Twenty Three

Exactly one month from now I will be turning 23. I can’t believe I’m on the sixth version of this now. The first time I started this, I was turning 18. Six years quickly came by in what felt like a blink of my eyes.

A year ago today, when I wrote my first draft of what happened to me before I turned 22, I was sitting at the 2nd floor of Subway fast food, overlooking the Dubai Metro station and Emirates Tower. I just had my lunch. Everything was so different then. My mind was consumed. I was a little bit scared and uncertain with where I was, and with everything that I had. But I was keeping myself intact. I was fighting, with my head above the water.

Now, 12 months later — I am here, back in my home country. Back in the city I’ve lived for almost 6 years, sitting at a conference table, overlooking the city skyline. Saying a lot has changed in a year is an understatement. I mean, look at where I am right now from where I was?

How did everything happen so fast? How about we start from the very beginning.

Six hours before I turned 22, I decided to spend the night and wait until midnight at Jumeirah Lake Tower. That place always had a special place in my heart so I thought why not celebrate there? It was the first time I’d be welcoming my birthday outside my home and I knew it would be exciting. And it was — but not everything that happened afterwards.

I had my last dinner as 21 years old at a Chinese fast-food chain. I celebrated my pre-22 all by myself. I thought it was a good idea to think things through very clearly. I never wanted to turn 22 if I was being honest with myself. I had an incredible year and I felt like I didn’t want that to end. A huge part of me wanted to stay young forever — careless, worry-free, ambitious, don’t-a-shit young adult.

But I had no choice. As soon as the clock in my phone turned 12, reckless party would be over.

So I roamed around for a bit on the shopping boutiques along the JLT Boulevard before I head down to the beach. It was pretty dark already as far as I could remember. I saw this amazing grocery store. I never saw it the last time I was there, I thought to myself. I went in, bought some snacks to munch while I kill time before midnight, and promised to myself that I’d go back later. I didn’t care about the money I was spending, even though I was technically a broke 21 year old kid. It was my pre-birthday after all. I deserved a break.

Finally, I walked to the beach. It was quite dark but I was glad for the moon, the first-world country establishments, elite residential, and Movie Theater in front of the beach that gave tiny light to my surroundings. I knew the Palm Jumeirah didn’t give much impact on what I needed, but I was glad too that I could see it shining brightly on the distance.

I sat on the sand, breathe the salt pre-summer Middle East air, and allowed myself to unleash the real me.

I watched these two kids playing around by the water. Their parents were sitting not so far beside me, watching too. I wondered if they’d grow up to be the person they wanted to be. I looked at them and they seemed really happy and content with where they were, with what they had.

I stood up and had the urge to walk along the beach. There were few people still on the ocean even at around 8 pm in the night. I walked more. The ocean looked blue green. I thought to myself, “I would never forget this moment.”

I pondered about my life as I let my feet drag me further down the beach.

Am I really happy? Is this what I want? I’m so broke here. I feel like I’m living under the rock. Should I just go home? But I’m already here. Besides wouldn’t that be an embarrassing move to do? Especially that I spent the last four years bragging I’d be here sooner?

I was confused. I was somehow lost. Al though I couldn’t remember how terribly lost. I talked to God while I walked. I knew He’d help me. I was also worried about something else. Someone else I needed to save. I was worried about a lot of things in general. Money. Rent. Gadgets. Travel. Food. Savings. Choices. Name it.

There was this weird mist in the air I was having a hard time to explain. But it was like the wind was warm, but the ocean was cool, and they just sort of collided. I don’t know. I hope you could picture that out.

I realized I walked very far. So I turned back to where I left my bag and snacks and slippers. One more reason why I fell in love with the city real hard was that, there was almost no record of theft. You could leave your things and you could always find them.

I sat back to the sand. I looked at my watch. I had less than 4 hours to kill. What else would I do? Should I just head back to my apartment? This was silly. I pulled out my phone, inserted the earphones in it, then played Ariana Grande’s newest album. It was my pre-birthday gift to myself. I loved it.

