A Year in 5 Bullets

From living in three different countries and travelling to 20 different cities, to teaching a class to college students as a college student, to coming back to the one place that I will forever call home. This year has been the most adventurous yet, and one of the best ones of my 21 years of existence. It deserves a list of little somethings as an attempt to capture its impact on my growth.

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid & take more risks.

From travelling independently & failing at a business I never really started, but finding something even more meaningful.

After travelling with three of my most adventurous friends in Mexico, some spontaneity has rubbed off on me. I’m surprised at how much trust I had for others when I attempted to walk around European cities all on my own. Or when I walked around Rome with a once stranger turned travel bud I met over some drinks. Or when I checked into Amsterdam party hostels all by myself. There were some pretty risky moments — one my very safe and secure dad may not have been proud to hear of. Thankfully nothing bad happened and I even gained good friends along the way.

In the summer, I tried to start a food franchise business. That didn’t work out as planned, because of some internal issues. I felt like I had wasted my summer: I had no internship or anything else lined up, and I wasn’t sure what else to do. But because this franchise thing didn’t work out, another door opened. I found a mentor from that franchise I was almost going to make a deal with and joined his passion project: an up and coming tech startup. My mentor has been IMMENSELY helpful and I am so grateful to have found someone who believes in my potential. Also, since then, I’ve discovered where my passion lies and have been making my way towards it.

My travels and risk-taking have taught me the value of going out there. I’m trying to learn new stuff on user experience design and I’ve been reaching out to other designers whose portfolios I’ve been captured by. Although they are very busy people, I’m surprised at how many have replied with very thorough answers.

In a little blog series Nina Domingo and I are starting, I was also surprised at how many were willing to give feedback and take time off for interviews.

At the start of year, I proposed a student forum to teach human-centered design to college students. For a whole semester, I was a student-teacher to 15 individuals. I was extremely scared at first — imagine teaching a class to college students as a college student myself, with no formal background on the topic. But it was one of the most rewarding college experiences of my life and one of our students ended up teaching the same class the next semester!

Get out there, reach out, and discover the world. You’ll be surprised at how willing it is to let you explore it.

Lesson #2: Invest in people and communities.

From really good advice and picking at similar, like-minded & intelligent minds.

The best piece of career advice that stuck with me from a mentor was to invest in people, and not the job position or the status or the salary or whatever else can give weight to a career. I’ve carried this with me since.

As mentioned, Nina D. and I are starting a blog series (The Lemon Scope) that features entrepreneurs in their rawest forms. I’ve been growing so much because of the people involved. 1) Through the entrepreneurs I’ve been able to interview and go really in depth with. Our questions are quite deep and digging closer to their personalities shows such a beautiful side to them. And; 2) Through my new bud, Nina. We’ve been soulmates (consecutive classmates) for three years in high school but I only really got to collaborate with her now. It’s so refreshing sharing ideas and thoughts (and relevant links!) with someone who carries a similar background, mindset and set of goals. I’m hoping to find even more similar others. On a separate note, I’m also glad I’ve discovered the wonderful community in Medium (to the point that I get quite addicted to it!) I’ve found my little online niche.

Communities and families are such a big part of the collectivistic Philippine culture. Beyond that, despite living in 3 different countries for extended periods of time, the Philippines is still my favorite, primarily because of the strong sense of family and community I have only felt there. No other place (or set of people!) comes close.

Lesson #3: Give & give back.

From feeling immensely grateful for others and reflecting on what will matter most in the future.

I’m so grateful for my dad, my lifelong mentor and current financier. And my mom. And my career mentor. And all the people on European streets who helped me with directions and with my heavy black bag. And the people who replied with such thorough answers when I asked about jobs and life. And my relatives and family for being ever supportive supporters. I hope to someday return the favor to the world for surrounding me with such giving others.

Ever since, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher in its broadest sense: as a parent teaching my children, as a mentor guiding younger kids, as a boss of a company challenging my employees. My biggest life goals center around this main passion of giving back through “teaching”: Get a good job to be credible enough to act as mentor to younger professionals; be financially stable to sustain a family and teach my children; start a company to develop and challenge hardworking employees. When I’m older, I think I’ll be measuring my success based on the gravity of impact and number of lives I’ll touch. To get me motivated, people would always fuel my momentum. Now, it’s an even stronger impetus.

Lesson #4: Just do it.

From realizing the value of doing in a newly discovered field of work.

Nike’s got it on point. I’ve always been reading about this and that (how to start a business, top tips in website development, etc.) and telling myself that “in the future, I’ll do it for sure.” But I always lacked in my follow throughs. Late in the year, I discovered the new field of product design, one that focuses heavily on process. A lot of the processes and portfolios was actually uncovered via Medium. (Thanks, Medium, you ma homie.) I really admired how passionate people got it with the projects and the strong emphasis on hard work in creating new things. Now I’m starting to work on actual projects that (hopefully) benefit companies and other people.

I’ve also begun to put my work out there via Medium and my online portfolio. I sometimes felt a bit pretentious posting things and advertising them on social media — what authority or status did I have to share my work? But I realized the process of writing or creating was a good way to reflect. And I realized that sharing could help a lost soul out, even just a bit. Like how many other articles and posts have lifted up my lost soul once, too. In relation to #1, a little bit of vulnerability is necessary in life. Go out there and just f*ckn do it, right?

Lastly, through all the people I’ve met and observed, I realized how much of a bubble I’ve been living in these past 20 years. There are so many possibilities and opportunities out there. So many. We think we’re constrained by all these different things — social constructs, expectations, status, etc. But there’s no stopping wanting to do what we want to do. Listen to stories of others for inspiration, then make stories of your own. You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve.

Lesson #5: Happiness is in the little things.

From living in Denmark & visiting 14 new cities in Europe, 2 in Asia, 1 in South America & 1 in North America in the past year.

I am so grateful for all the places I’ve seen and the monuments that have surpassed beyond mere pixels on a screen. But more than the beauty of the sparkling Eiffel tower, or the staring at the psychedelic Berlin wall, the smallest moments were sometimes the most memorable. I loved sitting inside a subway or on a park bench in a square and watching people pass by. Then I’d imagine how they lived their lives — their unique, diverse, different and interesting lives. Oh, what a beautifully complex world we live in.

The Danish got it good, too, probably why they’re called the “happiest people in the world.” My host family, for example, spent most of their time sitting around the fire with tea and light conversations. In Danish, there is a word “hygge” which is close to cozy or comfortable, but so much more: sipping hot chocolate with my hostmom, nibbling on Danish Christmas snacks with good friends, reading a book by the warmth of the fire. A kind of newfound happiness in living in the now.

So many people I’ve come across live in such different circumstances. Even those with so little find ways to smile. Our lives are lived in such relative terms. Happiness isn’t necessarily in clamouring to the top or perceiving success quantified through monetary value. They’re in the smaller moments that color the everyday — playing around with my littler siblings, catching up with an old friend over some sake and Japanese food, meeting a stranger over a random conversation. Appreciate those moments, and bask in the now. Live for those.

Looking back, 2015 has been such a great year. I’m looking forward to the surprises 2016 has in store.

Happy New Year, err’one!


Thanks for reading. Feel free to share some of your favorite 2015 stories and your own links to new year reflections. www.mikaelareyes.com