looking back

sometimes, i still can’t believe that we are where we are right now.

this wasn’t where i saw myself 21 years ago, because at that time, i was essentially a bum. i was wasting money i had no business wasting. no degree. no job. i was drinking, smoking, and spending my days playing collectible card games, chatting on IRC, replaying Fallout 1 or 2 depending on my mood, maybe chess, maybe a little basketball when we could muster up enough players on a half-court and if there was anything remotely interesting on TV, watch a movie or read a book when i could find something worth reading. i had no idea what my future might bring, but i wasn’t optimistic. i had no idea what i wanted to do. heck, i had no idea what i could do.

i got so much flak from my family then – they knew about my vices, and my seeming inability to get off that downward spiral. i never told them the truth about my getting kicked out of school for both academic and disciplinary reasons (they only knew about the academics, because if they found out my old school would never issue a certificate of good moral character, they’d probably hate me even more) and that made it even tougher for me to face the prospect of never finding a school that would accept me without such a certification.

i reached that point. i don’t remember when i hit rock bottom – it probably wasn’t for other people’s standards, but for my life, i knew i somewhat hit it. i wasn’t good for anything, and essentially was just free loading. somehow, i knew this wasn’t what i wanted for the rest of my life. i didn’t want to end up finding some way to further fuck up this mess i made of the chances i had.

i chanced upon the ad for Asia Pacific College on our newspaper. i called them and i got the requirements together to fill up an application for admission. i asked my mom for money to pay for the application and she probably thought i was scamming her but she took the chance. i took the entrance exam and i got in, but what i feared the most came to fruition – when i sent in my transcripts from my old school, the new school was puzzled why the old school won’t give me a certification for my good moral character. the dean set up a one on one with me to find out from me first-hand what’s up with that and i told her the whole story; she probably knew it already if she had talked to the old school about it, i guess i just rolled the dice that my honesty (the same honesty i used to admit to my wrongdoings at the old school, rolling the dice in the hope that being honest and up front would at least get me a shot of getting a good moral character certification) would sway her to forego the requirement of the certification on my character and banked on my determination to return to college to get a degree. if i remember correctly, i offered to put myself on disciplinary probation to start so that i’d be able to motivate myself to keep myself out of trouble to prove that by taking a chance with me, i’d make it worth their time.

the next four years was a blur. i made the dean’s list. i got to become an academic scholar. i learned from industry trained professors, and in my opinion, the coolest set of mentors a student could ever have. i met my lifelong friends there. i had help of course, starting from the dean that gave me a shot, to the registrar who credited a lot of my basic completed subjects that allowed me to finish my degree a full year early and gave me a lot of flexibility with enrolling and scheduling to maximize my first year back from being out of school for more than a year.

nothing was given though. i had to earn my family’s trust back. i had a limited allowance to rein in the temptation to blow off classes. i had to move in with my aunt, who was strict about my schedule, who i had to work for to earn my keep, and comply with her house rules. they were skeptical about my sincerity to finish my education until i ended up in the dean’s list all year for that first year back, earning me an academic scholarship that whittled down my tuition to just 40% of its original cost, which was a big help since my college fund was running low.

i chose a commerce course because i was trying to be safe, with a major on information systems management. enough technology classes to probably prepare me for an IT job, but probably not enough to make it attractive for top tier companies at that point in time like Chevron, IBM, P&G or Accenture, but i didn’t care. all i wanted was a shot to be able to start somewhere. APC gave me an educational foundation that made me ready more than in terms of skill – a mindset that what you learn here isn’t the end of the learning – it prepares you for the industry, but it is in the industry where the actual shaping of who you want to be in your career happens, and a lot of it lies in what you do with what you learned.

five months after my last day in school, and three months into my first job, i was finally able to make it on-stage to receive my diploma.

there is a whole lot more between then and now, but during this reflection, i realize that i could have easily given up. i could have easily despaired. i could have easily chosen the easy way – to be a burden, to be fearful that i can never be acceptable to other people’s standards, to be afraid not to be accepted as a worthy employee, family member or lover. i could have easily fallen prey for the darkness within that is our worst enemy. i could have easily forgotten what hope was. i could have given in to the desire to end it all because i didn’t feel i had any worth. so many i could haves.

all i can say is this – if you believe in hope, use that belief to do something you know you want. when the fear of failing hits you, hit back with the hope of success, and then back it up with tremendous effort. that way, if failure happens, you know you gave it your absolute best. of course winning in live isn’t about just hoping. we need to do something. find that something you want to do, and do all it takes to be successful in it.

finally, it is we who define our own limits. our limits are bounded by fear. when we stop believing in dreams because of our fear they may never come true, we lose hope. just believe in what you can do, and put everything into it. at some point, when we are challenged, doubts creep in, and that’s natural. just don’t let doubt consume you or your belief in yourself.

so if you are down in the dumps, feeling like a failure and worthless and not worth a damn in this life, do not despair. fight the darkness. find the light. see the hope. open your mind to learning. reject not, especially if you do not want to be rejected. appreciate the value of a different mindset. do small things that make you happy. learn something new. list down your goals. fight the obstacles. pray for your dreams, because we need all the help we can get, and God knows we can’t do it just by ourselves.

