The Year of Living With Urgency

Yesterday, the 29th of February 2016 marks 1 year, 4 months, 24 days since I moved from Manila to Barcelona.

Today is the leap day of a leap year. Every four years–for reasons that I do not think are all that important–we have chosen to add a day to the 365 we already have. Like birthdays and other holidays, marking time has its purpose.

Like anyone who likes to write, I have a penchant for reminiscing, of counting things, of finding and maintaining connections, and noticing patterns.

So since moving to Barcelona I have moved flats three times. First in Les Corts, then Eixample, now in Poble Nou. Next month I will be moving again. In order to renew my visa I enrolled in my second course, this time in Graphic Design at Bau. My spanish has significantly improved, I am happy to report, thanks to studying and working with Spanish people. Most importantly, during the past year I have had the good fortune of meeting some interesting people, some who I am happy to call friends.

The past 511 days have not all been fun and games, of course, and I have made mistakes and at times have not been as kind as I should be to others. I have been robbed. Twice. My heart has been let down and broken more than that. I have spent more than I have earned, and worked for less than I should.

So why the year of urgency? Three months into 2016 there have been several high-profile deaths, all of them from unnatural causes if I’m not mistaken. Cancer, suicide, overdose. Today something gruesome happened in Moscow. It probably is not the first time it has happened but this is the first time it has been widely publicised. My grandmother is 96 years old, bedridden, feeding through a tube. I have an uncle who has been comatose for the past two months. It will not be long before it is my turn.

And so, there is only that which we cannot see, feel, taste, touch or hear, but to which we must bow to: Time. If today is just like any other day in the year, then why does it feel…different? The prevailing theme of the leap day is to do something different; something new. But what is the point? Nothing is original. And like New Year’s Resolutions, trying to change things simply because of some arbitrary day of the year is not enough reason for me.

As I wrote previously, it has been a surreal start to this year and because of this, perhaps more than any other reason, is why I feel a sense of urgency. Specifically about what, I am not sure. Just like the year before, I wrote my annual review but I am opting not to publish it this time. I did make a pretty good joke about it though:

As before, I have the same categories of goals, with creation and production as the priority. But this time I want to do things faster,  smarter, and to do exactly what I want as well as what needs to be done with expediency and to full effect.

Time is short. Get moving.

Jim Benton

Suggested reading: Chris Guillebeau’s manifesto The Tower (free download)


Year’s End


If you look at your past and are not embarrassed by who you were a year ago, you probably haven’t grown.

For four years now I’ve been taking two weeks or so at the end of December to take a good look at how the year went.

Following Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review Template, I start by asking two questions:

“What went well this year?”

“What didn’t go well this year?”

Answers to these questions, some of which I will share here, make me grateful once more, and sometimes, to see events that, at the time, didn’t seem like blessings, but which later on, turned out to be catalysts for positive change. Looking at what didn’t go so well would help me avoid making the same mistakes in the future, or perhaps adjusting my goals.

After this, I set seven to eight goals for the new year under the following categories:

1) Legacy Work – the most time-consuming, legacy work involves knowing what you want to do with your life, basically what your purpose is for being on this planet. This is the important work that I want to accomplish before my time is up, the work that I would do regardless of pay or acclaim. It is the Great Work that I want to be remembered for. Sometimes I call it The Work For Which All Other Shortcomings Will Be Forgiven.

2) Finances – my goals are divided into earning, saving, and giving. How much do I want to make each month? Each year? How much do I want to have saved or invested in stocks, properties, and other value-generating assets? And how much do I want to give to charities, foundations, and to the poor and hungry?

3) Interpersonal – this category is divided into family, friends, partners, colleagues. How do I want to improve the quality of my relationships with my parents, siblings, a significant other, children, or people I work with? Do I want to broaden my social circles, interact more with people whom I admire or respect, or to improve my social skills? Is there something in my personality or behaviour that I should change in order to become a better partner, family member, co-worker? This could involve initiating social events like trips, hosting get togethers, themed parties, and so on.

4) Health – everyone wants to be healthy, it saves you money, you feel good, and you look good, and hopefully, live to a ripe old age–or at least die of natural causes. It could be to lose or gain weight, to be able to run or swim a certain distance, join a race or competition, to overcome a chronic illness like diabetes or hypertension, or just to eat better and take care of your body more, which in the end, will pay off in dividends.

5) Luxury – how do you want to treat yourself this year? It could be travel, gadgets, clothes, cars, food, art and culture, properties, whatever suits your fancy. Now’s the time to think big.

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