I dragged myself to the tip of the ocean, careful not to wet my shorts, and listened to Ariana Grande’s songs while I twirled around the water, pretending I was on the music video, and being sexy. I was that weird. Really weird.

I got tired so I settled back to where I was sitting. I thought about my life more. My mind was bleeding — that’s for sure. I was 21. Did I truly know what I was doing? What my purpose was?

I was a very deep person. That was me in my normal habitat.

I got tired, sat back again, then made a list. I shouldn’t forget that to mention here. I made a damn list! One that I would love to call “Jinxed list”. Almost every item in there never came true. The content was stored in my iPhone4s. I should re-read that again. I wrote the list and promised to myself, “These are the things that I need to have or achieve at 22.” Which was bullshit obviously.

But in case you’re wondering, from what I could remember, the list included: having a go-pro, writing another novel, saving someone, focusing on career (?), save money (!), go back home to visit. And so on. I can’t remember them all.

So I was getting a bit bored. I browsed the shops more on the Boulevard, and went back to the grocery store as I promised to myself.

I walked into the store and I said to myself, “This is such a movie moment.” It’s kinda weird but I was starting to feel magic. Like, something was just so different. Like, everything at that moment was special. I looked around me in that shop and I swore I could live in that moment.

I went out with a huge cookie I guess and a ginger ale. A freaking ginger ale because I wanted to get drunk but apparently Dubai banned alcoholic drinks ever since, so I dumbly thought ginger ale would do. Freaking ginger ale.

Two more hours before Angelo officially turned 22! How exciting it was to celebrate by myself. I mean, wow!

I transferred to the back portion of the Boulevard and left the sand because it was getting late and it was getting creepy there. I sat on the well-maintained grassy area with all the beautiful night lights around me. Some expensive restaurants were closing behind me. I could still see the ocean from my spot all too well.

Different people walked pass by me. But it was pretty much spacious since it was a weeknight. Again, it was such a movie moment. I inhaled some air more.

I yawned. I was somehow dead tired, and my emotions started creeping in. I looked at the Palm Jumeirah. Still bright. And I finally faced that one thing that was looming on the surface.

The truth that I had no love life. That I felt lonely for most part. That I questioned myself if there was something wrong with me. But how could there be something wrong with me when I’m so dateable? All of my girl best-friends would testify to that.

But I was all alone, not only that night, but for most part of my life. I guess I shed some tears on that hour. I thought leaving my home country would make a difference in my romantic life but alas, it didn’t. So I thought about going back home again since being there was stupid anyway.

My then considered best-friend, texted me to greet me Happy Birthday and sent me a picture of, ahm, (N). She thought it was a crush joke. I thought too. But subconsciously there was more to that. And there was more to that story later. Specifically how N affected some of my decisions.

Few minutes before I turned 22, I was giddy and pumped and beaten up and sleepy. But pretty much alive. I counted down the seconds before midnight like it was a New Year. And I sung myself Happy Birthday. How sad right? I wished to the world, to God, to everyone or everything that was listening. Do I remember what I wished? Uhm. Not exactly sure. But they had probably the same fate as the lists.

Okay. Take a shift in your seat. This is the turning point of the story.

Not even an hour after I turned 22, shit already came bothering me. And it pretty much set the tone for my whole year. I know. It’s weird and strange and odd. But I felt like that moment, the world was giving me a warning sign.

What bad signs? I’d give a quick montage: no more bus, no more train. Had to take taxi. Paid almost 80 dirhams. Embarrassed myself to the taxi driver. Transferred to the only bus that would bring me to the apartment. 2 am and people had so much shit already. Bus driver yelled at me. I felt weak and just allowed him win over me. Said to myself, “Fuck this. Does he know it’s my birthday?”

Came home safe. Slept.

Want more bad signs?

Woke up in the morning with no breakfast. Cooked my own. Was kinda yelled at. Lunch was whatever. But good thing we had dinner party planned. More personal horrible story I wouldn’t share.

But unto a good one on my birthday, my Aunt — favorite Aunt — surprised me a bouquet of flowers. How lovely! Yes it was but… she was the first person who gave me flowers. But it’s okay! I was still sort of happy. Birthday dinner was okay. It was sweet, small, solemn, and yeah — unforgettable.

