2017 year in review: life

Between my books and travel posts, this might've been the hardest {longest} 2017 review to write. (Also why it's taken me until the end of January to finally post). Funny how our authentic selves can feel compromised when we share honest experiences that expose our vulnerability. But there is undeniable joy and pain in celebrating growth. Brace yourselves, this is a bit of a read. 


tl;dr / 2017 cliff notes

  • car owner
  • braceface
  • perpetual love/hate social media
  • lots of talks, races, and side hustles
  • break ups suck

see 2017 year in review for books (30 total) and travel (23 places)



Yo. I paid off my car, Matcha.

Nothing like getting my first car ownership certificate in the mail as final reminder of thousands of dollars spent paying a vehicle off. It's like a diploma, where the reward literally (physically) takes you places. I've had my 2010 Ford Focus for about 7 years now, and as long as I have my car diary up-to-date, regular oil, air filter, power steering fluids, and brake pads changed, this baby should last me another 5 years. Anyone that lives in San Francisco knows that parking spaces are as hot a commodity as housing, meaning they're hard to come by and there's usually a waiting list. That said, I almost always take the bus and only drive on the weekends or do airport pick up/drop offs. My mom won't stop bugging me about getting a new car or trading in, but I guess I'm the type to not replace something that works until it starts showing signs of betrayal.

Here are some progress metrics, for good measure.

  • Average gas spend: $72.34/month
  • Final mileage in 2017: 78,555 mi
  • SF parking tickets: 5 (2016: 7)


Yes, I got braces.

So I got my (let me see yo) grill about a year ago, and I have close to another year left. Getting braces as an adult was not an easy decision. Since my teeth were pretty crowded, I couldn't get invisalign. Growing up, I had two molar extractions (cheaper alternative, duh) and little did I know getting them pulled from opposite corners of my jaws would cause everything to shift those directions! Now I'm at the 'bands' stage where I wear rubber bands to align my center line and fix my overbite. Most people get braces when they're in high school, while their teeth are still shifting and if their parents could afford it. Mom was a single parent at the time and our biggest financial concerns were making rent payments and eating at least one meal a day. Cosmetic adjustments were clearly outside of our budget. Fast forward to almost a decade later, amazing dental insurance from my employer, a paid off car loan, and money in the bank, it was time. I wear them like a badge of financial progress, and I have a feeling I will miss them a lot when they come off. 

Stay tuned for a ‘coming-off’ party. We will bite into apples, nuts, and stale pizza. (s/o to yuka for the idea)


  • Q: Did you get braces?
    A: Yes. Obviously.
  • Q: But you don’t need braces!
    A: Oh you are SO right. I totally didn’t think through spending $$$ on something I don't need.
  • Q: Why did you just get them now?
    A: Because I can finally afford them, and there are lots of long-term health and teeth-longevity benefits
  • Q: Your teeth looked straight, though!
    A: Go away.


Ugh. Social Media

Anyone else tired of social media, yet still drawn to its appeal? Last year I wrote A month-long digital detox left me cynical (7min read), and all four themes still ring true. Humans are social beings and creatures of habit. What separated us from the rest of the animal kingdom was the cognitive revolution where we evolved to think, feel, and make choices. We’re also one of the few species born prematurely, unable to walk, without teeth, and born with underdeveloped brains. We’re nurtured into our values, influenced to understand our versions of morality, and these constantly evolve over time. Technology just adds a new dimension to the mix. Some call it information, others call it noise. At the end of the day, we’re feeding our mind with whatever we consume. And it’s definitely possible to overdose. I’m working on improving my intake.

Self-prescribed remedies:

  • Not looking up someone’s social media before meeting them. Yes, everyone does it. I’ve done it and glorified it as a skill. But in the past few months, I stopped and feel liberated. Without these ‘background checks’, conversations end up feeling more organic and are not guided by preconceived notions. In fact, it now feels extremely unfair to meet someone, have a lot of info on them, and pretend to be surprised. 
  • Leaving my phone in my bag or out of sight to focus on conversations or the task at hand. The ability to talk to multiple people at once, separated by tabs/windows has conditioned us to think we can delay replies irl. Just be present or be honest and take care of what you need.
  • Forever latergram. My posts will be infrequent, primarily because I just post when I feel like it. Thanks to Planoly, I can also schedule post for later. 


2017 Talks

I’ve been doing a lot of talks, specifically around themes of identity, career journey, and technology. Getting paid and being flown out to speak for conferences is very humbling, especially when sharing my story encourages other people to be brave. 

  • Keynote Speaker, USF MAPS Career Networking
  • Host/Panelist, PLDT Tech Startups Visit
  • Host, Sparq Entrepreneurs Philippines Visit
  • Women in Tech Plenary Session, Center for Asian Pacific American Women (CAPAW) Houston Regional Conference
  • Panelist, The Future Project Career Panel
  • Panelist, 826 Valencia Panel
  • Moderator, USF Kasamahan Alumni Career Event
  • Filmmaker Panelist, APAture Short Films Showcase


I learned how to love running, and I have room for improvement.

Running is 90% mental. If you’re diligent, consistent, and motivated enough to improve, it’s easy to see progress over time. It took awhile to build stamina and endurance, but the point is that you do. Also, races are so damn expensive, yet they feel so damn satisfying to celebrate after training so much. 

  • San Diego Half Marathon (2:21:54)
  • Bataan Legacy 7.5k Valor Run (59:55 - placed first in age/gender)
  • Chinatown 10k (1:05:02)
2017 runs


I attended three book readings

You know you’re aging when you look forward to book reading events, especially ones that end before 9pm. Writing doesn’t come naturally for some people, so I have infinite admiration for people who can widely influence ideas simply through words. 

  • The House that Pinterest Built, Diane Keaton
  • Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehesi Coates
  • Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
2017 book readings


The side-hustle is real

Outside of my day job, I shoot weddings. This year, I officially started doing engagement shoots, too! Holla at me for rates. 


Bruh. Break ups suck.

I don't think anything could've prepared me for going through heartache of the deepest kind. It's been about six months since, what I call, the great tectonic shift, but I can still unearth the rawest of emotions I’ve ever felt from unseen wounds. Funny how the initial impact shakes up the ground beneath you instantly, but recurring damages from after shocks are really where pain forces itself back to the surface. Over, and over. Again, and again. And it lingers. Without warning. In the moments where you feel progress. Relapse and recovery seem to go hand in hand. Everything that felt most familiar turns out to be insidiously foreign. The single life is unfamiliar territory, and I'm having to unlearn habits to better navigate an ever-evolving dating landscape. My first relationship was at 22 years old (late, I know), and I’ve always been in one since. Thankfully, there is comfort in knowing we all take different paths to healing. 

Break up emergency kit:

Overall, 2017 was a big year of personal growth. My focus for 2017 was to be more intentional about where I spent my time and energy. Of course, the biggest learning was realizing that I deserved both of those things the most. Not sure where 2018 will take me, but I'm completely okay with that.

-- evelyn, embracing uncertainty