Vince Imbat

2022 Annual Review

Jan 12, 2023

In my My 2021 Annual Review, I implemented a new process:

  1. I identified the life areas I will review. I used the following names back then: Life management system, physical health, mental health, relationships, sustenance, life work.
  2. On each life area, I review my goals from last year and check whether or not I accomplished them and why.
  3. Then, I share the other goals and projects that emerged last year in that area.
  4. Finally, I share my new goals in each area.

At the end of that process, I set the following intentions (crossed-out goals were achieved):

The list above could have easily captured what 2022 was for me. But it doesn’t. I feel a mixture of shame and sadness as I look at it. I carried over some of these goals from 2021, yet I have not given them the attention they are asking of me. They still need to be fulfilled. A problematic question now confronts me: Do I still want these goals? Perhaps I still do; it’s just that I don’t have enough time last year to cover them all. I am still trying to figure out what happened here.

In an ideal world, I should have achieved all of these goals. But I don’t live in such a world. What happened in 2022 was far more than what I expected. Here is a narrative of what transpired in what is easily the best yet the most challenging year of my long walk (Note: I feel this with almost every year that passes).

# January

I spent the first weeks of 2022 in study mode. I finished reading and taking notes on the book A Philosophy of Walking by Robert Gros. This beautifully written reflection on the meaning and uses of walking helped me understand the simplest mode of travel. I also re-read the article “The Moderate-Minded Writer” by Matthew Nisbet and began studying Thich Nhat Hanh’s work through the website of Plum Village.

Since it is the beginning of the year, I also conducted my annual review, improving my process. One of my goals this year was to improve the design of my main website (vinceimbat.com) to improve how I share my work, so I also started learning web design and development. Along the way, I realized that there was so much to learn, so I created a temporary site so I could continue to publish even while learning to code. To practice, I chose a smaller project: a website for my Thoreau translations. I named the site Kaliskis na Ulap and used Hugo to build it. Through this project, I applied what I learned from the full-stack web development course I bought from Udemy.

# February

I started my birth month by publishing the first issue of Uman, my newsletter that features monthly updates on my life and projects. After publishing it, I continued studying Thich Nhat Hanh. I particularly like his Understanding → Compassion → Happiness sequence (Understanding leads to compassion) and his distaste for ideologies.

I also started re-reading Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufmann. It was a book I started the year before but never finished. Since one of my goals this year was to articulate my purpose, values, and vision, I decided to return to it. Through Transcend, I learned that My top three sources of self-actualization were continued freshness of appreciation, truth-seeking, and purpose.

In addition, I researched what existing fields of knowledge combined contemplation and philosophizing and where among these fields I could position myself. My hopes rose after I discovered Ran Lahav’s Deep philosophy but later lost interest after I found that it puts a heavier emphasis on contemplation over philosophizing and that its epistemology favors experience over reason. This prompted me to read about the differences between rationalism and empiricism (rationalism vs empiricism).

It was also a month filled with web development projects. First, I continued studying web development, specifically HTML. I then discovered and implemented a solution to use a custom domain name for my notes in Craft, which I also used for my collection of Thoreau translations. Lastly, I decided to pull the trigger and migrate this website (vinceimbat.com) from WordPress to Hugo.

Relationships-wise, I celebrated my birthday with a small group of friends, went home to the province to bond with cousins, attended an emotional wedding of two dear friends, and experienced the power of family as we faced a family member’s health issue.

# March

I spent most of March thinking about the question, “What motivates us humans?” This question was in line with my research on purpose and how I can better articulate it.

I was interested in the conscious or unconscious reasons behind our actions. Psychology holds most of the answers to this question, so I stayed there for most of the month. However, I also reviewed philosophical answers. Specifically, I read and thought about the meaning of life. After combining insights from my readings in psychology and philosophy, I decided that, at the time being, my minimum viable purpose will be to self-actualize and transcend (i.e., to fulfill all my needs for security so that I could grow as a person and live my life in the service of humanity). This could change as I deepen my understanding of purpose and human motivation.

