by Eric Santillan

Happiness and peace comes from doing the things you love to do.

We all know that. But not everyone has the privilege of doing it. The things we have to do have a nasty way of catching up and taking over our lives and eating up not just our time and energy, but also our dreams and hopes that we start to believe that there is absolutely no other way to live. We justify it by saying that happiness is just for young people, that once you have a family, you have to start thinking about mouths to feed and sending your kids to school. This pandemic could have done two things: it probably made us realise what we really wanted to do in life by making us realise the essentials of our life. Or it could have forced us to do the things we have to do because we needed to survive.

I remember when I was in high school, I wrote our “Class Prophecy” which is a narrative on what we wanted to do when we grow up. I asked my classmates to send me a description of their dreams. It was an exercise on superlatives. One of ours was going to be the doctor who finally finds a cure for cancer. One was going to be the president of the Philippines. Another one was going to be a Captain of a luxury ship. And in that luxury ship years from now, he was going to meet one of our classmates who has become a millionaire businessman.

Reading that prophecy, you would think our class of fifty would change the whole world just by the sheer power of our dreams.

And then we all grew up.

We don’t have a President, although we have several politicians from different branches of government in our fold. We have a very good lawyer who works for one of the top law firms in the country. The doctor who was going to find the cure for cancer is not even a doctor now–he’s a topnotch IT guy (funny, nobody wanted to be in IT then). We do have several doctors–all doing well in their respective practices–most of them we never thought will become doctors. We have several businessmen, so they’re probably millionaires now.

Prophecies made about us in high school are a bit tricky. We began life with great hopes and dreams. Then “life happens” and we re-evaluate our dreams, either because we think them too lofty, or unrealistic, or too ideal. Some of us realize that we were just too naive and we edit our dreams the way we edit essays — cruelly, with impunity, that sometimes we end up with written work we don’t recognize as ours anymore after asking other people about their opinion.

So many people abandon not just dreams but careers. An American Bar Association survey found that 44% of lawyers would recommend that a young person not pursue a career in law which is telling of how they feel about their careers. A study of 20,000 executive searches found that 40 percent of senior-level hires “are pushed out, fail or quit within 18 months.” More than half of teachers quit their jobs within four years.

We hope we end up better versions of ourselves, and some of us are. But some of us don’t feel better at all. We let life happen, and we end up slaving away at what we’re currently doing becoming deflated versions of who we really wanted in life.

Don’t get me wrong, not ending up doing what we planned to do back in high school is not a problem. Heck, I was fifteen and wanted to be a lawyer, and I’m not. I think the bigger problem is that we have stopped dreaming. We have stopped doing the things we love to do, and allowed ourselves with work that may be necessary, but doesn’t give life.

A key question to ask yourself would be: “If money is not an issue, would I be doing what I’m doing now?”

The Filipino word for work is hanapbuhay. If your work doesn’t give you life, where do you find it?

I remember a person tell me that life is like the Olympics. Everyone can participate, but most people can only focus (and excel) in one sport.

What is your sport?


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