Book Ends

April 04, 2016

As an avid reader, bookends are so useful as they hold some of my favorite items together. They hold what most people would consider the important stuff – books, the series of stories and rich experiences.  However, rarely are the bookends, or what they symbolize (the beginning and end),  the focus of discussion since many would rather discuss the books or the chapters within a book. These are, after all, the things that give the bookends their significance.  Today,  I want to share two significant events that occurred most recently in my life, events I consider the end of two different book series.

My life began in the mountains of the Philippines.  To be brief, my life story begins as a very sick and malnourished child, who was put up for adoption in an orphanage.  I remained in that orphanage until I was adopted by an American missionary family at age 5.  Although we lived in a completely different part of the Philippines until I was 12-years old, I only returned to the orphanage once before we moved to the United States.  On January 26th of this year, the orphanage burned to the ground.  I realize that the loss, perhaps even grief, I feel is not necessarily for the building itself but what it symbolized – one of the few connections to my original tribe (Don’t laugh, “tribe” is literal for me. I am an Igorot, part of a headhunter tribe).  The loss means that the orphanage will no longer be a foundation or a source – to find who I want to find, who may be able to answer the questions I want answered about my childhood, about my tribe.  However, I can’t help but question whether this calling is now different… that perhaps the fire symbolizes a more significant purpose, to silence a childhood tribal calling.  

In school, I enjoyed reading the work of Margaret Mead, whose work with tribes made a significant impact on studies of culture.  More recently, I read Seth Godin’s book, “Tribes” wherein he defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea… a shared interest and a way to communicate.”  As humans, we want to belong to a tribe, and not simply just one, but many.  Tribes make our lives better;  we become relevant and significant to each other.  I strongly believe that the search for my new tribe(s) belong in other mountain ranges, other villages, and maybe even with other orphans (or lost souls).  What I know is that a tribe is calling me.  I hear the beginnings of a drumbeat in my soul.  Another bookend has begun.

The great thing about prolific readers is that we own several series of books, and this weekend marks another bookend.  My college book series began in my late 20’s, working full-time as a nurse’s aide, weekends busy taking care of older people in their homes, and a full-time student. I was desperately seeking something more of myself and something bigger than me, as I had lived years running from a dangerous ex-boyfriend with drug addiction problems.  My work was my service to others, while school became my refuge.  A Bachelor’s wasn’t enough as I became thirsty and hungry for more knowledge, and quite honestly, I sought more refuge.  This past weekend’s major milestone is at the end of a 10-year journey in graduate school, and  upon reflection, the journey was invaluable and filled with rich experiences. I had great opportunities to study the “bookend generations,” the youngest and the oldest – the two points where action is in population aging.  This included studying children with Autism and Prader-Willi Syndrome to institutional culture change, and raising voices of elders living in nursing homes.  These experiences have fed my passion of the kind of work I do today and what I will do tomorrow.  The best part of this experience was in developing new friendships, and a mentorship with a Giant, I will cherish for life.  These relationships have and will continue to change as we each navigate into our new life series; yet, it is another relationship bookend that I will miss dearly.  I cannot express the utmost relief that my “cross” (i.e. my dissertation manuscript) has been bound and now placed as the last book in my college series. In May, when I do the ritual of the campus graduation walk, my college years will officially come to a bookend.

So, what is next? That is the question from others and even what I ask myself lately.  What is my next book series, and also, what is my next significant bookend?  What I know is that my work must continue to be a service to others.  What I need is to find solace, sit quietly, and listen to that drumbeat.  My tribe is calling.  I just don’t know from where yet.  One thing I am sure of is that for the next book series, I will (literally) be the author, which is why this post is very fitting as just one of many upcoming writing ventures. 

I leave you with these questions:

  1. How significant are your bookends?
  2. What do your book series reflect about your life?
  3. What is your next book series?

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