While thinking about these things, I articulated the difference between meaning and purpose (Purpose vs Meaning) and wrote a very fruitful note on the relationship between nihilism and approaching life with humor (Approach life with humor). Inspired by my thinking about purpose and motivation this month, I realized I needed a more systematic way of tackling my goals. Through a journaling session, I wrote a draft of an outline on my life management system implementation.

March also featured several good walks:

Aside from walks, this month was also a month of travels. I went to Baguio to see my nephew and nieces for the first time in two years. I also traveled with some friends to San Nicolas and saw Taal up close (after it blew up some ashes!). I also joined my partner’s family for an outing at Calayo, Nasugbu, Batangas.

# April

April started with me contemplating my inevitable mortality. My contemplation led me to the realization that what is truly important in life are not the peak experiences but the Plateau experiences. The value of plateau experiences comes only after several brushes with death and suffering—experiences that make one wiser.

The connection between plateau experiences, death, and wisdom is as follows: When one wants to See things as they really are, driven by curiosity and truth-seeking, one quickly realizes that everything is fleeting. This realization of the fleetingness of life then leads to more intentional living: one wants to make the most out of this short precious life.

Thinking about my life’s fleetingness led me to ask myself what I wanted to do with the time I had left. The answer that came to me was that I wanted to write a book. I spent a considerable amount of time this month thinking about what kind of book to write and realized that I wanted to give birth to the following:

beautiful non-fiction books with photographs that combine personal narratives, philosophical thinking, cultural references, and historical descriptions, all situated in a specific geographical location.

To facilitate this project, I wanted to manage better the intermediate packets that could lead to writing a book. Thus, I transferred my notes from Craft to Obsidian.

After setting up my notes, I began compiling a reading list of books and essays about place and nature that discuss what it means to live and draw resources from history, culture, science, philosophy, and every possible source. This led me to writers who were influenced by Thoreau, such as Annie Dillard and Edward Abbey. While reading all of these books about nature, a common practice among the authors emerged: Everyone described specific moments of profound observation of particular phenomena in nature. Because of this, I was inspired to go back to writing field notes during my walks, which I rewrite as vignettes in my journal.

Meanwhile, I sent my blackout poems to be included in the Tuloy-Daloy exhibit, visited the Rizal Shrine for the first time, did my second hike to Mt. Makiling, traveled to Baguio City with my partner, and, finally, got my family together for the first time after two years.

# May

In May, I continued incorporating narratives into my digital garden. As I did this, I began thinking deeper about my writing life. I read DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira. One of my most significant writing achievements this month was narrativizing Uman April 2022.

As I progressed in writing, so did I in walking. I decided to improve my walking by increasing the time I spent outdoors in the afternoon. The more time I spend walking, the more chances I could have of catching something worth writing about. Extending my walking time led me to write longer, more beautiful field notes, which convinced me to relaunch Lilim. I published three issues of Lilim in May. It was during one of these walks that I serendipitously discovered the story of the LB internment camp, which I wrote about in Lilim 03-06. After reading about the story at the UPLB library, I spent an entire afternoon tracing the possible boundaries of the camp. During this walk, the draft of the poem Baker Hall came to me.

The other walks I did this month were a walk at Lopez Quezon, around town, in one of the fishponds at Sta. Teresa, and at Santino’s Farmville. I also had my second Makiling hike this month.

# June

In June, I walked from Los Baños to San Pablo, passing by the towns of Bay and Calauan along the way. It was my first multi-day walk; the second day I spent going around Sampaloc lake and visiting Bunot lake. While walking towards San Pablo, the difficulty of the walk, which I think owes more to rookie mistakes than the trail itself, made me ponder why I was doing the walk in the first place. I did the walk early this month, so I considered a lot about my motivations for walking the entire month. I journaled about it, thought about it on my next walks, and wrote a whole Lilim article on it (Lilim 03-05).

The walk also encouraged me to return to photography. I wanted to take good photos and edit them better during the walk, so I decided to improve my photography skills. This education extended even after the walk. I created a systematic, custom-made photography learning roadmap to organize my learning.

