Advice from an Unqualified Five-Year-Old

Hey y’all. Two weeks ago, the nonevent that was 23rd my birthday happened, so I thought I’d commemorate it with some kind of post here. (Two weeks too late. Because priorities.) Before getting to it, though, I just want to say … Well, first, I’m really pleased how birthdays become normal days more and more as we get older??? I even feel kinda uncomfortable saying thanks to people who greet me now, mainly because I haven’t really done anything on my birthday to warrant a barrage of well-wishes. I was just, well, born. (Really, Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower was right. The gifts and greetings should be for our mothers. They did all the work!) Although I guess the thanks could be “Thank you for remembering me today.” Which is fine. Except I could definitely follow that up with “But we don’t really interact any other day of the year, so what’s the point?” (Heh. Me = a ball of snark.) That’s basically why I opt not to receive Facebook greetings. Friends who remember will remember, and friends who forget will forget. My age still increments either way. Life goes on. *shrug*

Anyway, onto the second thing: I really don’t like thinking of myself as being 23 already. HAHA. To me it’s, like, the age where ~legitimate~ adulthood starts. The void beyond a door with a warning on it: “Sorry, human. Beyond this point, you can no longer use the excuse of youth. Feel free to panic!”

Not that I feel all that old. But, you know. I’m nearing my midtwenties! My cousins have been getting married one by one, several of my old classmates are now parents, and many of my friends are pursuing high-flying careers and enjoying steady earnings. Me? I still live on an allowance and wear an undergraduate uniform four times a week. Schooling is its own kind of stasis, and my actual career path is still as unclear to me as it was last year. What. Am I doing. With my life?!?!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

There’s really no satisfactory answer to that question, so I resolve to ignore the fact that I turned twenty-three. I prefer to think that I just turned five. After all, I did just celebrate my fifth birthday … as an adult. (Ha!) And in that context, it’s not difficult to believe I’m doing just fine. No need to panic (not more than usual, at least).

Which brings us to the point of this post. Surviving five years of ~adulting~ has made me learn a thing or two (or twenty-three … wink, wink) that I’d like to share. I mean, I’m totally unqualified to give advice, I know that, but I shall give some anyway (lol), because this is my birthday post, and this is my blog. I do what I want. *smugface*

So yeah. Serious business. To my fellow human navigating the early stages of adulthood, twenty-three things I hope for you:

