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Sunday Lifestyle

Just do what makes you happy

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star

You know, I need to emphasize that when I write about the hardship I went through, it happened long ago. All that pain and sadness I write about occasionally happened 40 years ago in my 30s. I am now in my 70s. You get older in years but your ability to remember events that happened 50 years ago or less gets richer. You can look back and see all the subtexts and remember. I write about them because I think sharing my old stories will give people going through those experiences now some hope. It gives reality to the statement, “Everything passes.”

Aging, after all, is an attitude. That’s what I have discovered. As I have grown older, no longer attached to my children, I now know what it is to be really free. It is wonderful! You can stop caring about what others will say. They have no business meddling in your life and you have no business meddling in theirs. You just care about your own life and pursue with conviction what makes you happy.

Maybe that’s what’s hard to discover — what makes you happy. People admire me for being so talented. They say I write, knit, make jewelry, paint, sing, dance. None of those are natural talents. I learned how to write in school and through reading. I am a voracious reader and pick up a lot of ideas or techniques from reading. To me that’s why I love it. It keeps my brain active and my imagination alive.

I knit because I have an aunt who insisted on teaching me when I was around 12 and I enjoyed it but it took many, many years of trial and error before I could make the lovely cotton thread sweaters I knit for myself now. I can’t sell them. They would be around P20,000 each. Who will pay that much for a cotton sweater? But it takes that much time to knit and adorn them. I enrolled in a jewelry-making class with Portia Leuterio and kept enrolling until I felt I learned enough.

I took watercolor classes in Ayala Museum, slaved over watercolor until I felt competent enough to exhibit. Then I had three exhibits and stopped painting for a while. More than a year ago I remembered I wanted to sing. Once again I took lessons. Today I have even colored my hair with blue-green streaks because I have a singing show. Dancing I used to do naturally when I was a teenager, like everybody else. But after my stroke I lost my taste for it. Then lately I rediscovered dancing as a form of exercise and I love doing Latin dances now.

What am I saying? What makes me the person that I am are motivation and perseverance. When I think back, those are my two strong virtues. My motivation comes from wanting to do something. Stuck in traffic several times in front of the old Ayala Museum I saw watercolor classes advertised. Hmmm. The traffic was so bad then that finally I decided to call up from the office and enrolled.

At first I couldn’t do watercolor. Then I got to class early and decided to check out an exhibit in one of the halls. I saw my teacher there. “Hello,” I said, “you know why I came here? Because I really admire her work.” He looked at me and said, “If you admire her work, try to copy it.” That was the fourth class. In that class I did my first flower painting that looked like a real watercolor painting. After that, perseverance kicked in. Look for the right paper, the right paints, the right brushes, set aside all other weekend activities and paint instead. That’s the way one becomes good at a skill. It doesn’t happen by magic. It happens because of hard, concentrated work.

Once in a rare while there are moments of magic. When you plan a painting and you paint it. It never comes out the way you imagined it, but something will come out that’s much nicer. You sit looking at it and wondering — did I paint that? It’s beautiful! But you always know that it may be beautiful in your eyes but not in the eyes of other people. Never mind. It’s your work. In the end it’s only your opinion that should matter. Don’t be afraid to exhibit or talk about your learnings.

At the end of my life, after I have been cremated and inurned — that’s a new word that I learned when my mother died – I don’t want to be remembered as a highly talented person who could do anything wonderfully because that is not the truth. The truth is that I could do many things well because I worked hard at everything — at the crafts that I like and at the life that I chose to live for myself.

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