40th birthday reflections

40. I have started discovering grey hair and some wrinkles on my face, noticed my metabolism is not as dynamic and reliable as when I was gobbling up fast food in my 20s and observed that I speak my mind more and not take as much sh*t from anyone as I used to. I am now using anti-aging cream at night, make a conscious effort to make healthier choices when eating and faithfully do some kind of workout even after a long, tiring day. I also feel that I am more reflective and careful about what I say, but with more grit and conviction. I now make financial decisions based on my family’s future, instead of merely following my passions or doing something fun. I now prefer being alone, rather than going out and socializing with many different organizations I am part of. I savor each morning where I have 15 minutes to myself praying while having breakfast, after helping the kids get ready for school and before I head out to work. I value my marriage so much more now, seeing Tim not only as a guy who swept me off my feet and gave me a kind of a fairytale transition into this crazy life, but as an awesome, creative and loving father and a hardworking and principled human being who I am going to spend my life with forever.

40. I am grateful for every heartache, disappointment, rejection, depression and a lingering feeling of discontent (if I am doing enough) I have felt in my lifetime. In my quiet moments, I mindfully recall all the significant experiences that made me who I am today, for better or worse! I started a new job a few weeks ago - totally unrelated to the graduate program I painstakingly finished last year, but I realized how schizophrenic (for a lack of a better term) my career has been. I have switched roles so many times from teacher to graphic designer to editor to full time mother to yaya trainer and author and to other positions that require a high level of security clearance. I am grateful for the grace to flourish in whatever country we get assigned to, and to have the courage to reinvent myself so many, many times, even if I do menial jobs, never get promoted, get a fancy title or establish a career path.

I think of my parents who worked so hard to provide me and my siblings with the best education, even though they ran out of funds when I was in college. I am thankful for a college institution that recognized my potential and sent me to school for 4 years for free and didn’t ever pressure me to go back and work for them. I remember being torn between giving back to my benefactors by working for them or working for a dream project that would provide excellent education to the underserved. My benefactors unselfishly and proudly sent me off to work for the underprivileged, and now, 20 years later, we see that project’s success. I am thankful for all the wonderful teachers who listened to my endless rants, questions and frustrations about our country. I am thankful for bosses who believed in my abilities and pushed me to do more that what is expected of me, as I truly used all of the skills I thought I would never use, in my future work life.

I am thankful for all the people who love me - my family, Tim’s family, my friends, my former students, my former co-teachers and mentors - I know that even though we don’t see or talk to each other as often, I know you guys have my back. And although I have long wanted to delete Facebook from my life because of the sometimes toxic content and privacy issues, it is really my only window to feel at “home” even though I am so far away from everyone. Seeing all your stories of evolution, just like mine, makes me feel in touch, involved and loved.

40. I also know I am this age because the only people who knew it was my birthday today in Tokyo were Tim, Kevin and Nina (and my Pinoy choir here who sent me greetings). I ate lunch by myself at a Japanese soba place. I had tea and cookies from the cafeteria while studying Japanese. No fancy parties, surprises, cakes, celebrations, cards or greetings from anyone who physically see me here and it really didn’t matter. I had a nice Italian dinner with my family and got warm hugs and kisses. That’s really all I need.

P.S. During dinner, there was some live music and the vocalist sang “Moon River”. I told my family that that song reminded me of my Dad, and I am sad that I can’t share this birthday with him. Kevin stood up from his seat and gave me a big hug and said “Mommy, I hope you know that we love you and appreciate everything you do for us. I know that Lolo knows that”. Best feeling ever.