  1. …that you be kind. This list isn’t in any particular order, but this had to be first, no question. You’re probably tired of me repeating it, but here it is again: be kind (!!!) and gentle and understanding to each person you meet because you have no idea what they’re going through. And be kind and gentle to yourself. Remember that your younger and older selves are counting on you. That’s really important.
  2. …that you learn to laugh at yourself. You are going to do many, many cringeworthy things. But you don’t have to carry around the shame for them. Treat yourself to some self-deprecating humor. I have survived, and actually enjoyed, many an embarrassing moment by being the first one to laugh at myself. I mean, I’m the kind of person who regularly trips on stairwells, bumps her head on jeepney roofs, pushes doors that are clearly marked “PULL”, gangster-dances to emotional piano songs, and produces the worst-looking wacky faces in group pictures (and many, many more epic fails of a higher level than these), but through all of ’em, the loudest bout of laughter came from my own chest. I am a klutz and I mess up without even trying. That’s okay. That’s funny! Being the butt of the joke isn’t all that hurtful when you try to enjoy the joke, too.
  3. …that you take care of your body. I mean it. I know when you’re young this seems so tedious because you feel invincible, but your older self will thank you for it. Don’t starve yourself, brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily, get enough sleep when you can, take your vitamins, apply moisturizer, wash your hands before eating, avoid straining your eyes with too much gadget time, and take special care of all your vital organs (esp. ur heart, kidney, liver, lungs, pancreas! pls!)—drink lots of water, eat healthy and ease up on the vices!!!
  4. …that you begin writing passwords down. Okay, so I know this is goes against, like, the fundamental rules of cybersafety, but hear me out. We have so many social accounts nowadays and while it is still possible to keep track of all of them mentally (although it isn’t really possible for me anymore, what with bank accounts and personal/professional/fangirl/school emails and all the apps that require logging in—there are just too many to remember), I highly doubt this will be the case forever. I have some accounts I used back in high school that I’m hell bent on deleting, but there’s just no way to access them now that I can’t remember a single letter of the log-in credentials I used. (It doesn’t help that automated account recovery options are reliable just half the time.) I also woke up in panic one night thinking “What if I get amnesia? How am I going to be able to log in to my phone or laptop if I cannot remember the PIN and have no way of remembering?” (I AM NEUROTIC. I know.) Human memory is a feeble thing, is what I’m saying, and even if neither you nor I will ever get amnesia, growing old is actually already a kind of slow-mo amnesia. So I started keeping a “password masterlist.” An actual piece of paper (I don’t want it to be hackable) containing all the ‘keys’ to my digital life, which is kept in an absolutely safe place that only I know. (And I don’t, like, bring it everywhere with me. Less chances of losing it that way.) It makes me feel like a lola sometimes, keeping a kodigo, but I am comfortable giving this advice because the masterlist has actually helped unburden my memory a LOT and now I no longer panic whenever I suddenly forget any password.
  5. …that you participate in healthy and enriching conversations. What classifies as healthy and enriching would always be subjective, but, well … how do I say this? One of my favorite things about adulthood is becoming better at conversing. In the sense that over the years, you’ve learned how to gather thoughts better, and how to articulate them better, and people are more inclined to take you seriously because you’re no longer just a kid. When you talk, people listen, and when you ask, people reply. So I hope you make the most of your conversations. Talk about ideas more than the inanities of other people’s lives. Use your words more for compliments and encouragement instead of slander. Look forward to hearing life stories. (Coax them out of your parents!) Ask plenty of questions. And listen to the answers. Listen, listen, listen. (I actually think that a lot of times, listening is more important than replying.) Pay attention!
  6. …that if you absolutely cannot decide on something on your own, you learn to leave it to the Universe. Being one of the most indecisive people on this planet, I developed this thing—when I really can’t settle on a choice, I ask for a totally random, but specific, Sign. Like, “If it rains later today I’ll buy *this* camera model.” (The origin of Jesse. I’m not kidding.) Or like, you can ask two people to play one round of rock, papers, and scissors, and bank your final choice on who wins. (Or loses.) (This helped me make a real-life decision, too. LOL.) Heck, you can even make use of a random Yes/No generator online. You might argue that this is an immature way to make a choice (and you’d be right…lol) but see, it’s actually a win-win thing. Once the Universe makes the choice for you, (i.e. supposing it didn’t rain that afternoon) and you realize, “You know what? I don’t like what it chose for me…” then that just reveals to you what you really want to do, so go follow your heart. If you’re fine with the outcome from fate, on the other hand, then well and good, that’s the decision made! Without you stressing too much over it, too! Aye? Aye.
