2017: A Year in Review

2016 was a bad year for the world, and a (relatively) good one for me. 2017, on the other hand, was tough for just about everyone: the world, my friends, my sanity, etc. That being said, I’ve decided to try and reflect on the massive seismic shift this year has been. I suppose this survey, all neatly laid out, is a good place to start.  So here I am. You can view my 2009, 2010, and 2016 answers here (2009), here (2010), and here (2016).
~*~

Name of Your Year: “Everything Changes”

1. What did you do this year that you’ve never done before?

  • Composed, played, mixed, and mastered my own song.
  • Got in to the UST Conservatory of Music.
  • Bleached my entire head nearly-white blonde.
  • Learned to sight read and identify notes by ear.
  • Created a quarterly and annual estimated marketing budget.
  • Launched a solo EP.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
– I made a “17 for 2017” bucket list at the beginning of 2017, but only managed to knock nine items off of it. I’m not sure I’ll be making more bucket lists next year…probably just plans.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth this year?
– No one that I can recall.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
– My fifth grandaunt died, but I wasn’t particularly close to her.

5. What countries did you visit this year?
– Japan. I didn’t get a lot of time to travel this year. So many things happened.

6. What would you like to have in the next year that you lacked this year?
– Determination, Inner Strength, Emotional Stability.

7. What date(s) from this year will remain etched upon your memory – and why?
The benefit of having kept a BuJo the entire year means I have the dates.

  • January 7 – finalized L O V E B L I N D with Marvs.
  • February 1-14 – FebFourteen poetry challenge
  • March 4 – EP Recording
  • April 11 – Psych diagnosis (Dysthymia, mild anxiety)
  • April 22 – Last big ST gig: NOTARewind
  • May 12 – Project Voice, live in the PH
  • May 20 – Filmed MV for LOVEBLIND
  • May 25 – Became a PV contributor
  • June 4 – Wonder Woman
  • June 16 – Moral Victory; the last ST gig (though we didn’t know it yet, then)
  • June 23 – Filed my resignation from Virus
  • June 30 – Found out I passed the USTET and officially got into the Conservatory of Music
  • July 31 – Last day at Virus
  • August 12 – First day at UST; got bitten by a cat so I promptly had to start getting rabies shots
  • September 15-17 – That first big payday sale that turned the department around
  • September 23 – EP Launch
  • October 30 – Harry Potter World
  • December 16 – First ever UST finals/UST Batch Christmas Party
  • December 22 – Went blonde

8. What was/were your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

  • Launched EP.
  • Hit sales targets at work.
  • Passed Solfeggio 1.
  • Survived first semester at the UST Conservatory of Music.

9. What was your biggest failure of the year?
– This was the year that I think I was the most selfish and closed-off. I walled myself in a bit, dealing with some losses. I hope that next year, I can learn to go outside of myself more and not be afraid to experience pain in pursuit of my dreams.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration (a public or private personality)?

  • My mum, for putting up with me.
  • My small group, for putting up with me.
  • My friends Kristin and John, for putting up with me.
  • Dean Carayag, for putting up with me.
  • My workmates, old and new, for putting up with me.
  • My USTCM BACHmates, for putting up with me.

I guess everyone who put up with me this year. As I said, it was a very selfish year.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
– The President.
– America
– Myself. :))

Those are the people I can mention. There are a few more, but I’d rather keep those to myself.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about this year?

  • USTCM Auditions
  • Moving job
  • Firsts: A Demo
  • BTS

16. What song(s) will always remind you of this year?

  • 2! 3! By BTS
  • Sea by BTS
  • L O V E B L I N D, because it was my EP’s carrier single.
  • “Golden,” because it started me songwriting again.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • happier or sadder – sadder, but stronger.
  • richer or poorer – poorer? I spent too much this year.
  • thinner or fatter – fatter, most likely.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
– Trusting.  God, myself, the process, etc.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
– Doubting that this was the path I was meant to be on. And probably also hanging on to things that were long dead?

20. How did you spend the holidays?
– Bleaching my hair. Cramming Christmas gifts. NOT practicing piano like I should have. Eating. Hanging out with my cousins on both sides of my family.

