The Formula

Mary Pauline Balmes was the first editor-in-chief of Iloilo Metropolitan Times
Mary Pauline Balmes was the first editor-in-chief of Iloilo Metropolitan Times

Life often leads us to journeys we would, perhaps, never pursue if it were just up to us. But life often gives us so many reasons why there should be no room for regrets in having to tread the chosen path.

Often they say, there are no wrong decisions in life, only lessons to learn from.

After all, life is a choice.

This time of the year, I’m closing a chapter but would rather call it a celebration of a milestone. Aside from feeling old, I guess turning 26 is a mixed feeling of being relieved and scared at the same time. What a joy it is to survive the entry point of quarter life! To think what kind of life awaits us is another story. A little scared, but the mere ambiguity excites me. I guess, that’s what life teaches us- to embrace the uncertainty and get oneself ready for an adventure.

So I picked up a pen, scribbled some notes and began to look back to the years that were. I wrote down the things that worked well in my favor and the not-so-good as well.Out from these lists, I took out valuable lessons to share.

First is to make room for what truly matters. More often, we are afraid at failing at things that really mattered to us. But as we grow old, we begin to treat things differently and what mattered to us before may have lost its significance as time goes by. Cultivating what truly matters is not easy. In fact, it takes a lot of reflection, of double checking, and of honest self- assessment. Slowly you will notice the change in perspective. Now, my fear is to succeed at the things that don’t matter, a life that means nothing. So while we’re at discovering life and savoring each valuable experiences, we might as well use the moment in seeking for relevance, and turn mundane things into meaningful ones.

Acknowledge failures. To borrow the words of Denis Waitley, treat failures as ‘life’s fertilizers’. Fertilizers are stinky but they are imperative in a plant’s growth and development. I know we grew up hearing from people around us that it is okay to fail. It truly is. Failures are life’s learning curves but they are turning points as well. However, it’s not failure itself that helps us bounce back, it’s the way we deal with it that enables us to recover. May we be reminded always that failure is not a person – it’s not us- but ‘a momentary period of growth that brings temporary inconvenience but will definitely bear good fruits in the future’.

Reassessing our lives from time to time is a good exercise. It helps us recalibrate and identify what goals to continue, plans to abandon and ideas to delay. Yes, it’s not all the time that we need to rush in getting what we want. Sometimes, we need to be flexible in life. But waiting is not easy. In fact, not knowing when is the right time is the most discouraging and painful process of success. But remember this, in between the agony of waiting is the ‘process of ripening’. While I believe in the power of my goals, I also trust in the power of time and process. I marvel at how these two conflicting principles give beauty to how I appreciate life now. A self-help and motivational book reminded me of this concept- that “while goals, whether short or long-term, create laser focus and funnel our lives into the end vision, the element of time develops our unshakeable sense of trust and prepares us especially when a sudden shift of circumstances that is beyond our control get in the way. Trusting the process may not be easy but it surely is meaningful.”

My fourth realization is to avoid negative self-talk. I know, I know. Unconsciously sometimes, we couldn’t avoid this. But as much as much possible, we take effort to get our senses back when we realize we’re becoming reactionary instead of intentional. Negativity and pessimism are the nemesis of life. It takes away our happiness until it paralyzes us. But it wouldn’t hurt that much if we surround ourselves with people who are honest and genuine even if it means hearing the truth from them. It’s important that we know how to confront our fear of failing, manage our strengths and accept our weaknesses.

Lastly, strengthen faith to whoever we offer it to. Goals that are anchored in faith are indomitable. We would have loosely managed all our successes, failures, and even delays if we think we are solely the ones dealing with them. In my case, I’ve learned to pursue God despite realizing that this did not and will never guarantee me a comfortable life. But I am at peace knowing He is at work, all the time!

I believe, there is no precise formula on how we should live our lives. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to discover other ways of solving problems and plan B’s would be useless. Each of us has a unique experience living it that we could only share to others so they may learn from it. These valuable lessons in life are a product of many internal and external experiences. Sometimes, they still confuse and bother us. But if we don’t ask and wonder, how would we discover? After all, a life lived reasonably disturbed is living life at its truest sense.

Don’t be afraid. Have faith. Find the lessons. Trust the journey.

Postscript:
I would like to thank Iloilo Metropolitan Times for inviting me to be part of this issue. You have become part of my journey and I am jubilant to see you grow and stood the test of time. Thank you for reminding me to keep writing. Happy 5th Anniversary! Truly a milestone. Keep on.

(Mary Pauline Balmes (paulinebalmes@gmail.com) was the first editor-in-chief of Iloilo Metropolitan Times)