THE INVISIBLE CHECKLIST

Do you remember puberty? Of course you do! You just rather not bring it up, and that’s totally fine! For many, those memories aren’t exactly fond ones — bad acne all over the face and back, voice cracking, unbelievable mood swings, and uncomfortable awkwardness. Yet, we all expected it and made our way through it. It’s funny how we do not call adolescence a “crisis”. Why tho? Because it’s a normal part of our development.

At some point in our lives, we face crisis but to tell you, I hope I can say that it’s just like our puberty crisis but that’s not how most people treat it. We can get caught up in a tremendous amount of judgement — thinking that we are alone, that there is something wrong with us, or that we should have all figured out by now.

Sometimes, we create this invisible checklist to live our lives by. We develop a masterplan that we pressure ourselves to stick to it. High school, then getting into college, then getting a stable job, then maybe further studies to some, then immediate promotion, then getting into a relationship, then signing up for marriage, then acquiring properties, then having children, then a lot of money, and so the long list continues. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist or a genius like Albert Einstein to figure out why these invisible checklists exists: expectations and certainty. Checklist and plans help us feel more secure and in control. But sometimes planning ahead isn’t really the recipe for success but rather more like a whip up doubt and worry.

Note: There is nothing wrong in planning ahead but obsessing over it might not bring us any good.

Anticipation lives in the future.
Depression signs a lease in the past.

When we make plans, we are consumed with worry about achieving everything on that list and then we feel heavy with regret as we think about things we are missing out on.

“Having it all” is usually what we want in life. We grow up hearing that if we apply ourselves, we can get anything we want. So we put everything we want on our life goals list.

I believe that having it all at once is a myth — but certainly we can have it all at different times in our lives.

The problem is, we get to be so obsessed about the future that we overextended ourselves and burnt out by trying to accomplish all our goals right now. Dear, one at a time.

If you are facing such quandary and confusion about your plans, get into the present! Be proud of your accomplishments and don’t forget to have some fun. Do the things that you like and take some pressure off.

Everyday is the best time for self-discovery and self-discovery is one of the curriculums of life. Everyday happenings provide some clay that we will mold into our lives. Everyday is just a piece of being one who has always ‘known’ what we would do in life. The deep sense of not knowing what is ahead of us is so hard to deal without but what we must always remember to live the moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a great effect on achieving our dreams and life goals. But right now, we are slowly on the process of making our dreams come true though there are surely a lot of challenges and struggles to deal with. But I hope that this brings you comfort somehow.

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

Definition of “Hero” from Google

Notice what stands out in the definition. The hero is somewhat like a god, a great warrior, or a venerated idol.

Do you see why it is so difficult to envision yourself as a hero? How could any human being living a completely normal life live up to such definition?

To be sure, there have been individuals who believed from their earliest years that they were destined for greatness. According to a legend, in his late 20’s Julius Caesar lamented the fact that Alexander the Great had conquered the word by his mid-twenties, and wondered about when his turn to prove himself in a similar arena would finally come. But an average twenty-something today harboring such dreams from the confines of a desk job would be dismissed as delusional at least. That’s sad.

But why can’t we?

The “great human” definition of heroism has led the vast majority of us to underestimate the importance of our own lives. It has given all of us a deflated sense of our own potential. Unable to envision ourselves as central to any important historical drama, we have no cofunction about burning four hours a day of our own lives passively plunked in front of a television set. The thinking goes like, “If I can’t be as great as those heroes, why even get off the couch?”

As the example of Julius Caesar suggests, heroes of all kinds need role models. It has become a common place today to lament the loss of the great heroes, the great leaders.

We all complain that we have no one to look up to. A lot of my students and my juniors always ask me “where have all the heroes gone?”, I always say, “look around you. they are everywhere and you are even one of them.”

The people who admire heroes doesn’t need to live vicariously through him or her. We’re inspired by such figures in our lives, not intimidated.

The greatness lies in part in their very accessibility. They are available as models whose example can make our lives better, not put us to shame.

We need to realize that the rush of pride that comes from grand heroic gestures — finishing first in a marathon, saving a puppy from a burning building aren’t the only sign of a heroic act. We need to start seeing the magic in every single day.

When things are devoid of the small moments, or when the small moments start to feel inferior to the big moments, it has lost its inner spirit.

Let us put aside the belief that there are no models for great leadership anymore and train your eyes to recognize the heroes in our midst.

When we shift our focus slightly and embrace these small heroic act of heroism, it changes everything. We can learn to become heroes ourselves by seeing every small moment in our lives as an opportunity to perform an act as heroism.

I BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A HERO IN ALL OF US

featured photo: illustration by draw_joe_draw.

