Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why life gets more frustrating when you turned 21

There’s gotta be an inside joke behind the creation of Forever 21. I mean, who comes up with that name? Its creators must have thought, “oh, let’s think of a name that will instill an instinctive longing for all women out there to be forever young, unbridled and carefree…then distract them with fancy clothes to project that dream into a fashion statement.” Literally. Well, at least whoever thought of that name has an idea how it is every girl’s dream is to freeze in that age, on that brink of youth to path of womanhood, and how turning 21 could be so exciting and frightening at the same time.

21 is that age where you can still have fun when you’re past your teens and yet be count as a model others younger they can look up to. It is an age of wisdom and reflection but when you screw up, you still have the hall pass of ‘Youth.’ and ‘Impulsiveness’. Since you’re just beginning, no one’s expecting you be ‘someone’. You’re like a baby taking her first few steps, testing the waters, and everyone tolerates your little experiments as a part of ‘finding your place in this wide world’

But being 21 is not all just fun and adventure, college, beach trips, parties, freedom and the thrill of earning your keep and here’s why:

  • The “Gosh, Before-long-I-would-be-30” hives. Enough said. Once you reached 21, you know you’re moving upward and one day, your families, friends and colleagues would shove a tiny cake in your face with two big 2 and 9 candles, mocking you with its dancing flames.
  • First rung on the corporate ladder. No one usually bitches you about your first job, but when its your first full-time, it’s got to be good, right? Our failure of reaching up to others’ expectations, as well as our own, is one of the things you need to brace yourself for.
  • The Green Eye. Being envious is a natural human emotion; If you have everything, it would be boring. Yet for some reason, the green monster is strangely stronger in you at 21. It’s so easy to be jealous of the little things and the big things.A friend of yours got a cool job on first try and he/she gets to travel the world writing for hotels or your bestfriend is going out with a loyal and considerate boy while you yourself had just got out of a messy break-up…At the end of the day, the sweetest thing you can ever do is to be happy for them and focus on the road ahead of you instead of other peoples’ tracks.
  • The Role Model. Thing. While you can use your age as a weapon of intimidation and respect, younger and less experienced kids would also look up to you for wisdom *cough* and guidance *cough cough*. Most of the time, they would watch your actions than your words so beware. You may not have a gorgeous body and rule the catwalk of Victoria Secret or ANTM at 21, but when a kid grows up right by looking up to you while still being herself, you just did one of the most amazing things in the world….at 21!
  • “What I did before 20 is…..” Have you noticed something in our generation? It’s just that achievers are getting younger and younger! Cecilia Ahern published her first ever novel, bestselling “PS I Love You” at 21, Christopher Paolini, Eragon at 15. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg created the largest social media network at 19 while the duo founders  of Google started to build their empire back in college. I heard from the news that some 15-year-old kid invents a groundbreaking cancer test. Their stories are inspiring and all but sometimes they would get me to thinking on what the heck did I do on those twenty years of existence. I guess everything ought to start with something you love, not just a one-night stand but a lifetime passion for creating something that will last long after you’re gone.
  • Love knows no age. There’s no better bliss than being 21 and in love. Having gone through relationships in the past would make you think you’ve grown wiser, less prone to being heartbroken, but no. You’re just as invulnerable as a 15-year-old girl in her first date or a 45-year-old divorced woman with three kids.
  • Hate-Weight. Two words. Gaining weight. Blame that McDonalds sitting across your apartment or your inability to wake up at 5 AM for a small jog in the park.
  • The “I-don’t-know-what-I-want” agony. When you think you know yourself at 21, then you’re in for a rude awakening. Don’t think you know so much about yourself. You’re just as impulsive as you are in your wild teen days and being 21 brings so many opportunities in your life that you wished you can just try them all and find out where you to kick off your career or how your life is going to be. Thing is, you have bills to pay and people to count on you so you have to be careful about your options either. Don’t be afraid to experiment, though. Life is full of Xs. Experience and Experiments.
  • Organizing your pathetic life. Family reunions are nice but when your relatives started ganging up on you about your life plans, you’d wish you can just disappear in the room….or they disappear in the room while you’re left alone with your wine and club sandwich. These people expected you to be responsible now that you’re in your early twenties, as if you already figure out what you will be in ten years’ time. When you think about it, plans are easy to do: just list the things you wanted to do before you reach 30 or something. It’s how you will actually pull it off is the problem. A friend of mine said it’s important for us yuppies to have a life mentor who can understand you the most and unafraid to tell what the heck is wrong with you. Not exactly a Tuesdays with Morrie-esque but someone you know who has your back. No matter how old you are, 16, 21 or 55, we all need someone to bug our problems with. 

