My 2016 Annual Review
Creating this annual review was deeply rewarding. It was like creating a mini-history book of my life in 2016. The latter parts of this year were still fresh in my memory but it was the earlier months of this year, which I needed to really review.
Like the historiographic projects I used to do back in college, my review of the past year involved organizing my photographs and using them to fill in the gaps of my story. I shared a few of them below. I also needed to reread my journal entries—intimate and more than truthful primary sources—to look at specific patterns of thinking that emerged throughout last year. Overall, the process was a cathartic, deeply spiritual experience, which provided valuable insights on how I evolved and changed last year and how I might thrive in this new year.
Looking back, I think 2016 was the year I really developed a deeper understanding and reluctant appreciation of the market economy. Throughout the year I confronted the issues of death, environmental degradation, vocation, poverty, and the violent “unconscious” economy. Ironically, as I progressed in my understanding of the material world, I went deeper into my spiritual journey and grew into trusting the things that we don’t see more and more—love, peace, camaraderie—as the sole refuge to what could be a harsh universe.
# My 2016 Timeline
- I began my year by reading the Bhagavad Gita, and I immediately fell in love with the yogic philosophy, especially the concept of “conscious movement.” The book inspired me to live my 2016 in a similar fashion—to pursue goals mindfully and to strike a balance between walking towards the future and living in the moment. I wrote my intentions in a post entitled How to Live Your 2016? Move Consciously. Most of the goals I set at the beginning of the year were never achieved. But that is the true meaning of the philosophy: to let life surprise you and forget of a plan altogether.
- I received a full scholarship from the Australian company Earth HQ for the first run of their Soulpreneurs Program. It was a seminal experience, one which was vital in encouraging me to continue with my indie career aspirations. Yvette Luciano, the founder of the online holistic entrepreneurship training was a kind, vibrant, and generous teacher who believed in my potential to succeed in the space.
- At the end of the month, I visited Urbiztondo Beach at San Juan, La Union, and Tangadan Falls at San Gabriel.
- This month, I saw more of La Union when I visited the Bahay na Bato (House of Stone) at Bangar.
- For the first time, I experienced an hour of coaching with Dindin Reyes. It was an experience that really forced me to look at a few plain truths: I am craving for real community and I might have to give more attention to how I’m healing my old wounds.
- The climax of this month was my three-day yoga retreat at beautiful Palaui. More than the alluring sea and landscape, it was the opportunity to practice yoga with really friendly and interesting people, which made the experience something I will never forget. I think I need to go back there this 2017.
- This month was spent immersing myself in the Soulpreneurs Program and integrating my realizations from the yoga retreat. My biggest take-away from the Soulpreneur course so far was: “I am not here to heal the world but to heal myself so that by doing so I might heal the world.”
- One of the most important realizations that came to me this month was a clearer vision of an ideal life I wanted to create. What I really wanted was a simple combination of spirituality, communion with Nature, reading, writing, intimate conversations with people, a source of income that provides “just enough,” and personal space, an environment that supports all that. Ten months after this insight, I still hold this vision.
- One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my 2016 was seeing a pawikan (sea turtle) hatch from its egg and slowly gained strength as it breathed the sea. We helped the little creatures start their voyage at sea hoping they’ll come back after many years to repopulate their already endangered race.
- This month, I signed contracts for two major academic writing projects from my biggest client so far. I projected that what I’ll earn from these two projects would be enough to cover my expenses for the entire year and, given my frugal lifestyle, perhaps even more. I was extremely grateful for the referral. Because of it, I was able to drop lower-paying gigs.
- A few thoughts I had this month which left me awestruck as I review my journal right now: This month I was philosophizing about the benefits of keeping our passions devoid of monetary value. I realized that what I really wanted was to just do what I was doing and not to sell it, not to make money out of my art. Perhaps, this was an important realization that would, later on, convince me about the limitations that capitalism has brought twenty-first-century creative life. Also, I was thinking about the possibility of being more scholarly in my writing and the benefits of relocating.
- This month, I spent a night at the Talisayen Cove at San Antonio, Zambales. I tried hiking the nearby mountain that housed a grotto but wasn’t able to finish because of the heat and I wasn’t able to bring water. I’m coming back to this place and probably do the hike again.
- This month, I also hiked Mt. Gulugod Baboy at Batangas, which astonished me with the best seascape I’ve ever seen in my life. Thank you so much Mother Earth.
- At the end of April, I felt a little burnt out from the two projects I was working on. The beginning of May was a time for me to get back to my center—to connect with my Inner Self by engaging in mindfulness practices and creative projects and to revisit my life design and goals in general.
- As part of this return to the center, I visited Bolinao again after a long time. The trip was invigorating but I was also deeply saddened after seeing how tourism has destroyed this once pristine haven.