  7. …that you understand that the world doesn’t owe you anything, so don’t act entitled. Lately I’ve been around plenty of youths who keep complaining about nearly every damn thing. The subject is difficult. The quizzes are difficult. The teacher is unfair. The teacher is the worst because he gave me an F. The teacher is an asshole because he called me out in class. Waaa, waaa. But the students who say these? They arrive late to class, they sleep in class, they use their phones during class. Five minutes after being given challenging problems, they give up, say “Fuck this,” then look for someone they can copy answers from. (And like, after you’ve already shared your entire code with them out of sympathy, somehow they still mess up typing it. And what do they do when they get errors? Do they try to debug the code themselves? Of course they don’t. They ask you right away, “But…but… WHY are there errors? What’s wrong with the code?” FFS, man. Pati ba naman ‘yan, problema ko pa? Grow the fuck up.) I’ve given up trying to make them see exactly who the problem is, because in their world, it’s everybody else’s fault but theirs. The world exists to provide for their needs. Riiight. I hope you don’t become one of these people. Life does not owe anyone an easy passage, okay? You want success? Work your ass for it! Put in the minutes! That mountain in front of you isn’t gonna climb itself, and if you expect someone else to carry you through, you’re delusional. Stop complaining and be grateful that you are in a position where your dreams can actually become reality, if only you exert some fucking effort. (UGH I’m so riled up.) Also, while I’m at it, I hope you develop a rise to the challenge mentality. Like, if you see a long-ass algebra problem, your first instinct might be to save yourself the trouble and retreat, but that’s not the way to go. Let it seduce you. Think: “You might look intimidating, but I WILL CONQUER YOU, ALGEBRA PROBLEM. Just you wait.” It might take you long, but be convinced that you can and will solve it. (I’m not even making an effort with these metaphors, man. LOL)
  8. …that you’re definitely going to unfriend friends along the way, but you become fine with that. Like, there’s just no way you’re going to keep in touch with every single one of the friends you’ve accumulated since childhood. And most of these friends actually became your friends only because of the synchronization of your class schedules. After y’all graduate, your life trajectories will be heading away from each other. You won’t even miss a lot of them. You discover you don’t really share that many common interests, and you can’t actually stand whatever they’re spewing on social media. Bear no guilt about unfriending them. Your true friends—who, by the way, will manipulate their life trajectories to meet yours, as you will for them—will be enough.
  9. …that you accept that you can be wrong. It’s irritating to me how people pull the “there’s no such thing as a wrong opinion” card to shield themselves from criticism nowadays. (The thing is, you are free to think what you think, yes, but once you act on this thinking, including saying it out loud—you should be accountable for what comes out of your mouth. If you say something that’s misinformed, that’s out of line, that’s incriminating, that’s deliberately malicious, that’s perpetuating untruths, that’s abusive or hateful—should that be okay because it’s your opinion? Screw that.) You have to remember that you can be wrong. This is what pisses me off the most about online comment wars—the fact that the people who participate in them stand by their beliefs so resolutely and proudly that it renders the entire discussion useless, because what is the point? Why are they even talking when they’re not at all prepared to hear each other out? Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already possess it. (Romain Rolland). Also: A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. (Alexander Pope.) And: I find it boring and a waste of time debating other people’s opinions, however challenging my own is always intriguing and there is where I inevitably discover growth. (Carl Henegan.)
  10. …that if you’re looking for something you misplaced, but can’t find it within the next five minutes, stop looking. It will eventually pop up when you least expect it to. This isn’t foolproof of course, but I have proved it SO many times, I’ve made it a rule in life. I once despaired over losing a precious gold ring, only to find it two days later on my bedroom floor, two inches next to the trash can. (How???) I also once turned my room upside down looking for my school ID sling, to no avail, only to discover it a week later (after already buying a new one, alas) inside my drawer of art materials. (Why would it even be there I don’t know.) My sister once left for Manila without her wall charger because she couldn’t find it anywhere, but that same night, while fixing the bed she slept on, I discovered it under the sheets. (Even though I saw her searching the bed that morning!) I really don’t know why things work out this way, but they do. Serendipity? Well, the Universe is in charge. So I just roll with it.
