Sometimes (or maybe often times), bad things happen to us and we don’t know why. We feel victimized. We feel like the world is being cruel to us. We feel like we’re being punished. We question our right to be happy. We wonder what we might have done wrong.
That was me – was.
In the beginning of 2012, I was about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I quit a stable job with a huge multinational company. And I was going to leave the country to start a new life elsewhere.
It’s what I’ve always wanted – what I’ve always dreamed of ever since my mom took home a travel brochure when I was a kid. I have always wanted to spread my wings.
I wanted to see the world. But I didn’t come from a rich background. That is why I did what I could to move towards that direction. I tried to be an exchange student, I tried working for a company that has branches all over the world, heck I exposed myself to all sorts of opportunities.
And when it finally happened, when my dream was materializing right before my eyes. I didn’t expect to feel horrified. I wasn’t scared of the change or the unknown. I was scared of screwing things up. You see, a lot of things have happened that made me doubt myself. Whether it was a bad break up or it was having trouble fitting in, I just found more and more reasons to feel that I’m not good for anything. Or to put it more dramatic terms, I felt that I didn’t deserve to be happy so bad things are bound to happen.
I was frightened. I was finally achieving my goals and I felt like I was crossing a very fine wire with very slippery socks while the wind rocked me like an annoying toddler.
But now, when it has been almost a year that I have sailed through that phase of my life, I can honestly say that I was being so stupid.
The thing is, most of us are being stupid when we put negative thoughts like those in our head.
If I would have to sum up this past year in a word, I would say: gratitude.
I am thankful for the things I was able to do, for the places I was able to see, for the people I was able to meet, the experiences I was able to live, and the lessons I was finally able to fully appreciate.
And one of the biggest lessons I have learned is about having a different perspective regarding the “bad” things that have happened to me. I don’t want to ramble on about the details but rather look at it as a general principle.
Here it is:
Bad things happen everyday. They cause us pain. They make us suffer. They bring us down. And sometimes, they destroy us.
And we often ask ourselves, why? Why me? What did I do wrong?
I think the answer is quite simple. We all have an idea of what our life should be. We have an image of what our careers should look like. We have a standard of what our partners should be. We have a template of what success should mean. When life does not suit what we have in mind, we feel hurt. We feel distressed.
But just because life gives us things that do not match our expectations, doesn’t mean we are bound to be unhappy. But our expectations, our imagination, our concept of happiness can be so little and so limited that we don’t see that greater things are at work. Call it divine intervention, higher power, destiny, power of manifestation, the universe, or mysticism, call it whatever. But we are just a spec of dust in the grand scheme of things. Just because we cannot see the path to happiness, or life has forced us to walk a different path that we would’ve hoped to be, doesn’t mean we are not headed there.
Let me say that again, just because life has forced us to take a path different from the path that we originally conceived of, doesn’t mean that the destinations are different.
We can sometimes be shortsighted. Bad things happen for a reason. Maybe that reason is simply us resisting the happiness that we are too dumb to foretell.
Last Monday night, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that comes so rarely in my life – the feeling of utter bliss. I am in a difficult part of my life right now, but things are getting better. I can feel it. I am sure of it.
I decided to reflect a little and savor the ecstasy brought by that feeling. I kicked back on our recliner in the balcony and took out a notebook given to me by a friend. I decided to write down how I feel and why I feel that way.
I realized that I had to backtrack two years worth of events. I had to reflect on where I was back then in order to fully express why I feel thankful for where I am today.
But what hit me was that there have been so many things that have happened in my life that I barely remember. There have been great moments in my life but somehow; they got buried under all the drama and under all the hardships. But when I think about it, my life was pretty good after all.
And I realized that keeping a journal is very important. Here are five reasons why you should start writing now:
#1. Time flies – fast.
Have you ever had that daunting feeling that time just flew right past you? Have you ever gone to work or school and realized that it was Thursday and not Wednesday?
Lately, I feel like time is just slipping away. Maybe I’m surrounded by a lot of distractions and I’m consumed with thinking every day, but this is ridiculous. The last thing I want to happen is wake up tomorrow and realize I’m 30 without noticing it.
Keeping a journal will allow me to savor the moment. I will be forced to relive important moments. It’s almost as if I will step back and go through the great events in my life and experience them twice.
#2. Memory fades.
If only we can store our memories in folders, password-protect them, and retrieve them for future consumption, life would be so good. But we’re not there yet (yes, I’m still hopeful). So it helps if we store these memories somewhere.
That’s why photo albums are so popular. And maybe going through your old Facebook status updates can be quite fun as well.
But the things you don’t share to the world (if any – some people vomit their soul on Facebook), may not be stored anywhere. There are certain things that only you know and sometimes, it helps to see how far you’ve come along.
A lot of people have short-term amnesia. They will say, “I want this and that so I will be happy.” But once they get the so-called this and that, they are still not satisfied. Keeping a journal will allow you to keep track of where you once were, hence, giving you a better picture of where you are now.
#3. Reflection is important.
