Tag Archive | growing up

It feels like it’s been standing there forever, watching over the world.

There’s this tree on top of a hill beside a road in a small town, and I miss it.

I was there only once, with a bunch of friends, but at odd moments during that windy, cloudy afternoon of laughing and picnicking and mad scrambling to get up on the branches, I sometimes felt like the tree and I were alone.

It reminded me of a place where I was happy as a child. Another hilltop, another small town, with friends I haven’t seen in a while, and one I never will again. But it wasn’t just nostalgia that drew me to that place. It was the tree itself.

It was beautiful. Standing on the horizon, it kept its solitary vigil over the hill and the road and the village, and the sea beyond it, keeping steady through the wind and rain and burning sun.  The world changed from dark to light and cold to warmth, yet still it stood. Constant, immovable, strong.

I want to be like that. I want to be steadfast and strong and constant, reaching higher while growing deeper as well. Sometimes, I feel like I’m too much at the mercy of the seasons, too small and fragile to do anything during the storms other than hide and hope I’m still here when it’s over. Too afraid. That’s not how  I want to live. That’s not how I’m meant to live.

It’s been windy and cloudy this past couple of days, and my thoughts are on that hilltop. I miss that tree.

I wonder if trees miss people, too.


On love and persistence

My 2010 ended with a wonderful reading experience, Sue Monk Kidd’s bestselling book The Secret Life of Bees. In the novel, a 14-year-old girl named Lily Owens tries to make peace with the mother who abandoned her…and whom she accidentally killed. In this lush, glowing, sensuous novel about the hearts of women and their search for a spiritual foundation, a particular line by August, one of the most memorable characters, struck me:

“That’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love — but to persist in love.”

And I thought, Exactly. How absolutely easy it is to come to love someone. How thrilling and how wonderful to open your heart to the adventure that is another person coming in. The delicious rush, the heady excitement, the beautiful sweetness of it all — people love the idea of love. There’s nothing quite like it.

But it’s the day-to-day realities in the “ever after” part that people seldom talk about. When you find out that the prince isn’t all that charming and the princess isn’t quite the fairest in the land. Or when you grow up and discover that your mother isn’t perfect and your father isn’t larger than life. Or when you realize that who you’ve become isn’t quite who you planned to be. In every kind of love there is a certain level of inevitable disillusionment. What happens after that?

That’s when persistence comes in. Every kind of lasting love that I’ve seen isn’t one passionate movie moment after another. It’s a commitment, a series of daily — sometimes difficult — decisions to love and to keep on loving. And to forgive. Forgiveness, possibly, is more important than anything else. I forgive you for forgetting that anniversary. I forgive you for not understanding the reason I got mad. I forgive you for what you said when we fought. I forgive you for being human.

Because really, where would we be without forgiveness?  Without the desperately needed grace that allows us to be imperfect? If love is given only to those who are easy to love for as long as they stay easy to love, we’d all be alone. The writer Anais Nin says:

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”

Persistence is the decision to keep love alive and to replenish the source. It’s the day-to-day effort to keep seeing someone as flawed as we are through the eyes of grace. Near the end of The Secret Life of Bees, this is what Lily Owens realizes about her mother when she learns to love her despite her abandonment:

“Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.”

I think, maybe, that’s how a part of growing up happens for all of us. When we start to let go of the picture-perfect fairy tale of love and start preparing ourselves for the work that it takes. And when we realize that, no matter what, it’s still worth it.


Day 30 — Your reflection in the mirror

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

~Henry David Thoreau

To the girl in my mirror,

Who are you, really? I used to think I knew you, but over the years, when you should have grown more familiar, you have instead become more enigmatic. There are shadows in your eyes now, and hesitation in the shape of your lips, and I am finding it harder to remember what you used to look like when everything was clear. You have changed.

