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HomeFeaturesJUVENTUS | Humility, gratitude, and the pandemic

JUVENTUS | Humility, gratitude, and the pandemic

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We’re faced with a plethora of events that are definitely a threat to life and limb on various levels.

As I am writing this column, it is the 27th of May, 2020. Two days ago, the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) just announced that they will be sending back OFWs to be repatriated, numbering around 24,000 (nationwide).

At the time of the announcement, I felt scared.

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Yes, indeed, the OFWs have the right to come back to their respective homes, I thought to myself. But knowing how COVID-19 spreads, it only takes one case to create an outbreak. I had a hard time sleeping that night. I wondered what the implications of a move like this would be.

Fast forward to today,

I find myself here, tapping keys on my keyboard.

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Gabriel S. Hagad is the former president of the College of Law Student Council. He is an incoming fourth year student of the University of St. La Salle.
Gabriel S. Hagad.

Listening to some lo-fi hip-hop music to get my brain working in order to write a column on this experience. I feel quite fortunate being tasked to write this because it gives me an opportunity to zoom out and see the big picture as “seeing life through a microscope” is very unsettling.

It is my first time writing a column so please bear with me.

At this point I ask myself, what events have caused an existential crisis to happen within myself lately?

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Well, it pretty much started with the eruption of Taal Volcano during the months of January. I could see the haze in my own backyard. I ended up ordering a reusable N95 face mask from Lazada for the ash. The mask was from China, near Wuhan. The shipment took quite a while to arrive, and within a few weeks, COVID-19 began to spread around the world. The shipment was further delayed because of this.

Definitely a funny turn of events.

Come February, I finally got hold of my mask. I asked my mom what I should do with it, considering it was from China. She advised me to burn it, for the safety of the family. I obliged.

On the 15th of March came the Enhanced Community Quarantine, then pretty soon Bacolod was on lockdown as well. The year 2020 is one hell of a ride, I thought to myself at the time.

April passed, and now it’s May.

A mindset of humility

All these events had caused me to think about how I would go on with my life. In the process I ended up learning a lot more about myself.

So looking at all these events and my experience, I think it’s safe for me to conclude existential crises are caused by the sum total of events that lead up to where you are at a current point in time. If the sum total of events tends to be unsettling or outside one’s comfort zone, then there is a possibility of an existential crisis happening.

If it doesn’t, then life simply goes on.

If the existential crisis occurs however, then one is confronted with an opportunity to rise above this crisis, or succumb to the crisis. Take it from me, an existential crisis isn’t all that bad. The thing is, we’re usually so caught up with our self-image and plans we hold onto, that when things don’t go according to plan we usually cave in. This is a subtle kind of pride, which is very dangerous. It makes you think that you deserve better than what life gives you.

But if you take a stance of humility, and give life the respect it deserves, things will be easier.

I say humility, because life is unpredictable. You can’t just bend life and reality to your will. You have to give life and reality a certain degree of respect, reverence even, if you may. As it may “decide” to not follow your will.

Take for instance one of the situations I found myself in recently. During December, I had booked a ticket to fly to Japan on the 29th of April 2020. The ticket was fully paid for by me.

I was supposed to fly to meet up with my girlfriend who is currently working in a preschool in Japan. We haven’t physically seen each other since the end of October 2019. During early March 2020, I was already convinced that I wouldn’t be able to go. When the Embassy of Japan announced that it would be cancelling visas on March because of COVID-19, there was really nothing I could do. I won’t go into detail of what I did, but I just thought to myself, “Life is unpredictable, what can you do?” Overall, I’m just thankful she understood that I couldn’t fly just yet. Up to this day, our relationship is rock solid.

A mindset of gratitude

Looking at my situation, I can view it in two ways. I will start with the one I do not adopt. I can say to myself: “Life is so unfair”, “I really miss my girlfriend but this virus had to ruin everything”, “I miss going to parties and having drinks with my friends”, “I miss Manila even with all its pollution”, “When I meet up with friends I really wish we could stay until 12 midnight”, and the list goes on.

But the mindset of gratitude is amazing.

Your life takes a full 180-degree-turn when you adopt it. The things I say to myself are “I’m so thankful I have loving parents”, “It’s great how I have water that I can drink”, “I can eat three meals a day”, “I’m happy that I have my internship right now, it gives me something to do”, “My life is a blessing”, “I think it’s awesome how my parents’ sardines brand is constantly improving” or “I’m happy that I have a long-distance relationship that’s working out”.

Indeed, reality is shaped by perception. I’m not saying I have a positive mindset 100% of the time. It’s ok to feel bad at a certain point in time. We’re human after all. What I’m saying is that, whenever you are faced with an existential crisis, you have the opportunity to turn it into something better. And you cannot count on anyone else. It has to start from you.

The current situation

So here we are, in work from home schemes, facing our laptops, phones, and computers for the majority of the time of the day. The shift in the way we work, in itself, can cause existential crises as all these things are new and outside our comfort zones. Professionals have been forced out of their professions – and out of their comfort zones. Take for instance my parents, who are architects. I really admire them for their humility and adaptiveness.

For the duration of the ECQ, their main business was forced to shut down. Construction projects could not materialize due to the restrictions placed by the government.

So what did they do? My mom revived an old passion project – sardines. Yes, my mom, who is an architect, was forced to make sardines from scratch. But did she seem reluctant doing manual labor? Not at all. The sardine brand has gained some traction over the past few weeks and is continuing to grow. My dad helps with the cooking of the sardines as well. I help out with marketing, sales, and deliveries. My sisters help out with food photography. It’s amazing how we work as a team.

Now that we are in GCQ, we have an added stream of income, and the architecture business is back online, albeit not in full force. But that’s ok, I think. All in all, dwelling on what could’ve been doesn’t help at all.

And adopting a mindset of humility and gratitude makes all the difference.

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