Last August 2021, I turned 32.
As usual, it took me sooooo long to distill the things I’ve learned.
This one took more than a year! I’m wondering whether it’s possible to post these on my exact birth date.
It’s March 2023 as I’m finalizing this. And I just turned 33 last August 2022! Yikes! That’s another draft again. 😀
You can browse my past entries here: 31, 30, 29, 28, 27.
1. People forget.
I owed Miss R. (my former landlady) for renting out her house when my wife and I badly needed one in June 2020. Thank you very much.
On one occasion, however, she forgot our agreement: “No need to pay any arrears.”
We were surprised one day when we learned we had to pay the remaining water bill from the previous renter. I didn’t understand. It wasn’t our bill.
She didn’t believe it. Even accused us of making stories.
We called the city water district and learned about them prorating the bills during the onset of the pandemic. They prorated the one-month bill into 3 months. If the water bill is $30 for this month, homeowners are allowed to pay $10. Then $10 for next month. Another $10 for next month.
My landlady, however, wasn’t aware. She didn’t even confirm with the water district. All she believed was that she was right and we were making stories.
Lesson: People will forget agreements, things, conditions, and so on. Our minds can’t simultaneously handle all the million things going on. No matter what agreement you have with another person, no matter how much you trust them, always document that agreement. Consider both of you signing an official written agreement. You can even have a lawyer sign it, too.
2. Be careful who you trust.
As I’ve said in #1, you can’t just trust anybody. This is common advice we all learn when we’re young. In reality, though, it’s kind of hard to practice. That’s why we hear stories about business partners stealing from each other. But they’re a bunch of good people — how come they do that?
It can be tempting to put your trust in a person you really know. But people will change. Who knows when. We know this, yet we still put so much trust. Why? Because that’s better than being cynical.
Some of my friends did something to me that I never imagined they’d do. I felt betrayed. My bandmates for example. When they didn’t fulfill what they’re expected to do, it’s painful.
Maybe I expected too much. But there’s a difference between expecting and trusting.
Lesson: Trusting someone is having faith. Expecting is wishing. Of course, you can always trust someone once you know who they really are. But never expect things to come out the way you imagine them. People will change. You’ll never have full control of everything. Brace yourself for the inevitable.
3. We make excuses because of fear.
Fear is a huge factor we’re afraid to try.
I always feel embarrassed looking back at my reasons why I didn’t do something I really wanted to do when I was younger.
When I confronted my bandmates about why they didn’t practice for days… full of excuses. When I asked a family member why she was not pursuing her dreams… full of excuses.
Slowly peel these excuses and you’ll discover they’re all fears in disguise.
Excuses are fueled by fear. The more you fear something, the more you make excuses.
But fear is always there. We are designed to feel fear so we can survive. Fear drives us to do something for survival.
If you’re a homo sapien traversing a forest and you don’t startle by a sudden noise, we can assume that you won’t live long. What if that’s a tiger?
Obviously, there’s no tiger wandering around anymore (unless you’re still living where tigers wander). Yet, we still have this fear that something dangerous would happen.
Think about it for a second. WE STILL HAVE IT.
In ancient times, that fear could be rational. But clearly not in modern times. Most, if not all of our fears are now irrational.
But how can we all get past these irrational fears?
- Always keep in mind that there’s no real dangerous thing that will happen to you or your loved ones — it’s just your mind making up something. If you’re certain there is, then don’t do something stupid.
- Know your advantage or your leverage or any form of safety net. Almost all of us have it, we just don’t realize it. Once you’re aware, get moving.
Lesson: Acknowledge the fear. It’s always there. Once you’re fully aware, don’t make excuses. Instead, try small steps. Slowly build your momentum. Any small progress will do.
4. You’ll never know patience until you’re tested
It was October 2020 when I went to a furniture shop to order a custom closet. Since my wife was pregnant at that time, I requested to expedite the furniture, so I can tick it off my to-do list and focus more on preparing for the newborn.
The cabinetmaker promised it would be done in a few days. But he didn’t deliver. Then he promised the next day would be done. Still didn’t deliver. He kept breaking his promise over and over again. Again and again, until February 2021 (you’re probably counting the months).
