The obligatory year-end essay, 2017 edition

It is here at my mother’s place, on my newly bought laptop, with our neighbors partying the last few hours of 2017 away as The Dawn’s Salamat blares triumphantly in the background, that I decided to write the year-end essay nobody asked for, while reminiscing about my extremely befuddling 2017.

Interestingly, as soon as I finished writing that introductory paragraph, I went back and edited it. I had written “parents'” instead of “mother’s,” and while this may sound like an extremely stupid problem, I still find myself confused about which pronoun I should use. Part of me wonders if this place still counts as “my parents’ house,” since my mother’s my only parent who technically lives here.

Knowing my father, though, he’d probably scoff at my problem and dismiss it as nothing more than self-conscious pedantry. That is, if his urn, sitting right next to his framed picture and that radio I got for my mother two Christmases ago, could scoff. (Papa, I’m about six feet away from you right now. Please don’t try.)

Here’s a secret: I hate outlines. I do my best not to use them whenever I write something; I feel that the words flow naturally that way. Either that, or I’ve just gotten so good at bullshitting that I’ve managed to convince myself that this is my writing process, and not just me being shamelessly lazy.

(This essay would probably make more sense if I had a clearer idea of how I wanted to write it, a “flow” of some sort — what I’m thankful for, my biggest challenges, how many blind Duterte supporters I picked time-wasting internet fights with, yadda yadda — but well, you know, r i t i n g p r o c e s s and all. So bear with me.)

I don’t even know why I’m writing this. Closure, perhaps? An attempt to understand everything that happened to me in 2017 and wherever the heck I’m supposed to go in 2018? The horribly misguided notion that someone else out there cares about my life? I’m 340 words into this thing now, so it’s a bit too late to stop.

Let’s dance around the elephant in the room a bit more, as I talk about the highlights of my year. I’m cheating right now, because I’m looking at my iPhone and checking all the photos I took over the past 365 days.

Apparently, the first photo I took was of a bowl of oatmeal. It was supposed to mark the beginning of a strict fitness commitment — one that I only started taking seriously nine months later.

Scrolling further down, I’m finding all sorts of notes. Prescriptions for my dad’s pain medication (a fairly new addition to my weekly expenses at the time, as we only found out about his cancer sometime before Christmas 2016). Lists of healthy food and exercises I promised I’d stick to — I guess I didn’t want that summer body that much, huh? — and pictures of the comicbooks and collectibles I promised I’d start buying less of. Bank transaction slips, photos of black coffee in to-go cups, selfies. Photos of myself after my first 2017 challenge run (10 km in 57 minutes, a record that I would end up beating by 10 minutes in my final run for the year).

Screencaps of the emails I received from Asian Scientist, each confirming my progression towards becoming one of their Merit Prize awardees. Photos of myself wearing my costume based on Spider-Man Homecoming‘s homemade suit design and attending the special advance screening of the film I’d been waiting more than a year for. This year, I didn’t just make new friends — I cosplayed with them.

Pictures of our unplanned and unexpected trip to Singapore – that time when my girlfriend and I went on a leisurely tour to attend the Asian Scientist awarding ceremony and celebrate our birthdays together.

More photos of food, action figures, and a bunch of random stuff. Up until this point, I was having the best year of my life, not realizing that my album was missing someone whom I would later wish I’d taken more photos with.

A scanned photo breaks the stream of recent pictures. It’s a profile shot of a well-dressed, slightly overweight man, sporting a much thicker mop of hair and his instantly recognizable, Ninoy Aquino-style glasses. More scans follow: him standing next to my eldest sister, a black-and-white photo of him and my mother against a scenic backdrop, a worn-and-torn photo of him at twenty years old, sitting on the roof of the house where he grew up. I realize that this marks the first time I’ve looked at these photos without immediately tearing up.

Unsurprisingly, regular programming resumes after the last photo of my father. Photos of History Con, of lunches and dinners with friends and co-workers, of more fun runs and gym selfies.

Pictures of people, places, and Powerpoint slides from the Lopez-Jaena Science Journalism Workshop I was fortunate enough to become a part of.

And finally, a ton of random photos from the last few days of 2017. Taken all together, my album tells two stories: the one it shows, and the one it doesn’t.

I have so many things to be thankful for, and probably the strongest support network I’ve had in the last three years. Right now, though, at this very moment, I’m in a weird and uncomfortable place. Figuratively speaking, of course.

I’m scared – genuinely, legitimately scared – and this is probably the first time I’ve ever felt this way on New Year’s Eve. I’m about to make a few critical decisions in the next few days and weeks that can and will completely change my life in 2018. Hopefully, I’ll be busy enough during the next few months to not think about the things that are pulling me down at the moment, as well as the things I’ll lose along the way.

I’m not a fan of blaming a bunch of Hindu-Arabic numerals for my shitty life experiences. Barring a handful of circumstances beyond my control, I know that the pain and problems I endured in 2017 were all direct results of my idiotic decisions, general ineptitude, lack of responsibility, or a combination of all three. I’m sick of feeling this way, though, and I’ve decided to live by three simple rules for myself in 2018:

1) Say exactly what I mean.

2) Do what I say I’ll do.

3) Take no shit from anyone.

If that makes me selfish and inconsiderate, so be it. It’s high time I started thinking about my own happiness, instead of trying so hard to please everyone and offend no one.

Right now, our neighbor’s radio is playing Kardinal Offishall’s Dangerous. (I had to Google the title, because I don’t normally listen to crappy songs.) Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I feel about 2018: It looks dangerous to me, and it probably will be.

I just have to keep telling myself that this is fine. Hey, if I crash and burn, I can take comfort in the fact that somewhere out there, my old man is looking down on me, watching what I do and giving me a nice thumbs-up. Or having a good laugh at my expense, which I don’t exactly mind. The mental image of him laughing his guts out might make up for all the photos of him that I should have taken, and will never be able to take.

Here’s to 2018, and to you taking a few minutes away from your New Year’s feast to read my pointless rambling. I plan to make something out of my life this year. It’s none of my business, but I hope you do, too.

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