End of my birthday.

But wait.

Worse signs came in after that. And the world didn’t truly give me a break. Not even 3 days after my birthday, my entire hope collapsed.

I went back to the office with no birthday greetings. Nobody cared. My best-friend and few of my friends (?) tried to give pleasant wishes, but they were also just whatever. No surprise. No anything.

I locked myself in the toilet for Idk how long. Cried. Missed home. Felt the loneliest in my life ever. I was wearing something special and beautiful, for nothing.

But here’s the worst part on that day. I was called for a special meeting. I was lectured for not following a company policy for which I ignored, didn’t care, or was ignorant. I informed someone high-ranking through email about me taking a day off as I would celebrate my birthday in the most light-hearted and funniest email I sent in that company. But since I had no luck whatsoever, it didn’t work.

I was 22. It was the only day I took an absent. And it was the most special day of my life. Was that hard to understand or sympathize? Were people really that cruel? Would this be the life I wanted to live in the next 2 years?

I was heartbroken. And nobody knew, cared, understood. I am a human being. I have emotions and feelings.

Things changed after that. I felt even lonelier and purposeless. I had my lunch alone for couple of weeks that followed. I barely talked or trusted anyone. I snapped too easily to anyone. I just didn’t care at that point. Because I was a young 22 year old kid and nobody gave a shit about me. So why would I?

The best-friend I thought would protect me ended up not caring too. The person I had feelings for (N, this was you) wanted me out. The person I believed had a crush on me just stayed quiet, and chose to be blind. The person I shared the same roots betrayed me.

How could I continue to live in that environment? I was suffocated.

I tried to get my shit together and stick around for more.

Back to my personal life, maybe God answered my wish. I was on the lowest point in my life. Literally about to give up. Then you came into my life A. We met on the bus. (For those of you who’s interested in this meet up story. Scroll down and find a piece with the title “June 6, 2016”)

We dated. Or so I thought. No actually we were fucked up. We were complicated. But it was Ramadan. You were weak — I meant vulnerable — for the whole month. I don’t know what we were.

I was worried more, and worse this time. I was worried about the person I wanted to save, about A, about both of them going home. But guess what? We all went home. Wasn’t that the sickest joke?

Back to the working life, so we could wrap these detailed parts already. I tried to change, fitted in, swallowed my pain, and smiled like nothing was wrong. But I was just about to see the worst.

Before things blew up, there was this one morning and I could remember  so well. I was in your car N. It was Ramadan month, and as part of your “charity”, you gave me a free ride. Which was fitting because our apartments were only 10 minutes apart by walk.

While you were driving, I was on the back seat, looking at these tall buildings from the distance. They were all perfectly aligned. I wanted to take picture of that scene but was afraid you’d judge me N. What strike me, though, was that I felt something in that particular moment. It was weird. And I almost whispered to myself, “Take a look. Take them all in. You’re going to miss this.” It’s like I was saying goodbye already.

Maybe the universe was screaming at me, making me feel what was about to go down – a preview of what I’d do.

But before we go to that part, I have a question to ask.

Do you know how sometimes, it feels like you have a complete control over a situation, and one little decision can change everything?

Well, I had that moment. And it did really change everything for me from then onwards.

I was having a rough time at work, pissed off as usual. I compromised my liberty in response to your “charity” N. Because I’m the kind of person who has a heart. But you took me for granted. All of your folks took me for granted almost every day. And I’ve had enough. I was honestly tired. You wanted to take more of my freedom, but I couldn’t. What you were all doing to me was too much. Too much.

And if there’s one thing you should know about me N, as I write this, is that I’m smart. I know what I’m doing. What I did on that day was a thought I decided was right.

You don’t know this N, but when you wanted me to finish something and stay longer, I was planning to lie and walk away afterwards. I finished some parts of what you wanted. I had few couple of minutes of debating whether or not I should pursue my plan. A series of flashbacks passed before my eyes as I deliberately weighed my options.

