New beginnings. I have always wondered why at the end of every year and the start of new ones that there is this quiet and even unannounced resolve to start changes.
It goes with the territory: a new year, a new beginning. Thus we conjure all these resolutions --- some trivial, others life-changing. We announce to the world or even silently tell ourselves that now is the time to make these landmark changes not only to bring closure but to reinvent what is remaining with the rest of our lives.
I have a handful of friends who have spent decades making new year resolutions to quit smoking. But to this very day they still come armed with their packs of Marlboro and Phillip Morris, saying that there will always be another year. More often than not, we forget all the entries we have made on our resolution lists by time the 8th of January comes creeping in. But still. We make them each year out of habit or tradition ... and whether we know it or not, we actually move slowly but surely to achieve their fulfillment.
More important perhaps is the fact that we make resolutions. This only goes to show that ... well, we do recognize what we need to change about ourselves. There is that effort to correct what we deem is wrong with our lives if not our selves.
So as we enter the final stretch of the year, let me list down my resolutions and see just how many of them I can actually accomplish by the time the Mayan Calendar has finally ended.
(1) My guiding principle for the new year is that I will avoid people who I do not really like, will never learn to like or has stopped liking since 2010 or earlier.
I find it pointless trying to be nice. Polite we must be --- and civil. Manners do not only manifest breeding and education but also intelligence. But to push it a bit too much and pretend there is pleasure in another's company even though there is absolutely none --- that is called downright hypocrisy.
To invest time in small talk or even --- oh, God --- rendering rehearsed, pre-packaged, three-in-one sort of instant smiles --- can not only be exasperating but downright degrading. In an attempt to be more environmentally-friendly, I shall try my damn best to remove every opportunity to turn non-biodegradable.
By law of survival, plastics last for centuries simply because they cannot be broken down into carbon components that could be of good use to the planet. Thus, I shall have a long-term plan to be of greater service. We are all destined to be fertilizers so I will keep that tried and tested path.
I shall avoid (as much as possible) people who I do not like and/or who do not like me but smile at my face then stab me at the back. Can I be completely honest? One has the compulsion to do the same for specimens of that phylum. You know you do not like/hate each other but still you put on the Smiley look and behave like long-lost friends and even inquire about each other's health. Yuuuuch! Such activities induce acid reflux.
You meet these sorts of people especially at work or in social gatherings which has got nothing to do with bonding but merely cheap socializing. And this leads me to the second resolution...
(2) If I am going to exert effort in dressing up to go somewhere, then it should be to a place where I really want to go and not an event that I am only compelled to attend.
It cannot be helped. There are social obligations. And they can be a drag. Not for all. There are those who make a living out of socializing ... and making sure the world knows about it.
Different strokes for different folks. Or maybe been there, done that. There are people (like me) who reach a certain age when you only want to be with people you enjoy especially when the occasion suggests that it should be enjoyed. For one thing, I hate dressing up in suits because they are indeed quite uncomfortable in the tropics. More so, having chosen to be into the t-shirt/jeans/shorts sort of dressing, donning a suit and imbibing the behavior required for such an apparel cane be so debilitating.
Yet we all know that there are events which have become social obligations --- if not career moves --- in order to be close to people who hold positions of authority and power. You dress to the nines in order to mingle in the territory of the gods.
How many times in a lifetime do you need to attend parties just to be able to rub the tummy of some Golden Buddha?
How many times do you have to go into the whole dynamics of social pleasantries, indulge in really inane conversation, feign concern and interest just to be able to maintain a level of forcibly sincere conversation?
They call it networking. Or schmoozing. Or brown nosing. Whatever. It is an accepted business practice minced with alcohol.
I wish it were that easy but for me it is not. Maybe there is a growing sociopath in me. I am not just comfortable with these simulated catered fiestas. Being there is a task. That takes tremendous effort. And energy. And persistence. And talent for unrecognizable insincerity. But after a while you realize that it does not do anything for the soul.
I guess when you are buttering up someone --- or trying to belong to the stratum of a social class which you feel is the ultimate goal of this present reincarnation --- then it becomes part of a life-long struggle to find meaning in life. That is when it becomes investment socializing --- when you deliberately turn friendships into self-promotion and every opportunity for human interaction becomes a business venture.
I recently attended such an event where everybody just went into auto-whoring mode, trying to make their presence felt in the company of top executives while being disguised in polyester elegance.
I am quite sure the top honchos knew exactly what was happening which made all the minions look either refreshingly cheap or downright pathetic. Despite the expensive hors d'ouvres, the event diminished into the excitement of a makeshift brothel. I could sense the disgust in the gods as the mortals slithered doing their own versions of Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils in order to be noticed. (Unfortunately, the head of John The Baptist was not offered as a final tribute that evening.)
Indeed there must be an art to social whoring. It is all over history. Including the Bible.
Unfortunately I would leave that to others. All that buttering-up can lead to positions up the social and career ladder but you can rest assure, you only get group text greetings from such creatures --- and their forms of communication have all the sincerity and depth of form letters.
(3) I will stop endlessly worrying about tomorrow. Because of a preoccupation for insuring the future, one ends up forgetting about what is transpiring in the present.
Again, it cannot be helped to keep thinking about the uncertainty of the future.
