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Musings OFW Diaries

Remember 2021?

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Few months ago, I received an email that contains the receipt of my blog hosting renewal. I usually just delete these non-urgent / no action needed emails from my inbox, but at that time (maybe due to boredom), I actually opened and read the email and got reminded of how much I am getting charged monthly to keep this site while an image of a dusting website sitting in the world wide web came to my mind. I thought, maybe I should just cancel it since I am not writing anyway, then I got a better idea… instead of cancelling it maybe I should just write again. Immediately, the shame gremlins (as Brene Brown calls them) came out saying:

“nobody even reads your blog anyway, why bother” , “you haven’t travelled anywhere you dumb ass, what are you going to write?” and “you aren’t good enough at this, why waste time. Just watch Netflix as you always do

And while I did let the shame gremlins affect my thinking at that time, I didn’t cancel my blog hosting just yet thinking that I would travel again and maybe my blog will be worthy of a visit some day… and thus I let the dust continue to accumulate once more. Until last night, my friend and I went out for drinks after work and we talked about how we are shushing our creative selves and creating all these excuses about how we’re so busy working that we don’t have time to pursue things that we really want to do. After 4 hours of meaningful conversation, 6 glasses of wine and 3 fulfilling starters, we separated with a key takeaway: we need not to create a grand creative thing (immediately), but we can think of what we wanted to achieve and work backwards until we get to that very small step that you need to take — be it just writing ideas on a paper, writing a short paragraph for your blog or taking a photo from your phone, but just start something.

Which brought me here, instead of my usual excel spreadsheets, and started writing.

I am not going to talk about a recent travel to an exotic place, because that is non-existent, but instead join me as I look back at the past year, some milestones, and the lessons learned in between.

YEAR IN REVIEW

2021 – you were really something, weren’t you? The timid and closed-off Andrea I knew at the beginning of the year doesn’t seem like the same person that walked out at the end of the year. And it is not about the natural growth that happens to a person due to the circumstances they don’t have control of, but rather the kind of growth that you bring to yourself – by making conscious decisions to be closer to the person you aspire to be which includes trying and failing most of the time.

PASSION & HOBBIES

At the beginning of the year, my cousin and I started a podcast where we managed to make 8 episodes before life caught up to us – we started to have different priorities and had put it off since then. I would definitely want to pick it up some time in the future, but for now, I am just happy to listen to how different I used to think back then.

Sometime within the year, I also hired a personal fitness trainer to help me get back to shape (spoiler alert: I didn’t get back to shape because you need more than a trainer to do that. He can only do so much, but if I am not consistent and I don’t watch what I eat, the work out is not going to give me the full benefits). Anyway, I was still glad I did because I learned how to use the equipment in the gym and to have an accountability partner helped me to become more motivated to work out. This is still a work in progress and I aim to carry this over into this year and hopefully see results for my end of the year review.

Food is one of the best thing that happened to human kind (of course, we are going to die without it). I am a self-proclaimed foodie and always down to try new restaurants. I wanted to share some of the restaurants / coffee shops I’ve visited within the year. My goal was actually to try a new restaurant per month (food deliveries not counted, because I order in different restaurants everyday). Should I write a separate blog post for this? Maybe 🙂

FAMILY AND TRIPS

I went back home to The Philippines thrice last year. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to travel and work back home whenever I need to. Because of this, I managed to attend some of our important family events and travel with my family.

I moved to Dubai in 2018 and my sister was scheduled to fly to London to be with her fiance in December 2021. It was our family’s last year to live together in one house (technically for my parents and sister as I was just visiting often) and it’s sad to know that things are changing, especially when you’re used to living together, eating together and coming home to a house where my parents, sister and nephew are. But life, as we know it, is meant for changes.

I’m sure it’s harder for my parents because they’re the ones who were left behind, they’re the ones who had to let go of their kids, but leaving home doesn’t mean forgetting home. We’ve always been a close-knit family, and distance won’t change that. I’m sure because I’ve been away from home for almost 4 years now and I still call them 4 – 5x a week. It all boils down to the effort you put into your relationships for it to grow and not be forgotten. If you’re still living with your parents, I’m sure there are pros and cons to it *wink wink*, but try to spend more time with them, because things will change eventually, make the most out of it.

THE BIG 3-0

2021 is the year I turned 30! Funny when I look back at my naive, young self thinking that by 30 I will already be an accomplished woman, with millions in her account, a career that I love, a loving husband and kids running around the house — how clueless was I then that life is as easy as that.