I decided to do what I was about to do. I smiled. I turned off my computer. I stood up. I slung my backpack to my shoulder. I walked pass you. Then you were stunned. You didn’t expect I’d do that. You asked me if I was done. I said, “Yeah”, nonchalantly. You asked if I was sure. I made a hand gesture to confirm yes, and showed how defeated I was already at that point.

Did you see how defeated I was N? Did you even care?

I went to the pantry to get my lunch-boxes, then you watched me through the glass doors as I left. You found out I lied. I left my task unfinished, on purpose. I wasn’t dumb. I knew what would happen next. And I chose that to happen.

But did you know where I was heading N? Did you know why I was eager to leave?

I went to my cousin’s birthday. Yes Adrian. I picked you over them. You didn’t know this too. We celebrated your birthday while I was trying to bury my worries. I knew I was done. But I wanted to enjoy the night. I wanted to see you happy on your birthday.

Because, Adrian, honey, I will always choose you over them.

The following day was, well, the doomsday. I didn’t want to go through the details as few people knew the story already. There was a piece in this website where I told the part when I was standing at the 19th floor, crushed on the inside and so done with the world, while I looked at the highway below. I watched the fast cars raced through the streets and thought it’d be the last time I’d see them.

My final words that all of you folks would never forget was, “This isn’t the kind of life I pictured myself living in.”

It was the bomb that I dropped that destroyed everything.

The list I made before I turn 22 turned out to be defective.

I made bold moves. My theme on my 22nd year was: “Carpe diem that one great leap of faith and have fun for the wild ride.” And I did carpe diem the great leap of faith. Was it a wild ride? I bet.

Half of my 22nd year, I spent sort of lost. I didn’t know what I really wanted. I had no idea where exactly I wanted to be. I was weak. I had so much in my mind. I played a little too aggressively — impulsive even.

I admit that there were so many things in life I couldn’t understand or wanted to understand. All I knew was that I was young and I should be having fun. But I was wrong.

Half of my 22nd year, I spent redeeming myself. I gave myself second chances to do things right, to correct my mistakes, and to begin again. It wasn’t an easy process. Some days, I would get discouraged. Some days, I would regret for what I did. Some days, I wish I could go back in time.

But you know what? As I sit here right now typing this, I am wholeheartedly decided not to go back in the past.

Yes this city I am in right now is stupid. It’s killing me every day with its flaws and imperfections. But this is where I actually feel more at peace with myself than where I used to be.

I have a room for myself. I have a decent salary for my age. I eat take out fast food every day, as opposed to canned goods. I see my grandmother every weekend and it’s the best thing ever. I get to be in my room at the country side every weekend too. My work schedule is light. I have 4x more time here, and because of that, I am able to write for Thought Catalog. I can buy myself expensive clothes in here as well, but I just choose not to. Sure I probably can’t risk my money with chocolates, but will they just eventually destroy me if I go on with that addiction?

Point is, I should truly consider the substance over form. Intrinsic value over face value. It’s true this city is nothing compared to the beauty of Dubai. But I’m actually calmer here. I have more time here for myself, for the things that I love. It’s just a matter of opening my eyes and knowing what makes me really happy. And where I’m genuinely happy.

I recognize that I’ve let some people down because of my decisions, and I choose to silently ignore them, and proceed to living my life. But I just want to say to anyone who rooted for me, that I am sorry you realized I wasn’t that great.

But I think I’m allowed to make mistakes at this age, and figure out what I want for myself, and not for anyone else.

I know it sucks. But I’m trying to move on, be better. And I hope that you do too.

I will be turning 23 soon. It’s a totally different story this time around. Now, I’ve found my voice, my dreams, my goals, myself.  And it’s time to make the tables turn.

I am not scared anymore. I am no longer the 22 year old kid running around, always panicked, always worried. I am confident with the skills that I have and with what I can offer to the world. I know what I want to pursue and I have plans in my mind I want to execute patiently.

I see a bright future for me now and I know I can bring a one big success this year. I’m starting to figure out my purpose and why I am here. I am glad with the achievements I’ve had in the last five months, and I think I’m good for it to go on until I’m ready to make my own mark.

I am moving on slowly. And writing down my past allows me to let go. I am comfortable with my own skin. I barely have insecurities anymore. I only do what I love, and not pay attention to anything that’s irrelevant in my life.

