In Between States

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Photo source: ours80s.com

In school, we were taught that there are three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas. The most prominent characteristic that differentiates each state is the compactness of their molecules, solid being the most compact.

(If you’re going to be really particular, yes, there’s another state of matter – plasma – but for the purposes of this post, let’s just stick to the first three for the metaphors.)

We were also taught that a material can change from one state to another. The most classic example is ice (solid) that turns to water (liquid) and then water vapor (gas).

I was reminiscing these lessons as I waited for a jeepney at a police outpost near my alma mater. At the time, I had just finished requesting for some documents I needed for something I was planning to do in the near future. Something that would dictate my life for the next few years.

You could say that I was worried. That day was a day of setting things in motion. I was actively trying to get a move on with my life and disrupt the routine I had learned to live with for almost eight months. Everything beneath my feet was shaking with the idea that from there on out, anything was possible and I was in-charge.

As cars continued to pass me by, I found myself dwelling on the changes that happened to me in a span of a year and how I got to where I am. More often than not, each change brought some sort of discomfort that I had to overcome. And at the time, when I was slowly being overcome by changes and worries, I needed to have a metaphor to anchor my sanity to.

I was in a state of confusion. I only had a general idea of where I wanted my life to go, but who was I kidding? I felt like I had no direction and that I was just making up plans for the sake of having plans. The best way I could describe it was being in between states, like being whatever it is that’s no longer water but not yet vapor.

Solid to Liquid

I graduated college feeling like life finally proved me wrong about not being good enough.

You see, though I excelled in school during elementary and high school, I never really believed like I could do great things. I was surrounded by people who were better than me and I always felt like I had to catch up or else I’ll fall off the roster.

But in college, I ended up fulfilling a wish of mine, which was to deliver the valedictory speech at the end of four years. Though my aim was only to inspire my batch mates with a speech (just like how our HS valedictorian inspired me), I found that after the four years in college, I became a solid person that can be proud of herself and can dream of better things.

I wasn’t complete as a person yet, but I felt concrete. I felt like I existed and I knew who I was.

But, when I was thrown into the corporate world, I found myself blending in to try to adopt. I wanted to do my best, and being blinded by the need to adjust, I mindlessly gave too much of myself.

Here’s a hard truth: I was too obsessed about finding a job and doing what was expected of me that I forgot how to define my life, that I lost parts of myself I didn’t need to lose.

For a short while, I was proud of myself for being able to survive in Manila all by myself, for accomplishing tasks I thought were impossible, for putting myself out there and for enduring challenges alone.

But I lived in the now. I just wore myself down as I tried to get by. Because I allowed the system to swallow me, I wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful.

Liquid to Gas

Just because I realized that something was going wrong doesn’t mean that I was able to do something about it immediately. I was stuck in a situation and the next steps were vague, if not invisible.

I endured. That meant I was aware of how toxic my routine had become but I was unable to take action. Everything proceeded as it did before but I got unhappier as the days passed.

Those were dark days. What got me through was the thought of going home to Lipa. I counted the hours and I had to actively find motivation to do anything.

It was like being in Limbo while yearning for what it would feel like to be in a better place.

Slowly, I was feeling stagnant and, I don’t know, I was just really down.

Gas to Solid

In the state of being lost, I found a flicker of hope. It started out as a crazy idea at first but at least it was something. I used that fantasy to build myself up, to be busy about something for myself. It wasn’t much, but it was a plan that made me smile.

It was only in desperation that I accepted that idea, to be honest. But it gave me myself back and even if it doesn’t go through, I’ll feel really thankful for it. (It was also thanks to thing thing that I was able to confirm what I feel like is my mission in life.)

It wasn’t easy to force my life to change, to take charge of my life. From being confused about who I’ve become to trying to become someone better, I had to silence my worries and trust my gut about most things. I had to exhaust all options and keep an open mind to where certain opportunities would lead.

It took everything in me to become someone I recognized once again.

I’m currently at this state now. I’m still trying to be a solid person again. I’ve made choices. I’ve committed to purposeful things. I’m moving forward.

As the days pass, I’m getting closer and closer to the person I want to be. I’m regaining confidence in myself. (The funny thing is, things aren’t going according to plan but they’re becoming better.)

Nothing’s set in stone yet but for the first time in a long while, I’m feeling excited about something meaningful again.

(Hello Pollen. It’s been a while.)

