A list of truths we ought to learn in our twenties: Part 1

#1: That just because nothing BIG! is happening in my life doesn’t mean that nothing is happening in my life

People talk about our twenties being the years of exciting adventures and new experiences. We can do anything and everything we want without being judged too young or too old, too immature or too irresponsible. They paint a picture that’s filled with bright neon colors,  and right in the middle of it is us in our twenty-something-year-old glory.

What doesn’t get talked about, however, are the days when being in our twenties feels no more special than how we felt during our teens, when we just go about our days doing what we’ve been doing for the past sixty days and what we’ll probably still be doing for sixty more.

At first, the sudden realization that my life hasn’t exactly turned out to be the adventure I expected it would be bummed me out just a bit. And then gradually, after seeing friends and strangers living the life on the Internet, a feeling of longing set in. And then discontentment. Before I knew it, there was a deep, dark hole in my soul that constantly kept sucking the life out of me. And it was all because I wanted to be on my way to see the world, not on my way to a job I neither love nor hate.

But the absence of some grand spectacular event in our life doesn’t make our life any less of value. Our life only stops being significant the moment we resign ourselves to that flawed perception. Life doesn’t demand us to stack up amazing experiences or fantastic stories on a score sheet in order to be deemed worthy of it. Life only demands that we love it unconditionally throughout the highs, lows and the in-betweens.

What I learned, and what I keep reminding myself every so often, is that when we keep looking for the extraordinary, we fail to see all things beautiful in the ordinary. And more importantly, that life in our twenties – and maybe life in general – can sometimes be a great adventure-in-waiting. For the longest time, I was foolishly thinking that the value of my life depended on how many big experiences I had and how many good stories I can tell; when in reality, the in-between moments define me as much as, if not more than, the big moments.

#2: That I have to be better where I am first before I can be better anywhere else

I recently read one of my favorite books and I came across a line that was a direct hit to my heart. In Markus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger, the character Ed finally musters up the courage to stand up to his mother, saying, “It’s the person, Ma, not the place. If you left here, you’d have been the same anywhere else… If I ever leave this place, I’ll make sure I’m better here first.”

I used to think I needed an escape. I sometimes still do. It’s not because I think my life isn’t good here or because I’m unhappy – I’m not. It’s because I think this place keeps me from becoming the person I want to be. I look around me and I think, I could sure do better way over there. And I see the same thought in a lot of people my age. We like to think we’d be better off there because we feel we’re stuck here. And I guess that isn’t surprising. It’s easy to blame our unhappiness and discontentment on the place where we feel the unhappiness and discontentment.

In reality though, the only thing hindering me from becoming a better person is me. The same way the only thing hindering you is you. Where we are has very little to do with it.

Imagine, if we’re better right where we are first, how awesome we will be when we finally get to where we want to be.

#3: That  I need to make an effort to understand before I can expect to be understood

It’s embarrassing for me to admit this but I spent the majority of my teens either feeling sorry for myself or being frustrated with everyone else because I often felt that I was never fully understood by anyone, especially by my family. I used to have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. And because I expected everyone else to understand my point of view, I never bothered to try to understand theirs.

It’s a good thing then that growing up does seem to knock some sense into us. It’s easy to feel like everything revolves around us while we’re in our teens. Fortunately, the wonderful thing about being in our twenties is that false notion gets stripped away – gradually if we’re willing, and forcefully if we’re not.

There’s a lot of division in the world right now. It’s kind of like a war zone of opinions and beliefs, and I’m watching it take place every time I watch TV, browse the Internet or overhear a conversation. It actually reminds me of my relationship with my mom when it was all messed up and ugly. But it also reminds me how the smallest effort to understand each other can go a long way. My mom and I still don’t see eye to eye in a lot of things, but we don’t fight about it anymore. She tells me this, I tell her that, we look at each other to see if either of us is going to give, and if neither of us are going to, we shrug and talk about something else.

I notice how most of the time, the ones who keep complaining they’re misunderstood are usually the ones who refuses to understand others. But people don’t want to understand someone who demands to be understood; they want to understand someone who actually shows he deserves it.

A list of truths we ought to learn in our twenties: Introduction

“Your twenties will be the best years of your life.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told that, I’d have an extra grand in my savings account (because that’s what I would do – save it!). Honestly, I wish people would stop saying that, not because I disagree with the statement – although I feel that the best years of my life shouldn’t just be limited to my twenties – but because all the hype it brings kind of messes with my mind.

During the past few months, I’d have these bouts of unexplained restlessness and unhappiness. I began to fill my head with exaggerated daydreams just to get through the hours, only to realize at the end of the day that I felt worse because of those daydreams – because those daydreams are still just daydreams. But then I’d do the same thing all over again the next day because impending sadness always seemed more bearable to me than ongoing lethargy.

