“Wish I could give you some kind of foolproof Guide to Your 20's now,” I told my sister Aila when she turned 20 last August 1. “Unfortunately I think I still don't know squat from Shinola about life at this stage either. So...let's figure it out together?”
I waved being a twenty-two-year-old goodbye last August 24 and here I am, still feeling like a lost little kid. There’s no point in denying it—I’m pretty much stuck in the same boat with my (not-so-) little sister, whom I sometimes felt is more confident trudging through this life than I am.
But hey, instead of diving headfirst into the melodrama preceding and tailing my 23rd birthday (I’m afraid I ran out of the best roundabout ways of saying I got one year older without sounding like a loser with Peter Pan syndrome), how about we take a peek at the little celebrations surrounding the date first?
Peace and quiet
Aside from the regular cake candle-blowing, the presents, greetings from neighbors and old friends, and the traditional distribution of pansit-filled takeaway tubs and ice cream cups, I celebrated a relatively quiet birthday at home.
In the afternoon after going to church, my cousin and I dropped by this darling little cafe downtown and talked over bittersweet frappes until the sun set. We chatted about the most random of stuff, from planning things to execute in the near future and constructing little stories of the strangers passing by the coffee shop.
The day was as run-of-the-mill as it could get but it was both peaceful and fun, just the way I liked it. It has always been like this—I’ve never been much into booze (my alcoholic history so far consisted a triangulation of vodka-soaked chocolates, punch, and red wine) and loud stay-out-all-night parties since time immemorial. I prefer small celebrations with people close to my heart.
Signed with a “Smile”
It was quite the opposite at work. Two days before my birthday, I received a bouquet of roses and a typewritten letter from an unnamed sender.
And what a ruckus it caused! The bosses were not around that afternoon. I was the one signing and receiving packages—samples from stamp pad suppliers, memos from other offices, that kind of stuff. When the flowers arrived, I didn’t know they were for me.
“Uy, roses!” I exclaimed with a smile when I saw them, signing the receiving stub a nice old lady handed me. I asked who I should give the flowers to, and was totally confused when she read my name from an envelope. My first reaction? “WHAT? But I didn’t order any flowers!”
I didn’t know what got into me but I began laughing my head off. My officemates flocked around me then, exchanging theories while examining the long-ish letter that was signed with nothing but a smiley face. I have zero idea who sent the gifts, but based on the note it was someone I interacted with in another office. It was a tad creepy, I admit, but it was sweet all the same. I thought the sender wrote the letter with utmost honesty; it carried a somewhat apologetic tone, with a timidly hinted promise of someday revealing his identity. I’m not sure if “Mystery Guy” is reading this right now, but if he is, I give him my heartfelt thanks!
(I pity those people my officemates pinpointed as “Prime Suspects”. There’s a guy in a neighboring office who got cornered a lot and forced to admit. The poor thing! But no, I didn’t think it’s him.)
‘Artist’ for a day
Two weeks later, we planned to prepare a gift for the DTI Secretary’s birthday. My immediate supervisor asked if I could make caricatures. Because I somewhat dabble in doodles and drawings, I said I could try.
After a nine-to-five seminar on the exact day I was told to finish the drawings, I opted for an overtime stay at the office. I was intent on burning the midnight oil but dear ol’ Morpheus loves me a lot, and it wasn’t long before I nodded off (two-and-a-half hours in dreamland, tops). Fortunately I managed to finish the whole thing the next day and was extra-relieved that the folks who requested it liked it.
In truth, having the chance to draw again was a present in itself. When I started working as a government employee, I barely had the time to pick up color pencils or paintbrushes. Sure, I sometimes doodle in the margins of my old journal, but it wasn’t the same as finishing big drawings that people actually requested to be done. It was a refreshing feeling.
Later in the afternoon, our director-in-charge called for a meeting. We’re all aware that since the arrival of our new DIC, it will be a tradition to bring cake for the celebrants of the month. Everyone was in what we call the “rush-ian” mode that day so I didn’t expect them to bring out the new ‘office surprise’. But they did; in fact, it was the second agenda of the meeting!
Groggy with sleeplessness and giddy with mirth, I sang along with the group when they belted out a raucous “Happy Birthday”, as if I’m not one of the two people they were singing it for. By the end of the song I was beginning to become sugar-buzzed again, as I was not-so-secretly snatching bits of icing from the corners of the treat.
Attempting to blow out the candle again after failing to do it the first time
(“Hey! I’m asthmatic, remember?”)
(“Hey! I’m asthmatic, remember?”)
We ate, talked, and took a lot of pictures. I was still physically tired—we’d still have to move the desks afterwards because we’re starting the Big 5S Day that day—but somehow I didn’t feel like going away from the crowd and resting for microsleeps, like I usually do whenever I’m on “low-batt” mode. Somehow, the happy energy of these people are rubbing off on me. :)
And we get to the melodrama
When the celebratory aura temporarily peters out, I know I’d be thinking again. Over-thinking, actually. Who doesn’t?
It’s quarter-life crisis, they say. Going back to what I said to my sister, I know going through these years while having someone by your side—be it a sibling, a friend, or just someone who has the same lofty dreams—would cushion some of life’s succeeding blows. It doesn’t necessarily mean being dependent on the other person; just knowing you’re not alone ploughing through all of this, growing through all of this…well, it does make a difference, doesn’t it? Even a little bit?
I know what I want, and I’m figuring out what to do to get what I want. Like the average young adult, I’m just being assaulted by doubts, and I just have to win my small battles against them.
Anyhow, my birthday this year is full of thank-you’s and hopes. I’m aware I’m blessed and I’m grateful for that. There are people who love me, people I love back, people I love more than they love me, and people who—to quote a character from Orange is the New Black—“aren’t smart enough to be loved back.” (I kind of have loads to say about love too, but that’s topic for a separate post).
My stars are still up there, and giving up is not on this little dreamer’s vocabulary…and I don’t think it will ever be. :)