As the year of 2019 comes to a close, I wanted to reflect back on all of the amazing things that have happened to me this past year and also give thanks and praise to some of those individuals who have made my life better. This is my official, Thank You for 2019.
In true China fashion, I have selected 8 individuals (because it’s a lucky number). And, in true western fashion, I am publishing this post on a Sunday instead of my usual Wednesday posts because Sunday is a time for church, a time for thanks, a time for self-reflection, and mostly, a time to be closer to God.
With that being said, the first person I would like to thank is my ex-girlfriend, Idyll. I have mentioned her in previous blog posts. And, it may seem strange that I would thank her first out of everyone even though we are no longer together and haven’t been for nearly 10 months now, but I’ll start with her. Through her, I have bettered my life spiritually in going to church, privately in reflecting on my flaws and how I can improve myself, and professionally by making me more diligent in my writing.
During the months that we were together, it was full of passion and love and also a considerable flux of emotions. In fact, I’ve described it as an emotional rollercoaster in previous blog posts, but it is because of this turbulent and tumultuous time that I looked for answers not only to problems with our relationship, but with who I was as a person as well.
I mentioned this in a previous blog post that I began reading self-help books because of that relationship. If you want to see my recommendations for the Top 5, look here. Those books helped me become better at time management, better at empathetic communication, better at understanding not only who I was as a person, but also, the people around me.
To further help try and mend and save the relationship, I looked for answers at church. Not initially, but after a new foreign colleague could tell I was clearly bothered by something, he talked with me and invited me to seek answers at his church in Shanghai.
What intrigued me so much about this church is that he went to it twice a week—I have a hard time making it once per week. Not only that, but he also went out of his way to go to church because he, too, lives in Suzhou like me. This means he puts in a two-hour commute (when all is said and done) twice a week in order to attend a church. I didn’t understand what made this church so special until it began speaking to me in the most beautiful and magnificent ways.
Without her belief and conviction in God, which made me want to grow stronger with him, and in part, without the turbulence of the relationship, I wouldn’t have had the reason to search for God as I did. So, if you’re reading this, Idyll, I thank you for 2019. I thank you for all of the amazing times you blessed me with when we were together and the crazy times. I can definitely say that without you I would not be who I am today.
The next person I want to thank is a Spanish woman who I randomly met in Guangzhou in June. Recently, she gave me one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever received in my life and actually is one of the inspirations for this blog post. Although it was only for a brief while that we met each other while in Guangzhou, we have continued to communicate for nearly six months now and she took an interest in my work.
Of course, as an author, this excites me. I like it when people take an interest in my work. However, I have heard the lines before many a time from lots of individuals: “Oh, you wrote a book? That’s so cool. I want to read it.” I, of course, say back, “Awesome! I would love that, here’s how you can get a copy. Are you actually going to read it?” They answer, “Of course!” I give a sly smile because I know words are water, rarely they are ice. In most cases, this actually accumulates a sale, which is nice on the surface at least. However, very very rarely do I ever get people who actually read the book. She did.
Actually, she read both books. This is fantastic on so many different levels. For the most part, it seemed like she liked the novels. And, if she didn’t like a particular section, she gave me constructive feedback on why she didn’t like it. Constructive feedback is great for authors because it helps us be cognizant of changes we need to make in future works.
To my surprise, she went even one step further and sent me a link on Christmas to a Google Drive document that I opened up and found the first two chapters of my first novel, The Trials of the Core, translated into Spanish.
My eyes lit up as I read it. My mouth dropped a little bit. And I couldn’t hold back a grin on my face as I looked through her work. I understood it. Most of it, anyway. Because I was curious about the Spanish quality of the translation, I asked my Colombian-American colleague (who is fluent in both Spanish and English) to take a look at the first chapters of my book in English and her translation of it in Spanish. Later, he sent me messages saying how the translation was spot on. Besides some accent errors, it was good enough to be professional work. He told me she maintained the style of my writing, she used the right vocabulary and turns of phrases and that I should be very very proud and happy of that translation. Translation of that quality is hard to find.
