Mentors are essential in our lives. Indeed, you can be considered lucky if you have one who is just filled with wisdom and knowledge that took them years to learn but then they just give it out like fairy dust. Let me share few of the wisdom that my first and best mentor, my father, Coach Neon, has taught me. Hopefully, you’ll find them helpful and maybe guide you in your pursuits in life.
1. Work Hard
Papa didn’t graduate college. He got married young and had four children. Now that I’m an adult, I can’t help but wonder how he did it. At my age, he already had three children, and yet I remember him as a happy and funny person. They say that kids won’t do what you tell them to do, but they would imitate what their parents do. I guess my dad was able to raise us beautifully because he works hard not just at work or when he’s coaching, but even in being a father. When he has to make a bahay kubo (nipa hut), I see him work hard to finish it even when he’s tired from his job. When we have issues within the family, he works hard to patch things up. When he had to ask forgiveness for a mistake he has made, he worked hard to earn our trust. He shows up not just in the happiest but most importantly, in the most difficult times in our lives. I guess I really got my work ethic from him, although he’s way better at it than I’ll ever be, but whenever I don’t feel like reading more pages of Harrison’s, I see him, and I remember how hard he worked up to the very end of his life, and I feel guilty, because who am I to complain when my dad doesn’t even have the word ‘tired’ in his vocabulary? I have the stamina to strive for my dreams because I grew up with such a hardworking, epic person, whom I admire a lot. I fully understand that in whatever aspect in life, there are no shortcuts.
2. You’re not special. Do the chores.
My father trained us to wash the dishes starting at the age of five. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we may be his princesses, but that doesn’t mean that we are exempted from household chores. I had a self-entitlement issue back when I was a kid. I thought that since I work extra hard to be the best in class, I am excused from chores. Papa wouldn’t take any of it. He let all of us wash dishes, clean our room, sweep the yard, and do our laundry. This is actually a very profound lesson for me. It taught me that the basics are important. I didn’t have issues with cleanliness or hygiene when I was in college because Papa didn’t allow laziness in the house up to a point that I think I have borderline OCD because I just want stuff to always be clean and organized. I knew that no one is going to take care of my stuff other than myself, and that I have to take personal responsibility for everything that I have and the space that I occupy. I’m just grateful that laziness is not an issue now that I am an adult.
3. You are not above or below anyone.
I’m allergic to people with superiority complex. Whenever I see or hear someone degrading another person because of their economic status, or just plainly treating them bad, I get really upset. Why? Because we are all human beings and whether you are the president of the Philippines or a billionaire, if you get hit by a car, chances are, you’ll die. We are all the same. This level of humility has grounded me to treat people equally. This would include being nice to waiters, to say thank you and good morning to security guards, and to give people the benefit of the doubt when they are underperforming. I am not less or more important than anyone.
4. Stand up for what you believe in.
I have very strong beliefs about politics, religion, and society overall. I may not talk about it that much here in my blog, but my dad made me stubborn and taught me to not just accept everything as it is, but rather ask questions. And when I see that something is clearly wrong, I need to speak up. He raised us to be interactive with life rather than just be passive and be okay about everything. Being brave and rational at the same time has brought me places and connected me to people whom I never thought I would have been friends with if I was too shy speak up. Sticking to my principles has allowed me to create healthy boundaries which has made my mind a better place to live in. I had to learn all of this the hard way, and sometimes I ask myself, are my principles too strong? But at the end of the day, I have peace of mind, and I can sleep soundly at night knowing that I lived life on my terms. I chose the people who are around me, and I am surrounded by family, friends, pets, and a significant other that I can fully trust with my life, because of that one big decision of setting boundaries. Thank you Papa, for teaching me to stand up for myself and for the people I love.
5. Love your siblings.
My siblings are the three pillars of my life. They are the source of my courage and will to be successful in this path that I chose. To be honest, I have survived medschool plus Papa’s death because of my sibs. Papa instilled in us that we must always love, support, and understand each other. I have found my bestfriends in my sisters, and our relationship is the major component of my core. Papa just emphasized this repeatedly to us, and when we were put to the test, we have managed to get through every hurdle because we have each other.
