What if I live to be 100?

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A few days ago, I was chatting with a very young person, literally half my age, and they were telling me how they were jaded of London because they had done it all, they had seen it all, and they knew everything that there was to know about the city. Not with these exact same words, but you get the point. While I was trying really hard to hide a patronizing gaze, Samuel Johnson's words "tired of London, tired of life" came to my mind. This was the type of person that he must have been referring to.

At almost 45 years of age, I don't feel, not even remotely, that I have done everything, or that I have learned everything, or that I have even met everyone there is to meet in London. There are so many things to do or to learn or people to meet in this city that it can get really overwhelming at times. I have been living here for close to 5 years and I sometimes feel like I have just arrived.

Forget about London for a second, and just think about life in general. How can anyone possibly think, at any age, that they know or have done everything? No matter how old you are, 20 or a 100, there is always something new discovered or invented in the world every day. It is impossible to keep up! To feel so jaded about life or a city like London must be really sad.

I for one am really happy that I still know nothing and that there is so much to learn. It is such a beautiful experience when you are able to discover something new. In fact, I believe that being surprised and amused by something in a world where a lot of people think that they have seen it all is a real privilege.

That conversation reminded me of an ad that I saw in a magazine which read "What if I live to 100?" and it made me reflect on the path in front of me. If I ever feel so jaded about life as this 20-year-old is, I definitely don't want to live that long.

Our concern shouldn't be whether we live to 100 or not, but whether we live a life that is worth living. At my age, I just started my second career after 20 years in another industry and there is so much to learn and experience that I don't think that these coming 55 years will be enough.

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A Case Of Divided Loyalties

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Last week, while I was shopping for new trainers,  I started thinking about some brands that do not have our best interests at heart. From Adidas standing by Kanye West's comments on slavery to Nike's (and so many other companies') misogyny culture, we keep supporting brands with ethics that go against everything that we stand for. I then realized that, in my closet, I have 6 pairs of Adidas trainers and 7 pairs of Nike trainers, which made me wonder: why am I still giving my hard-earned money to brands that do not represent me and what I believe in? So, instead of shopping those brands, I consciously supported a lesser known one.

It is true that causing controversy has helped the careers of so many people throughout history. It seems to be PR 101. Kanye does it, Trump does it, Lady Gaga did it, Madonna did it, Dali did it, Marilyn Monroe did it, and the more you go back, the more you realize that it has always been part of the celebrity toolkit. Mae West once wrote: "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right." But, one thing is causing controversy and another completely different thing is attacking a particular group.

You shouldn't expect women to buy your products when as an organisation you oppress them, the same way that you shouldn't expect women's support when you claim that they should be grabbed by their parts when they don't respond to your advances. Or expect black people to keep endorsing your products when you support slavery deniers, the same way that you shouldn't expect gay people to be religious when every single religion in the planet has discriminated them at some point.

The irony in all this is that there are still women buying Nike products, black people wearing Adidas, women voting for the Trumps in the world and gay people supporting religions. I don't know if it's in our nature or if it's just that we are brainwashed from birth into condoning these practices. But, at some point, the cycle must be broken.

And I'm not writing this post trying to call for a boycott on any brand. Those boycotts don't really help, they just give brands free publicity, even if it's bad publicity (remember Mae West's quote). What I'm saying is that we should be more conscious about who we give our money to. Because money doesn't grow on trees (I know mine doesn't) and something doesn't feel right when we are working our lives away trying to make a respectable living, but then we give that money to companies that are not respectable at all.

Brand loyalty shouldn't just be about the quality of the products we buy or the customer experiences that these brands give us. It should also be about which brands reciprocate and are loyal to us as well. Because, in the end, the most important loyalty is the one that you have to yourself and your principles, and if a brand doesn't align with them it should be their loss, not yours. There are plenty brands out there to choose from, but there is only one You to buy from them.

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I Fell Down And Nobody Helped Me

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Last Saturday, I was on a train when a group of kids boarded with bikes which they placed against the opposite doors from which they entered. As the train sped, the bikes wiggled and threatened to fall over. Without giving it a second thought, I jumped from my seat and tried to hold them, but before I could reach them, they stabilized and stayed upright. I was already half standing, so I just tried to go back to my seat but, instead, I fell to the floor on my bum, hitting the edge of the seat with my back and the side panel with my elbow. I had forgotten that I had been sitting on one of those retractable seats.