The first week of February 2021 was the week before my wife’s EDD. I had no other choice but to get the cabinet in the shop. It wasn’t completely finished. But it has paint already, so it’s better than nothing. I could see on his face he was embarrassed.
As I’m writing this, it’s easy to see that this is no big deal. Who cares? Why am I complaining?
- Every time he makes a promise, I also expect it. Many nights, I would look at the tiny corner of our little room where the cabinet should be. I imagined it being there and our clothes organized — including the clothes of our soon newborn. The problem with this is that I became too attached to this ideal. One thing I didn’t have control over was the cabinetmaker.
- I used to think I’m patient and understanding. And I often encourage others to be like that. Maybe I just thought I was patient because I wasn’t tested yet. Then it happened. Easy to say than practice. Of course.
Lesson: I know there are much worse scenarios than failing to meet a deadline. But think about it. Do you really think you’re patient? If yes, wait until you’re tested. Patience is almost impossible to measure. Try as much as you can to catch yourself when impatience arrives.
5. Suppressed emotions may lead to unimaginable consequences.
It was January 2021 when one of my favorite uncles unexpectedly passed away. That was very heartbreaking. And it happened so quickly.
With the pandemic heightening and my wife’s EDD fast approaching, I decided not to risk visiting the funeral (almost 200 km away from home).
Sure, live streaming helped. Felt like we were there, too. At least.
I thought everything was OK until something really weird happen a few days after the burial.
It was late at night. I was stressed from overworking, and exhausted, coupled with a trivial argument with my wife. Then something unexpected happened. All hell broke loose! I smashed a mini flashlight. And just cried like there was no tomorrow.
But it wasn’t because of work or our argument — it’s my uncle’s death. I bottled my emotions and didn’t grieve, believing I could handle it all until it finally surged. I lost control. I’ll never forget that night.
Lesson: It’s perfectly OK to be sad and cry and grieve whatever the reason is. That is completely normal, and at times necessary. Managing your emotions is not about suppressing them — it’s allowing your emotions to flow in the right place and at the right time. Do it.
6. You only pay attention to the things you are directly involved with.
In February 2021, I became a parent. Things changed (see #7).
The things I used to ignore before are now the things that I pay attention to.
Back then, I couldn’t relate to people who wanted to own a house or earn more money so they can provide for their kids.
But now, I understand where they coming from. Being a new parent, I’ve become more appreciative of parents who truly did their best for their kids.
Although it’s kind of embarrassing to admit how naive I was, it was also liberating — I don’t have to set limits for myself anymore! My kid depends on me. He needs me.
This means I am now OK to buy a property for his future. Also, earn more and achieve more and work more. For him.
Sure, I still do things for my own joy — writing (like this blog) and music. Although not the first priority anymore, I still do it because it makes me feel good! And if I’m feeling good, I believe I can be more efficient as a parent. Win-win.
It still puzzles me to hear some of my friends having a hard time embracing change in their lives. But everyone’s different.
Lesson: Switching your attention to a new thing isn’t adding more — it’s actually letting go of the past. If you think you can’t pay attention to those things that matter to you, it’s likely that there are so many things happening around you. Clear what needs to be cleared. Eliminate the unnecessary.
7. Everything changes when you become a parent.
A new parent? And now you’re changing? I’m with you.
What surprised me the most was the abrupt change of focus. I don’t pay attention anymore to the things that have nothing to do with me becoming a responsible parent (or maybe I still do, but not intentionally). I can also catch myself better now.
The most interesting change for me was the shift from “it’s about me” to “it’s not all about me” feeling.
Sure, we can always choose to think not just about ourselves — but also about others. However, to think for others isn’t our default.
Lesson: Whatever you think is negative about being a parent could be wrong. And those positive things could be wrong either. Parenting is like entrepreneurship or other creative endeavors. You’ll never fully understand it unless you’re actually doing it.
8. Even if you think you’re fully healed, the scars might reopen.
When my younger sister shared her sentiments about our parents being indifferent to her creative pursuits, something strange happened to me.
I thought it was just me empathizing. However, it’s more than that — it reminded me of the times when they, too, were being indifferent to my dreams.
