Sipping my coffee while writing down my goals and to-do lists in my planner, I had lone moments in our garage watching people ride their bikes and walk their dogs in our village. It was a fine weekend in January; the rays of the sun were just enough to warm my face as if countering the coldness of the wind. I gazed at the trees and appreciated this rare view of greenery apart from the city. I see dried leaves getting swayed by the gentle wind and some flowers dancing gracefully in the neighborhood garden. Quietly admiring the peaceful scenery, I also thought of a subtle comparison of life — everything blooms and withers in its own season but growth is always constant, indicating life.

Likewise, it’s been two weeks since we welcomed another year. One chapter has closed, yet a new phase has just started. The endearing ironies of life remind me that it is a continuing process of letting go and starting over again. How do you measure the worth of a year? Is it by the achievements you’ve made, things or properties you have acquired, or relationships you treasured the most? For me, it’s truly unquantifiable. It’s a myriad of bumps and blessings down the road, depicting the synchrony of events that shaped you, molded you, and taught you lessons invaluable.

And while I write this, I can’t help but look back at the memories made, conversations shared, even traveling back to the emotions that brought me joy and tears. It’s inevitable to go a bit sentimental, but gratitude overflows my heart to recall how I made it through last year.

Writing for Passion, Not for Recognition

Without attending food gigs or events organized by blogging communities, I still continued writing in my blog. I had the liberty to share with my readers my restaurant experiences without getting pressured to promote them unlike when I attended food events where I had to find recommendable qualities of the business even when I had distasteful encounters. My writings were more centered on experiences I think that would add value to my readers in terms of perspectives on life, food, and beyond. Although I miss the vibrant meet-ups with foodies, free food/tokens, and the VIP treatment, I disdained deadlines and the scrupulous efforts in styling, photography, and content writing. Being tagged as an influencer has its perks, but also, it has its huge responsibilities like consistency in effort, appearance, and time which I think won’t fit anymore in my full plate. I also think that my non-outgoing personality who hates being pressured with creativity does not fit well to the demands of being an influencer. So I just enjoyed writing at my own pace, expenses, and words came naturally without being overshadowed by duties and expectations. But I liked the outcome. My blog evolved from a food-centric page to a space that really expresses who I am. I outgrew the idea of trying to become a famous blogger who previously raved event invitations and increase in followers.

In addition to that, I was thankful that my writing was recognized again by a reputable communications agency in its recent writing competition for bloggers entitled “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor” where I was awarded 18th place among 108 contenders all over the country. Though I was not writing frequently in my blog, this achievement inspired me to continue my passion for writing because you still have readers and your influence stretches distances unknown.

Handling My Finances with Wisdom

Last year was a tough one. As one of the breadwinners of the family, I struggled to make both ends meet. There were days when I had little left of my salary to spare for my personal needs and wants because a majority of it was allocated for paying bills and household necessities. I had to wait for the next salary before I can even spend on skincare, make-up, or expensive coffee and restaurants. Leisure travels were out of the picture. I maintained a low lifestyle. However, what I am most proud of is having started the road to being debt-free. I closed two credit cards and finished another full term of insurance payment.

What made the difference? I started thinking for the long-term. I changed my mindset about finances. I religiously wrote in my planner my monthly budget and expenses and followed it. We should be responsible stewards of the wealth entrusted to us by God. Although there were tumultuous sacrifices of prioritizing needs over wants, it was worth it in the end. Achieving financial freedom has more benefits like peace, stability, and mental wellness.

Surprisingly, even if I was not able to reach my target savings or emergency fund last year, I did not feel that bad. For as long as I have my job, I believe I still have all the time to do it while I am earning. A changed perspective on stewardship allowed me to give according to my heart’s content, recognizing that God will reward us if our motives are in line with His will. I also did not regret if most of my Christmas bonus last year was spent on family and home improvements.

Changing Gears in my Career

Working from home for almost two years was not easy as I thought it to be. I’ve written here several times about the challenges in juggling home and work responsibilities and the feeling of being cooped inside the house that hardly defines borders between personal life and work life. With that, when the opportunity to work onsite was opened in our company, I was one of the volunteers. There were days when I had to report in the office, and there were also days that I worked at home. Honestly, that worked effectively for me. I felt more productive; I was able to manage my hours concentrating on my tasks without getting interrupted by sudden household chores. I liked dressing up and putting on make-up again. I get to breathe a different air compared to when I was confined inside our home. I put aside the threat of contracting the virus outside because one, I was already fully vaccinated. Second, our company practices diligent measures in implementing safety protocols by providing our food, transportation, and even sanitation needs just so we would avoid going outside. Some people who rarely go outside their homes even get infected so it’s my belief that you’re meant to get it, you will get it. Just do your part in protecting yourself. I will try to write another blog post about this experience, sharing that a hybrid work set-up is beneficial on different grounds.

