Three things adulthood taught me

Saturday, January 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Had I known these things, I could have saved myself from tons of disappointment, pain, and frustration. What a blissful life that could have been!

On second thought, if I had known them before, I would not have the opportunity of discovering them on my own. And it would feel like shortchanging myself because even though I wasn’t aware of it, I would have escaped from the experiences that could teach me valuable lessons.

But I didn’t know them, that’s the case. And from not knowing to knowing is a journey on its own. Now that I’m done with that phase of my life journey, I have some credibility to share with you three of the things I wish I knew when I was younger but am sort of glad I didn’t.

1. Expecting too much from people is about as good as smashing your heart into million pieces. While others try to lower their expectations, I prefer not to expect at all — from people outside of my intimate relationships, that is. Unguarded expectations are a poison in a category of its own. Let me prove my point. When I expect people to behave toward me in a certain way, I unknowingly put them in a box. And when they don’t act like I expect them to, I end up either keeping a tight rein on them or walking away frustrated. Both options can be a breeding ground for bitterness, anger, and rebellion — poisons that could eventually tarnish a relationship.

People fail, turn their back on their word, and are every bit capable of disappointing others. We are human that way. So to avoid frustrations, and therefore broken relationships, it’s wise to not expect from people too much or not at all. (Of course, this depends on the intimacy level of a relationship; married people, for instance, have every right to expect from their spouses.)

Basically, moderating our expectations is like giving people enough room to grow and learn at their own pace, or act according to what they think is right, providing of course that their perceived “right” is morally sound or justifiable.

Anyway, I learned that if there’s one person from whom we should expect, it’s the One who never fails.

2. Conforming to others’ definition of success can lead to your own failure. If I take other people’s standards of success, I wouldn’t measure up without a doubt. People define success mainly based on their own priorities and goals. Thus, a person whose priority is more about traveling the world and less about getting rich has a different view of success compared to the person whose priority is to be a millionaire by the age of 30.

Problem is, we often don’t have our own definition of success, so we measure ourselves against others’ standards, or worse, against the popular standards. When we think we fail by a large margin, we try to keep up, work ourselves until we bleed empty. Obviously, achieving others’ concept of success not only is far more difficult, it also takes away our joy.

Of course, we can meet others’ standards of success if we’re really serious about it, but we may still feel very empty at the end of the day. The reason being, we aren’t able to meet our deepest priorities and goals, which at this point might still be undefined.

The challenge: write our own definition of success, and it is this that we should strive to meet.

(Photo from Graphics16)

3. Identifying your talents – gifts as they’re often called – is like opening the door to your path. In other words, if you know your talents, and acknowledge them, you’re a step closer to determining which path you should take. They are our hints. If you’re good at baking, you could probably put up your own pastry shop. If you have strong writing skills, then you could be a writer. If you find joy in encouraging people, you may make a good counselor.

I’ve heard of lots of people who have no idea what they should do with their lives. Afraid of “wasting” their lives, they resort to doing things they have no interest in, or worse, they resent, thinking that they may someday “fit in” or finally find along the way what it is they should be doing. It’s sad that they fail to look at their clues, which have been there all along but they neglect to recognize.

Our goal is to search ourselves, know what we’re good at or what we enjoy doing, because only then can we find our gifts waiting to be unleashed. Most of the time, the gifts have already manifested; we only need to embrace them.

Remember, if God has given us gifts, He certainly has use for them. Question is, are we willing to let them be used? Opening the door to our path and stepping into it are two different things.

Time traveling

Thursday, November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Just recently, I read a blogger who likened writing and reading letters to time traveling. He maintained that whatever the writer puts in his letter — the events, the feelings, the thoughts — would all belong to the past when the recipient finally reads the letter in his present.  The blogger’s insight was clever, I thought. Of course, the individual acts of writing and reading a letter are like time traveling. Of course, the blogger was right. But despite his beautifully worded essay, his thesis still felt obscure to me. Not until I had my own time traveling. No, not until I grew aware of my own time traveling episodes.

