Year 18 has just ended, and what a year it had been.
When I turned 18, a lot of people asked me what felt different, but I mostly felt the same after the 4th of March, or even after I had an “official” birthday celebration. It didn’t really feel any different from being 17, from being young and willful.
As the year passed, I gradually saw what made the 18th year different from the previous one. And I suppose I should be writing about what’s different now that I just turned 19, at the cusp of leaving the emotionally-taxing, spirited teenager years with one last half-baked, semi-adult year. But I realized that I can’t actually write about a life I haven’t lived yet, so I thought this would go better if it were about what it’s like to be 18 and newly-integrated into the “adult” side of the dinner table.
A decade ago, I was just eight years old and turning 18 seemed like the biggest possible highlight in all of my youthfully naive hopes and dreams. It felt like once I crossed the 18th mark, everything about adults would finally make sense and that I would basically know everything. My 8-year-old self would have been disappointed to discover how un-glamorous it was to turn 18. But ten years ago, I was also hoping for all the wrong things. We all realize how painfully (sweetly) gullible we were as kids only when we’ve become jaded adults, and sometimes it’s tempting to wish that we could travel back in time to just give our younger selves a heads up on the terrible things that could or will happen.
Even I am not immune to occasional wishful thinking.
So, I compiled this list of eight things I wanted my eight-year-old self to have known, from my never-the-wiser eighteen-year-old self. I know that as adults, we all have those moments where we wished to take our younger selves aside and tell them, “Girl, you ain’t usin’ that brain of yours for nothing just so you could sabotage your adult life.”
Anyway, here goes my little “cheat sheet”/”advice column” to my sweet little young self. ❤
(1) No matter how many times you promise to yourself that you’ll never make mom or dad cry, you will.
Eventually, no matter how vehemently you say that you’d never ever–no matter how much you disdain sons and daughters who do so, no matter how you simply can’t imagine fucking up so bad that you’d make Mom or Dad cry–well, you will. Make Mom and Dad cry. And it will really fuck you up so bad because of course you never meant to do that; it’s just, things happen and sometimes (most of the time) Mom&Dad won’t be able to understand you–but believe me, they will always try to. But sometimes (most of the time), you don’t even understand yourself, so it’ll be hard. Be ready for that. It doesn’t mean that you get the award for World’s Worst Daughter (even though most of the time, it feels like that). It just means that you’re not emerging from the mold of parental and societal expectations the way you’re supposed to turn out, and that’s okay.
(2) You have wings, and they’re meant to make you soar.
But one way or another, something or someone, circumstances, will clip your wings and prevent you from taking off. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never get to–I’m still working on that part–and most especially, it does not fucking mean that it will be your Downfall. It doesn’t mean that you will plummet. And even if you do, you’re allowed to slip and stumble and fall.
You’re allowed to hit rock bottom.
But most importantly, you’re also allowed to get up, dust yourself a little, wipe the dirt and tears away… You’re allowed to climb up again, and you might not be as pristine white as before or as uninjured, but you sure as fuck will be stronger now that you have something higher to climb. Use the figurative rock bottom as fuel to propel yourself higher, and we’re good here.
(3) DON’T. FUCKING. PICK. AT YOUR FACE.
Seriously. Don’t pick at your face and your teenage skin problems you foolish child oh my goodness I am having a fucking hard time in reversing your future heinous sins against skincare!!!!!! (No chill hahaha)
(4) STUDY WELL.
It’s not an obnoxious advice. It’s not me being a nagging mom. I mean it. Study well and hard and be intelligent but also clever and street smart. Elle Woods and Hermione Granger will say so, again and again, and this is one of the greatest things that you could learn from fictional characters.
You don’t study because you’re in school and you’re part of the top students, and that medals weigh like metal glory wrapped around your neck.
Study (and study well), because it will be your weapon, and it will be the weapon that will introduce you to something better. The weapon that will protect you from stupidity. The weapon that will open doors of opportunities and most of all, it will open your eyes and make you SEE. And although not everything you’ll see will be pleasant, it will still be your protection against ignorance. And study well because not everyone gets the luxury to be stupid and remain painfully so; it will be your duty to be informed and to know better, not because you’re superior, but because the knowledge that comes with being educated must live on through the people, the students, who are willing to carry the burden.
(5) Boys are just boys and you shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about getting one.
Boys aren’t commodities that you count on your fingers or cross off your checklist or bucketlist. Boys from elementary school will barely register as blips in your 18-year-old self’s radar oh my freaking bad. THEY WON’T EVEN GROW UP WELL, JEEZ (lol). Boys from high school…are precious and prized friends and will be the brothers you wish you had, minus the daily exposure.
