Published on Page A13 of the December 14, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
I MISS high school. I miss being 16 when the future had endless possibilities and mind games consisted of just Tetris and Monopoly. But here I am 10 years later, not too much of a cynic, but not too idealistic either. And I wonder if the high school students know what they’re up against.
Feeling nostalgic recently, I looked into my high school website, expecting insightful articles about the new generation. I came upon an article compiled by my former teacher, entitled “Confessions of a High School First-Time Commuter.” Seriously? Is this what high school students are worried about these days? Are we going to applaud rich kids who took public transportation for the first time? If girls think that commuting is the Mount Everest of life, then they’re in for a surprise.
Some excerpts from the article: “Life will never be the same,” says the little girl. (Wait till you get your first job, kid.) “There’s a lot of honesty involved” (unlike in relationships), with passengers making sure they paid before getting off. And the driver is quite gifted: He’s driving while counting money and giving change. (That reminds me of a guy I know. He was seeing a girl while dating another one and getting away with it.)
Another girl wrote that while her first commuting experience was quite frustrating, she could safely say that she emerged from it getting the street smarts she would possibly need to survive the challenges of the outside world. (Well done, Kasey. Next target is world domination.)
Girls, let if I may: Now that you know how to commute, let me tell you other things school doesn’t teach you.
High school relationships don’t work out. You won’t even be in touch with your prom date. When you fall deeply in love and it doesn’t work, then you begin building walls. That’s okay. In time, when you meet the right person, the wall will become just a fence. And no matter how much you can’t imagine it, you will get over your first heartbreak, your second, your third, and so on. And I mean really and honestly get over it. And yes, it gets easier every time. And no, just because it didn’t hurt as much the second time, it doesn’t mean you loved him less.
You will fall for a couple of bad boys along the way, and again that’s okay. Commitment is now no longer limited to not kissing other people but the obligation to believe in your partner even if you really don’t. Look after your best interest if he’s not looking after yours. Don’t let anyone hold you back.
Your past does not define your future. Just because you didn’t do well in high school doesn’t mean you will suck in college or in life. The hard workers beat the smart geeks any day -- and twice on Sunday. So you need not be smart, just hard-working. There’s a lot of politics in the work place no matter how nice you are. Take everything in stride.
Things happen for a reason, and that’s the beauty of hindsight. You may see the past as something that holds you back or as a great (maybe painful) learning experience. I hope you choose the latter and move on.
You’ll meet someone who will challenge your faith, your beliefs and the way you see yourself (it could happen at 1 p.m. in Goldilocks). No one can destroy your self esteem without your permission. If you know who you are, you’d be surprise how the words that come out of your mouth seem to have a life of their own.
Sometimes, you will spend a good weekday eating in a fine dining restaurant and bitching, with your cynical friends, about life and how sweet couples disgust you. Enjoy it.
A life-altering moment may come after you watch “Garden State.” So be it.
You will have pre-prom déjà vu again. At 16, you diet before the prom and decide what to wear and can’t wait to see the look of your crush when he sees you. At 26, you will diet to death before the wedding of a friend, decide which dress shows more cleavage and can’t wait to see the look of a guy you once dated who’ll also be at the wedding.
There’ll be a lot to look forward to. Though your circle of friends gets bigger, you can now choose the people you want to waste your time with. Like Sophie, you have a choice.
You will also appreciate your parents more, your health and Lipitor. Enjoy life. Find a mentor, join a band, take lots of photos, shoot a gun, join a breast cancer advocacy, read more and put down that self-help book.
Oh, and I hope you won’t be too cynical. True love still exists and I hope you will end up with the one you love.
My dear school, aside from teaching the girls to be brave enough to commute, teach them to be brave enough to never settle for second best, to be strong enough to walk away from a dysfunctional relationship, to be brave enough to be alone and to pursue fulfillment instead of a career.
Oh and my self-esteem? I gathered it from believing Dr. Seuss when he said, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”
So bravely go out to the world, girls. It’s okay to commute, hopping from one place to another while making mistakes. Just make sure that at the end of the day, you learn how to drive and navigate a life well lived. The world awaits.
Bernice Tenchavez, 26, used to work in advertising but is now reviewing for her exams, hoping to take her master’s degree abroad.
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