The year I grew up | Inquirer Opinion

The year I grew up

I don’t know how the past year went, but if it were anything like mine, I imagine you’d have wanted it to end already.

At the outset, I can’t say I hated 2023 all that much, but last year was marked by constant instability and uncertainty. It was graduation, then job hunting, and just growing up in general. If my life were a TV show, this would be that one season where the producers tried to cram in too many plot points so you’d have to rewatch it a couple of times just to keep track of the whole storyline.

In the first quarter of the year, I was rushing to finish my internship hours while juggling several extracurriculars. I made a couple of last-ditch efforts to plug up the holes in my academic record so I could graduate on time. Come July, I was wearing that UP sablay with a medal draped around my neck at the function hall of Baguio Country Club. Level complete.


That was the first half and already I was tired. The latter half was much, much more dreadful. All your mentors in college tell you that university kind of prepares you for the real thing, but it really is a jungle out there and as a fresh graduate, you’re at the bottom of the food chain. I thought I was a big shot in school, but I was rejected from jobs I thought I’d be a perfect fit for. It hit me hard at first, but as the rejections went on, it became a process of just toughing it out and moving on to the next thing. This was my first taste of the “real world.”


I got two job offers after a couple of months. One was teaching, the other was news production. I chose the one with the bigger salary (I’ll leave it up to your imagination to decide which one that was). I had to unlearn a lot of things upon landing my first job and had to put a lot of dreams on hold for the sake of financial stability. I learned to thrive, more or less. I sowed my oats, did my paperwork, and went to the office on time. I was a team player. And I splurged on nice things after getting my first salary.

Hence, my second lesson for this year: how incredibly fast money can be spent. What I earned in months, I could lose in just days. I figured this one out a little late, but with practice, I learned how to budget my salary and cut down on nonessentials. Paying rent and bills was painstaking, but it’s one of those things you learn to set aside money for after some time. Being an adult, it turns out, involves you just repeatedly shelling out cash to keep yourself alive and entertained, no matter how much you want to buy that new phone/laptop/iPad.

This period was around October to November. I thought I had life down pat by then, but come December, a couple of my personal relationships broke down. I had to end relations with certain friends and deal with it on my own in a city whose weather was sometimes as cold as its people.

When people talk of December, they often bring up the concept of the plot twist (i.e., sana magka-plot twist ako this December). I got two, but they were neither the kind I asked for or wanted. It took me a while to get out of bed after a few days. I can’t say I didn’t down a beer or two if only to cope. But the fact that I’m alive and (kind of) kicking tells me I’ll be fine. And even if I won’t, I’ll find a way to be okay with it.

This, I guess, is the third and most painful thing I learned this year: that constants are made up and that life can pull the rug out from under you anytime it wants to—and whether that’s in the form of an identity crisis, a financial problem, a breakup, what have you—all we can really do is try and wake up the next day and deal with it without letting it consume us.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day saying no one was posting that 2024 was going to be their year because we’d all learned our lessons from previous years. I couldn’t help but chuckle before hitting the share button. On some level, though, I feel like the post had a ring of truth to it.


Resolutions are overrated anyway. Even the concept of growing up, I’m starting to realize, is just something we invented to convey taking on additional responsibilities. But we never really grow up in a linear fashion. We do not increase in maturity as if leveling up in a video game every time a year passes.

Yes, some of us are more adept at being adults, but one way or another, I fully believe we’re all just faking it. We go to work, pay our bills, give to our families, but most of it is really just us miring our way through the quagmire that is living. The past year felt like a decade to me. A trial by fire, a period of limbo, a phase of continuous transition. I can try to say I’ll be different this 2024, but whatever I try to do, life will happen anyway, and much like any of us, I’ll just have to roll with the punches.

And maybe that’s what growing up is about.

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Jethro Bryan Andrada, 23, graduated magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines Baguio where he currently teaches as an instructor in communications. Pretentious as it may sound, he feels like he is close to a quarter-life crisis.

TAGS: growing up, personal essay, Young Blood

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