Boys aren’t everything.
You will come to a point in your life when boys won’t matter as much as your studies and the problems of the country. They don’t rank as high as before in your list of things to think about daily, and that’s fine. Men will have a proper time, a proper moment, in your life–and I’m not saying this as a certified Tita of Manila but as the older, more settled version of you. (As settled as I believe I am today, lol).
(6) It’s okay to change your mind.
It’s okay to have preferences, and for those preferences to change annually, monthly, weekly–hell, even daily. It’s okay to choose. And it’s okay just as well to not choose. It’s okay to choose to hang out with people who have the same preferences as you, and to ditch them (politely) just as well. It’s okay to hang out with people who does not share your preferences once in a while and pick up something new from them.
It’s okay to build yourself up as a different person from your family–mom, dad, your sisters and cousins, your friends. It’s okay to change yourself–for the better. As long as you know you’ll be happier, it’s okay.
(7) Your fashion sense has always been garish. Keep the people around you who will bring out your good angles because you really, really need their guidance.
It’s not your fault that you were born with a bad fashion sense. It’s also not Mom’s or Dad’s fault if they don’t bother with dressing up, or that they’re conservative and only wants to protect you from the hungry eyes of sexual predators. That’s okay and all, but it’s also okay to discover your own color and style different from what your parents or society dictates to you. It’s okay to dress up because it makes you feel good, but it’s also okay to not dress up and just show up in a haphazardly thrown together ensemble when you’re not feeling it.
Value the people who would help you establish your expression and character, not because of vanity, but because it’s rare for people to want others to look their best–and that’s something to value above many things. It’s rare to encounter this kind of sincerity, and I know that at some point, it would be easy to be so mistrustful of other people and their nice gestures. At some point, you’ll be fooled into believing the wrong impression and view about your body and your self. Don’t be saddened when you discover this, because toxic people can be muted not just on Twitter but also in real life. New, nicer, and more sincere friends will come along and help you rebuild your self confidence.
Realizing that you could be so much more than what you believe about yourself, more than what others believe about yourself–it will be one of the most radical things to happen in your life. It’s gonna be sad that some of the old people in your life misled you about your self-image, and that you let them, but it’s not worth getting upset over when you have the real you to release from social construct imprisonment.
(8) Crying is only for special occasions.
I’m not telling you to hide your tears or even hold them back. No. Crying is totally allowed. I know that pop culture depicts adults as washed out half-people who are miserable and slightly disconnected with their emotions (and sometimes I feel like it rings truth), but it doesn’t mean you have to turn out that way, emotions repressed. That’s like being a robot, and kid, trust me when I say being a robot leaves nothing to be desired. Don’t cry so much for failures, for heart breaks, for rejections; no matter what everyone says, you can build yourself back up from anything as long as you really want to do so.
Cry, but only for the things that matter.
Like innocent Pixar movies for children. Or epic supporting character deaths in action movies. Or the massive fight between Iron Man and Captain America in Civil War. Or insanely profound albums. Or simple, pretty photos.
Because those things really hurt.
Cry when you’re hurt, but only for the good kind of hurt.
The enormity of adulthood is something that cannot be encompassed by a single word, or experienced and realized in one day. It’s so easy to look forward to adulthood, especially since society doesn’t take us “kids” with as much seriousness that we deserve. Finally, I get a say in this or that.
It’s easy to dream of a glamorous adulthood. But I think what counts for the washed out feeling of being just another zombie in this chrome-filled world, is when kids step into adulthood and see how gray and dreary it is.
Don’t be like that.
It’s easy to tell children to not lose their bright flames, the bright yellow of childhood happiness. I’m not telling you to not lose it, because I think it happens to everybody. I’m telling you, hold on to it. As tightly as you can. And when you feel the remnants of your simple joys in life slipping away, it’s also okay to let it go.
But don’t give up the bright-eyed outlook you have in life, about life.
I always say these days, “The world needs more positivity.” And it does. We do. So be that slight blip of positivity in this world of negativity, and don’t let yourself be snuffed out. And be more fun, you little killjoy. But only your brand of fun.
I promise you, everything works out in time. Not all at the same time, yes, because I’m still working on making my stuff work out this time; but stop worrying your little brilliant mind so much and just be a good person.
Even if it’s hard.
Featured photo by: Anthony Delanoix via unsplash.com