I am alone in a resort island in my annual celebration of self-indulgence. And self-assessment. In a few hours, it will be the last day of 2011. After the fireworks, the sounds of paper trumpets and the revelry that accompany intoxication of all possible alcoholic permutations comes reality.
The resort island is now overrun by people so hungry, so enthusiastic ... and, yes, even lusting for every possible form of abandonment to throw away the evil spirits attached to the year about to end. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, they say. It is also the year when the Mayan Calendar ends. But let us not go there.
I remember the exact moment when 2011 came in.
I was also here on the Island, right at the rooftop of Tides Hotel together with new friends. We felt like the foreigners because the entire poolside was overflowing with American, European and God-knows-from-where-they-flew-in guests. When 2011 came in, I was too many frozen Margaritas ready fist pumping to the tune of the Black Eyed Peas, "Time of My Life." I precisely remember that. I told myself that I am going to make sure that 2011 will be better than 2010.
In a lot of ways it was not. But, now that I look back and really think hard about it ... the year had a lot of learning for me ... so I guess it was better.
Some wise man said that you have to take the bad with the good. And, more often, than not ... it is the bad that brings out what is really good.
Nobody has existed in this dimension who got everything he wanted.
True enough, it is in being deprived that you get a better perspective of not only the here and now but where exactly you want to go ... and where you have been. Man, success is such an upper. How did they brand it? Together with power, it is an aphrodisiac. Successful people have inherent sex appeal for they emanate a smell tantamount to that of a bitch in the height of heat. Everybody wants a piece of your meat...or, bluntly put, to be screwed by or to screw you.
But disappointments possess a completely flavor.
Think of Liza Minelli singing one of her signature songs from Cabaret (perhaps the only movie we remember her for) where she goes, "Everybody loves a winner ... that's why nobody loves me." It goes beyond poetic justification or that shameless self-imagined scenario of being pathetically dramatic while whimpering about personal tragedies. The point is that it is true: disappointments teach you far much more than success because they ground you. They shake you. More important, failure gives you perspective.
Inasmuch as the year brought a lot of reasons to be thankful --- far too many to enumerate --- the setbacks were the ones that ushered in the real lessons. The realizations. The truth.
How many people have I known whose success was the very cause of their warped lives? How many of those whose careers I have seen right at the very start until they peaked and crashed reveal the entire story of life's heartless cycle?
How many successful people can truly claim that they have true friends and allies? How many in that roster would remain if and when the time comes that Lady Luck has turned away and all the honor and glory have diminished to the ignorable?
There is nothing phenomenal about that. Even before we completely evolved into human beings we have all practiced the rule of selective alliances. It is a question of either keeping yourself in power or opting for the alternatives ... if and when.
That is why 2011 can be considered as "interesting times" because the learning was painful inasmuch as enriching. All I can do (together with so many, I presume) is to pray for a much better 2012 and to have the strength and humility to accept what comes along the way.
In the meantime, it is a matter of acknowledging the lessons. It is a matter of validating everything that 2011 meant to teach me. Otherwise, all would be so sadly wasted. If I did not learn anything from all this, then what was the point? Why should I still be a survivor?
That is why I decided to list the lessons down. Maybe this will serve as a checklist which can serve as a benchmark for the year that will end. Maybe in years to come, when I review this blog, I will recall all the circumstances that brought me into formulating these lessons to turn them into simplistic equations.
Then I would have known why it was all worth the process I went through.
So here goes:
1. The bottom line is your self. Never put your life in the hands of others. Even though how you love them and they love you, you and only you can be accountable for what you do with your life.
Never depend or expect that somebody else will come along right at that precise moment in time to be your Superman-slash-Angel of the Lord. You must never entrust the steering wheel of your life to any other individual except yourself.
You can have such great true friends who will never abandon you regardless of the weather ... or you may even have a family who will support you all the way BUT it is still important to presume that you are on your own and that you cannot depend on the generosity of others to tide you through the twists and turns of your life's journey.
It is also good to have a map because being on the driver's seat is no guarantee that you will get to where you want to go especially if you don't know where it is exactly you want to find your journey.