What about you? What do you think are the perks of being 21?

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Carnival of some early memories

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Whenever I came home from work, I would always catch my 5-year-old brother staring zombie-eyed at the computer, his tiny fingers dancing in the keyboard precisely like a surgeon’s fingers as he navigates his avatar in some bizarre game of Legoworld. He didn’t look up when I call his name, nor he never look down on his school textbooks until the last minute before he goes to school. Unless I cut off our internet subscription or turn off the computer and handle my brother’s tantrum (which is very hard since my dad, a call center agent, is sleeping off his sleep-deprived work in the next room), there’s nothing much I can do but continuously call to him to do his homework.

I almost pity my 5-year-old brother’s generation. They bear the brunt of all the innovations of modern technology, the good sides as well as the bad sides. Everything is given to them I fear there won’t be any room for creativity or execution anymore. They didn’t get to experience the simple pleasures of having to be given extra time to play outside in the evening, imagining kapres and white ladies while you play Tagu-taguan, or the simple happiness you get when you make your own toys or artworks and be patted on the head for it.

Seeing my brother’s childhood reminds me of my own. I have fond memories of climbing up the roof of my tita’s house with my cousins after getting into a fight with ‘squatter’ kids in our district, being chased by a neighbor’s scary Labrador (and getting bitten by it, twice!), making mud pies and crushing dry leaves in the backyard of my grandparents’ house and best thing of all, singing my head off to my dad’s playlist of 80s and 90s music blasting off the stereo every Sunday morning. I have an unusually sharp memory of my childhood but it makes me overly sentimental sometimes, thus the name of this blog.

One of the cherished memories I had is during the end of the week after school, my cousin, Ate Mean, would take my brother Mico and I to the mall. When you’re a kid, the mall is the best place you ever saw. It’s got food, arcade, colorful clothes worn by mannequins, toy shops and candy stores, and in the case of this mall, a small carnival at the topmost floor.

The carnival isn’t that too great, but when you’re a kid standing 3 feet tall, everything seems so wonderful and overwhelming. It’s got bump cars over one side, a mini-roller coaster at the center of the whole galley, a horror train at the right and loads of arcade games giving off bright and colorful lights that seemed to hypnotize you ‘play me, play me’. My brother and I always drive my Ate Mean crazy begging for tokens and more tickets even if we nearly ran out of jeep fare home. Afterwards, she would treat us a nice fruit shake and steamy hot mini-doughnuts sprinkled up in cinnamon. We would sit by the steps of the carnival, cooling off the doughnuts while our pockets are bunched up with all the tickets we won.

So one day, I made up my mind to take my little brother to the carnival and check it out after so many years. This time, I won’t be the kid needing to be taken care of but the Ate Mean for my brother. In the jeep ride to the mall, I was already planning out all the sort of things my brother and I would ride on the carnival.

In the mall, my brother enjoyed himself with all the colorful shoppes and I realized that maybe it’s because we have no time for him, he would comfort himself with the internet and computer games. There should be an activity that would bring us together, at least once a week, just like Ate Mean taking us to the mall when we were around that age.

We visited the carnival and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was so much smaller than I remembered! The carnival looks so lonely, I guess, deserted in this Saturday evening. I remembered of the time when the place is so packed we have to eat dinner downstairs to wait for the crowd to subside. But now, it seemed as though it was forgotten and abandoned after so many years of providing good childhood memories like mine.

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The arcade games we used to play didn’t give off the same colorful display I used to remember. In fact, some of the games I used to play are gone, carted off somewhere. The bump car and roller coaster are still there, but my brother isn’t tall enough to ride so we have to settle with the horror train.

The horror of riding the horror train back then came rushing back to me and I have to stifle a smile when my brother asked me if it’s scary as we boarded up. We are the only ones in the ride. Anticipation sets in as the train slowly rolled off to the dark cavernous opening. The Little Me would begin to roll like a ball and close her eyes around this time and I laughed when my brother did the same. This must have been what Ate Mean is feeling when she had my brother and I clutching off her shirt while we scream our heads off inside the tunnel even if our eyes remained shut all throughout.

For the first time, I saw what is it inside the tunnel and shook my head for what I’ve been dreading off in the past. Aside from hastily-made dummies of witches and zombies, we have this guy wearing a mask of Ghostface in “The Scream” and scare us with quick boos then disappears as quickly as that. I guess the real amusement for adults riding the train is watching their kids petrified in fear.