I am happy and I think I’m living the life that I picture for myself. This year, I can feel that I’m going to be even happier. I trust myself, the world, and God more.

I am working hard day and night for some of my dreams to come into fruition at 23. I am excited for this year, for all the possibilities, for all the better experiences, for more amazing memories, for more people to meet, for more places to visit. I am more focused on my goal now, and craving for success, than I’ve ever been.

And I think I am finally seeing the stripes of lights, because I know, in my heart, that I’m heading to where I am supposed to be.

 

This Is How You Remind Me What Truly Matters

Dear God,

You really have a strange way of making me understand my life, my journey. You don’t want me to think that the choices I’ve made are purposeless. You want me to see everything clearly, find reasons, know the answers to my whys.

I’ve stumbled upon this website called: instant street viewer. I’ve known it before, used it before. Whenever I’m missing a certain place, I’ll just visit the site and type the address of where I want to be.

I chose the place I lived for 8 months. I didn’t exactly know why. I just felt like I wanted to revisit it, and made myself feel like I was there again. I picked the part where I’d go down from a bus stop and walk home. It was so funny that I still knew every single direction to my apartment. It’s as if I could navigate my way even when my eyes closed.

The feeling was all TOO familiar, as I passed through the street using the cursor, instead of my feet. Immediately, a sense of longing and nostalgic poured inside of me. Everything felt so near, yet far so away. I remember all the details that I saw. I can’t believe that part of my life ended abruptly.

I used to walk on those streets every day of my life, and… it was disheartening how I took those moments for granted, not knowing that one day they’d soon end. I wonder how many times I walked on the same cul-de-sac, how many times I smelled that distinct odor, how many times my heart fluttered as the wind brushed my hair.

I remember how lucky I was to be living somewhere different.

But then, when I was on my halfway through my old apartment, I realize how the park in front of me reminded me so much of how young I was at that time.

I remember how stupid, and ignorant, and emotional, and weak I was. I remember all the reasons why I should not look back. I rolled my eyes and contemplated whether I should close the screen. But then a part of me wanted to finish what I already started. So I pushed through.

10 minutes to the building. I saw the grocery store where I bought my snacks on late afternoons. I saw the car shop — I used to think how amazing it would be to work there, because my place was close to it. I saw the spot where I dropped my phone. Everything was still fresh in my mind. It was only less than a year of me living there, yet I couldn’t forget all those memories that I experienced.

I tilted the screen to look up at the sky. This was the part when I said I wanted to go home. This was the part when I was so crushed on the inside and nobody knew or understood why. Nobody wanted to know or care. This was the part that I asked You why.

5 minutes to the building. Those establishment I saw on both sides of the street were old (this website wasn’t updated). I saw men in their traditional dresses. They used to frighten me in the beginning. But they made me realize that the world is actually a safe place.

I was below the building that I lived. I couldn’t go inside. Guess they left that part for privacy reasons. I looked around. Turned around and round. Checked the sky. The street. I was here. I used to live here. I’ve made lots of choices. LOTS.

I admit I missed everything. Ugh. Too much emotion. It was getting hard to explain.

I moved on to the main street where I rode a bus to get to work. Again, I knew the direction by heart. I saw the big grocery mall I went into — even at 11 pm. That was such a fun experience — midnight grocery shopping. Think I should write about that one day. That was such a movie moment experience.

A long stretch of road. I saw the bench I sat on a late summer afternoon. My body was sweating and I was unable to cry because I was SO dehydrated. (Middle East problem)

I saw the city mall. Again, I missed it.

I’ve had enough. It was too much time, too much memories, too much looking back.

Towards the end of it, I felt okay. I have learned that my emotions are confusing me a lot of times, especially during this age. I wanted one thing and then hated it. I left one place and wanted to go back again. I admit that sometimes, I don’t know what I want. I don’t know where I want to be.

I’m hot and cold. I’m young and impulsive.

But I guess that’s what You want me to learn.  You want me to learn how to control my emotions. And maybe one day I will. I’ll just have to give myself time.

