In November, I quit a career that sustained me pretty well for 15 years. I had a splendid run but I thought I’m ready for the next sprint. I quit it to explore a life of creativity, adventure and pretty much unknown things (or like what others actually said, an irrational and stupid choice).
The clarity and the decision arrived in February while I was descending the northern mountains back to Manila. Completely awake and stirring in the 10-hour bus ride from Sagada and perhaps the afterglow of a trip in the mountains, my mind was traveling faster than a bullet train, feeling so free that I can afford the new life I dreamed and scared at the same time at this rush of courage. The road ahead looked freshly exhilarating.
I didn’t necessarily plan the plot twist at the start of 2017. I began the year with a modest set of goals, with no hint of the rollercoaster year ahead. Inside my former apartment in the quiet neighborhood of Kapitolyo, the last of the few incense sticks from Hanoi burning and scenting the late afternoon light, I set myself up with a new Bullet Journal (a goal in itself of documenting my year with bullet points, a less-daunting journaling format) and planned the then upcoming year. I thought I’d share my review of some of my 2017 goals.
First, the habits and goals with relative success (good enough for me):
I began seriously meditating in mid-2015 after reading The Untethered Soul. I joined a weekend silent retreat in Baguio in February 2016 and strived to sit daily since. I have failed many times since, too. This year was no different. According to a combined Insight Timer and Bullet Journal analytics, here’s how I did:
Tracked sessions: 111 days out of 365 — 30% (I suspect there were unrecorded sits)
Month with at least one session: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Aug, Oct, Nov and Dec — 8/12
My best consecutive days: 62 days (streak spilling into 2018!)
Daily average duration: 18 mins
On Halloween, I started tracking my sits on Insight Timer more diligently and have not missed a day since Oct 31. I meditate in the morning as part of a new, still-rooting morning ritual.
Swim 3-4 times a week
I found my life sport in non-competitive swimming. I started with zero skills in 2016 and got better and better after months of almost daily workout. 16 months later, I still get excited about a thought of a trip to the pool. I swim for a roughly one-hour workout, which gets me between 500-700 meters freestyle. I also got me some abs after swimming almost daily for 2 months!
I started an analog tracker of my swims on the Bullet Journal in the first quarter of the year but did not update it the rest of the year. I generally had regular weekly workout of at least 1 and at most 4 sessions. I lose momentum every time my schedule changes, especially around big trips. When I returned from Thailand in July, I think I didn’t swim for 4 weeks. In November when I moved back to Laguna, the local swimming pool also just opened where I logged a total of 10 sessions spread into 3 weeks.
Morning pages are great: a tool invented by Julia Cameron and featured in her book The Artist’s Way. I only did a fews days at least and a week at most in previous years but I found success this year when I strung it along with another goal. In November, I self-demanded a 30-day social media fast and used morning pages to record thoughts and observations discovered daily. I kept another morning page for the 30-day meditation goal. I used Evernote since I find that I can write digitally at almost the same pace as I think, which is important in stream of consciousness writing.
I launched this blog in February finally. I bought the domain name in 2016 and was just lying around here for a year. I wrote 2 full-length posts about trips I took in the first half of the year: Batad and Romblon. I antedated a few short posts from past trips. However, in summer, life and its procrastinating rumble caught up: my writing became limited to short and rapid Instagram captions or Twitter updates, which were good brevity practices, to be fair.
I have a ton of travel notes from the Thailand and Batanes trips but didn’t get a chance — or found just the perfect distraction every time to avoid — to write.
I discovered why you should write daily. Writing is like a room inside you. You need to open the windows, let air circulate and switch the lights on when it’s dark every single day. If you let days pass without fresh air and day light enter this room, you can just easily allow more days to accumulate and later, you start to avoid even just the thought of going inside the room. You worry about what you will find inside: things that were no longer there, or things that now live there. Demons get in. Doubt gets in. Fear gets in. You can’t write anymore.
Plan a month-long trip
My request was rejected for a 4-week vacation from work (before I said I’ll quit!) and asked to split it into 2. I booked a trip to Thailand for 2 weeks in June and another 2 weeks in Batanes in November. It’s not the same thrill as doing a continuous 30-day backpacking neighboring cities and being whisked away from one unfamiliar location to the next.
I traveled with friends in Bangkok and spent 9 days solo backpacking Chiang Mai and Pai in Northern Thailand where I shared a room with a Japanese man who spent all day chilling out and smoking pot by the Ping River. I also traveled solo in Batanes where I spent a night in a homestay on top of a hill, beside a lighthouse, in the company of goats.
I asked for candles as gifts in past Christmases. I also enjoy burning incense at home, bringing some sticks from trips in Hanoi, Bali and Kyoto. I also have a couple of oil burners and I like the concept of reed diffusers. I thought I’ll try to make some home scents myself. A chemist I dated said candles are so easy and cheap to make and said I should do it. After a month in May, with a heart that just got broken, I started locating sellers of soy and bees wax on the Internet. A week later, I poured my first candles.
I learned as much as I can on chandlery through the Internet and found inspirations from many candle makers on Instagram. As I poured wax, I poured my heart into every jar. I lose track of time when I make them. I sold a few jars on All Saint’s Day and a few more this past Christmas. I had made one scent for the holidays that a few people loved. I’m working on new scents and I’m finalizing a source for apothecary jars. I am looking to launch a candle line in 2018!
Start a garden
One day I hope to open a garden cafe. So in December, my potted garden beside the house have eugenias, primulinas, dracaenas and devil’s ivy. I’m also going to fill a table with succulents, now with its early occupants of sedums, echeverias and sphera cactus.
Now, the goals that will definitely see a return on my 2018 list:
Take a Spanish or French class
The intention was to travel to Spanish-speaking country, which gives me a lot of options, and talk decently to locals. The closest to this was my downloading a Duolingo app and getting to Basics 2 of Spanish. French was my second option.
Read one book a month
With no argument nor justification, this is terrible. I only read one book a trimester.
Hydrate well daily
I tried to keep this in check with a 3-liter Day and Lemon Water in the Morning trackers, which I sustained only for 2 months. I suspect this is where I most flunked.
Get a bike
I still didn’t get my fixie.
For 2018: all above goals and habits remain. Plus, leaving a lot of room for the unplanned and the random, where magic lives.