Just care about being happy
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2019 - 12:00am

March 2019! It seems like the last century, where I spent most of my life, ended only a few years ago when actually it ended 19 years ago. And 2019 seems to have begun only three weeks back, now it’s almost three months back.

“Where does time go?” I asked my friend Lisa. We are very good friends.  Once upon a time we were best buddies, lunching together, doing our crafts — embroidery for her, knitting for me — together, living and laughing together in the States when I lived there from 1984-1988.    Goodness, that was 35 years ago!  Since then, time has flown and we have grown old.

“Imagine: I’m 69 now,” she says.

“And I am 75 this year,” I say.  We were so young when we met. We were in our 30s. Young women at our peak in terms of looks, spirit, intelligence.

I wish all women in their 30s would read this column. Your 30s are your best physical years, your most gorgeous years. I learned that when I was in my 60s and trying to organize old photographs into albums. Suddenly I saw the photograph of a gorgeous woman smiling at the camera. It was me at around 34. I wish I had known then how pretty I was. But I did not know. People complimented me, true, but I dismissed them thinking they were only flattering me. My mother had raised me not to believe anyone saying I was very pretty. “They are just flattering you because their parents are my friends,” she used to say, and I believed her.

Now, at 75, I wish I had not believed her. I would have valued myself more. I would have loved myself earlier. I would have probably had a better life. But then again I probably would not have grown old the way I have. I would not have learned to be such a straightforward person.  Maybe I would have become very vain. Vanity narrows you. You tend to just look at a mirror and hear everyone applauding your looks. I wouldn’t have grown old thinking I should get a haircut but never going out to get it. Or I should get a mani-pedi but it can wait another week as my nail polish flakes and my nails get too long for me to handle my cell phone well.

 The lessons life has taught us! In our day our peers always worried about what people would say. I am a great eavesdropper. At restaurants I always hear what people around me are saying. At the next table there was a man and a woman. She was saying, “Why did you do that? Now what will people say? Don’t you care about what people will say?” The man kept quiet.

 I was tempted to turn around and say, “Don’t care about what other people will say.” You must do what you think is right for you. You don’t live your life for other people. You live it first for yourself. If you keep worrying about what other people will say, you will not do anything worthwhile.  You must think for yourself. Don’t worry about other people.  They have no right to judge you or talk about you.

 You must question and break tradition or think you’re breaking it. I got married young then left my husband when I was 24. My larger family — aunts and uncles — stopped talking to me. I thought that was all right because I had broken family tradition. Everyone in our family had stayed married. Or so I thought.

 Then, 20 years later when I was 44, single for a long time, successful on my own, we were having lunch at a cousin’s house. Then my aunt, who was a nun, said that my great-grandmother had packed her two children and left my great-grandfather for good. “What?!?” I said. “You mean I was following tradition? Then why did you stop talking to me? I thought it was because I had broken tradition. You never told me that leaving our mates was part of our family tradition!”

 You know what they did? They laughed guiltily. I never found it funny.  We could have been friends. They could have helped me get my life together instead of having to learn how to do everything on my own. But they were afraid of what people would say about them. “They should never have let her leave her husband. It’s a good thing they don’t talk to her.” That’s what they thought others would say.

 So what? I thought. I learned much more being alone. I learned well from my mistakes. I learned to be happy and to ignore what other people would say. Now I can write with authority. No matter how old or young you are, never worry about what people will say. Worry about what will make you happy and care a lot only about other people’s happiness.

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