Friday, July 24, 2009

How Not Completely Growing Up Made Me a Better Adult

I’m pretty different from the person that I was back when I was a kid. Back then, I was one of the class shrimps, posing in front of pictures ‘cause I was the among the shortest. Now, I stand a little bit taller than the average Filipino. When I was younger, I had the straightest, most manageable head of hair, the envy of women and wannabe shampoo commercial models. Now, I shave off the tangled dead animal I pass off as hair. I was one of the school’s top students back when I was a kid. Now, I’m the poster boy for academic underachievement. Yessiree, the person I am now barely resembles the boy who used to wear my too-short shorts.

There’s one thing, though, that I’ve never matured from. And I’m glad I never did.

If you manage to hunt down my elementary school yearbook, you’ll find a bunch of prepubescent boys with quotes following their names. That was because we were asked to submit what we thought were mottos for our lives. While most kids dived into the quote books and dug out the sayings they most identified with (I’ll never understand those who picked “Time is Gold”. Really? That’s your motto in life?), I chose to go the pretentious route and make up my own quote. It just felt right to me if your motto in life was something you believed in because you lived it. Following what someone else thought was the right way of life just didn’t make sense to me – everyone is different, so why would someone else’s words characterize how you live?

And so I took some time to really reflect on what I felt would define my approach to life. This isn’t something a 12-year-old should be trying, but again, I was a pretentious little bugger. After much thought, I came up with something, and I pretty much fell in love with it. I’m not sure what the exact words are anymore, but it went something like this:

“Respect, trust, and love are things earned when they’re given.”

It’s a pretty naïve outlook towards life, if you think about it. What I was trying to say in those 10 simple words was that so long as you respect, trust, and love people, you’re going to be respected, trusted, and loved back. If you’re going to follow this advice in the sense that I meant all those years ago, you’ve got to do this unconditionally. To make it even more naïve, I also meant that you should follow this tidbit with all your heart.

Of course, I never realized back then that this was the kind of thinking that left someone open to abuse. How many people hold the utmost respect for others only to be bullied by them? How many people have given others their complete trust, only to be betrayed? How many people out there have loved someone fearlessly and dearly, only to find that love unreciprocated? It happens to everyone, and it just plain sucks when it does.

And yet, as I grew up, I found myself following my own advice, despite my increased maturity. I still approached people this way to the best of my ability, and it’s damaged me. I’ve been disrespected by people I’ve held in high regard more times than I’d care to remember. I’ve trusted a bunch of people with too many things, but I’ve had that trust broken again and again. Love? I’ve loved someone with all my heart, and she dumped me after three years.

But I stood by my motto. With my heart in overdrive, I’ve made myself vulnerable to all the emotional pain that I’ve endured so far. I should be jaded, but I’m not. Why the hell do I continue to follow the motto of a 12-year-old, then? Because despite all the hardships I’ve endured by exposing myself like that, I truly believe it works if you stick with it. It’s all a matter of how you look at it.

Sure, people disrespect other people. And yes, some individuals are just undeserving of respect. It’s the hardest thing to do, to find respect for those who show a complete lack of regard for you. I myself haven’t really followed this completely. But when I do, I find that the respect doesn’t necessarily have to come from those people. If you still find the ability to respect those you should despise, you find a newfound respect for yourself. You’ve just made yourself the bigger man. And honestly, self-respect is a vastly-underrated virtue. What’s so great about it is that not only do you end up liking yourself more as a person, but people will see that in you and respect you for that.

Trust is the same. The good thing about trust is that it’s got a reflective nature – show people that you trust them, and they have reason to trust you. Not only that, but acting in a trustworthy fashion helps you trust yourself. It shouldn’t matter if your trust is broken; you’re someone people can trust, and that’s something to be proud of.

Last, but definitely not the least (especially to a sap like me), is love. Of the three things I mentioned in that quote, this is the one that leaves you open to the worst pain. I’m a fucking romantic. I believe the only love worth feeling is when you completely give yourself into the emotion, and so I know how wonderful it can feel to love someone with everything you are. I also know how soul-crushing it can feel when the person you give your overflowing heart to takes it for granted.

That’s the thing about love, though – you really just have to put yourself out there. You can’t expect to be loved if you don’t love someone. And if you want it to be of any real value, you’ve got to love with everything you can muster. You’re going to get your heart broken, yes, and you’re going to set yourself up for more. But when you find that someone who doesn’t break your heart, and who loves you back, it’s just… overwhelming. Love, when reciprocated, is happiness; throw-yourself-into-it love that’s reciprocated is bliss, and that’s the kind of love you want to earn.

I don’t really care if people think I’m just being idealistic. I don't care if this is a poorly-written testimony to my naïveté. I don't even care if this all makes sense or not. I’m blissful right now.

That's right - this is all a thousand-word declaration that I'M IN LOVE!!! BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I HAVE WASTED YOUR TIME WITH MY RANDOM SAPPERY!!!


My 12-year-old self's motto is awesome.

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