Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The missing piece ... from YOUNGBLOOD of INQUIRER.net

The missing piece
By Bendita Bendita
Last updated 01:28am (Mla time) 04/24/2007

This article is for me and the likes of me. No, I'm not one of those poor suckers who are eager to stand out in a crowd. Neither am I KSP ("kulang sa pansin" -- in need of attention). Let's just say I'm someone who has no use for conformity. I don't like feminine clothes, and I hate make-up (and it is not just because I'm allergic to it). Unlike most other students, I usually study three or two hours before my exams. And not surprisingly, I end up with a grade of either 2.75 or 3 (where the highest is 1) -- but who cares, anyway?

In high school, I used to cheat for the heck of it. Mind you, I knew that most of my classmates' answers were wrong, but I still copied them just for the thrill of getting caught.

When I get bored in my History class, I take a stroll around the campus or eat some food. A few minutes later, I would return to the classroom and act as if I had done nothing out of the ordinary.

My friends think I am the ultimate pain in the ass. But then I experience something close to Nirvana when I act like a rebel. It's a high that only the rule-breakers and the renegades are able to feel. And few people have the courage to utilize their freedom and express their individuality. People always tend to hold back their thoughts and control their actions, fearing that a highly critical society might swallow them alive.

At some point in our lives, we all try very hard to fit in. Maybe because it has dawned upon us that suppressing our uniqueness is much more comfortable than being alone. The need to belong is so strong that we are willing to do anything to experience the comfort it brings. I guess that goes also for teenage life.

I suffered a lot for that exact reason before. Until one day, I woke up and realized with startling clarity that I shouldn't really give a damn about other people's opinion, that what truly matters is how I value myself or if I value myself at all.

Since I was a kid, I have always been insecure. I am thin and dark, with hair like that of a corn, unlike my cousins. The depressing part about going out with them is that others tend to compare us, and it's usually me who gets the short end of it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not jealous or bitter. I know for a fact that they love me and I love them. However, the insults and derogatory comments of other people have done great damage to my fragile ego. I grew up thinking that I was a born loser and that I could never make it big.

The fear of failure was tattooed in my mind early on so that joining competitions became a no-no for me. I hated being rejected so much that I tried desperately to avoid opportunities for rejection. My motto then was: There's no harm in trying, but there's trauma in failing. I was the embodiment of pessimism.

However, my favorite teacher showed me that if there is no action, there will also be no progress in my life. Either I wade in and risk everything to play the game or I don't play at all. And if I don't play, I can never win. She gave me back confidence in myself.

But even though my outlook on life was changing, I still felt alone in the world. There were days when I would find myself sitting on the seashore in Miag-ao, wondering, as the cool breeze of the sea caressed my face, what was the missing piece in my life. It's frustrating to know in your subconscious mind that you can never be truly happy unless you find the reason behind the emptiness in your soul and the hunger in your spirit. It's hard, really hard, to be aware that there's something wrong and not be able to know what it is. It's like groping in total darkness without a candle in hand.

The sudden attacks of loneliness almost devastated me, but I kept praying to God for support.

College life has taught me many lessons. I have matured immensely in a matter of months. I have met people who are like me in some ways: There's RC, who feels insecure because she is rather, what's the word, ah, healthy. Rej is absolutely beautiful but thinks she's just a shadow of her sister and mother. Kim believes she has way too many imperfections. Azin wants to be someone he can never be. And Sarah is in love with the wrong guy.

When I look into their eyes, I see a part of myself in them. It's as if there's a magical rope that binds us together. It could be our vulnerability, our strength or anything, but all I know is that I have a deep connection with these people. It makes me wonder if they too are searching for the same kind of fulfillment I'm talking about. Did God allow our paths to cross because He wants us to influence each other's lives?

There was a time when I thought that I needed someone to love, and that was the time when he came along. He was the only guy who was not intimidated by my personality. He saw beyond the rock star clothes and the "maldita" [naughty girl] image. Our love was tangible enough to cut with a knife. There were no commitments made, no spoken promises about living happily ever after, just our overwhelming emotions shared in mutual silence.

We were never a couple officially because we both believed that to make it formal would just ruin the whole thing. We rather liked the idea of keeping our perfect relationship burning in our soul.

Then we decided to go our separate ways and live our lives to the fullest. But even if we are not together physically, our souls remain entwined. He left an important part of him in me and I in him.

Well, this is the point where my article ends. My mind is running out of things to tell and all I can think of now is listening to Big Mountain's "Caribbean Blue." People may not understand why I'm like this. All I can tell them is that they need not trouble themselves because I don't know why, too.

Deep down inside, I think my parents are disappointed with me since I did not grow up the way they expected me to. But I know they'll love and support me all the way. I may act as if I'm happy-go-lucky, but I also have set big goals for myself and achieving them is something that I take quite seriously.

In the meantime I want to enjoy my youth. These are the years of my life that will mold me into a responsible adult. I need to make mistakes and bruise my knees from time to time. Learning is best done the hard way.

(By the way, be careful with your knees. You don't want to have so many scars on them.)

April Grace Bendita, 16, is a BA Broad Communication freshman at the University of the Philippines, Visayas, in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

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