My word for 2013 was “Wonder”. This word is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it could refer to something or someone as “a cause of astonishment or admiration”. It could also mean “the astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience”, or “the feeling of doubt and uncertainty”. As a verb, it denotes having “interest in knowing or learning something with curiosity”.
I turned 24 in January, and it’s a perfect month to make birthday wishes. I forgot what I had wished for though, haha. But I do remember my friend’s wish for me and that was to be myself, bravely. To be able to do that, one must learn to love one’s self. Not in a narcissistic “selfie” vain kind of love. The kind of love that makes you let go of negative labels and condemnation, and acknowledge instead that you are a marvel— someone that God made after His own image… someone extraordinary… someone WONDERful. With this, you become more open to possibilities and you discover more beauty in the world.
Loving yourself and acknowledging that you are wonderful the way God made you is not easy when you struggle a lot with insecurities. I learned that insecurity does not only diminish self-esteem or self-love, it also makes you proud (which is kind of a paradox). God broke me and humbled me this year to take a deeper look at myself as His follower, as an artist, a teacher, a sister, a daughter, a friend. But He also made me get up, filled my eyes with wonder, and made me curious to explore new things. He made me see the wonder in people and places He has created.
Here are 10 things I’m grateful for that made my 2013 truly wonderful:
1. GOT LOST IN AN UNFAMILIAR PLACE
In February I got to explore a new district in Hong Kong. My aunt who resides there lets us visit her almost every year since I was little. The trip this year was slightly different because for the first time I was allowed to go fly there without adult supervision, and to go around on my own in a district none of us have ever been to. Sheung Wan was just lovely. I looked at different galleries, discovered charming novelty shops, and got to talk to artists who displayed their unique crafts. Going home, I missed my bus stop and ended up somewhere really far away. It was a bit scary but I’m glad I just sort of let the road lead me where it wanted me to go.
2. FOUND NATURE EXTRA FASCINATING
For the first time, I saw a bird’s nest (with unique-looking eggs) up close! I carefully took a photo of this in our school playground and waited a couple of days until they hatched <3
I became more appreciative of the way sunlight seeps through the trees in the morning, the way the sun sets in the horizon, and the way the moon glows at night. I have not witnessed a meteor shower this year, but I have dreamt about the moon and the stars more than a couple of times. I have also grown a stronger affinity for flowers. Both my grandmother and my mom love flowers as well so maybe it’s a genetic thing. Usually after a stressful day, I pass by the flower market to buy gerbera daisies, bright pink carnations, stargazers, or orchids.
3. SEIZED THE FRONT ROW IN A CONCERT
I rarely attend concerts, but I got to watch Jars Of Clay for Holy Week with my friends from church. Thanks to our pastor who got us tickets! I enjoyed it so much I got the courage to walk all the way to the front closest to the stage and just sang along with the other people there to worship.
4. RECONNECTED WITH OLD FRIENDS, WELCOMED NEW ONES
I am not the type of person who initiates reunion or dates with old friends especially those I haven’t seen or interacted for a reaaaallly long time. There are people I have actually chosen to disconnect from and been avoiding on account of circumstances that did not work out in the past. This year God allowed me to bump into about five old friends on separate occasions, and I surprised myself as soon as I instinctively ran to them for a big long hug. I also got to talk to those whom I used know only by acquaintance, and I’m glad I have now found a deeper friendship with them.
5. TOOK MY ART A BIT FURTHER TO SERVE OTHERS
God allowed me to use my talent for a bigger purpose other than as a way for me to illustrate my spiritual walk. I was given opportunities to use it to illustrate tote bags, wedding invitation suites, and murals for friends as well as friends of friends. This led me to meeting new people and learning how to work with different personalities. Listening to some of their stories gave me hope and made me appreciate surprises life brings.
6. INVOLVED MYSELF IN A COMMUNITY THAT EMPOWERS WOMEN
This is a photo taken during a workshop by the Better Story Project, founded by my friend Isa. Through this organization, I’ve met some of the most captivating women who surely are on their way to make an amazing impact in the world. It’s a privilege to be part of a community of empowered individuals.
7. ACKNOWLEDGED MY SHORTCOMINGS AS A TEACHER AND LEARNED FROM THEM
Children are such marvels. I am grateful to have pursued a career that is close to being a Guardian—to bring wonder, hope, and dreams in children. St. North (Santa Claus) said: “Eyes that see lights in the trees and magic in the air. This wonder is what I put into the world, and what I protect in children. It is what makes me a guardian.” This has always been my ideal role, and what I continue to stand up for. But I as a teacher sometimes forget about my philosophy because I just want to survive class and get through the day. This made me take control, refusing to ask for help, thinking I could do things on my own because I had to prove to myself that I could. But then things did not always work out, and I got frustrated at myself for the mistakes I kept making and for the criticism I had to accept. This brought me to tears and questions like “Why am I even a teacher? Is this a role I was meant to take? Should I stick to being an artist instead? Can I be both? Or just one?”
8. CHANNELED MY INNER FANGIRL AND DANCED MYSELF SILLY
It’s probably social suicide for 24-year old ladies like me to go crazy over One Direction (and, worse, be called a “Directioner”). Maybe this is a clear sign that I need to “put myself out there” and be friends with men my age, haha. But you gotta admit, their songs stick to you and make you want to jump up and dance and sing like there’s no tomorrow. And when you watch their interviews and documentaries you just wish they were your guy friends from college :)
9. VOLUNTEERED FOR A CAUSE
A super typhoon hit the Philippines in November and God urged me to do something to help. I initially hesitated and came up with all sorts of excuses such as “I’m not good with people” and “I don’t have much to offer that will make an impact”. I signed up at a midnight shift and I was on my own. It was a liberating experience to have no one familiar around me and to just be what I could for these people who needed help. My job was basically to be a counselor. I listened to what they had to say and asked follow up questions to help them move forward. I also found myself also doing other tasks that different situations called for, and it was a very rewarding experience to be used by God no matter how big or small the impact.
10. TRUSTED GOD’S PROMISES
This year, the enemy found ways to bring me down and tried to make me give up on so many things. It’s frustrating that the bottom-dweller is even using my loved ones, those who I depend on and trust the most, those I expect to lead me and build me up, to see the worst in life and simply give up on a long, bright future ahead of me. Somewhere in between the highlights, I encountered messages reminding me to live in the present moment and to make the most of the journey I am in before I arrive at my final destination. God has not forgotten and He is fulfilling His promises.
With “wonder”, I prayed that 2013 will begin in delight and end in wisdom. I can’t say I am wise, but I’m sure I know better now than 12 months ago. I look forward to being broken and restored again and again to become wiser and be marvelously, wonderfully alive.
Thank You, God, for everything.