Dear 40 year-old Lynn,
I started my day trying to decipher the pictograph that Miguel drew in the bathroom mirror. He left for Bataan before sunrise but not without finishing his masterpiece of two stick figures, one of which has bangs and unusually big bosoms, holding hands while riding a heart-shaped magic carpet. I took a picture and considered uploading it to IG stories but soon realized I was about to annoyingly humblebrag how my husband leaves me funny love notes whenever he travels for work. Some things are best kept private. Specially when big bosoms are involved.
My coffee run took longer than usual because a hyperactive Labrador and his nice Korean owner were in line for bagels, and I couldn’t resist staying for a few extra minutes to rub his hairy belly. The dog’s not the Korean’s. I went back upstairs and munched on salad while waiting for my 11am call with the judges of the International award we’re being considered for. It ended up starting at 11:05 am which was good because it gave me extra minutes to review what was written down on the nomination form. 10 years of running Mano Amiga, who would have thought? I talked to the two women about our highs and lows, how we almost closed down twice, and how every innovation we introduced was a response to a challenging time. I think I did well except when I fumbled a bit when they asked me about the future of the school. I had a ready response (5 schools by 2025), but felt uneasy about sharing it. A voice kept repeating in my head not to overpromise. When my time was up, I thanked them for the opportunity. Being shortlisted was honour enough, and it gave Mom something to brag about in the annual holiday family reunion.
As you can see, as of December 5, 2018, we’re in a very good place. We’ve achieved things beyond we ever dreamed of, and we haven’t stopped creating. Our parents are alive and proud of the person we’ve become. We have thankfully forgiven the people who carelessly broke our hearts. We’re married to a man who gives us the space to be our self, and whose love for us is unconditional and evergreen, even during the times when we’re sh*tty and selfish.
And yet if you had asked me last week to rate my happiness, I would have given it a 6. I felt lonely, and trapped by the supposedly good choices that I made. I hated how I spent the past ten years living in Manila because I couldn’t leave Mano Amiga. How my default response is to always take the ‘high road’, even to people I would really like to punch in the gut. How I don’t share the same interests and passion with my family. How I hastily got married without asking myself if I was truly ready.
And I guess this is the biggest lesson that I’m learning at 33- how life continually moves between contrasts. How something that could bring us so much joy and peace just a moment ago could also suddenly be a source of heartache and restlessness.
How a perfect trip to Baguio could be cut short by an urgent phone call saying Papa is in the E.R. How it’s so easy for us to be a hero in big things, but it's hard to conscientiously choose to be a decent human being in the simple things. How there are times when letting go is the best and biggest expression of one’s love.
My wish for us at 40 is that we have learned to embrace the varying seasons of our life, and to gracefully hold both hope and hopelessness whenever they co-exist in a single moment. To remember that happiness is not a static destination, but a constant choice we need to make.
Hopefully, we’ve gotten much better in shedding the entitlement we feel to a perfect life, in being more honest with our motives and purer with our intentions, and in taking full accountability for our actions and decisions- knowing that these deeds, no matter how big or small, make up the legacy that we’ll ultimately leave in this world.
If at 40, you find our self headed for a crisis, remember that it’s our grateful heart, resolute spirit, and childlike wonder that has always gotten us through the worst moments of our life.
Wear your favourite pair of boots even if it’s summer time. Sing loudly on your way to the grocery store. Don’t stop making friends with every dog you meet.
Because time and time again, life has shown us that we cannot do this on our own. Remember that our life here is fleeting and temporary, and that all this is just a preparation for our real journey home.
Your 33 year-old self