21. Did you fall in love this year?
– With seven boys. All at the same time. Or, okay, one first and then the six others after. (I’m talking about Bangtan if you haven’t figured that out.)

22. What were your favorite TV programs for the year?
– I didn’t actually watch a lot of TV this year, but I binged VLive like there was no tomorrow.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
– I think every year that passes, I hate fewer and fewer people. That’s probably a good thing.

24. What was the best book you read this year?
– I DID NOT READ A LOT OF BOOKS THIS YEAR…unless you count Dannhauser. :))

25. What was your favorite film of the year?
– Wonder Woman. Hands down.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
– BANGTAN SONYEONDAN, closely followed by WINNER.

27. What did you want and get?
– To get into the UST Conservatory of Music and to get a new job.

28. What did you want and not get?
– A music career/more gigs? I need to learn how to market myself as a musician all over again.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
– I turned twenty-four. It didn’t feel that old yet, but it feels old now. I don’t actually remember what I did; March was pretty busy at Virus, I suspect.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
– Honestly? Nothing. While it was a hard year, I’m content about how it ended and where I ended up going because of it.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
– Started as a KPop girl idol, ended as a KPop boy idol.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
– This was the year I was extremely self-centered (I’m sorry), so I didn’t pay as much attention to politics as I did last year, though as a social issue, Weinstein-gate and the exposure of mainstream rape culture was a big deal for me.

33. Whom did you miss this year?
– I both missed and had way too much time with myself.

34. Who were the people you were grateful to have met/gotten to know this year? (Formerly “Who was the best new person(s) you met this year?”)

  • My USTCM BACHmates.
  • My solfeggio professor.
  • My Applied Majors professor.
  • My Ellana Marketing Teammates.
  • I think this is the year I really “got to know” my friend Kristin, so I’m glad for that.

35. What kept you sane?
– God. Family. Friends. KPop.

36. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
– Kim Seokjin, closely followed by Min Yoongi, closely followed by Kim Namjoon, then entirely wrecked by Jung Hoseok.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson(s) you learned for this year.
– Remember what you were made for, and never let go of the fact that you were made for it.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

I know, I know, my hardship right now
I know, I know, I’ll overcome
I know, I know, open me up
It’s the place I can rely on
Think positive…Even if I’m nervous, even if I’m in a desert
I’m in the beautiful…desert.”

– Sea (J-Hope’s Pre-Chorus), BTS

~aRT

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An open letter to any new potential friends.

Dear new friend(s),

I am writing this warning label because I think I should have ages ago. At least, I should have in college; maybe then my entire freshman block and 65% of the entire batch wouldn’t have ended up hating me (no lie).

So here goes.

New friend(s), I am…a strange animal. I mean, I know I’m a cat, but sometimes I also act like the abandoned street puppy that follows you home. I will slobber on you. I will howl at inappropriate hours. I will jump up on you and demand we play fetch. Sometimes, I bite (well, I guess that’s when my cat side shows up.). 

I realize that this exuberance can be too much, and trust me when I say in hindsight I get very embarrassed by it. I try to control myself, I do, but most of the time I can’t help it. I am so happy to see you. I am so happy to know you because, before you, I hadn’t really “belonged” anywhere before. I was a misfit in gradeschool. A desperate and sad little loner in highschool (I remember leaving a class outing in tears because someone told me to go away as I’d just be ‘OP’ in the discussion). And, well, I mentioned above what college was like.

I have longed to belong so much that sometimes my excitement at someone being nice to me can be…too much.

I’m older now. More distant. A little colder. I’ve learned not to trust first impressions, initial appearances of “acceptance.” I have been left behind by too many, that my first instinct has become coldness. I might have been an introvert all my life (though having misguidedly pretended to be extroverted during the first 3/4ths of it), but my antisocial nature has been conditioned: I am scared that people will get upset, frustrated with me, and leave, so I wall myself away from anyone new. But if you manage to break through, do not fear the initial heat and warmth. That has only been held in, held back all this time, and it rushes out like heat from an oven door. Eventually the temperature normalizes, the room returns to homeostasis. 

So will our friendship, if you stick around, eventually find its normal.