  11. …that you don’t expect too much from people. You can’t ever truly know anybody, even the people you love. So don’t project your own expectations or assumptions on them. They are their individual persons, outside of you. What’s in your head is only your perception of them, not what they are. (What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person. John Green.) You can influence other people, of course, but don’t fool yourself into believing that’s a power you have. It’s not. Ultimately, what they do is their call. And that’s not something you can ever control or predict. Save yourself, and them, potential disappointment and just deal with people as they are: not as they used to be, and not as you want them to be; as they are. Present tense.
  12. …that you don’t succumb to celebrity worship. Coming from someone who, as a fifteen-year-old, used to print out Jonas Brothers articles and stuff them in a clear book to re-read every day, and whose blog post before this one proudly talked of a longtime hardcore love for Taylor Swift … I really, really mean this particular piece of advice. The Internet is the perfect medium to deceive us into thinking we know these people, that their lives are perfect, that they own the standards of beauty, that everything they do must be followed and talked about and celebrated, that they need us to defend them against detractors, that they care about our existence … None of these are true, fam. (Well, they care about our existence in the sense that they need us to keep consuming what they feed us, so they get even richer while we get poorer. Yeah.) Every single human being is problematic, celebrities included, so let’s not keep putting them up a pedestal, and reduce ourselves to blind fanatics and apologists, ya know? I learned this the hard way. Heck, I used to religiously manage a fansite. There was a time I felt like I had grips on Taylor Swift’s life more than my own, considering I updated about every single (public) move she made (while I couldn’t figure out what to do with my own life. The irony!). I’m fortunate that I became too busy with schoolwork so I had to sever myself from the imaginary responsibility of reporting about her life, and that as early as the Red era I started feeling a disconnect with her and her music enough to begin seeing her businesswoman side behind the sweetheart persona, so my faculty of judgment remained mostly in tact. But, well. It was still toxic. I’m glad I got out of that. I still follow TS, of course, and I remain a fan (even after that whole Kimye disaster that happened this month, I’m going to stand by fifteen-year-old Nenen’s fangirling, because that helped shape who I am today) but I’ve known for a while how shallow this all is. I still enjoy freaking out about celebrities, because by God, are they entertaining (haha!), but a lot of that is just hyperbole. I don’t really care all that much. I hope you recognize the shallowness of it all, too. Our idols provide healthy inspiration, but blind worship is another thing. Let’s not lose ourselves, and especially our abilities to think critically, in our obsession with these “perfect” strangers. Let the people we choose to idolize be ones who challenge us to become better because of their work or their art, but only that. We don’t need to admire and agree with the entirety of their personhood, you know? Absorb the good stuff and freely forget about the rest.
  13. …that you know you are large. I could never say it better than Walt Whitman did: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) (I could be persuaded to have this quote tattooed on my chest above my heart tbh.) Here is another piece that says it so well. Don’t ever limit yourself, or anyone else, into boxes or expectations or definitions or labels. You are so much more. And you’re allowed to peel off layers, to go out of character, to change your mind. Because to remain as you are now is a disservice to how much larger you still can be. Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. (Rumi.) (You know what? This is a little out there, but I find that the perfect example for this is President Duterte. A man so full of contradictions [tough and soft, brilliant and stupid, empathic and insensitive, charming and crass…the list goes on] that he constantly challenges perceptions of him. Mainstream media has tried their very best to reduce him to convenient narratives but that’s mostly backfired on them because he is too larger than life. He’s got a cult following that basically think him a Savior, but he’s also got a lot of detractors who think he’s the spawn of the devil. He is none of these; he is somewhere, sometimes everywhere, in between. He’s such a complicated human who can bring about such a passionate reaction from other people, it’s kind of amazing to see.) (Maybe you aren’t as extreme as he is, but you are just as large, my friend.)
