The 38th Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar (AJSS) had started about two weeks ago. Having been an AJSSer two years ago, I felt nostalgic and decided to reach out, along with another AJSS friend of mine, to say hi to these high school kids. I wanted to make their experience less awkward. I wanted to break the ice and make them feel comfortable. We took them out to dinner, and gave them not so subtle hints to hang out with each other. All in the hopes that they would get comfortable with each other and have as much, if not more, fun as we did. I suppose we’ve succeeded in that – their batch is exponential closer than our own.
But spending time with these kids made me realize something. I am getting old. I know it’s a bit stupid; I have the rest of my life ahead of me, right? But being in their company was discomforting. Whenever they asked me a question, I felt so pressured to come up with something deep and meaningful. I wonder though if they realized that I know little more than they do. Sure, I’ve seen more than they have. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve realized anything new and earth-shattering about life. Regardless of this, I tried my best to answer them and meet these unsaid expectations. How could I have told them that I didn’t know the answers and that I was having as much of a hard time as they are? I guess I’m just really scared of seeing the look of disappointment on their faces.
This makes me wonder, how do the upperclassmen deal with this on a full time basis? I’ll be finding out pretty soon. In a matter of weeks, there’ll be freshmen wondering the halls of Eliazo and Cervini.
Among these AJSS kids there are two girls from my old high school. We’ve spent quite some time talking about the changes in my alma mater. They’ve told me about the change in administration. Apparently the new principal is exponentially more conservative than her predecessor, which is saying something. There are a ton of new teachers and a lot of the previously single ones are now married. So much stuff has happened in the year I’ve left. The rate of change is disturbing. The high school I had spent some of the best years in my life in is starting to disappear. It’s sad really. But the change that struck me the most was the resignation of our Home Economics (HE) teacher, Madam Zapi. She had taught HE in my school for nearly 20 years by the time I got there. She was an institution in my old school. No other teacher could possibly boast of being the terror HE teacher. With her gone, my school looses some of its flavor. Generations will not have to bear with the super stressful HE projects and cry in front of her because of a failed recipe. Generations will clearly have it easier. And here I was thinking that Madam Zapi would be there forever. She had been a constant in my school for about two decades. Who knew she wouldn’t be anymore so soon?
In the recent months, I’ve been caught off-guard far too many times for my own comfort. Things are moving way too fast and I’m not coping very well. I had thought I could roll with the punches.
When I was younger, I somehow believed that everything would turn out well in the end. Maybe it was reading too many fairy tales or watching too many Disney movies; but somehow, I had managed well enough during the rougher patches because of some hope. Some call this naivety others foolishness – whatever it may be, I want it back. I want the ability to not worry over things, to be secure that things no matter how bad they seem will turn out all well and happily… because right now, I don’t feel that way anymore.
My friend, Sep, and I met last year. He was a senior and on track for graduation. I had never imagined then that he and I would become close. The turning point was when we started talking about his other friend, Migs. At the time I was insanely infatuated with the guy. Eventually, Migs and I would get together, be a couple (a bad one, but a couple nonetheless) and break up. Throughout this unstable relationship, Sep was always there to talk to. Our Migs-centric conversations would develop into conversations about everything else. He and I talked a lot.
Well, he’s graduated now. I’m happy for him. He’s got a great job and a bright future ahead of him. But I worry a lot about him too. I find myself feeling left behind and soon-to-be-forgotten. It’s selfish, yes. But I don’t want to let go of our friendship yet. I’m not ready to be the one who sits in the Eliazo smocket remembering all the great conversation we’ve shared here. I’m not ready to be the one who sits in Seattle’s Best or Bo’s Coffee wishing he were sitting across the table from me studying. I’m not ready to be the one who thinks about him and knows that he isn’t doing the same.
Like I said, it’s selfish to expect something from him. When it is my incapability to move on and faith that everything to come will be for the better that makes me worry so much. It’s these moments that make we want to have that optimism and faith. I don’t want to have to feel so empty.
Well, the feeling of emptiness, like most things in life, is very random and totally arbitrary. Any number of things could elicit the same response.
Take for example, my course block - G2, a group of twenty-eight boys and girls who all managed to pass the ACET and get into European Studies. Out of these twenty-eight people, I can say only thirteen are my friends. Out of these thirteen, only one of them is a good friend. I mean, we say hi to each other in the walkways, hang out occasionally in the caf, meet up once every sem for a block lunch and make idle chitchat while waiting for the next class. But I have never shared a significant moment with any of them, except for Mike. Makes you wonder how we all managed to pick the same course. We barely have anything in common with each other. It’s so hard to break the ice and just talk with any of them.
Now, a portion of the block had gone to Gateway for a ‘block lunch’. Mike and I left the group to their games in Timezone for some coffee at Starbucks. That was the first time we really spoke to each other. We had been talking about the merits and demerits of friendship. Mike told me that the mark of a good friendship is being able to break connections with each other for a period of time – no talking in the halls, no chatting over the net, no texting – and still be able to go back to talking like no parting had ever happened when the opportunity arises. Ironically enough, Mike and I haven’t had any contact since February. And well, we saw each other the other day and tried to talk. It was awkward. We weren’t the same as before and we both knew it. And we are OK with that.
Fate, God or whoever throws such random things at us in the course of our lives. A memorable teacher, a great friend, a group of strangers or whatever comes our way – these things happen because we have to learn something. There is a lesson in every little happenstance in our lives. Each up and down has the purpose to make us into the people we ought to be.
Existence is arbitrary. But in this seeming chaos, as human beings we search for meaning, for our purpose. These three snippets from my life all have one thing in common – change.
I don’t know yet whether these changes are good or bad. All I know is that they happen and I have to deal with them. I have to learn how to have faith in my happy ending again. I have to reconcile with myself that nothing is permanent and I have to cope. How I’ll deal with these things is a mystery to me.
I’m lost and I know it. But I have an entire year to figure things out.