For me, that is going above and beyond anything I would ever expect from a friend. So, Noemi, if you’re reading this, I thank you for 2019. I thank you for taking an extraordinary interest in my work and for our great conversations.
The third person I wanted to thank is actually the reason I decided to delay the blog post I was going to publish, to publish this blog post. My friend Jon just recently messaged me on Facebook. By recently, I mean, within the last forty-eight hours. I don’t think he’ll mind if I show you the message, so look below for what he said.
I have known Jon for years and years. Originally, we met in a writing critique circle online. Last year, when I visited the Philippines for the first time, I made it an effort to see him and we actually met up. Photo below.
Throughout the years of our friendship, he has had a profound impact on my writing. Enough so where I felt it necessary to dedicate both of my current novels, in part, to him. Writers have a very strong connection to other writers. We push each other to be diligent in their writing and bounce ideas back and forth when we are having “Writer’s Block.” The message that he sent me was extremely thoughtful and reminded me of everything that I’ve accomplished since our time together as friends. Such a little message can go a long way. This is why I believe we should never be shy to give a compliment. You never know whose day you’re going to make!
It are these accomplishments I take the most pride in and what I carry with me into the New Year of 2020. The fact that I am someone’s inspiration means a lot to me, more than words can ever say, and the hospitality he showed me while in the Philippines is something I wish to repay if he ever visits me in China or if he and I ever find ourselves able to cross paths while in the States. If you’re reading this, Jon, thank you for 2019 (and 2018 and all the other years). Your kind words and support have been fantastic. You, too, are an inspiration for what it is like to be so incredibly hard-working.
Next, I would like to mention probably the third-biggest surprise of my life. Recently, I have been assigned to teach the six students of Senior 3 (Grade 12) a class called “Novel Reading.”
As many of you know, I have also started a book club called, Lit Lovers, which you can read about here. To save myself time and sanity, and to not reinvent the wheel, I was going to make it function like my book club. Also, I was going to keep my expectations low and only assign them one Literature Circle role each week. As a class, they would pick the book they would all read as a group. The six options I gave them were:
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Just like in Lit Lovers, I provided the students with a variety of choices (4 fiction, 2 non-fiction). However, I was surprised when one student raised his hand and asked, “Can we read your book?” I was taken aback. I didn’t expect this at all.
Shyly, I added my book to the list of options they could choose from not expecting anything. Before they voted, I told them to write down their top two choices for books to read. The votes turned out like this:
Student 1: (1) And Then There Were None, (2) Catch-22
Student 2: (1) The Trials of the Core, (2) And Then There Were None
Student 3: (1) Catch-22, (2) The Trials of the Core
Student 4: (1) And Then There Were None, (2) The Trials of the Core
Student 5: (1) Catch-22, (2) The Trials of the Core
Student 6: (1) The Trials of the Core, (2) Catch-22
As you can see, there was a three-way tie for first place. This means I had to go into their second favorite choice and my novel had the most votes. It is in this way that I am now doing something that I have never done before: teaching my novel.
This is a very cool experience, albeit a little weird. Currently, the students are reading the first trial. It has been my duty as a teacher (and also the author of the book) to make sure they are understanding everything, so I have put together PowerPoints on the book, I have introduced vocabulary and also key characters to the novel. So far I think it is going well, and although I doubt they are ever going to read this blog post, my Senior III students have really made the list of the top people I want to thank. So, S3, thank you for 2019 and for choosing my book to read in class.
The fifth person I want to thank is a woman named Daisy. Over the past few months of getting to know her, she has really helped stimulate my intellectual side as well as be a large proponent in taking advantage of opportunities here in China. She is very artistic. I met her through dance and we began talking because someone recommended her to help with the cover of my novella (which will be released soon). Through the conversations on the cover of the novel, I learned that she was opening a dance studio and so I helped her pick out a name for it: Heartbeat.