- Picking up from my spiritual journey in May, June was a big month for me in terms of rethinking the issue of vocation. To help me, I began delving deeper into the works of Parker Palmer, an activist and Quaker writer. This month, I read his books Let Your Life Speak (on vocation) and A Hidden Wholeness (on community).
- This month, I finished reading two of the works of Dr. Robert Lanza, Biocentrism and Beyond Biocentrism, as I tackled the interconnections of science and spirituality. It was one of the most mind-blowing reading experiences I have ever had. Dr. Lanza’s work will prove useful to me at the end of this month and throughout 2016 as I experienced several encounters with death. Dr. Lanza is one of those scientists who use science to interpret phenomena that are at the core of being alive, one of which is the implications of a universe with no time to our understanding of death and the afterlife.
- I continued to reflect on the issue of my personal vocation during this month while I enjoyed a creative splurge at the same time. My imagination was invigorated.
- At the end of the month, I visited the National Museum in Manila for the very first time. I still can’t believe I graduated with a Major in History without seeing this.
- This month, I picked up the book Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd. I deeply enjoyed her practical and realistic approach to building a creative lifestyle and career. After reading the creative archetypes she presented in her book, it became clearer to me that I have this constant, ever present dichotomy within me—I was a creative who both relied heavily on my intellect to produce work (Thinker) while at same time tapped into that part of me that escapes thoughts for rest, healing, and purpose (Mystic).
- This month, I also began to welcome the thought of relocating (again). Although living in San Jacinto provides me with a simple lifestyle that allows for less work and more time for creative and intellectual pursuits, my need for community and connection with like-minded people has been a big problem for me for a long time already. It’s something that relocating might solve.
- I took my biggest trip of the year this month, flying to the humble yet captivating town of Coron in Palawan.
- A year has passed after I left my independent contractor job at a research team at the University of the Philippines Emerging Interdisciplinary Studies (UP-EIDR) after which I started an independent consulting writing practice. I confronted the data from my financial review and reassessed my feelings about what I was doing. My first year as a freelance writer and editor was a roller coaster ride of income and emotions something I expressed in my post that month, Maybe You Are Fighting More Battles Than You Can Handle.
- This year, I intended to build a strong foundation for my creative career by focusing on financial management. However, due to the facts that have now been revealed, I shifted my attention from wanting to understand how to be a better freelancer to wanting to understand money, the larger economy, and my place in the capitalist system.
- To start this project, I started reading two books. The first book was The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg, which presented a radical suggestion by saying that we should spend what we earn on things that will make us happier and increase our earning potential. It radically interpreted investment as not just a matter of finances. It connected the intangible aspects of life with material wealth and considered “expenses” on health, well-being, and happiness as actual “investments.” It was nice and was a fresh breath of air from the more conservative book I finished reading earlier this year: Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Monique Tilford. However, something else was lacking from The Last Safe Investment. I am thrifty and the book didn’t really advocate thrift. The second book I read filled this gap. I began reading Early Retirement Extreme (a really bad title for an otherwise epic book) by Jacob Lund Fisker. For the first time, I saw a book that advocated less dependence on the market economy as a tool for lessening hours and years at paid employment (read: early retirement). I never thought of paid work that way before so that bird’s eye view realization was really enlightening. By this book, I thought I found the answer to my problem (which was simply to keep doing what I was already doing—living a simple life). However, Jacob’s process involved investing, a skill that is complex and can be quite devoid of ethics and social responsibility. Of course, Jacob’s uber-minimalist lifestyle when adapted by multiple people can be a big contribution to the alleviation of environmental, moral, and cultural degradation caused by over consumerism. However, there must be a better book, a better way of thinking—one that inherently connects our relationship with money and our desire for a better world. Fortunately, Jacob’s book pointed me to another inspiring work which bridged the gap between the pursuit of individual freedom through simple living and the social relevance of such a lifestyle.
- I received a response to an email I sent a few months ago. It was from a client looking for writers for an academic general reference book series. I was accepted to contribute and I got a new gig. It was less lucrative than the first one but more exciting. I started missing school and the academe while doing the research. For a while, I thought about going back to school and getting a Master’s degree but my inner radical won’t let me. I’ll be reading Self-University by Charles Hayes this 2017 to enlighten me more on the subject of unschooling and self-education.
- Jacob Lund Fisker’s book pointed me to William Coperthwaite’s only book entitled A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity. It was a refreshing read. For the first time, I was exposed to a person who lived a life of voluntary simplicity and principled living, who bridged the gap between lifestyle and social change. Who would’ve thought that living with no running water and electricity can, by itself, be a form of civil disobedience? I am captivated by this hero’s life. Count me a follower. William Coperthwaite would open the doors for a new way of principled living I have very little idea about: homesteading. Like a lot of things in my life, the answer to many of my questions about money, work, and career was already under my nose. I am living in a farming community and yet I have never realized how important our relationship to the land is to our opportunity to enjoy freedom while contributing to healing the world at the same time.
