13 Things About 2013

I almost skipped this post because if I can be totally honest, yesterday’s post kinda took a lot out of me. But I wanted to keep with tradition, and I wanted to end the year with a joyful and grateful note, and there’s always something a little joyful in looking back, right?

So, 2013. The Year of the Brave. I can’t believe it’s ending, and at the same time, I am really ready to say goodbye to 2013. 2013 wasn’t as difficult as 2009, or really completely as happy as 2010 or 2011 or 2012. If I can use a word to describe this year other than it being courageous, it’s…well, equal parts heart-filling and heartbreaking. That’s the best I can describe it, and truth was, I actually expected that. You can’t be courageous without it somehow breaking your heart, right?

But despite that, I still think that 2013 is good. It’s good. I remember telling my friend, when she asked me how I was, that I was good. I figured it was a more appropriate way than saying “okay” because okay is just…okay. Not really good, just…okay. Did that make sense? But good is another thing, and being in that place is enough for me now. :)

  1. With every year that I have gone to places, that is always the first thing I like to recap. :) 2013 saw me traveling again. The only new place in my list is Jakarta, my first out of the country trip this year. And then there were other places that I’ve been to before but took me a while to go back: Singapore and Guam. On the domestic front, I went to Tagaytay (for the nth time, twice), Subic and La Union. These trips, especially the international ones, kind of wiped my bank account…but what the hey. Money is just money, and I can always earn it back. The experiences in all those places are priceless, anyway.
  2. The first time I traveled alone. I think I don’t have to say why this is noteworthy, right? That Singapore trip was really a therapy of sorts (or as my friend Jam said when we saw each other, “rehab” :P), and it was a lovely, lovely time. I can’t wait to go out on my own again.
  3.  I think another reason why I was so broke this year was because I bought myself two big gifts: the much-awaited MacBook Air and my Kindle Paperwhite. I don’t regret them, of course, because I really wanted them, and they have made my reading and writing life a lot easier. :)
  4. My dog Batman passed away. On my birthday. :( I love that dog so much and it still makes me sad to remember him sometimes. He’s such a brave and lovely dog, the first one I really loved. I especially missed him on my saddest days in 2013. We had other dogs, sure, but I felt like Batman really knew me, and he really tried to comfort me when I’m sad. I’m sure other dog owners understand this, right?
  5. Grace.
    As I mentioned in my previous post, I ended 2012 with a note about graciousness, and that was definitely applied by 2013. There were so many exercises in grace this year, and I realized how grace is really hard work. This year saw me wrestling with un-gracious thoughts, trying my best to give grace and then realizing in the end that I need it just as much as I need to give it. I learned to lay my weapons down, to pick my battles (somewhat), cut people slack, and to ask for forgiveness. Grace is one of the many things that made this year brave and beautiful, and I am so, so grateful that it is free. :)
  6. Intentionality, again. I wanted to write a post on intentionality this year, and I read the post draft I had but it didn’t fit, and I didn’t feel like I am fit to write about it even after the whirlwind that is 2013. But I tried to be intentional this year, I really did. I prayed and tried to act with good intentions…but I think the biggest lesson I had about it this year is what a friend told me yesterday: sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. It’s a hard lesson to learn, because it required me to look even more outside of myself. Or I guess it’s really more in the context of expectations, really — how our expectations can sometimes kill our good intentions, something like that. I do believe that we can all benefit from being intentional with one another, but perhaps there’s more to this — I bet there really is. Perhaps there’s more to this in the next year.
  7. I finally finished a novelThis item was supposed to be I wrote a novel! but then I realized I’ve been doing that every year for NaNoWriMo. I joined Mina V. Esguerra’s #romanceclass this year, and I finally, finally finished a manuscript after how many years of leaving unfinished works in my hard drive. I even had it sent to beta readers, which is a great, great help, and I even got to revision stage. I pushed the release later and later because of some reasons (personal, among other things), but I am working hard to get it out really, really soon. And I even have an outline for the next ones. So let’s all cross our fingers for 2014 for this. :D
  8. I started tutoring kids.
    I will have a separate post for this eventually, but this is the short version: I became a Cornerstone tutor. In a nutshell, Cornerstone is our community‘s education program where tutors teach basic reading and comprehension and values formation to kids. I’ve heard of this for so long, but I didn’t exactly volunteer for it because I had busy weekends — or so I thought. Then things happened in my life and my SFC household head told our friend who heads the Cornerstone program in our area that I want to help. So I found myself waking up way too early on Saturday mornings just to go to our school and teach kids. I have more to write about this next time, but let me say that Cornerstone has definitely made my Saturday mornings brighter. :)