I tried to push my brother to ride the carousel, but it was either he’d been shook up with the horror train ride or thinks the carousel is too ‘babyish’, he refuses to go. In the end, we spent the remainder of our time jumping off from one game to another; there wasn’t much crowd to deal with anyway.

Miggy with his tickets

Miggy with his tickets

Looking around, I realized this would be gone soon. Maybe be turned into a department store or a supply appliances store or something. It had a feeling of bleakness and old-age, if places have age. I guess in my memory it has. This may have been the very last time I get to see it, and play in it. I may have grown taller and act more grown-up, but I realized that this trip isn’t just about showing my kid brother a sweet memory of my childhood, it’s also about me relieving them. Even if there’s nothing much in here to relieve about and there’s only a bittersweet feeling of having to see the place in the edge of crumbling down, I am glad that I came here with my kid brother and personally say goodbye to it, thanking it for the memories I will tell down to my children and children’s children after they take off that 3-D glasses from all-day gaming and sit for supper.

Maturity comes when you have to accept that things won’t be the same as before, because you yourself is inevitably changing.

My brother and I may have different childhood but this doesn’t mean his is far more inferior than mine. I just wish there are more things he would experience and remember than spending the whole day staring at a little box. He’s only 5; it’s not too late for me to open his world a little bit more. In some way, I guess the world will end in zombie apocalypse, not with our people turning into flesh-eating monsters but our children staring blankly into space, immersed into media and technology. You don’t have to be bitten to get the strain. It easily spreads to all of us.

We finished off the mini-doughnuts and headed for home, back to the real world and to the bleak future waiting for us ahead.

#ThankYouMa’am: The little Ollivander and the ‘Voldy’ Me

Bach in grade school, I was the regular quiet girl off with her own world, happy while the rest of the world ignores her. Had just two bestfriends and would stay inside the classroom during recess with a good book than terrorize the playground.

One of my fondest  memories is to smuggle a comic book and read them during math lectures while using textbooks as covers. Because I wear glasses and speak poshy, uncommon words I deliberately memorized to suck it up, all the teachers generally considered me as the well-behaved, studious girl and so, I get away with my every crime that easily.

When you love to read, you’d find that the English teachers would always adore you, especially if you’re in a small school such as mine. No one pleases them than to see kids reading thick paperbacks with brows furrowed in concentration. If they only knew how hard it is for me to stifle my laugh over the Archie Comic Digest I am reading smugly shielded by a thick paperback of “War and Peace.” For most teachers, they’d rather forgive a student passing out his boredom on class by reading than sleeping through it all.

One day, my math teacher caught me reading in class one time. Since we’re clearly not in a reading or English class, she took away my comic and enacted the punishment. This was the third time in a row I was caught reading. I thought she’s going to hand me the chalk and make me suffer in front of the class by trying to solve a very long word problem but she just told me I have to go to the principal’s office after class. Mrs. Ligot will see to my case.

Mrs. Ligot is a small lady with a gentle voice. Although wrinkles ran all over her face, she’d always wear a graceful smile which can deceive you into thinking she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s not the type of headmasters students would cower in fear from everytime they get sent to her office; in fact when I was waiting for her, I was enjoying myself with the  office’s cool air-conditioner tinged with spicy jasmine scent. But don’t get me wrong, she can be pretty intimidating when her fuse blows up. Her small stature effectively hides how firm and strict she is.

When I explained to Mrs. Ligot what I did, she just smiled benignly and said “You really love reading books, don’t you, Jannica?” (And I forgot, she knows EVERY student’s name)

“Comics po. Nagbabasa po ako ng comics” I meekly said.

“Comics, books, they’re all the same. They’re made to read” she said. “I heard you love reading”

There are tons in my class who also love to read so I never consider my love of reading as anything special. In the setting I grew up in, adults would gush over young readers as if they possess some incredible mind power uncommon to many, which means they seldom encounter a child who loves to read and that in itself is a sad thing to think about. “Medyo lang po.”

“Have you ever tried writing?” she asks while peering at me through sharp horn-rimmed glasses.

I thought of my horrible penmanship and wildly shook my head. “Pangit po sulat ko ma’am” I thought she’d  order me to write a letter to my parents or something.

