While reading some online articles, I came across one about how business-successful people are spending the long holidays at the end of the year. The article collated all of them and presented the bottom line - these people take a year-in-review of what went well and lessons learned, then plan ahead of the coming year - as in a real plan with what, who, where, when and how. And so I am attempting to do the same not because I am a successful business person but I thought it’s a very good exercise to keep ourselves in the know of the things around us, especially the things that are not only big pieces of our lives but practically are the most important thing for us: family, personal/professional aspirations, goals, dreams, needs/wants and the works.

"I am still thankful for the experience. I have been given enough of it that I could tell I have improved from the day I ever started."

Let me begin with what went well. I consider having been able to came out of my previous work alive is such an accomplishment. It was actually an answered prayer. Without putting much details, I went through hell at work under the watch of my former boss. I also needed to be a supportive friend/confidant to the very same person who have been crushing my ego, emotion, feelings often times to get her way. During that time, it felt so low I can’t help but pity on myself and asked if others are also going through difficult situation at work. I can’t forget how I needed to balance for the likings of my boss, and with how people around us might get affected. I silently resented on how she would tell a lot of bad things about someone in confidence. She said that she tells me because I am her trusted person. She never changed since she first became my boss back in 2013. What made it really crazy is that this person is the same person asking for comfort because she is going through a lot in life, which to my opinion happened also because of how stiff her standards are and her foul mouth. But I am also clear knowing that I shouldn’t be making judgement of anyone, and so I kept my silence and chose to walk away. I hate to say I am regretful that I accepted her offer to work for her again after I left previous work also because of workplace issues came from her dealings. I never learned and needed hard lessons to keep it for a long time in my system. I am still thankful for the experience. I have been given enough of it that I could tell I have improved from the day I ever started. I was given so many tasks that I have accomplished . I thank the Lord for that. I am grateful fo everything. Few months away from that job, I could describe it as a roller coaster ride having to have had a number of ups and downs. It’s enough for me that I survived that crazy workplace with myself still put together and is standing tall for showing maturity, professionalism, and resilience. I thank the Lord for allowing me to survive; for guiding my every steps, decisions, and emotions; and of course, for putting the right people at the right time that helped me went through all of it. Today I still have the nightmare of what happened. I still fear that similar thing is lurking my future work. I can’t remember how many times I cried to myself and to God about why was I in that situation. I do remember how often I would run to friends to narrate my work problems. I asked trusted friends for advice and that kept me sane after all this time. Thanks to my friend, Van, most especially for always rewiring my circuits to follow what is right and that of God’s perspective during hard times. She has been a gracious spiritual accountability partner and I strive to do the same.

"I thought during that time that it will never end. It feels that way. But hey, I came out out as a learned man, and so I won the battle."

My former work was so eventful. You never know what issues may come your team’s way after each day. But the good thing was the experiences, I met so many big and inspiring people in the process. I was that little boss of my childhood’s dream. I led people, projects, assignments, reports and the works. These are the things being entrusted to people who are capable in any workplaces, and for that I am so grateful. I am also happy for being able to literally put up an office from scratch -- bargaining for contract, renovation, purchasing, launch, maintenance etc. I almost have done that by myself since we were a small team. Not to mention our successful series of events and programs that were low budget, high expectations, tight deadlines, lots of dependencies, a boss who kept changing mind to the last minute. I can vividly recall how I wanted to have those days gone and over with. Alas! Here I am far from those things, far from those equally sad and happy days. I am really thankful for all of the people that helped me go through it, for all of the words of encouragement, for being my shoulder to cry on, for cheering me up in the midst of chaos. I thought during that time that it will never end. It feels that way. But hey, I came out out as a learned man, and so I won the battle.

Another perks from my previous work were the personal development fund. The company supports our personal and professional growth by allowing us to take up courses/trainings. Thankfully, I was able to finished two great certification-trainings, one on project management, and the other one in Six Sigma that made an added “CSSYB” or Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt to my name . Sure it is a milestone to my professional aspirations. Using my past experiences and these recent trainings I gave myself the “Administrative Management Professional” title. I am more confident claiming this subject-matter expertise after about almost a decade of working, training, and of wearing so many hats. I am filled with gladness every time people would say the big shoes they will need to fill in my absence. Not for anything else, I am simply happy how people around me appreciate my little contributions and how it impact our work. Since I aspire to be a very successful professional, I thrive with the appreciation not only of big people in the workplace but more so with small lives I have touched.

