“Ma’am, we’ll let your hair soak in the treatment. I’ll be back in an hour and a half.” Then off the stylist went, leaving me dangerously alone in front of this huge vanity mirror, forced to observe all my imperfections that she will need to fix.
Most people would cringe upon seeing their Facebook memories from six years ago for it seems that we all dread who we were as younger men and women. I, for example, was cheesy and oftentimes irrelevant. I used to flirt online and posted the most random things about myself, making my present self ask in disgust, Do people really have to know that? I was such a KSP*. Eww.
But one memory from six years ago made me rethink about the judgment I so proudly formed against my fifteen-year-old self. Here it is:
A friend has once joked that the past is past; hence, Facebook has no right to bring back the memories of our embarrassing younger selves. Facebook must let us move on, he said. How I laughed when he told me that. Back then, I shared the same sentiments — I have moved on and my embarrassing past has no space in my life now. Except, not quite, as I realize now after remembering this particular moment.
I cannot say that I recall moment vividly but I do remember the paralyzing fear that gripped me. It was a weekend and I was preparing my school things — five sets of school uniform, underwear and nighties, and some extra clothes. But on this particular night, there are some few extra things in my luggage that I would be bringing with me every week for the rest of the year — dark denim trousers, a military belt, and an intimidating pair of combat boots. Yeahp, against everyone’s better judgment, I enlisted for the Cadet/Cadette Officer Leadership Training (COLT), the training program for aspirant CAT officers.
That night, as I pack my things, I kept asking myself, What were you thinking? The training was rumored to be excruciatingly difficult and it seems to all, including myself, that my physical strength is not enough for what the training calls for. Everybody knows that I was not cut out for it. Hence, just as I said in my six-year-old post, I was scared to death. Now, I look back both amused and proud of myself (that seldom happens). Truthfully, the training was as harsh as it can be and was way beyond what I thought I could handle. But I survived it and lived on to serve as a company commander for the next year. Most importantly, the experience developed in me the emotional strength that got me through college. Indeed, the most wonderful experiences we ever have are the difficult ones.
Usually, such memories brought back by Facebook make me criticize my teenage self. I would often say I was stupid and again, irrelevant. Usually, I am ashamed of my younger self. Now I realize that I have no right to do so for that person that I so openly mock now is the one responsible for the person that I am now. The reason that I now have a relatively happier life is the fact that this foolish and cheesy teenager chose to take risks, made mistakes and learned from them, got up, and moved on. Yes, she did a lot of crazy things that would make this twenty-one-year-old me cringe but I have no right to be ashamed of her because she was brave and strong enough to make this current me possible.
So here is a reminder for everyone: Let us accept our younger selves, no matter how embarrassing they were because whoever we are today, we have them to thank.
* Kulang sa pansin. It literally means, “lacks attention”. It is used to refer to a person who actively seeks attention.
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!