An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

16 August 2010

A rather long letter, on the occasion of a birthday

Dear Fifteen Year-Old Maryanne,

Hi! I hope you’re doing fine. I hope you’re not afraid that you have received a letter from me. I know how scary that sounds, but I’ll try not to scare you, today being your birthday and all. Scaring you is the last thing I want to do.

Because I don’t want you to be scared. All I want is to let you know that I miss you. I miss your simple life, your simple joys, your simple dreams, and your simple needs. I miss the girly, small-town ambitions you used to hold, and the adorable little standards you felt you have to adhere to.

I miss the way you try to vary your handwriting, and I miss wearing a high school uniform with the white socks and the black leather shoes. I miss school. I miss the green grass of the paranymphus, and how the morning light hits the blades of grass at just the right moment to make the dew glisten as you walk on it towards the daily flag ceremony. I miss the notebooks, the Trapper Keepers, the neon felt markers, the pencil cases made of tin. I miss you taking down copious notes during Physics class with a dark pencil, and drawing arrows representing the directions of the momentum, and writing down concise definitions of physics terms in Bicol-English, like, “Pareho dapat pirmi ang force kaining duwa.”

I miss that class in which your PE was a double period, but the first PE period was at 1:30 and the second PE period was at 4:20, so you and your classmates had to change into and out of your PE uniforms twice in one afternoon. I miss watching a kick-baseball game from the second-floor balcony of the school building, and going home hoarse from all the cheering. I miss going bowling on Sunday mornings. I miss throwing tiny crumpled papers at classmates during tests.

I miss the outfits, the torn jeans and the sloppy shirts and the Reebok sneakers and the neon-colored socks and the cycling shorts. I miss obsessing about a pimple on the cheek, and I miss walking under a drizzly sky on Sunday evenings on the way to church. I miss oversleeping, and staying in bed all Saturday, completely engrossed with a thick, fat Sydney Sheldon book. (You might think this strange, but in only two years, you will stop reading Sydney Sheldon completely.)

I miss the fads, movies like Batteries Not Included and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and the music, and the New Kids On The Block. I miss not knowing what to study in college. I miss staying up late to read novels. I miss living with Squiddward and Nachie (although I know now what a pain I was then). I miss singing along to that old Coca Cola jingle with them. (“It’s a burger, pizza, fries kind of feeling. That only taste that goes is the real thing.”) I miss being sincerely and deeply excited for Christmas. I miss being sincerely and deeply excited about many simple things, like getting a new Walkman, or getting to eat cake, or getting the latest issue of Seventeen which had a feature on rollerblading. I miss being you.

And I miss you. I want to tell you things, many of them seemingly trivial, like why you have to take better care of your teeth, and why you don’t have to worry too much that you are skinny. (In twenty years, you will get forty-inch hips.) I want to tell you to start using Nivea Creme this early in your life and not be afraid that it looks too rich. I want to tell you not to get that perm when you turn sixteen. I want to tell you to start your Dickens reading with The Pickwick Papers and not A Christmas Carol.

I want to look you in the eye and hold your hands, and tell you not to be in too much of a hurry to see everything. I want to tell you that life will always run its course whether you hurry it or not, and all that remains for you to do is to be happy for every second that passes by, and be grateful for the chance to learn something new and do something good everyday. I want you to make friends and keep them. Spend time with them. Share your secrets with them. Talk to your siblings. Write to your parents. Reach out. Trust your instincts. Pray more.

I also want you to learn how to work hard and earn every glory you get, and know that you deserve it. I want you to see that you don’t have to be in a hurry to grow up, but when you do decide to grow up, in your own sweet time, you don’t have to revert back to being childish again. I want you to learn how to let go and move on, and be strong for the bad things -- which you call battles -- that life will throw at you from time to time. I want you to realize that you don’t have to think of them as battles. Life is not a battlefield, and you are not a soldier. You’re just a girl who wants the world to be happy and peaceful, and who loves books and wants to be a writer.

I want to tell you to write as much as you can, about anything that you want, without being too conscious that you want to be a writer. Don’t dream of becoming a writer; just write. Write a lot. Write anything, and do it in a way that you feel you will never forget.

But who am I to tell you these things? I am not living such a perfect life myself. If anything, I have been only plodding along, halfheartedly taking one step after another, making wishy-washy turns, slipping along the wayside, sometimes being evil, sometimes being timorous, but never ever truly resolute. And though I might try to sound wise, I have to admit that I have not really understood the lessons that I am supposed to learn in the past two decades that I have been trying to learn them. I have the sinking feeling that I am here largely because I have forgotten about you, and now, at this moment, twenty years later, I remember you.

Write me a letter. Talk to me. Teach me how to be simple again, to have simple dreams again, to be excited for Christmas again. Teach me how not to be afraid again.

Teach me how to read for enjoyment again and not to break down each sentence with a literary criticism. Teach me how to jump rope again, and play jackstone again, and sing along with commercial jingles again. Teach me how to ride a swing again, and walk in the rain again, and cheer wholeheartedly at games again. Teach me how to sleep soundly again. Teach me to celebrate life again. Teach me to believe again.

Thirty-five year-old Maryanne

Posts from birthdays past: [2006, 2007, 2008, 2009]

Image credits: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]


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