Until then, though, please bear with me if I’m excited to see you. If my voice is too loud and I constantly try to catch your attention. If I look a little in love with you, but in the most platonic way. It’s because I am. I’m in love with the feeling of being treated like I’m worth liking. I’m in love with the security of knowing that, to you, I belong.

Finally, thank you so much for taking a chance on me. As I’ve said to every employer I’ve interviewed for: I don’t promise to be easy, but I promise to be worth it.

Your friend and cactus,

A roaming Tsinay.

Seeing Wonder: On Engaging, Grace, and Believing in Love

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Source: Warner Brothers Pictures

Every year, our church does a series of sermons on the idea of discipleship and engaging our community. It’s a regular “tradition” in the church calendar, varying only in the Bible verses we’re led to reflect on in our small groups. This year, we pulled from the life of Peter, with the topic of engaging being linked to Peter’s ministering to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. Our small group material in particular focused on Acts 10:9-16, which is about the vision Peter has before he’s asked to see Cornelius. (TL;DR, In the vision, Jesus reveals that we are called to reach out to all people, building on the Great Commission of “…going into all the world.”)  

It was a really great message, but while my fellow small group mates seemed absolutely hyped on God’s mission, ready to go out there and reach out to people and do some good in the world, all I felt was…resistance. 

Confession: I have never been good at engaging, and every year when my church does this message I sort of…tune out.  I tell myself that, as an introvert, God surely doesn’t intend for me to actually go out there and directly reach out to people.  Nah, let them come to me; I won’t go first. I never go first.

That night, in small group, I realised these were all excuses I was telling myself. The reason for my reluctance wasn’t so much that I was an introvert. No, it was something that ran a little deeper than that.

It was because, when I was twenty-three, I decided I didn’t like people.

This wasn’t some sort of impulsive thought: “Oh, I don’t think I like people today.”  No, this was a conscious choice on my part: I would not, could not like people, and I would not trust or engage with them. It helped that I was a fan of Game of Thrones, which is extremely good at portraying the dark, twisted roots of human motivation. It also helped that around that time, everyone was talking about the fate of Jon Snow: stabbed by people he trusted, by his “brothers,” and left to die.

Something that felt a lot like that—and I won’t go into details—happened to me.  This wasn’t the first time, but it might have been the worst time.  And so, after filing a very long leave from work and stewing alone in my room for several afternoons, I made my decision: I did not like people.

And people did not deserve to know me.

From that moment, I made a conscious effort to start…closing myself off. Some of it made sense: I get a bit anxious in large crowds, am not fond of small talk, and do not like partying.  Again: introvert.  But other things had less to do with introversion and more to do with the satisfaction of pushing away people I did not trust. Who had hurt me (consciously or unconsciously). Who I believed would hurt me again. Years of being bullied in grade school and high school had already made me a little wary of friendships, but this was the first time I was outright refusing them, putting up walls and putting on masks.  It made me feel like I was taking control of my life.  It made me feel good.  And if I ever felt isolated, well, it was better to stand alone than to be fighting alongside and for people who, in the next breath, could be turning their swords on me.

Essentially, I was enacting a closed-door policy on my life, which, as you can guess, does not go along well with the whole Christian commission to engage with the community and care for people.  But I figured, I’d find ways to get around it. I served in church. I still held small groups. I volunteered for orgs that did good work. And I had friends, people I would talk to online even if I avoided meeting them in person.  And I cared about these friends…

…but not as much as I cared about myself.  Real talk: if any of them were in the way of a passing truck, I do not trust that I’d have pushed them out of the way.  If it was them or me, I might have chosen me.

The world—and Game of Thrones—paints this “me first” mentality as wise.  Encourages you to lose your faith in people, to “…kill the girl and let the woman be born.”  Only the naive believe in the fundamental good of humanity; growing up means realising the truth, that man is wolf to other man and that you can trust no one because the more you care, the weaker you are. The more you love, the weaker you are. Because one day the inevitable will happen: those closest to you will either turn on you or leave. Or both.

And so I did not engage, because I did not want to care about people who would turn on me or leave. I kept people at arms length, stayed behind walls, ate at my desk, refused invitations with the bright and beaming smile that was both sword and shield to me.  This was self-defence, I told myself, even as it felt—and kept feeling—wrong. 

