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How I Have Changed As I’ve Got Older

How my past helps my present

When I was a teenager, responsibility was something to be avoided –
a clear and present danger to wild, all-night parties, hanging out
with friends and basic youth freedom – I couldn’t tell my parents
EVERYTHING, could I? I needed to create “arenas of privacy” –
I’LL DECIDE who knows what about me, what information flows are going
in and out about my life, who’s a best friend, acquaintance or
stranger; it was necessary to keep control! All embarrassment had to
be lived down; all coolness had to be played up to the max!

However, the crunch came when I laid in bed one night when I was 26
and thought about the tendency of London Underground passengers to
ignore passengers who fall down with a heart attack or get attacked
by robbers, continuing to read their copies of the London Evening
Standard and pretending nothing was happening. I was shocked and
realised that my life in the big city, so important to me, was
important to no one else. Nobody would miss me or even know I was
gone if I died right then. Terrible!

I began to think that it would be really nice if some other human
being could care about my life and dreams. At first, I thought I
needed to get a male friend but a few days later, I decided that some
of the issues I wanted to talk to him about were kind of personal –
about relationships, sex and all that. I wouldn’t like a guy to know
that stuff. I also would really like it if that person could hang
around for a long time, possibly for the rest of my life. So,
finally, after more than quarter of a century, my IQ of about 126
came to the conclusion that I wanted a relationship with a woman –
a girlfriend!

I was also suffering from anxiety. I struggled with this until, one
day, I picked up the King James Bible 1611 from a bookshop on the
Fulham Road. That was the start of my adventure in faith with God.

A few months later, I decided to return and purchase that Bible. I
tried to read it but it was heavy-going at first. I intended to read
it from cover to cover. I made great progress on Genesis and Exodus
but then dramatically slowed down on Leviticus. So I made a simple
commitment – I would just focus on trying to keep the Ten
Commandments – nothing else.

Most difficult was trying not to tell lies. I usually just told
“white lies” but choosing to shut up or else live up to my
promises was tough. However, I persevered.

After some months of this, I still had no idea where I was going but
I began to be able to look back at the path I had travelled and saw a
pattern emerging. There was a general trend to becoming a good
person, one that hadn’t been there before. Further, I knew that I had
made no deliberate decision to carve out such a path. I decided to
logically extrapolate this trend into the future and felt that it
could lead to high levels of holiness and possibly Heaven if I kept
it up. So I continued!

I began to ask God for instructions. At first, it was difficult to
listen to my heart and figure out which message was the Holy Spirit
and which was just me wanting to do what I wanted. However, I began
to feel which one was correct. I then used the Ten Commandments and
the Beatitudes of Christ to guide my behaviour and anything I wasn’t
sure about I submitted to the Holy Spirit. Using dichotomous key (“Do
you want me to do this or that?”) I envisioned doing the thing I
wanted to ask about. A light, happy feeling meant that it was the
Will of God for me. A heavy, ominous, dark feeling meant it was not.
I repeated this several times to make sure I got the same result.
Sure enough, following all the happy, light feelings resulted in
greater holiness and life improvement.

This led to the development of the supernatural virtue of Hope. Now I
could have a reasonable expectation of eternal life if I kept up this
practice. It occurred to me that I should submit all my future plans
to Him. This led to my leaving London and gaining a position on a
cruise ship sailing out of Port Canaveral, Florida. During my single
days, I kept up my practice. There were times when I felt concerned
about some of the stuff God was showing me. Some crewmembers smoked and drank. There
was a Social Hostess who previously worked as a pole dancer,
prostitute and pornstar. There was a bisexual woman who had sex with
3 men in one night. In my travels, I met pot-smokers, drug addicts,
former Colombian bounty hunters, tramps and down-and-outs, plus I was
homeless for 2 nights in Australia. However, I never did any of the
things the other people did. I was still a virgin and just turned up
to the parties I was invited to. I met gays and lesbians and all
kinds of people.

Later, I ended up in Vietnam, where I met my wife. We got married in
the Catholic Church and were virgins on our wedding day. We had a
baby boy the next year and I became a high school teacher for
Vietnamese teens.

I loved my job taking care of my students and felt very happy.
However, in 2012, some of them develop some antisocial behaviours.
They started smoking shisha, then tobacco. Then came alcohol
consumption, underage sex and teen pregnancy. There was the murder of
two students and some of my teens identified as gay, lesbian or
bisexual. Now one former Grade 12 student has chosen to become a
prostitute and uploads sexy videos to porn sites. I was surprised to
find that my previous experience in my 20’s was ideal for taking care
of them and giving appropriate advice. Other teachers with less life
experience felt intimidated by some of the students’ behaviour and
didn’t want to get involved.

Now I am planning to set up an afterschool activity centre that
focuses on giving them the skills and attitudes to find success in
life and make their dreams come true.

It’s a big responsibility but I’m not scared of that any more. I have
great faith that everything that has happened to me has purpose in
God’s Plan. I feel delighted at how things have turned out and I feel
excited about the future.

So don’t be afraid of getting older or facing responsibility.
Understand that everything that has happened to you can help others.
Have a strong belief that even the most negative things can create
character and give meaning and hope to other people who need it. Safe in this regard, we can
then move forward in confidence to face the future.

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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