I grew up in the nineties. And just as what most of us knew, the number twenty-three (23) in that era is synonymous to one person– Michael Jordan. I may be wrong but I think most of the young boys during that time wanted to be like His Airness when they grow up – including me. Most of my boy classmates in school are bragging their latest ‘Jordan shoes’ (the Nike Air Jordan series). And I even had a Michael Jordan poster and jersey when I was about eight years old.
Odd as it may sound, I have a huge respect for the number twenty-three when I was a kid (Well, until Lebron James used it. But that’s another story.). For me, it signifies greatness, excellence, and authority. I even had a notion that whenever a basketball player wears a jersey no. 23, whether it is on major leagues or the baranggay liga, heis the team’s captain. Unfortunately, I have to give up my basketball dreams. I have poor eyesight and I have discovered that I will not excel on that field.
I have given up my dream to be a basketball superstar but not my respect for the man. I may have forgotten the number of NBA cards that I have collected in the past but not his legacy. There is something in Michael Jordan that I have admired aside from his basketball skills – his perseverance and determination.
But what’s with the number twenty-three and Michael Jordan?
Today, I silently celebrated my twenty-third birthday. ‘Silently’ because I have disabled my birthday on Facebook on purpose and I did not flaunt it on Twitter (and resort to the desperate, fame whore-ish move ‘Let’s make #HappyBirthdayJuanRepublic trend’). I did that because I do not want to receive an ‘obligatory greeting’ just because they saw it on the web. And I made this day different from the other years by not throwing a celebration. Instead, I silently reflected on what I have become over the past year and how am I going to ‘improve’ it. I dealt upon my success and mistakes, achievements and failures, and thought of my goal and ‘back-up’ plan for the future.
This year has been tough for me. I thought that I would somehow make an ‘improvement’ from my past mistakes. But most of my plans and goals did not materialize. I thought of myself as a failure. Looking back to my teenager self, I saw myself as an ambitious, strong, young man full of potential. But I see myself now as an exact opposite. There were times, out of depression, that I thought of doing something crazy. This may come as a surprise but I had suicidal thoughts in the past. And I feel bad for myself for having those thoughts. I was wrong.
Today, I used those things that depress me to be my inspiration. I looked up for my old published articles, blog entries, and reflection papers. Instead of having a feeling of regret for not fulfilling the dreams of a younger me, I saw it as an inspiration – as a source of positive energy. I saw my younger self as an optimistic young man – so why change into a pessimist? I was bubbly, extrovert, and a positive young man. There was even an incident in the past when my boss said that she envies how easily I earn the trust of people (which is an important tool in our field of work). I have done it in the past – so why can’t I do it now? I want to and I have to.
Today, I also learned what hinders me to be successful. I am full of pride. I don’t want to commit mistakes. Or rather, I am afraid to commit mistakes. I am afraid to be a laughing stock. I have only worked within my comfort zone. I played safe. I was afraid to take risks. I was wrong.
Reflecting with Michael Jordan and the number twenty-three, I came across on one of his famous words: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
If Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in the history of the NBA, was not afraid to commit mistakes, I do not see a reason to make ‘fear’ my excuse. If he became great by failing over and over again, so am I.
Aside from feeling bad for myself for being a ‘failure’, what hurts me more is to see my contemporaries (friends and former classmates) who are now successful in their field of work. Some are working for a good company/institution; some are sent by their company abroad; and some are, there, happily married (For the record, I do not envy them – yet.).
But how does one measure success? Good work? Fat salary? Happy marriage? Investments? Or getting all of them at a young age? I beg to differ. History has shown us people who succeeded long after they should have quit – during the later age of their lives. Alan Rickman got his first movie role at the age of 46. Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at the age of 73. The author of the book Apocalypse Now, Jozef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski, was a sailor, drifter, and part-time criminal until the age of 37. An unemployed Nurse, Kathryn Joosten, became an Emmy award winning actress at 56. Colonel Sanders was 65 when he launched Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). And our very own Lilia Cuntapay got her first starring role in the movie Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay at the age of 76.
The above-mentioned people have inspired me not to give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. A proper time for one’s shining moment will come. As what they say, age is just a number. It is not the measure one’s worth and significance.
This is probably quarter-life crisis. But I am still young. I am just twenty-three. I have a life ahead of me. It is not yet too late to restart again and carve my own story.
This journey of 23 years was both fun and painful. And I would like to start a new journey with hopes and dreams that this will also be a good one. Let’s aim for 90 years? Why not? If the Japanese can do it, why can’t I?
Thank you everyone for (wasting) spending your time reading this. I hope that you will also be part of my journey, Let’s walk together into the fullness of life.
May the Summum Bonum bless us. Padayon!
P.S. After nine (9) months of not having a haircut, I finally decided to have one yesterday. I said goodbye to my Beatle-turned-rugged hairstyle. I look younger and, er, cleaner with my new hair. Well, I think that’s a good start for my journey. And please, excuse my unflattering photo.