Sunday, May 25, 2008

Life...or something like it...

They say life begins at 40...or 50...or 60...

I turn 50 in a few weeks. And how time flies.

Of course I feel the age creeping in on me. Even my fave dermatologist, Dr. Ida Villar, who has done wonders in making me look 30 instead of 50 can't reverse the physiologic changes in my body. But more than the physical attributes, what has life been like in the past half century?

Like all others, I have had my share of luck and misfortunes. I have loved, been disappointed in relationships, only to love again. I have dreamed for the longest time, and seen the fruition of some dreams and the failure of others. In the drama of my life, I had thought of what kind of foundation would it take to strengthen me in my journey. We cannot all see dreams in the same way. But the search for happiness is more important than the need for pain. And for every pain that struck me, I had to rise above the disappointments.

Contrary to what other people think, I did not have success on a silver platter. Life was a battlefield. All battles in life serve to teach us something, even the battles we lose. It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.

I am a bright student. Always in the honor roll in grade school & high school and dean's lister in my undergrad and graduate school, a math wiz, I was the best in the lot. I believed I was what you call, the cream of the crop. Then I went to med school. It was a struggle because I had a different view of medical education. Then the big day came. I needed to pass my oral revalida in my graduating year. I failed. I failed? Anger, denial. I locked myself in my room for a week. Refused to acknowledge defeat. And I pitied my mother who was recovering from surgery and my dad who had to borrow money and was in deep debt for my medical schooling. They would not see the first doctor in the family go up the stage to get his diploma. I would remain in medical school for 3 more months and face the same panel all over again. My mom would beg me to eat something. I closed the drapes, cried day and night, was so depressed that I would consume 2 packs of cigarettes in a day. It was all I thought of. I swore not to go back to medical school. Dr. Roberto Anastacio was a big influence in my decision to return. He told me that the biggest loser was the one that gave up. My giving up was simply a sign of weakness and I did not deserve to be a doctor then. After a week, I returned to the hospital and went on duty. When I entered the ER, my colleagues started clapping and tears simply flowed. I will leave this saga behind and will move on. Like a book, there will always be a new chapter to start with. If you have a past with which you feel dissatisfied, then forget it, now. Imagine a new story for your life and believe in it. Focus only on the moments when you achieved what you desired, and the strength will help you to get what you want.

And so life went on. I picked up the broken pieces, put it in trash mode and got on with what life had to offer. This time, I wasn't a young man in a hurry to see what the world owed me. I was a young man on a mission to see the world. And what life had to offer. At 25, I was broke and my spirit was broken. I was dependent on my parents for my daily bread. They understood though that I was taking the road less traveled. One day, I would return the favor of their emotional and financial support. This I swore.

Life is not the way we expect it. My sister, Bennie, married and had kids. In her third year of marriage, when she was pregnant with my nephew, my brother-in-law died of a cerebral aneurysm that ruptured. He was 33 and my sister was suddenly a widow. My father had a stroke a few years later. We were in debt and I was just off a residency program. I was offered a scholarship at Boston University. But my family needed help more than I needed my career. And we were just financially recovering, only to have one disaster come after another. Dad, with tears flowing simply told me to go and chase my dreams. After all, they had managed all those years. Life would be kind to them. I sold the car he gave me for my graduation so that I had pocket money for my initial housing in a foreign land. The other half I left with my mom for dad's medical care. Finding something important in life does not mean that you must give up everything.

Success had it's price to pay. We are all growing and changing, we notice certain weaknesses that need to be corrected,and although we may not always choose the best solution, we carry on regardless. Over the years, there were still disappointments, but the dreams fulfilled outweighed the former. I made friends, lost some. I lost out on relationships and swore never to love again. Then loved again. I lost my faith, then found it again. I have helped my sister raise my nephew and niece and provide them with all the perks in life. I have been able to take care of Inang and see her through her senior years. I now understood what weakness and strength was and responsibilities. The inevitable always happens. We need discipline and patience to overcome it. And hope. It isn't a question of placing hope in the future. It is a question of re-creating our own past.

I turn 50 in a few weeks. I have a lifetime to share my thoughts and life...or something like it...among my friends. And I don't know how my book of life will end. But this I am certain of. Each moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and another in the abyss. We all have choices which we make. Not all choices are right, but we will never know what is the right one until we take the road less traveled. Choosing that path means abandoning others - if you try to follow every path you will end up following none.

I believe that life began when I was born. Never mind the idioms of the oldies who claim that life begins at the senior citizen age. It's mind over matter. I have many people who I need to thank who have helped me across my journey. To those who have hurt me, thank you too for making me stronger in my Personal Legend.

The glory of the world is transitory. And we should not measure our lives by it, but by the choices we make, to follow our Personal Legend, to believe in our utopias and to fight for our dreams. We are all protagonists of our own lives, and it is often the anonymous heroes who leave the deepest mark.

With that said, I am ready for the next fifty years of my life. There will always be a child in me that will hold on to my dreams, no matter what age, no matter what tragedy, no matter what disappointments. And should I leave this world earlier than my dreams, I know I have lived life well. No regrets. No hatred. No sorrow. No angst. Just happiness. Because life...or something like lived one day at a time.

- all itals are from Life by Paulo Coelho

1 comment:

ML said...

My dear Benji..I regret not having been there for you during those hard trying times. I am truly sorry, but if you ever need or want me I promise to be around more and be there for you in what ever modest way I can. I love you my friend- Malu