Words by Gayle Dy
As an almost retired teenager, I can say with the utmost confidence that it’s inevitable for every teenager to commit some form of rebellion in their days. The most common forms of rebellion are ones we know all too well such as cutting classes or sneaking out, defying our parents or other forms of authority, and even pushing them away. Of course, this is to be expected, as growing up entails the never-ending quest for independence. It’s that time wherein freedom turns into a drug that you can’t get enough of and has you begging for more once your supply runs out. When it’s not handed to you, you cry out WWIII. Such was the case for me in my days.
Raised in a typical, strict Chinese family, I was commanded to sleep every night at 9 PM, regardless of how restless or hyper I felt. This eventually led me to my now blurry eyesight—with a grade of over 600, as a result of years of secretly using my phone in the dark after bedtime. In 8th grade, I also recall how I was not allowed to go to the mall with my friends because my parents always thought that something bad would happen to us if we did. As a result, the first time I went to the mall with my friends was during the summer before 10th grade. Every time I sleepover at my best friend’s house, I’d always be awoken by a call the next morning at 8 AM from my parents, telling me that it’s time to go home. And the list goes on and on.
A lot of the time, their overprotection got exasperating and usually ended with loads of bickering and screaming from both ends. There were even times wherein it got pretty ugly and I even wished that I could be an adult already so that I could move out and live on my own. Kinda similar to 13 Going On 30, right? If you haven’t seen the movie yet, 13 Going On 30 is about a 13-year-old girl named Jenna Rink, who dreams of being an adult, as her current young life is beset with all the common teenage problems like trying to fill in her premature breasts and striving in vain to fit in with the popular crowd. But to her delight/horror, she gets exactly what she wishes for, as she soon finds herself transformed into a 30-year-old.
But while I didn’t age by 13 more years, much like Jenna Rink, I did want to be 30, flirty, and thriving. I wanted to be old and independent, living it up in a beautiful apartment (complete with a walk-in closet) and rocking a successful career.
I was tired of all the strict rules my parents made me live by, even at my age of 17–a time wherein all my batch mates are off drinking and exploring, whereas I, also on the cusp of adulthood, am still being treated like a baby. And every time I try to talk to them about it, they would always say the same thing, “Syempre, ikaw bunso eh.” (Of course, you’re the youngest).
But being the youngest doesn’t mean that I should be babied forever. For my parents, it was difficult to accept that. And because of that, I was constantly bitter, indignant, and jealous—of all my friends who lived in condos alone and away from their parents on weekdays. To me, it always seemed so ideal every time they’d talk about sleeping way past midnight, or simply just eating junk food for dinner. Not to mention the fact that they don’t have anyone to nag at them constantly.
I love my parents and everything, but at the same time, I just felt so ready to take over my own life. Or at least that’s what I thought before I underwent a life-changing experience. You see, one of the course requirements for graduating SHS students is the work immersion program, a period of deployment wherein students actually get to work for a company related to their designated fields of specialization. In my school, we were given the choice of either working here in Manila or in Taiwan. And seeing as both my friends and I have never been to Taiwan before, we immediately seized the opportunity to go.
Weeks before the trip, I was already beyond excited, as this would be the first time I’ve ever traveled abroad with my friends. Not only that but going on this trip also meant 10 days of freedom and independence—the longest I’ve ever gone without my parents.
By allowing me to go on this trip, it was implicit that my parents were finally giving me a chance to prove to them that I can be independent and survive on my own for a week and a half. At first, they were pretty hesitant, which I understood, as I have a notorious record for being clumsy and unmindful of my surroundings. I’m the type of person who loses everything without fail and is sabog 24/7. Nevertheless, I was determined to prove that I could change.
