This is my first time to do this!!! Usually, in past years, when the year starts, I am rushing to get a new year IG flatlay done and then rushing to get backlogs done. It (managing the backlogs) wasn't easy, as I'll also share it further in this post. To commemorate my birthday which is just around the corner, I'd like to share the things that made a mark on my 2018, whether good or bad. Some situations were bad at the start, but led to good things in the end, too. The last 3 years have been very turbulent for me, but I'm grateful for the year that has been, because it was the year where the mantra "to get things you've never had you'd need to do things you've never done" resonated in so many ways. So yeah here we go.



Health

1.) Getting High Cholesterol
On March 11, 2018, on a routinary family blood test, we discovered that my cholesterol was already beyond the limits. For young people, having cholesterol beyond the limits, even by just a little, is alarming and should not happen. Heart disease runs in the family, with my grandpa passing away from a massive heart attack, and my father surviving a heart attack before, too. The genes were already there, but unfortunately, it was extreme stress in my past job that triggered the cholesterol to be high at such an early stage. 

We did a process of elimination after we found out, coz cholesterol is a multi faceted kind of issue. We went to my dad's cardiologist and studied what had happened. We realized that it was work, because I had technically been a voracious eater since birth. But all my blood tests came out fine throughout the years. The blood test I took right before being employed showed normal results, but suddenly, eight months into that job, my blood test results were all whacked.



2.) Changing My Lifestyle Because of High Cholesterol
The cardiologist did not recommend me to take maintenance pills because she felt that it was so early for me to do so. Cholesterol pills are costly and do damage your liver. To add, she cited herself as the example, only needing to start meds at 55 after many decades of disciplined healthy eating and exercising.

So I got serious about changing my lifestyle, but in changing it sustainably. Our doctor prescribed at least 2 hours of cardio per week, so in April I started to bring out the old Zumba DVD's I had and tried to do them at least once a week. It was hard to build the routine, more so that I was so depressed at the time over other things and was suffering from insomnia as well. But I tried to just make some little baby steps that I could sustain. From once a week, I slowly transitioned to thrice a week. And then I enrolled myself in a gym, had a fitness program prescribed, and by June had a whole program of weight training and cardio in my routine. By the end of the year, I was already used to working out weekly. I found myself less sluggish, and though my insomnia never really went away fully, it became more manageable due to being more active.

As for diet, I watched over what I call are the "5 evils": buttery, creamy, cheesy, oily, and sweet foods. If any food was among the 5 I described, I had it in moderation. I would have ramyeon and samgyeopsal for just once a month (unlike several ramyeons in a week before), and did it similarly with other indulgent foods. I also did portion control, so for foods like ice cream I'd still have it regularly, but back then if I was having a tall glass each time, now I'd just get a small condiment bowl and eat there instead. I knew mentally, I needed to be able to sustain this, so I never gave up any food group for my sanity. Instead, I learned to negotiate myself to indulge a little every day, and not to overindulge on certain days, as I had done before.

3.) Losing 35 lbs 
What started as a journey to control my cholesterol ended up making me at my thinnest in years. Since getting out of high school, this is my first time reaching my high school weight. My wardrobe choices suddenly expanded as I've been able to wear clothes I got during my high school years again. My goal now is to be able to fit into this particular dress mom got me when we went to Singapore yeaars ago. I was only able to wear once in my whole life as I gained weight after wearing it. As of October, I still couldn't zip it, so we'll see later on this year... (sorry for the messy room)

As for my weight loss, it was a healthy kind of slimming, as it was done in the span of 11 months. I started watching what I ate in February, and continued the lifestyle changes until the end of the year. I didn't undergo some crazy diet or exercise just to lose all that weight in a crazy short amount of time.

Now, people are shocked to see the difference between me in January 2018 and me in December 2018. Throughout the year, I got a lot of compliments on how much weight I lost and that I was becoming prettier as a result of that. I'm thankful that people no longer ask as to how many kids I have, unlike before. But the best part is simply being more energetic and not being literally weighed down so much unlike before.





