I was working on a story recently, when I met an older woman who has been living in Iowa for the past 40 years. She was eating with one of her surviving sons who might have been in his early 70s, but I wasn't sure. My encounter with this woman was on a special day, a day that reunited her friends and family who brought warm welcomes and colorful balloons. The woman's name is Emma and she was celebrating her 108th birthday.
I was very much amazed at how Emma kept up with herself and her family. She wasn't really forgetful or restrained to any objects at all. She was living her life on her own and without any type of equipment to guide her remaining days. Emma is a strong woman who amazed me when I first approached her. It was like she knew me already when she referred to me as 'sonny.'
In our conversation, I learned that Emma was a widow and had lost her life-time partner a few years ago. She told me that when he died he had surpassed the 100 mark as well. As the room became fuller, I realized that I was surrounded with four generations of a family. All the relatives came together to celebrate the life of this special woman, who could be gone tomorrow.
I leaned over and asked Emma, 'How in the world do you do it?' And it was funny when she responded and said to me in an aggressive voice, 'There is no secrets. You just do it!'
It wasn't until I said my good-byes, packaged my camera and microphone, and headed back to the TV station when I began to think about my life and what I wanted to do with it.
Right now, I'm living my dream doing what I always wanted to do and enjoying every minute of it, but there's a little part of me that wonders where the hell is this road leading me to? It's scary, but even I admit that it's also exciting.
If I live past 100 years old like Emma, I want to be able to say that I accomplished everything I sought to do in life. I'm Latino, Colombian-born and if I have to use my ethnicity to get me where I need to go then I'm going to use that to my advantage. Even though there's so much more to me than just knowing how to speak Spanish, just getting that first foot in the door helps a whole bunch.
You have to admit though, once that door opens and you have that spot reserved, it's so important to give it all and nothing less. As Latinos, we're up against so much competition for jobs and promotions that whether we like it or not, the spotlight is always on us. Sometimes employers can give us jobs to fill their quotas and set us for failure, but remember they always get caught. My point is that we have to show-off what we have and treat every day like it's like an audition in order to move on to the next level.
The words of Emma circle my thoughts over and over again, 'Just do it.' As a Latino sometimes I'm afraid that my ethnicity also contributes to the many more obstacles I have to surpass than my counterparts, but if I'm positive, that I know I can do it and prove it, all I have to worry about is if I'm having fun doing what I do.
I want to publish a book, create my own production company and be happy. I want a family of my own and to be respected with the work I produce. It's hard work and I'm learning now in the field that I'm in you have to swim alone in order to survive—much like any job out there, except appearance is more observed.
From my experience 'just doing it,' like Emma said, and not worrying about the things that can hold a person back, can even get you further than you expected to go. I know that I, much like you, don't want to be scared and be stuck at home wishing you would have done all the things you set out to do. So, 'just do it.' Pick up your bags and move if you have to because in the long run it will happen and payback will be on your side.
If my success happens I definitely want to be surrounded by family and friends much like Emma was on her 108th birthday. The similarity with my dream and Emma's reality is that she was surrounded by her own, and I want the same. I have a 7-year-old God son and a 4-year-old God daughter who I love very much, but don't get to see them often because we all live in different states. I would like to have a couple of little ones running around the big house I plan to have with someone someday soon. Maybe move to Philadelphia or back to Chicago in Evanston, being a rich pig.
Living past 100 is not an easy thing to do, but trying is probably even more fun than one can imagine. Living past 100 can be easy—maybe if we lived in a perfect world with perfect people and lots and lots of family to love every day. Sadly, however, perfect is not a reality and if it was, my column would be spelled correctly every month. (Carlitos' World not Carlito's World.)
But all jokes aside, Emma did teach me another important lesson and that is to live everyday like it's your last. We can be here today and not be here tomorrow to see another day. It's frightening, but a reality. I started to add 'I love you,' after I finished my sentences with my folks back home. I do that because if I were to die tomorrow, they would know how important they are in my life. Besides, it's also good when you hear it back once in awhile, too.
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