Last year, I bravely went my way to start my own Six Sigma Project. For those who are not familiar with it, it’s initiating a project in your organization following a thorough process that aims to reduce wastes or redundancies in workflows. As a Business Analyst in our company, that is one of my primary tasks. However, the process is really tedious. You have to go depths of data gathering and analysis, collaborating with leaders and stakeholders, and assessing which solutions are profitable yet practical or doable. It’s hard squeezing this in between my regular tasks especially since our team has peak seasons, so I had to sacrifice doing it sometimes outside my work hours or even weekends. However, I am already nearly completing it by God’s grace. More than the prestige or award of completing this project, it’s fulfilling to impart something that would help the organization.

There were times I feel really frustrated juggling my tasks and I was not well-compensated in terms of performance rating or incentives. But I look unto the Lord who sees and rewards everything in the end.

Healing from Relationships

Relationships that create a dent in your heart are not only limited to romantic — they can also be relationships with friends, families, or colleagues. Although I have an immense love for a person, I made a hard decision because I believe it was best for both parties to grow individually without having additional baggage on things you cannot settle amicably. It was hard, even until now. The memories are still there no matter how you push them away at the back of your mind. The intense emotions would resurface from time to time. I realized that love is too strong to diminish instantly because a part of yourself was given and lost, but you learn to get by. You discover things on your own which are equally beautiful, like taking time for yourself, your goals, and your passions. That one space reserved for intimacy in my heart was divided into smaller compartments — career, family, spiritual, and personal. I think I am doing well and will get there in time. For now, I devote my time loving myself and getting right on track with the Lord. It takes time to unlearn and learn, but I will be patient with myself. I’ve been more open to my wounds to selected trusted people compared to before that I used to carry it in my heart and mind alone.

Last year, I had differences with some of my family members especially at the start of the pandemic when our differing views and personalities were magnified under one roof. This was after my dad died. I questioned how sometimes my mom and siblings don’t understand my burdens in the family. I was working from home yet I was also attending to everybody’s needs in the house. I also realized that it was also due to my lack of communication with them; I also projected that I was too strong to be offered help emotionally and financially. Recently, I tried to open myself more to them. I also no longer questioned their decisions and activities that seemed selfish on the onset because I was deprived while doing my “ate” duties. I stopped interfering with their own choices because I respect that we come from different backgrounds, though same in upbringing in the family. When you stop measuring what you do for others and comparing your efforts with them, you start focusing on your service. I realized that maybe I felt that way because every time I do something for them, I expect them to appreciate it or reciprocate it on their own terms which is an incorrect motive of service.

Coping with Other People’s Absence in My Life

In 2020, I lost two people so dear to me – Daddy and Karen. Jem, another close friend, got married last year. Helen was assigned in Cebu for work, and Fatma now resides in Zamboanga with her husband. It was quite painful to realize people are embracing new chapters and I can’t help but get anxious. But I remembered Fatma telling me that while everyone is changing, so am I. Change is constant. Adjustments will be tough at the start, but you learn to adapt. I’ve also learned to appreciate the people who are still there regardless of these circumstances.

Developing Myself

I diverted my attention to improving myself. Aside from practicing discipline with my finances, I searched for ways to boost my skills and knowledge related to my career and interests. I enrolled myself in LinkedIn Learning courses on diverse topics of personal development, leadership, management, and business analysis. I would sometimes unplug my social media to read books and read the bible often to gain more wisdom.

I expanded my network outside my team to increase my knowledge/skills outside my process and learn insights from other leaders. I participated actively in my church support group studying God’s word and sharing our own lessons and experiences in life.

I also continued my fascination for skincare products. I maintained a simple regimen that worked for my skin type. Having tried out different products, I finally discovered what I think works best for my skin, budget, and lifestyle. I also availed myself a beauty and wellness package from Hey Pretty Aesthetic Center to improve more my skin.

What I Look Forward To In 2022

Consistency. “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently,” – Anthony Robbins. I aim to be more consistent in a lot of things that I think would help me spiritually, financially, emotionally, and physically. Consistency leads to habits, and these habits eventually impact my productivity and performance. I want to write more frequently — whether in my planner or in my blog to document my life experiences, learnings, and plans. I want to be more consistent in prayer, devotion, church attendance, and ministries. I want to be consistent in ending my work shift on time because I really tend to overwork myself a lot.

Control. “Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”― Steve Maraboli

I want to practice controlling my thoughts so my emotions would be controlled as well. I want to control my words towards others and myself. I want to control my finances and utilize money more responsibly. I want to be fully aware of the things I can control and the things I cannot so I would avoid frustrations.

Choices. Making better choices this year in all aspects that relate to the well-being of my family, health, relationships, goals, and dreams. Choices that will help me become a better person, daughter, sister, colleague, friend, partner, etc. Choices that will lead me closer to God and to my dreams.

Create. I will strive to create more opportunities for growth. I will create more platforms to express myself uniquely. I will create connections that will build my character.

I will not elaborate further on the concrete goals I have for this year — it will be between me and the Lord. But I already have a vision of what I want for this year, creating a more empowered version of myself for God, for my family, and for others.

It’s been a challenging year for me. I’ve lost a lot, but I am also holding on to the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us. I’m still blessed in so many ways more than material. For now, that will be more than enough for me.

While I recall how the year passed, I smile that I am in that state of contentment, gratitude, and peace.