In fact, I’ve done it several times. Time traveling. Only I didn’t know it at that time. When I read my old journals, when I looked at old pictures, and when I opened old letters, I unknowingly time-traveled. Revisiting the past, I realize, even without the aid of a time machine like the one in the movie Back to the Future, is also time traveling. It’s like going to an old familiar place, where the memories are presented to you like a vintage movie. It’s like looking at the earlier version of yourself, flaws and all, with fresh dreams and priorities, and driven by a naive view of life. Time traveling makes the old feelings new again, and before you know it, you feel like living in the past for yet another time.

No need for Back to the Future's time traveling car to revisit the bygone times. (Image from whatculture.com)

I immensely enjoy time traveling, because it is when I can be friends again with some classmates and former officemates, appreciate my past experiences—heartaches included—laugh at my innocence and blunders, and regard the future, which is now my present, with confidence. It is when I time-travel that I can review with fresh eyes even the minutest details of my life.

I had three recent episodes of time traveling. The first one was when I visited my old blog site, the second was when I  went through some of the earlier messages in my old email account, and the third was when I read my MS Word journal. Golly, how can I even begin to describe the experience? Words fail me now, because there are hundreds of things I felt at that time.

I was proud of the insights and wisdom I expressed in an email exchange with a college friend, who had the the same disappointment with career choices as I did. I couldn’t help smiling at my attempts at being funny in one of my old blog entries. I discerned my confusion upon reading my rants about my material lack, but I sensed my faith when I read my letters to God.

What I’m trying to point out is that I relished feeling the feelings I had documented in my blog, journal, and personal email messages, and mentally replaying the situations I had found myself in.

This is in no way living in the past, of course. This is not being trapped in the past. This is just looking back at the past. It is what you do to remind yourself of who you once were — not that you changed totally, but definitely, changes happened along the way — and how past circumstances turned you into who you are now and led you to your current situation.  I could hardly remember the exact, I mean exact not just general, reasons I left the TV network I was working for, but after reading some email messages to my college friend, not only did I recall things, I also remembered the exact emotions tied to these reasons. What followed were memories that brought me back to the day I decided to change careers. You see, that’s the beauty of looking back, of time traveling: we get reminded. Oftentimes, we need loads of reminders to move ahead.

The danger, though, is when we fail to travel back to the present. Or choose not to. And this is where things get amiss. Because we have already been shaped for the present, we no longer fit into the past. If we push ourselves into the past, like a jigsaw puzzle tile that crinkles at the edges and in the center when forced into the wrong place, we will look and end up miserable.

That I don’t want to happen to me, so every time I time-travel, I hold myself together and tell myself that now that I’m in a better position to look  back at the past, I should see things with appreciative eyes and be motivated to get going.

A very ’90s childhood

Saturday, August 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve said once that I don’t remember much about my childhood. It’s not because there are  few things to remember. In fact, I had a wonderful childhood, only I’ve grown to become incredibly forgetful that I had to be reminded that we had this, I did that, we went to this, and I wanted that.

Yet talking about my childhood, remembering what remains of the memories, has been a fascinating experience. Mostly, I reminisce about it with my sister, who shares most of my childhood adventures. And always, always, we catch ourselves laughing at our juvenile silliness.

“Remember ‘Macarena?'”

“Yes, yes.” And we’d sing “Macarena” and dance like crazy.

“Barbie Girl?”

“I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie wo-ooo-oorld.”

Then the memories would trickle down, and off we’d travel down the memory lane, the portions of my childhood, in faded colors, with blurry faces, running at a mild speed on my mind.

Although I oftentimes find my childhood kind of funny, I miss the youthful innocence and carefree days that went with it. My youthful years passed, and so did the decade that nurtured me, taking with it its colorful and varied nuances. The ’90s was generally good to grow up in — not as confused as the 80s and not as technology-obsessed as today. And thankfully, I have few vivid memories of it.

Would you mind if I share some? It’s just me having a sweet case of nostalgia, so if you don’t mind, here’s a list.

