I am 44 years old, and I feel fine and dandy

Original Article Posted on Medium

One of those occasional pose for posterity (and because who can’t resist this beautiful picturesque place in my alma mater)

I am 43 years, 11 months, 4 weeks, and 2 days old, as I write this. How does it feel being at this age, as a man, a husband, a father, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a buddy?

I still listen to the same music that I have discovered more than 20 years ago. I still collect books and buy my Wired magazine if the cover catches my fancy. I also sleep more these days than I should. I’d rather stay home on weekends and catch up on my readings — and my students’ assignments. I love a quiet time, coffee on hand in my favorite shop.

Road trips make me excited, and I love long drives. I want to travel to Europe, Japan, and some exotic places in Asia with my family. I want them to see the Great Wall of China or experience the rides at the Sentosa in Singapore, or walk the streets of Seoul at night and bask at the neon lights that make this city alive. I want to visit museums or art centers in my own country, and meet poets, artists and writers whom I respect so much.

I want to learn the new solo from my old-time favorite rock ballads, and if I get the chance, finally write that song for my wife, which she has been begging me to do ever since we met. For unknown reasons, I have trouble writing THAT song, yet I can play a tune on my aging Fender Stratocaster. Mind you, I could play the guitar well — at least for some of my friends’ standards. I love Blues, Rock (Hard Rock), and the standard Jazz music — and okay some 70s and 80s classic rock.

Still wants to be a guitar-slinging rock star

My taste for food is simple. I love them sweet and sour. I also love them roasted and skewered. But due to my recent health predisposition, I have to avoid eating food that turns into sugar, which apparently my body cannot take too much (yeah, my body is insulin resistant). My doctor and my dietician are both telling me that I have to watch what I eat. At this age, I have to force myself to eat my veggies more.

From an interesting menu I found in one of the local restaurants

I have been active since I was a kid. I played a lot (and slept so little). I was a ball of energy, my mom and friends would say. I was always seen running around; could not keep still. I was dubbed the little “Dennis the Menace” since my energy was always cranked up to 10 that I ended up getting in trouble. Meeting me now would make people wonder where did that energetic kid go. What changed? I believe it was me becoming a pensive (read: introverted) teenager who would rather stay with the crowd and would rather melt whenever his name got called by the teacher.

From wanting attention to hating it, the change happened before I hit puberty. I gravitated to fewer friends — at least 1 or 2 really close friends. I got bullied too because I was a small, brown-skinned skinny fellow who only ate hotdog for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I grew up being the only child until I was about 10. Just imagine the attention I was getting from my parents. I owned it all. Then, my brother popped out of my mom. I was sort of jealous. But since my mom had to go back to school to finish her College education, I was forced to grow up and take care of my younger brother. (Thanks to my aunts, however, who were there to help out — I owe them my childhood and my wonder years of learning how to put on a diaper on a baby and how to properly prepare a warm milk for my younger brothers).

I also had a loyal pet dog. His name was Black Tail because he had a black tail. He was a mixed kind of breed — not exactly the dog you would find in pet stores today. He had no pedigree. For me, however, he was my friend and my companion when I was left alone at home. I would let him sleep inside the house (which angered my mom), and I would also do the same in his little dog house (which further frustrated my mom). I smelled like my dog — most of the time. I didn’t care. I just missed having someone stay with me until my mom came back from school.

I also had a dog. His name was Black Tail because he had a black tail. He was mixed breed — not exactly the dog you would find in pet stores today. He had no pedigree. For me, however, he was my friend and my companion when I was left alone at home.


I have often wondered how I would write my own story when I’m older. Would it be as exciting and intriguing as the stories of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov whom I idolized since one of my college buddies introduced them to me. As I turn another leaf in my life, I could only think of a few words to describe it: steady and comfortable. My life does not even have its ending yet — or neither do I have a clear vision of how life would be in the next 10 years. I’m taking it one day at a time. I am more engrossed with my daughters who are growing so fast, I could no longer keep up with their changing interests. I also have been married for 17 years now. And I must say it has never been this good. Me and wife are happy together, and I still can manage to make her laugh.

I’m also in a job that have turned out to be an interesting journey into self-discovery. Having navigated different organizations and having met with interesting people along the way (including the most difficult persons to deal with), I am friends with a handful of them — some have become mentors who have my back, some confidants who would always remind me not to lose sight of the very purpose of our work — and it has always been about our families.

From a page in one of the books that I own (forgot which one).

Talk about friends — I have kept a handful so far in my 44 years. I am still in contact with my close friends from as far back as high school. I also have brothers and sisters from another father or mother who have kept me in line — they would often wake me up from my stupor. I love them as my real brothers.

