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Joeylene
Joeylene

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Lessons I've Learned this Year (2019)

Starting now, I've decided to do a Year-End Review. I was motivated to do this because of this blog post. Also, I was influenced to live with intention by books like "The Happiness Equation", "Essentialism" and "The Productivity Project," and by YouTubers like Matt D'Avella and Thomas Frank.

I wanted to design my life. To live a life that is true to myself. To live my life with intention. That is why I decided to review my life. To reflect on my past decisions, learn from my mistakes, and grow to be the person I wanted to be. I don't wanna let the year just pass me by. I needed to face myself and ask "Why?"

Why have I decided to go with this instead of that? Are my values and decisions still aligned? Where did I go astray and how can I refocus myself? Am I truly happy?

Hard questions like this make me rethink my decisions in life. It helps me reflect then decide on the next steps that I will make.


My year started with a rough start. Transferring schools twice made me doubt myself even more. Being a 4th-year college student, it's really hard to change schools when a new curriculum has been implemented (K-12 reference). Finally, I was able to transfer to a school in which I can take the courses with me as the sole student and that isn't hard on the budget.

My focus was to graduate fast and get that diploma. I wasn't really focused on the knowledge I'll receive at school cause, for the most part, I'm used to doing some self-study. An example of this is that I just took a Web Development class last semester. I already know almost all of the lessons so the instructor just gave me a project. So only completing my thesis and internship was the challenge for me.

Being in a new school makes me wonder about my life. "Will I ever graduate?" I ask myself. Sometimes I would get jealous of my peers that have already graduated. What if I've graduated like the rest of them, I wouldn't even be a disappointment to my parents. If only I pushed through in the past then I'll finally have that diploma. I know... I'm hard on myself. Nevertheless, I've accepted my decision in the past. I was burnout and unhappy. I needed space to recover. Little did I know that my decision will lead me to focus on self-improvement and experience the world of web development.

As the year ends, a lot has happened. The year that started off lonely and sad ended in a blessed and awesome way. So let's go through the lessons that I've learned this year:

1. Know your "why"

Whether making that change, building that habit or executing that idea, first ask yourself why? This will be your driving force, your motivation, to keep on going especially when things are going rough. The stronger your reason for doing that activity, the more you likely you'll stick to it. Finding your reason will also help you in deciding the next steps you need to make.

I tried a lot this year whether it's writing, making some arts or learning a new framework, there's always those that stuck and those that just faded away.

Writing is one of the things that I wanted to consistently do but failed to do so. When I started asking why I wanted to do it, I realized that I didn't know. Maybe I was just influenced or was jealous of some bloggers. I said it was for my future self, but was it true? As time goes by, I stopped writing. My reason wasn't that strong enough to stood the test of time. It has slowly been pushed back by my other commitments in life.

In contrast, learning ReactJS was different. Since I planned on being a frontend developer rather than a full-stack in the future, I was dedicated to learning it. Even though doubts came into my mind and want to just stick to making some Laravel web applications, the thought of doing the things that I enjoy became my motivation. I was always fond of the design side of web development. Even though I'll go back to becoming a beginner I'll gladly do so if it means getting out of my comfort zone. I was able to find the time to learn it as I worked on my capstone project/internship.

2. Keep moving forward

Life is hard. It may even lead you to question if it's even worth pushing through. Nevertheless, you'll never know the rest of your story if you don't move forward. There's nothing fun in being stuck in a bad chapter of your life.

Whenever I'm going through hard times, I always do my best to think that it will get better someday. Sometimes I wish those hardships never happen. Yet I know that I wouldn't grow if I only experience the good things in life. I wouldn't learn and mature if it weren't for those hard times. So even though it's tough, I try my best to accept the challenges in life. Those struggles are the ones that made me more grateful to things that I already have in life. It made me treasure what I have than take it for granted.

Rather than a lesson that I've learned, this is one of the things that I keep reminding myself of. If in the past, I didn't decide to try again and start a new after I stopped attending 4th year of college, I wouldn't get to experience a lot of what I experienced now like meeting new friends, falling in love, doing web development and finding the tech community. At that time, it was hard for me to even get out of my bed and eat. All I wanted to do was sleep and not think. Yet after many months of staying in my bed, I decided to redesign my life, to try again. Those little goals of getting out of bed then doing some freeCodeCamp lessons turned into me looking forward in life.

This lesson I kept into my heart even to this year. Doing the capstone project was hard and a lot has happened. There were those times that I just wanted to return to my comfort zone. Yet whenever I experienced fear, uncertainty or sadness, I close my eyes and tell myself that things will get better. Luckily, it did.

3. It's the little things that count

Know the saying, "it's the little things that count"? Those little things we say or do makes the most impact on our lives. Hundreds of those little things will turn into something great, a thousand will turn into something amazing. Whether we show someone we love them by making them a cup of coffee or saying they're beautiful, as they accumulate they make the relationship more rich and we grew closer. Even by reading just a few pages every day will reap great returns. By the time you realize it, you have read a handful of books. Whether making a habit or enriching things in your life, those little things are what makes the most of it.

