, June 16, 2024

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How Long Will You Live?


  •   4 min reads
How Long Will You Live?


by Susan V. Ople

The average life span of a cockroach is one year. But, a cockroach does not know this. It does not scurry into safety at the sight of a giant shoe looming overhead, waiting for the perfect moment to squash it to extinction.

You and I differ from a cockroach. We are born knowing that eventually we will die. Like bread crumbs to pudding, our ashes will comingle with the Earth, thus offering nutrients to earthworms. An earthworm is far luckier than a cockroach. Its life span varies widely, from six to nine years, with the luckier species able to survive for at least 20 years.

That we, humans, are gifted with the knowledge that our umbilical cords come with an expiration date appear to be lost on people who live aimless lives. To wake up each morning and feel that this day is no different than the other is such a grievous error in judgment. Every sunrise is an opportunity to live a day better and more productive than the previous one.

How long will you and I live? We need to ask that question because tomorrow, we could die. It would be such a shame if we go through life hoarding baskets of regrets in the backyard of our memory.

When we ride in an elevator, we press the number of the floor where we want to get off. In death, none of us know which button to press. Divinity has its own penthouse, and only those authorized by Heaven can reach that holy floor. So, live. Do not aim to merely exist. Leave an imprint, perhaps not as huge as Gandhi’s, but something precious to those who truly love you. Be good.

One of my mentors, a wise and brilliant man by the name of Silvestre Afable Jr., once said that we really only need the unconditional love of at least one person to get by in life. To beget love, one must know how to truly love. So, love. Do not aim to merely receive. Give as much as you can of yourself, whether through ideas, heartfelt hugs, and compliments that are sincere as biblical Psalms. Do not be stingy with appreciation. Money as a manifestation of love is overrated. That gadget you bought as a gift will depreciate in value as soon as it’s opened. The value of an unexpected hug at a critical time is a memory that appreciates with time.

If you spend time formulating horrendous memes and captions to bash someone else, please stop. The keyboard was not invented to be your accomplice in hate. Besides, the more energy you spend disliking people, the lesser minutes in the day for you to take in the positive energy of life. Hatred cuts life short. Bigotry is arrogance that kills. Remove that from your life. Be happy, if not always with yourself, than be happy for others.

Do you remember cramming for the final exams during your college days? Getting a failing grade is embarrassing because somehow you are judged based on the marks you get. Beyond school, failure teaches the greatest lessons. Do not let your fear of failure overshadow the potential to succeed. Trust yourself. In life, those who at least try would always get an answer. You just need to know what questions to ask, which situations to aim for. When you challenge yourself, then you get to know what living is all about. My father, the late great Ka Blas Ople, once said that the biggest tragedy is to grow old without really knowing what you want to be in life. Ambition is not a bad thing to have.

The average life expectancy of a Filipino is around 70 years. Nineteen years ago, our average life expectancy was only 58 years. That’s a difference of nearly 30 years! Compared to a cockroach, we are infinitely luckier. That you are able to read this column is already an affirmation of that good fortune. So, read more. Expand your mind. Develop your abilities. Age should not be a hindrance in uncovering your true worth. Observe your surroundings and take in as much as you can—the colors, the scents, the feelings, and the sounds. Be a happy sponge. Be grateful.

And as you live, where you are, with the people who love you, think of how you can improve your humanity.

Always be a work in progress. Embark on self-improvement initiatives. Save money so you can travel; earn money so you can enroll in a class that is totally alien to what you currently do. Learn.

Be kind. When you are at work, in meetings, or sharing a crowded space with complete strangers, just breathe in and out with a grateful heart. Smile more. Find opportunities to laugh. It’s not that hard. One of the greatest follies in life is to spend more time looking at your phone than conversing with people. Do not type what you feel. Say it.

How long will you live? That may be God’s biggest surprise. When that divine elevator takes you to afterlife’s roof deck, I wish you the biggest smile, from within, radiating through the clouds, into the hearts of people that remember you best. For now, live and do your best.


This column by the late Secretary Susan Ople was originally published in the October 30 2019 issue of the Business Mirror


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