Now, I am 30 – I learned that age is just a number, success is relative and we are not defined by some checklist we’ve created in our head. In a way, I already feel accomplished without ticking all of the boxes I’ve mentioned above (maybe 1-2 of them, yes lol) but because of how far I’ve come. Staying in the same place and playing it safe is the only way you won’t accomplish anything. If there’s one theme I can give to my 20s it is the decade of taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. It is the decade when you’re young enough to make mistakes, learn and stand back again. I have a lot of things to say about 20s and turning 30 but I’ll save it for another blog post.

CAREER

In April 2021, I have received my first, ever promotion in my life. Yes, after 10 years of working with 4 different companies, I have finally received a promotion. I learned that there are some things that you get just by being patient especially for people like me who are always itching to move.

For the longest time, I thought getting promoted and getting up the ladder is the only point of working. I was hustling, working long hours and going the extra mile all the time to prove that I am deserving of a promotion. But I realized… while getting promoted and being acknowledged because of your hardwork feel amazing, your mental health, sleep, work-life balance and the genuine relationships you build at work, are much more important. Do I want to be promoted again? Sure! But will I over work myself just to get it? No.

These are very nice things I got from the promotion (above);
But these are what I treasure most about work (below)

HEALTH

As most of my friends know, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder back in 2016. It took me 3 months to finally get myself together after few visits to the doctor and anti-anxiety medications. However, when the global pandemic happened in 2020, my anxiety was re-triggered and I went to see a doctor and started medication again.

At the beginning of 2021, it was getting slightly concerning as I’ve been taking my medicines for more than 6 months and I don’t see myself getting better, rather I felt being more dependent to my medicine than ever. I cannot fall asleep without my medicines. I literally try every night to sleep at 11pm, only to end up still wide awake at 5am, with no choice but to take my meds to fall asleep.

So In 2021, I went to a different doctor, gave me different sets of medicines and referred me to a psychologist for a CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy). And all I can say is that after 5 sessions of CBT, I already got back to my usual self.

My main concern was my anxiety towards sleep. One time, I was awake for almost 2 days and I still cannot fall asleep that I went to ER and asked them to put me to sleep, they injected something on me and in less than 5 minutes, I was asleep. That was the worst. But I also tried different things: reading a book before sleeping, listening to guided meditation, drinking warm milk or tea at night, restricting caffeine after 6pm, which gave me relief, albeit for short period of time.

In CBT, I was given some list for sleep hygiene which consists of the same things I’ve mentioned above but also during the sessions, we tried to understand what was really causing my anxiety towards sleep. My doctor asked me what’s the worst that could happen if I don’t fall asleep, and that has been a game changer for me. Because I realize that there’s nothing really worst that can happen if I don’t get to have 1 or 2 nights of sleep, eventually my body itself will be too tired that I will just fall asleep. It is just so important, especially for those with anxiety, to ask the whys. When we are anxious, we are overwhelmed with a lot of things and scenarios in our head, but if we break it down, and ask ourselves the whys, we kind of trim down the problem and it becomes easier to address and to solve.

As of today, I am happy to report that I am off my medications and I can sleep whenever I wanted to. If ever you feel something is off and it has affected your day to day activities, please don’t hesitate to seek for professional help. Same as to what you’d do if you are sick and cannot go to work, you see a doctor and ask for help. You are not alone and these things happen, it is not your fault considering everything you’ve been through in your life. You’re not being weak if you acknowledge that you need help.

DATING

2021 was also the year when I started dating. Coming out of a long term relationship (12 years to be exact), you could imagine how horrifying dating feels like for me. Last time I was in the dating scene was when I was 17, and back then I don’t think dating apps exist yet – so signing up for Bumble was kind of a big deal for me. I was clueless about what to do, how can I just agree to meet up with a stranger after a few small talk? Isn’t that dangerous? What am I supposed to say in conversations? What should I wear? I don’t want to look slutty as it might give the wrong impression, but I don’t want to look uptight too. I have a lot of questions in my head, but the only way to know is to get through it.

After few swipes and small talks, I agreed to meet one person, then another one. It was just for one date, just to grab coffee or dinner. Then I stopped for few months because I didn’t understand what I was doing it for, like what’s the point of spending time meeting someone, preparing for a date. Why do I need this? Am I lonely? Do I just want company? I needed to find my why. That is one important lesson I learned in dating, you first need to know what do you want to get out of it — is it because you want to be in a relationship, is it for the giddy feeling, the excitement, the hook-up or you just genuinely want to meet people and expand your network.

