This is so overrated but nope, I won’t let you pass by without telling you how beautiful life has been in your year.
Dear 2018, thank you.
You started off rough. Like, really rough. You made me come back to Cambodia and leave the wonderful job and amazing family I have in Cebu. And when I arrived, you gave me another set of tragedy – invalid visa, unstable emotions, professional disorientation, and financial insecurity. I felt like you sent me back to Cambodia just to give me another slap in the face. It was hard.
I know nobody at work, except for another Filipino (but she’s an exception). I stayed silent in the office and spent 10 hours of my every day staring at my laptop but doing no actual work. I couldn’t strike a conversation with anyone, fearing that I may feel lonelier than I already was if I get rejected. I was, to say the least, a wreck. All I wanted to do in January was to go back to Cebu and be with my family.
But then you turned things around just when I thought I was a hopeless and lost human being. You sent a good friend here in February. And then in March, you gave me (us) the most magnificent gift ever – Elio, the un-clingy cat.
And yep, that’s when everything started to make sense.
Days and months went by and I grew a little more confident; grew happier and livelier. I started to open up to long-time friends and new ones. I started to talk about personal and work issues with the concerned people and question things that I just used to shrug off before. I even started dancing (how’s that?!) when in fact, dancing gave me one of my worst heartaches in 2017. And I started to sing out loud as well. I love music – a lot – but never did I sing so loud that if only our neighbours were attentive enough, they surely would hear my voice from the sixth floor. Wait, did I say ‘little more confident’?
But really, 2018, you also made me travel to different places. Oh, yes. You made my dream of going to India come true! I can’t write ‘India’ without tearing up, seriously. I’ve always wanted to go there because I thought I’d attain spiritual healing the moment I step into the Indian soil. I didn’t, unfortunately. But here’s the truth: I gained so much more than I deserve. I was able to go to several Indian states through chartered flights (and with food on board). I stayed in beautiful hotels and was treated like a VIP (okay, maybe not really. There were 200+ of us. But still). We were welcomed with bands, flower corsages and water salutes! With all those, I gained to value cultural and religious differences, to see beyond language barriers, to express myself in the most unfiltered way possible and to be at peace with who I am and what I believe in. I was and still am amazed at how India enlightened me beyond how I imagined it would.
And then there’s Malaysia. Malaysia’s just one small but incredible country. I was able to see Kuala Lumpur and Malacca. I travelled with people I didn’t know, but went home with a new set of friends I sure will remember for a long time. I shared food with people from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. I toured around AirAsia’s RedQ and was able to witness what a ‘good office’ should be in terms of environment and policies. I was able to ask questions to somebody so high, and acted like my knees weren’t trembling. I brought my Cambodia and Filipino identity with me, trying to make these two nations proud of my existence.
The cruise to Vietnam – yes! That would surely remain in me for the rest of my life. It just happened unexpectedly (when we thought we’d be spending the weeklong holiday at home). That five-day cruise to Vietnam was beyond astounding. We traversed through the Mekong River for days and nights and visited local communities on the riverbanks. And then we saw Jollibee (and ate at one branch in Ho Chi Minh).
Then Siem Reap. That was my first real journey in the tourist-famous province.We were welcomed with a torch-filled farm that had a sumptuous dinner prepared in the middle. We slept in a homestay and were given the best of Khmer hospitality. I went on top of a boat when we sailed into a floating village, pretending I was an expert of the waves (which were, by the way, huge and cruel). And I had my first ever floating lantern experience. The sight of dozens of colourful lanterns floating on the river made me feel more at home in Cambodia. How can I not be?
And how can I forget Kampot? The beautiful and serene town of Kampot made me love Cambodia more. There’s just something about this little town that made me think of how lucky I am to be where I am – in an imperfect road, but definitely leading to somewhere worth the journey. Seriously, should I feel lost in the noise and chaos of Phnom Penh, I’ll go nowhere else but to Kampot.
And Charlie Puth! Did I ever imagine myself interviewing a world-renowned artist? Nope. But I guess I did this year! It was a phone interview — but nah, it doesn’t matter now. I spoke with Charlie Puth for 10 minutes, despite the butterflies on my stomach and the trembling voice. And I was able to see him up close while he sang his new songs. I was there, standing a few meters away from the stage. I was there singing his songs (which I familiarized just two weeks before the concert) and making my 2018 concert experience the best so far.
2018, you were a blessing to me. Thank you. I am amazed at how you unfolded day after day, giving me no hint of what to expect and then making me smile as the day ended because I knew I lived the day in the most beautiful, most genuine, most positive way. You surely didn’t give me flower-strewn pathways every single moment, but you never failed to give me reasons to be grateful and to feel blessed despite all my troubles.
You taught me to be strong, to fight for what I know is just and right. You taught me to remain true to my goals without hesitating to make new ones. You taught me that selflessness doesn’t mean sacrificing my own happiness and inner peace. You taught me to let go of the things that weigh me down, and to hold on to the things that radiate positivity and hope.
You taught me to connect – the real kind – to people I hold dear, to break walls I personally built and to cross bridges I thought I burnt. You taught me to live and be happy that I wake up every day. And even when there were nights I asked you not to wake me up the next morning, I’m glad you still did. Thank you for not letting me drown in sadness, insecurities and guilt.
Thank you, 2018. You were beautiful. And thank you to all the people you brought with you.
I was once asked about a moment I felt like I was living life to the fullest. I’d say this instead: in 2018, I lived life – the life that I believe I deserve.
India – the highlight of my 2018 trips
Definitely one of the happiest days in 2018.
First stop of the Lan Diep Cruise – Sa Dec, Vietnam
Kampong Phluk Floating Village
The Charlie Puth Magic