She threw her head back and laughed for a long time “I’m thinking of enlisting the school in the District Press Conference.” Seeing my blank expression, she continued. “It’s a contest of writing in journalism – news writing, features, editorials, sports…Every school in the district will participate. I’m thinking of including you in the team”

I was overcome with shock and extreme worry (but really, more of the latter) “Hindi po ako marunong magsulat” I said in a fearful voice as if she just asked me to run barefoot in smoldering ashes.

I never really considered writing before. You can ask me to read an entire series of Harry potter for one week but never an essay about how the books affected you as a person. Writing’s too personal. It reveals something of your personality, and I can profess I’m the most closeted secretive girl there is. Revealing anything about myself to other people without my consent is just one of my fears.

It’s like everytime you write something, you’re leaving a part of your soul behind , just like what Voldemort did on Horcruxes. To attain immortality, one must pay the painful price of baring his soul and I had a feeling I’m not prepared for that kind of sacrifice.

I’m your regular wallflower, content to watch everything silently in the corner, never sharing anything; Sharing my opinions, my beliefs, my style and how I view the world, opening up like a bud on spring is the least of what I want.

But Mrs. Ligot insisted that I should try. See how determined she is? Who knew a little lady could have such an iron will? She says that in any case, I still have to make up for my misbehavior in class. “You wouldn’t lose anything,” she assures but the word ‘lose’ made me even more frightened more than anything. “Why don’t you just give it a try? After some practices and trainings, you can tell me if you wanted to leave”

I reluctantly became the part of the first ever newspaper staff of the school, along with a handful of my friends and some fifth and sixth graders.

The first time I write something is a poem. Yes,A short, mushy poem. I still feel a hot flush creeping on my face everytime I remember reading it. When I submitted it to Mrs. Ligot for review, I literally ran away. Part of my reluctance in writing is eliciting negative comments about the way I see things, and ultimately, rejection of my character. See how messed up I am as a kid? (and maybe until now)

I came to meet Mrs. Ligot later that afternoon in the library where the school newspaper meeting is. She is wearing that all perpetual motherly smile while watching me clumsily shuffling my way to her.

“Is this the first poem you wrote?” she asked, holding the tiny piece of paper which contained jumbled words so meaningless and cheesy I might as well have swallowed up a dictionary and vomited words in random.

I nodded bravely. I really didn’t care if I get kicked out of the campus paper team or what. To be honest, I grew to like it. Suddenly, my mind isn’t just all about reading and understanding words; it’s creating them. The experience of having to make readers feel, see, or think the same way as you do gives me a bittersweet sense of taking a piece of my soul and immortalizing it into a piece of paper and letting it go.

“This is good.” she said. “There’s a few grammar problems but for your first poem, this is excellent!” I looked up to her to see if she’s joking but she’s looking at the paper and looking genuinely pleased about it. “Isasama ko to on the first issue of our newspaper for the literary page.”

“Wag na lang po” I said but she just shook her head and smiled.

“You shouldn’t be ashamed of your work” she continues. “Magsulat ka lang nang magsulat. You’ll find it to be the most natural thing you can do after reading. Walang tama o mali sa pagsusulat at sa nagsusulat. Just a little bit of skill there and a tiny bit of kapal ng mukha, you’ll get by”

Needless to say, my passion for writing started after that. My poem got published in the school paper, and sure my archrival in class, a mean arrogant boy who I will never name, mocked at how I write it, and sure I cringed inwardly everytime I read it, my ambition to become a writer never wavered. Ever since Mrs. Ligot suggested me to write and open myself up to the world, I think I changed for the better, and i began to trust on my words more and more. I began to trust on myself more and more.

Everytime I write an article, a chapter, a poem, a news piece, I’d always remember Mrs. Ligot. We would still get in touch sometimes in high school but I’ve never heard of her anymore as I entered the university except some snippets of her leaving the country and settling with one of her sons living in the States. Every time she visits the old school, it’s heartwarming to know that she still inquires about me from my younger cousins who are studying there. More than remembering a fond memory of a teacher, it’s such a happy feeling when a teacher remembers you.

Someday I’m planning to return to contact her, arrange a meet up and tell her that I’m now a successful journalist or a writer, a game-changer, or maybe as a lost twenty-something girl who hadn’t still found her place in the world. Victorious or battered down, no matter what, I would stand in front of her as the girl whose life she had changed and tell her how much it meant to me.

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy myself running around and playing Voldemort, casting a piece of my soul to every word, every sentence, every paper and every story to my quest of immortality.

Adios~

Would have to dig up some old photos of me and Ma'am. I miss you, ma'am! :)

Would have to dig up some old photos of me and Ma’am. I miss you, ma’am! 🙂

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