xavier School offered an Economics teaching post. Already dead set with History for graduate school, I was hesitant to welcome an ‘old friend’ back especially that Economics was my waterloo back in the university. You’ve read that right!

I still risked and played things by ear. A renewed appreciation of the discipline’s intricacies blossomed day after day. Eventually, I found myself taking another leap of faith in 2016, applying for and enrolling in the Economics programme of the Ateneo.

At last, pursuing my master’s degree has become a reality. And I couldn’t be any happier living the dream.

Though I seem to find graduate school manageable, it’s not as if I’m treading in a wonderland filled with clear skies and pristine beaches. The journey has been filled with many ups and downs.

Sometimes, I feel I’m lagging behind my batchmates who have already finished graduate studies or have reached professional milestones at 27. Many have become doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and corporate managers with earnings beyond decent living standards. Some have already been married and forming their families.

Even so, the pains and difficulties of working and studying simultaneously are beyond immeasurable. Work simply doesn’t stop and personal problems lurk around — amidst all the school requirements I have to turn in. And the emotional ride has nothing been short of mental.

This is exactly where the value of the career detour that I’ve had matters most. A misfit’s life equipped me with the right tools to navigate through stony paths — self-management, emotional maturity, passion and grit, fortitude, and growth mindset. These experiences familiarised an environment of uncertainty — and that I have to be comfortable with it.

Had I refused a detour, opting out to struggle for my dreams is still a strategy. Uncharted terrains would remain as such. Potentials would stay as potentials — without any shot at fruition.

Indeed, we are where we are supposed to be — even if sometimes it doesn’t seem that way.

2. Pause and discern.

During the past years, I had to re-examine my personal relationships. While mostly harmonious, I realised how selfish I could become — mainly by closing people off from my life. I listen to their woes, but I refuse to tell my share of problems. I don’t fret about the smallest things, but I hold off discussions until I erupt and realise it’s too late to save the connection. I pretend to be strong because I don’t want others to worry about me. All of which barred me from genuinely deepening relationships, as well as forging new ones.

I had to re-think about my kind of self-care. Physically, I overstretch myself, only visiting doctors when I feel extremely ill. Proper sleep has not been a priority. It’s unsurprising I have become sickly particularly in 2016. Mentally, some unhealthy thoughts have recurred — not being enough for the people I love, being physically unattractive, lack of competency, questionable intellectual prowess, and inability to trust, among others. These voices have started to shape me into the monster I’ve once feared.

I had to re-consider how my circumstances shape my behaviour. Clearly, I know what to do. However, avoiding the right action just seems too convenient because of the lure of temporary satisfaction, of selfishness, of intense fears.

All of these required more alone time — countless minutes staring nowhere, longer times inside the bathroom, and numerous visits at the Gesù. Every instance allowing me to find some inner peace amid the turbulence was savoured. Because reflection is an essential activity for one’s sanity— and frankly an integral aspect of me (much credit to Xavier and Ateneo for ganging up in enriching this side of me!).

Re-calibrating perspectives through discernment could have been the most honest assessment of where I am. It presents the truth, yet in a calming and emancipating manner, to the point that tears will naturally gush through. It is in solitude that I’ve discovered bliss knowing what I have in life — a prospering career, a master’s degree about to be completed in three semesters (PLEASE!), and people who love and appreciate me in each way possible.

1. Forgive people — including yourself.

I have forgiven people who have wronged me. You are all forgiven — for temporary lapses big or small and for unmet expectations. For acts you have apologised for and even for those you didn’t. For hurting me — whether intentionally or not.

More importantly, I forgive myself for my share of mistakes. For my shortcomings, for being stubborn, for hurting people because of actions stemming from fear, self-centredness, and inability to delineate right from wrong. I would forever apologise for those hurtful actions — for blocking people off, for not showing effort, for acting cowardly and selfishly, for failing to appreciate the smallest gestures of affection, for breaking trusts, and for not taking responsibility.

These have gravely affected others, but these have also impacted me in ways unfathomable. Because I know this isn’t me. Because I know I could do better.

But I won’t beat myself out of those lapses — because I would change even if people won’t forgive me.

Forgiving others and myself, no matter how hard, has freed me from unnecessary burden. Forgiveness disarmed hurt, pain, and fear from controlling my life. It has cracked the wall I was building, paving the way to hone and preserve relationships with people. It enabled me to trust other people that they won’t hurt me — and to trust myself I won’t hurt them, too.

Frankly, I don’t know if this is where I’m supposed to be. I mean, we can learn our lessons without necessary experiencing them, right? But anyway, what’s done is done. And while the experience has been gruelling, forgiveness guides me to become better and take appropriate actions.

I’m feeling good about 2018, and I hope you are too! May we all become better, more loving people this year! Happy 2018! :)

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