Theory of relevance
It is 1 a.m. Everyone I know is sleeping, and here I am, fresh from what I had planned as a nap that turned into full sleep, and just about to start with my schoolwork. This is normal for me. Being nocturnal, I find peace in the darkness and enjoy the temporary isolation that keeps me from being distracted.
But this morning, everything was just perfect until it wasn’t. Amid the silence of my surroundings, except for the snoring of my cat, something hits me. I am going through a quarter-life crisis and I am not even 25.
Much has been going on these past few days—the united joy over Mary Jane Veloso’s stayed execution, the grief over Pacquiao’s loss to Mayweather, the online debates on the Thai national who made racist comments, and occasional Dubsmash videos. In the context of having zero personal life, I simply couldn’t find my place anymore.
Lately, I have been getting too emotional even with things I never really care about, such as the number of calories in one liter of iced tea (which I dearly love). I have never talked so much about my awkward feelings to people before. Suddenly (and annoyingly), one tweet is no longer enough for my precious insights (i.e., rants). This prolonged “man-struation” makes me want to stress-eat right now, but then again I’m too worried about the calories. Nevertheless, I have to face this because it is not like life is giving me any other choice. Allow me to fake it till I make it. Step one is writing down my unorganized thoughts starting with this: I will remain a nobody.
I have always had this nagging wish to be relevant, and daydreaming has always been my way out of it. I often find myself deeply engaged in scenarios that I have constructed inside my head. Ever since I was a child, I have been reenacting interviews that I see on TV and creating a scene where I say a bunch of words that would touch the hearts of millions of viewers. I believe that I am great at it, and my imaginary audience always loves me. Moreover, it is cheap and entertaining.
Most scenarios involve petty questions similar to those answered by most celebrities these days. However, one question struck me the most: “If you would be reborn and are given the chance to choose which country you would be born into, would you still choose the Philippines?” And with all my heart I answered: “America, because of the snow!” I was so stupid back then; I should have known it is not only in America where it snows. But seriously, I have always thought that I was destined for somewhere else. Finding my place has been a chronic issue. Yes, I believe that everyone has been blessed by God with something unique, and that we all have our own purposes in life. The problem is I haven’t discovered what mine is. Simply put, I just didn’t think I could be extraordinary in this country.
During those foolish times, I equated relevance with being on television. My mom once attempted to have me and my brother become part of a children’s show, but sadly nothing came out of it. Anyway, I still managed to be on TV twice after that. Once, I was walking on campus during the UP Lantern Parade and the camera caught me. I saved a screen shot because I still made it on TV, and that doesn’t happen every day. The second time was when I, along with some friends, was tricked into welcoming the arrival of a beauty queen from her contest abroad. It was so embarrassing. I also saved a screen shot because it was my longest TV exposure yet. Obviously, both were uneventful and led to zero TV careers. Maybe that dream is not for me. For the meantime, I am living my other dream of studying medicine and I am perfectly happy and satisfied with that. Yet, I’m still struggling with making my medical path relevant.
I want to be relevant because I fear leaving this world without a legacy. I would like to believe that I can do something worthwhile with my life and that it won’t necessarily have to end with my last breath. Is it human nature to think that I can change this world, or am I simply being idealistic, immature and superficial? Knowing what your purpose in life is one thing but waiting to know what it is is a completely different story. I guess it will take time for me to know. Right now, I am only left to hope that maybe the journey toward knowing my purpose will be as great as fulfilling it.
What’s interesting is that relevance—or irrelevance—is not an issue that I face alone. In these times when every day is literally an opportunity to go viral and either inspire or annoy people, it becomes very tempting to ask oneself when one’s 15 minutes of fame will come. However, one problem associated with finding one’s relevance is being too obsessed with it and not having the patience to tolerate others for wanting it, too. To a lot of people, doing something novel is so hard that being a hater is so much more convenient. We make fun of people who try because it is so much easier.
The thing with going through a quarter-life crisis is that you tend to blow up your problems. Or at least you realize how really big a problem is, because if you think about it, it has always been there waiting for you to unearth its depths. Differences in beliefs and principles, which are most probably arbitrary in origin, have caused the greatest conflicts in the history of humankind. So much division has occurred because we think we are better than others. We hurt because we don’t want to get hurt first. How many are battling depression because of the kind of oppression that they have to deal with day in and day out? How many have died in vain just because they choose to live differently? How many more will suffer because their lives are not that relevant? And worse, since when has apathy toward these issues been the status quo? A sad reality is that with the way things are going, we are on our way to a future that is full of self-righteousness and hate toward one another.
Having said all of this, do I still want to be relevant? Yes, but not in the way I expected. I am completely aware of the fact that although every one of us thinks that we can all change the world more than others, a great majority of us will remain ordinary. We can’t all be relevant individually, and this is just one of the many sad truths of life. But whoever said only one person has the license to make a difference?
Going back to the question of wanting to stay in the Philippines and having gone through the emotional roller-coaster care of my quarter-life crisis, I would answer that by all means, I would choose to be in the Philippines again and again as long as I am not alone, because this is where I have found my relevance. I believe that we are here for a reason, so let us make the most of it. Collective action is what this country needs right now, and it requires all the help from every Filipino. This has never just been about one person. Let us challenge the way we see ourselves and change our perspective on how we want to live our lives. Let us face this country’s problems head-on. Together, we can change this country for the better. Together, we can be relevant. Above all, let us leave a legacy of love not only for oneself but also for others and for this country.
It is now 6 a.m. and it is time for me to sleep. But first, let me have a glass of iced tea.
Jairus Cabajar, 23, a third year student at the UP College of Medicine, likes to tweet and take pictures of cats.
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