Letters of Youth


/ 22 August 2020

Growing up in a family where medals and ribbons could be mistaken for wallpapers, it is no doubt that the pressure to follow the winning tradition would be at its maximum. And being the first-born child of two families who flaunt rich familial history won’t help to ease expectations.

At a young age, people already expected me to do great things in the future. My parents are both professionals; my mom who is a dentist and my dad who is a lawyer, a finest performance by me is already required by the people surrounding my family.

Emerging into existence with a tag in your name brings both bad and good implications. While it is with great pride to carry such an honorable name, the pressure to live up to it could essentially put you in danger; the danger of having the fear to fail.

I believe that schools are the primary pressure cookers where instead of softening young bloods, they make them tough enough for the real challenges along the way. However, I also believe that schools and scholastic achievements are the oldest gauges of success. Not that I could complain. After all, people made educational attainments equal to societal prominence and importance.

From the moment I started going to school, most eyes were focused on me as if I will showcase something brilliant– magic perhaps. I felt that school was a cage where should I act vigilant at all times, on guard at most times. As if it was a place for me not to commit mistakes. A place where a single blunder could destroy not only my name but also my family’s. Of course, this was the young me. A mind of such innocence; a thinking only focused on pleasing the heed of neighboring human beings.

Years passed by, my defense mechanism towards such pressure was activated. I built a wall of hostility against expectations. As peculiar as it may sound, instead of bowing down to the trail my ancestors already paved, the legacy I wanted to leave was how I went up against it. I wanted to be different. I sought not to be remembered as someone with high grades and excellent scholastic performance. I just simply wanted to be remembered as me.

With this thinking and perception comes the earful from time to time. I admit I preferred watching cartoons and anime rather than reading a book or reviewing for an examination. I would likely stay up all night, eyes glued on the TV rather than scanning my notes or doing homework. I rebelled against expectations. I showed people the total opposite of what they want to see. I made it clear I was not born in this world just to perform things they wanted out of me.

I admit, it was not easy. It was not easy seeing your parents frustrated and hurt, disappointed and upset. It was not easy hearing degrading things coming from people who do not really know you; people saying how unlucky my parents are to have a son like me, how ill-fated my ancestors are to have a name bearer in me.

But I do not mind. I get used to it. I choose this way of living. I pick criticism over comfort. I believe that after all these things, greater and better times will come.

When people got over to the fact that I am a bummer, an underachiever, a shade of the past, a not-so-awesome kid they assumed me to be, I silently worked my way up. I went to where I feel I belonged. I joined groups where I found comfort. There, I felt peace. I enjoyed life. I acknowledge that dreams are the best motivations but we should not be slaves of it. There I know, that times will come when pain will be the most effective tool to fire up my enthusiasm.

Defying expectations is still my greatest achievement and would probably still be in the next 20 years. Proving people wrong then doing things on my own gives me the satisfaction, the sense of fulfillment, the reason for my being and the significance of living. Expectations are created to blueprint the future. It is an innate thing to do for mortals. The only problem with expectations is once it does not happen or it is not achieved accordingly, it may spell destruction, cast a mark that signifies failure, prejudge individuals and cover opportunities.

Expectations clip an individual’s wings even before they can spread it. Everything is mapped out and it should be followed or else the small difference will make a wide gap.

But life does not come with an instruction manual. Life is not something you can easily conclude according to the lives of others. A pattern is a guide but not a rule. Everything in me has been laid out even before I could have seen the beauty and cruelty of this world. Everything about my life was already arranged and defined even before I could speak my first word. Everything about my life has been believed to be settled, organized and collated.

Despite that, I made it a point not to lose myself to something I am really not. I coated myself with the courage that I am not the man they wanted me to be– that I am a man who has things to do on his own.

In a mob of people trying to dictate who you should be, never lose your identity. For that will make you different, that will create you.

One’s life is distinct from another. It will never be the same. For one’s self has a different soul. And in that soul lives a new man. And that man has his own roads to travel.