I was going through life with that mantra – my twenties being the best years of my life – hanging over my soul until I reached a point where my soul couldn’t bear the weight of it any longer.

Deep down, I knew all along I was running on low fuel. I guess I was just too stubborn to deal with it until I reached empty. The good thing, though, about reaching empty is that I had no other choice but to get my lazy ass up and do something about it.

And so I did. After days and weeks filled with afternoons of deep reflection and evenings of honest-to-God prayers, I realized how I was going at my twenties all misguided by my own preconceived notions.

Little by little, with help from a tear or two, my vision began to clear. And right in front of me was a bunch of truths I desperately needed to learn. So I learned. But every now and then, I tend to forget them and I’d have to learn it all over again, so I’ve listed them all down (I really did, in my notebook). And I thought it would be nice to share the list with you because maybe you might be able to relate to it or, better yet, you might be able to add something to it. But that’s for another time – soon.

For now, I leave you with one simple truth that basically sums up the entire list: Our twenties can be the best years of our life, but it can also we our worst. It kind of depends on us.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately…

And I’ve been writing a lot less.

The last month has been the roughest one so far, but it’s not because of bad experiences, unpleasant people or unfortunate circumstances.

I think the struggle is more internal than anything else which is even worse, to be honest. If the problem lies somewhere around me, it’s easy to deal with it once I figure out where it’s coming from. But what am I supposed to do when the problem lies inside of me?

I’ve come to realize the answer to that is to change. Change a thought. Change my perspective. Change my direction. Change an expectation.

But change is never easy, especially when I don’t know which one to change and what exactly I should change it to.

So for the past couple of weeks, I spent a lot of my time thinking about it.

And thinking brought me to a place of… I guess the most accurate term is understanding and, more importantly an acceptance of that understanding.

I’ve been writing about it these past two days, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you once I’m finished.

Until then, know that life is good.

Difficult.

But good.

Advice from a 3-year-old

I went to work today not in my best mood. I was sleep-deprived, tense and uninspired. The moment I entered the classroom, I was already counting down the seconds that seemed to take forever. 

In my afternoon class, I have a student name Jairus. His mom got pregnant with him at a very young age, and his dad ran off when he found out about the pregnancy. He knows he doesn’t have a dad but at a young age he has already come to terms with it. He usually gets picked up an hour or two after all the other kids leave, but I’ve never heard him complain. He’s also one of the most carefree kids I’ve ever met, so it only seemed right to seek his advice.

Earlier today, while the kids were taking a break from their worksheets and activities, I sat beside him and said, “Jairus, I’m feeling a bit sad today. What advice can you give me?” 

He has this thoughtful look for a moment before telling me, “Never give up.”

Before I could respond, he goes on to say, “Sometimes, I can’t find my way but I never give up.” 

At this point, I was already mesmerized by what he said. And I was so sure that we were having one of those coming-of-age movie moments wherein the kid and the adult would share this deep and meaningful conversation, revealing how the kid knew all along the inner turmoil hidden within the depths of the adult soul.

And so I ask, “You can’t find your way to where?” 

I’m not sure what kind of answer I was expecting, probably along the lines of ‘happiness’ or ‘inner peace’. But instead, he shrugs and says, “My friend’s house.”

That made my heart smile. It wasn’t the thought-provoking answer I anticipated, but it’s the kind of answer that made me realize how wise children can be without them even knowing it, and how the simplest answers to the most trivial problems can still save you during the most difficult times.

Of course, after that, he goes on and on, listing down the names of his friends and the games they play, and how his mom took him to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 in the theaters and how awesome it was. 

It’s a good day after all. 

These past couple of days have been difficult. It feels like I’ve been drifting aimlessly in this dark and empty void. And instead of trying to find a way out, I find myself being more and more okay with getting stuck here.

Then I listen to this song, and it lights up my weary soul for a second. But it’s a second that keeps me going. I can’t tell you how much life this song gives me. I just hope that, if you find yourself in the same place I’m currently in, you’ll find some comfort in this song as well.

A song that uplifts my soul

This happened today: 05/28/14

Me: These socks are so bright they look like they’re glowing… in the light!

Karen: What did you say?

Me: What?

Karen: You were saying something.

Me: Oh, nothing. I was talking to myself.

Karen: Then why were you looking at me the whole time?

*pause for a moment of reflection*

Me: So that it wouldn’t look like I was talking to myself.

Karen: You need friends. Go find some.

 

I never realized I did that – look at other people when I talk to myself or I guess even just talk to myself when there are other people around – until now.

And for the record, I have friends and no, not the imaginary kind. I just also happen to enjoy living in my little bubble of solitary confinement for the time being.