Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Over the hill and picking up speed

Posted on March 04, 2014 by jimparedes

Posted on February 13, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 9, 2014 – 12:00am

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 2.54.26 PM
Illustration by REY RIVERA

“If you think you will be too old when you finish if you take up a new study or course or anything now, well, guess what? You will still get old even if you do not take up whatever it is.. Just effing do it if it needs to be done. Time is slipping by. Maybe some of you needed to hear this.”

I posted this message on Facebook and got immediate positive responses. A lot of people related to it instantly. Many reposted it. Some who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s talked about being back in school or taking online classes, and looking forward to doing something new.

I notice as I get older that as much as I am thinking more and more about my age, I am also thinking less and less about it. While it is true that I take care of my health so that I can live strong, sane and trouble-free for as long as I can, I do not necessarily think of it as a factor when I am pursuing things I like to do. As the creator of Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz, said, “Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.”

That’s exactly how I feel.

Last week, I traveled to two places in five days —Lagen in El Nido and Naga City. I will be going to Bali in a few days. I really enjoy traveling with my camera on hand. I am always thrilled to be in a new place and on the lookout for that scenery and moment that is waiting to be captured digitally and experientially. I can sit with people I’ve just met and get a terrific conversation going. I am totally fascinated by the stories shared by strangers I encounter. I feel that my understanding of human nature and the human condition expands after meeting new people, and I am easily inspired.

There are young people who are of the mindset that if they don’t “make it” early in life, if they don’t get the trappings of success, the good job, the high position, the prestige, etc. before they reach 30, it will be too late to succeed in the greatest possible way. I find it sad that they are so hard on themselves.

I believe that while it is good, or even great, to have a job or a career, one must also have passion for what one is doing. You may have the most glamorous high paying job but if your heart is not really in it, you will not be able to sustain it or be truly productive.

Something will eventually have to give. If it is the job that has to go, it’s a small price to pay in the pursuit of happiness, and being free from something that does not sustain your entire being. But if you keep the job to keep the money coming, it is your soul that you could lose, and that would be a tragedy.

When I was growing up, my mother told me that it did not matter what I wanted to be. What mattered was that I would try to be the best in my field. Together with that advice was the suggestion that if I loved what I chose to do for a living, my passion for it would make me excel.

One of the benefits Australia offers to its people is the availability of education at any age. Aus Study, as it is called, allows anyone to pursue studies later in life. And since returning to school and studying may not be financially easy, they offer a stipend of about 700 Australian dollars (AUD) to help adult enrollees through.

But while that is available, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a mad rush among Aussies to go back to school, which gives truth to the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink.”

Age does not have to be a hindrance or an excuse to avoid pursuing new interests or learning new skills. There are opportunities for anyone who is interested. Everybody will get old physically, but not everyone has to have an old, inflexible mindset.

Sophia Loren once remarked that, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Understanding and internalizing this is probably one of the best life skills everyone, young or old, ought to learn. There are young “old people,” and there are old “young people,” if you know what I mean. The point is to be ageless, and not let physical age matter too much.

What really matters is becoming alive to your own life, to live and be so interested and absorbed with life that you want more and more of it so that you feel more expanded and see enchantment in everyday living.

Grandma Moses, one of America’s painting icons, started her career as an artist when she was in her 70s. Picasso never stopped painting, and ever so playfully, until he died. Paul McCartney at 71 is still writing songs, cutting records and touring the world doing concerts.

The late radio and TV writer Andy Rooney pointed out, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”

The world has had a wrong view of what aging is all about. But I personally feel I do not have to live my age in stereotypical fashion. To age does not mean to just slow down one’s intake of life, even if one does not have the health and the strength left to do it. Knowing that “the end” will eventually come makes it imperative that if there is still something you want to do, you must not wait too long to do it.

Time is precious. It is wiser to spend it doing something new than wasting away and not doing anything at all.
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