Not to worry
This is my letter addressed to Baz Luhrmann, Australian film director, screenwriter and producer:
Dear Mr. Luhrmann:
I think you owe me an explanation. I think it was you, sir, who said that it was okay to not know what to do with your life “because the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.” That was what you said in a “song” addressed to the ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 1999.
In 1999, I was 15, and I was telling myself that I was going to be a sportscaster if only so that I could interview Ralph Rivera. He was the most charming professional basketball player here then, and I was so certain I would marry him someday. I didn’t marry him of course, but I didn’t get too depressed over it because I came to admit to myself that a five-footer standing side-by-side with a 6’1” man wouldn’t look too good in a wedding photo. And that was when I realized I didn’t want to be a sportscaster anymore.
At 22, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: I was going to be a film director. Now I am 26, and I am not a film director, and I don’t know what to do with my life.
So, sir, may I ask: Did the people you knew who didn’t know what to do with their lives at 22 still not know at 26? Or did they finally decide at the age of 24 to climb Mt. Everest, or become lawyers of a celebrated case, or the best heart surgeons in the country, or philanthropists who build homes for the poor in the morning and take MBA classes at night? If they did, especially if one of them became a sportscaster then married her high school celebrity crush, great. Then I am doomed.
You might say I am being overly emotional over a song that is not even half as popular as your “Moulin Rouge” or “Romeo + Juliet,” but I think I have some solid basis for panic after hearing your song again by chance today. I have listened to your song more than a dozen times, but I feel like I am hearing your advice about knowing what to do with your life for the first time today. Since I didn’t know what to do with my life at 22, it is understandable that I only remember the part that says, “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.” It is called selective memory, and being in love, sir.
I used to be so sure that you would be proud of me. I was so sure that my friends were sure for me too. I was so sure that I didn’t care if my job didn’t pay much, if I didn’t get paid on time, if I would have to look for other side jobs to earn while I waited for my paycheck, if I had to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning then sleep at nine o’clock in the morning of the following day and do it for three days in a week, or if I would be called tanga (stupid) or ang tanga-tanga mo (You are very stupid) or Ang tanga mo, umalis ka sa harapan ko (get out of my sight, stupid) because not being here is not an option. I was so sure that I didn’t have to ask for anybody else to assure me, because even if they didn’t, I was still so sure. I was so sure that now even I am perplexed why and how it was possible to go from being that certain and passionate to now.
When exactly did I begin to doubt myself? I would say probably when I realized I already lost whatever brilliance I was told I had, but even that I am not sure of.
I think I feel guilty because I feel I owe my passionate, hopeful 22-year-old self a lot. I have always wanted to become a director, and I have pursued that ambition for the longest time. Having less than 1/100 of that passion now just doesn’t feel right. I know how feisty my 22-year-old self could get and she could be berating me now and I would be berating her back. But I am 26 now. I have learned to choose my battles. And I know I would lose this one against her.
So I listen to your song again, sir, and I reach the part where you say, “Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum,” and I suspect that you are laughing at me at this moment. So are you saying, sir, that I have nothing to worry about at all? That it is perfectly okay to be 26 and clueless about what I want? To be so sure at 22 then begin to doubt myself at 26? Sir?
Please say yes, sir.
Then I’ll promise to send you a copy of my first film. Just don’t ask me when.
Antoinette H. Jadaone is 27. Seven months after writing this piece, she is out of a job and concentrating on writing and preparing for her film to be screened in October. It will be her first ever full-length film.
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