Commentary

I no longer worry about the future

Not that difficult to see the hand of God in our everyday life—but only if you make time beyond the rituals of organized religion

The official motto of the City of London underneath its coat of arms

“What has life taught you?” So went the opening question posed by the genial senior executive of a leading local bank. Talk about a left-field question. It was enough to make me do a double take. Was I back in my college philosophy class? I wondered.

Quickly realizing I was in a job interview, I managed to mutter something inspired by the philosopher Martin Heidegger: “I learned…to be open to the possibilities that life offers.”

Three years before that, I thought I had set out to be a full-fledged academician while taking on freelance work on the side. It seemed fitting back then, since the academe was where I started my learning and development (L&D) journey. It might as well be where I could conclude my work life after being a corporate warrior for the last 25 years.

But after a fellow teacher succumbed to cancer right around the same time that a number of tenured teachers told me that Sandra Oh’s The Chair was not exactly fiction, I started to wonder if being a full-time instructor was indeed the next path for me.

And then my own health crisis came along. Thankfully, a just-in-time medical procedure resolved that challenge for me. It was at that point that yet another former colleague invited me to explore career options in a leading financial institution. Long story short, I went back to corporate life after three years in the academe.

Along the way, I realized I could actually revive a shelved  bucket list aspiration to complete two additional world marathons—the New York City Marathon  last November and the London Marathon last April.

Complete them I did. Ah, but only by God’s grace.

The author with wife Elaine and their eldest child Hannah

That is the only way I can explain the coming together of humans who made my two races happen—from my wife Elaine, who was relentless in her loving support, to my sports doctor and physical therapist who helped me train despite my foot injury. From my online running coach who endlessly modified my training plan, to my current employer’s HR officers and staff who coincidentally rolled out numerous well-being programs that dovetailed with my marathon training.

All these came flooding back in my mind when I chanced upon a Latin inscription at the Tower Bridge of London—“Domine dirige nos,” which in English means “Lord guide us.” Its origin, before it was adopted as the official motto of the City of London, goes all the way back to the 1300s, and is as interesting as the chilly weather of this lovely city.

Its personal resonance, however, was what made me stop in my tracks while marveling at the glorious sight of the River Thames atop the Tower Bridge.

Indeed, the motto brought back memories of my mentor’s insight that if you make time to pause and reflect, it’s not that difficult to see the hand of God in our everyday life. But, he hastens to add, only if you make time to relate to God beyond the rituals and formalities of organized religion—something I wish I could do more of instead of only doing so during pivotal moments in my life.

Such was the case on May 19, 2019. On that day, I felt God smiling at me as he opened not one, but two windows right around the time that I decided to leave the corporate world amid my bouts with doubt and uncertainty.

Having risen before first light, I arrived in the university for a scheduled teaching demo hours before my appointment. This gave me ample time to visit the chapel and ask for the grace to pull through. Interestingly, the topic chosen for my teaching demo concerned Rene Descartes’ meditations, where he postulated the possibility that God might be playing a trick on his senses.

I prayed thus, ‘Lord please help me find a parking slot so I won’t have to park in the mall and end up late for my online exam’

Thankfully, no such thing happened to me, judging from the positive response elicited by my demo. Buoyed by the experience, I happily skipped lunch to drive all the way to Makati for a four-hour online certification exam to earn a much sought-after global credential. Since it was already 12 noon, I knew that I had nearly zero chances of finding a parking slot along HV Dela Costa.  So as I waded through the traffic, I prayed thus, “Lord please help me find a parking slot so I won’t have to park in the mall and end up late for my online exam.”

What do you know, not long after, my peripheral vision caught sight of what turned out to be not one, not two, but five available parking slots. Pure coincidence? Maybe. But at that instant, I imagined God saying, “Parking space at this time? Not a problem, Von.” As a result, I had enough time once again to visit the chapel to say thank you for surviving the teaching demo, even as I asked anew for the grace to pass the notoriously difficult exam that I had studied for, for almost a year.

Four hours later, the computer screen confirmed without any fanfare that I had indeed passed the PMP (Project Management Professional) exam. “Lord, is that you?” I remember experiencing goose bumps when I went back to the chapel to say my thanks.

And this is why, even if I have since gone back to the corporate world, I have not fully turned my back on being a teacher. Happily, the leading bank I now work for does not discourage hyphenated employees—that is, bankers who are allowed to study to become lawyers, and would you believe, bankers who are able to teach higher ed on weekends. Hence, my resolve to keep plodding through my graduate studies even as I seek to add value to the company that revived what I thought would no longer be a feasible life project.

Will my current plan work out in the end?  Or will my aspiration turn out to be another validation of Robert Burns’ warning, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go aft astray, and leave us naught but pain and sorrow for promised joy”?

I do not know. All I know is that when I reflect on the personal implication of that Latin inscription, I no longer worry about what the future will hold.

The author nearing the finish line after passing Buckingham Palace

Domine dirige me.  Lord guide me.

About author

Articles

Von Katindoy is a graduate student and a learning and development professional.

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