And since we are on the subject of journeys ..
2. It is not enough that you want to go somewhere but you must know not only how but why. Sad to say, there is a pointlessness in such an adventure if you cannot identify why you want to go anywhere.
Worse is the fact that so many embark in a journey in life for all the wrong reasons. I have said it once and I will say it again: success is not necessarily fulfillment. For how many successful people are out there who are plagued by such emptiness because one conquest after another does not necessarily fill the needs of the soul.
The question at the end of the day is still going to be: "So what's that for?" Why go through all the obstacle courses when you never had an end goal, an ultimate dream that does not involve the mere flaunting of one's superiority over the cast of mortals around you?
The point is --- What is the point of going through what you want to go through?
3. Never underestimate the power of giving.
This has got nothing to do with dole-outs, blatant displays of charity or even the obsession of others to play for an audience to announce, "Oh, look how good I am!" Anybody who cannot render an act of charity without public announcement is bound to be a politician or a poseur. Nowadays there is barely any difference between a politician and a poseur. Add media whores to the category.
Giving as it is understood --- should come from the heart and not for an agenda. Giving should not be rendered to impress but to fulfill. That is why the most precious gifts are those that look seemingly insignificant because the giver wants to treat his gesture as such.
You do not make a big deal out of what is inherent to one's nature. You only announce that you are doing so much because you need much more in return.
The measure of true giving is not the amount accrued and delivered but the impact it has in the lives of those who receive. Sometimes too the greatest gifts are those which one did not even give much thought in delivering.
4. Know those who truly love you --- and validate whatever emotions they have invested in you. Sometimes it is the people who we take for granted who will stick by our side through hell and high water. Never abuse faithfulness and loyalty nor demand these if you cannot give them back.
Affirm the goodness that they provide to our lives. Make sure they know how important they are to you ... not because they are of use, not because they are convenient to have around ... but because they have also chosen to be with you.
In any level of relationship, friendship is the best foundation. Whether it is a parent to his child, a man to his woman or whatever ... friendship should always be the strongest groundwork to hold up whatever structure two people choose to build on.
In any human interaction, if you cannot be friends --- then you cannot go any deeper than merely knowing each other's names so nothing more should be expected.
I have always believed that the ones I love the most are those who could make me laugh. In a world of too much ambiguity, there should be such precious value given to true and tested friends.
5. All things shall come to pass.
It can get so bad ... but it only feels worse when you start recalling how good it used to be.
It may never be as good but what is important is that you are still there giving a good fight. I always put to mind that despite the seeming power and invincibility of tormentors, they too shall come to pass. They too shall need to confront the day when their clout and powers are gone and they need to stick by their guns when the chicken come home to roost --- or something like that.
All things shall come to pass which is why if you equate your happiness and identity with tangible, perishable things... then your happiness shall be so shallow ... and like everything that has become the object of your idolatry, you too shall be forgotten.
Remember what they say about things that you cannot take with you when it is time to go? We will all turn to fertilizers ... but there are others who will remain immortal because they will be remembered, cherished and revered.
And finally ...
6. Regardless of all one has gone through in 2011, BE GRATEFUL.
Be thankful that there are chances in 2012. Be happy that the journey continues.
It is in moments such as these that I look back at the past twelve months and say, "Whew!" One of my best friends died. A number of projects did not materialize. Some of those that did underperformed. My dog died. Each morning just reading the headlines made you want to go back to bed ... and each night catching the late night news gave you bouts of insomnia. But still...
I look around me and realize that there are more reasons to say thank you than to complain. I think of my greatest treasures, the biggest and most wonderful gifts God gave me --- and these are the ones not measured by denominations, not purchasable at any imaginable cost. These are the people who believe in me ... and love me.
It could have been better ... but it could have also been worse.
There were lessons learned ... and I am still learning ... which means there is still so much to do in the year about to unfold.
By Sunday, almost half of the population of the guests who are now on this island would have gone back home. Suddenly the pathways winding through the stores and bars will look so empty again. That is reality. That is the real world after the parties.
And that is where the real journey continues.
Happy New Year!