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2019

2018 started on a high. A dream was coming true, a prayer answered just when we were at the brink of surrender and despair.

We planned 2018 to be our “get away” year in 2017 – we wanted to see the rest of America’s beauty, cross off things we needed to do/see while we could, while it was just the two of us. And while the news of our coming child was a welcome surprise, we decided to go on a “babymoon” of sorts, whittling down our list to the must-sees before our little one came that coming summer.

Then came one of the toughest weeks of my life. I was so unprepared, shock overpowered the grief; I was at a loss for words and in moments that I can never have again, I don’t believe I said the most meaningful things to say for the last time to my sister.

It was a challenge to remain optimistic, to remain wholly committed to seeing the good, the silver lining. It was a challenge to keep the gloom at bay when something you’ve waited for for the longest time was slowly coming true. It was a challenge to keep myself from my own personal darkness, my weaknesses, fighting them off, living with the loss and helping my wife with the challenges of being with child and catering to her growing needs and preparing ourselves for the coming of our little miracle.

Then came another challenge – the closure of the Alameda office meant I’d have to be working out of our San Jose office – 47 miles away. Getting there wasn’t the challenge – getting home after work was. At worst, it’s a > 2 hour drive. At best, 90 minutes or so, but meant leaving the office at around 3 p.m. It also formed a lot of questions in my head – will people be laid off? Will they still need me around and give me a chance to live here for good? Will we be sent home while our child was waiting for her birth? So many questions, and the uncertainty caused me some real anxiety and unrest.

Things worked out okay – my manager gave me a really favorable work arrangement that allows me to spend my workdays mostly at home, with few drives between Alameda and San Jose limited to 2x a week on most times, 3x a week if there were any management alignments with our team.

Our little one came in the summer – but not without a little bit of an anxious moment that led her to spending a few hours of her first day of life in the NICU. She was back with us just a little past midnight of her second day, and all I can say is when you are right there, hand in hand with your wife delivering your child, you can never be in more awe at the strength and resilience that our Creator has put into a woman’s body. It changes you. For me, it made me appreciate her more, and I tell her every day that the next most amazing thing than marrying her was seeing her give birth to our child. From that day, we transcended from being a married couple to a family of three and parents of one. It amazes me to see how life grows and to have front row seats as how our child grows from that little bundle.

Then came news of my grandfather’s passing. It was something I couldn’t go home for and it pained me to not be able to say a proper goodbye. In my mind, I said good bye years ago when I left to move here, and again when we visited him after my sister’s passing, only this time, I can only muster a prayer to say thank you.

And now, we are here – another year older. Surely this year will be filled with good and bad. As we grow older, we realize how unselfish life is when it gives you all its bountiful provision, and at the same time we realize how easy it can also take away from us, without any thought to our preparedness for moments or realities. All we can really do is just live this new journey around our yellow star and make the most out of the moments, make our brief time on this earth worth remembering by those who we spend our days and nights on this earth with.

Happy new year.

all saints day

the last time i went through loss and bereavement, it was for losing a grandparent. it’s tough, but at the very least, you kind of digest it a bit more immediately as a fact of life, especially as they grow older.

this year, it’s tougher. it’s tougher when you lose someone closer to you. it’s tougher when you don’t expect it. it’s tougher because even though your mind and heart tells you that given the illness she suffered, she’s in a better place now.

but it’s hard. it’s hard when you’ve got so much to share. it’s hard when you’ve realized so many things, but you can’t apply what you’ve learned because it’s too late.

i think i’ve been able to move on from the fact that you’re no longer with us dear sister. the only thing i really haven’t been able to get over is wishing that you were here for all the good things that has happened since then – i know you are, quietly watching over us, we may not feel or notice it, but i know you do. i know that every good thing we got going for all of us is you letting us know that you’ve got our backs, things like that.

i miss you, anna.

we remember you today, but frankly, we don’t need a day like today to remember. we think of you a lot. on good days to smile and laugh about and celebrate. on bad days to forget and just know that we’re not alone in having bad days.

“she is dead. you are alive. so live.”

easier said than done, Morpheus. But i’ll keep trying.

+++

P.S. – I decided to make things a little brighter in here. Anyway. Not like anyone would notice.