Some days I missed the cities that I left. But as I closed the window on my computer, I knew in my heart that I was happy with the final decisions I made. I’m happy with where I am. I’m happy to be with the people that I love, and who love me.

I get confused once in a while, but I think that, what You’re wanting me to learn is — knowing exactly what’s really important to me.

And ultimately, this is what is important to me.

Amen.

In another lifetime.

Remember the first time we met? It was like the world brought two strangers together who immediately clicked and became comfortable with each other once the conversation started. We talked about life, religion, and ambitions not considering the question that bugged us at the back of our minds about “Who the heck is this person sitting next to me?” We hit it right off the bat, topic after topic, skipping the old ways of introducing basic information about ourselves.

We exchanged contact details just like any universe-arranged situation. Then we stalked each other out on social media; eager to know every single thing that made out our lives. I decided you were not a psychopath so I agreed to hang out with you. We went on to dinners and see beautiful places all the while pretending they weren’t a date. You showed me the best of you and made huge efforts to bring smile on my lips. No one has ever done those kinds of wonderful gestures to me before so I felt like those were the most magical moments of my life. You didn’t want a relationship and you were just happy with what we had. We argued and fought somehow over tiny or irrelevant issues but we managed to make peace immediately afterwards.

We were in the right path of building whatever relationship we were heading into, until the universe intervened and took back everything it gave us. We were separated by something we could not control.

I would never forget the way you held my hands on the train the way you knew it would be the last. I broke down as soon as the doors closed and the train accelerated forward. That was the last time I saw you. That was the saddest part of my life. I am still crying as I write this.

Months passed by and our distance away from each other slowly made us strangers – again.

I wish you know I still care about you. There are parts of my days when I think about you, how you’re doing, if you’ve completely moved on. I wonder if you look at the sky at night, see the moon, and remember me when I was sizing it by my thumb. I ask myself if you miss me the same way I miss you. I wanted to know if you have ever loved me too.

I don’t understand why the universe would give me something I would eventually lose.

In another lifetime, the stars would align accurately in our favor. We would still go out on our free time and figure things out by now. I would change religion for you and I’d make you so proud. You would meet my mom finally after all these times I said “not yet.” You would have proven to my best friend that you are the right person for me. We would excel on our careers and have dinner at the end of the day to celebrate. You would be more open about your feelings and ask me to be in a relationship.

In another lifetime, the universe would not throw sick humor against us. I would not need to shed some tears and wonder how things could have been. I would no longer miss you and think if you love me.

In another lifetime, we would still be together and I would be the same person with a smile on his lips.

4th month

There will be days when you feel like you’re running through dead-ends again, seconds when you think you’re almost behind everyone else, minutes when you somehow lost the passion to finish a wonderful project, hours when you realize you’re so far away to start living your dreams it makes you sad.

There will be chilly nights when you look outside your window, look at the dark sky, and feel terribly lonely. There will be moments when you get to remember the part of your life you place your heart to someone’s hands until he crashed it and dropped it. There will be times when you finally admit to yourself that you fell in love with the wrong person at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

But then…

There will also be days when you feel like binge-watching a TV series on the couch while eating your 750 ml worth of ice cream and a bag of Cheetos. You will sit down on your bed and not let yourself be side-tracked by your comparison thoughts and instead focus on your ultimate goals. You will wake up one morning after a refreshing 10-hour of sleep and feel energized to pick up the pieces of that project and start again. You will pursue a hobby that’s going to make you appreciate the present and make your dreams less than far away.

There will be nights when you listen to a current pop song, sing and dance like crazy, and realize why you’re better un-partnered. You will grow up and be wiser in choosing people who you’re going to trust with all your heart. You will look back objectively and know that even in alternate universe, things wouldn’t still work out between you and that person you fell in love.

There’s going to be dull dark moments in the same way that there’s going to be blissful happy moments. And you know what? That is okay. God didn’t promise us Utopia or road which is smoothly traveled. It makes our journeys more fun and interesting.

