I had decided to go back to a postgraduate journalism school in my mid-40s, and in a class under professor Salvador Lopez, he singled me out and asked me, obviously not a fresh graduate, why I had decided to learn how to write at this time. My answer surprised even me and obviously pleased my professor. “Because now, I feel I have something to say.”
Indeed, I was near midlife and felt that I had already accumulated experiences of a lifetime and hopefully learned from them.
I was going through an annulment and was learning to be completely on my own. I certainly had a lot to say and was very much encouraged by my husband, Vergel, who I had met then and there, to continue our shared love of reading and later on, writing together.
I drew column material mostly from my past life, knowledge of family and friends. Soon my present life was supplying them as well: my reactions to current events, and to shows whether onstage or on the movie screen.
Now that I’m in my late 70s, I’m at the crux of life—there seem to be even more challenging adventures to pursue before it’s too late!
This year, we’ve hopped on the travel bandwagon as often as we’ve found bargains. The urgency is partly due to a long bucket list we’ve just begun to address. Whether we like it or not, we’re on the fast lane of the good life, and there’s no time to think, much less worry about consequences. The world will continue to revolve with or without us.
Now we can travel, viewing places and people not just with normal eyes and ears, which have weakened considerably through the years, but from a wider perspective and deeper appreciation—not just of the places but life in general. It’s reasonable to wonder if it might be the last time we do anything at all.
In that state of mind, there seems no urgent need to express myself to anybody except myself or perhaps, later on, in writing, as in a memoir. As much as I have learned to enjoy listening to others without judgment, in the same way, I listen also to myself.
This new perspective and ability may come naturally to poets but it’s taken me a lifetime. It is an achievement that pleases me a lot. Aided by the advantage of hindsight, I can see the results and fruits of decisions I made.
Indeed, I can confidently conclude life is as good as it is fair.
Hindsight and self-knowledge are the rewards of old age. Both, by the way, are definitions of wisdom. Both can be a source of pride but can also be humbling. It is no different from the Guru saying: “He who thinks he knows, knows not; he who thinks he knows not, knows.”
Every life is unique, my lessons are only mine to learn. It doesn’t qualify me to teach anyone else about life. If anything, life is our very own story, and I’m not finished writing yet.
The importance of listening
After my first marriage broke up, I went back to journalism school; I had always wanted to write.
When I was asked to write a regular column, after I overcame the shock, I started loving it. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, it was exactly what I wanted to do. I had so much to say, indeed.
I’ve been writing this column about my life for nearly six years now and people ask me how I never run out of things to write about, never skipped a column. All my material comes from listening, to myself and everybody else. Listening is a natural part of writing.
I hit the jackpot a few times in my life and each time I thought life couldn’t get better but it has.
Actress Cate Blanchett in Ruben Napoles’ column in the Sunday Inquirer shares the feeling. She felt she had hit the jackpot too early in her career when she got the role to play opposite Geoffrey Rush. She was sure it would be downhill for her career from thereon. We all know, she was wrong. It was just one of many jackpots to be won.
When she was recently made president of the Cannes Film Festival jury, another feather in her cap, she said: “It was one of the happiest and most fascinating experiences I have ever had. It was a privilege and a huge responsibility… When you are in a great position of leadership, one of the strongest skills you can have is to listen.”
Every senior carries a position of leadership in the community and life in general. To do it justice, we should develop the art of listening.