This post is 3rd in a six-post series.
It’s four more days before my eighteenth birthday. Thus, I write:
In a few more days, I will be turning 18. I believe every girl waits for this special day — her debut to the society as a full-fledged woman. I can see that most see this coming of age as a rite to liberation, the grant of freedom to drive her own car in this road of life. It sounds enticing — I would not deny that— but I must admit that it scares me more than it excites me. If there is a name for the fear of independence, then I guess I have that. It is not something to be proud of but honestly, I am afraid of being left to care for my own self.
When I turned fifteen, it dawned on me that, though legally a minor, I am no longer a child. Since then, I began to feel what Wendy Darling must have felt ―longing to go back to Neverland to escape the growing complexity in life. But Neverland is now just a memory that I can only treasure but never relive.
To be a child is the most wonderful experience any person can have. When an older person reminisces her childhood days, it is often that she will recall fond memories of a life full of laughter and hope and devoid of worries and fears.It was an uncomplicated life that is so full of magic. Then, she can be anything ― a princess, a mermaid, or even a ninja! But slowly, the magic wore off,taking away the identity she had created for herself. From someone who viewed her life and herself with certainty, she becomes someone searching for the person she is made to be. She becomes lost for the magic is gone and all her hopes went with it.
Where has the magic gone? Why is it that as a person grows up, she seems to slowly lose the hopes that she once held dear as a child? Why is it that learning more of this world creates worries and fears in an adult who should have been more confident for being more equipped with knowledge acquired from experience? They say it is because a child is innocent for her world is usually and merely confined within the home and the classroom.Growing up is accompanied with the gradual but eventual expansion of her little world into a place that widens her perspective of life. It is then that she sees the life beyond the delicate bubble she was clothed in as a younger person. She sees reality as opposed to the sweet and perfect little world that her family created for her. When the curtain is drawn, the reality that she sees is vulgar and prejudiced, never serene and perfect.
The world is not always fair. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work for the things you want so badly, you cannot even come close to your goal. The lack of justice in the circumstances in life used to depress me. I used to stand up indignantly and tried to defy it but I never did. It was a way too strong force that I cannot manage to vanquish. I guess I am really not the brave soul I was trying to be. Maybe I am just a vulnerable girl with a fragile spirit. This is why I cling so much to my family. I need them to live. I cannot survive on my own.
Nowadays, I live by fear. Being fearful has become a way of life for me and it keeps me living. Every single day since Daddy died, I have feared for tomorrow. That fateful episode of my life showed me how hostile life can be. Since then, I have waited for tomorrow with fearful anxiety, knowing there is so much more misfortunes that could happen. I start each day with a prayer asking God to please ease my qualms and conclude with a yet another prayer with gratitude for another day passed. Thankfully, He has never let me down but still, the fears remain.
I admire the children who live each day looking forward to the next, beaming with so much hope. I was once such a child, optimistic about my future and sure of my place in this world. Now, I no longer know who I am or what I want. The future is vague and I can hardly have a glimpse of the imminent life that the present offers me. I have no choice but to simply keep walking, my childhood dreams in tow, serving as my lamp to combat the darkness of my chosen path. You see, childhood is a brimming cup of hope and I need to take a sip every now and then to rouse my sullen spirit.
I wish to be a child again. I wish to go back to the carefree days when no one expects me to be independent. I wish to be whisked back to Neverland and be eternally a child. But Neverland is a “never” land. It never existed and will never exist. At the stroke of midnight, the magic will wear off and the fancy dress and the carriage drawn by horses will soon be gone. There will be no magic carpets to bring me to places I have to go to. I have to carry myself from place to place by foot or public transport. A frog will remain a frog no matter how hard I try to love it. Kissing it will just give me a salmonella infection. Beasts will be beasts and they are not princes in disguise. There will be no three fairies to protect from the curse of an evil witch and a kiss will only bring me into a deeper slumber. Yes, the magic is all gone. You cannot simply live with hakuna matata.
As much as I want to be a child forever, I can never turn the days back. I must now start to look ahead and face adulthood to embrace it. No one ceases to grow up. We must and that is the only choice we have. Besides, it may not be that difficult. Even if friends and acquaintances come and go, I know my family will forever be with me in this struggle. And of course, there is my mom who never gave up on me.
So yeah, 18th birthday, I dread your arrival but I am here to welcome you nevertheless.
I am sitting at the cafeteria, having a breakfast of stale donut and iced coffee, nervously waiting for the release of grades in Inorganic Chemistry. Having failed Organic Chemistry in the summer, I don’t think I can afford to fail another chemistry subject again. Or any subject, actually, or else I lose my scholarship and losing it means having to drop out of school for good. It is unthinkable. I don’t want to break my mother’s heart.