I stayed on the train floor for probably five seconds which felt like an eternity. I then tried to get up but, because the train was in motion, I struggled to grab one of the poles to lift myself up. After probably 30 seconds of battling to hold the pole firmly, I was able to stand up, dust my jacket and my trousers, and make sure that this time the seat was down before I sat. Meanwhile, the rest of the passengers acted as if nothing had happened. No one came to help me. Not even the kids who owned the bikes. One of them just exclaimed "wow!" and looked away. The whole car remained in silence until the next stop.

As I was trying to make sense of what had happened, I didn't feel any embarrassment nor pain. I was just shocked, upset really, that nobody came to my aid. I could have broken a bone for all they cared and absolutely no one could be bothered to help a fellow human being in distress. When did we become like this? When did we stop caring for the wellbeing of others? Has it always been like this and I just hadn't realized it? Where did it all go wrong?

Photographer Bettina Rheims said during the Festival de Hyères: "If one day we convince one person to open their ideas and minds then we help make the world better." I hope that if at least one person reads this post, I convince them to make an effort to offer a hand when another human being is in need of help. Like Bettina, I believe that we can change the world, one person at a time.

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Happy 2018!

We live in times when our value as human beings is measured by what we have. Whoever has the most followers, the fastest car, the priciest clothes or the biggest bank account seems to be better than the rest. And even though we all know that it doesn't work that way, there always seems to be a space reserved for those who have more of something than the rest. Isn't it time we changed the "I have, therefore I am" philosophy and make it about having more of what really counts?

Over the last year I have had amazing experiences and met really inspiring people; I have travelled to new places and discovered other cultures and other ways of thinking; I have worked with both old and new clients and have had some pretty interesting gigs; and most of all, I have had deep and meaningful interactions with the people that I have been lucky to cross paths with, be it relatives, friends, peers or acquaintances. Of course, it has not all been fun and games; along the way, I have also lost jobs, clients and even people whom I called friends.

But, in my re-interpretation of the "I have, therefore I am" rule, I can say that I am happy. Because I have more love, more fulfiling experiences and more learning opportunities than I could ever wish for. And for that, I am really grateful.

Before the year ends, look back on 2017 and choose to focus on the things that you have that are meaningful. I wish that, like me, you realize that what you have is more than enough to be happy.

Happy 2018.

Music: http://www.purple-planet.com

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The Value Of Life

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While I was standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the light to change, a woman with a baby in arms crossed the street with the pedestrian light still in red. She must be in a real hurry - I thought - to be willing to endanger both her life and the life of her child. Sadly, this was not the first time that I had witnessed something like this. We have all seen those people whose time is so precious that they feel like it is a waste of time waiting a few seconds for the light to turn green. In a world where the rush justifies the danger, what is the real value of a human life?

It’s been almost 20 years since I left Panama. Moving out of my country helped me understand that there was a world out there which was bigger than me. With time, living in different countries opened my horizons and my mind and gave me an appreciation for humanity. Nowadays, ageing has given me a sense of inclusiveness, and the realisation that we are just one species and that we are all equal. The knowledge that in spite of our superficial differences, we all have the same needs and fears and that my life is not worth any more or any less than any other person on the planet has been one of the most important lessons learnt in my life.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the value of a human life. From the complicity on gun violence of gun owners and gun associations; to police brutality in the US, France and Spain; to countries closing their borders on people fleeing from war and death, there is just too little appreciation for human lives these days. If you are regularly on social media like I am, you sometimes feel like the life of a cat or a dog is more precious than the life of another person.

I used to think that only people in power had the capacity to sit down in their offices just caring about their own interests while making decisions that affect millions of lives. But now, I've come to realize that we, the everyday people, do it as well. 

We flick through our social media channels or news outlets judging and deciding the fate of other human beings by ignoring their requests for help; by supporting invasions and wars with other countries; by encouraging our government to close the borders on people fleeing conflicts that our own countries have created; or by cold-heartedly deciding whether someone should be fired, extradited, jailed or killed. 

It is as if those faces that we see on the news or the internet are difficult to relate to because they are from far away. They are on the other side of our devices; they are not like us... But, they are! And sooner or later the ones in their position could be us. History has an unpredictable way of shifting the balance of power and when we least expect it, it could be us running for our lives.

This is the only life that we have. There is no after-life, no reincarnation, no heaven nor hell. This is it. Wouldn't it be better lived if we spent it appreciating a bit more our lives and the lives of others? Wouldn't it be worth it if we just waited a few seconds for the crossing light to turn green?

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