  14. …that you won’t ever be ashamed for what you like. Seriously. Just be true to yourself. Like, if you happen to adore Lang Leav’s poetry, or think Comic Sans is a good font, I can’t promise I won’t be thinking “Why…?!” (haha), but who cares what I think? You don’t need anyone else’s validation, certainly not mine. If you like what everyone else likes and people label you a ‘bandwagoner’—or if it’s the opposite, they’ll call you a ‘hipster’—whatever, you know? The world has no right to your heart. Do you. (I especially like how this can totally tie in with the Walt Whitman quote, as demonstrated by John Green in these two fire tweets. HELL YES.)
  15. …that when you’re upset about something, don’t stay worried about it. Do something about it if you can; otherwise, let it go. I’ve talked a bit about it here with regards to dealing with failure, but honestly it can apply to anything. It’s a universal recipe against anxiety and stress. I apply this thinking the most when it comes to insecurities. If it’s something you can’t change, like, say, your body structure—don’t beat yourself up for it. It’s not your fault you were born the way you are. (Learn to appreciate it instead!) If you’re insecure about something you can change, though, like the quality of your work, well, stop wallowing in misery and do something about it. Start practicing. It’s going to be shitty at first but you don’t get to amazing without being shitty first.
  16. …that if you are somewhere comfortable holding a gadget while you’re reading this, I hope you realize that you are in a position of privilege, part of the 40% of the world’s population who has access to the Internet. And if there is one thing you can strive for, please let it be going out and meeting the remaining 60%. Please add it to your #lifegoals or #travelgoals (or #whateverelsegoals… these hashtags are ridiculous). (And dude, if you’re living in the Philippines, it’s not even a challenge; it’s so criminally easy to get to a poverty-stricken area anywhere in this country, you’ve got no excuse). I hope you get to experience going down on your knees and looking a child living in poverty in the eye. Let him tell you about his life. Take a look around at all of their lives, and not behind some lens or screen, but in person. Allow yourself to realize that the truly worthwhile #goals aren’t what the capitalists are telling you to do, and it’s not even about merely improving your life—but improving your life so you can improve theirs.
  17. …that you always have a sense of self-awareness. You’re going to make mistakes—make sure to call yourself out for them. Pay attention to the alarm bells in your head that sound off whenever you step out of line. Recognize when you’re being a hypocrite. (Don’t be all “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative” because it’s become inconvenient for you, when in fact you have conveniently used that same narrative on an acceptance speech for a major award.) (HAHA damn I had to get that in here somewhere.) Don’t be pretentious or self-righteous; don’t walk around like your moral high ground is a step above others when you have skeletons in your closet yourself. (Like, this whole post is me giving a lot of advice that I can’t always follow myself, but I know that, and I’m going to keep trying to improve on it.)
  18. …that you chill on the romance. That is, don’t stress so much over it, ya know? If you’re loved up right now, good for you. (But, um, fun fact: Of all my batchmates who were couples in high school and college, the ones who are still together right now, I could count in only one hand…) Young love that lasts is the exception, not the rule. So don’t be super invested on it. Love yourself first, my friend. This also goes out to all the single people. I mean, okay, pitstop—who am I to be talking about love life, anyway? Haha—you’re right. But I am a happy single person, so. (Like, I wouldn’t say I’m emotionally stable, but my instabilities have nothing to do with my love life, or lack of it. In that area, I have zero worries.) (Actually, I’m maybesortakinda leaning towards the “I’m probably not going to marry anyone ever” mindset right now tbh, not because I’m bitter but because I’m way too happy being single and self-absorbed to be bothered LOL.) So. If you want to achieve this state of zen, it’s simple: Just chill. Don’t be self-pitying; let go of that ALL BOYS ARE ASSHOLES FUCK THEM pettiness (stop posting those quotes that are actually subtweets you want that boy to read and be hurt about, sister) (he won’t be); realize #relationshipgoals for what it is—just a hashtag; never think your worth is in any way affected by your relationship status; stop reading all the “Find a man who…” / “Wait for a man who…” articles. CHILL. Find yourself first, love yourself first, be enough for yourself first. You complete you. So whatever else follows, whether you eventually start dating again (or not), your heart is going to be full. You will no longer be thirsty for love, but ready to give love back. 🙂