The pain resurfaced. I was angry again with them. I suddenly remember the rejections and the dramas. I was on fire!
Even worse, I wasn’t just angry with them — I was angry with myself, too. Because I know that those emotions were unnecessary. It’s the past. I already forgave them. Why I couldn’t control myself? Why I still reacted?
Lesson: Doesn’t matter what you think about yourself — whether or not you’re fully healed of your past traumas. It’s impossible to measure something that cannot be measured. Of course, healing yourself is your responsibility. Heal yourself as much as you can. Because nobody can heal you. But pay attention to the triggers. Because you’ll never know. Once it resurfaced again, time for another self-examination.
9. Receiving help can be extending help.
I used to think that receiving help is a sign of weakness.
I don’t want it.
Maybe it’s not that “I don’t want it” or “I don’t need it” — it’s more like “I don’t like it”. I prefer solving my own problems my own way.
For example, I used to criticize people demanding help when they became new parents. In the Philippines, it’s common to see new parents with grandparents (or relatives) living together and helping each other. I always say, “I don’t like that.”
When I became a new parent (Feb 2021), it was obvious that my parents couldn’t make it. My wife’s parents couldn’t make it either. No problem! After all, I don’t like that idea.
Fortunately, my younger sister was living with us at that time to find work. So she kind of became our assistant — helping us with household chores.
It might look like a small thing, but those daily few-minute chores accumulated are also hours of work — hours that can be used instead for her studies, work, hobbies, etc.
In a sense, my younger sister sacrificed some of her time and energy to help us. And I’m forever grateful for that.
But what surprises me the most is when she often appreciates me for giving her the opportunity to live with us. She’s a dreamer. And she wants big things in life. Living with us, in her mind, is an opportunity to learn, earn money, and give her wildest dreams a try.
Ha! So that’s how it goes. That’s probably how the new-parents-and-grandparents living setup functions. It’s not that the new parents are only receiving help — they are also extending help to their grandparents in some way. Maybe not financially, but the seeking of purpose aspect? Maybe?
I’m still not sure how it works. I suspect there’s always a much deeper reason. And maybe it’s not the case for every family/relationship.
Whatever it is, I’m still not a fan of it. 😀
One more thing, can you remember how you feel every time you help people who deserved help? Pay attention to that. You always want that feeling, right? Got you.
Lesson: It’s almost impossible to live a good life by living alone not receiving help. Even a hermit receives help from its shell. Either you help people or people help you. Helping people or receiving help is never a one-way benefit — both parties benefit from it.
10. Being a non-conformist could put you in danger (sometimes).
During the pandemic (2020 – 2021), I spent so much time indoors I forgot how to blend with other people in the public.
Do you know what’ll happen if you work from home and you spend all your extra time reading, writing, creating music, watching sci-fi/fantasy movies, and researching and trying out new things?
You’ll likely create your own bubble.
On one occasion, I questioned (in a quite disrespectful manner) a police officer as he tried to threaten me and my younger sister for not following the 1-meter apart rule. I know it’s crazy. But I was annoyed knowing there were so many people around they didn’t care to interrogate. Why us? Because he thought he could scare us? It’s obviously power-tripping.
Things got heated as I was questioning the police officer. I was being straightforward. I didn’t mean to offend him. Yes, he surely was offended. A younger officer persuaded his colleague to ignore it. The offended officer was adamant. But eventually, they left.
Another instance was when a police officer ordered me to step out of the taxi and change seats. Instead of seating in the backseat beside my then-pregnant wife, he wanted me to transfer to the passenger seat because that’s the new ordinance. How illogical. I don’t get it. What’s the point if we’re living together in the same house?
The police officer was calm and understanding. And the taxi driver was gracious in handling it. Otherwise, I’d be jailed. How naive.
In hindsight, I realized how careless I was. Bravery is admirable. But it’s not always needed. In most normal situations, what we actually need is to stay calm, drop our egos, and shut up our mouths.
That is not being coward. That is being wise.
Lesson: Acknowledge your biases. Don’t expect everyone will understand you — especially the government. The government doesn’t care about your preferences. Or whatever you think is right. Reality isn’t the enemy. Don’t fight with it.