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21 Lessons for the Twenty-One Year Old

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Going home to Lipa, the weekend after my birthday

To me, turning twenty-one is both a big deal and something I can shrug off nonchalantly.

In my head, twenty-one means that you have had a year to practice this whole adulting thing, and that at this point, you should’ve at least learned something already. You should have had re-rooted somewhere else and have figured out a bunch of tricks here and there to survive and even have fun. And predominantly, it’s the idea that from this point on, you can’t use ignorance as an excuse for messing things up.

So yeah. Turning twenty-one should be overwhelming to me.

But then, at twenty-one, I found myself not really dwelling on these emotions, fears as much as I did the years before. I wasn’t anxious about my birthday. I didn’t count down. I guess, at twenty-one, so much has been going on for me to even think about it, that I could just let it pass and be. It’s the most underwhelmed milestone of my life yet, if I’m being honest.

I realize, twenty-one has left me with a sense of maturity. I think and feel differently; I probably have been thinking and feeling differently for a while now. Reflecting on it, it actually feels cool to be the person I am today. I am happy about myself, especially because of the lessons I learned along the way:

  1. Sleep facing the sky. Someone told me that this sleeping position alleviates back pain and corrects the spinal posture at night. Your back will start to hurt more often and even if you’re still young, you have to learn to take care of yourself in little ways.
  2. Be less afraid of small talk. Conversations involve more listening than talking. You’d be surprised how many people need your silence.
  3. Text your parents even if you’re not necessarily a text person and you don’t really text them before. This is the point of your lives where you’d start seeing each other less. Just let them know how you are from time to time to ease their worries.
  4. Break your routine. Surprise yourself. From now on, you’d be in-charge of a bigger chunk of your life, including your happiness. Make yourself happy instead of waiting for destiny to work for you.
  5. Make decisions regarding matters of the heart. Don’t be pushed into implied situations. You don’t have to settle for someone you don’t really like. Likewise, you don’t have to play stalemate when you find someone you can’t imagine leaving. People might think that 21 is young still, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand your feelings and commit to them.
  6. Shake a hand firmly. In business, this can indicate dominance. In life, this is just you being sure of yourself and reaching out.
  7. Reserve a pair of silly socks for Wednesdays. Hide them by wearing a pair of boots or closed shoes. It helps to have a funny secret when you’re half-way through the week.
  8. Pursue your dreams in ways you can. To be a writer, you write. To be a dancer, you dance. It starts with something simple.
  9. Have faith. Whether it be on a divine being or on a principle, believe in something.
  10. Treat mistakes as a learning curve. Here’s a new motto I’ve been telling myself nowadays: “It’s okay to make mistakes the first time. Learn from it.”
  11. Date yourself. Eat dinner in a fancy restaurant alone. Watch the last full show alone. Travel alone. You, yourself can be really good company.
  12. Try not to splurge just because you’ve started earning your own money. Expenses work differently when you’re working and when you’re studying. The money you own is the money you use to sustain yourself. If what you want isn’t within budget, don’t make it fit.
  13. Determine your non-negotiable expenses and allot money for it. Know which need you have to prioritize and set aside a part of your budget for it. Then, no matter how tempting, make sure you spend it for nothing else but that.
  14. Make an effort to get in touch. Talk to people that you want to be part of your day. At a phase of your life where not all your friends are in the same classroom, you should make an effort to keep those you want to keep.
  15. Talk to people older than you. Your parents, your aunts and uncles, and even your senior officemates, aren’t there to just lecture you about life. When you spend time to just chat, you can find that you enjoy their company and that you appreciate hearing a lifetime’s worth of stories.
  16. Dress up or down for yourself and for yourself only. Indulge in days when you want to feel like a princess, a diva and even an ugly duckling. Be comfortable expressing how you feel or how you’d want your day to go through your clothes or make-up. (Make an exception if you have to dress up for work.)
  17. Arm yourself with a red lipstick (or a comfort thing of your choice). Sometimes, it’s easier to believe that other things can make you better, braver and bolder than to believe that you are just that by yourself. And that’s okay.
  18. Clean your room. This chore can be a pleasant surprise, a way to ground yourself again when you find that your life is getting too messy.
  19. Find your center. Determine one thing you are sure of and will be sure of when things go awry. It helps to have something to hold go.
  20. Forgive yourself. You’re a grown up, yes, but you still have a lot to learn. You won’t get everything right the first time. That’s what experiences are for. Failing doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
  21. Tell the joke that you don’t think people will find funny. Take a risk.