For me, I certainly don’t want to jump into another relationship. Not when I just got my freedom back. I went back to the dating app, with more clear sense of purpose: I just want to explore, meet people and enjoy the process. I want to see what I’ve missed while being in a serious relationship. And the thing is I don’t need to justify it to anyone. I did what I feel like doing, without having to think or consider another person’s opinion of me.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote down my goals for the year, and one of which is to meet 4 people with different nationalities in 1 year. At that time, meeting 4 people was just next to impossible. I knew myself then, it’s going to be hard for me to put myself out there. I liked myself closed-off, untouchable and unbothered self. But that’s why I put it as a goal, because it was challenging enough for me.

Lo and behold, I’ve met 4 people with different nationalities in like a month. At first, it was just to tick off my list, but then after sometime, the process of meeting people became more natural to me. For me, it isn’t about impressing the other person, or wanting the other person to like me… It’s more about what I learn about myself on each dates: what did I dislike, what did I like, what I can and cannot tolerate. I learn more about my preferences as I go, and it helped that I just came from a long term relationship, because I don’t want to just throw myself to or jump into a relationship with any person who gave me the slightest bit of attention or any person who showed a nice gesture for me.

Few things I have learned about dating in the last year:

  1. Date responsibly. Be open with the people you meet, state your intention and be honest with them instead of ghosting them. Once, I met a guy who on the 2nd date told me that he wanted to be exclusive with me. First of all, that’s a red flag for me. How can someone want to be with you when you barely know each other. So, I clearly told him that I am not looking for a relationship and I want to keep my options open. Was I being rude? I don’t think so. I was just being honest with myself and with him and I was just saving his time. Imagine, if you’re in the other people’s shoe, wouldn’t you want to get a clear answer rather than being led on?
  2. Manage your expectations. Disappointments all boil down to unmanaged expectations. Don’t act couple-y if you’re not a couple, don’t demand anything if you’re not a couple, don’t expect anything until you are a couple. That’s why it’s important to know from the beginning what it is you are and they are looking to get out of this. If the other person says that he’s not looking for anything serious, then don’t turn it into something else. Take his word as it is. If your expectations don’t match, then take it as an opportunity to leave and not as an invitation to change his mind. You’d save yourself from unnecessary disappointment.
  3. Have a life. Just because you’re talking with and seeing another person, it doesn’t mean that you have to revolve your world and plan your days around him. Make sure that you have other activities that you enjoy with or without another person. It is not healthy to just wait around for people to be available before you do something you actually like. Be your own person. Be comfortable being by yourself. Your happiness should never be given by another person, period.
  4. Know your self, your value and what you value. In the past, I always preach that you should love yourself first before jumping into a relationship. However, loving yourself is a process in itself. It is not an overnight thing, it can take a while for you to actually grow to love yourself. Now I believe that you just have to have a good understanding of yourself, your value and the things / qualities that you value. If you know yourself enough, you wouldn’t be easily swayed to do things you don’t want to do. You stand your ground and you’re not afraid to say no. If you know how valuable you are, you will not allow yourself to be treated poorly, you wouldn’t let red-flags slip, you would re-consider at any hint of disrespect because you value yourself. At the same time, if you know what you value (i.e, your time, your happiness, your boundaries), the moment that someone crosses your boundaries, you’d know that the person is up to no good. In the end, you’d save yourself from trouble.
  5. Don’t invest early. Whether it is time or emotional investment, give what you receive. If the person is giving you little time, little effort, why would you go the extra mile for them? Say, you’re just innately sweet and generous person, then sure, do as you wish. But make sure you’re not doing this to get them to like you back or because you want it to be reciprocated — if you find yourself going the extra mile just to win another person’s affection, you’re already in the wrong place. It’s always important to understand the why of your actions.

I was so used to building my walls up and keeping people at arm’s length because I was afraid of getting hurt. I push people away because I don’t want to be attached to them, afraid that they would leave eventually. But I learned that no one can hurt you unless you give them the power to. And that letting people in doesn’t always mean that they can have 100% of you. You can let people in, you can even like them, but still keep your own sense of self, value and boundaries.

That’s a wrap! Thanks for reviewing the year with me.

Lots of <3, Andrea

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