Most year-end posts will probably start by saying 2016 has been a shitty year in general. And I totally get it – I don’t think I’ve ever felt this disillusioned about the world we live in.
But I’ll let other, more credible, knowledgeable and entertaining people talk about that (I recommend Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s season ender for starters). For this post, allow me to retreat to my own personal bubble. And if I had to define my 2016 personal bubble in one word, it’d be this: purpose.
At the risk of sounding like the product of a motivational lecture or self-help book (it wasn’t), this year, more than any of the years before it, I took great strides in trying to find my personal purpose. On top of that, I finally did something – something big – about it, by finally deciding to make my personal purpose my daily purpose.
I feel this post is going to sound incredibly cheesy and pretentious if I keep waxing poetic about the things that happened this year without sharing the straightforward version of it first. Basically, in 2016 I got promoted and moved to Vietnam, and after six months, I decided to quit my job, quit corporate, and move back to the Philippines.
It’s been a long time coming, and far from being a spur-of-the-moment thing. I feel like 2015 in particular had a lot to do with my decision to finally take such a big step. Last year was nothing short of stellar: great accomplishments at work, one epic trip to check off the bucket list, and the rekindling of an old, dormant passion.
I left 2015 feeling satisfied and accomplished with the path I had taken – but also ready to do something else, to finally listen to that tiny voice that had been so patient with me since I graduated university.
That voice that remained silent while I ventured into “adulting”, i.e. into a fast-track ride up the corporate ladder. The voice that didn’t object when I aimed for stability while simultaneously wanting to enjoy life’s simple and great pleasures (i.e. The Great Paradox of My 20s: working my ass off + travelling as much as I can to as many places I can + spending money + saving money for a car and a condo, etc. I don’t know how I managed to pull it off, either.) The voice that grew loud as I approached my mid-20s, becoming known as My Quarterlife Crisis, but gradually grew silent again as I moved companies for better jobs and better benefits, continued travelling, and moving from saving for a car and a condo to paying for insurance and investments.
That voice came back in 2016 with a different approach. Actually, it started rearing its head in 2015. Life was going well, and my path seemed clear. But it was also becoming clearer and clearer by the day that this path was not the one I really wanted to take.
A lot of this has to do with my job, but it really goes beyond that. That’s content for an entirely different post though. For this post I’ll jump right into recounting the year that was in less abstract ways.
I got promoted to marketing manager and moved to Vietnam in June. Living in another country is a great experience I’d recommend everyone experience at least once in their lives. I can’t say it taught me to be more independent and to rely on myself more – I’ve already learned plenty of that living alone in Manila since my days at university, while my family remained in the province. If anything, I learned the opposite – it was a humbling experience, learning to ask for help, and relying on the kindness of strangers and new acquaintances. Living in another country did teach me to become more responsible though.
But beyond all the learning, the more fun bit was all the exploring – discovering my new city, my new neighborhood, and playing tour guide to visiting friends and family! The sepanx that would kick in after guests left was a pain, but the fun few days they spent with me were worth it. You guys know who you are – thank you for taking the time out from your lives to come over to visit!
Being expatriated meant travelling became a bigger part of my life than it already was – it wasn’t entirely for the better, however. I don’t think I’ve ever been severely exhausted from travelling the way I was for a couple of months this year. It was just physically and mentally draining, flying from Vietnam to Manila and back again several times with such short days in between. Add to that the business trips and weekend trips I had to take to Singapore. I have no regrets, but I won’t deny that it was physically taxing.
To paint a picture, two examples: first, a weekend I spent in Singapore with friends to watch a concert (iKON saranghaeyo! LOL). The time in Singapore and the concert was epic – food, drinks, dancing, quality Kpop. Recipe for a perfect weekend! But the journey to get to Singapore to spend 2 full days there was a complicated one – I had to fly from Vietnam to Manila about 2 days prior for a last-minute trip (visa issues), but my flight to Singapore was going to be from Vietnam. Which meant I had to fly from Manila to Vietnam and arrived Friday afternoon, only so I can repack my luggage and get ready from my flight from Vietnam to Singapore early morning Saturday. Then I had to fly back from Singapore to Vietnam early morning on Monday the week after.
Second example: a whirlwind trip back to the Philippines, in which I flew in from Vietnam and arrived Friday morning, had to work at the Manila office for the whole day, then drove to Batangas that night for a beach trip with family. The drive to the beach the next day was about 4 hours (thankfully I was just a passenger), and then we had to go back a day after that, on Sunday. By early Monday morning I was driving myself back to Manila so I could spend another day at work in the Manila office before my flight back to Vietnam that night.
The truth is I’m recounting these instances as a note to myself more than anything else – because while it was necessary at the time and I don’t regret it (I discovered then the lengths we go just to see family and friends, even for a little bit), I hope for a life when I never need to go through that kind of stress again.
So yeah. While I loved living in Saigon, the constant travelling also took a toll on me. That’s not to say I lost my love for travel this year. I had some pretty good trips, and visited two countries for the first time: Australia for a dear friend’s wedding and Japan.
Port Fairy, where the wedding was held, was a lovely little town, the kind you’d see in Hallmark movies, and I’d love to come back someday to rent a cottage for a couple of days and do some writing. Melbourne meant just one thing to me: brunch. LOL.
Osaka was a-mazing. Kyoto was quaint. I’d love to go back again, and soon!
Despite all the changes, one thing remained the same this year: my love for Seoul. I went on a spring trip to my favorite city with friends before I moved to Vietnam, and also marked the end of my stint in Saigon and the start of a new chapter in my life with a trip to Seoul early this month. I don’t know how things will pan out next year with my life in general, but I’m hoping there’ll still be a trip or two to Seoul then.
I think that needs more emphasis – there hasn’t been a year in my adult life that’s as unpredictable as the coming one. 2017 is bound to come in with a whole bunch of surprises, but it’s all part of what makes it so exciting. If I need to survive surprises, both good and bad, to live a life that lets me fulfill my purpose everyday, then so be it. So bring it on, 2017! And thanks to all the friends who continue to support me all the way.
I’m too lazy to make a collage of photos to mark this year (my little brother is waiting for me, because we have a Mortal Kombat X tournament tonight) so I’m posting a photo of me taken early on in 2016 instead. Know that this was not how I looked on a regular basis this year (in fact I looked the exact opposite, haha), but please allow me a rare decent selfie. Happy new year!