An Ode To 2018


I believe that every experience is a learning opportunity. 

2018 has been a year of growing and learning with others in a way that I have never experienced before.


As I sit here, silently reflecting upon 2018 and attempting to write what I have learned and who I’m grateful for, I realized how incredibly fast the year flew by. So much so that it felt like water and most of it just slipped through my hands. My year felt like it was divided in half, from Spring to Summer and Fall to Winter; and despite how quick 2018 was, it also felt like these two seasons didn’t happen in a single year. So many things occurred this past year that I can barely remember the early part of it. However, the one thing that stood out is the growth I experienced in the past 12 months.

It was a collection of moments that challenged and pushed me to my limits where I became a leader; where I learned to rely on others; where I got out of my comfort zone; where I recognised my efforts; where I celebrated other people’s success; where I started to focus on what mattered most; and where I finally let go of my expectations.


Sunday Meetings with my Creative Founder Team. Doing synthesis and sorting through our assumptions and findings.


Becoming a leader.

Last Fall, I took a class called Creative Founder where I had the opportunity to build a startup with a team and I filled the role as CEO and Co-Founder. As a leader, I constantly had to make decisions for our company. But along the way, it also made me realize that it wasn’t just about making the right decisions. It was also about knowing when to challenge my team and being there for them when they need my guidance. I took it upon myself to foster trust in the work we’ve done and in ourselves, especially in times of doubt. More than that, I also became the person who showed my vulnerable side and acknowledged that I need them more than they need me, and that I don’t have all the answers myself. By doing this, it made them more open and trusting towards me as their leader. In that journey, we were able to form stronger bonds and worked better as a team.

At the end, I saw how much each of them grew compared to the start of the semester. Whether it be showing up, taking initiative or becoming a better presenter, seeing them develop and cultivate their skills individually has been a great achievement for me as their leader and encourager. It didn’t matter how many people intended to fund our startup; what mattered was how much we grew individually and as a team.

I wrote more about my experience on leading a team and measuring my success as a Creative Founder on Medium.

Becoming a leader gave me an opportunity to encourage and challenge others, and taught me to see growth as success in leadership.


With my Objects & Space Team and our final project. We created an Interactive Language Learning Table.


Relying on other people.

My other classes also allowed me to experience diversity amongst working with different teams and in different projects. I was exposed to other people’s culture, mindset and skills where I learned a lot as we grew together in our craft. When you work in teams, you realize other people’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your own. Learning how to work around one another’s weaknesses and leveraging one another’s strengths is a part of that. I’ve also come to realize that not every work and decision needs to fall on my shoulders, and lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders because it taught me how to rely on others.

Relying on other people allowed me to trust on a different level and to step back so that others could take initiative. By doing so, it made me appreciate other people’s efforts, skills and contributions.


My team’s Final Pitch to Investors, Lead Designers and Managers. This final presentation was for our class, Creative Founder.


Getting out of my comfort zone. 

Approaching people and holding conversations with strangers have never been my strongest suit. As an introvert, I would rather be by myself or stick close to people I know. However, my classes involved rigorous Design Research, where I had to go out and talk to strangers every week. For a shy person like me, it was a difficult experience but I finally learned how to put myself out there, approach other people, and listen to their stories with empathy.

Getting out of my comfort zone allowed me to form new relationships and have more engaging conversations with others because it changed the way I approached people and the way I listened to their stories.


Some installations and projects I worked on last Fall Semester.


Recognising my efforts.

This year, I was placed under an insane amount of pressure and stress. A lot of it contributed to the projects we were given in class and the insane deadlines that accompanied them. There were moments when I had to make a pivot in my project with just a few days left, doing everything from scratch. A lot of these times, I questioned my grip on the situation, going from “I don’t even know how to do this.” to “It’s impossible for me to finish this on time.”

What carried me forward was holding on to my own decisions and course of actions and seeing things through the end. I eventually learned not to doubt my capabilities while accepting that I’m only human and there’s only so much that I can do. This experience made me realize that I just needed to do my best and show up with whatever I’ve got. I had to learn the hard way that not every project will always turn out the way I want them to be and that it’s okay. In the end, what mattered was that I did the work.

Recognising my efforts allowed me to be truly content with my work and celebrate my accomplishments.


Tapa Night at The Yellow House where David introduced his project in the form of a social gathering.


Celebrating other people’s success.

My friends and I would celebrate one another's work and success over conversations, critiques, and gatherings. These moments always turn out to be a humbling experience — to have others let you in on their journey and be able to support them. Being able to see how they push their ideas and challenge themselves is both inspiring and insightful.

Celebrating other people’s success allowed me to constantly see things from a different perspective.


Holi Festival where we run around throwing powdered colors on our friends.


Focusing on what matters most.

I’ve had times where I questioned myself when it comes to spending time with the people that matter to me. I always felt bad for missing get togethers or not spending enough time with my friends. But over the year, I realized that there was no point about lingering on those losses and missed opportunities. I learned that I didn’t have to show up to every invitation and that I had no obligations to anyone but myself and that nurturing what was best for me became a priority. I took on a hectic schedule and decided to focus on my work and myself, which of course didn’t come without consequence. It robbed me of my weekends and my Friday nights and I also experienced a lot of regrets and loss when it came to my relationship with friends and family. But as every experience is a learning opportunity, I find myself seeking to learn from those losses.

When I started to focus on what mattered most to me, I learned how to stand by the decisions I made and the reasons behind them.


Exploring islands in Siargao during summer.


Letting go of expectations.

2018 wasn’t all roses and sunshine. There were stormy days too. Most of it contributed to the standards I have set on myself, on others and on situations. When it comes to myself: I always strive to achieve things perfectly and in order and when I couldn’t, I beat myself up for it. When it comes to others: I expect them to be on the same level as I am and when they don’t meet the standards I have set, I complain and feel bad. When it comes to situations: I always expect things to turn out the way I planned them and when it doesn’t I get extremely upset.

During the past year, I was constantly put in situations where the chips don’t fall according to my plans and people fail to meet my expectations. This made me realize that no matter what there will always be pieces that will go beyond the borders of what I have set. As difficult as that may seem, I eventually learned to be okay with it. 

By letting go of my expectations, I learned how to be easier on myself; I learned how to appreciate others; and I learned how to be more positive and accepting of circumstances.


I personally believe that we change depending on the people we surround ourselves with. In that change, we start to grow into a different version of ourselves; and in that growth, we start to see things in a different light.

Life then becomes a cycle of change and growth, where we start to build upon our perspectives and our beliefs. At the end, I have come to realize that what I seek for the coming year is to achieving balance and letting the chips fall where they may.


I hope that we continue to grow and learn this coming year.

Thank you for taking the time to read through journey. I wish you a Happy New Year.


Have you seen my previous summer reflection?

Read about the things I learned From A Summer Whirlwind here.