After doing photography and walking for almost a month, I felt the urge to return to my foundation: philosophy and contemplation. I reminded myself that my walks and photos would be more meaningful if I am more intentional about them, that is if I use them to deepen my sense of meaning. To facilitate this meaning-making, I continued to sharpen my writing this month. I continued marinating myself in narratives, which helped me elevate my experiences while walking.

Another highlight of June was ordering, unboxing, and reading Kissa by Kissa by Craig Mod. I read the book in two sittings and learned a lot about walking, books, and photography—stuff I could use in my work.

# July

This month, I spent a huge amount of time thinking about Thoreau. I studied his medium (the romantic excursion) and his quest to live his unique version of transcendentalism. More importantly, I studied his philosophical stance, which showed how different he is from me. Reading about Thoreau’s quest inspired me to think about my own quest. A huge part of this quest is the work that does not involve others, just myself. The writing I do in private is my most important writing. This writing is philosophical as it is meant to help me make sense of and understand my life and the world.

I spent more time thinking about the kind of philosophy that I want to practice, and this led me to lyrical philosophy per Edward Mooney. This research on lyrical philosophy introduced me to Henry Bugbee and, later on, ordinary language philosophy, specifically the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. My research on philosophy sharpened the kind of writing I want to produce. I want to create artifacts of writing around universal subject matters, which are place-based and use the romantic excursion as their device.

This month, I also worked on preparing a few poems to be sent to TLDTD for potential publication. The experience was very instructional. On photography, I created a photography learning roadmap that I would follow once I am ready to return to photography. On walking, I published a couple of Lilim issues, and while walking with my father and mother for the first time in a long time, I was reunited with Tita Sabel, a Deaf woman who took care of me when I was a baby.

Lastly, I modified how I prioritized goals. I created a comprehensive list of life goals and divided it into five primary focus goals and an extensive list of what is left called an “avoid-at-all-cost list.”

# August

In August, I went deeper into understanding how to incorporate lyrical philosophy into my writing by studying Henry Bugbee and his work, particularly The Inward Morning, which I wrote commentaries about. Responding to his epistemology, I began valuing my fieldnotes better and giving them a specific category in my notes garden ("seeds"). I also explored the work of Andrew J. Brown. Through these readings and explorations, I began looking closer at the religious nature of my work, and I faced head-on something that I was unconsciously avoiding: accepting that I am still engaged in religious activity and my past religious life has several things to teach me about living my current life.

In writing, I published one Lilim issue and several walk vignettes in draft form. I also received good news from TLDTD that my poem Gawat and its translation Tagsalat will be published in their Issue No. 5.

The main project that occupied me this month was transitioning my website into a digital garden using Quartz and combining all my notes and blog posts into a single ecosystem where writings grow from seeds to seedlings and eventually evergreens.

# September

This month, I spent the majority of my days thinking about money and how it relates to the life I want to live. I read the book You Need a Budget and then applied it by creating my budget, helping my partner create hers, and building our couple fund budget for our second month living together. We needed a system that could help us talk about money easily, and we found the YNAB system and app really helpful.

While budgeting, I realized I needed to earn more money to retire earlier than the traditional retirement age. However, I was no longer willing to increase my working hours at my freelance job (editing). It became clear that if I wanted to improve my earnings, I needed to start a source of income closer to my passions. While thinking about this, I encountered the Career capital theory by Cal Newport, which argues that if I want an ideal career, I need to develop a rare skill in exchange for it. I felt an intuitive reservation about the theory because it treats everything we do like something to be exchanged and treats careers like competition. This made me remember that Some important work have to be done even if they are not profitable. I remembered gift economics and decided to spend the remaining days of September reading the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde.

In other news, I went on two dates with friends: one in Pagsanjan and another at Las Piñas. I also celebrated my third anniversary with my partner, adopted a new cat, and rescued a kitten.