In all of these professional milestones, I am so happy how I have kept myself incognito about it at least in social media. Of course, I couldn’t deny that I have my own dose of self-admiration with my very close friends and family. I do love it when people see me as an accomplished person even if I judge myself differently from them. I am in the know how people have that instant respect for me because I am who I am and how I have practiced the art of silence and letting the success be the noise, as the popular meme goes. These days, it is very difficult to stay true and low key about your accomplishments. Sometimes, we are even unaware doing insensitive and reckless humble-bragging just to show off how far we’ve come in life. I never wanted to be that kind of a person and my being able to discipline myself not to flaunt things because I have them is quite an achievement. To God be all the glory because if not for Him I will not be able to achieved all of these things. He has simply allowed these beautiful things to also occur into my life.

2017 has also been the year that I felt inside me how I should be more sensitive about other’s feelings. I would always consider how I would make other people feel with my words and actions. Except from my very close relatives whom I would always crack foul jokes with -- it is my way of communicating to these people that I am not shy being around them. I thought that I couldn’t be walking around here too full of my self, my needs and my wants. This is also another reason why it is awful to be surrounded by self-centred individuals. I am simply happy sharing my feelings to God.

I am also thankful of the fact that I got the chance and the power to help others. This year, I started supporting UNICEF. It’s a delight receiving cards from the children who are being reached by the little amount I give as monthly donation. I am also happy being present in times of need for my colleagues, friends, relatives and family. More than the monetary support, I was able to give them myself and time as a gift and I know that God is delighted with those good deeds. Letting that little Jesus inside me to shine brightly as it should. It made me feel good about myself by knowing that in all of the bad things I’ve done, I also have done good things for other people. In the same way that I have received help from other people so unexpectedly. I am even more thankful that the help is to my entire family and not for myself alone. It is simply amazing. I am so stunned of how God is showing me in broad daylight that he is right there in front of me through the people we meet, through the good things we get, and through our life as a whole. We are truly blessed by a one true God.

My Aunt who has taken care of me when I was young have also been in some life-threatening situations that she was able to surpassed thanks be to God. I trust that this is God’s way of showing her children the way to maturity and responsibility. She has been very dependent to romantic relationship with guys, one after another. She seems to depend on them financially and emotionally. Thinking that life is happier when there is man around. Her relationships fails and fails over again. That is why I thought these challenges are God’s way of saying, come to me, my yoke is light. I pray that they would choose for the refuge that the Lord is offering and that for them to begin a life centred in God’s love. It was also this year when my nephew had been hospitalised. Thank God not of serious illnesses but of course it has been quite challenging for my sister most specially.

"Although, I’ve also visited that “depression room” often in 2017, but, I was always put in a situation that would require me to fight back and stand back to my feet."

Personal experience wise, I did not allow problems and trials to prevent me from doing things I like. In 2017, I have visited quite a number of bistros, eaten some great meals, visited few beautiful places and most especially stopped and smelled the flowers. I was good at shaking off the bad vibes around me. I remember how often I would visit salon, derm clinics, movie houses, boutiques, parks and more. I never allowed myself to sulk in sadness too long. It came naturally that my spirit would want to heal itself. And that’s another blessing, especially these days that a lot of people are silently depress over a number of things. Although, I’ve also visited that “depression room” often in 2017, but, I was always put in a situation that would require me to fight back and stand back to my feet. Either I needed to be strong for myself or for other people. It actually occurred to me that in difficult situations we will be okay whether we like it or not. Perhaps, it is already what it said in the bible that there is season for everything. When I came to Japan, even without big pocket, I managed to visit places around Nagoya. Such a delight that I am able to walk as a form of exercise, relaxation and me-time. Funny how my phone was populated with selfies, portraits and landscapes of places I have visited by just walking.

