I used to dread that one day every year when I turn a year older; not just because I get old and realize I’m still struggling to find my place in this big universe but also because past birthdays weren’t that pleasant.
Up until the day before I turned 24, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of celebrating the day I was born. Oh, greetings do make me feel happy and remembered and loved but I don’t know. There came a point when birthdays started to make me feel sad because I was supposed to be happy and I wasn’t.
This year, however, turned out to be different. I actually felt good — better than the past few months. It was the craziest night I had in months. I realized the past few years weren’t so bad, although the idea of celebrating my birthday was tainted by the fact that five years ago, I spent most of my day inside my room. I wouldn’t divulge what happened but it was, well, the saddest.
A usual approach to my birthday would be eating out with family or friends, whoever’s available. There was actually one particular year when I treated the big family for dinner and coffee (my first time to do such an act) a day in advance because my birthday landed on a Sunday, which was a work day. Unbeknownst to me, my closest college friends were preparing a surprise invasion at midnight. I was already in my jammies when they suddenly appeared at the bedroom entrance with a stuffed toy, a scrapbook, and candles on top of cupcakes. It was the sweetest thing they’ve done for me. I gave them A+++ for the effort to travel late at night and for sneaking in to our house without me realizing it.
The succeeding years were spent having dinner with the Happy Three Friends (back when there was only Gel, Franz and I); and last year, traveling more than 16 hours from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I was tired and hangry (hungry+angry).
As I have said, this year’s a little different. For one, I wasn’t surrounded with reporters and gifts from sources and agencies in charge of certain companies’ public relations. I went to work where people are just acquaintances. Most of the people at the office, helpers and guards included, greeted me and acted surprised when they learned about my age (READ: You are too young to be here). I am surrounded with people who have accomplished so much in their lives; people who are very significant to the company I’m working at; and people who are about to or already have settled down.
After the day’s work, I met with my core group, The Mainstays, for some dinner and drinks. Alex was out of the country, hence her absence. Daryll, a friend I met while I was still a reporter, joined us. He wasn’t new to the group since he joined us hiking and playing board games a few times back.
We had dinner courtesy of Franz’s unused gift certificates; and headed to a drinking place afterwards where we played crazy drinking games and talked about crazy stuff we don’t normally talk about. It was fun. Gel was saying it was a great way to unwind after stressful days at work. It was the first time I drank that much in a public place. It was also my first time to actually say “yes” to transferring to another drinking place when I couldn’t even bring myself to walk straight.
As the night wore off and the shots I took shook my insides, I was hit with an overwhelming gratitude and nostalgia. I was happy. I looked at my friends with so much fondness. Who would have thought we would stick together after all those years. Surely, all of us changed; each of us has annoying habits or attitudes; but we’re still here — together. It was a decision to stick together; to be there when someone’s feeling down; to encourage and to support; to make fun of each other; to make everything lighter. I just felt so blessed to have them around. As for Daryll, I was just glad he’s still here and we’re okay. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
A few hours after midnight, I found myself staring at the ceiling and feeling good despite the tough year that passed. It’s one of the toughest ones — when all aspects of my life shook my faith. But I made it through alive and stronger, despite the cuts and bruises.
It was also that time I finally forgave myself. I forgave myself for breaking down and almost giving up; for thinking that I’d rather disappear than to fight; for making mistakes and wrong decisions; for feeling lost and uncertain; and for blaming myself when my relationships with people started to fall apart.
After forgiving myself, I realized that I also had to make peace with my past and forgive all the people that hurt me — intentionally or not. If I keep the grudge, I will be forever enslaved by the terrible experiences in the past. This time, I was finally determined to let go of all the hatred that lingered in my heart for so long. I was letting the painful things go, slowly. It’s the only way to healing. I have to move forward. I realized that I still want to be a better person. I know people will still hurt me but I promised to deal with that differently. After all, we are the ones who give the people the power to hurt us. Sabi nga nila, “hate injures the hater, not the hated.” It’s so hard to be a good person in this world that is so messed up. But we have to keep the faith. We have to believe it’s still worth trying.
So, shall we do this? 🙂