IN MY ANNUAL REVIEW, as usual, I measure the year’s successes and failures and what I learned from them. “The days are long but the years are short,” says author Gretchen Rubin. It’s incredible how much can happen in one short year. Here’s a review of 2018, hoping that it serves as a blueprint for myself (and you) to guide us into the new year.
As a travel addict, it’s really hard to swallow the concept of one big trip per year. I used to book random trips the same way a shopaholic clicks “Add to Cart”.
2018 was different because Jovi and I booked one big, hairy, and ambitious 3-week holiday in Paris, Switzerland, Rome, Milan, and Florence. It was so expensive, it took us a year to save.
All being said, what did I really take away? A few things:
1. The best moments of trips are during downtime or when you’re alone or lost. I broke down in tears after stepping solo inside Milan’s Duomo, gripped by the church’s massive, holy interiors preserved in perfection. I talked about it on Atlas Obscura, a platform that features the world’s unique wonders.
2. I planned the trip the obsessed way, down to train seats per country and discount Metro tickets. It was downright exhausting. What’s the upside? It improved my research skills, going as far as asking Lonely Planet forums to get Swiss train travel advice.
[WATCH: Bernina Express, Riding One Of the World’s Most Scenic Train Rides]
3. When traveling with family or with a partner, schedule time to be apart. Some of my most thrilling travel experiences happened when I was simply by myself. One was in Paris’ Republique neighborhood, where a bespectacled art gallery owner invited me for coffee. A long time ago, I learned that no two souls in this world have the same interests, so alone time had always been mandatory for Jovi and I.
4. When you come home after a vacation, print your pictures. Not just upload in FB or IG but print in real paper and insert into frames. I made an album of our trip to Europe and used it as a birthday gift for Jovi. (It’s a gift for him that turns out to be a gift for me, too.)
I’ve had the great luck and honor to work with the Philippine Airlines’ in-flight magazine, Mabuhay. Aside from an article about the Cebu Safari, I organized a front-cover photoshoot and wrote a 1500-word feature story on Bisaya music. I’m especially thankful to my photographer friend RG for connecting me to Mabuhay and to James, who is a thoughtful editor.
[READ: “Let the Music Play” Mabuhay Magazine, July 2018]
I left my work as a marketer to become a full-time freelance writer. As someone who valued high income, I took the scary leap to have almost none. I would describe this year as risky, where I traded job security to pursuing writing. And what a life-affirming challenge that was, to become the opposite of my perceived identity.
Through this experience, I learned temperance, the ability to restrain one’s desires. At the start of the year, I embarked on a successful “NO SHOPPING” policy only derailed on the 90th-day mark when I bought the perfect bootcut jeans in F&F. Still, for the rest of the year, I had to let go of so much of my “wants”, just so I can extend my writing experiment. I learned a few more things:
1. I don’t need much
2. Exactly how much I need to survive
When I learned of how little I need, it gave me to courage to keep writing. And I got a lot better. Not just in the way I normally blog (which took a backseat this year so I can focus on published work) but how to make real money getting published. I felt like I was dropped in a bubbling pot of publishing shabu-shabu. Just as cabbage and mushrooms are essential to a good hotpot, I learned how necessary it is to add details and fact-check in creative nonfiction writing. I never thought I’d want to pull out my hair at 6 AM, my favorite time of day, but I did while editing. As Chris Sykes once said, “Anybody who thinks writing is easy is someone who never really tried.”
Most people’s capacity for pain is low. Nobody even takes cold showers anymore. Much more lift heavy weights, which I did for the better part of the year. Strength training transformed my body into a shape unrecognizable to me. I’ve been active all my life but to see rippling muscles on my arms and quads was a surprise.
I remember all those 4:30 AM wakeups to get to the gym alone or the moments I almost passed out after swinging 40-lb kettlebells on deadlift day. I’ve never worked out harder and have been rewarded greater. I’ll continue my training in 2019, only more despacito this time.
Every year, I grow deeper in love with the family I married into. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nephews and nieces this year, learning things about them like how they simply want pens and notebooks and who their real favorite cousin is. Sometimes, it’s easy to get lost in big family gatherings but nothing beats genuinely listening to one person.
“To understand and to be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts,” wrote Brainpicking’s Maria Popova. I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend time with friends and young family members, revel in the joy of their company and get infected by their energy.
The man I married gets better with age like fine leather. This year, Jovi achieved a lot, too. He successfully shut down Redgolf, his golf business of 10 years; ran several half-marathons; healed his plantar fasciitis mainly by losing weight; and lined up for an extraordinary 24-hours to get in front of U2 in Paris. Not to say we didn’t fight all year but indeed the squabbles are getting better, ending with forgiveness and understanding soon after. Jovi’s “my person” in Grey’s Anatomy jargon. My 2018 would be chaos and mush without him.
In closing, I hope that you’ll be inspired to make a similar reflection of your past year. It’s surprisingly fun and a great reminder that through God’s grace, we are alive and thriving. May 2019 bring you health and happiness. Happy New Year!
• Transitioned from marketing to writing
• Read about Stoicism every day
• Celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary with my husband in Bantayan Island’s Annika Resort
• Reached my peak strength at deadlift 1.5x my body weight
• Traveled to 6 countries: France, Italy, Hongkong, Singapore, Switzerland, Vatican
• Camped solo to a place I’ve never been before
• Explored Coron, Palawan with my husband where we got to hug giraffes
• Learned how to edit my work
• Learned how to do calligraphy
• Learned how to do basic self-defense
• Celebrated my 27th birthday with my family over rose-covered table setting and lechon (roasted pig) served 4 ways
• Planned a DIY trip to Europe and got our Schengen VISAs approved
• Worked with Mabuhay Magazine, the Philippine Airlines’ in-flight magazine
• Hosted my close friends in Cebu like Lyra who flew in from Hongkong and Jonathan from Manila
• Traveled to Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa on my first media familiarization trip
• Read almost a hundred books. Thanks to reading subscription, Scribd!
About the Author
Crystal Neri is a freelance writer who has worked across media platforms in places as diverse as US, Singapore, and Australia. She lives in Cebu City where she covers travel and entrepreneurship at crystalneri.com. Say Hi to her (@nericrystal) on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter: