When I was five, I was sure I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. I concocted special potions made of gumamela flowers, duranta leaves, mud, and pebbles. I would offer these to our dogs, but they would just sniff the stuff and walk away, or to my playmates, but they would accuse me of wanting to poison them. So by default, my yaya became my loyal patient. She’d pretend to drink the “medicine” I made to cure fever, boils, flu, and kulam (hexing).
Weeks later when there were no more flowers to pick, I decided to be an archeologist. So I dug up our backyard and came up with chicken bones, shards of glass, and bottle caps. And like what I saw in my encyclopedia, I used an old toothbrush to clean my “artifacts.”
Then, for reasons I can no longer recall, I decided to be an artist. My first and last mural is on my parents’ bedroom wall. Then I became a vet, listening to our dogs’ heartbeat through a tin contraption.
It was fun like that; week after week I changed professions.
Fast forward to 19 years later: I am not sure of anything about my life’s direction at all. I wish I can say I’m just a bit lost. If it’s any consolation, at least that would mean I have a destination in mind. But now I don’t know where I want to go or what I really want to do. I’ve become a 24-year-old free-floating dust mote.
While others are chasing after their dreams and passions in life, here I am still figuring out what my passion is, or what is the great dream I’d like to tirelessly chase after. Unfortunately, the only passion I have now is the fabric softener that’s supposed to save me money from buying expensive perfumes, and I only tirelessly chase after Cheese, my kitten.
Unlike some of my wealthy friends who travel around Europe while trying to figure out what they want to do in life, I have to immediately find work that would pay for my board and lodging, daily fare to work, and the occasional night out. I wish I had more reason to go to work other than the pay slip. Whenever I read about people living, or sometimes dying, for a cause, I feel inspired—but only for a moment because as I think about my life, a cumulonimbus cloud of self-doubt hovers menacingly over my head.
I ask myself, “What do you really want to do with your life?” Sometimes I answer that I really want to become a volunteer in Africa, teach children in the slums how to read, or anything on that heroic level. But then I realize that those tasks entail a lot of stress, so instead I fantasize on a job that’s less toxic.
That’s why I secretly wish I were a laminating machine operator. That way, my goal would be very simple, and the gratification instant. Just carefully feed the plastic sheets into the machine, blink for a few seconds, and voila! I’m rewarded with a warm, neat, hardened sheet. I’m okay with photocopying, too. Students with various notes and thick books would eagerly line up for my attention. For a moment I’d feel like I’m a rock star in a trance, hypnotized by the smell of ink and the laser-like light that flashes back and forth through the clear glass. By the end of my shift, I’d just turn off the machine and go home. No reports, no sales quota whatsoever, to deprive me of my sanity and precious nine hours of sleep.
Lately, my thoughts have been swirling along this line more frequently. Some may say I’m regressing because of stress at work. But in my heart I know it’s because I’m just scared—scared that in just a few weeks I’ll be 25 in a world full of harsh realities and responsibilities, a world that doesn’t care to stop for someone who hasn’t figured out life yet.
It may take time before I realize what I really want to do, so for now my birthday wish is to simply regain the confidence and courage of my five-year-old self, who believed I could be anything I wanted to be.
June Rivera, 24, is a sales and marketing manager for a brand of flip-flops in Davao City.
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