ACHIEVEMENTS? ACHIEVEMENTS!

I read that one of the boldest achievements of humankind happened in 1969 when we put a man on the moon.

But, of course, landing on the moon was inspiring, and it advanced the cause of science. But after all, we discontinued the moon landings because we no longer see the point. What is that would really be motivating us to land a man on Mars? The technical advance it represents, or the ego boost? The fall of humanity on Earth? Anyway, whatever it is, what I am trying to say is that there are achievements on the part of ordinary people that are equivalent to great moon landings.

To ask again, certainly, every single astronaut is courageous and the moon landing was a really great achievement but is theirs the only kind of achievement we can actually honor or celebrate?

We don’t have to actually find Atlantis for bold gestures. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world by restoring the abused dignity of his people through the power of the spoken word alone. That’s an achievement. Want more? The unarmed students who stood in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demand that their voice be heard in one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

Well, Martin Luther King Jr.’s a slam dunk but there are actually millions of equally great, every single day, unrecorded great achievements that have taken place since 1969.

Some people can get too pessimistic about the world that they find it easy to diminish personal, private achievements, making their own everyday struggles to feed their own families and love their children insignificant. Yet, those are the achievements from which the society is woven.

The thing is, we need to look thoroughly into our everyday lives to see our achievements. No marriage, for example succeeds solely in the basis of its anniversary celebrations. A marriage is constructed of little daily gestures that conspire to make something infinitely bigger and grander. Daily sincere compliments, to show appreciation rather than taking things for granted. Good-bye kisses in the morning and tight hugs and comforting conversation in the evening. A bowl of hot soup in response to a fever…

The point? Let’s not devoid things of the small moments, do not let small moments be swept away by the big moments.

The same is true of the world we inhabit. The social programs held to educate every child and to offer help to other people are as great as moon landing.

If we could end hunger on Earth, if we could put an end to racism as well as if we could banish loneliness by giving more love into the world, then it would be the greatest achievement of all time.

I’d like us to call for each of us to recognize a thousand achievements around us. When we shift our focus slightly and embrace these achievements, it changes everything. We can and we must reward others for their own achievements. The reward doesn’t have to be more than a smile, a remembered name, a letter or email of admiration, a compliment, a joke, a thank you, or a cup of coffee.

The thing is, we, as we label ourselves ordinary people are also capable of doing something great as the moon landing. The achievements made by the doctors and nurses who give tirelessly of themselves to save the lives of their patients; the police officers who walk dangerous streets in order to keep their communities safe; the scientists and laboratory technicians who stay up late at night in search of cures for the diseases; the teachers who offer themselves to the students hoping for them to have a bright future; the ordinary people who overcome their fear of something; they who were able to manage to control their anxieties; they who made someone smile; they who did an act of bravery. I, who decided to write more often. How about you?

Share your achievements below, let us celebrate our achievements together!

WE ALL LIVE IN THE VALLEY

We all live in the valley but there are moments in our lives when God takes up the mountain. There are those moments when we seem to witness life from a higher plane. Most of the time, they take place on the singular days of our lives, on less momentous occasions, like even on a gorgeous summer morning, or on a cold December breeze.

In those moments, something happens to us. In those moments, we feel inspired and moved by the beauty in our lives and the beauty of the world around us.

It gives us a profoundly joyful feeling.

And yet, interwoven with such moments there is the epiphany that we cannot reside in the ethereal space all the time. Sooner or later, we have to come down from the mountain and return back to the valley ⁠— no one lives up there. But what we can do is build our lives according to the blueprint of what we saw there atop the mountain. To illuminate our lives based on the insights we garnered in the moments of inspiration. To look at the world through the lens of love rather than through the cloud of hate. To carry a heart filled with compassion rather than being dragged down by everyday bitterness.

At some point of our lives, we have transcendent  moments because we need to see life from the pinnacle of existence rather than from the valley of deprivation. Despite their evanescence, such struggles are not only useful but also essential. They help us to show how we will be rewarded by our continuing struggles and renew our hope.

We may not be able to have those big miraculous moments every day, we must still consider every single day a miracle. We may not have momentous moments every day, but we must choose to still go about our lives. Because such moments looks surprisingly like the world we already inhabit: the city that we live in, the home we already share, the family we already love. I don’t think we have to cross any river to obtain it or defeat enemies to conquer it. All we need is to turn this garden we are given and cultivate it with all the love in our hearts.

And as we stand here with our shovels, filling the Earth and removing the weeds, we discover that not only we are already inhabiting paradise, but that paradise is built by everyday, by ordinary people, by you and me.

Photo from google.com