Driven by our passions and ambitions, we, ourselves, are our harshest critics.
I remember having a conversation with my sister during our cousin’s funeral. We talked about how we ended up being so deep in thought, so strong against the tide of problems due to the damages we incurred during our childhood.
What makes that feeling even dreadful is that no matter how we deny it, our pride convinces us that all of our failures, all of our sources for disappointment, is something we can control.
My siblings and I developed this immunity towards pressure by exploring ourselves individually.
We got used to celebrating holidays as a broken family, having our parents send their closest relatives to look after us.
And we also got used to dealing with our own problems separately. After my parents got separated during the end of my high school days, us siblings pretty much learned how to deal with being independent.
Most of these experiences, though, were filled with mistakes.
As the firstborn, I focused more on my studies and extra-curricular activities (well, mostly my extra-curricular).
I decided to attend a school far away from my hometown, and I admit it appears like I ran away from the pressures of our home, leaving my younger siblings.
I had a pretty good stride in terms of building a reputation inside the university which I still enjoy up to this day. Although family problems still found their way to reach me even in the urban city.
Going back to the conversation with my sister, I asked her questions.
What if I chose to be with them instead of pursuing what I wanted? Any normal big brother would have made this choice.
What if I chose to focus more on my studies than in my extra-curricular?
Have I been good as a big brother?
For my last question, my sister answered, “No.” And to be honest, I was hurt pretty bad by that.
In my mind, I wanted to defend myself for saying that I did not want to see myself being swallowed by the dreadful separation of our parents.
I bear the pride of being the firstborn, the one who needs to appear the most undisturbed of all the siblings. I did not want to allow the sadness to mellow over my head over and over again as I lived in that traumatic household.
I wanted to avoid being brought down by that misery because in my mind, I needed to be strong for them. At the very least, I needed to show them what it looks like to believe in yourself.
But instead, I did not say anything in response to this.
We did not squabble over a debate. I recognized her claims because as far as I’m concerned, she was right. Because she was the one to see me do so. And to be honest, the passionate self I used to be was now burnt out.
I haven’t an ounce of passion and conviction left in me to influence her anymore.
We were talking like survivors of a trauma. And we found ourselves laughing over our mistakes, laughing over our trivial fistfights and arguments with each other. But in those parts, we did not blame each other for what we experienced.
But as for me, I blamed myself entirely for a lot of things involving that.
I blamed myself for allowing other people to exploit me. For three long years in my career, I always made the conclusion of being exploited over the things I can do, over the things I want to do for myself.
I blamed myself for being the type of person so unbearable for other people to be with. And eventually, it caused me to lose some friends and relationships along the way.
I blamed myself for years of trying to achieve something that was carefully planned, but ended up so bad I lost confidence and trust in myself.
And who would have thought that all of my decisions from the past would eventually come up to me in the present as pent-up piped exploding all over me at the same time. Everything I ever did in the past haunts me even in my sleep.
All of the people I let down.
All of the goals I was not able to suffice.
All of the confidence and respect I was not able to keep.
All of them were lost to my own personal chaos in which I subconsciously devised in my lifetime.
Is this how it feels like to be in your early twenties?
Because to be honest, these reflections came a little too late for me.
We paid too much attention to our fears and insecurities. This rendered us meticulous over every aspect of our lives, planning it, carefully achieving every detail in order for those dreams to become reality.
However, these plans end up being for naught.
There is always that endless number of walls that continue to emerge as we go through a harsh road.
And most of the paths we have been through crumble before our eyes, rendering them non-returnable for us, never seeing them ever again.
And we see ourselves backed up in a corner, not being able to move forward as these intimidating walls of judgment close in on us, denying us the freedom to even breathe.
And in that experience, we start to cry over how angry we are at ourselves.
“Why did I let this happen to me?”
“Why did I allow this to happen?”
“Why didn’t I do this when I still had the chance?”
Racing Against Time
Now we face an inescapable reality of regretting what we did and racing against time, wanting for every bit of our failures to be compensated for.
In that moment, we still want to see ourselves happy. And we marvel over the fact that we are still able to do so — to dream even if the world is falling apart for us.
Perhaps the most notable factor of being human is not being so strong and tenacious like how gods appear in their auras of fortitude. Perhaps we are a weak species, after all.
But why do we decide to go back up after every downfall we experience?
Maybe it is because of our ability to reproduce a generation of our own kin, and to live long enough to tell them of your travails.
Maybe it is our willingness to compile all of these failures and miseries into a collection of torches and markers to guide people along the miserable path of life.
Or perhaps, it is because of our unbending will to be continuously happy, to accept and produce love and passion over something, even if it means hating yourself in the process of it.
We relish over the fact of a second lifetime, a second chance for us to redeem ourselves. However, due to our obsession of maintaining a consistent record of triumph over life, we grew blind over the fact that we still can turn our lives around in a single lifetime.
Instead of filling our canvases with well-unified elements, we need to learn how to turn even the ugliest scribbles and accidents into something that reveals our ownership over our lives, that even in our failures we still get to choose what happens. Therefore, we are still capable of taking control over what happens in the future.
A lot of circumstances would deny you to seize these opportunities. But we have to move forward even if life presents an abyss before us. We need to curate these memories of failure, these collections of miserable recounts and turn them into a standard – yes, we need to put a standard over what may be the worst thing that may come at us. And by doing so, we develop a backbone that enables us to spring back into action after receiving a heavy blow.
This is our strength as humans – retaliation.
We can cry in the middle of these experiences. But we should be selfish enough to embrace them, to feel them, because that is what gives value to our dreams no matter how dead they are to us.
Again, we need to be so passionate that we are prepared to lose ourselves into self-hatred. We need to be so passionate that we are not afraid to self-destruct. We need to be so passionate that we are prepared to sabotage our happiness and turn them into something worthwhile.
This proves that we still are in control. Even as we go adrift in these cruel waters, we are still in control.
Even if we lose our minds in the process of doing so, still.
We are in control.
About the Author
John Thimoty Romero is a licensed professional teacher, a graduate of Philippine Normal University – Manila last 2017 as Bachelor of Secondary Education – Major in English. Upon his graduation, he received the Gawad Graciano Lopez – Jaena Co-Curricular Award for Campus Journalism.
He is the founder of Essays Against Mediocrity, a website dedicated to support independent authors, poets, and other content creators.