The Last Column
Feels like breaking up via text. Or ending an online friendship.
This will be my last “Long Lunch” for the year and for the foreseeable future. Writing this column was a lot of fun—probably too much because as soon as I submitted each article I started thinking about the next one—and I especially found pleasure in reading and responding to your comments. Retired guys like me need to be told several times a week that they can still do something valuable. Hehe. The one-year break from responsibilities and the chance to do something close to creative writing were great. But it’s time to get back to work and try to earn serious money again.
The thing about leading a stress-free life with time for exercise is that you get a little healthier; and as your life expectancy lengthens, you realize that your nest egg, that lump sum retirement fund plus those very conservative investments you made here and there, might not be enough.
I need robust new income streams. I tried selling my old clothes to Eloy’s back when I was in college, but I only made enough money to buy one can of Reno liver spread and a small loaf of tasty bread, so I know that won’t work. Teaching, like writing, unfortunately generates more psychic income than cash. Macho dancing might be more lucrative, but I can’t find my old cowboy hat and it doesn’t feel right to play “Careless Whisper” these days. Seriously, the key, I believe, is to do something, not on a one-off, part-time or for-fun basis, but consistently, full-time and for the money. Bottom line, I have to bury my dreams of winning a Palanca award, and move on.
Besides, any kind of award was a long, long, longshot at best. When I was a kid, I enjoyed writing, and I think I was pretty good at it. (I once got a grade of 105% for an essay. Better than perfect! O, ‘di ba?!) In fourth grade, however, I wrote an account of a funeral that had profoundly saddened me; and afterwards my teacher Mrs. Gonzales took me aside and delivered the most fateful advice. She said, “You write well. You should be a lawyer.” Not writer or journalist or English teacher. Lawyer. Why she said that, I have no idea; but thus began a life track that would take me through a pre-law education in economics, law school, the bar exam, general practice with a law firm, and finally corporate counselling. I did reams of writing, but it was in what a law professor called “the elegant style.” Whereas good writing is meant to be read and understood, elegant legal writing is not. It is aggressively qualified, precise yet vague, and intentionally opaque. It should be intelligible only to lawyers, preferably only to the lawyer who wrote it. Hahaha. I have tried to shake off years of legal training and return to simple storytelling, but I know I haven’t been completely successful. Another justification for moving on.
Looking back, it was the column on millennials that got a lot of readers to react. The most vitriolic comments came from people who apparently didn’t read beyond the first few paragraphs—my own little brush with what became epidemic behavior online this past year. People seemed to like the stuff I wrote with my tongue firmly in my cheek, while a heavily researched article on sports and behavioral economics was ignored. Naturally, I guess, it was the heartfelt writing that received the most heartwarming responses. A friend pointed out that I was baring a considerable amount about myself in these pieces, and it dawned on me then that this was something I could not sustain. Ultimately, as the guy often says to the great girl that he’s inexplicably breaking up with, it’s me not you.
The BusinessMirror is an excellent newspaper, and my editor, whose own writing I have long admired, made my work better every week. I have to thank them for the opportunity they gave me. I also want to express my appreciation to Cedric Bagtas and Rolly Narciso. I have not met these two gentlemen in person, but they took the time to correspond with me via email about the topics in the column. Of course, many other friends, relatives and complete strangers read the articles and sent notes for which I am grateful. Extra special mention, however, goes to my wife who to the end shall remain nameless. She read every single piece—mainly because I displayed the newspaper conspicuously in our bedroom every Wednesday—and if at the end she only said “Nice” I knew I had to do better. But if she either laughed briefly or teared up while reading, I could heave a quiet sigh of relief and say to myself “Success!”
Be good, everyone.
I will miss this.