Small group was the first blow to this worldview.  The second was Wonder Woman.

Full disclosure: while I am a geek, I’m not a comic book geek.  I have watched zero of the Marvel blockbusters (despite some of them garnering critical acclaim), and, up until recently, had the same batting average for DC. But when a post came out talking about how Wonder Woman seemed like it was being set up to fail at the box office (and thus prove stories about empowered women did not sell), my baby feminist heart could not handle it. I told my mum we had to book tickets to watch this movie when we came out, which we promptly did.

It was, in a word, a wonder.

While I have watched/read female-centered franchises before (I was a huge fan of The Hunger Games, and in Game of Thrones I cheered when the last season featured strong female-centric plotlines), Wonder Woman was…different.  The movie felt so unapologetically idealistic, so full of empathy and tenderness even as it celebrated the superhuman strength of its lead.  It was the total antithesis of the gritty cynicism that seemed the highlight of current male superhero mythology and even my mainstay of GoT.  Wonder Woman did not sugarcoat how dark people could be—“Be careful in the world of men, Diana,” says Queen Hippolyta, early in the film, “They do not deserve you.”—but without completely absolving mankind of that darkness, it still presented a reason to hope.  Yes, people are cruel and easily-corrupted, cowardly and twisted and undeserving, but, as Diana says in the climax of the film, “It’s not about [what people] deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

Despite the fact that I am an avowed cynic, I do believe in love. In fact, that belief is at the core of who I say I am: as a  Christian, my very existence is founded on the idea of grace, of receiving a love I did not deserve.  I lash out at the people I think hurt me, but the truth is I too am just as cruel, just as unforgiving, just as—or rather, more so–twisted and bitter and dark…and Someone I did not deserve came to fight for me.  To save me, even when I was not worthy of saving.  The very essence of Christianity is that no one deserves anything: love is a gift. Love is a grace. And when you receive it, you can’t help but give it away.

“Only Love will truly save the world.” says Diana. In a world that is hurting and broken and twisted every which way, Love is humanity’s great hope. And while it is tempting to keep safe from the world, stay behind my walls to avoid getting hurt, “How will I be if I stay?”

It was this message that hit home for me and sent me out of the theatre in tears. The truth is, considering the darkness we are capable of, none of us really deserves kindness or grace or an open hand. But it really isn’t about “deserving.”  Instead, it’s about what we believe in, and what I believe in—what I quite loudly shout that I believe in—is Love. A Love big enough to save the world, to cover over a multitude of dark and twisted and awful. A Love that was big enough to save me from myself, and to keep on saving me.

It’s easy to think of yourself as a victim, when you’re hurt, but the truth is the world is hurting. “We all have our own battles,” says another character in Wonder Woman. We all have our own darkness, and at the core of that darkness is pain.  The difference lies in what you decide to do with it.

And, as another of my all-time favourite characters, the Twelfth Doctor, puts it, the right thing to do is this:

“…do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this: No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

That is what engaging means: taking the pain, holding it tight, and deciding to fight it instead of letting it own you. And the way to fight it is Love, is sharing Love instead of keeping it all to yourself, hiding it behind walls and never letting anyone close. 

There are people I say I care about. There are people out there who I say matter to me. And there are people out there I don’t like. Who i don’t want to care about. Either way, they all need what I know: Love.  And so, even if the prospect terrifies me, even if I’m not some superhuman with armour and a shield and a magic lasso, I leave my island. I step out behind the wall. I stretch out my hand, and I let my guard down, and I have faith that, despite the pain…I will see grace.

I will see Wonder.

~aRT~

P.S.

For more comprehensive (and awesome) reviews/reflections on Wonder Woman, check out:

https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/5/30/15709572/wonder-woman-review-gadot
https://www.bustle.com/p/wonder-womans-message-of-love-cant-be-repeated-enough-right-now-62157 – Got the blog’s featured image from here, by way of Google Image Search.
http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/wonder-woman-is-the-hero-we-need-but-maybe-not-the-hero-we-deserve-9481938
http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/june/why-we-need-wonder-woman.html