i used to think i knew sadness, that it’d be simply crying tears or the absence of happiness.
it’s going to be a year later soon, but somehow, no matter how much i try to fight this dark cloud, the victory lap seems getting shorter and shorter.
We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.
“the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
my sister was a humongous fan of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, and loved it from the time it came out, but it was a couple of years later that i ran into “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” – not aware that it had been in the soundtrack all along. i had been through what i felt was rock bottom not too long before i heard it, and when i did, i thought it had a pretty good bead on life till that point.
here i am, twenty years later, re-acquainting myself with the ‘speech‘, all because i spent a few minutes on the tube (YT) looking for that “Spectacular, Spectacular” scene in Moulin Rouge! to tape as part of my IG story, and later on that bit by Harold Zidler on investing.
reading that ‘speech’ made me sort of evaluate where i am now. it looks like i’ve lived the last twenty years mostly the way the writer advised in her essay, with a few exceptions. this is pretty much a point by point evaluation i’ve put into my own life, based on the advice she left on her speech.
- there was no beauty in my youth. maybe when i was three, up until the age when i lost my two front teeth in an unfortunate bicycle spill. i never looked fabulous, and how i long for that age where eating did not seem to have any consequence.
- i worry about the future only because i want to stay here. once that is settled, i probably would not worry about it as much, once all the pieces are set. which i worry about. who am i kidding? this won’t work. ok. i do worry about the future. but it doesn’t keep me awake at night.
- it’s been a while since i did something that scares me. it’ll be harder now that i have a family to think of. maybe the small, low-risk things i’m scared of. but the ones where you put your life on the line. maybe when Hannah’s all grown up.
- i sing like crazy. in the car, while in traffic, mostly. sometimes, when i feel like to. sometimes, to simply entertain Hannah, while she still can’t tell me that i’m out of tune.
- i’ve tried to treat other people’s hearts as kindly as i can, at times, to the detriment of my own. i think my heart’s worst enemy is myself. when we are reckless with our own hearts, we can’t be trusted with anyone else’s.
- while i’ve grown to appreciate what benefits flossing gives, i just can’t do it with floss. i like water flossing better. DenTek floss picks when i feel like it.
- jealousy – been there, done that. the pain makes it easier to write stuff, or find a profoundness you never thought you have. it’s a dangerous place – envy, pain, jealousy. i understand now why being brilliant can leave one in such a vulnerable and fragile place.
- i don’t remember everything, compliments or insults. i guess, sometimes that is the stuff consistency is made of. you remember enough compliments to keep doing the right things, and enough insults to drive you to become better.
- love letters are mostly gone. some digital backups left over somewhere, i should probably re-read them, though i’ve lost a lot of cheesiness in me over the years to do that.
- i still forget to stretch.
- at 20, i had no idea what i really wanted, except to get my diploma. i never figured i’d be here where i am. at almost 40, i know i wanna do what i’m doing now, until it is relevant. when i retire, i just want to live in a van and discover the rest of the world that i can. with the wife, of course. Hannah can come, but that depends if she’s figured out what she wants to do in life.
- i’m bad at drinking milk. except when they’re in lattes that i make at home. i think i’m gonna regret it down the road. i hope not.
- i’m lucky that the half-chance choices i made got me out winning. but then again, i’ve lost a lot, maybe it was just the universe making things even. but yes, we’ve been blessed, and we are thankful for it and do not take it for granted.
- i enjoyed my body when it was younger. or at least i tried. slowly, i think i lost my way taking care of it. i hope it doesn’t bite back when it really counts.
- i still can’t dance. 20 years of trying isn’t going to probably make it better.
- i read directions. i follow them. mostly. the ones i didn’t, well, i hope the stuff holds up.
- never had to read beauty/men’s magazines. i’ve learned that sometimes if you can’t look good, being actually good can make a significant difference, as long as you don’t overdo it and end up in the friend zone, and quoting Guinan in Star Trek: Generations, “it is a place that i have tried very, very hard to forget.”
- i’ve put a lot of friendships on pause. it’s still a wonder how human relationships can subsist on being on pause for a long time, and the author was spot on in saying that as we go through life, we need the people who knew us when we were young more.
- it was a long shot dream of mine to be able to actually live in Northern California. some days, i still can’t believe it. it’s darn expensive, but i know i haven’t softened up yet because i can still rough it a bit when i went home to Manila early last year. i may never know about living in NYC, but who knows? now i’m living here, pretty much anything’s possible. it’s gonna be expensive as hell, but yeah, possible.
- there are days where i wonder whether i’ll remember just how much i straddled the line between standing up for me and disrespecting my elders. i hope i do remember, because at some point, Hannah will come to that line and i hope i can recognize her actions with the line based on what i remember what i did with it.
- i’ve always treated advice as things you put in your back pocket. i’ll always want to make my mistakes and learn from them. we’ll always want control. sometimes, the best way we’ll ever learn is to ask what not to do and do it anyway if your gut tells you. there’ll always be a time and place for remembering which ones we should’ve taken and which ones we shouldn’t have bothered with.
- i can never consistently wear sunscreen. i thought it’d be much better here in America, but sunscreen feels like sunscreen, whether you’re in the third world or the first world.
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.
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.