Prospects of a middle-class seventeen-year-old growing at the pangs of a falling country that has forgotten what its children look like.
Act I: Innocence, a death
It is every man’s quintessential experience to sit down and be hit with all the harsh realities in life. For some, this comes as a colossal riptide. The washing over of life’s pangs in a semi-awkward sit-down with someone older, explaining to you that nothing comes easy; crushing all your childhood dreams in an instant and brooding the unsettling anxiety that rests for the years to come. The other is the ebb and flow of living: Hurtling fast into the obstacles of life, a wounded migrant into love, employment, politics, death, loss, isolation — sometimes I find it so disgusting that we laugh at little kids and their questions about the world. Figures of innocence and sanctity that we mask from violence, blood, sexuality, individuality, freedom — all until it comes crashing down one by one into a static-dissolved mess of television, media, identity, passion, xenophobia, beliefs, morality. The loss of innocence all begins with the realization of deception. Painting the world as a beautiful and meaningful place for them to live in until one day in middle school, like concepts of chance and love and togetherness come gone.
The downfall of naiveté came with the full swing of the internet. Wedged right between a generation glued to iPads and YouTube ahead of dial-up modem sounds and pagers; the breath of 2000 came with the scent of discovery. Unattended with curiosity abound, my formative years were spent rushing towards a bulky, Dell laptop that revealed to me all the secrets of the world in an unkempt silver case. The same child who was berated for saying the word “stupid” once many years ago held coveted secrets atop fan blades and burning kneecaps. My desire for exploration was brushed off by my family as nothing more than Club Penguin and flash games; in reality, I was already building my mask of apathy and satire in conversations with strangers and has-beens all the way around the world. The thrill of an online persona, the mask that I’d mold through my Rocketmail account dotted with Xs with the rush of discovery of all new websites, flash games, MMOs — I was living in a secret cove that would die out only with my bedtime, and would dawn once more after every school day.
I hid my age — the most forbidden figure of all, and went by so many names and aliases uncountable. It felt like chasing the sun and bidding universes goodbye on a nightly basis. I moved worlds, transformed myself, touched dozens.
It was my world.
Of course, it was no paradise. I guess leaving an eight-year-old to explore the world via modem isn’t the best idea, and I became a husk of who I was before, in the most genuine way I can profess. Instead of being active and cheerful, I became more reserved and withdrawn; my ego was inflated. (Look at everyone just watching television and playing games when I look at code and talk to other pretentious, stuck-up kids!) It was as stereotypical as all your ordinary online warning signs, except it also exposed me to this side of reality.
I was a swollen child bursting with megalomania from the onslaught of BBCode-riddled forum posts. Swearing vengeance against the world that had repressed me from reality. Backhand tricks of ignorance and wit veiled me, a flame ignited by YouTube comments that told me what music to like to make me cool. One thing that you figure out late is that the internet is a space ruled by envy, anger, hatred.
Safe to say, I grew up with this depressing ideal of the world around me. In fourth grade, I sat across my friend in the gym and she asked me about my dreams in life. As she painted stories of following in her sister’s footsteps and moving halfway across the world, I listened with blatant confusion. Proudly stating that she was going to be even better and live in a huge house that stretched acres and acres of land (imagine all that she could build there — she could even have pet pandas, or something!) right next to the seaside. I stared at her in wistful delight until it was my turn — and all I could convey to her was uncertainty. “Uhm,” the truth was that ten-year-old me had forgotten all about big dreams, and thought that everyone did too. “I guess I can picture myself as a starving college student, living on instant noodles and stuff.” I didn’t know what I was talking about, really — but neither did my friend. She was carved of the television and familial white lies while I of isolation, 11pt Century Gothic with -2 letter spacing rants about college and love.
I, in all honesty, believed that I was already doomed.
As I grow older, I don’t find my case to be isolated, whatsoever. Along the rush of life, everything is a morbid battle of “who can suffer more.” On some nights, I wonder if I blame the world for deceiving us with rose-colored glasses; on others I curse them for wrecking me over and over.
In all of humanity, innocence is the universal virtue that we grasp for. With good reason do we fight for its preservation in the tinges of youth, because god, is it not a matter of keeping it within us forever, but for how long we can hold it in before we face the grimness of a world unforgiving.
Act II: The life we bask in
Eight years old already knew the truth that waited. Eight years old did not know what she was talking about, but spewed warnings. Eight years old was not enough to stop me from dreaming — and I suppose that’s the best thing to come out of it.
Life shifted in blurs of nothingness, where I would just indulge in my own self. Wake-up calls dawned in this human part of me that was devoted to transformation. (Since of course, the world will always be in a bad place, change is what we revolve around.) Change is the only way we would make it out of it all. I pine.)
