SIXTEEN YEARS GONE

Once I was seven years old, my mama told me,

"Go make yourself some friends or you'll be lonely."

Once I was seven years old

It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger

Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker

You’re a bright young girl who seemed to be born with rose colored glasses. Most of my memories of you had already crumbled with time, but I also have vivid ones that I would never forget. There was the time when you didn’t hesitate to join an acting competition at school; a tear-jerking moment was needed to be shown, as you pretended that the doll was your mother. The crowd scared you but behind stood Nanay, cheering you on. Seeing her standing there was enough to melt the nervousness away. I could no longer remember if you won or maybe another person gets to take home the prize, still you were happy that you didn’t back out.

I’ve also lost count of the days that you pretended to a contestant fromLittle Miss Philippines. Your relatives would always coax you to perform, and now it makes me wonder where did you get that showy part of you? How they would laugh when you said that your talent is to eat a live and breathing chicken. I’m sure there’s video of you somewhere, walking on your kiddie pool with one hand waving in a pageant-like manner. You’re a real life Olive straight out from the Little Miss Sunshine movie. And when asked the famous question of what do you want to be when you grow up? The answer was consistent: To be a doctor.

Yes, you may be a shy girl at times but when the situation calls for it, you become a fighter. Remember that time when you jumped off the stage to avoid being “tagged” in a game? Although I can’t really figure out if it was a 20-second-act of bravery or stupidity; you landed wrongly and eventually earned your first scar on the knee. Back then, you were so grade conscious that you cry whenever you do not belong in the top of the class list. Though more than the medals you’ve earned it felt like pedaling the bike on your own was a greater achievement.

Once I was eleven years old, my daddy told me,

"Go get yourself a wife or you'll be lonely."

Once I was eleven years old

Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me

'Cause only those I really love will ever really know me

But just like in every story, a climax was bound to happen. The first part was too much of a buildup, isn’t it? Now there’s no easy way to recount how the walls started to crumble. How the puzzle pieces doesn’t fit anymore. You were eleven, still a bit young to understand it all. It was too difficult to listen through the screams or to see through the tears. Up until now maybe you still wrap them through metaphors.

Books had been your escape.

You just buried yourself page after page of all the books you can hold on to. No regrets on that though, for they have been your constant companion in life.

You read The Diary of a Young Girl and was inspired by the vulnerability of Anne Frank. Her own honesty pushed you to start your own journal. These pages held your secrets, your frustrations, and your joys. They had been your outlet from then on. Years later and you still consider paper as one of your best friends.

There were triumphs and failures. You gained some and lost some in the long process of growing up. But if I were given the chance, I’d like to be there for you when you thought that you weren’t good enough to create art. I wish I could have told you that we are all moving in a different pace, that the fruitfulness of others in their craft doesn’t mean that yours can’t be good. How I wish that I could be there when you compared yourself to others and decided to give up. I would have shaken you with a reminder that comparison only robbed you years and years of practice that could have made you grow. But maybe, just maybe, it was also a part of your artistic journey.

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

Before the morning sun, when life was lonely

Once I was twenty years old

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

I was writing about everything I saw before me

Once I was twenty years old*

So dear 7-year-old self, this has gotten longer than I expected. And quite frankly I don’t know how to end it. If we were in a coffee shop together, I know that we could spend hours telling each other stories (Yes, there’s still a lot to be told than these paragraphs). Reminiscing about the experiences that we went through.

Honestly, I don’t know if you could look me in the eye and tell me of how proud you are of what we’ve become (that may be a dangerous train of thought, but right now maybe we’re just a little bit lost). If there’s one thing that I admire about you that would be courage. Your boldness to pursue the things that you wanted, even if you encountered roadblocks ahead. I’ve lost that muchness over the years.

Still, hope remains in my heart that we are making a comeback. Your 23-year-old self is about to go out of the woods. Maybe this phase is a way to be brand new. Maybe being stuck in a rut is also a time to heal from wounds. A time to be more honest with myself. 

As we go forward, please lend me that courage. Let my childlike heart beat again.

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*Lyrics from Lukas Graham’s Seven Years