My friend Kalyn Lopena, a high school English teacher from Ateneo de Manila, asked me to share a reflection about my life with one of her classes. It took me some time to think about what to share with 17-yr old boys.
Choosing suicide as a topic is probably not the best for these impressionable kids. But, it is something that I felt I could talk about comfortably with the boys. Anyway, enough intro. Here’s the speech:
What I am about to share with you this morning began with a break-up that happened almost a year ago.
After 7 years, I finally decided to leave her. I never really thought this will ever happen because, for such a long time, I was with her.
I discovered a lot of things because of her. I learned a lot of things from her. I would like to believe I became a better person because of her.
But, it came to a point when I was no longer happy. I got tired of being with her, not so much because I no longer love her but more of because I thought that I had already done everything I could for her. And I thought then, it might be better to be by myself and break up with her. It took me nearly 4 months to decide to finally break up with her. And when I did, I got broke and broken.
Leaving her gave me time to think about my life. It gave me time to assess myself: what I have become after 7 long years of being with her, as my second home. Yes, she was second home. St. Paul Pasig was home.
Leaving St. Paul Pasig brought the worst and best things in my life.
For the first time in my professional career, I had to update my resume so that I could apply to all possible jobs out there. I must have applied in 200 jobs, to which I received 2 or 3 responses. After nearly a month of waiting for calls or emails, I started questioning and doubting my skills and capabilities.
What have I done with my life? What have I done with the first seven years of my adult life?
And then I saw my FB news feed, Twitter timeline, and Instagram posts of people I follow and then I realized: oh shoot, my life is fucked up.
I am not a millionaire.
I am not CNN hero of the year.
I am not an actor.
I hadn’t developed any superpower to wipe out all evil in the world and kiss someone upside down hanging from my web.
I hadn’t starred in a YouTube video that went viral so that I finally have a claim to fame.
I didn’t code any virus that could infiltrate snapchat, instagram or what ever social network app and ruin lives of celebrities and satiate the hunger of testosterone-filled young men like you to see profane images that you are not supposed to be enjoying at your age.
I did not win a Palanca, a Pulitzer Prize, nor a Nobel peace prize.
Heck, I did not even graduate with Latin honors in college, as many from my high school expected of me after graduating second in my class.
I did not achieve a lot of things that I have set my eyes on when I was your age. And back then, and even at certain moments in the recent past, yes, the break up with St. Paul Pasig, I would feel like I was a very big disappointment to the people I love. I felt like I disappointed myself. I thought that I was all this and that. But the world was telling me otherwise.
Now that I am several months away from being 30, life begs the question: what have I done with my life that is worthwhile?
Three decades. Still, nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Then it hit me, just before I decided to finally jump off the 10th floor of Olympic Heights Tower 2, I remembered my mom and what she always told me: to be always good, to be always kind, to be at your best.
It hit me like a bull hitting you in the balls, because once life begs you to reflect on your existence in this world, we look at others; we look at our social networking accounts and count the number of likes our latest emo post or instapic has received; we look at all the wrong places.
What I realized was this: when life decides to hit you with all that it’s got, you also have to give it all you’ve got. You have to realize that you do not have to look so far; you do not have to compare yourself with others; you do not have to tick off a bucket list, to know that your life has been worthwhile.
For example, I realized that despite my ventricular septal defect, a congenital heart disease, I have raced against some of the best Dragonboat racers of club teams from Australia, HongKong, and the Philippines. I realized that I was once the pacer of the bow side of the boat of fellow UP Maroons, a position given to whoever was considered one of the best in the team.
Even if I haven’t published a book that altered the lives of millions of people, I was able to touch lives and share my knowledge and passion with at least a thousand students in the seven years that I taught smart, loving high school girls.
Even if I am not a celebrity, I enjoy a certain kind of celebrity status by virtue of being a teacher.
Even if I did not win any newsworthy prize, the fact that I am standing in front of you right now is testament to the greatest prize I have won for winning against severe depression and suicide.
That greatest prize is time.
Now, I have more time.
I have more time to be a silent hero in my own way. I can finally start writing a textbook in English. And I definitely have a greater chance of becoming a British actor.
But seriously, I have more chances to give the world what I got. I have more chances to be good, to be kind, to be always at my best, to love.
Because when life asks you to think about your life, you must always remember that the quality of your life cannot be measured by any one else’s stick.
Your life is yours to live. And if like me, when you want to think about how worthwhile your life is, you will realize that what you will remember are the moments when you did your best, even if you failed, say when you pushed yourself to the limit but someone else did better. Just let it be. You’ve given your best and you should be proud of yourself because not a lot of people have what you have and someone must be secretly wanting to be you.
Remember the moments when you were kind, even if others were not, because whatever you do to those who gang up on you, your actions will speak about you, and not them.
Remember the moments when you did things out of love, even if no love or prize was given back because loving is not about receiving but giving what you’ve got without question.
Allow me to edit and paraphrase one of my most favorite scenes in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
“I wish I was born as someone else,” said Frodo.
And Gandalf said, “So do I, and many other folks like you. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
So, guys, whatever you decide as to what to do with the time that is given you, always remember to be good. To be kind. To be at your best. To Love. Not because you want to get accolades or awards for being so; but simply because life begs us to make this one and only life that we have to be worthwhile.