Nibbling on my donut, I push the coffee cup away. It is not helping my nerves. A little while later, a classmate comes and joins me. He, too, is waiting for the grades. Being strictly acquaintances and having nothing to talk about, we make a polite conversation about school, especially Inorganic Chemistry. For some reason, I end up telling him about how I find chemistry subjects difficult and how I can’t afford to fail this one, too. Thus, he asks: “’Di pa ‘pag Pisay grad magaling sa DPSM subjects? Bakit…”
He need not say anymore for I know exactly what he is trying to tell me: How come you’re not as smart as they are?
I shrug. I don’t know either.
We have reached an uncomfortable silence. He has a struck a sore point of mine and I do not know how to react because he is partly correct — I am not smart, at least, in his (and probably everybody else’s) perspective. But then, there is one thing that I do know: I am not stupid either; I can be smart in different circumstances. But I don’t know how to tell him that. He will not understand just as I still don’t.
He says nothing, seemingly waiting for my answer. I don’t know what sort of answer he is expecting (maybe an admission of arrogance and laziness) so I shut my mouth. After all, he thinks I am not smart enough so any answer will not matter to him.
Sensing my irritation, he excuses himself. He extricates himself from the awkward situation he started while I am left to torturously ponder why, after four years of special science education in high school, I still suck at science. Why I am not as smart as my fellow Pisay graduates.
I don’t know, I whisper to myself. That’s all I can give as an answer as tears stain my cheeks.
“Ah, you’re going to med school!”
I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. “Uh, no. I’m not.” I look away.
“Because I don’t want to.” Why can’t most people understand that?
She looks at me like I’m mad and I bite my tongue to keep myself from screaming, MED SCHOOL IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION! But then, I ask myself, Indeed, what other options do you have?
As if she can hear my mind, she answers, “Research — you can go into research.” I shudder. I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Despite the superb training that we are being provided by the school, I still don’t think research is a niche that I can dwell on comfortably. While I love learning, I am not naturally probing as a scientist should be. I have no deep-seated interest in what I am studying and instead, I just want to read the books and absorb as much as I can so I can pass. With all due honesty, science is not really my passion. I am no science geek.
Instead, I am a bibliophile — I love literature, I adore the written word. In a parallel universe, I am a literature major, preparing to be a high school English teacher — that’s the dream since I was little (although I originally planned to be a grade school teacher).
“I am actually planning to teach after college,” I say truthfully.
Her face lights up. “Ah, prof sa college.”
“Uh, no. High school.”
She looks at me, open-mouthed. “But why?”
“Because that’s what I want.”
I shrug. I don’t know how I can make people understand.
“What will you talk about?” We are supposed to give an inspirational speech in a speech class and everyone’s been asking everyone this question.
“Hmmm… I dunno,” I answer, without looking up from my chemistry notebook. “Do I look inspiring to you?”
My friends laugh. They always love my self-deprecating humor. But underneath the badass student façade I like to keep, there is an anxious creature lurking, wondering what indeed should I talk about.
My problem, unlike most of my friends, is not what to talk about. Rather, it is which one to talk about. With a life that is very much like pushing a cart uphill only to let it drag you downhill uncontrollably, I can talk about so many life challenges.
I can talk about my family and my father’s death — Filipinos are notorious for being such suckers for the sob story. But then, I do not want to look kawawa because I don’t think I am.
I can talk about the contract I signed as a thirteen-year-old that practically bars me from taking all other paths except for one. But then, I do not want to offend people who would gladly switch places me because of that privilege I was granted when I was thirteen. I do not want to sound ungrateful, especially to the Filipino taxpayers who has sent me to school for the last six years.
I can talk about my school problems — how I can’t cope and catch up, how I am starting to believe I am really stupid. But then, I don’t want to sound like I’m whining because I hate whiners myself. Besides, my classmates, with their relatively comfortable lives, would never understand anyway. For them, I am just lazy.
Still pretending to read my chemistry notebook, I keep thinking what I will share to the class. I just know that I can’t talk about my current problems for these are not overcome obstacles. There are no resolutions (yet), no happily-ever-afters (that is never going to happen).
Thus, when a friend asks what I will talk about, I still answer, “Hmmm… I dunno.” Because there are stories that are painful to tell. But someday, when I finally understand how His great plan for me works, maybe I can give a true inspirational speech.
We are cramming a problem set for chemistry and I have at least half left blank. A new friend nudges me. “Ano’ng sagot?”, he asks while pointing at an item.
I look at my own paper. It is blank, too. I laugh. “I don’t know.”
It seems that I still can’t understand, no matter how much I try. But it’s okay — someday, I know I will.