Monday, September 05, 2005

[Blog Entry] Inheritance, Courage and Confidence, The Trivial Things


The Palanca Awards are over and a number of friends, acquaintances, and professors were at the event. Not that I was there, but you know, I was hoping that through sheer association, some of their talent might rub off on me. But I guess awards need to be earned the old fashioned way: through work and effort.

Of course it has to be said that you can’t win something that you didn’t apply for. I didn’t join this year’s Palanca Awards, but I’m been struck by the writing bug as of late so maybe I’ll finally join next year.

It’s interesting to note though that the 3rd-place winner of the Future Fiction category, Pearlsha “Isha” Abubakar, is my predecessor in my current job. She used to be the managing editor of the Philippines Yearbook (in addition to Pulp Magazine), and while I’m not the managing editor of the publication (no one is... there’s just the editor-in-chief, and then me, the editorial assistant), I did get her computer and desk (I was also originally supposed to get her mobile phone number as well). While cleaning up her office space, I found a couple of her reading materials, like Modern Mythmakers and Ancient Wisdom, Landscapes of the Imagination, Native Words Native Roots, Wordsmiths and Archipelagoes, Stoking the Fire, Dreamers of the Loom, and Where the Water Falls. So you know, rather than depending on sheer osmosis, I have something more to go on when it comes to honing my writing skills.

Courage and Confidence

More often than not, I’m meek and shy. I try to be humble and modest (but me being the attention hog that I am, fail at it). But you know, there are times when you must exert your force of personality. It’s not about being proud, it’s about being confident.

I learned that lesson from my grade school Filipino teacher, who was this big woman that possessed the right amount of kindness and strictness. She was harsh when she needed to be, but often began class with a joke and a light mood. One of her grading criteria for our oral exams was that we give ourselves a grade after our performance. Instead of just solely depending on the teacher to grade you, we had a say in it. But more importantly, we had to be confident about our speech. I mean if I thought I did horribly, even if the fact was different, and gave myself a D, that’ll never turn into an A. So if I wanted a high grade, I had to rate my performance high. Of course if you did lousy and graded yourself high, others will feel you’re arrogant... or bluffing the teacher to give you a high grade.

Watching my classmates perform and give themselves a grade was pretty much like watching Celebrity Poker on TV: you knew which were winning hands, but they only won if the players had the courage to raise for everything. This is where the human psyche plays a role, and you witness students deserving an A get a B or lower because they didn’t have the balls (and I’m not being sexist about this because well, it was an all-boys school) to give themselves an A.

Of course the real interesting part is when it’s finally your turn. After watching my classmates triumph and fail, your own insecurities start creeping up on you, and once I was done with my performance, I was tempted to give myself a low, low grade. But I remembered that they were just insecurities, and gave myself a high grade. Not the highest, because I knew I made some minor mistakes, but high enough.

The Trivial Things

It’s strange, but more often than not, it’s the trivial things in life that make a difference.

When you win the Lotto for example, you might get several millions of pesos for example, but it’s all an abstract figure. You’ll only start noticing it when you’re eating better food, sleeping in a more comfortable bed, or wearing more fashionable clothes. Same goes with getting a promotion in your job, or reaching a higher income stream.

Or take a look at charity. What causes you to pursue a mission in stopping poverty? Is it the suffering of millions of people? If truth be told, it’s probably the suffering of one person that matters. Why do such commercials give close-ups of individuals rather than a multitude? It’s because they want to give them an identity, something closer to home. When you think of ending poverty, do you think of people in the hundreds and thousands? You’ll probably recall the kid who peddles near your house, who knocks on your car window. Or the girl who sells sampaguita flowers amidst evening traffic.

Not that it always applies, mind you. Some people simply think big, and their mind encompasses macroscopic levels. But it’s my experience that people take things a day at a time, piece by piece, step by step. And that means something only affects them when they’ve experienced it themselves. In light of the current disaster in the US, it might mean a relative who lived near the disaster vicinity. Or a place you once visited, and is probably now gone. Or perhaps you remember a similar experience that happened in your life, and you remember the faces you saw. It’s easier to be benevolent when it’s personal.

If you want change in your life, start with the trivial things. It might mean throwing trash in the trash can, when you usually leave it on the floor (or beside the waste basket). Or simply saying hello to your parents every morning. And writing emails to a friend once a week. If you’re a writer, it might entail writing a hundred more words per day.

Sure, it’s trivial, and while we don’t always remember the trivial moments in our lives, it’s something we live with everyday.


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