4.) Getting Braces
After many many years, I agreed to have braces for the third time in June! Soooo I first had braces in 2003-2006, but unfortunately, upon removal, my wisdom teeth emerged and ruined everything. I had to repeat braces in 2007-2008, and have been in retainers from 2008-2018. I had wisdom teeth surgery in 2011 and 2015, so in general, my face looked so big due to the swelling from the wisdom teeth surgeries in the past few years. It didn't help that my biting was misaligned as my lower teeth were at edge to edge with my upper teeth. This led to of course my lower jaw being more protruded, and my jaw muscles being unnecessarily large due to being unnecessarily strained by the wrong biting. After many years, I decided to do it for a third time, but this time around with an orthodontics expert who only does orthodontics. And now I finally understand why people say that braces can change your life.

Pardon this scary selfie, but this is me in June 2018 prior to getting it installed, and then me in January 2019. As you can see, my lower teeth are more rounded, and they moved a whooole lot backwards, so I no longer have weird jaw movements when I talk. Boy was it painful, especially at the start! But since I was doing this already for the third time, I wanted to be as efficient as possible and obeyed everything I should obey about them.


To compare February and December 2018, I know it's not apples to apples as I lost so much weight as well. But you can kind of see that generally my face shape changed from round to diamond, and it's really not just weight loss. Without braces, I'd be thinner, but would still have a rounded face. But this time, it is diamond shaped. Mom knew that I took after my grandma and really had a small diamond/heart shaped face, so she was the one who felt that my face was larger than it really should be because of orthodontic problems. She was the one who convinced me to do braces again and I'm glad I did.



Life

5.) Changing Jobs
It was my past job that caused me to have high cholesterol. I don't want to dwell on it as it was a sad time, but generally, my job entailed dealing with customers and stakeholders who were angry all the time. Needing to deal with people's anger, toxicity, and negativity, on a 24/7 basis, took its toll on me. I got to the point wherein I didn't want to get out of bed anymore. I didn't even have the time to post stuff due to the long work hours. My insomnia came back after me working so hard to control it.

I was scared of voicing out what I was going through because y'all know how millennials are painted in such a bad light these days at the workplace. I didn't wanna be called self-entitled, bratty, or something similar, even if I knew that I wasn't making up the struggle in my head (I later spoke to a labor attorney and indeed what I went through can be sued for in court). I was also scared of quitting because I was so scared of being accused of being weak.

But then came my cholesterol problem. It really was a big eye opener for me in many ways. After that, I decided that the only way to get better was to leave, and so I did. I took a long break, and just focused on going to the gym, resting, and chilling out (at home and at the mall) for a few months. I tried new foods (although within my cholesterol allotment), and also spent a lot of time cooking and trying new recipes.

6.) Finishing Room Renovations
I didn't do this sort of post for 2017, so I'll bring it up here hehe. So my work room used to be our guest room slash storage room, and it had shabby interiors as they were still 80's style and were already getting worn out. It was an eternal mess, and it was ugly, but it was still functional, and therefore there was no justifiable reason to get it fixed. Since about 2014 there have been termite problems in the room, and we've been trying to fix them continuously, but in 2017 the termite problems became severe. My work room is above our kitchen, which we renovated in late 2016 due to severe termite problems. The termites didn't leave but instead climbed to the 2nd floor to my work room. They ate through too many wooden wall boards, floor blocks, and already had formed hubs at electric outlets that more drastic changes were needed.

In May 2017, we had baiting done and waited until we were given the go signal to renovate. In September 2017, we started renovations with painting the walls, getting rid of eaten wooden wall boards and window trims/moldings. We also got rid of the old wooden flooring in October 2017 and changed them to harder wood. In the past it was a stockroom, so it had gym equipment, plastic drawers everywhere, and old chairs and tables, so it was ugly and the clutter made it difficult for us to see if there seems to be a new infestation. We relocated the items to more 'relevant' places in the house, like the gym equipment to a more dedicated gym room, and the tables and plastic drawers to the our storage hut. I got a few IKEA furniture items, kept the big steel cabinet I had, and generally cleared the room that the sides and edges are more visible.

