As I approach a milestone in my life usually dreaded by most (friends say it’s the new 20), I cannot help but look back on how I have lived my life so far. Countless times I have pondered before whether I have lived my life to the fullest as I have promised to do so after I graduated from high school. While riding a bus or driving through the congested roads of Metro Manila, I stare blankly at the scene and wonder what if my life ended that very moment – would I be ready to face our Creator with a smile and proudly say I have made the most of every opportunity sent my way? How would people remember me when I’m gone? Did my presence on earth matter at all to anyone? Did I make a difference? These are the questions that enter my mind during quiet moments of reflections. Dramatic. Even poignant (do I even know what that means?). But quite usual for someone beset with his midlife crisis.
I would like to believe that I have, on most part, led a life any other person would be more than happy to have. A hodge-podge of many twists and turns, my tele-novela existence would be a good long read filled with lots of funny misadventures and my more-than-enough share of trying moments. But through it all, I proudly and bravely tread on with a lot of gumption and humour to carry me through. These I’d like to share to the lucky reader leafing through the pages of this auspicious newsletter looking for the secret to life (yeah, right!) Or at least something useful or even amusing perhaps.
I am the master of my own fate. During a semestral break in 1st year college (so many, many years ago!), I got myself drunk and decided not to go home until I was sober enough the next day. Expecting a good dressing down from my disciplinarian father, I tried to think of the best excuse but could only own up to an inebriated state forced upon me by my peers. To this, he told me that I should not blame anyone else for something I was surely responsible for, as I could have said no if I really wanted to. He went on to explain that if there was something I was truly in charge of in my life, it would have to be my reaction to everything else around me. I cannot control the weather, the traffic, other people and all those beyond my physical being. But I am responsible for how I will respond to all these stimuli. No matter how people or circumstances influence me, bottom line – I make the decision, no one else. This was a key moment that changed my outlook about life in general – probably the greatest lesson I ever learned from my father.
In any argument, for one to be right, the other need not be wrong. This is one line I’m famous for. No, I do not claim authorship for this. But since I’ve used this so often during arguments, people within my circle tend to associate this quotable quote with me. It’s something I truly believe in and have embraced whole-heartedly. And when delivered in straight English with much conviction, it leaves your opponent in awe of your wisdom (Read related lesson below) – just as I did in a recent altercation with a diplomat who did not know how to get her message across with diplomacy. Are you familiar with the story about the 10 blind men feeling an elephant and each one coming into a different conclusion on how an elephant looks like depending on which body part they were feeling? That’s how we usually see things – primarily based on our experience, and this we usually hold on to as the “truth.” But though we may not see things as others do, this does not mean their view is not as valid as ours. We need the perspective of others in order to see the bigger picture and have a better understanding of the world.
When complaining, speak in English and ask for the name (including surname) and designation of the person you’re speaking with. If necessary, ask to speak to the supervisor. I have found this to be quite effective in having charges reversed or claiming benefits due me as a customer. Of course, it goes without saying that you should know what you’re fighting for and that you are reasonably on the right side of the argument. Be confident with your demands by knowing your rights as a consumer. Saying it in straight English is intimidating and implies their dealing with someone educated and not easily outsmarted. Asking for their name and designation implies you are noting it down and, therefore, mean business. As a possible last resort, you may even suggest you’re considering filing a lawsuit to force them to take you seriously. Avoid booboos though. Recently, meaning to ask the call center agent to type faster and add to my intimidating disposition, I inadvertently said, “fast typer please!” Hahaha, that ruined my taray aura and must have made the person on the other end laugh on the inside!
A good sense of humour makes life’s trying times more bearable and fun! I’m usually the clown in my group. I come-up with endless comic scenarios to liven up even the dullest moments with laughter. There’s a joke in almost everything we see and do. This I think is part of my commitment to be happy. (Remember the first lesson?) For instance, my colleagues and I would probably find it difficult not to giggle as we remind each one to always wear good underpants (another good lesson) in case of an emergency where your rescuers might pull your trousers down and see them. You wouldn’t want people talking in your wake and wondering why you had a T-back or, God forbid, women’s undies on your final day on earth now, or would we? Ever thought of that? Hmmm. So WHAT are you wearing today?
More than a feeling, love is a commitment. This is a line a friend of mine uses in one of his talks to high school retreat participants and I personally subscribe to this idea as I have given this advice to many love-torn friends of mine. It’s probably because a lot of people base their relationship primarily on the former that we have a lot of break-ups and single parents today. People forget their vows. When we love someone, we don’t just choose to be there only during the happy moments. Unconditional love requires us to accept the person with all the baggages that goes with it – for what he/she is, was and can become. And though my love life now is practically zero, it doesn’t mean it cannot be applied to fraternal, filial or platonic relations. But how I wish I could have a firsthand experience on this for this lesson to be more credible. Any applicant out there?
Love ako ni JC! (Jesus Christ). Ikaw rin! As an obsessive-compulsive individual (moderately, that is), I’m one person who always wants to be in control (especially after my lesson on being the master of my own fate). But after several ups and downs in my life, I realized there is a greater being out there who looks after me despite all my weaknesses and failures. I learned to trust in Him and know He has a plan for me. I may never get to be a visionary or have the privilege of becoming a witness to a miracle (and this I really prayed hard and hoped for as a teen), but I truly felt God’s presence in key moments of my life – mostly during times of trials and despair when many of us remember to call on Him.
Trying to test His message for me one time in high school, I just opened the Bible and randomly pointed to a passage. To my great surprise, I found my name (Hezron) at the tip of my finger! I repeated the process and pointed this time to a verse saying, in effect, to change my ways and sin no more. Believe me, that sent shivers through my body! During my diplomate exam as an internist, I prayed for a sign that I would pass. I randomly opened my Harrison as my last attempt to review and familiarized myself with the disease called “moya-moya.” Imagine my surprise when I saw it within the first 5 questions of that exam. That immediately put me at ease, made me smile and gave me the confidence to go through the rest of the items. When I got out of the examination room, I couldn’t help but blurt out to my colleagues then, “love ako ni JC!” Needless to say, I did pass that exam.
I don’t suggest you put JC through a test as I did, but maybe you should appreciate His presence more –even in everyday, simple moments. You need not go far to find Him trying to reach out to you. Just look at the cross and you will see His outstretched hands eager to embrace you.
Now, things may have turned out not necessarily as I’ve planned them at the start but, in hindsight, I understand the reason for every experience that led me to what I am and have now. Knowing this, I look forward with much faith in the Lord’s overflowing love and mercy for whatever else will come in the days and years ahead. Happy 20th birthday to me! Hahahaha.