To end, I am imparting some life observations (lessons) which I wish to share, as I conclude this long read:

  1. Never lose sight of your purpose in life. Whatever that is, take that with you wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.
  2. A job is just that, a job. Don’t let it define you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try out new things even when you are at my age. Old dogs can still learn new tricks.
  4. Don’t stop learning (and if you can, teaching).
  5. Keep at whatever you love doing. It reminds you that life is not just about working from 9am to 7pm, and going home, and repeat. Take up a hobby; commit to it.
  6. Real friends will always tell you things you don’t want to hear. Listen to them.
  7. Family first. Love and take care of them, no matter what.
  8. Life is short. Always thank God for every day that he gives. And I’m going to borrow this line from Steve Jobs: Don’t waste your life by living someone else’s life.
  9. Give yourself time to travel and discover the world (with your family if you can).
  10. Always say thank you, and please. Be patient and be kind even to people you hate. Love them back. (My Sunday school taught me that).

The author contemplates about his next move.

5 reasons why you should start a blog

Who blogs these days?

Today, I’ve asked my PUBLISH class to start their own class blog as part of a requirement in class. It is surprising to find that many are no longer blogging. (Blame Facebook and Twitter!)

Why do we still need to blog? I will offer several reasons.

1. Blogging helps you become a better writer. It is one way of publishing your thoughts without noise. You own this space on the Internet. Nobody can tell you what to write (unless you decide to sell it to the highest bidder–the devil!). It’s your personal space in cyberspace. Facebook and Twitter are designed for  consumption and connection. Blogging is about creation.

2. Blogging gives you voice. Want to say something, blog about it. If you want to rant, take it to your blog, and explain it well. Blogs can be your venue for stimulating debate and discussion on topics of choice. It’s up to you to engage people.

3. Blogging helps you establish your online persona. I am often impressed with people who own and maintain their blogs for reasons that are non-commercial. Blogs establish your cred online. Buy your own domain name — do it. Having trouble deciding what to blog, use it to document your passion, your journey through life or through the digital space. You will make mistakes–some spelling errors, and sometimes (God forbid!) some grammatical lapses. Don’t fret. You can always revise and update it. And that’s the beauty of self-publishing.

4. Blogging makes you think.  Try writing one entry a day. Isn’t that a lot of work? Yes, of course. Writing is all about thinking and articulating your thoughts in words, images, and videos. As the medium dictates, this is NOT just for the nerdy types–or for the word lovers. You can use photos, videos to communicate what you think. Be creative. You’ll be surprised years later to see what have you done.

5. Blogging keeps you disciplined. Starting is easy. Keeping at it for years without pause is not. This blog has seen less and less updates. And it has always been a struggle to keep the juices running. So yes, blogging keeps you focused and disciplined. It is sometimes cathartic.

So if somebody asks you again why do you blog, remember these five things, and add one more that is unique to you. It’s also fun seeing people realize that, “Yeah, you’re right!”

Blog away!

May 20, 1990: Advice on Life from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson | Brain Pickings

If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I’ve found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

via May 20, 1990: Advice on Life from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson | Brain Pickings.

Photo sourced from Brain Pickings

Don’t read this

Gotcha!

If you’re reading these words, my experiment succeeded.

How do I make you read further. Easy, I will use a bigger FONT.

But who am I kidding, right? If this blog doesn’t say anything, you may be clicking this LINK to get out of here.

By now, I have gotten you’re attention. So I will try to add a nice photo just about…now.

laughing-horse

If you’re still reading until this point, I’m handing it to you. You’re unusual.

People usually stay on a web page for at least 6 seconds.

They scan first. Then, they glance over the first few paragraphs. When it doesn’t hook them. They leave.

So if you’re reading this paragraph, you’re exceptional because I’m about to throw in a video. And this video is going to increase your time spent on this page. You may share it after, or not! Just watch the video.

By now, I have thrown all the tricks that I can think of, but wait, there’s more…

game-of-thrones-dani-burn-deal-with-it

 

 

 

 

Okay that’s it!

*gif is brought to you by Awesomegifs

 

Telling a story, Gonzo-style

I recently told my class to write a story about a new experience. This assignment was partly inspired by recent readings on Gonzo journalism, a style that was first associated with Hunter S. Thompson who popularized this style of journalism.

Thompson has inspired other writers. This style, which was often described as a “stream of consciousness” (more like writing from the hip), has sparked a new genre of journalism, but it has also earned some ire from traditional ones. This style is tough, especially after years of being told to follow a certain formula.  This formula is simply called “5Ws1H” — no, that’s not a secret code that  journalists only know.

We read the news today to answer these basic questions: what, who, when, where, why, and how. We want our news quick.  Now that we have Twitter, we only read (admit it!) the headlines, and move on.

So back to the classroom. I currently teach J109, which is an elective that is described as writing for a popular audience. The shorter description will confuse you more, so I will spare you the details. But think about that short description: writing for a popular audience. Further reading of the course outline, I found out that I was tasked to help students write about technical topics/issues using techniques in journalism.

As journalists, we’re trained to be generalists. We are trained to absorb a lot of information. Then, we have to make sense of it. If we”re given a rock, we need to tell me what kind of rock it is, and where it came from, or where it has been. Perhaps, it’s a chip of  a block in a landmark in our town hall. It might be a heavy piece of meteor rock that fell from the sky one chilly night. It’s heavy and it’s black. It might be a smooth slate we picked from a brook.

Yes, we need to master the basics. But that doesn’t stop you from exploring other styles of writing. Gonzo or whatever it may be. As long as you tell it like it is.