  9. Heartbreak. I know, I know. This sounds like the juiciest item, but let me elaborate. I guess we can start with my dog passing away, and then there were many more instances of it after that. Then there was also Haiyan/Yolanda, and that absolutely broke my heart in so many ways for my country. And yes, there was some that came from the romantic front. Okay, a lot of it came from there, and in some ways, I know it came from my own doing, too. And that is all the elaborating I would do, because the other details don’t need to be written down (at least, not now). Suffice to say that I learned the most from this, and it taught me to let go of so many things, and hold on to God’s goodness. Donald Miller hit the nail right on the head with this tweet: “Sometimes the most self-respecting decision you can make is to choose heartbreak over instant gratification. You’re worth the pain.” Yes, it is, and yes, I am. (You are, too.) I know I have done my share in breaking other people’s hearts too, and for that, I am really, really sorry.
  10. Vulnerability, being seen and loved. I learned about Brené Brown this year, and her TEDx talks on vulnerability and shame were some of my most favorite discoveries. Then who knew that I would be able to apply them this year? But I guess it follows because I wrote about having a brave heart last year, and having that means I have to learn to be vulnerable. It means trusting people, and allowing myself to be seen and loved and to be in the now. It means allowing myself to hope, to keep on walking, even if it was the last thing I feel like doing. It was this year that I really believed that while vulnerability reminds us of our humanity, it doesn’t make us fragile, not one bit. (And I am definitely reading Brene Brown’s book in 2014. :D)
  11. I found my core people this year. I’ve always known that I have a great set of friends, but this year they really, really shone in my life. I lost count of the times I slept at four to five in the morning to hang out, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. I lost sleep for so many nights but I don’t regret any of it because those were some of my favorite moments this year. More than those fun times, I also saw how my friends loved me and took care of me and were patient with me. Like what I told them last Christmas, their love and time and patience were some of the most precious gifts I received this year, and I am grateful. It is my hope that I can extend the same care and love that they showed me, too. :)
  12. Time is a friend. It took me a while to really, really feel this. If last year, I learned that space is good, this year, I learned that time is a friend. I didn’t understand it at first, and I resisted it even — because I am an impatient little girl who doesn’t know what’s good for her. :P I have made so many mistakes because I hurried things or wanted to hurry things, and I apologize for that. But I have learned, and am learning, that we really can’t hurry some things. That things really take time for it to work. And most importantly, healing takes time.
  13. Forgiveness. And just like last year, I got some last minute lessons this year, too. Before this year ended, I learned about forgiveness. Oh, it’s not that I don’t know about it. It’s really more about learning it all over again, and really, really feeling it this time. I remember during one of the times I went to Confession this year, the priest told me about how Jesus never said “love” in the Lord’s Prayer, but mentioned “forgive” twice, and perhaps it was because Jesus meant that forgiveness is a kind of loving. This year — especially in the last few weeks — I faced forgiveness, both in giving and receiving it. I learned how hard it was to forgive the people you love who have wronged you, and how it was even harder to ask for forgiveness from them. And even way harder is to forgive yourself from all the mistakes you made. Like courage, forgiveness is a conscious decision, a constant choice and sometimes even a battle because you need to work hard in forgiving all the time. I really liked what the priest told me then: Pray for a big heart. A small heart gets irritated by the smallest things and refuses to think about others. A big heart absorbs the pain and knows how to forgive. Jesus had a big heart that He was able to bear the pain on the cross and forgive. You need to pray for a big heart. That has been my constant prayer ever since I heard it, and I’d like to believe that God is answering that, one day at a time. This year, I prayed so hard for redemption…and I’d like to believe that it was an answered prayer. So thank you, thank You for this gift. Because she has been forgiven, she can love. Because she is loved, she can forgive. 

I’ve always liked the New Year because it always meant that everything seems new and fresh and there are always infinite possibilities. I am so done with 2013, not because it was a bad year (despite it being heartbreaking for most parts) but because I am ready for the next year. I am ready to welcome the coming year with all I am. I am still messy and imperfect and awkward, and the new year will not really take that away in a snap (if it will ever be taken away, that is). I will carry all that and the lessons I learned in 2013 to the new year, and I trust that God, in His infinite mercy, will use all of that and bring new things from this. Or perhaps He will make some of the old things seem new because He will give me new eyes to see it. I don’t know exactly, but I’m not really scared. :) God is good and faithful and He delights in me (delights in us!), so what’s to be scared about?

