21

Safe to say that things didn’t go quite as planned. Five years ago, I clenched this idea of the best version of myself, and when you’re young, you take having defined the mold you want to grow into as the mark of maturity. I was as self-assured as I’ll ever be then. I thought that I was going to graduate college by 19, and be halfway done with law school by the time I’m 21, possibly in a relationship with someone whose dreams exist in the same wavelength as mine. Writing this now, two hours before I add another year on top of my last two decades, it puzzles me how everything turned out just differently — not better or worse, mind you, I’ve since learned to appreciate the way I deviated, but just differently.

I’ve yet to graduate college, I still have my thesis and Spanish units to complete. I’m considering totally abandoning my law school dreams in favor of a career in development, which I figured I could jumpstart now. The man who I thought was the love of my life turned out to be just one of those guys you meet in college who gift you with your first real heartbreak. I’m about forty pounds above my desired weight. I’ve stopped writing altogether, for the Nth time. Most nights, before drifting off to sleep, I am paralyzed by the fear I may never measure up the high standards I have set for myself, or never see daylight again to actually enforce them, believing all my life for some reason that I will never die old, reach old, be old.

But to dwell on these things is to discount how well things have been going so far. Two nights ago, I was hired by an international NGO whose goals I believe in with all my heart, andw will now send me off to places I’ve never even dreamed of to make at least a wee bit of difference in people’s lives. Before that, I have gotten two job offers from two wonderful institutions despite my lack of a degree. I’ve just gotten a raise in the part-time gig I’ve held for the last three years, and I am more or less financially independent the moment my first payday comes. I’ve a good grasp of the people I call my core, and a burning desire to hone these relationships forever. I live in a place that affords me the most marvelous view of the city I call home, and so wake up with renewed energy and purpose everyday. I have started eating clean, and taking care of my body well. I’ve been reading again and managing to mute the doubting voices in my head more often because of this. I have lost the energy to put up with people I don’t want around me, and have learned to stay away from relationships that are as draining as they are inauthentic. I am actually not afraid to admit anymore that I want a relationship with my parents. I kiss my eighty-one-year-old grandfather often, and feel my heartbeat quickening whenever he laughs at my stupid jokes. I am seeing my siblings doing something worthwhile with their days and going at this with a passion I wish I had at their age, and feel myself beaming with pride. I am as reckless and as impulsive as I will ever be in sending applications, approaching strangers and declaring what exactly what I want and need, and feel liberated that I no longer waste energy in holding myself back. I feel myself yearning to make reparations to people who have gotten from me less than they deserve and less that I am capable of giving, whether said reparation comes in the form of an extra credit assignment, or a rekindled friendship. I have managed to see myself through the lowest moments over the last few days, and have chosen to be resilient and live through these times rather than make hasty decisions driven by mere nostalgia. I have learned that although my twenties is indeed the period for a manic chase, I now know myself well enough to know exactly when to step back and breathe everything in to avoid burning my fire out.

I guess my point is this: from now on, I am refusing to plan. Obviously I have a good sense of what and how much I want to achieve in the next nine years, but I am no longer subscribing to some manual. I am still as ambitious and as hungry as I’ll ever be, yes, but I will no longer hold myself responsible for the things I might not get done in time, believing now that whatever it is that I truly want, I will go after with the urgency I expect from genuine desire.

Greeting this day confused and tired and wanting and lonely, but hopeful. Always hopeful.

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