A Different Perspective

When I was in high school, I thought college students were old. But I didn’t feel old at all when I was in college. I felt so young, in fact, meeting my classmates and professors, and realizing that there are so many things I needed to learn and that there are so many years ahead.

When I read Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World as a teenager, it felt so different than when I read the novels in my 30s. My life experiences and challenges that I hurdled gave so much meaning to the books and made them more than just a narration or self-expression or even a feel-good fictional piece.

When you ask 60-year-olds what advice they would tell their younger self, they can make a pretty long list such as “Don’t worry too much,” “Take care of your body,” “Don’t try to please people”, and “Hang in there.” This shows that so many things younger generation worry about are either resolved or dismissed as insignificant in old age.

Try looking at a rice field nearby and atop a hill. When you’re near, you appreciate the golden grains and the rich, verdant foliage. You hear the rustling of the leaves and could touch the plant with your hands. When you’re on top of a hill, you see the whole rice field and be awed by all the shades of green, distinct but blending harmoniously. This view was what awed me the most during a nature trip with my high school friends (although I also loved the freshness of the buco water from coconuts we harvested, the wild calamansi that we picked, and the captivating red, wild rose).

In a different scenario, as a student struggling with your online classes during this pandemic, at some points you may have hated your teacher for making your life difficult. But have you tried to consider your teacher’s situation? How much time they spent on preparing the materials or on familiarizing themselves with technology so as to deliver a good lesson? Or as a teacher intent on accomplishing the goals that you set for the semester, have you thought of your students when you set assignment deadlines on a Sunday night or on a holiday? Did you allot enough time for the students to learn? Were the activities and exams in line with the learning objectives and based on the lessons?

When you buy from a street vendor or from the market, why do you always haggle or insist to be given a discount? But when you eat in a restaurant, you feel like giving a big tip for the ambiance and the service? Similarly, why do you expect a discount when you are an acquaintance or family member of the small-time entrepreneur whom you are purchasing something from, or getting the services of?

In the Philippines, online tension is high because of the upcoming national elections. People pit their choice against the others’ choices. It led to maligning people, unfriending your friends, writing hurtful words, and despising others who think differently. I understand that there are are some things that are non-negotiable when selecting the countries’ leaders. But is it worth it to destroy friendships and family relationships over differences in political beliefs?

This is a photo of the Philippine Embassy in Paris, taken from the quatrième étage of the building where I lived. The apartment owner, a gracious French lady in her 90s, invited me to her place one Sunday after going home from church together, just to show me this view. I was touched by the gesture since I rarely see her and rarely talk to her. I was thrilled too because, after going to the same workplace and taking the same short route going there for more than three years, this offered a different perspective.

I am not saying that we should always look at the world from another person’s point of view. Or that, every time we do something, we should always pause and consider other people’s opinion. No!

The way to fully experience life is to be authentic, to show the world who we are.

But it also adds a deeper insight if we consider things from a different perspective. It aids us in making better decisions, ascertaining our beliefs and strengthening our core values. Looking at the issue from a lighter aspect makes our lives more interesting, seeing the same situation with fresh eyes. We realize that we live not in silos, but in a system of interconnectedness.

In knowing this and doing this, we can better understand ourselves, other people and our surroundings.

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