Forty is the New Twenty


I am not yet 40, but I am next in line in the family.

Last weekend, I inherited a whole bunch of party decorations from my sister. She bought them for my brother-in-law’s simple lunch celebration at their house, which is also my home for the year, at least. I watched him carefully trying to enjoy reaching the age where life supposedly began. I saw how he squirmed at the mere thought of turning 40. I was detached and even amused last week, and told him that he had a lot to be grateful for, and no reason to be depressed. I happily counted his blessings for him.

Then came The Great Turnover.  The party was over. The buntings, balloon weights, centerpieces, and banners were removed.  And my loving sister collected them all and gave them to me. I was stunned at the realization that I was next. I panicked. The sight of all all those shiny “40” signs blinded instead of dazzled me. I was clearly not ready. 

I still felt like I was 20, fresh out of college, idealistic, passionate, and full of hope. It was such a cliche to be afraid of a number, but there I was, taking stock of what was there and what was not, and I sank into a mini-depression.

I still had many dreams to fulfill, what if time was running out? Which should I discard, which should I pursue? I thought I was happy and on my way to a new life until the thought of where I would be next year on my birthday haunted me. 

True, by admitting my age in a blog post I am probably eliminating myself from the realm of possibilities with the men-seeking-younger-women out there. But who cares?  My friends are facing real health scares, with illnesses and ailments we only heard about from our parents before. It is time to face reality.

I often joke that my only goal is not to look my age. Thanks to my parents’ genes and Clinique, my skin does not have visible signs of aging yet. But I have more concerns than my face, and it is time to shift to second gear.

This chance I have to pursue my creative side, to pause and reflect, to focus on my health, to enjoy life outside my small world – I should embrace it with more passion. 

I should walk my talk and count my blessings. 

And take out my proverbial pen and paper and start writing!


Me, Object of Envy?

I am having quite a ride with this reversal of roles.  My friends are now the ones telling me that they envy my life.  Me, of all people, who is so used to living vicariously through other people, with no little help from Facebook? (For those wondering what’s going on, please read my post about my “gap year” here. It doesn’t explain everything but gives a sort of background.)

I have always been the one wishing I had that car, or that body, or that boyfriend, or that husband, or that daughter, or that son, or that job.  Having stayed unattached when almost all my friends started raising families, I have always thought others had the better slice of cake and I couldn’t get the things I wanted out of life.  I envied, how I envied, people who traveled, people who bought houses, people whose children hugged them at night, people whose lives seemed to be more interesting and fulfilling.

I am not sure if I will ever get used to hearing this from people:  “I envy you, Ella.  Imagine, you can fly to another country just like that, with no mortgage or tuition to think of?”

After my one hundred despedidas, I heard this sentiment in different forms.

“Wish I could do that, leave everything, be free to start a new life.”

“You’re so lucky, you could meet new people, explore new places.”

“That is a rare opportunity.”

“A blessing.”

“The most wonderful gift.”

There are days when I do feel carefree, when I  wear pajamas all day, eat peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for lunch, snack on chocolates, and devour books as if there is no tomorrow.  There are days when I am my best self – I wake up early, pray, exercise, cook, do laundry, play with my niece, dine with my sister and her husband using their best cutlery, and soak in a warm bath. Those are the happy days.

But there are days when I feel my life seems much better  from the outside, because I do not see the wonder of it all, and people’s comments to me sound like the short reviews printed on the first few pages of a book, which I always suspect were written by the author’s friends and not exactly descriptive of the book’s worth. Those are the days when I miss my regular lawyer’s paycheck, when I want to talk to my friends back home over coffee and not through the Internet, when catching a bus takes up the whole day (in the Philippines, I drove everywhere and thus owned my time), and when I worry about what will happen to me in the future.

Just today, two people told me they envied me.  One person said it because he saw that I did not have to be stressed about work. My thought bubble went like this: That’s easy, try it – do not work.  I assure you the stress also comes because you’re not going to get paid either. 🙂  Another person said it to me because I am here in beautiful Sydney where everyone looks like Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, and she imagined I was beating men away with a stick.  Thought bubble: This friend has seen too many  movies.

Oh, the romanticized version of my life sounds so much better. Perhaps I could write a book about it.

The Unreachable Star

A Palanca award is like an Oscar to the Filipino writer – it sticks to the winner’s name. It announces to writers’ circles that this particular writer has arrived. It opens doors to great projects and probably even leads to a book or a movie in the future.

Probably, the only Palanca I’ll ever receive in my lifetime is the Palanca letter from my mother, which I got when I attended the Days with the Lord retreat while in law school. Every year, I download the contest rules, toy with the idea of joining, and then decide not to. It’s Palanca season once again and I actually could have found the time to write, except I have not been in the right mood to do so for the past decade.

Perhaps I have made this writer’s block get in the way, and have not found enough ways to be in touch with my creative side. My writer-friends say that they submit entries to the Palancas even if they don’t win, as it is good exercise to prepare and polish one or several pieces of writing. I wish them all the best.
I am too lazy, uninspired, and scared to take the plunge. Until then I will remain unknown and unskilled, happy to keep my blogs and journals, and safe from the threat of failure.

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