07/17/2015

What it means to be 19 again

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At 19, you don’t think about a career, you think about a life you want to live. You don’t yet see through the part where you go off on your own to prove to the world that you want to do something as possibly risky with, shall we say, a potentially disastrous outcome. What I am right now is basically a byproduct of years and years worth of stubbornness (great if you know what you want), and self-doubt (good for your humility and ability to fact-check from true-to-life experiences of others), tears (sometimes crying is literally all you can do) and even more questions (because they lead to answers). Yes, my life was a bit of a disaster and it only started to feel good and right 12 years later. By the time I was 24, I regretted most of what I had done, but it was a little too late — I had no choice but to stick by the decision I made at 19.

In this day and age, you can most certainly follow your dreams, but there are rules — unwritten rules — made by real people, faceless and anonymous people and not just the people you follow on Twitter. My father always told me “Freedom is found within the rules” — which I never quite understood but kept returning to, every so often, before growing up into the wall of fat I am today. Now I realize that what he meant by that is that you can only live freely in the truest sense when you consider yourself responsible for the moral implications of your actions. Our life, our choice to live it, yes — but I knew I’d never sleep well until I had made amends with my family, apologized for the pseudo-fatal detour I took by wasting my entire college plan, leaving home — in a nutshell, that plan was me, basically going for broke to follow my dreams, when I could’ve totally averted that disaster by trying to balance things out.

You can make all the mistakes you want because you’ll learn best from them, but don’t be blinded by your goals. Respect people: they’re all doing what they think is right. Just know that all your parents want for you is nothing else but a good life. Now your real job is to prove to them you love what you do enough that 12 years later when they come visit you, you’ll still be doing the same thing. If not, you’re grown up enough to make a bit of a living and manage a life of your own. To learn about commitment is important. You will learn how to commit along the way, and that said, you’ll have a lot of failures between stops, so don’t be startled. But when you finally do, everything else becomes secondary, because your commitment is your priority, and if you commit to something and prioritize it, it won’t matter how long it takes, you’ll see no reason to back down — whereas to fail is to just stop.

I was a complete wreck. I did my math in what age it was I had to be until I could truly decide for myself, because there was endless bickering about what my future would be according to the elders of my close circle of family and family friends; at the time I did not have friends who could’ve told me anything about what it does to you to follow your dreams, at a time like this. There are considerations to be made. Big ones.

I’m saying this because you’ve got one life to live. Before you know it, your teen years are over and you’ll have a muffin top just like mine, with a head that’s half gray and apparently in fashion. Be brave enough to try more things, because all of this is a game of stamina. Don’t be fooled into thinking that being an artist is a free pass to transcend moral standards and bend rules that shouldn’t be bent, if that’s what attracts you to it. Do it because you know you’d feel stupid doing anything else, but also: do it with caution. Don’t make it an excuse as though it’s a personality type and it’s never going to go away because it is not a congenital disorder, you still do not have an excuse to act like a complete parody of yourself. Or you could — just be ready for the consequences. There are always consequences.

Enter 2015: still no flying cars, not enough vending machines around, I’m suddenly 31 with a calcified muffin top. I can only tell myself where I went wrong: goal-wise, I think I did okay but with a lot of effort applied or maybe too much of it. I was correct in my decisions, about which path to choose, except I left out one tiny thing that defined my character: I was reckless. I knew what I wanted — and that’s great at 19, but I did not know the consequences to my actions — I mean, nobody really truly does until they do the unthinkable. I was so focused on my trail that I didn’t really see there would be people involved in my decisions (we call them family and a few good friends). I didn’t take into account the economics of it all — the quality of life and the standards I’d grown up with.

Follow your dreams, but keep your eyes open to the realities of life, living in a country like ours — we’re dying to see a lot of changes and we all know it. Start keeping a journal at 19, keep writing, because you’ll get old and forget the little things that made your life unique, short anecdotes and funny episodes. Maybe then you’ll know and be able to keep track and define the value of your previous failed attempts and convert them to a successful entry into another set of challenges in the unknown.

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