Ang TV Unless I had an afternoon school schedule, I always made sure I was home before 4:30 pm so that by the time the Ang TV kid hollered “4:3o na, Ang TV na,” I was already sitting in front of the TV. I was a fan that way. And I enjoyed every minute it was on. Was it because of the jokes? Not really. The production numbers? Nah. What I found engaging was this group of kids making fun of themselves, throwing corny jokes after corny jokes, seemingly enjoying their share of TV visibility. As a young viewer, I could identify with their wholesomeness and innocence, and they even figured in my viewing experience as my afternoon barkada, so even if I didn’t know them personally and they didn’t know of my existence, I felt this strange connection.


Brick game

It pales in comparison to PSP; brick game seems like a boring game console. But perhaps as much as the other ’90s kids, I was likewise boring because I settled for, and actually found joy in, a console that offered 99 (or more) of the same connect-the-bricks games. And I kid you not, I played for hours until I could visualize the bricks in my lull time and dream of them in my sleep. I thought it was just me, but it turned out that playing for hours on end could turn on the menacing imaginary brick game, and before you know it, you’re mentally strategizing your moves  and angling the bricks at the most winning positions.


Cold Milo + cheese-flavored French fries

This combo kept me company when watching Balitang K, the magazine show hosted by Korina Sanchez. I would make a big Tupperware tumbler of cold Milo and buy cheese-flavored French fries before the show aired. I remember I ate my fries and drank my Milo with gusto but not so quickly because I wanted them to last till the show’s end credits.  Nobody knew of this until this blog post. Why I never cared to tell anyone, I don’t know. And now that I’m grownup, I realize I have never again watched any show with a staple snack . So I’m thinking, what was so special with Balitang K that I made sure I watched it with a special snack combo? Only my 12-year-old self can tell.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m sure I watched only a few episodes of this cartoon series. By few, I mean not over ten, because quite frankly, I’m not so amused by animated action series. I don’t even know much about this show, except that it’s about four ninja buddies who happened to be turtles.  But it’s part of my childhood because I was Donatello. My older cousin was Raphael, my sister was Leonardo, and my other cousin was Michelangelo. Remember,  back in your childhood days, you picked out a character from a show and played it during your afternoon play time? We did that. I can’t remember the science behind the picking of names (or why we even had to be them). Maybe I was fascinated by Donatello’s  violet mask.  Or maybe he was the only character left. But I’m glad I picked him. It turned out he’s a genius. Ahem.

Bioman

Another action series and another childhood memory of mine for the sole reason that I was Pink Five. Remember their lines? Red One! Green Two! Blue Three! Yellow Four! Pink Five! And then there was their grand pose. Sure, I sometimes watched the series, but only because, again, I was Pink Five. And this time, I appointed myself to be her. I can’t figure if my being Pink Five sparked my liking for pink, or it had begun early on and was only manifesting. Anyway, of all the Bioman characters, I notice that Pink Five was the most popular, even if there were two ladies in the show. No biases here, but really I wonder why. Perhaps because unlike boyish Yellow Four, Pink Five was very ladylike, and it’s quite unlikely for a supposedly action-packed series to have such a lovely woman fighting like the rest of the guys, running, rolling over the ground,  and pointing weapons at enemies in a pink suit. It’s what I call irony.


VHS 

Before VCDs and DVDs and Blue-ray and movie downloading and online watching, there was VHS. We rarely went to cinemas when I was a kid, so I owe a large part of my childhood movie experience to VHS. Because of it, I was able to watch The Little Rascals, Home Alone, Free Willy, Baby’s Day Out, Beethoven, and other movies in that league. So even if we had to rewind VHS tapes, even if they were bulky and required too much space, and even if they were not as convenient to use like DVDs, I liked them. In fact, we often rented VHS tapes from nearby rental shops, which usually had long lists of movies in clear books. Our VHS player and tapes have long been gone, but our rewinder our still with us. Had I been smarter, I would have kept and preserved them. It’s nice to once in a while watch movies the archaic way, you know.

