Thursday, January 01, 2015

Ever Onward

This is that time when I write a retrospective of the year that was and look ahead at the year to come. I would have done it a few days ago -- on my birthday, as I usually do -- but there were several appointments on the calendar. And I was feeling lazy and just kept putting it off. Mostly the latter, yeah. But there are also words echoing in my head demanding to be written, and so here I am.

I turned 45 just last week. That puts me midway through my forties. An obvious statement if there ever was one but I have to say it because it comes with a measure of disbelief. Forty five. I am midway through my life. That is undeniable. God willing, there's still a ways to go, but somewhere in my mind is a part that is touching the end. No, there is no fear there. Instead, I find myself saying, "How strange."

How strange, indeed! On my birthday, I was thinking, "What right do I have to be this age?" Memories of my childhood and teens are still so vivid and I can still reach back to them. At no point did I ever think I would be this old, or to be where I am right now.

Did I achieve everything I hoped to achieve? No, not quite. There have been missed connections and wasted opportunities. There were faults and limitations I did not recognize until late. Sometimes, I do wonder what could have been. But I do so with some measure of detachment and curiosity instead of regret.

In general, I find myself quite content and happy where I am right now. It's not what I expected, but it feels like where I should be.


Highlights of 2014:

My wife and I went to Europe in May on a trip that was too short and too quick, but still memorable. We went to the Vatican for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, but we missed seeing Pope Francis because we were in the bathroom.

I was appointed OIC Assistant Dean for the Computer Studies Cluster of Ateneo de Davao in June. My ascent up the administrative ladder of the university has been meteoric, but it's also making me uncomfortable. The thing is, I have hardly ever said no to added responsibilities, even when I feel that I'm just faking it most of the time.

The new -- albeit temporary -- post has not come without its share of grief. I've made decisions that have ruffled feathers, among the faculty, the secretaries, and the students. My personal catchphrases are: "Who am I going to offend today?" and "After I'm done, will there be anything left standing?" But these have been decisions that I truly felt have had to be made. To be honest, I'm really not done yet because there are more changes I would like to see. But I'll ride this out and see what happens through the end of March of this year.

This term at the helm has held its own personal revelations for me as well. I was none too popular in high school and in college. I always managed to rub my peers the wrong way. All this time I wondered why. Was it because I was too inflexible? Was it because I had a low emotional quotient? Now some thirty years on, I find that, really, very little has changed in my character. It's not that I wish to offend, I think, because without the responsibility I would get along well enough with everyone. But put that burden on me and, well, I will make sure, to the best that I can, that the job gets done and that it gets done right.

More grief: a colleague at work passed away. But also some joys: our students made quite the splash with our performance at the Philippine Startup Challenge.

Along with the assistant deanship comes other responsibilities (there's that word again.) Owing to the position, I became a member of the Council of Deans for IT Education - Region XI and was elected vice president. So far it has been a pleasure. I like interacting and working with my counterparts from other universities.

I also now get invited to meetings called by ICT Davao. While I do like the people on a personal level, I've been quite vicious at the meetings. It's simply that I think the organization is focused on the wrong things and engaged in activities that won't gain much traction with their constituents. Or maybe it's really just me being an asshole.

Because of my new workload, the academic vice president decided I shouldn't teach so I can focus on admin work. But because we've become short on teachers, I've found myself teaching two freshman classes on discrete math in the second semester. Luckily, I had just given up my position as OIC Director for Publications last November. Teaching freshmen is a challenge all its own, and I'll write in greater length about it some other time.

I still get to fill my literary cravings, though, through the Davao Writers Guild. I was back to Assistant Director for the Davao Writers Workshop last October, working with my friend Julian. In November, I attended a literary translation workshop, which opened a new frontier for me. I also wrote the CCP literary encyclopedia entries for Satur Apoyon and Aida Rivera Ford.

Before I relinquished the publications post, I can proudly say that the office put out five books, all of which I will gladly take credit for, but of which I really only had in-depth involvement for two. Still, I'm proud of having edited History from Below by Dr. Heidi Gloria and having had a hand in producing Rethinking the Bangsamoro Perspective by Atty. Mike Yusingco. There would have been another book but I simply ran out of time.

Finally, on the personal front and probably my proudest achievement: this past year, I shed 40 pounds and took off eight inches from my waistline. My BMI is in the normal range. I now eat healthier and can swim up twenty laps without stopping. I have had to buy new clothes because the old ones don't fit anymore.


What I'm looking forward to in 2015:

More personal discipline in how I work, organizing my projects and tasks dutifully and working with no distractions.

My perennial bugaboo: to write more. But as added goals, I would like to get published again, both in the literary and in the academic. Literary translation is also an exciting avenue.

Learn to ride the unicycle. Master Spanish.

And one more, too personal to share here. But I ask for your prayers that it may come true. You will know when it happens.

As for the rest? Well, ever onward.