I don’t really know how to take on this year-ender. Normally, by December, I’d be bursting with words about how fantastic the past year has been, dishing out numbers that affirm my life, while not always consistent with society’s linear standards, leaves me pretty fulfilled. I’d cite cities and countries and new continents visited, flights taken (wild it’s been more than 30 this year), concerts watched (sadly not a lot), bragging rights gained (does dancing alone to Robyn’s Dancing on my Own in a gay club in Berlin count?), et cetera, et cetera.
But the way this year is ending has left me shaken. The numbers are pretty satisfying, but they’re inconsistent with the reality that, as we approach 2019, I am lonely.
When I wrote my 2017 yearender, I said I wanted 2018 to be more present. I’ve always been an obsessive over-thinker so I wanted this year to be all about tuning out the voices in my head and just enjoying the present. Because they say “the present is a gift, and that is why it is called ‘present’.”
And for most of the year, it really was. What I wrote actually came true. I’ve had a pretty mindful year. I made my dream Euro trip happen, rekindled an old flame in Amsterdam, doused that fire, and a week later got swept off my feet for the year’s most romcom worthy weekend. I drank in the sweetness of Portugal and Prague, caught up with good friends in Berlin, relearned the art of leisure in the parks of Europe, had fun under the sun in Anilao, Boracay, Siargao, and Galera, went back to New York after more than a decade, went to Boston and Seattle for the first time, walked the streets of San Francisco and Hong Kong again, and reconnected with someone I once thought special.
The last months of 2018, however, brought the stark realization that the present doesn’t always serve enjoyment. Sometimes no matter how much you want to see the silver lining and be grateful, there are days when the present just sucks gross sweaty balls.
Because being present also means feeling the darker side of the spectrum of human emotion. On the day you thought your romantic life was about to hit a high note, you forfeit a flight because your electrolytes fall down dangerously low levels and your life ends up taking a drastic change in course from the ER to a three-month depression. Being present means facing the reality that the people you always thought would be there will, for reasons unknown, opt out of your life to pursue growth that doesn’t involve you being around—and while that isn’t necessarily okay, it’s perfectly acceptable. Being present means being confronted, time and again, by unhealthy circumstances of your own making. Being present means seeing the uglier side of humanity, yours included.
And finally, being present means experiencing the worst of the unexpected. It means an encounter with death and fully feeling the grief it leaves on its wake. One would think that, after seeing several family members pass on, grief would come easier. But a few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I lost a dear friend. I’ve never had a friend die on me before. And you know how they say friends are the family we choose? Well G was first my mentor and editor, and in the decade (exactly a decade!) we’ve known each other, she came to be the older sibling I never had but always wanted. Losing her means losing a guiding light, a daily source of humor and inspiration, and a very honest, non-judgmental friendship (every time I do something shameless that I’m secretly thrilled about, she’d be one of the first people I’d tell and we’d always have a good laugh).
Death took her in the same manner with which she lived her life: totally unstoppable. We were catching up and talking about deadlines on a Monday, laughing about the silliest things; two days later I find out she was in a coma, and on 29 November outside the ICU, I along with some of the many people whose lives she had touched, clapped and cried for her as she made her exit. A few days later, her memorial had hundreds of people drinking and dancing on the streets of Cubao X, all of us feeling both her presence and absence. It was the most bittersweet night of the year.
I think 2018 ended that night. Because life without G is just going to be so different from the one with her crazy contagious laughter in it. I had 10 years of it—I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for those who loved her longer.
Hay. There really isn’t anything left to say… November 29 pretty much overshadowed everything that happened this year—experiences both good and bad that, current mood notwithstanding, I still am grateful for. Life is beauty and madness. Life is wild and sweet and so unpredictable. Some years we get the deliriously good end of that unpredictability; some years or year-ends we’re thrown into a blender.
In an attempt to finish this entry on an uplifting note—because I just watched Miss Universe and apparently we’re bringing the crown home! (and because at some point I need to finish my final assignments for 2018)—sharing some of my year’s biggest lessons:
- A friend shared this: “Life is short. Death is certain. Love is real. Leave a legacy.” Don’t aim for mediocre. Live the life you fucking want and aim for something greater than yourself.
- Suffering is optional. You don’t like the situation you are in? Remove yourself from it. It may mean making the most uncomfortable conversation of your life, but by all means just friggin do it.
- If you could only be one thing, be kind. Kindness won’t kill you.
- Sometimes what we want isn’t what we need. What we want can hurt us and may not actually be good for us. Sometimes not getting what we want is the universe doing us a MASSIVE FAVOR—even if it won’t feel that way for a while.
- Your truth is the ultimate filter. Those who can’t handle it are better off out of your life.
- You don’t need many friends—just a few solid ones and your life will always be RICH.
- Don’t forget to take your vitamins and minerals—seriously, take it from someone who ended up in the ER for severely low magnesium levels. I felt I was about to have a heart attack, and all my previous angas statements about how if it’s my time, it’s my time…all that went out the window and had me bargaining with the higher power for more years.
- I forever need to remind myself of this: We weren’t given bodies to be idle—swing it, shake it, move it, groove it, get jiggy with it. Find the movement practice that works for you.
- Get yourself a fucking awesome mentor like mine—it’ll be one of the most fulfilling, most empowering relationships of your life. Don’t sit around waiting for one to come along—go seek out a person who inspires you and keep that person in your life.
- Sometimes the people you love the most will make it VERY HARD for you to love them. Love them anyway (you can love them from afar).
- Passive-Aggressiveness is sooo 2017. If you have a problem with someone, fucking have the balls to say it.
- Life is too short for bullshit and toxic relationships. Gaaaah okay galit na naman ako (angry again). I’ll end here. Bye, 2018.
Dear 2019, please be gentle…and out-of-this-world fantastic!
Featured photo: Boca do Inferno, Cascais, Portugal