A letter to my 50-year-old self

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
A letter to my 50-year-old self
The author celebrated his 50th birthday at Sonya’s Secret Haven with his family and dear friends Mye Alimagno-Pascual, Joseph Pascual and Caloy Palomar.

You’re a survivor. In the course of your 50 years, you have experienced how to fall apart and how to survive. In between falling apart and surviving are lessons.

Dream. Your mother taught you to dream at the early age of seven when you came home from school with your right sole bleeding because you stepped on a glass shard on the road. Your red, worn-out Spartan slippers could barely protect you. You asked your mother to buy you a new pair of footwear. With a heavy heart, she told you in the vernacular, “We have no extra money for slippers. Just be careful where you walk next time. And you’ll be fine.” While she was cleaning your wound, she added, “Dream. Dream big. And dreams will one day make you buy as many pairs of slippers as you want.”

You dreamed a dream. And dreamed some more. You survived.

Don’t steal. Your father taught you that stealing is immoral. “Better to be poor than to be a thief,” he cautioned you. You learned that there’s dignity in being poor as long as one has the intent to better oneself in the future. But your juvenile spirit fell into the trap once — when, without your brother’s knowledge, you took his strawberry-flavored Kool-Aid sachet. “Don’t take anything that is not yours,” your father told you as a piece of Sta. Elena wood whipped your behind. You learned it the hard way.

You learned your lessons well. “Return what you borrow,” your father added. “Never borrow money if you don’t have the means to return it back. Leave within your means. Say what is real. No pretensions.”

Those lessons were your A-B-Cs. As you navigated through life, those nuggets of wisdom came in handy. They are your guideposts in times when temptations come a-whipping. You grew up wanting in material things but you were rich in more ways than one.

Don’t get easily disheartened. That you learned when some smart-aleck neighbors told you you wouldn’t amount to anything. You persevered. To be poor is hard. To be underestimated is harder. But give yourself a pat on the back, you survived. You survived it when your playmate shut the jalousie windows as you watched a TV program from outside their house. Your young heart survived it when all you had for breakfast was steaming hot rice doused with water and sprinkled with salt while your neighbor was frying hotdogs. You survived.

But you have always been a dreamer. Your dreams help you survive. The connection between dreams and survival is the link between the soul and reality — they are intertwined. Armed with the many lessons your Nanay and Tatay imparted to you, you sailed along with life just fine. Your vision board was rich, eclectic, festive. You always have a hopeful, happy heart.

Praise God for your happy heart, your happy disposition. At 50, you have two distinguishable characteristics. One, you have a loving heart, so loving that you have too much love to give. Two, because of experiences, you handle rejections well. You had them coming when you were younger. Life trained you well when it denied you even the most basic thing any human being should have. You never complained. What you didn’t have made you stronger. What you didn’t have made you more resolute to persevere in life. God heard your pleas. And what you have now is more than what you prayed for.

You’re a goal digger, a blessing hunter. The next 50 years of your existence, if God wills it, will revolve around hunting for blessings for others. You learned to give even when you did not have much — because your parents told you so. It is always in your heart to hunt for blessings, big and small.

Take care of your heart. It’s been broken many times. The hardest part was when your father passed away in 2010. It broke you because you could still offer him much more comfort in life — to return the favor for the countless hardships of the first man who ever loved you. How you wailed inside when he died in your arms. “Thank you, Pang! Thank you!” you clapped and cried as his burnt farmer’s skin turned a luminous pale white. Not even the Mickey Mouse design of the sheet of his ICU bed could console you from your grief.

Keep your promises. You promised your father on his death bed that you would take care of your mother, of your family. You have kept your promise. The love you give them is the love they give you back. There will be days of hardship still. But you know too well how to tighten the belt. And in your spirit that is the home of your dreams, there is always a geyser of opportunities to still better your life.

You will still check the breathing of your mother in the dead of the night. Gingerly you will enter her room while she is sound asleep. You will leave her room with the happy thought that you have kept your promise to your father that you would take care of her when he’s gone. A promise kept is the kindness of the heart.

You’re not a saint. But keep on believing that kindness is its own currency, its own reward. At times, the world was bereft of kindness when you were growing up. But still you did not fall into the pit of becoming unkind. You will still believe in other people’s dreams. You will still support others in their march towards their own spot under the sun. You will still believe that they will shine — the rays of their future success is your prize.

You will still give dignity to your promises. Because you know in your heart that a promise has its own life. You will be like your father; he did not promise his wife the moon and the stars yet he remained to be the sun in the family’s universe. You will be like your mother; she is strong, an enabler of dreams and the promises that await dreaming.

I cannot promise you that you will not experience falling apart again but I am certain that you will always survive. I will always love the survivor in you.

I love you.

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