Cassette

And then there’s the legendary cassette. You know you’re old if you have an experience with cassette tapes and players. And yes, I have plenty of those experiences. I remember my dad, who was working abroad, sent us voiced tapes. They sounded like he was on phone, only we couldn’t answer him back. Of course, we also recorded our own voiced tapes. My mom would tell us to “talk” to Daddy, which meant blabbering in front of a cassette player. And by the way, do you remember Walkman? Walkman as in Sony’s portable cassette player and not today’s Sony Walkman as in mp3 player and cell phone. Unlike portable players of today, Walkman couldn’t be kept in jean pockets or clipped to clothes or connected to a computer. It was as simple as that — a portable cassette player. We still had to load the cassette tape, right side facing out. Or was it in? Oh, I don’t know. Tape loading is something that I didn’t master. Honestly, I still don’t know which side should be facing out if I wanted to play side A.

Slumbook

When I was thinking of more items for this post, my sister had to remind me of slumbook. Oh, how could I forget slumbook? How? How? If you’re a ’90s kid like me, you probably owned or signed one, and after writing on several slumbooks, you most likely had mastered the questions which, if you now look back, were actually silly.  But us being kids, we had a way around those questions: our answers were hundred times sillier. What is your favorite food? MTM (Many to mention). Describe yourself. Just judge me. What is love? Love is like a rosary that is full of mystery. Who is your crush? Secret. Who is your first kiss?Parents (Or mom). And then we’d write the slumbook owner a dedication (a supposedly “thank you” message), which included achingly sweet acronyms such as J.A.P.A.N (Just Always Pray At Night) and I.T.A.L.Y (I Always Trust And Love You). I don’t know about other ’90s kids, but I felt special whenever someone asked me to sign a slumbook. And I felt even more special when someone agreed to sign mine, because I actually had taken pains to scour for and buy the best slumbook I could get my lanky hands on and present it to my classmates. Speaking of which, have you heard of The “Akala Mo Wala Nang Slumbook Pero Meron, Meron, Meron” slumbook? It’s a witty take on the proverbial, very ’90s slumbook, with hilarious questions and equally hilarious answer options that would remind you of our youthful, nonchalant humor.

Image from Witty Will Save The World, Co. Multiply site


Street games

I’m glad that I belong to a generation whose form of entertainment was playing street games. Back then, we didn’t know that plants and zombies could have a skirmish and that birds could get angry. And although we would visit with Mario and Luigi and feed Pacman once in a while, they couldn’t keep us from going out. There was always time for street games, and we took the best of it. Every afternoon, or after school, my playmates, who happened to be my sister, cousins, and neighbors, and I would gather up in our place or in our street and play such games as tagu-taguanpatinteroagawan-base, ten-twenty, Chinese garter, and street football, stopping only after saying or hearing someone yell taym pers (time first) to have a pee or water break. And believe it or not, we rarely had fights. Everything was very amicable, and if there were things that needed to be discussed, we discussed them as peacefully as we know how. The only major trouble we had was getting wounds, the proofs of which are permanent reminders of the olden days. But I didn’t and still don’t mind. I’d gladly have them again if it means spending the afternoon with my best buds to make the best of our youth and then going home before sunset, all sweaty and smelly, but nonetheless happy and healthy.

Lea Salonga

I had been aware of Lea even before Aladdin, which by the way is one of my favorite childhood movies. I admired her. With naive arrogance and unfounded certainty, I even told my mom I would become like Lea someday. Not as good a singer as she is — although as a little girl, I suffered from a delusion that I could sing well — but as a world-famous person. At about the same time Aladdin was shown, my admiration for her grewFact is, although I can’t even measure up to Lea’s shadow, my dream to become like her remains.

Children’s parties

Of course, I miss them — the sweet spaghetti, the skewered hotdog and marshmallows, the balloons, the loot bags, the “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” game. We rarely threw children’s parties. But we were always invited to some, especially by our neighbors. I remember being excited when the place was being set up (I could see because only a short wall separated our yard from theirs), because to me, the next few hours would be absolute fun. There was no grandiosity in the parties that I attended, but they’re enough to make childhood experiences that I would reminisce about from time time, something that I like doing as you can see.


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