HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated August 28, 2011 12:00 AM
In a few days, I will be six decades young.
It’s amazing how quickly time has flown. I can still remember being a four-year-old and feeling the simple joy of running as fast as I could, which seemed incredibly fast then. My hop, skip and jump felt like flight.
I also remember growing up with the tacit belief that getting old, bad health, tragedies, accidents and deaths were awful things that happened only to other people. Such is the cluelessness of youth.
I may have faced some of life’s great vicissitudes but, I must admit, I have not suffered as much as many others I know. My point is, when you are young, you feel that youth and its incredible energy will last forever.
Today, the world is telling me that to be 60 is to be… well… old. Yet frankly, I do not feel old at all as I enter into this marvelous stage, even if I have stopped dyeing my hair and allowed it to turn grey. My body is still quite strong and nimble. I do brisk walking occasionally, and daily, a 25-minute Zen-style meditation and 80 pushups. All my medical numbers have been good since years back, thank God. And I still have the enthusiasm to learn, grow and be adventurous.
I wonder, though, how long it will be before I feel things slip away. It will surely happen someday. I hope I have acquired enough wisdom to learn to accept things if and when they happen. But, of course, I will only know how much of this acquired wisdom is theoretical and how much of it I have truly imbibed when I actually need to invoke it in the face of the inevitability of aging.
For my 60th birthday, I thought I should make a bucket list of things that I still have passion and interest to pursue. I may or may not end up doing them. I may even change my mind about some of these later on. But one thing I know is, many unexpected things have happened in my life that have pushed the limits of what is possible. In short, I seem to cause my dreams to be self-fulfilling.
Life has been good to me. I can say that in all honesty and gratitude. Untold opportunities have presented themselves to me and continue to do so. Quite often, when I was younger, I felt the world was giving me more breaks than I was worthy of, and so I turned them down. It was probably for the better because I realize that I am a late bloomer. I have needed more time to prepare and process the abundance life has given me. If I had been an overnight success, who knows how badly I would have handled it? Who knows how much of a wreck
I would have become later on?
But there also were times when great obstacles stood before me. Yet, between what I wanted to do and the daunting odds the world presented to discourage me, I always bet on myself and seconded the world. I turned to intuition, conscience and my secret dreams for guidance. And more often than not, my instincts were correct.
For my coming 60th year on earth, I made a bucket list of things I still want to do before my life ends, hopefully many more years from now. I noticed certain themes that emerged in the list under four general categories: 1) my ever-strong yen for travel and adventure; 2) my passion for teaching; 3) my continuing commitment to make any place I live in a better place; and 4) my enduring love for music and performance.
Travel would be a terrific thing to keep doing until I can’t do it anymore. I continue to be fascinated by different cultures and enjoy the unexpected and the foreign. Give me the prospect of a plane or boat ride, or even a long drive, and I get giddy with anticipation. I like to say yes to things unknown.
I have been to almost every country I have wanted to see. But there are still more places I wish to experience. I have not been to Mach Pichu in Peru and I have yet to experience the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. I would like to spend some months or even a year or two in Japan since I am enamored of most things Japanese. It would be great to do the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage where one walks for 35 days from Spain to France. A month in an ashram in India with a guru is also on my list.
I once wrote articles for the travel section of a small newspaper in Sydney and I noticed how much I enjoyed narrating my adventures. Travel is an elixir that has not lost its potency with me.
I discovered that teaching is something I could do well some 10 years ago. For lack of something to do after getting out of a TV noontime show, I went to see my former teacher, the late Doreen Fernandez, who was head of the Ateneo’s Communication department, and accepted her long-standing offer for me to teach there. Much to my surprise, I discovered I enjoyed preparing for class, engaging my students, lecturing and guiding them through the semester. I have also been designing and doing workshops for some time now. I get a great charge, standing before an audience.
In my bucket list, I dream bigger. I declare that I would like to gain and accumulate more wisdom and become a world teacher. I feel I have something universal and substantial to contribute that would expand the lives of many people in the world today.
I am also a bleeding heart when it comes to making the world a better place, with less suffering for everyone. I have been thinking about the great success Gawad Kalinga has achieved in the field of housing and have been entertaining the idea of pushing for similar efforts by the private sector in education and health. There are reforms that are needed to modernize our nation so that it can serve our people adequately. We need a great leap in consciousness and knowledge to be a viable, vibrant nation in the modern world. We need a new cultural software that is ours alone and will deliver us closer to where we wish to be.
Lastly, music and the creative arts continue to beckon. I have so much music playing in my mind these days and it will not give me peace until it is recorded, released and proclaimed to the world. I also have books in my head that need to be written. This creative mind is still on a roll and is not ready to close shop in the foreseeable future.
On my 60th year, I am throwing myself a big party. I have always avoided such extravagance for myself although I have not hesitated when it has been for my children or my wife, Lydia. This year, I want to be in the company of people I value and care for and I want them to witness the day I turn into a senior citizen. And I will have the fabulous AMP band to play the soundtrack of our lives.
I will also go and apply for my coveted senior citizen’s card. I find the idea hilarious since the kid in me still can’t believe that I am actually turning 60. But yes, I will gratefully accept the discounts that the law allows in honor of the simple fact that I have lived this long.
Meanwhile, as the world turns, slowly but surely, age creeps up on every one of us. No matter how much we run away from it, it will always catch up with us. It’s really up to us how we want to deal with its inevitability.
I find it useful to adopt a metaphor for aging if we are to live with it creatively. Personally, I see growing old as another state where new possibilities and variations for greater experiences in life can happen. I do not see it as a time to disengage from life or even engage the world less. No fading away. Not for me! I see this time in my life as the build-up to the big final production where I will sing a definitive song with a glorious jaw-dropping sunset as backdrop.
One thing I can promise is that the song will not be My Way. I do not wish to hasten my own demise. In truth, the song is still being written, even as I am singing parts of it now. Hopefully, there will be some people in the world who will be pleased and delighted enough to have heard it when it is over.
I will be 60 in three days and I can’t wait. Bring it on! Rak ‘n’ roll!
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