It was several months ago that I accepted the project handed over to me by my sister-in-law. My mindset back then was, "Sure, why not. It's still in January, anyway and I'll still have more time to prepare. I think I can do it." And then the month of the project came. And I was up to my neck with activities for the entire month, activities for the Autism Society and the daily grind for my two boys. And now I was thinking, "What the heck was I thinking?" But at the back of my mind I was excited at the prospect of doing what I actually enjoy and love doing, again after almost a decade of a hiatus. And by some amazing miracle despite a myriad of challenges two weeks prior the scheduled "project", it just all came through.
Shortly after graduating from college, I worked at my Alma mater as a guidance counselor and taught part-time basic Psychology subjects while "trying" to squeeze in units for a master's degree, of which I really had no intention of finishing. And then my aunt who was then the dean of a certain college in Samar admonished me to pursue further studies citing how my students were only a page behind me in terms of knowledge base and current learning. It was based on fact, of course. Sensible. Made simple common sense. So I didn't argue at that time. I was 21. What did I know about the world except that at that time, it was my oyster, mine for the taking, mine for the choosing, mine to control.
Fast forward to now, 12 years later, I'm married to a wonderful man and have two beautiful boys. Garret and Morgan have special needs. They have autism. As of now they are non-verbal. They are under a special program that qualifies for their education. I am no longer a guidance counselor since 3 years ago, my last experience of training students was in 2006 and my work load has been whittled down to coordinating activities at our sped center, collaborating with the teachers and parents. The term "further studies" seem to remain just that--further. My top priority are my two boys. My Garret and Morgan. No text books required. No written or oral exams to undergo. Not even constant parent training available by a certified professional. Just the hard, raw, challenging, hands-on, dirt-in-your-face, poo-in-your-hands, decoding their needs that may include emotional or physical bruises every single day parenting stuff. Every day I learn new things. Everyday I expand my understanding, my emotions, my ability to look at life in a certain manner, my perspective, my beliefs, my hopes, my dreams, my faith. I know more about the world more now than 12 years ago. And the world, as I look at it now in different-colored lenses, and as I have realized, is not my oyster anymore. Rather, I have discovered that the world is an endless ocean of unfathomable possibilities, where personal decision and determination is just but a fragment of a billion outside forces that shape one's experiences.
The "project" that I am referring to finally took place three days ago. An 8-hour Team building workshop to young professionals about to embark on a 30-day journey to a foreign country for the sole purpose of learning. Training. This was my main job a decade ago. Oh how I loved it! Facilitating the structured learning activities, prodding the participants' insights and learning and formulating it into one amazing reflection of themselves and the goals they have mapped out for their near or far future. And I discovered that at the end of the day with my feet dead tired, propped up on the backseat of the car going home to my boys--- oh how I still loved training and how I missed it terribly.
As I watched the houses of Barangay Bantigue roll by, I reflected how in the days prior to the training, I was very anxious, thoughts replaying in my mind how I was so out of the game for quite some time already, whether I would still have the spark that would ignite the participant's interest for starters and in the end, not just elicit learning, but long-lasting, practical insights. My body was already screaming to lie in bed as I did not get more than two hours of sleep the night before. This emotional roller coaster I had to go through, I now realize, and still trying to fulfill my mama and wife duties, was certainly an awakening experience. As I said, the project pulled through. I did it. And I think based on informal feedback, I did it with high marks, flying colors, whatever metaphor you want to call it. The bottom line was I. Did. It. Can you see my wide grin on my face?
On my way home from the venue, not only did I realize how much I still loved training and how I missed it terribly, but I realized how I have somehow become miraculously a better trainer than I ever was before. Why? I didn't have to guess for a long time, because my answer or answers rather, greeted me when I entered our gate when I reached home-- my boys, Andro, Garret and Morgan.
My life with my three boys. Yes, I call my husband, my "kamagwangan" with a touch of endearment and a little "pasakalye" of course. My life with them, my beautiful, amazing, exciting, not-a-dull moment life with them, raising Garret and Morgan, living with autism, thriving despite and in spite of it, has shaped me into a better person, a better wife, mother and woman all rolled into one. Being a better trainer is just an added bonus, in fact. And hands down, no amount of further studies, masters or doctoral studies could ever compete with the experience, learning, grace and wisdom that my family life has endowed and blessed me with. And I am sure even my dean-aunt would not even try to argue with me on this.
Experience come in all forms, shapes and sizes. Maturity in mind and body, likewise. Wisdom certainly comes with experience. What's that eternal question that every now and then we ask ourselves? Oh yes, here it is, "If I were given a chance to go back and change the past, would I?" Here's my answer:
A simple and resolute "No."
The night before the training, a friend asked me what I was studying about and I just couldn't reveal what it was because I was too afraid that the training might be a flop and I wouldn't measure up to their standards or worse, my own. And with the response that came next, it revealed what I couldn't even articulate myself because of the anxiety and fear I felt. It came along the lines of, "It must be so important and special to you for you not to tell me or anyone." And all I could say was, "Thank you for getting it." The project was indeed important and special to me because if I accomplished it well, then that would prove that somehow in the deep recesses of my cognition, perception and ability, I am still worth it, of value, and significant. That I am still a positive and significant contribution. It would prove that I still have it. By "it", I mean growth, learning, improvement, evolving, changing, bettering, maturing with grace, sublime with age and experience. And if I didn't even pass according to whatever standards, well, I'll have to deal with it some way or another.
At the beginning of the training I practically begged my participants not to call me a speaker. I did not fit into that mold. I jokingly told them, a speaker is somebody mature, older in years and with a lot more experience than I have. Besides, I'm still young. I stopped counting my years when I reached 25. To which, thankfully they got my humor, my first clue that the training was starting on the right foot.
So yes, the best teacher is experience. The best "further studies" is experience. And I am so abundantly blessed with teachers in my life.
Thank you Ate Anna, for trusting me enough to entrust me with this project.
Thank you Ate Polly, my cousin, who helped me enormously with the training modules. I hope someday we can work together. Then I can learn even more from you.
Thank you Sandra, for your belief and faith in my abilities.
Thank you Lyra, Carmi and Diane, my three beautiful assistants during the training who seemed to anticipate my every need even before I knew what they were. I look forward to working with you again.
Thank you friends and family for getting it. Your affirmation and validation is important to me.
To my wonderful, wonderful, wonderful participants-- Lito, John, Clare, Sandra, Wesley and Team leader Ma'am Cathy, what more can I say? You made it easy for me that fateful day. Training you was the best decision I made in a very long time. Good luck to your journey in that foreign country.
To my primary teachers in my life-- Andro, Garret and Morgan, thank you my boys, thank you. I truly must have done something right in my life to have been given the miracle that is all three of you...