What’s comforting is knowing that one day you will be given second chances to start your dreams again and redeem yourself against the mistakes you did in the past. You will find a better place than the one you left behind and be surprised to uncover why leaving does you only good in the end. You will meet a guy you like so dearly who’s going to respect you and tell you how much he loves you.

The night is still young and there are so much crazy things to do. The future is just short distance away if we’re willing to be patient and work hard. Because there will be mornings or nights one day when we find something as equal as gem that’s going to make us fall in love, look at the sky then smile, and whisper to ourselves, “We made it.”

Forgiveness and Second chances

Forgiveness is a prerequisite of second chances — they complement each other, they go hand in hand. I learned that you can’t move forward in your life if you don’t forgive yourself, the world, and all the people you believe did you wrong. You can’t have second chances if you stuck yourself living in a place that’s long overdue. It’s gonna take sometime to forgive but it’s always worth it when you have those second chances later on. 

On the outside of my shell, I make it so certain that it’s shiny and strong. I stand with pride and resilience against all the waves the storm inflicts upon me. But when I’m all alone in my room in silence and contemplation, I cry. And just like any other human being, I let myself feel. 

It was painful. Perhaps maybe it still is. If I dig deep down enough, I might lose the battle and admit that I regret. But I won’t, maybe only partly. Certainly for sure, it crushed me. It was a dream I had at a very young age and the best thing the world had to give me was that I had it so easy — very easy some people wanted to try my shoes. But I took the dream for granted. I was that person who wanted something so bad but once I had it, I started complaining and never stopped. I made decisions purely based on emotion and as a result, I went home with an airfare ticket in my hands combined with a mountain of ego that’s bound to fall apart. 

 It did hurt. When it’s all over and I get to zone out of the game then look at it in an outer perspective, I saw that I wasn’t totally the victim I convinced myself dearly. I played my part as a villain too. All along I was feeding the bad wolf and it became me. As soon as I realized it, I put my head in my arms because I knew it was too late to go back and change everything that triggered the chain of events. 

I cancelled all my upcoming interviews. I wasn’t emotionally ready to work. I needed some fixing and so I packed my bags and joined my family for a long road trip travel. I took the chance to stare outside the car as the view passed by and breathe. I accepted the reality, the truth that I’d be stuck in the same place I was itching to abandon 8 months ago, the country and its system that never failed to disappoint me on a regular basis. Looking back to that 27th of June at the 19th floor early in the afternoon staring at a first-world country infrastructures and modern vehicles, I thought I would be blissfully happy fast-forward to the present. I asked myself inside the car, “Am I?” 

Thank God and the universe, my life forever changed the following night of our travel. It was 17th of August, a little close to a month of my post-Dubai. I was alone in the pool on an early evening, rain drizzling like a movie moment set up just for me, in front of the ocean, inside Casa Consuelo known as the almost tip of the northern Philippines, I talked to a Higher power and allow myself to think clearly about my future. That moment right there was when I forgave myself, I forgave the people who hurt me, I forgave the past. I prayed for redemption and another shot to make things right. 

In God’s loving arms, everything worked out accordingly. I passed both my scheduled interviews 3 days after. It’s a matter of faith, trust, and renewed relationship with Him. He gifted me second chances full of circumstances I wish I had in my previous job. He knew exactly what I wanted deep down and He gave it to me in His perfect timing. And I love Him more because of that.

Nothing comes perfect. I lived in a well-ordered city that I fell in love with but I hated my job. Now I have a job I might potentially love in the long run but live in a city I can’t fall in love. It takes hard work to stick around. It’s too early for me to give a final judgement about my second chances and I don’t want to be the kind of person anymore who strategizes so hard. I have the wheel in front of me and even though it might seem like I don’t know where exactly I’m going right now, I know sooner I’ll get to that place God knows my heart is wanting. 

Good decision

When I’m tired, sleepless, and a bit hungry, it is so easy for me to regret and doubt myself whether I made the right decisions in life. All the could haves and would haves play in my mind like a bad song stuck in my head. But as soon as I place myself in a healthy functioning state, I take back all of them because I know I made a good decision.

