As far back as I can remember, much of my youth was spent wishing that I was a tad bit older. If I was older, I could see "adult films". (Which, in hindsight, seems to be the primary reason why boys that age wanted to be "adult".) If I was older, I can stay up late and not worry about being scolded for not turning in early and doing homework. If I was older, I could drive a car, preferably one that would make everyone wish they had my car. If I was older...you get the drift. Some things are just relegated to the box called "fantasy" when one wasn't still "older".
As my birthday is approaching, I am surprised at my willingness to review my life as it has unfolded these past three decades - give or take a few years. Most people I know are loathe to dwell on their impending natal celebration - and the realization that another year has gone by. I do not know that there is a manual for any of us to navigate through aging - we all undergo it, we will eventually face it, what makes it different for everyone is how we face it.
The part of me that's OC (obsessive-compulsive) is itching to make a list of sorts - I do that quite often in order to make some sense of what I am doing at any given moment. So, this would be the list of things that I have learned or observed to be true from living my life - so far.
1. Quality counts more than quantity where friends are concerned. Pretty much self explanatory, but with the advent of social media like Facebook, many people seem to think that having thousands of "friends" is the mark of someone, uhm, "successful". How many of those FB friends can you call up in the middle of the night? (Disregard people working in call centers from this question, they work at night.) The proper term that FB should have used is "acquaintances" - you know these people, but that doesn't exactly make them your friends. I am grateful I have more than a handful of people that I can truly call friends. The ones who will be there when the situation is so bleak, everyone is trying to get out.
2. Just because you're wrong/evil/incompetent, doesn't mean you won't succeed. We are given many, many lessons and reminders from our childhood that essentially amount to a singular message: do good/the right thing and you will be rewarded. Anyone who doesn't find that line of thinking suspect, given what we now know, must have been living under a rock all this time. Lawyers use their knowledge of the legal landscape to allow their guilty clients to walk free. I remember this serial killer who was arrested in France who had to be let go because of some "technicality" and is now a free man back in his home (Japan). And how many people have bosses that, by some miracle - despite the stupidity, incompetence, intolerance, heartlessness and kakapalan (having a thick hide) they have exhibited, all of which are obvious to all - still manage to be on top, holding jobs and people's lives in ransom, in the palm of their hands? We haven't even delved into public officials who have enriched themselves while in office - that's a separate class altogether.
3. The maturity of a person is inversely proportional to one's obsession with the physical. And yes, I am talking about when a person seems to gauge his/her worth on how s/he looks. It's a losing proposition. Everyone gets older. Wrinkles will come knock-knock-knocking on your skin. Your metabolism will slow down, that is just basic scientific fact. Gravity will take its' toll on the body. No matter how much hair coloring you put and how talented your hairstylist is, you will always know that it's white underneath. The best thing to do is to accept it as a part of life. Once you do, then it becomes imperative to answer the question: Without my looks, what will make me attractive as a person? The more you hold on to your looks, the less time you have to devote to developing the other, more important aspects of your life. Are you kind to people? Do you have a sense of decency that allows you to respect others regardless of their beliefs? Do you try to make this world even just a little bit better than when you entered it? Do you develop your conversation skills and really try to listen to what others are saying? Many, many things of importance are totally removed from how one looks - almost everything, in fact - but it says something about the 21st century that the beauty and image business is an industry worth billions. (I'm betting in whatever currency)
4. Many of the things our parents told us are true. Many are also...not that true. Vegetables are really good for you. Santa is not the one responsible for the wonderful gifts. Education is the one thing you can rightfully call your own and should strive for. A "bumbay" (person of Indian descent) will not take you away if you were naughty. Parents will be the last, if not one of the last, people who will ever stop trusting and loving you. Everything will be solved by prayer and patience. If you do good, this will be retuned to you. If you do good, this will be returned to you.
5. You have to forge your own way, no matter what everyone else may say. Your parents, your family, your friends, your neighbors, even the neighborhood lush, will have their opinion on how to live your life, what to do, etc. Take it all in - after all, some of them do want what's best for you - but realize that you truly have the power to make your life what it is today. You may not be able to control some things that happen out of circumstance - if you have an accident, or someone in your family dies - but you can control your attitude towards these circumstances. When life gives you lemons, don't just make lemonade (as the saying goes), there's a whole world of fruits waiting for you to be solely focused on lemons alone. You'de be missing out by just sticking to making lemonade.
These are just some of the things I have learned so far. Of course, there are more, but maybe that will be for a future post, or two. Some of these things are to be learned over and over again in one's lifetime. While others are just a product of "the new age" - I want to be around a long time to see everything changing before my eyes. It's both exhilirating and terrifying to venture into the unknown - pretty much what it means to be facing up to one's own life and what it may yet be in store.
Welcome to your life.