LAST MARCH 9, I turned 20 and I’m intimidated by the change of syllable at the end of my age, which discards the one to which I have become accustomed in the past seven years. To lose “teen” (which is both an adjective and a noun), to finally graduate from teenage life, or to bid a final goodbye to it is something I have yet to come to terms with.
To be able to act my craziest and to try out the weirdest of things were things I was able to get away with because I was a teenager, and because—to everyone else—I was still “trying to find out who I am.” But now that I have lost the “teen” from my age, which for a long time I considered my safety net and passport to discover and explore different aspects of my identity, I cannot help but feel a sense of defeat.
Defeat because at 20, I don’t see myself any closer to figuring out who I am than when I was 10 years ago.
Defeat because, as I start a new chapter in my life, where I’m supposed to embark on the pursuit or path of whatever I have decided to be, I feel I’m still a confused and uncertain individual, so lacking of firmness when it comes to making decisions.
High school and teenage life were supposed to be a time when young people try out different sorts of crazy things, and navigate through all that insanity to find what it is they want to be. Thus the end of teenage life and therefore the start of the twenty-something years necessarily mean the start of one’s pursuit of whatever it is one has decided to be, whether it’s to become the drummer of Linkin Park (my back up plan) or a prima ballerina (something I could never ever dream of).
Having gone through the roller-coaster ride that was high school and teenage life, and now faced with a variety of paths to choose from, I can’t help but feel like I’m suspended in mid-air, devoid of all motion, unable to make any progress, all because I don’t yet have an answer as to who really I am—an answer so incredibly needed to point me to wherever I’m supposed to go.
In the most stereotypical frame of mind, to define myself as business-minded would mean taking a path obviously related to business, which, I suppose, would provide me opportunities to work for or even alongside business tycoons. To define myself as an art-lover would mean that the path to take should be one where I could learn all about beauty or even the lack of it. However, to define myself as I have, as “currently undefined,” will not really do much for me—whether lifting my self-confidence, or making me feel good.
So what do I do? Where do I go from here? I don’t know. But what I am immensely thankful for is, I still have enough sense and decision-making skills in me to figure out exactly what it is I don’t like or where I don’t want to go.
Perhaps the beauty with the whole concept of identity, as well as the search for it, is that one’s identity isn’t necessarily limited to figuring out who one is; it includes who one is not. And I guess that’s really all I can do for now, if learning exactly who I am is so hard, then discovering who I am not could bring me that much closer to the “who I am” that I’m struggling to define.
It is not easy to choose which paths and definitions of myself to strike off my list of choices; but I imagine it would be much easier to define myself when I have already crossed out many of those options.
As for my turning 20, well, at least I now know that the one thing I am no longer is—a teenager. And perhaps with that, instead of lamenting over the end of my teenage life and my lack of answers, and fussing over who I am and where I’m supposed to go, I can embrace life and go back down to the ground. Just because I still haven’t figured out who I am, or what I want to become, doesn’t mean I have to put my whole life on a pause, it only means that I still have the freedom to take any path I fancy. And if I find certain paths not to my liking, I can turn and step into another and see where that takes me.
Perhaps, it will take me several more years to know fully who I am, and that past stage of my life, the teenage life during which I expected to find out who really I am, has ended without giving me concrete answers. But that shouldn’t really stop me now, should it? Life continues to unfold, and I seriously doubt if it would be polite to wait for a 20-year-old like me to make a decision. So until then, as Dory in “Finding Nemo” puts it, I shall just “keep swimming.”
P.S. Chester Bennington or Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, if you’re reading this, please do reply to my mail regarding a possible band opening!
Meg Manzano, 20, is studying Interdisciplinary Studies (Political Science & Communication) at Ateneo de Manila University.
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