After that, we had a few discussions where we’ve gotten to know each other more and she actually is the one who planted the idea of Lit Lovers in my head. Well, actually, gave it a birthplace. I already had the idea of a book club and a writer’s group in Suzhou, but I didn’t have the place to host it. She let me use her studio. The creation of Lit Lovers has given me much more fulfillment than I could ever hope to have imagined, not only from people who have told me about how much value the group adds to their life (you can find that blog post here), but also, with the books that I read and really have to digest as I am the discussion leader every week.
On top of this, as I’ve gotten to know her, I’ve realized she may be one of the sweetest individuals that I’ve ever met. Her mission in life—to make the world a more beautiful place through art—is something I can totally get behind. I think that many in the world are losing their sense of artistic intellect due to phones and short attention spans. When I learned this about her, her mission became my mission as well and Lit Lovers was formed. If you’re reading this Daisy, thank you for 2019 and for everything that you’ve given me and inspired me to achieve.
The sixth person I want to thank is my colleague, Sebastian. He is an outstanding individual and someone who has really made my time in the office more enjoyable with his sense of humor and being another foreign colleague. It’s not just this, though, that I can thank him for. There are many reasons.
Probably the most important reason I feel the need to thank him is because he has opened my eyes spiritually. During the turbulent time with the ex-girlfriend, he offered me a place to seek answers and he is definitely one of the reasons I am now so adamant about church. Whenever I have questions, he is there to guide me or talk to me. If he doesn’t know the answer, then he’ll direct me to his wife or to the pastor. The whole congregation is actually quite amazing. His passion for Christ is really inspiring, and someday I hope to have the same kind of conviction as him.
Second, his passion for education is really inspiring as well. He is currently studying positive psychology for his master’s program and ideas that he tries to implement in the school are really a positive change to see (pun intended). He has helped me improve my Spanish ability by talking to me in Spanish in the office and helping me with vocabulary and essays. Whether he knows it or not, he has inspired me to grow and be dedicated in many aspects of my life.
Finally, because of him, I feel like I am living a healthier lifestyle. I would say partly due to him I have switched to become mostly vegetarian and I can actually feel it affecting my body and my mood in a positive manner. I feel more energized. Also, it’s always nice to have a gym buddy and I appreciate all of the gym sessions we’ve had together. From bodybuilding to cross-fit to calisthenics we have beaten up our body and I like that quite a bit.
So, if you’re reading this right now, Sebastian, I thank you for 2019. I cannot wait to see where our spiritual paths lead us in 2020 and beyond.
The last people I want to thank are, of course, my family. My mom and my dad have been nothing short of supportive over the past five years as I’ve lived abroad in South America and now in Asia. No matter where I was, my mom has always managed to find her way to me every year to take a vacation. Through Skype calls and emails, my dad keeps me informed about the family. Of course, my sister has provided a different type of support and that is of being able to take care of the family while I am away. She is already very busy with two jobs, but she puts my mind at ease knowing that she lives close to my parents and can care for them should anything happen to them (my parents are relatively old).
One of the coolest experiences I’ve had was seeing my sister get married to the love of her life back in October. It was quite refreshing being able to see my friends and family again and can’t wait until I return to the States in August. You can read about that experience here. I am also very happy with the fact that she keeps in touch with me and always reaches out to me to make sure I’m alive and to see how things are going. This dedication and effort on her end is really amazing. Mom and Dad and Sis, I love you and I thank you for 2019 (and more) if you are reading this blog post.
To all of my friends that I didn’t name or give a specialized shout out to, don’t worry, I appreciate and cherish you all so much. I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs for all of you but then this blog post would be already longer than the 3000 words you just read, so I had to keep it limited to those who have had the largest impact or have given me the nicest surprises.
As 2019 comes to an end, I think it’s necessary that we all reflect on our past year. We should reflect on the good times and the bad times. We should reflect upon our accomplishments. Our failures. On those individuals in our lives that have made some sort of impact. And, when you reflect, I encourage you to send anyone who has impacted you a message, even if that is a simple “thank you for being my friend” because “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”