Eight years old never would have expected that sixteen wanted to fight. Sixteen breathed life, a spirit and chance — at times she wanted to be so for the sake of martyrdom, others just for the cause. Sixteen believed in its beating. Sixteen saw reasons in fight. Sixteen understood the fear instilled in half its age, and the reality of what was to become.
Our roofs will shrink and we will build the only real family we have ever known in a 40 square meter apartment thirty minutes commute away from work and an hour or two away from the street we had grown up in. (Really, it depends on the traffic.) I’ll pay 50,000$ on an education to burn my soul out in cubicles and narrow sunsets. Watch television that spells of doom that we can do nothing about. One by one, I’ll tick off aspirations I have. Princess, at the revelation that they’re a fraud at four; ballerina at nine when I can’t even be the best one in class, again at fifteen when I scoff at why I even tried to dream, just not destined to be a prodigy. Astronaut at ten when I learn about space programs and school and when I first hear that “girls can’t do that.” Politician at twelve when homegrown runs with tarpaulins on front gates and motorcycle brigades teaches me what corruption and nepotism really mean.
Today, I question life and all that builds it up. I stand firm with the disbelief and hollow judgement of the past — world is still a matter of trying. On some days, I understand again and again why this disposition reigns true; beyond it all, though — I understand why so many refuse and resign to what was foretold at eight. This is my confession.
I’ve grown apathetic to the scourge that people are throwing at my generation. I’m tired of storming into a room, body stabbed a thousand times and feeling guilty for it since I am not allowed to feel tired — after all, it is an exaggeration, a plea for pity, and most of all, it is an insult. My generation is not allowed to feel like we have moved the world forward or that we are warriors in our own kind of way. We are told to be quiet, to do more (why do we just sit there remaining so awfully useless?), that we are the waste and nuisance that time has never seen the likes of before. We are the generation of malice, selfishness, and conceitedness. We are the emotionless, moved by screens rather than love, we are of plasticity and feared commitment, we are of lost gods and broken homes. We are the “I didn’t raise you to be like this” daily calls and the ebbing torture of the night. We are the ones who wonder what went wrong with us and what we could have done to change, we are the ones that march into hell blaming ourselves and destroying our own bodies for the love of it all.
I’ve grown apathetic to the future in front of me that has been sealed. The same three universities that reign, the unforgiving impossibility of going beyond without privilege and cash, the descent of housing and the vision I fear of living alone in a condominium the size of my bedroom back in my parent’s house, the ruin of wasting my dignity away staring from the foot at a mountain at people twenty years older than me thrust into a secure job with no ease that ask me why I find it so difficult to find decent work — interview after interview. I grow with a silent voice and a hushed brain that runs with a million thoughts held captive. (First in the classroom: I know the answer but do not raise my hand. Next in the summer job: I know all the solutions but am just a lowly, temporary soul — can’t risk the work so I clutch the answer in a sticky note at the corner my desktop. Onwards in senior year: I fight for something that I believe all my heart in but because I am not the lead it is gutted.) This is the story that is foretold over and over, the dampening fall of each generation for of course, we are weaker and more desolate and more destroyed than the last — it’s all our fault. We weep.
Yet, to the flag that I had loved not since the moment of conception but in passages and stepping stones after my birth, please teach me what it means again to care, give me more years time to understand how to love something that has abandoned me in the throes of my youth. (Teach the people around me that you’re worth fighting for. Help me convince them, maybe?) To the oath that I swear I once memorized for a recitation grade back in middle school, please forgive me for mumbling the words out; it drones to speak a ghost amidst the halls of people who do not mean what they say ablaze of the morning sun. Give me the faith that eight was counting on. The one-sided stories played out in sixth grade textbooks. Let me in on your eulogy of the world passed.
I have seen the great minds sprawled out in the hallway, restless and livid with anxiety and sorrow. The same people halfway around the world or right at home so empty that we’ve become hollow. I have witnessed how we are built with dismay and quaking bones at the prospects of a future, of a job, of love, of life, of talking to strangers and ordering at restaurants. I have heard people break themselves before they even had a chance to believe, witnessed society waste away on sloth and illness.
Past ages tearing us apart, dissecting us for analysis and reveling in our failure have marked the insanity that plagues man. Questions asking why we can’t go ahead with anything when it’s just so easy, where everything is said to be placed for us, the world on a pedestal for us to claim. Everyday reprise to my bed where I am asked why I can’t do more when I have wasted my youth away with insanity and standardized tests, where I race with the manic, the charged, the striving, the determined for a chance at living a life that we all should have deserved from the very beginning.
Why don’t you give us a thank you for the world that we built for you?
After all, your generation hasn’t done anything.
You will never amount to anything.
You all don’t act, what a waste.
You’re just fucked.