  19. …that unless you do know what it’s like, you don’t know what it’s like. Yeah, yeah—NO DUH, right? Stated like that you would think it should be plenty obvious, but so many people still don’t get it, holy shit. I mean, just this morning I’ve seen a man explaining women’s feelings to actual women and then, when the women proceeded to speak of their actual feelings, the man wasn’t having any of it! I mean?!? It’s so exasperating. Reading or hearing about something, and even witnessing it, is VASTLY different from actually living through it. Unless you’ve been through the exact same thing, please don’t ever, ever presume you understand enough of a person’s situation enough to judge that person, or worse, speak for him or her. Like. NO. Stop.
  20. …that you don’t get so easily triggered. 2016 has been a ridiculous year; it’s like everyone’s on attack mode. The simplest of statements can offend just about anyone, and the tiniest bit of offense can transform people into keyboard warriors. Shade is thrown, tea is spilled, people are dragged. Mobs join in carrying pitchforks. What good dialogue there should be is lost in the chaos. Sometimes I think that in our attempts to tiptoe around, trying not to offend people, trying to be as politically correct as possible, our conversations get diluted. So I hope you’re not so sensitive, fellow human. Nothing happens when you’re offended. Part of emotional maturity is allowing people with opposing views to express themselves freely, and not get personally offended by it. No one’s view of you, regardless of what it is, can cause you any harm (unless you, of course, choose to take it to heart). (Akin Olokun.) This isn’t to say you’re supposed to do nothing when someone steps on you. Just choose your battles wisely. If you have to debate with someone, let it be because of a genuine issue to be argued, and not merely because “feelings were hurt.”
  21. …that you know what, or who, your Anchors are, and you keep them close. (Terminology borrowed from Ned Vizzini.) See, there are going to be plenty of awful days ahead. Days involving darkness and tears and debilitating tiredness and existential crises. So it’s important that you have your Anchors to hold on to. Prayer is the best Anchor for me—not the memorized kind; the spill your guts on the floor, peel off your skin and expose yourself kind where you’re at your lowest and there’s nowhere to go but up … Prayer provides the strength to do that, too. But that’s for me—I’m not here to preach about religion. I hope you have your faith, whatever form that may be. And it may not even be faith, it could be family, friends, pets … just—I hope you have your Anchors. The strings to your helium balloon. Keep going back to those Anchors when you feel like you couldn’t go on any longer. I’m also a big advocate of escapism at times of great need: Keep a stash of happy pills close by. Mine are books, always and always, but yours could be anything, really—music, cat videos, pizza—stuff to make you temporarily forget your sorrows and remind you that there is always happiness to be found when you look for it. (But do not take “happy pills” a step too literally, ‘kay? I don’t mean illegal drugs lol. DON’T EVEN.)
  22. …that you understand that in this day and age, ignorance is no longer an excuse. You have access to the Internet. You can hold the sum of all human knowledge in the palm of your hand. Please let that sink in. You can learn about anything you want to learn about with a swipe of a finger. What are you doing with this power? What do you fire up Google for? What knowledge are you choosing to acquire? Like, I am well versed on 2016 celebrity Twitter beefs, but I know way too little about women in history who fought the good fight. What does that say about me? Sigh. I am going to change that, though. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.
  23. …that you know your worth. My favorite line from Agent Carter was Peggy’s reply when she was asked how she could take being dismissed and belittled by the jerks in their workplace: “I don’t need Thompson’s approval. Or the President’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Let that be something you say to the mirror everyday: I am valuable. I KNOW I am valuable. (I like it better than I am beautiful, because let’s be honest, the latter isn’t really believable all the time.) Always protect and nourish your sense of self-worth, because when the world chips away at you, this is the very last thing it can take. And there’s no way in hell you’re gonna give it away without a fight, hear me?

And because I enjoy breaking my own rules, here’s one extra hope:

  1. …that you be responsible. About everything. This is adulthood, dear friend. Everything that you do, that’s on you now. That might seem like an incredible amount of pressure, and it is, so let that make you cautious. I hope that you think twice about all your actions. That when people trust you, you honor that trust. That you be mindful of the words you express. That you make the most of all the resources given to you—money, energy, talent, time—and that you be accountable for any wastage. That you apologize for your mistakes. That you always bring an umbrella for both the heat and the rain. That when you fail (which will happen, heads up!), you get back up again (even if it takes some time). If this all seems so dull, well, it’s up to you to have fun, too. You can always choose to enjoy the process. Love the heck out of the struggle. And when you get tired, rest. Forgive. Walk lightly, and take it easy.

<3

Come at me, year six!

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