Every action has a reaction. This is why reflecting on your actions are important. When you write on your journal, you will be put in a position to reflect. Some people do not take the time to assess if they are happy and if their happiness goes deeper than superficiality.
The last thing you want is to realize what you want when it’s too late. Don’t settle for having an uninspected life. You might miss out on an opportunity and you will regret that heavily.
#4. It provides objectivity.
Me, me, me, and sometimes myself. There is nothing wrong with being selfish. I think being selfish is the least we owe to ourselves. But oftentimes, our selfishness cloud our judgment.
We should be selfish, yes. But we should never be selfish at the expense of someone else. It is easy to get caught up in all the drama and become too sensitive.
A record of how you felt, reacted, and thought might give you an objective view of your experiences when you go back to them after some time. You might squirm of how stubborn you were or how close-minded you have been. But maybe when you look back at your past actions, you will find that relationships that you let go or threw away should be picked up again.
#5. It’s fun to skim through.
Looking at pictures are fun. They can be funny, sad, and nostalgic. Pictures do say a thousand words, but words will let you peek to a window that even pictures cannot describe.
She walked inside my room at two in the morning. I could tell she had been crying. She was wearing a shirt too big for her – her usual cleaning clothes. Her face was tired, not from cleaning, but from something more demanding, something more exhausting. She sat on my bed. I knew she was looking for sympathy; I knew she was looking for comfort. She was looking for love.
I grabbed her and wrapped my arms around her. She used to be so beautiful. She used to be so happy. She used to be so strong. I kissed her on the forehead and tightened my embrace. I held her face and looked at her as tears slowly fell from her eyes.
I smiled weakly. How could I cheer her up? How could I make her feel secured? How could I rescue her? How could a fifteen year-old boy reassure his heart-broken mother?
It all started when I was a baby. My father was a womanizer; his parents were the incarnate of in-laws from hell that I only see on soap operas. She found her strength in me. She found her confidant. She found her best friend. And that’s how it has always been, and I guess always will be.
As a kid, all I wanted was to make her happy. I wanted her to feel loved. But all I could do was to listen.
I didn’t realize how powerful that was.
Many nights when my father won’t come home or even answer calls, my mom and I will stay up and talk about our dreams. She dreams of a simple life. She wants to live in a small house with a small garden that she can tend to. She wants to live near a river so she can take leisurely walks along the riverbank. I was not so modest. I dream of seeing the world.
I guess, in a way, we both felt trapped. She wanted to escape to her paradise; I just wanted to escape anywhere.
On rare nights when my dad does come home, I would have to summon all the strength in my body to fall asleep and not hear the fighting. I will look out my window and wish for wings so I could fly far away from all the crying and the screaming. I felt so helpless.
Those were dark times – so dark that until now, I could not sleep in my old room without having nightmares. They were so dark that I wanted to give up. I didn’t see the rewards of fighting. I didn’t have the will to push harder. In simple terms, I was suicidal.
Every day, I see a lot of cheerful people at school. They seemed so carefree, they seemed so happy. How come I was so miserable? I saw people having fun all the time, but I was not like that. I wanted to rescue my mom, my family – but how? The pressure was too much. The burden was too big.
Then, I heard someone from school commit suicide. He was a student leader – just like me. He had a lot of pressure – just like me. It was too much for him – just like it was too much for me. I decided to see his funeral. I wanted to know what the road looked ahead for me. I was convinced that it was the right choice. I was convinced that it was the easy road.
I stood beside his coffin and spoke to him. I didn’t know who he was but I knew his pain. It was all too familiar. I went home desensitized. I was numb all over.
“Give up or fight like you’ve never fought before…”
I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday. I was lying in bed with his lifeless face booming in my mind. That was the moment when I had seriously considered ending it all. I was in a forked road and I felt that I had to make a choice. It was now or never.
“Give up or fight like you’ve never fought before…”
I was tired. I was tired emotionally and mentally. I wanted to give up. I didn’t have the energy to fight the good fight.
And then it hit me.
If I gave up – nobody would care. I wanted to give up because I wanted someone to hear my silent pleas for help. I wanted to give up because I wanted someone to come and finally rescue me. But that was not going to happen. Giving up meant it was the end. Giving up meant it was over. And the only one who stood to lose was me – no one else.
Fighting meant I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. What could I lose anyway? I had nothing.
It washed all over me like cold water. I didn’t want to end up like the guy who committed suicide. In the end, no one was there to rescue him. In the end, he lost and he had so much more time to win. Suddenly, I wanted to fight and I was going to fight to win. I was going to fight for my dreams. The world was cruel, yes. The solution was not to give up but to compensate.
If the world was too cruel, then I will just have to love myself a little bit more to balance everything.
I told myself these exact words as I trembled in excitement:
“I will be the best that I can be. I will love myself so I can depend on myself. I will fight. No more mister nice guy.”
I wish I said these words in a more poetic way. I wish I was more articulate with my word selection. But I wasn’t. Those were my exact words and those words represented how I truly felt down to the core of my heart.
I wanted to win. I didn’t want to make one wrong move. One wrong move that could’ve been my last.