My Annual Review – 2019 Edition

At the end of each year, I sit down and look back at my year–what worked well, what didn’t, and what lessons I learned. It helps me be on top of my goals, and this practice provides a way for me to remember my goals and assess changes and improvements I need to make.

If you’re interested in doing the same, read about how I do my personal evaluation at the end of the year. Alternatively, read how James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) does it here.

2019: A Year Waiting & Dealing with Uncertainties

The year 2019 entered with a lot of joy and uncertainty. In November 2018, we welcome our second son, Caspian, into the world! Although, we are far away from family (who are in the Philippines), we managed to contain the chaos and organized our lives.

Thanks to the organization I work for, I enjoyed a rather long paternity leave–a paid one at that! That helped me take care of my wife, our new baby, and Kuya Malcolm who was in Kindergarten.

I faced two big uncertainties, though, at the start of the year. For one, our visa expires in March 2020, and unless we receive our Green Card before that, we will need to pack up and go back to the Philippines.

Secondly, our organization was restructuring. My former team let go of at least 6 people. By mid-year, only five, out of 16 teammates managed to become part of the new structure. Early in the year, I didn’t know if I would be absorbed in a new team in the new structure.

I did have quite a lot of anxiety. After all, if I didn’t have a job in our organization and I didn’t have a Permanent Resident card, then my family and I will need to go back to the Philippines.

As I write about the highlights of my year below, I have discovered several ways of dealing with the anxiety.

What went well

I have learned how to deal with anxiety through the Stoic practice of “Fear Setting”!

Even though I went through anxiety this year, I’m thankful that I discovered the Stoic practice of fear setting. I discovered this first through the podcast and blog of Tim Ferris:

This practice is inspired partly by the following quote from Seneca:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”


The following link presents a template that could be helpful in doing this practice yourself:

Scenario-building as part of Fear-Setting

In my case, I wrote in my journal and identified various scenarios that could happen in the next few months. I started with Plans A and B–the most optimistic and ideal scenarios–where I got both my job and my Green Card.

Then I slowly found courage to explore my Plan Z: the worst case scenario, the FEAR that kept me awake at night, and gave me jitters not unlike having three shots of espresso in a row!

So, I defined Plan Z: no job, no green card. And from there, I outlined my options; the resources I could draw on; my knowledge, skills, experiences, and networks; and I also calculated the expenses necessary for me and my family to repatriate to the Philippines.

It was an elaborate process. But it helped me deal with my worry. At the end of this exercise, I realized that whether we stayed in the USA or go back to the Philippines, my family and I will do just fine. Thanks also to friends and mentors who listened to me patiently as I shared my rants and anxieties.

I have work!

I worried needlessly. After an interview in May, our HR told me that I would be absorbed in the new structure. Even so, I am thankful that I did the Fear-Setting exercise. There are other uncertainties ahead and it can help me explore my options in the midst of uncertainties.

Our family received our Green Card in October!

The other area of concern I had was our green card! Thankfully, we received our Permanent Resident cards in October, 18 months after we began the process.

This means that my wife and I could stay and work in the US legally for the next 10 years. If we decide to, we can also start a business or take on a side gig.

Charity and Giving

My wife and I helped our church in Angat, Bulacan start a scholarship program for elementary and high school students. At its peak this year, the church had 12 scholars. We contribute $100 a month and it has made a big difference in the lives of the students and their parents.

It’s been amazing to hear about the impact of this program on the kids. We hope to increase our giving next year and multiply our impact.


Because of my work, I visited several beautiful countries this year:

  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • the Philippines
  • Accra, Ghana

What didn’t go so well

Creative Output

Beyond two or three poems in Ilokano, I have not produced significant personal creative work this year. Since 2006, I have committed myself to writing poetry and short stories in my native tongue: Ilokano. This year, I have not been able to write much.

If you’ve seen more articles here lately, that’s because I migrated a number of blog posts from, which from here on will become my professional website/blog. Consider it my online resume and where I will put my more professional writing outputs.

Exercise & fitness regime

I barely went to the gym this year, and that’s probably because I’ve been busy at home and at work. It’s not so easy managing time at work and with two kids. As my friend Chris said, “it never stops!”

Moving into the new year, I need to carve out some time for fitness and self-care, even if I only go to our apartment complex’s fitness center.

Smartphone Dependence

I’ve been glued to my smartphone more than necessary, taking away valuable time for creative output and time for my sons. I tried getting a less smart phone but it just didn’t work! I will need to measure my smartphone usage and reduce it.

Lessons Learned in 2019

I have learned several lessons from 2019. I have acquired the important skill of building scenarios and anticipating possible worst case scenarios. This will stay with me in the personal and professional spheres of my life.

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to colleagues who become friends and mentors. But such is the nature of organizational life, especially with the complications brought on by the climate where our agency (and church) currently operates.

In addition, I have explored several possible side hustles to fund some of my passion projects (such as this blog!) and social good projects, too. I’ve read about and listened to podcasts and audiobooks about selling on eBay, driving for Lyft or Uber. I can also go back to building a website that could bring in a side income.

Perhaps, the biggest lesson of all, and it is one that I keep learning, is becoming a better husband and father to my sons. Yes, being a father could sometimes feel like pulling my own teeth with pliers. But I try to learn to be better each day.

Moving into 2020

Earlier this month, I wrote about this year’s biggest surprise: we are pregnant again! We didn’t plan for it. But we gladly accept another child that God entrusted to us.

Moving forward into 2020, I will have more opportunities to practice being a better husband and father to three kids while working a full-time job.

This also means that I need to be more mindful of using my time and energy. The year 2019 had been a challenging one. But I am thankful for all the blessings from God and all the challenges we faced.

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