So, in no particular order:
1. Getting published - It always starts somewhere. After writing for close to 17 years, in February I decided to send out something to a small, sports-oriented fiction magazine. And they took a chance on me. Many thanks to Julie Webb, the fiction editor of Stymie Magazine, for giving a ghost story originally written for my friend Patrick a home. The first time is particularly special, and this first acceptance gave me enough motivation to send out more.
2. Saga - Still trying to process and document the experience. But this year I managed to self-publish, get my words out and sell them. I'm still amazed that people are willing to buy, and so I thank everyone who's purchased a copy of Saga and who've supported the six of us. After the afterglow of the book launch, I'm now learning that selling a book as an independent author/ publisher is the hardest part of writing. No wonder the pros have agents and reps.
3. Getting a central depository account - You know you're an adult when the extremely administrative act of getting account to trade shares on the country's exchange is significant. But yeah, this is, as well put by my advisor, "diversifying my portfolio." The most exciting part of this was going to the swanky offices at Raffles and imagining myself as a big bad shares trader.
4. Stepping down - After enough months of distance, I can safely say that leaving YF was both the best and worst thing that happened this year. It's freed me to do things, but I've felt that there's this huge gaping hole in what I do. After leaving, the inertia to do anything related to serving in a ministry is so high that I've spent most the time since September procrastinating what should be the next step forward. So at the time of this writing, I've come to a compromise: I help outside of official channels, and maintain relationships only because burning bridges with people is immature.
5. Runnat - The good folks of the Christian running ministry Runnat have welcomed me into their fold with a lot of love and patience. Thanks to them I began organising runs under the Runnat banner and had great conversations with fellow runners with a similar passion to do some good in the world.
6. Pasir Ris East Writing Interest Group - is the only thing that's currently forcing me to crank out new stories and poetry. They've helped me polish all the stuff I wrote this year. As Si Min says, a regular schedule helps with creative output (I fully agree). Now only if more people would join us...
7. Project "Dean's List" - Saga was made possible only because five other people kept coming, writing and exchanging feedback. This year I had the privilege of working with seasoned veterans like Leroy and Chester, and people who were more of my standard, like Geraldine, Reggie and Samson. The highlight of every session: waiting for Chester to return from his smoke break to shoot down all our ideas with raw, high-quality precision.
8. The overseas Singaporeans - Jit Tian and Emilia (in Vancouver) and Aggie (from Salt Spring Island), who made my Canadian trip in May worthwhile.
9. The Neon Genesis Evangelion fan community on Evageeks - warm, snarky, demanding, overbearing but ultimately appreciative of good work. To more high-level story exchanges in 2014!
10. Hiking the Baden-Powell Trail in North Vancouver in May - Alone, with the possibility of bears, without a map, wearing jeans and track shoes for 14km, and getting dumped upon by a huge cloud of hail - a perfect summary for the biggest (mis)adventure of the year. And was it Jit Tian who said it wasn't a good idea? It perfectly summarises my travel philosophy: plan, but when things go bad, just go with it.
11. Running the Taipei-Fubon half-marathon in the rain - It wouldn't have been so epic if Siew Kim (who never did a 21km in his life) wasn't there; it wouldn't have been so crazy if it didn't rain; it wouldn't have been so great if we didn't have that mix-up in registration. What I learnt: screw-ups, setbacks and numerous uncontrolled factors affected the event that I had been waiting for all of 2013. Yet, these things made the run more than just a run.
12. Hospitality - There have been so many opportunities this year to host friends and family visiting Singapore, but I'm still learning to repay other people's hospitality.
13. Doing it alone - I spent the entire year training on my own. Sometimes, I had the company of others - Kewen, Chun Meng, Patrick, GC, Alexis, Roy and random strangers on the street. But it was mostly alone. I never got back to the team who wanted me to join them in August. What does this mean for the next year? Probably that I will get more introspective as I continue with this obsessive sport of mine.
Books & Reading
14. Holding Still for as Long as Possible (Zoe Whittall) - It's not a new book, but I enjoyed it because it's got a fresh look at young adult life. Most representations seem trite and overused, but sometimes young adult life is as much about staying in the rut you're in as much as it is about reinvention.
15. The Places in Between (Rory Stewart) - In 2002, Rory Stewart did a walk across Afghanistan as a prelude to his work for the British Foreign Office in Iraq. The details of his trek are found in this book. It's part travelogue, part observations. The most amazing part of this memoir is his account of how he walked into and left a Taliban-friendly village, presented in alternating dialogue about religion with those villagers.
16. The Affairs of Others (Amy Grace Loyd) - Has to be the novel of the year. Its musings about privacy (very apt, given Wikileaks and the NSA) are straightforward and simple: everyone wants to be left alone, so do you intervene when you know someone's doing something that you know is wrong and detrimental to her own good. It has a really unexpected twist near the end.
17. Brief Encounters with the Enemy (Said Sayrafiezadeh) - My favourite short story collection this year. Everything detail in these stories are stripped - why the weather is always bad, who the people are fighting - to bring out the very sad and haunting personal details of life: a soldier only encounters the enemy at the very last moment of his last tour, a disabled man's only shot at romance takes place because everyone else gets drafted for war, a jealous co-worker signs up to be a soldier just as the war turns ugly.
18. Bill Watterson's 1990 graduation speech at Kenyon College [link] - Since I write speeches for work, no other graduation speech has had so much meaning and significance than this one. Creator of the famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Watterson's values on art and not selling out make great advice.
19. Welcome to Nakhchivan (Vice.com) [link] - Vice.com does great travelogues, but this is one of their greatest this year. It's got all the ingredients: an obscure breakaway province, weird takes on culture and great writing. A good essay provokes a of heated debate, as the comments on this piece show.
20. Archie [link] - So I discovered EDM this year, and I've become addicted to this Russian producer called Archie. All his mixes are free, and how he makes such high-quality music without profit still confuses me. But this, I guess, is why EDM is so appealing, because there's a song for every occasion.
21. We're the Kids (Parade of Lights) [Youtube] - Catchy, random song I listened to while working on a deadline. Has stuck in my mind ever since.
22. Light (Love, Robot) [Youtube] - For all the confusion, loneliness and pain. Condense it into one song, and you have a place to vent and wonder at why things don't always work out. Still, I always feel better listening to this.
23. I See Fire, by Ed Sheeran (remixed by Kygo) [link] - To end 2013, I think there's nothing more fitting that this Kygo remix (ugh more EDM) of that-song-at-the-end-of-that-second-Hobb
I would like to say thanks to all friends, family and strangers who've helped me through this year. Above everything, praise God that we're one year closer to His purpose.