Another highlight of this year is when I met with my half siblings with Dad. I heard stories from them about Dad that I learned for the first time. I was confused and was seeing the light on how it came as a blessing that I did not grow up with Dad. He could really be a pain in the neck sometimes - demanding, insisting, bossy, unreasonable and the works . But God, made another revelation this year when Dad confessed how we wished I was the one he prioritised instead. In some very long chat messages he said how he would imagine how our life would have been if only we were together as a family. Of course, I cried when I first saw those messages but I am happy the way things were. It can only be true because I wouldn’t exchange my sister for that. Then Dad came and I got to see him too. Dad’s health was also challenged with his Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. Thank God that he is given life day after day. It has always been part of my prayers for both of my parents to live long enough to guide us.

"...we have received our Christmas gift by simply being together as a family"

And finally it came so well for our family to be together again here in Japan. I just prayed about it and did not know how exactly it can be possible but I prayed anyway. I can still remember how devastated I was in the beginning of 2017, I thought my life was such a mess that nothing right is happening. That pessimist mind is attacking me tremendously. In a very sincere, deeply-rooted, and most fragile self I asked God through a prayer request when I attended the Feast: 1) for my parents to live long enough that they would be able to watch over us as we grow older; 2) allow our family - Mom, Sis, Nephew -- to be together in Japan; 3) allow me to depart from work peacefully. And these were given to me. I am so filled with joy and gladness that our family is together again for the first time 3 years. I managed to brought Nanay’s ashes and so even became happier that it feels home from this new place. Sure there are challenges but we have received our Christmas gift by simply being together as a family. Thank God, He allowed me to see my nephew. I humbly pray for God to allow us to stay here for a good while now. I really want to start anew in life and there is nothing more delightful than being surrounded by family. I pray that I would be able to establish career in here as well that I will be able to support my family financially well.

The blessing counting can go on and on. I am really blessed with so many things in life. For one, we have been surrounded by friends that are like family in this alien world. We have been given favour upon favour for all of the things that we needed at the right place and time. God was right there at that person and moment telling I am with you. I couldn’t be more thankful that God has done all of these things despite my being an unworthy sinner. More to His forgiveness, He gave my family provisions of things I did not expect would still come our way. I must admit that there was a point in my life when I thought God is forsaking me. I learned that God’s timing is really different and it is of absolute power. I’ve been blessed with friends who are not only family but are like blood and flesh ready to support you the best way they can like Van. She has been an immense help and support group despite her solitude. Together we discuss our problems and ask each other for prayers. I can only be thankful for this rare people. I could only be so grateful for the life of these precious ones. I was also so happy seeing our house get some funky improvement after so long. Thank God it was made possible right before I flew. Somehow I could tell myself that I have accomplished something for the family after years of working. And now, even if I am restricted to work locally, online jobs became available and possible. Despite my personal struggles I am so happy that I have started working as freelance Virtual Assistant.

"I just want to start anew."

It was a beautiful year I must say. Where so many breakthroughs, revelations, and provisions were given to my family and I. However, of course, I should be able to balance things with lessons I have learned this year or the things that did not quite do well in my life. Some wrong choices and decisions -- or in a plain language my regrets that I should never ever repeat over again. On top of my list is my worldly desire for pleasure. I can’t remember how it started but one day the voice inside me was too strong that I’m okay disobeying God. That I was too lonely that I deserved to be happy for a moment. I was living a double life - the good and bad. I made it too far, too far beyond. I am so guilty that I let these things won. I just really pray for God to stop me because influence are stronger. Next, which is also related to the first one was my unwise spending. I have expenses that are not only unnecessary but are so culpable. As a result, I had such huge debts that I am still paying to date. I even needed to burden my mom and my sister because I have no savings or any extra penny going here in Japan. It was also another lowest point in my life that I can’t see the good plans of God. I really really want to rise from this grave of dumbest spending. I know for sure that money management is my waterloo. Hence, I asked in prayer for God to strengthen my path for my own future and that of my family. I’d like to be free of worries over uncertainties and of regrets that I wasn’t able to do the right thing. I was also dishonest over many things in my life - where I am going, what I have done or haven’t done, places I’ve been, own emotions - name it. I may have lied about it. I sure want to be more honest about my life but I simply can’t in fear of not being accepted the way I want to, or for not being good enough. I was so afraid that it resulted to lying and lying and lying. I have restricted my self with boundaries of things that I lied about. I needed to give up connections with some people to avoid being found out. I know it’s not okay and I will not justify it. I just want to start anew. I have my reasons but dishonesty will never be justified.

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