Written by Ma. Christina Itchon-Concepcion
The mirror stands majestically in the hallway, just near the doorway, where it has always been. As a newly married couple, you and your wife decided to place it there so every time you leave the house, you looked your best. It has been the silent witness of how the children have grown over the years, how you gained weight and lost the same, witnessed the times when you looked into its depth with sad eyes … or with a smile.
Now, standing tall peering intently in the image that is staring back at you, it finally dawned on you how things have changed, how you have changed. There are now creases in your eyelids, and in your forehead are lines and folds where smiles have been. Gray hairs cover your head.
Today is your 65th birthday.
You’re accomplished, fulfilled, complete, retired and happy.
Your children are all grown up. They have their own families and are themselves pursuing their own career paths. You have a few grandchildren, some live near, some in far distant places. Occasions such as Christmas and birthdays are wonderful reasons to meet together, but lately, it has become a rare occurrence. Work is taking much of their time, and again you remember yourself when you were their age, so you understand.
How time has flown. You recall how you felt when you were in similar situations a long time ago, when it seemed then that what mattered most was meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals and plans.
It was for the family, all your sacrifice, your hard work. You said to yourself you had to do it, t’was your responsibility. Only the best for them.
You looked at your spouse. Still beautiful even with the years that has passed. However, somehow you know time has changed her. Still elegant in stature, the years have mellowed her personality. Now, she’s most of the time silent in her thoughts, reading the day away, or just simply doing her chores and then retiring in her own thoughts.
She looked up, saw you staring at her, she smiled at you, that same sweet smile you fell in love with…
The house is silent now. No more children laughing, dogs barking, ordinary sounds you used to love.
Accomplished, fulfilled, complete, retired … you told yourself you’ve had a good life. You are happy.
The moment you said “I do” in the altar of marriage, you took upon yourself serious responsibilities that required not only your might, mind, and strength; it required every bit of your person.
In the hustle and bustle of life that followed, you juggled work, family, church, friends, and a gazillion other things, desperately trying to fulfill all obligations and expectations, with all your best intentions.
Literally you got lost in the process as you occupied yourself day in and day out. That went on for years and years. Of course along the way you enjoyed yourself. The accomplishments, the promotions, the multiple salary raise, your climb in the corporate ladder boosted up your morale and motivated you to work harder. Overall, the feeling was ecstatic.
And then, one day, you realized that the time has come for you to slow down …
And now, here you are, facing the same mirror, just like the way you’ve done every day for 45 years since the day you got married. You smiled at yourself. You’ve reached the summit. You told yourself you’ve done your best.
This morning, as you finally left your office of more than 40 years, you said your goodbyes. It was a weird feeling, what you felt. You will miss your desk, the phone, the view from your window, the coffee, your staff, even your boss. Looking back one last time, you convinced yourself you are excited with the future. It will be a brand new chapter in your life.
What will the future hold?
Many of us invest most of our time in our careers, our businesses, and our employment. It all started as a means to meet our family’s needs. We work to earn a living, all for our family.
Then, in the succeeding years, we dedicate our whole beings into giving our best and doing our best to reach the pinnacle of success in these undertakings. It has reached another level. No longer is it purely for earning, it now provides the need for security, belongingness, self esteem, and ultimately, self-actualization, as taught by Abraham Maslow.
Much of our productive years we devote to helping our employers and organizations accomplish targets, reach quotas, maximize profits, and organize expansions and mergers. In the rush of things we feel needed, important, significant, contributing.
Day in day out we repeat the routine: we set goals, accomplish them, succeed, and then the cycle begins again. This time we set higher goals, we identify resources, we interact with these new and higher resources, and then we succeed. Then another cycle begins again, one level up. It seemed never ending.
However, just like everything else in life, somehow it ends.
So here you are.
One question lingers in your mind.
Am I happy?
It’s within you.
One thing I know for sure. The only institution that will give us genuine and lasting happiness is our family.
Work, business, employment, civic and social organizations … these are all temporary. Somehow, time comes when we say goodbye to them. But never to our family. We never say goodbye to the most important people in our life.
It is where everything begins, and consequently, it is where everything ends.
So how’s your family?
Are you successful in and on it?
Look at the mirror and ask.
Your own eyes will tell you the answer.
I hope you can honestly say yes.
Mirrors never lie.
And we don’t lie to ourselves.
I sincerely hope not…
Otherwise, who else will tell the truth?
(pictures courtesy of Dean J. Linog of XU COE)