I consider 2018 as my year of the unexpected. I am breathless at how my life has changed drastically over the past year. I describe this year as an anxious one – so many changes and surprises that I have yet to catch my breath. Here are the year’s biggest shockers, each with its own silver lining. (Yes, quoting Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray!)

1. Recovering from a Back Injury

This year, I had to take time off from strength training, due to a back injury that happened sometime around November 2017. I am sorry if I have been MIA. I had to concentrate on getting therapy for the first part of the year, and was ordered by the doctor to no longer power lift. In other words: no more heavy (heavier than my body weight) lifting. Tbh, I think I had a minor identity crisis. I mean, who is Gym Girl Jam without the gym?

Admittedly, when I see women in the gym now, I compare their squats or deadlifts to what I used to do. Yes, I occasionally feel a pang of jealousy – because they are allowed to do those things. I still stand firmly for physical fitness and mental health, and the fitness and health tips will continue! But on the other hand, I also know that I am not measured by the amount of weight that I lift. That’s life, friends – and I am determined to live it as best as I can!

2. Losing A Job I Had Been Doing For Almost 5 Years (January)

In 2013, I had started working as a financial advisor in an insurance company to compliment my not-so-regular singing career. Lo and behold, by January 2018, I had failed the validation requirement by a few thousand pesos — a REALLY negligible amount I might add (1.5%). Much to my shock, I was not even reconsidered.

If I may be honest, I saw this job as somewhat of a security blanket. While it was fulfilling at first, I realize that my heart was not there anymore. It had become a routine, whereas after so many years, I was no longer inspired. I was also yearning for a healthy work environment, and an inspiring mentorship.

After a few moments of sadness, I see that I really that I needed this break. Given that I also had to fulfill my reign as a Miss Global Philippines Tourism Ambassador in 2017, I am not surprised that this job took a backseat. Overall, I was able to achieve a childhood dream of mine, at this expense. On the bright side, I can always go back to this job. For now – and maybe for 2019, I shall tuck it away.

3. He Put A Ring On It! (May.. Forever!)

Christmas Eve Dinner 2018

Huh. Right? I would have expected this to happen maybe in 2019, but hey, I guess he liked it so he put a ring on it? Yaaas, Queen Bey was right! He-he. This is 2018’s biggest shocker, but also the happiest, not to mention the giddiest blessing.

In 2017, I had decided to sign out of relationships for the time being; because, I was plain tired – of lack of commitment and of empty promises. I was not ready to settle then, and I was not actively waiting for love. Instead, I aimed to be a better version of myself – and to fulfill my childhood dreams by becoming a (beauty) queen on the way!

Of course, it all changed when I met Enzo, my love and future husband. Many of you have been asking for the proposal story. While I could probably begin a love soliloquy over here, this moment is too too special that it deserves a separate post — and I think it’ll be worth the wait, as with all good things!

4. Taking Singing More Seriously

Not working in insurance gave me an opportunity to take singing more seriously. The extra time allowed me to focus on voice lessons, and to work on my technique. With regards to shows, God provides. To doubt his goodness and kindness is only cause for anxiety. Trust in Him.

For a woman who has been singing professionally for almost a decade, I was never confident with my singing voice. It was only this year that I gained confidence in myself and in my singing capabilities. My goal for 2019 is to share this gift – to all the lovers and to the haters who willfully take the time to watch. šŸ˜‰ After all, YOLO.

5. Entering Culinary School (November)

I have just finished the first quarter of my professional culinary training. I would describe it as very… REAL and RAW. Real in a sense that I have not put a single ounce of make up (even though kilay-is-life) for school, nor had a single manicure in the past 2 months! The very sense of me becoming a student again was scary at first, but I see it as a chance to learn something new sans caring about grades. After all, I am learning this as a life skill for my future husband and family and not as a possible career path.

So far, I have been kicked out of my comfort zone. So many firsts for me – with such RAW materials. Say, it was the first time for me to kill, dress and fillet a LIVE tilapia. I literally had to catch it as it was swimming in the aquarium.

Being in the hot kitchen has given me so much respect for the culinary world. I now realize that I had become so dependent on food processors and people prepping for me. Having to do everything from scratch – the peeling, mincing, dicing – has really given me a sense of humility and a reignited appreciation for those in the culinary service industry.

I do feel the “ugliest” when I am in the professional kitchen, as it is a far cry from my past. Over there, I no longer look like a beauty queen: no more big hair, heavy make up, and svelte gowns. Also, I see that even with my amateur baking and cooking background, I am the least experienced when it comes to this type of physical labor. I can seemingly be underestimated because of this fact – but here’s the thing, I never quit. I am grateful that I can learn these things in such a formal setting, as some are not given the time nor opportunity to do so.

WOW. 2018 was indeed a year of growth for me in so many areas of my life. I am forever thankful to God for all these opportunities. I now see that feeling the discomfort and lacking security in the past year has pushed me further than I could have imagined. Thank you, 2018! You have been swell!

What are your silver linings for 2018?