Dear younger self
Manila— I spent my birthday with a trip to one of my favorite places in the world. I was not celebrating a milestone birthday. I was just on a breather, a respite from stress – that ever-present strain of day-to-day life.
I realized during that trip that years have rushed by. I'm in my 50s already. I'm in this place where I constantly need to take a break, because work-wise, I have to go back to where I was a week ago. As an independent journalist, I get to have some time to work on a mix of jobs.
At the moment, I have more than two work engagements: I juggle writing and producing for a TV talk show, writing and editing for an all-women writers' news website, and working as media consultant to an advocacy group. I am looking at doing technical writing and media training and coordination for two more development organizations.
These activities don't always mean big bucks, but they help me have fun in travelling, in having no boss in a confining work place, and in being the master of my universe. I believe in savoring the fun while it lasts because there is no limit to it. But when you have lived for five decades, there is this special need to take timeouts because things are beginning to fall apart – physically and all – even with closer attention now to better diet, more exercise and a better disposition in life.
And to you, oh my dear, dear 18-year-old self, what the heck! Don’t rush planning around what you will be in 10 years.
Most of the time, I keep convincing myself that I'm no longer 25, but the funny thing is, I still feel like one. I'm still the girl in shirt and jeans and her comfy walking shoes. I'm also the girl who, when she looks back, thinks that life is still good despite the wrong decisions, the mistakes, and the pitfalls.
So to you, dear 44-year-old self, those first signs of depression as you sink into your rock bottom were the worst, I know, and I am always here to cry with you every time the black dog attacks, or every time you face another rejection or failure. It is too much to bear but I admire your mental strength. That is your superpower. But just remember, you have loved ones and friends who listen and help.
To my 33-year-old self, forget conventions. Don’t waste time thinking you have to search for that one person to settle with if you don’t even feel like you're ready for anything like that, even at that age. There is no deadline for these life events. Just go on living. Just enjoy your relationships that enrich you. If something forms up and you like it, go with it. And by the way, love, sex and all those intricate human connections you have, are wonderful elements to a balanced, healthy life. Just don’t let your world revolve around them.
And dear 26-year-old self, some decisions become mistakes. But don’t let these decisions define the rest of your life. You can always redirect, switch, reroute. Don’t think too much. And because you're young and navigating the world of work and learning, it may not be easy to speak out for what’s important and what you think is right, but you will appreciate how energizing and empowering it can be. And you are wonderful just as you are.
And to you, oh my dear, dear 18-year-old self, what the heck! Don’t rush planning around what you will be in 10 years. Be diligent on your school work because it will be worth it, but take care of yourself. By the time you're out of the university to face the real world, that's the time to breathe in and start adult life with your head up. In the meantime, take a look around, see what you like, and chill.
Diana Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.