Looking ahead to 2016

Cruise on Christmas in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
On the sun deck on our cruise ship during Christmas in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

While on vacation in Vietnam over the holidays (the first time Michal and I were not in the U.S. with family and friends for Christmas), we attended an English mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City. One of the priest’s talking points suggested replacing the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions for the upcoming year with being grateful for what has happened this past year and placing hope in the future the Lord has prepared.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

He based his suggestion on prior experience as a counselor at a university in the U.S., in which he encountered the most amount of patients with depression in the months of January, February and March. He saw the pressure students put upon themselves to reach lofty goals and the resulting disappointment when they did not attain them. He also saw students who were dealing with unmet expectations of the holidays related to family, friends and other relationships.

I’ve always taken advantage of the early part of a new year for the opportunity to have a clean slate and begin a natural transition. As a goal-setting, check-list toting, calendar-oriented individual, I attribute my self-proclaimed Type A personality to my background as a journalist focused on deadlines and as a teacher focused on meeting curriculum requirements. I know most people rarely maintain generic resolutions or reach their goals because they’re not written as SMART goals. Last year, I kept this in mind when I created my Cville Bucket List/Farewell America Tour/30 before 30 blog post.

However, upon reflection of those (mostly) specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant/rigorous, and timely goals, I still felt disappointed. I wasn’t able to accomplish everything on my list. Even more so, I felt that some of what I did accomplish wasn’t to the best of my ability or truly of the highest priority. Personally, the worries and anxieties of life overshadowed my accomplishments and joys. Human nature reared its ugly head and revealed the constant desire for more and my impossible pursuit of perfection and immediate gratification.

With the arrival of 2016, I will instead take the time to count my blessings, just as the priest in Vietnam suggested I do, by remembering the best of what happened in 2015 and looking forward to what is ahead of me.

Approaching 2016: New Year's Eve in Seoul
Approaching 2016: New Year’s Eve in Seoul

A look back at 2015

I already did this in part through my prior blog Partner Perspectives, so just a quick overview here with a few other highlights I had yet to mention:

  1. I grew immensely in a professional sense as the timing of my position in communications and public relations at the Women’s Center at the University of Virginia coincided with national media attention sparked by the controversial (and now retracted) Rolling Stone article about sexual assault at the University. As part of my position’s responsibilities, I blogged about and promoted the services and programs the Center provides students, as well as advised a student-run publication.
Iris magazine undergrad team at the Women's Center
Iris magazine undergrad team (2014-2015) at the Women’s Center. Photo by Michelle Cho.

2. I built strong, life-long friendships through my involvement and leadership as Communications Chair in the Darden Partners Association, and have still kept in contact with this network.

Some DPA members at a graduation party before we said our goodbyes.
Some DPA members at a graduation party before we said our goodbyes.

3. Michal and I went on a whirlwind cross country road trip of the U.S. from one coast to the other, visiting family and friends, as well as seeing new cities and familiar places in 15 different states.

Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway toward the end of our Farewell America Tour.
Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway toward the end of our Farewell America Tour.

4. We moved to a new country, adjusting to expat life with new jobs, new friends and a new home. We became tourists in our own town, exploring the different neighborhoods of Seoul and even did weekend trips to the East Coast of South Korea in Sokcho and to a Templestay with new friends.

Weekend trips in Korea: (let) Sokcho before a hike and (right) after a hike at Guinsa Temple
Weekend trips in Korea: (left) Sokcho before a hike and (right) after a hike at Guinsa Temple

5. I turned 30: My dear friends in the U.S. organized a surprise party for me before leaving and Michal organized a memorable karaoke night in Seoul on the actual date.

My besties at my surprise 30th birthday party. I miss these two so much! Photo by April Mae June Photoraphy
My besties at my surprise 30th birthday party. I miss these two so much!  Photo by April Mae June Photoraphy

6. We traveled more in Asia: Back in 2012 before B-school, Michal and I did a mini tour through Southeast Asia that included Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia. Michal had also done Study Abroad in undergrad in China and Japan. In 2015, we had more Asian adventures as Michal visited my relatives in the Philippines for the first time, and it was my first visit back since I was in high school. And we did our babymoon/first Christmas away from home in Vietnam.

Family in the Philippines (some of my mom's side on the left and dad's side on the right)
Family in the Philippines (some of my mom’s side on the left and dad’s side on the right)

7. We’re expecting! After four years of marriage/nine years together as a couple, we are moving on to the next big stage of our relationship and are excited to meet our little one.

Vietnam babymoon
Vietnam babymoon

A look ahead at 2016

  1. We are looking forward to more travels, as we want to take advantage of the close proximity we currently have to many countries and places we would otherwise unlikely visit. A few destinations on our radar for 2016: Busan and Jeju Island in Korea; Kyoto, Japan; Shanghai, China; Boracay, Philippines; Australia and New Zealand; and of course, the U.S.
  2. We can’t wait for our onslaught of visitors. We had a few in the fall because business trip schedules aligned, but there are loved ones who have specifically planned in the long-term to come stay with us like my cousin and her husband, my parents, my in-laws, friends from undergrad, and friends from our time in Chicago.
  3. I return to the classroom in one week, officially going from part-time, on-call subbing to a full-time, long-term sub position for grade 6 humanities at an international school. I am incredibly nervous but also anticipating the experiences that will come with teaching new curriculum and a new age group: This will be the youngest grade I have ever taught in my eight years of teaching/working with students.
  4. I would like to continue my studies of the Korean language, as I took regular classes through the fall and have started to feel (a bit) more comfortable reading and hearing the language. It feels gratifying to be a student again and to be able to use it more in my daily life’s activities.
  5. Most of all, Michal and I are so incredibly thrilled for our baby due in May! In preparation, we just bought a car in Korea, have started acquiring baby items like a crib, and our childbirth classes will begin soon. There is so much to do, but our hearts are ready to welcome her to the world.

Cheers to a joyful and fulfilling 2016 to you and yours!

Exploring Yangjae Citizen’s Park during New Year’s Day weekend.