And so, there I was, finally, on May 3rd, the day we were to leave for Taiwan. Before leaving the house, I made sure to triple-check first that I had my passport and DSWD travel clearance in my backpack. With that, everything was running smoothly until we’d reached the airport. Having just finished our luggage examination; we hadn’t so much as checked in our baggage yet but already I’d almost lost hold of my passport in the stress of carrying so much stuff. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then little slips like this continued to plague me throughout the entire trip—from losing my room key (on just the 2nd day) to using the wrong bathroom (as they were outside the dorm room) for five whole days before I finally realized my mistake to even forgetting to ask/wait for my change and so much more. In the midst of it all, I felt so overwhelmed by how unprepared I still was, even at my age, that I couldn’t help but break down a few times during the trip. I felt like a lost and helpless kitten in front of everyone, but I didn’t dare say anything; I thought that by pretending to be strong, it would eventually make me strong.
But it was harder than I thought. Going to Taiwan, I didn’t think much of the distance between me and home. In fact, I didn’t think I’d miss my parents that much at all; my mind was so preoccupied from all the fun I imagined my friends and I would have that I didn’t even bother to spare a second thought for the people I’d be leaving behind. It only dawned on me when my parents texted me on the second night, asking me how was my day and that they missed me already. By then, I was already crying, thinking to myself how silly I was—how all this time I wanted to be alone and independent, and yet, here I was now, eating my words and missing home on just the second day.
While being in the company of my friends no doubt comforted me, the emptiness I felt in my chest was still there. Out of nowhere, I would miss my dad’s corny jokes, my mom’s random off-key singing, as well as my parents’ childishly teasing one another. It was then and there that I realized how different things were without them—almost like I was incomplete.
In the movie, 30-year-old Jenna is now a successful editor of her favorite magazine, Poise. Now living the life of her dreams, Jenna seems to have it all. But as the movie progresses, we learn otherwise. It turns out that Jenna has evolved into an entirely different person—one who sabotages her company for her own gain, is involved in an affair with her co-worker’s husband, and even refuses to speak with her parents. Before long, however, she comes to her senses and realizes that she doesn’t like the person that she has become and pays a visit to the only ones whom she knew would understand: her parents.
Indeed, it’s true what they say, that you never know the true value of something until you’ve lost it.
Looking back on it now, I didn’t even kiss my father on the cheek goodbye, as he had asked me to while he walked me to school the day I left for Taiwan. As young people whose worlds are being broadened for the first time, it’s perfectly normal to find ourselves gravitating more towards our friends rather than our family. We find that it’s easier to connect to people of our age rather than the latter, believing that they just “wouldn’t get it,” as much, compared to our friends.
At times, that is the truth. Trying to find our place in this world is not easy; we don’t always make good choices or do the right thing. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way that deviance and self-isolation are really part of growing up, and while our parents may not always get us, we must remember that they still love us, but in their own unique ways. I know there are kids out there reading this right now who are abused, neglected, unaccepted for who they really are, and are treated too strictly. Our parents are not perfect, and just like us, they make mistakes, too. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t love nor care about us—it’s just that different people have different ways of showing their love to others, and we have to respect that.
Although my parents can be extremely overbearing, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Sure, independence is pretty great, but you know what else is great? Home-cooked meals at the dinner table with your family. Your mother’s arms, which are always ready to receive you after every heartache. Sneaking into your parents’ bed on nights when you’re scared after watching a horror movie, or simply just don’t want to be alone. Cuddling with your mother in front of the TV, watching Say Yes To The Dress. Going on daddy-daughter-dates with your old man, who taught you that you should always be treated like a queen.
Maybe right now, you are Jenna Rink, dreaming of being all grown-up, but the truth is that time will catch up with you sooner than you think. And before you know it, you’ll be 30, flirty, and thriving. You’ll be out of your parents’ house and you’ll be on your own. Just like you wished. But the question remains: When that happens, will you truly be happy then? Or will you regret not treasuring the things you had when you were young?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a teenager, it’s that it’s so easy to lose sight of the important things in life and trade them for transient pleasures, which is why we must discern which is which as early as we can.
To the youth, we have the rest of our lives to grow old, but we only have one shot at being young. Don’t wait until you’re old before you realize that you need your family. Prioritize them while you can because they won’t be here forever.