On this day exactly one year ago, our family just came home from a fun-filled vacation in Japan, and I was getting ready to resume my last semester in college.
Fast forward one year, now in a different country but together with the same awesome bunch, sitting here in this cozy hotel room in the heart of Suzhou typing this entry about my 2010.
Recounting the year's events with flowery words and abstract insights always has the danger of becoming superfluous, but I genuinely feel compelled to write a piece that can serve as a worthy capstone to a wonderful year. I am writing this piece for the same reasons that I blog in the first place.. to cement memories, to encapsulate emotions, to capture what blurry memories and old photographs could not, to elicit a few smiles, even if only from my future self, to bookmark the chronicles of my life.
2010 was undoubtedly the most important year of my life so far - over half a million minutes filled with milestones and achievements, endings and beginnings, colorful experiences, new friendships, and a plethora of firsts.
Half a million minutes. Fifty-two weeks. Take away 1/3 of that for sleep. Another 1/3 for meals, travel, traffic, and idle time. Which leaves a year with only sixteen weeks of actual productive time to flounder and flourish. It's amazing then such a brief span of time can bring about so much change in someone. I've never learned, laughed, loved, and lived as much as I did this year 2010. As the title says, this past year was packed with milestones.
The first few months of 2010 marked the culmination of college life. It was the best semester of my four years in Ateneo, maybe not in terms of grades, but certainly in terms of the learnings I gained, from the implementation of our business plan with LS, to the inspiration I got from some cool business electives, to the fulfillment of my Ateneo experience through the passionate lectures of Bobby Guev and the enlightening teachings of Ma'am Angeles. March 2010 marked the end of university life, the end of seventeen years of schooling, and most importantly, the beginning of real life.
2010 henceforth became a year of freedom and exploration. The ball was finally in my hands. I was living the existentialist ideal. After treading the rigid path of schooling for seventeen years, it felt liberating to finally have the full freedom to shape my life into anything I want it to be. After a flurry of job interviews, I signed my first job offer right on my birthday, and started work exactly a week after. My time with Thomson Reuters marked the second phase of my milestone year.
The company was kind to me right from the start. They allowed me to take a two-week leave three weeks into my employment, and off to England I went with my parents. Participating in the IPEX Print Show in Birmingham opened my eyes to the wide world of international business. As I was helping my dad set up our booth, I felt humbled by the sheer amount of effort and sacrifice my father went through to keep the company running. The exhibition left us with just three days to take a whirlwind tour of London, my dream city ever since reading my first Harry Potter book. After actually visiting the famous sites of the city, I can say that it's now among my favorite cities in the world.
My time at Thomson Reuters was a period of stepping up, becoming more organized, and having my first real taste of the corporate world. Getting my first salary was awesome, yet I never expected that my stay with the company would also turn out to be one of the fondest times of my life. Everyday I would go to work looking forward to the smiles and stories of my officemates. In my four months in the company, I was rotated around various tasks and scopes of responsibility. My time at Thomson Reuters proved that corporate life could be fun and even fulfilling. Moreover, I proved to myself that I can be productive in the corporate world. I was settled with the environment, happy with my officemates, and satisfied with the pay. It was the ideal life of comfort.
Newfound freedom, however, is not meant to settle. When there's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that comes your way, you know that you just have to take the leap. A chance to study in the best university in Shanghai, an entire year abroad all by myself, a blank slate, a perfect setting to wander and venture out. And so at the end of August, I left my job and embarked on the trip of a lifetime, the commencement of my first semester in Fudan University.
When you get to an unfamiliar environment, your awareness gets heightened, learning gets accelerated, and everyone you meet is a potential new friend. At first I thought that the absence of the familiar will be unsettling, but it only took a few weeks for Shanghai to feel like home. It was exciting to have a boisterous, caring bunch of friends as varied as the United Nations, all coming together to study Chinese. Through their stories and cultural comparisons, I was able to live vicariously in countries that were previously mere encyclopedia entries for me. As we shared friendships with people from every corner of the world, the world felt more connected and alive, less mysterious but more beautiful. Together we traversed through a series of firsts and unforgettable experiences, all adventurers in the most vibrant city of the most vibrant economy in the world. We spent nights getting drunk at the posh clubs of Shanghai, taking ten-hour train rides to the northern cities of Beijing and even Mongolia, visiting line-free pavilions in the World Expo, attending one house party after another, playing sports and LAN games, watching movies on the small screen of the dorm television... so busy living life that learning Chinese almost feels like a mere bonus.
The end of 2010 doesn't simply mark the end of a year, but also the end of a decade. This has been my formative decade, ten years that transformed an unassuming Grade 5 student into the person that is typing this entry on this cold New Year's Eve thousands of miles away from home. Everything contained from the years 2001 to 2010 will be the foundation of my life for decades to come. In a span of a decade, I've graduated grade school, high school, and college; and in between these milestones are all the memories, learnings, and friendships that I've ever had. In this lifetime, I will surely look back to this decade the most as it is where most of my childhood memories are contained. The backdrop of events on the world stage, the fall of America and the rise of Asia, the proliferation of mobile phones and the rise of the internet to ubiquity, the musical zeitgeist shriveling from boybands to Justin Bieber, are stories I can tell my grandchildren as the stories of my time.
Coming back to 2010... A year is simply an arbitrary boundary in the life of a person. An hour, a day, even a decade, these are just lines in a pad paper where the words and pictures often spill over. New Year's Day is just a man-made starting point to the perpetual cycle of sunrise and sunset. The chaotic subjectivity of time rarely obeys these man-made dividers, so to have so many wonderful things packed in the span of 365 days... well, is a really special, blessed occurrence. I will always remember 2010 as the year I graduated from college, went to Europe for the first time, represented our company to an international print exhibition, worked for a multinational company, bought three new gadgets, got a scholarship, spent a semester like no other in Shanghai, and ended the year sharing the holidays with the people who matter the most in my life.
Thank You for a wonderful year.
As I let go of 2010, I embrace the new year with a resounding yes to the exciting adventures ahead. Welcome to 2011, a new year, a new decade.