11. You are ready to give up everything in front of danger.
My wife and I were confident that it would be a normal delivery. A few days before labor, the OB-GYN even confirmed that our baby was in a cephalic position. This means that the baby is in a normal position for delivery.
Then came February 11th, the day of my wife’s labor. If you’re a parent reading this, then you know how indescribable the situation and the emotions are. It’s crazy. Not even mentioning if something unpredictable happens.
Speaking of unpredictability, it was already a few hours after the onset of my wife’s labor when the doctors confirmed the baby was in a breech position. They didn’t expect it. After more evaluations, they concluded they had to perform a c-section delivery immediately.
Although I understood it wasn’t that serious, I wasn’t fully prepared for it. I really had no idea how it was supposed to be done. What if something bad happens? My anxiety was through the roof.
I don’t wish for anyone to experience this (although it’s inevitable). And I also know there are much worse scenarios. But I couldn’t deny a situation like this is an eye-opener. It forces you to tunnel vision into the only thing that truly matters.
Guess that’s how life reminds us.
Lesson: Life is full of distractions. Random things will grab your attention. You might be surprised one day waking up feeling lost, not knowing what really matters in your life anymore. What is it? Make sure you don’t forget the things that matter in your life. Focus on them. Appreciate them all the time. Don’t wait for life to remind you.
12. Being adaptive is a vital skill and you’ll never realize it until needed.
“You think you’re adaptive and flexible, but wait until you have kids.”
I know it’s annoying to hear that. But it’s true. Having kids — especially newborns — is the ultimate test of adaptability. It’s a full 360-degree turn. And it’s non-negotiable.
Can you stay awake throughout the night to respond to their needs? Can you keep your cool when they’re being cranky for reasons you can’t even figure out? Can you do your other responsibilities and function as a normal human being every day despite having zero to little sleep?
Substitute “having a newborn” with “career change” or “moving to a new place” or “taking care of a sick loved one” or “losing something/someone”.
These new life changes may seem scary and hard, but life always goes on. Life never stops.
They’re actually not that bad if we learn to accept them. If we can only train our minds to see the good side of every unfortunate event, that’s a superpower.
Yes it’s easy to say than practice. I’m not really good at it as well. But this is part of life. Sometimes you’re up and sometimes down. That’s the nature of things. There’s no good resisting it.
Lesson: Life is bound to change. It could be sudden or expected. Either way, there’s always discomfort. Get used to discomfort. Prepare. Accept the things you don’t have control over. Then flow. That’s how you adapt. That’s how you grow.
BONUS: You make time for the things that truly matter.
In pursuing our dreams, we can either approach them in two ways:
- Wait for the right time.
- Make time for it.
There’s no right or wrong. The difference is in how we approach things.
Remember I had a kid in February 2021? A month after that, my band started to record guitars and vocals for a new single. It was scheduled for release in June 2021.
I know parents reading this can understand how wild it is to take care of a one-month-old baby. You still don’t have enough sleep as the baby doesn’t have a solid sleeping routine.
Imagine having a full-time job and a baby to take care of after work. No matter how good you are at time management, babies are unpredictable.
Yes, working from home helps — that’s correct! I am extremely lucky. But the baby doesn’t care whether or not I work from home. He would wake up in the middle of the night not just once, but multiple times as long as he wanted.
So instead of waiting for things to be OK or predictable, I decided to make time to track guitars (Note: I have a basic recording setup at home where I can produce music myself).
After days of experimentation, I figured that early morning was impossible. The only time available would be from 12 AM to 2 AM!
So I did that. It wasn’t always smooth though. Sometimes my boy would wake up at 1 AM. So that’s only an hour of progress! And sometimes he would wake at 12 AM, then go back to sleep at 2 AM. Then I had to adjust my time again from 2 AM to 4 AM. I know, I know it’s wild!
But did you see a pattern here? I didn’t make excuses. Instead, I made time to do it. Holy cow! So that was it. That was the sign that this song — this dream — truly matters to me.
What matters to you? What is your dream? Are you making the time to do it? Or are you waiting for the right time?