January 5


An Open Letter to 2023


January 5, 2023

My open letter to 2022 ended with a question:
Which story will you make this year?

Little Jackie and I on our daily morning walk in January 2022!

This was the story I made.

2022 was that of radical change. 

At its beginning, the relationship that held me fell apart. At the middle, I launched like a rocket from Manila to Hanoi. At its end, I began to settle. 

It was an exhilarating and terrifying passage. 

In every new territory, apartment, hotel room, I was expecting for something to go wrong. And they did. 

There were trips to the hospital. First time teaching middle schoolers stressed me out. Having zero friends caused more isolation. My birthday and important holidays came and went and I missed home. 

Things went right as well. 

I moved to a nicer place, met a few good friends to eat with and talk to, both Filipino and Vietnamese. I found libraries and cafes that served as my thinking space. My relationship with my students improved. There was more time for writing. 

Here's a toast to 2023.

While the future is infinitely unclear (will I stay here? will I move somewhere else?), life in this country had gotten better. 

Photo with my student, Thao on one December evening in 2022.

I have no wishes for the upcoming year, only intentions.

I intend to form real friendships that grow slowly with time - relationships that are supportive, positive, and backed by delightful dishes. 

To write it all down. Living in a new country, what is seemingly banal has a captivating story hiding underneath.

To write with candor and absolute love of writing - nothing less than that. 

To teach the way I want to be taught. I notice, when I'm relaxed in the classroom, my students are, too. When I'm stiff, they feel the tension. Students are more receptive when they are happy as much as I read faster when I'm completely engrossed in a book. 

The final gift of 2022 was this Pokemon drawing by my grade 6 student, Huy. He didn't forget the mic and speaker!

To face uncertainty with humility and acceptance.

To be present to my family, despite being absent from home, with quick calls, gifts, and daily I love yous

And while I am here in Vietnam, I intend to be here fully. To sit in her corners, stroll through her roads, savor as much as desired, and be mesmerized - always - by her newness. 

Seen while biking in Ninh Binh. Taken on Christmas Day, 2022.

Thank you, 2022. You weren't any better than the years before, but still, you were a gift. 

2023, I welcome you. 

Read my open letter to 2022 here

Here's a list of my favorite books from 2022






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