You have a great life ahead of you. Don’t you ever think of wasting it. But if you must cry, go on then. Tears don’t hurt. Let them heal you, at least for the time being.
Honestly, I am not sure how great life will be. I am still trying to figure it out. But don’t you worry because I’m doing everything I can to make it a happy life. But I will need you to cooperate. So can you promise me you will never ever think about doing that again?
I won’t lie to you — life is still pretty tough. I am still clueless of what and who I should be. But life is beautiful. Sometimes, witnessing its beauty is enough to sustain you. There is so much beauty in the world that you can’t afford not to see enough of it. So hold on to whatever scrap of hope is left in you. That hope will sustain you until the world reveals its sheer magnificence to you. Then that will give you something to love and look forward to, something to live for.
I know you have a lot of questions about your identity and your future. I know some of the answers now but I can’t tell you. You will find the answers yourself in due time. They may not come easily and they may sometimes hurt but I know you have enough courage in your poor heart to deal with it. Trust me because I should know — I made it this far. So hold on, will you? It will be okay. You will be okay.
Happy birthday, dear. There will be many more to come.
With so much love,
P.S. Enjoy that ube cake. That might be your last.
I should have bought an ice cream. It occurred to me just now that coffee is not a good idea with this weather. Or at least, I should have bought iced coffee. Hot coffee and April just do not go together. I wish April is over soon.
In this part of the world, April is literally the cruellest month. I hate April.
But I used to love April though, it being the good half of summer vacation. April was basically a month-long feast of childhood. It was all about long hours of play uninterrupted by homework — playing outdoor games in pajamas because Mommy did not want us to scrape our knees, swimming in the pink inflatable pool with my siblings and my brother’s plastic toy animals, playing water tag while Daddy washes the car, soaking up the rare April showers in a pink one-piece bathing suit, dance-offs against my sister to Britney Spears’ and Spice Girls’ hits, and Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Animax. April was when Mommy was almost always in a good mood, when she was not hovering over us about schoolwork and when we spent many afternoons turning the kitchen into a sweet-smelling chaos with her baking experiments. And best of all, April is my birth month. Blowing candles is the best way to end the month, don’t you think?
Now, April sucks. With the extreme heat you can no longer expect kids to play outside. That would be self-inflicted punishment. Maybe this is why Earth Day is on April — it is when we can actually feel that climate change is real. Plus, what summer vacation? The academic calendar shift has ruined that. April has become the dreaded cramming month instead of being graduation month. And worst of all, April is my birth month. I just can’t celebrate when April is being too depressing.
I am twenty-one today. The number is so odd. I feel ridiculous in my body — I look sixteen but feel twenty-six. I hope I were eleven again, though. At least then I would have had a cake and candles to blow. Now it’s just me and this cup of coffee.
It is interesting how even in a hot, humid day like this, coffee can still provide comforting warmth.
When I was twelve, my mother asked my sister and me how we would like to celebrate our eighteenth birthdays. My sister asked for a party. I asked for an entire day in bed without anyone telling me to get my lazy ass off it. My mother laughed. She did not think I was serious.
Ironically, on the actual day I turned eighteen, I pulled an all-nighter in preparation for an upcoming exam in Organic Chemistry which I eventually failed dramatically (but that is another story). So much for a celebration. But on the other hand, I would have neither opted for a “real” celebration. I am in love with our culture but I am not quite a fan of the Filipino way of celebrating birthdays, graduations, weddings, baptisms, and the like.
A Filipino celebration is never complete without handaan (feast), inuman (drinking), and the much-loved videoke. It sounds fun and some people actually love organizing such events. But the introvert that I am is definitely not enticed.
First of all, throwing a party is a laborious task. The host or hostess has to prepare for it days or even weeks before. He or she has to wake up early on the actual date in order to make sure that the house is spotlessly clean and to prepare the food that everyone will feast on later. During the party he or she has to go back and forth the sala and the kitchen to make sure that all the guests are comfortable and that there is enough food for everyone. Then, after everyone has said goodbye, he or she is in charge of the mess that is left, including drunken guests who are no longer capable of going home safely by themselves. Going all through these hassles looks stressful and being stressed does not appear celebratory for me.
Secondly, I shun drinking to get drunk. Just recalling past Christmas celebrations with the family makes me shudder. There was always chaos in the house after my uncles had too much beer. They would quarrel among themselves, bringing back their past resentments with one another (sometimes with tears galore), and then they would turn to their wives who would loudly chide them as if they were children. The morning after is not much better with hangover making them irritable. Grouchy uncles on Christmas morning is a clear indication that spirits destroy the Christmas spirit. Again, does not appear celebratory.
Lastly, the singing. By nature, Filipinos are music lovers. That is why almost everyone, even those who cannot carry a tune (like me), loves to sing. Celebrations are always an opportunity to sing before an audience and are, thus, always welcome. But let’s face it: some singing are more of a noise than music. The “singers” might say, walang basagan ng trip, and they may get away with it but in the end, it is the host or the hostess who has to face the trouble next morning when neighbors who were not pleased would definitely complain. Now, there is no fun in that.
I have never been amused by large and noisy parties and on my birthdays, I always prefer the small family feast we have always had. But if I were to be asked, my idea of a perfect celebration is in bed, especially now that I am far from my loved ones who I always share my special days with.
This may sound crazy but you see, my bed is my comfort place. I can do almost everything in it. I study, read, write, think, and dream in it. So where else should I spend my special day if not in my favorite place?
Maybe spending the entire day in bed is not realistic for one has to work or go to school (pre-teen me did not realize that). But it would have been nice to wake up to everyone singing Happy Birthday while I blow out the candles on a birthday cake. Then later in the evening I would throw a pajama party for all my friends. We would gorge ourselves with pizza, French fries, and cakes while we watch cheesy rom-com movies and, of course, the national sleepover and break-up movie, One More Chance. This is how sixteen-year-old me pictured my twentieth birthday celebration. The actual day was a far cry from this silly fantasy.
On my twentieth birthday, I was awakened not by singing but by the alarm that was set to two hours earlier than my usual waking time. It was just like a regular day and I went through my daily routine as if it was not a red-letter day in my calendar. I took a quick bath, put on whatever shirt and shorts are on top of the pile of clothes in my closet, grab a McCafe and hash brown, then drag my feet to school. On that particular day, we had an exam and an oral report so I was almost sleepless the night before. So when the day was over, I rushed back to my dorm room, put on bed clothes, then slept. Birthday cake in bed? I had it in my dreams. Haha.
As a new grown-up, I no longer see birthdays as the special days that I was used to in childhood. Nowadays, I only have personal celebrations. I celebrate every tiny accomplishment I make — submitting a paper on time, surviving a hell week, passing an exam I was sure I would fail. And I always celebrate each accomplishment in the same place — in bed. Sometimes, I prop myself up with pillows while I catch up with my reading. Sometimes, I lie on my belly while I write on my journal. But usually, I catch some extra hours of shuteye. That would make a perfect sem-ender, if you ask me.
Some people, especially the party-hungry ones, might say my way of celebating is boring. But between getting drunk in a college party and sleeping in, I would definitely choose the solace my bed can offer. Waking up feeling refreshed and energized for another exam or semester is much better than waking up with a hangover, right? Ah, the pleasures of celebrating in bed!