Today, I find that I can no longer define you. Shall I characterize you by what you believe, when I know that you now have more questions than answers? Shall I label you by what you do, when you have come to realize that activity and movement can be a mask, a charade? Or shall I identify you by the people you love, when your relationships are marked by ambivalence and uncertainty, with you longing for and at the same time fighting against intimacy that can hurt or heal? Years ago, I would have jumped right in with a richly detailed answer to the simple request, “Describe yourself.” Now I realize that it is the most complex thing you can ask of a human being. I don’t even know where to start.

Maybe not knowing where to start is the start. Maybe, at this time in my life, I’m supposed to be a little more unsure, a little less self-assured. Maybe these questions will lead me somewhere that I need to be, somewhere closer to the real reflection of who I am. Maybe.

If that happens, I wonder if I will be able to say —

I love you,


Day 15 — The people you miss the most

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~ Elisabeth Foley

To my crazy, wonderful friends known as the Psychz,

There’s something about old friends that sets them apart, something that makes that bond so strong that it eventually  becomes an irrevocable part of a person’s identity. It’s more than just nostalgia for the good old days. Rather, it’s the truth that caring unreservedly about someone, without the precautions that growing up will eventually teach, makes an indelible mark on the soul. Time, and the marks that other people will inevitably make, cannot erase it or cover it up. That’s how I’ve always felt about you guys. There’s a part of me, one of the best parts, that’s defined by what we shared all those years ago.

With the uncertainty surrounding me now, I find myself wishing I could revisit those simpler, more carefree years with you. I want to see Jireh rocking with his earphones again, and Gino working on another incredible drawing, and Irish Jay finishing the physics exam in half the time. I want to watch Seneca tie her hair in a ponytail, the simple act becoming an exhibition of feminine grace. I even miss the sight of Jemar practicing his martial arts moves, and Ate Jhay scolding us for being too loud, and Johnard teasing Marivic endlessly. There are more memories in my heart than I can recount, each one of them precious. No matter where I go, you have always been the most colorful, fascinating people I have ever known.

Yet as clearly as I can see those images in my mind, I also know that they are no longer a perfect reflection of reality. All of us — whether in big or small ways — have changed, and some of the most significant transformations are also the most subtle. So I miss you all the more, because I want to see how you’ve grown. I want to get to know the people you’ve become, and love the new version of you. And in a way, perhaps I am also seeking a better idea of who I am now through your eyes.  Perhaps I also need to discover if you can love the person I turned out to be.

I miss you. I miss us. And no matter how much time has gone by, there will always be a part of me that’s counting the days until I can see you again.

Love, always,



The Notebook

I had to tiptoe to find it on the topmost shelf – that old notebook where my highschool friends wrote their farewell messages just before graduation. It’s been a long time since I last opened its covers; but tonight, for some reason, I feel the need to travel back in time.

The notebook is old and worn, and several pages are about to fall off. As I read the messages, I was surprised by how familiar the penmanships still looked. After almost four years, I could still tell that the flowing script belonged to Grace Ann, the neat handwriting was Jane’s, and the tiny letters with numerous exclamation points were written by Karl. The years of borrowing notebooks and checking each other’s test papers must have made their mark.I also recognized the styles easily. Angel was sweet, Deneb was cool, Ian Lloyd was mischievous, Dianne was frank, my Soulmate was upbeat, and Irish Jay was intense. Gino was funny whether or not he tried to be. The contents were revealing, too. Jireh teased me, Kathleen wondered about my lovelife, Cristy offered encouragement, Ken wrote about plans for the future, Ate Jhay gave some advice, and Kuya filled every bit of space in his pages with sweet messages. Others included song lyrics, poems, reminiscences, Bible verses, drawings, and even a list of crushes. There were a lot of thank you’s, some apologies, and several confessions. Throughout 233 pages I was called by numerous nicknames: Begz, Abigail, Benggay, Anak, Miss Pink, Abegs, Gege, Pare, Soulmate, Miss Disney, Apo, EIC (Editor-in-Chief), Little Miss Philippines, Cousin, Gail, Baby, Kapatid, Walking Dictionary, Hobbit, Garnet, Sis, Battery, Partner, Bestfriend, Kaaway, Ka-pink, etc. Each name, no matter now bizarre, is a door that opens to a room filled with images of the past.