I, for one, have been conditioned by my father to keep my head together and always think of the future. My Dad was a conservative thinker: he was not one to take great risks especially if the future of his family would be part of the gamble. Despite my contradictory opinions about the way my Dad used to make his judgment calls, I have begun to realize something that really shocked me: as I grew older, I have turned into my Dad.
Now I am beginning to reassess where and how I am going to deal with the so many more decades ahead in my life --- and I have also come to one big conclusion: Oh, what the heck!
There are a lot of things I do that other people find very, very strange (like flying off to the beach by myself with two books and my IPod and enjoying it, like watching movies alone on weekends, like staying home on a Saturday night reading trashy paperbacks) but I like it. I really, really like it in a major, major way. I like to be alone. I am learning to enjoy my own company. And I don't believe any other human being is destined on this planet to complete me.
Comes a point in your life when you realize you have fulfilled most of your obligations with others --- that it is really about time to address one's personal needs. It has got nothing to do with selfishness --- it has everything to do with affirming one's self.
I remember what was often told to me by some of my closest friends: "What you can't take with you to the other life doesn't really matter." Quite right. And the other is that, "We work hard to have a good life not merely to have a good living." Extremely correct. I know a lot of very, very rich people --- and I can assure you, they are not very happy. They are assumed to be happy, they present themselves to be happy --- but they are just rich. Period.
That's because they have dedicated all their lives in being richer that they have lost the fun of being alive.
So let's boogie. The Universe knows how to balance things off ...and take care of everything that needs fixing.
(4) Minimize hate ... maximize life.
Sounds all too simple but actually difficult. OK, I will consistently repeat that mantra. I shall stop imagining scenarios that embody an ultimate desire of mine: to get even with people who kicked me in the ass.
We are all vulnerable to that guilty pleasure of imagining this classic scene where you finally give your most hated enemy on earth the finger. Having been gifted with such a tremendous imagination, I have plotted out everything including camera shots and dialogue.
( I emerge from the elevator at the designated floor where the demigod holds office. I walk past the secretary, straight into the office where I will wear such a sunshine smile on my face as the god ---somewhat shocked by my sudden appearance --- smiles back and asks, "How are you?" And I reply, "Never been better ... and, by the way, F--K YOU!" I give the finger, do an exquisite turnaround and exit the premises. CUT!)
All these scenes of revenge are so delicious, vile and even on the verge of being cheesy that I know it is going to be a box-office hit. Yes, I have enough of these scenes to realize that I have an entire film festival in my mind.
But then again .... why bother?
After much thought, I have also realized that designing these tacky scenes actually give importance to the people who I choose to avoid. The more energy you invest on someone, the greater importance you give him/her/it to your life. So just move on. Forgive ...but don't forget. (I never believed that the latter is a requirement of the former. I can forgive but you better damn remember that I will not forget.)
Even while others feel that treading on the waters of Facebook is a waste of time, you can still gather morsels of wisdom from your so-called friends. Just this morning someone posted: "Life should be defined by possibilities ... not limitations."
That is very, very true. Struck a raw nerve here. The moment you decide to hate somebody, you create a limitation. And pulverizing said individual in an act of revenge ...is a distant possibility. That only happens in the movies. And the Universe will take care of itself. Believe me, it happens all the time.
(5) Before people get bored of me, I will get bored with myself.
The beautiful thing about new year celebrations is that ... it is going to be a brand new year.
I remember the exact place where I was when 2011 came marching in: at the rooftop party of Tides Hotel in Boracay, jumping with my fist in the air while dancing to the tune of Black Eyed Peas Time of My Life with new found friends. I told myself 2011 is going to be a great year. It was great in the sense that it was most challenging--- perhaps one of the most trying years of my life. But I learned. I learned so much to be thankful that 2011 is all that it came to be.
And one thing I also ascertained was that you can never be the same person for more than two years. I am 57 years old (that is three years from forced retirement in this country if I had chosen the traditional 9 to 5 job) and I have chanced on the formula to stay younger than my years.
Better than Botox is the curiosity for life --- the love for life and the determination to make each step along the way become part of a more interesting journey. Just because people say you are like this or that --- does not mean that you can not be anything else. That's a lot of bull. You should never let anybody define your life except yourself. And you can only find excitement in life by being excited about it.
Mellow like a fruit ... then you rot.
There is a joy in being unpredictable. There is a thrill in being someone or something so completely different from who you are today. Keep surprising yourself ... and you keep the world interested in you. And if you are interested in yourself, how can you remain uninteresting to the rest of the world. It is as simple as that.
There is no such thing as retirement for me. Only reinvention. And resurrection. Why? Because living a full life is the best revenge.
Our family dentist is Dr. Rogelio Librojo. He is now 88 years old and still one of the most renowned dental authorities in the country today. He has fathered a family of medical professionals --- and is still practicing in his clinic in Magallanes Village today. I have known him for more than two-thirds of my life and I discovered his secret formula: it is called "being alive." He loves music. He loves a good talk. He is excited about every day. He is up to date with the developments in his field. In other words, he never lets his brain rest. Therefore he is alive.
I want to be like Dr. Librojo when I grow up.
That is why I am sure 2012 will be one of the best years of my life. I will try something new. I will throw away all the excess baggage that have become safety nets and parachutes. I am not going to sky dive. I am going to hang glide this time. I am going to enjoy the view and fly.
Oh ... and since we are into gliding ... let me add another possible resolution.
This coming year, I may finally learn how to drive a car. May, I said. I am not promising. But I am trying.