# October

I started October intending to do a creative reset. After re-reading Steal Like an Artist, I decided to publish The Long Walk (TLW) on Substack. The first issue was released on October 9, 2022, and it shared the highlights of my mental and physical walks. I was able to publish two more issues on 16 and 23. The issues contained highlights of my reading of The Inward Morning, the foreword of Kapag Natagpuan Kita, and Living Philosophy. The issues showed how I started building my philosophical family tree. It also presented my deepening appreciation and integration of poetry into my philosophical practice, culminating in the book launch of Saglit, where I met Rofel Brion at Casa San Pablo.

Meanwhile, Carillon came into our lives, Benjie and I started a photography project together, and Lea and I went home to Pangasinan to spend two days at the beach.

Things were going well until we were all struck by the sudden death of my best friend, Rem Tanauan. Rem’s death forced me to look at my life and work and has reoriented my priorities into helping the people that Rem left move on. I am also called to protect Rem’s private and public writings and get to know him more through this. I am also finally committing to mastering poetry.

# November

Rem’s death made me closer to my community. Thinking about the meaning of community made me realize the importance of having a metaphysical and epistemological home that I could return to as I practice tolerance and compassion toward others who do not believe my fundamental beliefs. This led me to the metaphor of walking and the well, which also applies to poetics and living in general.

While I contemplated community, I helped a friend translate the foreword of her upcoming book, walked with some friends at Makiling Botanic Gardens, and shared space with others at the Ginhawa Breathing Space event at Tanay, Rizal. There, I walked around the Hermitage and Organic Gardens (HOGAR) of the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) and did a hike to Mt. Kulis with my partner and some old and new friends. The trip helped me grieve Rem and provided some much-needed inspiration to write a few poems and some issues of TLW.

After the trip, I focused on contributing to a small group of Rem’s friends who wanted to preserve his works and continue his legacy. I also read the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans to provide some ideas on how I could incorporate the new insights I had about my life work after Rem’s death and think better about adjustments I wanted to do in my work life.

# December

I mainly spent the last month of the year thinking about my sources of income. I wanted to create a livelihood system (as I like to call it) that is both resilient and encourages my transition toward more satisfying work. At present, I support my art through freelance editing. I realized that editing no longer provides the same fulfillment it once did. Also, I needed to introduce multiple income streams to my system to create a safety net.

I contacted a previous employer and asked if they had any project they could use a hand with. Fortunately, they have a writing project and offered me a trial run. I also started writing podcast show notes again.

My partner brought up the idea of me helping her with her systems. Since this is a potential business idea I have been thinking about for a long time, I gladly accepted the challenge. I spent the last week of the month going back to my thoughts on how to build a minimum viable life management system and creating a prototype course for her. We are currently doing the course together, with me coaching her step-by-step. So far, this project has provided me with helpful ideas on how I might proceed with this endeavor.

While working on my partner’s LMS, I also took the opportunity to improve my own LMS. I redesigned my daily routine to accommodate better sleeping habits and incorporated the Pomodoro app Forest into my morning routine.

This month, I wrote a few poems and several poem drafts and released two TLW issues, the last of which involved a narration of my realizations from watching stars for over a week while at Cablong. In addition, I finalized a plan for improving and maintaining Rem’s websites, which I shared with our small group.

While at Cablong, I also had several good walks. My favorites were walking to Banaoang, discovering a heavily graffitied house, and walking under a full moon.

This month also allowed me to nurture my relationships and start new ones. I began a friendship with some Pangasinan writers or kumukurits who, like me, are doing their best to help preserve the dying Pangasinan language. I also attended a freelancers’ event with my partner, where I got to meet new and old friends.

My holidays were beautifully silent. I spent Christmas and New Year at my apartment in Los Baños with my partner and our cats. During the dead week between Christmas and New Year, we met with three friends. But that’s about it. My 2023 started with me hugging my partner as we looked out the window, watching a fireworks display that lasted just about five minutes.

***

In 2023, I have two big goals: (1) to establish a more resilient livelihood system that encourages me to transition to doing work that I enjoy more and (2) to start a book project (possibly about walking in Los Baños). I have other goals, but they serve different support roles for these two. I do not doubt that other important goals will emerge along the way. Hopefully, I will be ready to face them when they do.