Nineteen months ago, I received this letter from a 23 yr old in Manila.
Yesterday, he popped up in that tiny suppaginal Facebook chat box. Now 25 years old and in the same relationship that had bothered him when he first wrote to the Confessional, he asked me why it is so hard to end a relationship? He can't make himself do it. He still has feelings for the older man but he has no feelings for his relationship with the man.
As I made my reply to him, I was preoccupied with my disbelief that I have been producing this column faithfully every week for nineteen months. That is a pretty big chunk of my adult life! I don't do math, but I think that means around seventy-six columns. Jesus-mother-of-god, time goes by and takes us with it in the wink of an eye!
You will see that this reflection became part of my response to "M".
It is always best to make a preposterous generalization while seated with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Unarmed with either, I may fall flat when I proclaim that there are two types of people in this world: those who are better at managing the big stuff and those who are better at managing the small stuff.
I am a member of the first group (and my husband is a member of the second group). If I am discontent with the overall direction of my life, I will make change happen even if it means major "surgery". I will make a huge change of career, a change of location, a change in lifestyle, and the like, with ease. That is why I was better at managing the work of hundreds of subordinates in a bureaucracy than I was at getting my own work done on time and in detail. I make a terrifically good yes/no decision but I cannot for the life of me remember to pick something up at the pharmacy or keep clutter and dust from infesting every surface in our home. Quite the opposite, my husband relishes the management of a thousand daily tasks, but feeling some anxiety if I suggest we sell a home, he will postpone the decision or let me handle it. Conversely, if I don't have bills set up for auto-payment, all our utilities would be shut off and we'd have no phone or cable. He is a successful manager of his business because no detail escapes him. Blinded by the sun bouncing off the ocean, I, by my own arrangement, see no details and have become mentally larval even while running two daily miles on the beach.
"M" is more like my husband than me. He will not force himself to make the major life changes that in his heart he desires. I told him to pack up and get out of Manila. He replied that he dreams about that but is unsure about work and residence and all the practical logistics of such a major change. I upbraided him for this thinking and told him that at his age he has a certain freedom that he will never have again. It is perfectly OK to be poor and bohemian and to sleep on a bare mattress on the floor at 25. It is not so pretty at 45. "M" felt that being Asian is a disadvantage. I disagreed. Big cities are full of energetic successful beautiful young Asians who prosper and find love. I reminded him that he is more literate than most 25 year olds and that surely he would do well should he try himself out in a larger pool.
I told him that regrets are with us to the grave. And that (brace yourself for another sweeping nicotine and alcohol free generalization) all regrets fall into one of two categories: we regret some things we have said or done and we regret not doing or saying some things. You can always repair something you regret having done. You can apologize for something you regret saying. You can make amends. You can be penitential, but you rarely get back an opportunity to do something that you regret not having done.
I told "M" to be fearless and to seize the day. He thanked me and evaporated from my screen. I hope he writes again 19 months from now from a much happier place. I wonder if I'll still be here in the Confessional 19 months from now! They shoot horses, don't they?