The #100DaysOfCode or #100DaysOfX is a great example of this. Just by committing to at least 1 hour per day doing an activity will help you master your craft in the long run.

Reading books and learning web development for 2 years has made a great impact on my life. It turned into my current skill set that has helped me in doing my thesis and eased my search for a web developer internship role. With this, I'll continue my journey towards self-improvement.

In another perspective, doing the little things has made me closer to my friends and family. Listening to my parent's stories, helping a friend in moving out, sharing my day with my bf, those are things connect us more with each other. By also appreciating the little things, it makes us more grateful and happy in life. Seeing that those mundane little things are what makes life more enjoyable.

4. Bring space to your life

To be productive, it isn't always about doing more. At times, it means taking a step back and creating space. Space to let your mind wander. Space to let your mind get some time off. Space to sit back and relax. When you are in a constant sprint, always trying to meet the deadlines without rest, your creativity suffers. When reaching your goals means sacrificing your health, then you need to rethink your priorities.

I am guilty of this. I sometimes overwork myself, especially in the past years, knowing no boundaries and thinking that doing more means working more. I thought that I was being productive, when in fact I was sleep-deprived and unhappy. When fixing that one last bug turns into working overtime. When that one-time checking of emails on Saturday slowly becomes a routine. That's where you need to stop. Even machines overheat, what more so are ourselves. By working longer hours, we are sacrificing the quality of our work bit by bit. But by resting, we are recharging ourselves so that we can do better. We need space so that we can be more productive.

Fortunately, I've been practicing this lesson ever since I've burnout in the past. When it's time to work, I work. When it's time to relax, I relax. I also don't guilt-trip myself whenever I sleep in or take the rest of the day off. My body deserves some sleep and it's okay to enjoy the day especially when I've been working hard the past few days. With that, I've been able to produce more quality work. Delivering top-notch work means taking care of yourself.

5. Add a buffer to your estimates

As they say, or what I read in Essentialism, "expect the unexpected". Things don't often go the way we planned them. That 30 mins commute may turn into a 1 hour being stuck in traffic. There are times when a task would only take a few minutes or so, but ended up finishing it in 2 hours. In short, what we expected isn't always what we experienced. Sometimes things take longer. When we estimate the time for us to finish something, we often estimate based on the best scenario. But what about the unexpected? By anticipating and preparing for what may go wrong, we ended up with less stress and we are more likely to finish the task on time. That is why we add a buffer to our estimates. We add extra time to our estimates to be prepared for the unexpected.

I often do this, especially at work. Since I like planning things ahead of time, I always try to think of what may go wrong. With this, I was able to meet the deadlines. At school, I was able to manage my time well in doing my other projects while doing my thesis. By adding some buffer, other tasks weren't that affected when one took longer than I expected. I would often start my projects early so that when exams and the thesis defense came, it wouldn't get in the way.

6. Learn to say "No"

Saying no is hard especially when we associate our decisions to our relationships. It's hard to say no to our boss cause he might become disappointed with us. In the end, we just say yes. Whether it's due to our impulsiveness, desire to be reliable, desire to please people or cause we owe them one, we sometimes say yes to things we don't intend to. Then we regret our decisions later. So learn to say no especially when you find yourself having too many commitments.

I once ended up in this situation in the past where I would say yes to every project assigned to me. In the end, it was too much for me to handle and ended up failing a project. Then I realized, I thought that saying yes means helping them, but I was only hindering them from truly learning on their own. I was saying yes to them, but to my own goals, I was saying no. I just let other people's agendas take over mine. With that, I decided to stop impulsively saying yes. I started to think if it is worth the time or is aligned with my values.

7. Relationships matter

Whether it's with your family, friends or even to yourself, healthy relationships matter in our lives. Not only does it enrich our lives but it also helps get through life. As they say, humans are social beings. We need a sense of love and belonging. Life doesn't always need to revolve around your work. Sometimes a little chat with a long-time friend is what you need.

Moreover, relationships bring more meaning to life. When work you're doing involves helping those in need, you find yourself with a sense of purpose. Whether it's influencing or being influenced by different people, the connection may help us to realize that we've truly lived. That we were here.

Even though I value my time alone, I also enjoy spending a cup of coffee with a friend. I wouldn't be who I am without them. My friends and family helped me to become who I am. Whether it's only for a short time, there were a lot of people that contributed to molding me as the person I am now. I cried, we fought, we laughed, we played, we've lived life. I'll always be truly grateful to the people that became a part of my life. My teacher, that kid I used to play with, online friends, or even the kids I met at an orphanage. They made my life fuller.


Everyone had different experiences this year. Some were not that great, for others it was awesome. For me, it was a rough start. There were times where I was in the top of my game. There were times where I was a mess. But in the end, I did enjoy the ride 😄. With that, I'm looking forward to what the next year will be like. Hoping that whether good or bad, I'll never forget what I value in life.

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