“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou
My main purpose of writing this article is to share some techniques to young people, preferably high school students, or maybe their parents, so they can get tips on how to motivate their children.
This is not supposed to be an emotional, but more like an empowering piece. But I need to lay down the premise by starting with my story to inspire young people out there who think they have enough miseries in life to simply throw it all away. Guess what, if you are facing a lot of challenges today – embrace the mission to survive them. Like lifting weights, more weight will test your strength. Pick up yourself everyday and train your mind.
My childhood years were very challenging. It was difficult to grow emotionally, mentally, even spritually in a family environment where you are expected to be self-reliant at age nine. My motto as a child – sad is normal. At a tender age, I already knew that I will have a small chance of living a normal life. My mother died when I was nine, and the eldest of five other siblings. My father was a difficult man whose life was made more difficult by having to take care of so many children all by himself. Our house was always emotionally charged. Our life was like a “survivor series” TV show. So I made it my mission to survive but first to teach myself how to survive despite all the odds. And I was of the strong belief that learning, learning new things, learning consistently will help me cope. As the saying – “what does not break you, makes you stronger.”
So buckle up. Here are some of the major techniques I developed as a child to help me learn and survive despite the lack of resources. Many would have the same experience or even harder but I want to take time to write mine in a very simple way so I can share and inspire other children.
1. Read. Read like you need to eat everyday. And do not read only because you are told (the most boring books are what they assign you to read in schools). I read aloud in front of the mirror to observe my mouth. Read according to your own imagination. Stretch your mind by memorizing subjects you are fond of. I used to borrow books from neighbors and relatives and rent from stores. There was a “book club” somewhere in Plazamart which rented books for a week for 5 or 10 pesos per book.
I am lucky to have a grandfather who was a teacher and so had several books at my disposal. In grade school, aside from the scahool-prescribed Storytime Teller, I enjoyed reading hard bound medical books and law books. I was so engrossed by the colored pictures of the human cardiovascular system. My brain cells were jumping as I trace how the human blood flows back and forth our hearts. Reading exercises your imagination and brings you to places. My bed was definitely not as soft as other kids my age but when I read I was ransported to beautiful castles where it felt like I was sleeping comfortably as a queen.
Today, young people watch movies or listen to audio files like it can substitute reading. Not quite so. There is something surreal in holding a book as child. I also enjoyed watching shows on TV and movies when I was a child but reading is something I knew will help me more. Indeed, fast forward to the future, something that I probably won’t understand in grade school but there are benefits that can be derived from reading:
- Mental Stimulation
- Stress Reduction
- Vocabulary Expansion
- Memory Improvement
- Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills
- Improved Focus and Concentration
- Better Writing Skills
- Free Entertainment
2. Read aloud. At around age 11 or 12, I conditioned my mind to learn how to speak and write, to express myself concisely and effectively. I was conscious of the fact that there were children my age who spoke well in English because of upbringing or family environment. Understanding that children belonging to well-to-do families have a headstart, I trained myself to catch up. Even without a trainer, I practiced speaking in front of the mirror. I read aloud newspaper stories, mostly written in English but I also read the ones written in Tagalog (or Filipino eventually). I needed to hit two birds with one stone. My goal of training to be eloquent and to comply with my father’s daily test about current events and issues. We get an earful from him everyday. I can still hear him say “dugay-dugay magiyera na sa kalibutan, wala pa kamo ya kabalo!”
3. Write. Write incessantly like your hands needed to hold a pen everyday. In these modern times, I think, I should rather say “type” but then again the feeling of holding a pen and staring at a crisp blank paper in front of you as your brain starts to load up is really therapeutic. True because diary writing saved me from depression and made me love writing up to this day. Writing for me was like visiting a colorful carnival for a child who loves carnivals.
There are so many benefits in writing as a child – you learn to journalize your daily life and imprint in your head the memories you wish to remember. It also helps you study like when you take exams. I practically wrote down in several notebooks my whole Remedial Law text book during my bar review, knowing I am weak in that area and it is subject which weighed the highest percentage on the total bar results. Writing is an extremely useful habit. If you love it, it will surely love you back.
“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
— Virginia Woolf
4. Converse with older people. When you always talk to people your age, you miss the opportunity to see the lens of the older generation to expand your horizon. I love sitting and listening to people older than me, especially the intelligent ones. I love sharing insights from the latest books I read or my plans when I grow up and just picking the other person’s mind.
Today, many young people seem to focus their attention on gadgets like phones and computers. Though these gadgets enable them communicate with others there is no subsitute for human presence. That feeling when you look at the eyes, the face, the expression of the other person and listens to his or her every word is simply surreal. Human conversation is indeed the highest form of human activity.
5. Experiment. Create prototypes. It was fun “creating” things with my siblings when we were young. These moments were the fun parts of my childhood. We get a lot of sermon and spanking but it was all worth it. Experimentation is among the best way to learn. Maybe because we lost our mother at a young age, we had no choice but to learn to cook – but we are thankful we had no choice. Cooking is a lifeskill everyone must know.
As a child, I would experiment creating a radio drama by recording it in casette tape with all my siblings playing a role. We had a good laugh listening to the end product. Our specialty was action and horror dramas. I also remember how we prcaticed and visited houses doing Christmas carols even when we were not gifted with good singing voices. One can create a lot of things from scratch even as a child. We should allow creativity as means to learn. As Pablo Picasso says ” “Everything you can imagine is real.” Creativity is a very important skill today.
Studies show that “kids’ imaginations helped them cope better with pain. Creativity also helps kids be more confident, develop social skills, and learn better.” This site provides helpful insights. https://psychcentral.com/blog/9-ways-to-support-your-childs-creativity/
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” — Albert Einstein
“The creative adult is the child who survived.” — Ursula Leguin
Today, I continue to learn. To read, read aloud, write, talk to older people, and create. From 6 to 46, my life has been about surviving and learning is the best tool. Life is a never ending series of learning. When I read my diary many decades ago, I cannot help but admire my younger self. It is to my younger self who chose to survive that I owe to keep going today, no matter how difficult life becomes.