Image from we heart it
Image from we heart it

If I haven’t said thank you to you (family, friend, acquaintance, someone I argued with, someone I hurt, someone I asked forgiveness from, someone who hurt me and yes, I forgive you) yet for being a part of my 2013 then here it is: THANK YOU. Thank you for being a part of my year of courage. Thank you for being a part of the brave stories that roar. Thank you from the bottom of my sunflower-loving, solar-powered stargirl heart. ♥

Have a joyful 2014, everyone. :)

The Story of Brave Things that Roar

Can I say it? I know we still have a day before 2013 is officially over, but can I please, please say it?

MAN, WHAT A YEAR 2013 HAS BEEN.

I mean, seriously.

I know that when I chose my 2013 word even before the year rolled around that it wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, I almost decided to choose another word, but then I realized that’s cheating, especially after the word has owned me even before I decided to own it. I knew that I would go through a lot, and I knew that choosing to be courageous means facing fear head on. I wish I could say I was completely prepared, but I guess one is never really that prepared, no matter what.

So wow, 2013. You surely were something.

I could go on and on about courage and bravery, but to keep me from rambling, here are four important things I learned about courage in 2013. :)

1. “Happiness is a form of courage.”

This is a funny thing to think of, and the story behind this post about happiness is really me contemplating if I will buy myself the MacBook Air that my boss was selling me the day after I thought of replacing my 6-year-old MacBook. I know it’s such a shallow thing that I’d write about happiness in the context of buying a gadget, but that decision taught me a lot about how I thought of happiness in my life.

Because when you think about it, really, it takes courage to be happy. It takes courage to choose happiness because it’s easier to be sad, to feel down. It’s easier to dwell on the bad stuff than the good stuff, to see how things went wrong instead of choosing to see how right everything can be (even if you can’t really see it yet). I realized in 2013 that it really takes guts to choose to be happy, to be joyful, to delight. I have failed in this miserably, but I am holding onto this even more in the year to come. And like what my adopted little brother told me last Christmas: This sounds like a good plan.

Because joy and delight are not happy feelings: they are the choices to let love win. (Hilary Sherratt)

2. Courage and grace.

You know how sometimes, you think you’re such a nice person and all that…and then someone comes along, and it totally wrecks your perception of you being nice because they just grind your nerves to the very end? Or sometimes, someone seemed to do some things to spite you on purpose, so bad that you just want to lash out to them and make them feel your wrath because no one is supposed to say bad things about the people you love?

Yeah, I’ve had that several times this year. 2013 was the year that God decided I needed to learn more about grace. I ended 2012 with thoughts on graciousness, and that was just the beginning of it. 2013 saw me grappling for peace, getting really annoyed at people I don’t like, and being on a constant defense mode for the people I love because it felt like some people just won’t stop shooting at them. But the only way to learn to be gracious is when you’re given opportunities to be gracious. I wanted to be an unlimited dispenser of grace, and it was such a tall order that I kept on failing to do it. I learned that the more the important thing is to keep on trying. It takes courage to choose to do that, to give grace to people who don’t seem to deserve it, because in the end you’ll realize that you also need grace.

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2013 Mixtape

You know that I don’t actually really make mix tapes, or recorded one in my life, ever? I mean the actual cassette tapes, because I made mix CDs as gifts to friends (and crushes), because it was fun and I was one of the first few who had CD burner before every household that had a computer had it. I remember making this a Valentine’s Day playlist in college (ooh, idea for next year) and gave it to several friends because why can’t I give a gift to my friends on Valentine’s Day?

While I haven’t made mix CDs / tapes for other people, I still make playlists for myself. Like I mentioned in previous related posts, you can tell my mood mostly from the music I listen to (or the lyrics I tweet).

So for my first 2013 recap, I present you my soundtrack for 2013. 13 songs for 2013, songs that aren’t included in the “EP” I listed earlier this year. :D

Warning: #feels all over.

(But perhaps not the kind of feels you are expecting.)

Image source
Image source

1. Start With Meby Meredith Andrews (Worth It All)

My life is an empty cup
Fill it up, fill it up!
I wanna hear every rescued heart cry
You’re enough, You’re enough!
Break what needs breaking
‘Til You’re all we see
And start with me, start with me, yeah

I heard this song in one Boundless podcast and immediately bought it. I think it was one of those nights at work when I had a hard time sitting still, and this song helped me be still in so many ways. This also became my Lent song.

2. Not With Hasteby Mumford & Sons (Babel)

And I will love with urgency but not with haste

Funny thing: when I first tried to listen to a Mumford & Sons song during one road trip, I didn’t like them that much because I didn’t really like their sounds. And then, my favorite adopted brother gave me this song for my 27th birthday, and I learned to listen to their lyrics…and well, wow. That’s all I can say: wow.

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