Once upon a time, a very long time ago, four Filipina teenagers, fresh graduates from high school, boarded planes to go to a finishing school in Lausanne, Switzerland. These were Helen Marcelo, Chiqui Liongson, Menchu Katigbak and me. Off we flew to a strange land where we would learn a bit of French.
We really didn’t know each other very well and, more important, we didn’t know the school we were going to very well either. But now I think our going away to school was the first step to seriously growing up.
We met at the Institution Chateau Mont-Choisi. We had different rooms, different roommates, but we had each other. The most traumatic part of going to school was having our baths scheduled. Three of them got baths twice a week. I had a bath once a week. But we were Filipinas who took at least a shower a day!
But soon we realized that it was easier to take a shower. Bath schedules were posted by the bathrooms. You could either pop by the bathroom, see if it was empty and take a shower, even wash your hair; or, if the bathroom was busy, you looked for who was due for the next bath and asked her for a bit of her time. She would likely give her entire bath time to you.
We built a friendship whose sturdiness was lost on us during the years we spent learning about marriage and having children and all that jazz, meeting occasionally, accidentally once in a long while. But now, suddenly, we are in our 70s and everyone is a cell phone text away.
That’s how Menchu texted me and sent me the following, which I thought you might find interesting:
“I asked one of my friends who has crossed 70 and is heading towards 80 what sort of changes he is feeling in himself. He sent me the following very interesting lines, which I would like to share with you.”
1) After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children, my friends, now I have started loving myself.
2) I just realized that I am not “Atlas.” The world does not rest on my shoulders.
3) I have now stopped bargaining with vegetable and fruit vendors. A few pennies more is not going to burn a hole in my pocket but it might help the poor fellow save for his daughter’s school fees.
4) I pay my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is toiling much harder for a living than me.
5) I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already narrated that story many times. The story makes them walk down memory lane and relive their past.
6) I have learned not to correct people even when they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.
7) I give compliments freely and generously. Compliments are mood enhancers, not only for the recipient but also or me. And a small tip for the recipient of a compliment: Never, NEVER turn it down. Just say, “Thank you.”
8) I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.
9) I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth but I do.
10) I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat, nor am I in any race.
11) I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.
12) I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships I will never be alone.
13) I have learned to live each day as if it is the last. After all, it might be the last.
14) I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time — just choose to be.
“I decided to send this to all my friends,” continued the person who sent her the list. “Why do we have to wait to be 60 or 70 or 80 to learn this? Why can’t we practice these tips at any age?”
This was followed by a confessional note from Menchu: “I stole this. I don’t know who to credit it to but — whoever you are — thank you, for giving it to me to share with my friends.”
And I thank you, my dear vintage friend, Menchu, for sending it to me so I can share it with some of my readers. Also, after all these years, for reminding me once more of our alma mater Chateau Mont-Choisi and those strange bath schedules.
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