New new things in 2019
Looking back at the year that was — my yearly personal review of life lived
You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all…Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing… — Oliver Sacks quoting Luis Bunuel in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, p. 25
It was but apt for me to stumble upon this quote from the first book I’ve picked in 2020, as I wrote this piece.
Writing about the year that was proved challenging. I could barely remember what happened (because I just woke up probably) or nothing worth remembering happened. So as my first act of 2020 — and by instinct — I jogged my memory using the most convenient platform available to anyone — the Internet.
How do you keep track of life moving as fast as your Instagram feed? While the likes of Facebook and Instagram do it by algorithm, our brains are now filled with so much junk, I have completely forgotten important moments in life these past months.
I know we got a dog, a chow chow, as our way of “rewarding” our kids for good behavior (or if I remember accurately, of encouraging good behavior too). I also know that we finally made a major life-decision to buy a new home. But I am both fascinated and yet anxious with two major things that happened in my family: one involved my eldest daughter entering the university life, and the other was about wife taking an early exit from 24 years of working in a public school. Both were major developments that created new trajectories in my life.
There were also deaths in 2019. Some very close people that I’ve known since childhood. Others were people whose lives had made ripples in many people’s lives, including my own. There was a childhood friend who was a kind and helpful doctor who was my age. She died peacefully of cancer. There were others who left us so suddenly.
Hit the deck running
If I were to describe 2019, it would be a marathon started halfway. Some would describe it as “hitting the deck running.” At work, I’ve witnessed changes and organized chaos happen at the same time — as was expected in efforts to transform an organization. Roughly 70 percent or more of our waking lives are spent at work. So it was comical to find my memory failing when picking important moments from this huge chunk of my life. Definitely, friends were made, friends were lost (or as in today’s lingo, I’ve been ghosted). Which tells me they were not real friends after all.
The year 2019 started so fast — the next time I checked, months have passed and it was my birthday. I must admit that most of what we know about life today is based on our social feeds. Years ago, I used my blog to help me remember those key moments. But while we’re creatures of habit, we have poor memories; we remember moments that have made a positive or negative impact on us.
Losing a job, break ups, losing someone or something, getting married, getting pregnant, having children, rediscovering the joy of meeting old friends, rekindling a rocky relationship — these are life events that would be implanted in our memories, or in our Instagram feeds or stories in the age of social.
I’ve had my troubling moments this year: the latest one happened to my youngest daughter who went through a harrowing ordeal that to this day she carried some form of “trauma.” I also came to some realization about relationships: how fragile and complicated they still are — and this goes without saying about marriage. Nineteen years of being married seemed like a moment. It had its ups and downs. These were all expected since we are shaped by our memories wherein the good is manifested through nostalgia, while the bad is felt through anxiety. (I hope that makes sense).
2019 was full of lessons, but I will spare you mine because these are oft-repeated axioms that I’ve said and written in the past. (And who cares about what I think of life, right?) What I will attempt, however, are stories where you can pick up some moral. So here goes:
New home, new problems
This year, as I said in the beginning, started quickly. Work dictated the pace of 2019. It was hectic. But amid all these activities, there were breaks — unplanned road trips to places familiar and unfamiliar. There I discovered more about life, and decisions were made that opened opportunities.
However, one of the most memorable moment was our move to the new home. After deciding to purchase a new house near the place we rented for more than 3 years, we left that old apartment for this newly built townhouse in the middle of old Manila’s busiest town known as Sta. Ana.
Taking a loan from a bank, we spent months and money adding more amenities and furnishings to this home surrounded by old wooden apartment complex and high-rise condominiums whose tenants kept dumping trash into our dead-end street (that’s another story I will save for next time).
It took us more than a week to move things because we had to decide what things to throw away, and things to keep that “sparked” joy, at least. But as we settled, we discovered there were more home improvements and fixes that were needed, including the major patching of the roof that had some unforeseen imperfections leading to flooding in my daughters’ room. That took a while to fix, which translated to the room being emptied, boring a hole big enough for a man to check the gap between the ceiling and the roof.
Then, there was the water crisis that forced us to install an electric-powered pump to make sure we had water anytime of the day. Despite these hitches, we welcomed the New Year in this new place we now call home. I just hope the local government finishes working on the roads just outside, which is causing endless traffic jams everyday. Moral: money spent on a new home is money spent well. Real estate is a good personal investment — but it is best for peace of mind.
Another story is about my eldest daughter Natasha’s entry into the country’s top university. This was the anxious part of 2019. It was NOT easy waiting for the results from the University of the Philippines’ College Admission Test. My daughter tried all four top universities, passing three of them, but as parents, we wanted her to go to the university where I went because of the scholarship it offered and the unique experience of going to a school that change the way I saw life. In a few words, this university opened my eyes to more things I didn’t know — and these are stuff you won’t read in books.
To help her relax, we rented an AirBNB near the university campus a day before her admission exam to make sure she’s not late for the early morning battery of tests. More than 100,000 senior high school students were taking this exam. I think I was more anxious than she was.
Still, I would remind her to stay calm and relaxed and to focus on reviewing her mathematics — which she had better aptitude than me. Months after, we learned she passed but there was a long queue of other students wanting to enter her first choice of campus. So we opted to target her second choice. To sum it up, she landed a difficult course in UP Manila, and started in Pharmaceutical Sciences — which to my knowledge, had a lot of chemistry subjects. It’s also a prerequisite course to a possible full-fledged medical course, as she had been wanting to become a forensics expert, thanks to the Sherlock Holmes TV series that starred Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, the same guy who played Doctor Strange in MCU).
After passing the exam, she had to go through the process of enrollment, interviews and orientation. The university’s process was thorough — not as thorough as mine more than 20 years ago.
From physical to psychological evaluations, my daughter had to clock in hours of interviews, consultations, and exams. She passed all of them, with some discoveries about her state of mind and her being.
Looking back now that the new semester is about to start, my daughter admitted she struggled with some of her main subjects. It was NOT easy, she told me. As her dad and an alumni of her university, I told her to focus and learn to manage her time. But I also reminded her that I’m not expecting her to ace every subject. She just needs to go over these hurdles, one subject at a time.
At 18 years old, she is making more adult decisions now. I keep telling myself to let her be. But I always catch myself repeating things which my parents then kept reminding me — and nagging me. Moral: we become our parents because the lessons they taught us are hardwired to our brain. Learning starts at home, really. However, as adults, we should remind our children that they have us as their support and it doesn’t have to be too complicated. You just need to show that you love them despite of.
(To be continued)