To best explain what recently happened in my life, I am like the Zayn Malik of One Direction who pulled himself out of the group. Because like most kids of my generation, I was also stupid enough to realize that I wasn’t happy anymore, that I couldn’t look forward for tomorrow, and that yes I couldn’t find my “purpose”. But unlike most kids of my generation, I had the balls and the Beyoncé swag to say, “Nope! This isn’t working for me anymore.” 

I was brave for taking the risk to get out of the job without even considering whether I had another job to back me up in the city that I was in at that time. When they fired their guns, I took the bullets immediately and became a war hero for myself. At 22, I know that was something I would be proud of one day when I look back.

I made a good decision because I was smart enough to save myself from wasting precious time in an environment I knew I would never prosper and could not help me get further in life few years from now. I made a good decision because I wanted to give justice to the things I worked hard for 5 and half years and satisfy my mind by the end of the day that it was all worth it. I made a good decision because I disconnected myself from the roots that were sucking all the happiness inside of me and made me feel lost along the way. And most importantly, I made a good decision because I wanted to cut my mistakes from continually happening, give a quick solution, and have another shot for redemption.

I feel bad for all the people who believe in me and have faith in me that I could still hold on a little longer. But I love them for giving their best shot to help me fight against all the demons that I had. There’s a need for me to address that I appreciate the endless life lessons and career guidance they give to me and just know know that I am holding them in my mind up until this second promising to remember them forever. 

The best advice I received was, “Failure is when you let what happened to you destroy you and not let yourself stand up again.” 

Maybe there are a lot of things that I didn’t understand at 22. Maybe there are a lot of things I was misunderstood by being 22. But I made a good decision.

The guy who grew a brave heart.

Remember the last time I wrote about you? I thought it would be the last. My friends were with me to back me up. I had all the support in the world. I was willing to move on with my life without you in it. But then, it only took one chat from you and everything began again.

 

You were like a tragic book that made me cry a little. I stopped reading you and stacked you in the bookshelf, never to touch again, because I just couldn’t go through the ending anymore. However my heart wanted to know how it’d feel like to progress in the story. So I went on and I did fairly enjoy the thrill. My guard was up, constantly waiting for the right time when you’re going to rip me apart again. It didn’t come so soon. I set a date when it should come. You decided it still wouldn’t — I was glad. And then one day you surprised me, without any prior notice, you crushed my heart and dropped it without hesitations.

 

I was floored. In fact, I lied awake up until 4 am in the morning deciding whether I should pop up some sleeping pills. I forced myself to sleep, told myself, “Fuck this, I’m too used to this.” But then it haunted me. I shouldn’t have gone through your Facebook profile at that point so I could have postponed the found-truth that you deleted me. I felt like I lost mainly because growing up, I always wanted to be the one leaving and not the other way around. You won the game and it did upset me horribly because I didn’t expect you’d be willing to play that dirty. I guess I wasn’t always right about people.

 

Two days before that we had the most fun of whatever relationship we had. I was ready to tell you my goodbye and I was okay about that. You promised me it wasn’t a goodbye yet, there would be one more. What I didn’t understand was that why did you have to remove me completely from your life? Sure I was aware I said something stupid in the day that followed but weren’t we clear about the fact that we’d still keep in touch no matter what?

 

It’s not in my discretion to tell what people they should do. And so be it. You opened the door and had your way out. I was ghosted. I didn’t know what it meant before until now. I’d still stick to the plan to use our experiences together in the book I’d write in the future. Unlike you, I’d fulfill my promise to cherish and remember the memories we shared. It was the closest thing I had in romance Azam. I wished I could have told you that.

 

I wasn’t the guy who went home crying with a broken heart anymore. Instead, I am the guy who grew a brave heart. The guy who can easily differentiate between what love is and what love is not. The guy who knows exactly how he should be treated and what his heart deserves. And most importantly, the guy who learns his best lesson in a painful way.

 

I guess I can start over now, wake up tomorrow and set my mind in a different perspective. The question about why I let you continue to be part of my life after the second meet-up is something I’ll try to find an answer to. But I’m trying to be okay now. Soon, I know I will totally be. There are so many better things that will come along in my way and you can’t be part of me by the time I’ll get to experience them. So it’s me saying goodbye after all.