Hanging on to the child in us

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Every child has a beautiful name…
We grow and change but we’re all the same.
As people still, we’re all the same

— Godiego

I was watching a reality show on TV the other night and I saw an 11-year-old girl with makeup that made her look far beyond her age. She said she put on makeup every day, to the consternation of the authorities in her school.

Many times, we see kids in the malls and other public places all dolled up, smoking and projecting an “adult” demeanor that can be quite jolting. In the Philippines, it’s quite common to see young people in their early or mid-teens drinking alcohol in discos and clubs. Drug use, unfortunately, is often seen as a badge of honor among young people who no longer see themselves as children and are struggling to be recognized as “big people.” Many times, I almost have to ask myself why these kids are in such a rush to grow up — even if I know why.

There is the strong desire to be more and more independent and the way they do this is to look and “act” grown up. This can be manifested in many ways: one is to look like an adult with all the gear, to project a more overt sexuality, to have access to big toys like a car, to have a special someone, to go out on dates without a chaperone, and be as independent as one can be while, of course, still living off one’s parents and enjoying their largesse. And while all this is going on, throw in an overdose of unexplained, undefined angst.

I still remember what I had to go through to reach adult status, or at least to reach that point when I felt I was no longer treated as a child. I had to present myself as someone my parents did not have to worry about with regard to school, to act as responsibly as I could and do what was expected of me. Of course, I wasn’t always really that way but I worked hard to create that impression on my elders. I noticed that the more I appeared to be reliable, the more my parents treated me as an “older” person.

Wanting to be independent is a natural yearning of people in their teens and they can’t be faulted for it. Part of being young is hating it and wanting to be older. That’s just the way it is.

As I write this, I am thinking of how I was in my youth (from childhood to my teens) and the way I looked at the world. And as I reminisce, I am thankful that I never said goodbye to many of my childlike ways, even when I embarked on the road to being an adult with all its attendant seriousness and responsibilities. Hanging on to some remnants of childhood, I truly believe, has made me a happier person as an adult.

One vestige of my youth that I keep to this day is idealism.

I may never have been a pie-in-the-sky Pollyanna as a kid. I did not believe in Santa but I was easily moved by true and fictional stories of courage, of fighting for the glory of love or one’s beliefs. I also did believe in the innate goodness of people, and the wonderful capacity of everyone to be happy. I still do. Sure, there is evil in the world and I have not been spared from it. But I believe that there are many more good people who are willing to do their share in helping others and are willing to grant goodwill to everyone. It is not in my nature to be overly suspicious of others; I presume innocence until proven otherwise, at least most of the time.

I have also maintained my playfulness and creativity. I am still a kid at heart when it comes to “rearranging” reality in my head and creating new ways of looking at things. Very often, I look for solutions or answers not in the usual places where most people would tend to look. I like trivia ­— especially wild, unusual trivia.

I must have gotten these traits from some adult nurturers I was crazy about when I was a kid, those who treated me in a special way. They always managed to arouse my curiosity by using surprise and delight. My older sister Tictac used to hold all sorts of contests (we had to make things — Christmas cards, Valentine cards, etc.) before she shared some of her hard-earned salary as gifts to her younger sibs. I had uncles and aunts who told fantastic stories that constitute our family lore. They were the most interesting people since their stories challenged what I knew to be “true” and thus took my imagination to places it had never been.

To this day, I believe surprise and delight are the keys to a good APO show, or even a workshop, a public talk, or any other activity that is worth doing. And I get an enormous kick each time I can successfully execute this.

I was a snob and a bit of a rebel as a teen and I continue to be. I thank God for this because it continues to serve me well. I have always seen myself as someone who is, well, different. I have always felt that I march to the beat of a different drum and I guess this has been evident in many of my life choices. I opted for a career in music and showbiz at a time when the politically correct thing to do then was work for a big corporation and get a regular job. As a group, Danny, Boboy and I wrote and sang original songs when the trend then was to sound like foreign singers. I never went for music or fashion or almost anything else that everyone was currently raving about.

In many ways, this rebelliousness has been seen as recklessness or even quirkiness. An example is, I gave up a green card at the height of the worst coup mounted against the government in 1989 to express my defiance of what I felt was a creeping militarization. But early last year, I decided to leave the country and move to Australia. I just feel that as a truly free person, I must liberate myself from the expectations of others, especially those that get in the way of personal growth and expression.

Even in my spiritual path, I have taken the less trodden but more scenic path over the usual, predictable route. I have never been comfortable knowing God through hearsay or peer pressure. I’ve always wanted to know Him/Her/It personally.

The most important thing I have kept with me from my childhood is my capacity for wonder. I wonder at the big things and also the little ones. I can honestly say that most of the time, I can muster enough wonder to make any mundane, ordinary situation an interesting, even a mind-blowing one.

As I get older, I notice I can be happy under most circumstances. And I can because I’ve always kept that built-in macro lens we were all born with, the one that helps us appreciate the freshness of every moment and marvel at the intricacies of its gifts. This same “magnifying glass” we had as kids awakens my creativity, making me recognize silent patterns everywhere and this, in turn, reinforces my belief in a universal conspiracy that life is indeed beautiful just as it is.

Indeed, the child, if we hold on to it, is the father to the man.

* * *

I am announcing the 33rd and the 34th run of TAPPING THE CREATIVE UNIVERSE (TCU) to be held in two places. Manila and Melbourne.

MANILA (The 6-Day Run)

WHEN: August 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 13
WHAT TIME: 7 to 9 PM
WHERE: 31 M. Jocson St. Loyola Heights, QC

To reserve a slot in this life-altering workshop, or ask for a syllabus, call 0916=8554303 and ask for Ollie, or call 426-5375 or write me at emailjimp@gmail.com.

MELBOURNE (The Full Day Run)

WHEN: August 25, 2007
WHAT TIME: 8AM to 6:30-7:00PM

WHERE: Philippine Australian Multipurpose Centre, 93 Cowper Street, Footscray VIC.

If you are interested in attending a life-changing workshop, here are the contact details:


Emmy and Nestor – 0438 849 788 or email emmy.duLake@aanet.com.au
George 0411 566 885 or email george@philtimes.com