By messy and weird, it was like this during my December 2016 general cleaning. It didn't make sense at all with the plastic drawers, metal drawers, gym equipment, shoe racks, and various desks.


In May 2017, it was like this after clearing and preparations. Moving out the stuff took days because this room was the most cluttered in the house. My brother's room had to host a lot of the shelves for a few months while the renovations were ongoing.


After changing the walls and clearing a lot of stuff out, it was like this. This was prior to getting rid of the old wooden floors.


Renovations only finished in December 2017, and just like moving out, moving back in was just as hard. From the tail end of 2017 till the start of 2018, I had to set aside time from work to clean and organize things. It didn't help that a lot of my items were really dusty, either due to the renovations or just being out of a proper storage space for a long time.


It was in 2018 that I officially moved back into this room after all the renovations. It wasn't easy as during the interim period, I was doing my computer work at mom's office, shooting blog stuff at our living room, and was storing items at my brother's room. Sometimes even just a simple flatlay shoot took sooo much longer as I had to get the items in one place, shoot them in another, then edit and process them in yet another room. I also couldn't access many items as they were buried in too much items, so I actually forgot about many items I actually owned at this time.

As it is, after having so much clutter and termite infested fixtures all these years, it was indeed a big change to be stepping into this room with it looking like a legit workspace.

Blog
7.) Blog 5th Anniversary
Huwaaaaaat?! Huwaaaaat?! This blog is already over 5 years old?! I honestly get really shocked whenever it crosses my mind that I've been at this for 6 years already. So much has changed. The people have changed, the hyped products have changed, and the whole landscape of digital marketing has changed. When I started 6 years ago, even when I could already see the commercial and industrial aspects to being a blogger, no one around me saw the same views. Almost everyone around me thought I was wasting my time on a useless hobby. At the time, the concepts of affiliate marketing and brand collaborations still weren't very well understood by the general public. To add, popular bloggers at the time all happened to be really rich girls showing off really expensive things and an unattainable lifestyle. As the eternally chubby, dorky geek who didn't know much about being "cool," I guess a lot of people also doubted my capabilities of being a blogger. I'm thankful for having the right mindset, and for looking up to people who became popular because of honest to goodness reviews and good photography skills. I didn't mind what people around me felt and kept on going. I can no longer imagine a weekend doing literally nothing. Weekends and free time since college days have been devoted to blogging, so now, it's like muscle memory already.

8.) Upgrading Photo Set Up
Yasssss that's true! In 2017, I got better camera lenses (if you're liking the macro detailing in my reviews in 2018, it's due to the new lens). Coupled with my work room repairs, I wanted the room to be a real studio already. I wanted it to be a hub with backgrounds, lights, and strobes so I could shoot easily whenever I wanted or needed to. After much consultation with fellow photographers, I decided to get Savage backgrounds and a RimeLite for my studio in 2018. If you're liking my new lighting in my more recent blog posts, it's thanks to the new strobe. It felt wonderful to be able to fulfill a longing that's been there for a really reaaally long time. I'm happy to have made the investments in 2018.


9.) Flatlay and Blog Backlog
I'm sorry if you guys felt this! I was sooo busy in my past job that I really just had no time to blog nor shoot anything. It got so bad that if you review my January to April 2018 activity, there were just press releases and more press releases. I could barely even publish event coverage posts. I also had no IG flatlays for a really long time, and could only upload sparsely. I started fixing my flatlay backlog in like April 2018 and only managed to finish it by like August already. I was only able to update the blog with event posts in July 2018, and I continued until I finished everything in September 2018. Sadly, I also did lose some brands because of that. Brands these days want you to have a review published yesterday for an item they're launching today (yes you read that correctly), so to publish coverage months later is too late for some brands. I'm thankful to the brands who knew about my predicament and were patient and understanding.


Top Beauty and Female Lifestyle Blogger Manila, Philippines