These rooms are not always easy to enter. As Julie Delpy’s character said in the movie Before Sunset, “Memories are wonderful things if you don’t have to deal with the past.” Reading the notebook again is a bittersweet experience for me. Sweet because the memories are wonderful, and sad because they are only memories now – I can never recapture the magic of those times again. No one can go back to being seventeen years old.

A lot has changed since highschool graduation. As I turn the pages of the notebook, I remember the passion with which we believed in ourselves and in each other. I remember having so much faith in the future that no dream was too big or too impossible for us. We felt unstoppable, untouchable, destined for immortality. We dreamed boldly, trusted willingly, and loved fearlessly. I can no longer say that with all confidence now.

Life has a way of making sure that nobody stays in highschool. Even the most naive among us has not escaped being touched by reality, being confronted with life. I, for one, slowly woke up to the fact that the world was not as safe as I thought, and that the path to my dreams was a lot harder and longer than I imagined. There was no choice but to grow up. And in growing up, I had to change. The vulnerability, the openness of my highschool years changed into something more careful, more aware of the fact that the heart can so easily be broken. The courage of dreaming faded into something more grounded, less bold. Only a few years have passed, but the seventeen-year-old girl inside me has slowly retreated into a memory, an image between the covers of an old notebook, a secret place in the heart.

Once in a while, however, that girl comes out to remind me that the fire is still alive, just as the friendships have remained an indelible part of who I am. No matter how much more growing up I need to do, there will always be a part of me that refuses to let go of the big, outrageous dreams I shared with my friends in highschool. Knowing this, I put the notebook back on the shelf. Some other night, perhaps, when I take it down again, I will not only laugh and cry and remember, but also give justice to the faith of the friends who believed in me.



Most people have a list of some things, both trivial and essential, that they wish they knew earlier. Here’s my own list:

  1. Making a wrong decision is like taking the wrong turn at a crossroads. The sooner you admit your mistakes, the easier it is to turn back and correct them.
  2. You can never overestimate your parent’s love.
  3. There will always be someone who’s better than you at whatever you’re good at. Do everything you can to learn from that person.
  4. It takes superhuman strength to resist chocolate.
  5. You will always remember your first love. Choose well, so that the memories will outweigh the regrets.
  6. No one is immune to stupidity. Just try not to make it a habit.
  7. Not everyone who talks about love knows what it really means.
  8. You can strive for excellence but not perfection.
  9. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to make God love you more, and no sin you can commit to make Him love you less.
  10. Having a “sleepover” with friends does not necessarily mean you will actually be able to sleep.
  11. The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.
  12. Never subscribe to unlimited text when major exams are coming up.
  13. The ability to refuse is essential to staying sane, as well as the ability to laugh.
  14. Watching VCD’s until 3am kind of means you won’t be able to wake up in time for your seven o’clock class.
  15. You never know when an unbeliever is observing you. How you act may mean the difference between his conversion or his mistrust of everything you believe in.
  16. During youth camps, slumber parties and other overnight affairs, never go to sleep when everyone else is awake.
  17. Emotional healing is never instant.
  18. You will learn more from criticism than from praise.
  19. It may seem highly unlikely, but yes, you can survive without your cellphone.
  20. Procrastination never pays.
  21. Love is spelled T-I-M-E.
  22. Listening, really listening, is a gift that costs nothing but is worth more than anything you can buy.
  23. You can learn a lot about a person simply by observing how he treats the people he doesn’t like.
  24. No one ever died of embarassment. Laugh it off.
  25. Some dreams are better left unfulfilled – what you want is not always what you really need.
  26. You can’t rush maturity.
  27. There is no substitute for a handwritten letter.
  28. Always, always be ready to explain and defend your faith. You never know when the opportunity will come.
  29. Love that lasts is love that is built on a committed decision, not just emotions that are easily changed.
  30. He really does make all things beautiful in His time.