6. Choose a partner who will stay through thick and thin.
Unlike my other siblings, I am the daughter who never introduced a boyfriend to my Dad. I took his advice seriously. Study first, and when you have graduated college, you are allowed to have a boyfriend. Sadly, I was never able to introduce Mr. Right because I was single when my father was still alive. However, I asked him a lot of questions on how to choose a man. He often jokes that since I’m the most expensive one, because I’m studying medicine, I am only allowed to date rich guys. Then I asked him on a more serious tone, “Papa, to be honest, do you want me to choose a rich partner?” Then the most amazing words came from my father’s mouth, “You know, it’s not about the money. Of course I want you to live a comfortable life, but, what’s important in choosing a life partner is, you choose someone who will stay through thick and thin. Building a family and raising kids is challenging and life will give you many problems, so you need someone who stays and someone who’s willing to understand, someone hardworking, and someone who will truly love you for exactly who you are.” Since then, I was able to create a standard for the man that I will choose. I know that Mr. Perfect is not there, but so far, I think I chose someone that my father has described.
7. Live your passion.
It was quite hard for me to understand why my father loves basketball. He would train several teams after work and during weekends. His players were like a part of his life. He treats him like his kids and he mentors them. I couldn’t grasp the idea of doing something that makes you so exhausted, and not that financially rewarding, but then you do it anyway. As I got old, I somehow was able to digest it. In fact, I am living my passion. It wasn’t hard for me to quit my job and go back to school because I had a role model when it comes to following your bliss, and it was my dad. Even though he couldn’t play basketball anymore because he had kids, he still mentored kids. His passion for the game overflowed to hundreds of basketball players in our town. I saw it during his funeral. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw hundreds of previous and present basketball players went to the church. The church was congested, you would think that it was a VIP’s funeral. It all sank in that when you give so much of yourself, and live with fire and passion, people feel it. Any form of love that you put out in the universe comes back. His love for basketball inspired me to love the path that I chose in a spiritual level.
We are all humans after all. No matter how much we try to be the best versions of ourselves, chances are, we will make mistakes. I admit that until now, I am struggling to forgive several people in my life, but I look forward to the day that I can genuinely say that I have forgiven them. Forgiveness is not about waiting for the other person to say sorry. It’s actually a courageous act that you do for your own sake. It frees you and elevates your consciousness. I saw him forgive people who have clearly wronged him, and even apologized for mistakes that weren’t even his. I still wonder when I’ll ever reach that level of courage and love. But, in situations when I can, I try to forgive, because who are we to not do so? We are but a speck in this universe after all.
9. Whatever it is, face it.
I am a good runner, not in the physical sense, but when it comes to conflicts, I am the champion of bolting when a turbulent situation presents itself. But this is not a good practice. I can’t run from every problem or walk on eggshells just to keep the peace. I have to learn how to solve problems, and talk to people, no matter how difficult they are. He always told me to, “Face your problem. Approach the person concerned rather than complain.” Well Papa it’s much easily said than done. Adult problems are way bigger than my issues back when I was young. However, when you grow up with such a brave person, it’s somehow easier to emulate. Until now, I am a work in progress and I could still do better, but I try to be as self-aware as possible.
10. When you don’t feel safe, walk away.
How will you know if you are with the right people? It’s actually vague to answer but, allow me to describe this in the best way that I can. When you feel safe around a person, that’s when you know that this person is good for you. But when someone’s presence acivates your fear response, makes you second guess, and walk on thin ice, that’s your clue to investigate. He taught us to walk away from things that scares the shit out of us. I noticed that I know that feeling because I have felt it whenever I’m around him, that feeling that you are being taken care of, that he has your back, and that security that even if I make mistakes, this person will still love and accept me. Having experienced that kind of love and safety made it quite easy for me to sift through people, and know when they really mean well. It also gave me an internal compass and has directed me to the most genuine humans. It also allowed me to let go of jobs, people, and relationships that has gone its course.
Even though our father-daughter relationship has been cut short, I can honestly say that all those wonderful twenty five years taught me enough lessons to last me for the next decades that I still have. It is indescribably painful to lose the person that you loved the most, but even though the pain doesn’t go away, I breathe every day knowing that the lessons he taught will forever be etched in my heart and will transcend in the work that I do. The life of the person we lost doesn’t stop on that last breath. In a way, they live through us, and through the life of every person they have touched.