Last summer, and over the months that followed as I finished a rather substantial book by Professor Randy David, I was introduced to the idea of life as a narrative. I’m pretty sure it’s an idea that would stick with me for many years to come. And it’s bound to come up especially during times like this, on the eve of the new year, when the sociable thing to do is to reminisce and tweet about one’s favorite moments from the past year. (The more contemplative ones like to blog the products of their ruminations as well.)
Here’s one way to think about everything that has happened to you in the past year: they were either things that you planned, or they were the things that you didn’t plan. Thanks to the things that you didn’t plan, you can tell a story of the past year that’s more exciting than if everything turned out well. For example, if you’re a student like me, tonight you can tell the story of how you planned to get your grades up, but then you got caught up in the activities of some charitable cause-oriented organization so much that your grades suffered, but it’s alright because you found that work fulfilling and there you learned things you will never learn inside the classroom. Compare that to if things turned out well: you planned to get your grades up, and, well, they shot up. End of story; you need not provide further details because no one will listen to such arrogance.
The point is that, according to the school of thought related in Professor David’s writings, life is mostly random, and one chooses to make a story out of it as one pleases. You can choose what shape your life will take as much as the world inevitably pushes your life into random but certain directions. It’s a tug of war between your will and circumstance.
It’s not unlike history. From the thousands of ancient and delicate pages of primary historical records, a few individuals tasked by the government to forward the cause of nation building carefully chose certain events and distilled them into readable stories for children such that for the young minds, the rise of a distinct national identity was inevitable. It would seem, even, to be the natural course of things. Now, millions of people, or maybe billions, have lived in this archipelago throughout the past few centuries. That’s millions, or billions, of individual lives, perhaps tied to the society and culture of their time, but still individual. It would only be foolish to think that all the events of all those lifetimes have been summarized concisely in the books we read in history class, and that no other contradicting interpretation is valid. History can only be as good and as complete as its writers can make it.
And if you think about it, our own, personal lives are no different. You may choose to look back at the past year and think of it in terms of the best memories, if you’re one of those who live for the great moments. Or you may want to think about the past year in terms of what you’ve been occupied with. Again, if you’re a student, you’d then divide the past year into the semesters and make such statements as, “Hey, my first semester was great, unlike that terrible summer term.” No matter which lenses you use to look back, however, you will have leave out a few things. In the story of your past year, there will always be days that are blank, days that didn’t matter in the overall plot. That day in the first semester when the lights went out and you couldn’t check Facebook and you just stared blankly all day is irrelevant; it still was a great semester.
But one good thing about our frail human memory is that it’s conveniently impermanent when we want to start over. When hopes are high, when the spirit of change is strong, we can, and we will, weave the new stories of our lives. The counting of the years may be arbitrary, but it gives us landmarks against which we can anchor our hopes. If the last year was bad for you, think again. Think hard, and try to remember those small things you may have buried in your haste to call the year a bad one. Consider those memories, and don’t forget them as we enter a new year—and another chance to write better chapters in our lives.
2 thoughts on “Old Year’s Day”
DJ! Not sure how many views you get from Canada but if you see a spike in your stats from this side of the world, it me! Haha. Wala akong ibang maatupag kaya nanggugulo ako sa blog ng mga tao. Tapos nakita kong may “Personal” section ka pala, aba that’s my favorite genre! Hahaha. So heto na nga, I’m wreaking havoc in your blog, my apologieszsz. And as always, feel free to delete my comments (no hard feelings, promise).
For a more on-topic comment though, I like this line: “But one good thing about our frail human memory is that it’s conveniently impermanent when we want to start over.” Hay, if only. That’s what I had in mind when I decided to move away, the desire to “start over.” Hayayay.
Alam mo minsan — and I mean this ha, hindi naman tayo close para bolahin ka — iniisip ko na sana I encountered your blog (and other Filipino blogs that I follow now) when I was still back home. Reading about Filipino movies and your musings that often reference anything Filipino makes me miss the Philippines even more than I already do.
Hay ang drama. I considered sending this comment-slash-letter thru the Contact page pero baka masyado namang formal (and again, just delete this na lang if it’s annoyingly corny). Gusto ko lang din iparating na sana hindi ka tumigil magsulat, baks. May mga taong tulad ko — mga taong umalis pero hindi naman tunay na lumikas — ang natutuwa/nalulungkot/nabubuhayan ng loob sa tuwing nababasa ang mga sinusulat mo. And for that, DJ, salamat! 😦 🙂 😦
Ah, so ikaw ‘yon. Hahaha, nakakahiya, umabot ka ng 2012 posts ko. I cringe at most of the stuff I wrote here from before 2016 or so. Not that I’ve stopped cringing at my writing, but I like to imagine na may progress naman.
I think that even my ‘Personal’ posts are still too analytical, so I’m glad you seem to have found something rewarding. I guess I had exaggerated things when I thought about the impermanence of memory. You’d know this better than me.
And why would I delete your comment? Hindi ‘yan gulo. Ninamnam ko pa nga ang mala-sulat mong comment. Isipin ko nalang, open letter. So, open response: maraming salamat din Jolens! (Hindi ko pala sigurado kung alyas lang ba ‘yan.) And as one writer to another: may sarili kang boses, ikayayaman ng mundo ang patuloy mo ding pagkukuwento.