I don’t know who I am going to be when I am older, but I’d like to swear on my life that if my child at the ripe age of ten regrets her own wishes then the world I had forever believed in had failed. I like to believe that in the shallow classroom doors, the overbearing burn of satirical wit and comedy that paved my life was not shared with the hundreds of others around me. I like to believe in innocence, because with innocence came hope that once lost, never returned. I like to believe that I had never seen the struggle at sixteen, watching people halfway around the world turn serious agony and disbelief — a shared plight since ten. I like to believe that I do not regret grasping onto remnants of faith, nor do I wish that I began killing myself over sooner.
I like to believe that the past is pushing us to move forward, for we are steam machines on the brink of something beautiful. Perhaps becoming robotic slaves to the screens, of tests and wasted ink, of crunching literature and vocabulary into our veins and concatenating formulas and dioramas will mean something. That one day, I’ll hear your symphony of praise after drowning out my schedule with conventions, congresses, speeches, competitions, meetings, and more will mean something to you — that you know, even if I never hear a congratulations in all my life, it’s teaching me things that your disdain partially brought about. I’m learning to love the change that you choose to remain blind to. Another day in time will I go up and talk you, a drone as well to the screen, of propaganda and fake news and blindsighted pictures to play make-believe with old high school classmates, through a one-minute video where I speak of how this generation wishes to just one day hear that it is doing something right. Not defined by our religious difference, our rebellion, drug-riddled sputters and all-nighters, that someday we will be the hopeful, the brilliant, the ones to continue progressing the world for all the kids who have scorned their summers and weekends to fix the world that you had destroyed. Maybe one day we will be more than lazy and apathetic, and that you will understand that we are living in the aftermath of a war, a generation born of taught hatred and consumerism that simply seeks to believe, just once more. For once, the wall we would have built that binds us together issuing fun at our downfall on finance, how our education has become a for-profit game of textbooks and false scholarships and loans, that psychiatry just won’t be a joke that you tell us to hide behind when we scoop our daily dose of Zoloft. We’ll come out to you after you hid us behind disappointment and mockery. I swear, maybe one day.
And fuck it, maybe one day we’ll suffer not for your appraisal but for ourselves. Eight was devoted to you, but as we grow — this is for us. Perhaps we’ll be that generation of disconnect and conceit, but we fought the wars that you had left on us. I’ll be damned if it is spoken that I carve myself out and stay up, a monster on caffeine and self-deprivation to be called a manic, empty husk the next day. I will fight for every conversation I speak with people who feel that they are nothing only because they do not do what is wanted from them of strangers who share common names. I seethe for every agonizing moment that we are labeled as the idle.
Act III: Saviors in the common man
I am not self-sacrificial just for the sake of the title.
Spirit does not gouge itself out for anyone but myself, and of the world.
Despite the inevitable of failing to find a job, coursing through disaster after disaster, and surviving on artificial flavoring and cups of saved leftover rice in a small apartment down in the city with the drone of cars passing by and the blurring lights littering the murk and green of the polluted lakes — I thrive to live.
Despite the disdain and hatred on us for the year and our differences, I’ve seen geniuses mark their growth and become so much more than what was ever expected of them; of people who refuse to accept their heart, mind, and soul. I’ve seen passion ignited in the darkest of times, pieces of understanding melding into innovation and creation even when dampened. I’ve seen poets and artists and musicians and historians and researchers and creators that make me believe in a brighter dawn than what would ever be expected of us. I believe in a generation that the world has never cared for, in the sunrise and in armada of sons and daughters that will profess on their own terms and time words that have never reigned truer.
We are not stories, nor fables, we are not the hatred spewed onto us nor the gold-coated bias in sputters. Neither young adult novels by out-of-touch writers that bleed royalties and hurt or the anthems of articles that have not visited the champions and advancements made in a world that tortures you for living.
Today, we continue to be nothing. I swear that it’s fine, and that I love you all and the same — burning roads of cracking pavement, sawdust splinters ravaging youth and education, housing scandals and the demonic need for wealth to be somebody that matters. I love you even if you think that my schedule isn’t filled with things that you can be there for to take meaningless pictures of for self-approval on social media; or that we’re the ones that are too conceited or involved when you live your life through ignorance and false quantities that fade into vainness.
There are heroes you have lost pity and worth in. The geniuses of my generation will bear the weight that you had buried us under, and we will understand that you refuse to believe in someone that has defeated what you could have become.
Eight was right, my innocence was stripped as everyone else — a rebirth of lanky apartments, fear, illness, and insanity. Sixteen on seventeen does like to know that despite this all, we will save you. We will forgive you for the world that you hate simply because we exist. We’re picking it back up, and all we will hear is complaints about your music, talents, and art — but we stand at the remnants of a shining country that could have become. We are the saviors in the common man, the ones who strive and suffer and have killed themselves over and over again for reasons to give to you.
Pilipinas, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. I will continue to be nothing, and you will continue to be the one I profess this all to. The lack of innocence, the lazy, the downtrotten; remember that heroes marched for you with bated breath and risked souls. I still believe in your sunrise, even if you don’t believe that we put the sky together for it.