August 1, 2014- the first day of a month, but it’s not just any day and not just any month.
Today I attended an official tour for freshmen- the first official university freshmen event in a line of many planned throughout the ‘university freshie month’. In a few days it’s my first official school day. The tour was a blur of names and faces, of roads and buildings, of laughs and footsteps, of words thrown into the air and words caught over shoulders. For something so free and seemingly inconsequential, it represented the beginning of a crucial and unforgiving journey towards ‘real life’.
Today a good friend of my parents passed away due to pneumonia and a virus that caused a complication with his heart. His wife is one of my mom’s best friends, and their family comes over every Christmas for dinner and games and gift-giving. I don’t have many memories with him other than that, and things like this really happen, yet because he is close to people close to me- by the transitive property in other words- the news of his passing is a hard blow. In part it could be due to the fact that I found out he was sick this morning, and I found out he passed away this evening and it is undeniable. For something so sudden and final, it represents the end of a long journey full of changes and temporary uncertainties. (But then I guess all uncertainties are temporary, because they all end in the certainty that is death?)
So today is a beginning, and today is an ending, and I realize that the ending holds the keys to making the best of that beginning. In life, we must prepare for the unexpected. We all have and will still encounter death in our lives, and after the down that it brings, we can learn to rise up and learn from it. After this particular down, there are a few things that I’ve learned and re-learned, which I intend to keep in mind from this month- this new chapter of my life- and here on out.
1. Health is wealth. Always.
This saying is nothing new, but I think it is something to be renewed in our mindset. I myself have heard this over and over again, and used it several times too- yet when it comes to remembering to take my vitamins or meds, getting enough sleep, and eating right, I fail to practice what I’ve preached myself. My uncle was stressed and short on sleep the days before his sickness attacked. If he had been healthier- his immune system stronger- he might have survived. Now, I find myself more conscious of my diet, and making a better effort towards going to bed on time. More than that, I make sure stress doesn’t become too big of an issue as emotional health is just as important. I resolved to take better care of myself in college and after than I did in high school. Without my health, everything else goes out the window.
2. (Real) life is happening, right now. Live in the present.
Yes, we must prepare for the future, so that our present might live to become it- but let us not look so far that we fail to see what’s right in front of us. Whatever we may be doing for our future, we must not forget that life is still happening as we’re doing so. High school may be preparation for ‘real life’, but it in itself is already real life- and life goes on, and it does not pause as you prepare. This realization hits me hard as I think back to the countless nights in high school spent on work, instead of spent with family. There is a quote that goes, “Love your parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forget they are also growing older.” The same applies for my little bro, whom I love so much. It pains me whenever I realize how I was MIA most of the time during his growing-up years. In the end I realize I can imagine my life without the responsibilities and achievements, but I can’t imagine it without my family.
3. Do all that is in your power to make every day the best day- for everyone.
This is probably the simplest concept, but by no means is it the easiest. Tomorrow might be the last day of someone’s life- ours even. If this is true, will I be happy with the way I left things with my father? The fight I had with my brother? Will I be happy that I didn’t even notice my mom leaving? Or that I never made up with my childhood friend?
However bad any day may get, I tell myself it’s always in my power to make it better- and if I can, then I should. Whatever problems we may have with ourselves, with friends, with family- we must solve them as fast as possible. In the end these problems are insignificant and shallow compared to the problem of losing them, and even worse- losing them at an unexpected time and while on bad terms, with no hope of reparation.
In the end, it all comes down to knowing what matters, and steering your life in that direction. When my mom and I were talking about this uncle of mine, she said something I’ll never forget. In a few words, I felt she summed up life and how we should live: “If the soul is fed, everything else is secondary.
Ava Lee is starting her freshman year at the University of the Philippines on August 7, 2014