Last year has had its ups and downs, but it was one that I could recall with fondness, thanks to new-found friendships, new goals reached, and big decisions made.

It was a quiet year for the most part, and it was just what I needed regardless of where I sat on the introvert/extrovert divide. There comes a point in one’s life when drama loses its meaning; there are bigger things than oneself out there. Be part of what is good; look ahead. Life is easier and often more fulfilling if we just focus on things that are within our control–ourselves, our performance, our attitudes–instead of things that depend on the decisions and feelings of others. It’s tiring, it’s draining, and I don’t have the time, energy, nor the brain space to deal with negativity and everything that goes with it. In this, I succeeded for the most part. Most.

Of course, that is not to say we should be reckless with people. As someone said: Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle. Treat others as you would like to be treated, be the bigger person. There are few things more satisfying than getting apologies that you have forgotten you expected. Some of them I received in words, whilst some I received through actions. Some, I received in both forms.

I have had to make certain decisions for others as well. Some decisions probably didn’t bode well for them (you cross the line, there are consequences); some decisions didn’t look too good at first, but people do need to gain perspective every once in a while.

There are the fun things, too, such as things us girls  women enjoy–clothes, shoes, working out, music, good food, meeting new people, crossing off another item on our list of life skills.

On the other hand, I’ve never had to throw as much stuff from my closet–aye, from my apartment–as I did this year, and I don’t regret the decision to let go of books that I’ve read many times; DVDs that I’ve watched way too often; clothes that didn’t fit anymore; shoes that had seen too many miles; trinkets that have lost their meaning; even photographs of people whose faces I would honestly rather erase from memory. On Facebook, the block and unfollow buttons are helpful and powerful features.

Besides work, focus had been on fitness and running. I signed up for gym membership towards the end of 2013 when I realised just how weak and out of shape I had become from having to sit for hours in front of the computer, day in and day out. I could barely complete a mile at a snail’s pace without having to catch my breath. And what woman wanted to have the dreaded puson? Me neither, haha! I worked with one of the best trainers at the fitness club, who always delivered on his promise to challenge me. I never thought I could be whipped into shape, but what could you expect from someone who knew how to do his job? Maraming salamat, Louie!

I am thankful for having found some running buddies. There was a former team lead from a previous job who declared he would bully everyone he could into running; I think he succeeded where I was concerned.

Intramuros Run

And then there is one of the loveliest women I know who inspired me to keep going in her own subtle ways. Thank you, “Vanilli”, for talking me into signing up for running events, longer distances, and new gear. What I spent on running this year was enough to feed a family for a month or two, but it was worth all the shopping. Yet more importantly, thank you for your friendship, the coffee breaks, the cheese meese, the swimming lessons, the trips to our favourite weekend market, the fashion and beauty advice, and making it your personal goal to find me a partner. It’s hard to explain why we love running; one just has to do it to appreciate it. To them, I say #Dontjudge.

I feel that my 2014 started even before 2013 ended. The Christmas season before last was when I promised myself that I would finally get my own car instead of wait in line for taxi and deal with rude cabbies. I drive the best car that my measly budget could afford, but boy am I glad to be able to go out anytime I want, come rain or shine. It didn’t hurt either that my work at times required me to be at the farthest end of the metro. It took guts to drive on EDSA and Commonwealth, but I survived with roughly 20 hours of prior experience behind the wheel.

I also dreaded the thought of driving on an open highway 200 kilometers north, but I had to for the sake of bidding my grandfather goodbye.

Boracay, PhilippinesPeople. I met some, I said goodbye to some. My grandfather’s death was one of the low-lights of the past year, but his passing did not hurt as much as when my grandmother left. Everyone in the family knew it would happen sooner or later, so we had prepared for the inevitable. My grandfather was one of the bravest and most decent people I knew. He loved quietly, fought bravely, supported his family in the best way he could, never ever gave up on the only country he wanted to call his own. After surviving two great wars and a few encounters with the Left, he decided that he had had enough of fighting. He could have gained a different citizenship, but he refused to leave. Some faulted him for some of the decisions he made, but that was life–there was no pleasing everyone, yet everything turned out just as well as it should.

Some people set standards so high, everybody else just pales in comparison, including myself, and I am thankful for the privilege of having so much to look up to and learn from another. Some people you meet and you’d be happy even if they broke your heart. They maybe are not meant for you, but that is alright. They still pointed you in the right direction–towards excellence, good work, health, concern for another human being, positive transformations, the right mindset to sustain you in your journey through life.

Bacolod City, Philippines

Places, ah, places! This was the first time in half a decade that I did not venture out of the country, but the local travels I made have been far more meaningful in so many ways. A February return to Boracay was a celebration of a dear friend’s dash to the big 3-0; it was wonderful to be counted as amongst the people she considered her closest mates in this part of the world. Thank you, H, for your friendship and for being such an inspiring human being.

October opened opportunities and a 3-week unplanned trip to a place I had never been before. Travel to Bacolod allowed me to work outside my physical and psychological comfort zones, and with people I had never met before, but the experience gave me amazing insights into what my role could accomplish if only we would pay more attention to the minute details of how people learned and what motivated them to excel everyday. At the end of the project, it was the best feeling to have one’s work be considered its highlight. The fact that some leaders asked for copies of my work’s results so they could learn from it meant a lot when all I was expecting was to not be “escalated”.

And yes, Bacolod cafe scene can put Manila’s to shame. Keep up, NCR!

Happy new year! May this be our best year yet. And I hope it ends way better than it started.