- The general reference writing project was cancelled. Although, we were compensated in full, this left me heartbroken because my work won’t get published. Nevertheless, this gave me enough time to think more about my relationship with money and the work that I am meant to do.
- As a continuation of my education on money and economics, I finished reading Saved by Ben Hewitt. I understood more about the social construction of money and was excited to learn more so I began researching. Through Ben, I began to seriously consider farming and homesteading as part of the life work I want to build (now if only I could get a hand on a piece of land). What’s great about Ben is, unlike William Coperthwaite, he’s still alive and he can respond to an email once I decide to send one.
- This month, apart from my self-education projects, I camped and hiked at Mt. Balungao, Pangasinan.
- I also attended my very first two and a half-day sesshin, an intensive meditation retreat in the tradition of Zen Buddhism. It was difficult but enlightening. I met really awesome people after the closing ceremony, which was really the only time we got to talk to each other.
- This month, I received my first technical copyediting assignment from the same company that offered the general reference series project. I was grateful that they saw my diligence in my previous job and were interested in working with me longer. The new project was a lengthy 13 chapters of a book on teaching sociology. Although I made a lot of mistakes (credit to my client for giving me a chance on something I have very little experience with), I learned a lot about the book publishing process just by doing this project. I received another project this January 2017 on a book about values-driven organizations.
- I attempted to relocate to Sta. Barbara but changed my mind. I’ve decided to stay in San Jacinto until I have decided what to do next.
- I began to give serious thought to the side effects of the meds I am taking to put my depression at bay. So, I visited INAM, a year after I left the research team associated with the organization, to consult about a transition to medicine-less treatment. The doctor prescribed me anthroposophic medicines but the inner radical in me and my newly acquired decision-making skills made me thought well about the matter before committing to any medical program. This will be an important personal project for me in 2017.
- I finished reading Smart Choices and am looking forward to applying the process in my decision opportunities this 2017.
# What Went Well
This was a great year for me business-wise. Despite it being my first year as a real full-time freelancer, I was able to drop low-paying gigs for two high-level clients, one of which I think I’ll be keeping for a little while longer. The money I made was enough given my very minimalist lifestyle and for it I am grateful.
This was also the year I developed a more mature and conscious relationship with money. I spent more than half of the year building a foundation for my freelance writing/editing practice. Contrary to what most people think, freelancing is more difficult than traditional employment simply because a freelancer needs to handle most of the technical work, which employers handle for employees. The biggest challenge for me early on was keeping track of my earnings and managing my finances altogether. However, by September when I confronted the data from my first business year and a major project was canceled, I started to question what I was doing and spent most of October thinking about my general philosophy on money and making a living.
The inner philosopher in me has unleashed again and I started to ask questions like: What is money? Why does it even exist? Thankfully, I asked the right questions as these lead me to an important turning point in my intellectual maturity. I would say, my biggest achievement this year was my heightened awareness and consciousness on the subtle power of money and the importance of limiting my dependence on the market economy and helping our society’s transition towards a more nonviolent, environmentally-sound, and conscious economy.
# What Went Wrong
As I mentioned above, although this was a great year for me professionally and financially, I experienced a period of doubt on whether to continue freelancing particularly in September when I hit the end of my first business year (because I started freelancing full-time in September 2015). This year, I experienced the loss of a few really promising clients, I experienced a few delayed payments, and there were big projects that never materialized. In November, my first project with a foreign client was canceled. Although I was paid the entire amount, the general reference articles I wrote were not to be published. All of these greatly affected my confidence in what I was doing. I realized I could do better in terms of building my brand as a writer/editor and that is inevitable if I want to continue working in a competitive marketplace.
This year, I experienced a lot of confrontation with death. In July our family lost Helene, in August two of our most cherished dogs—Kara and Bubbles—bade farewell. They were with me during the most difficult time of my life and that hurt me more than anything. The Philippines also saw an increase of people being killed due to the war on drugs, one of which I myself saw near our neighborhood during a morning bike ride. Although these experiences are disheartening, they taught me a lot about coping with grief and developing acceptance of what is.
# What I’m Looking Forward To This 2017
While I’m open to anything that could happen in 2017, I’m looking forward to integrating all the important lessons I learned last year into making a big life and career pivot this year. My need for community is something I was not able to fully address last year despite the many interesting people I’ve met. I need to be close to where I belong if I want to thrive in the vocation I will commit myself so a relocation might be an important decision I have to make and implement this in 2017. Life is all about relationships after all and the healthiest, happiest people are those who are surrounded by the right people.
Here’s to a community-filled 2017!