My Tune: The Bitch of Living (from the musical Spring Awakening)
audio link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=reqSQy_69m0
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that I’m drastically becoming one of those people who are desperately holding on to their youth. I know that the flower-crowned optimists of this world say that age is just a number and that one can stay forever young if he pleases to, and all those other metaphors and euphemisms they use these days to cover up ugly truths, but I feel like a realist today. And today, what’s real tells me that I am an unemployed twenty-year old artist with a lackluster social life somewhere in the jungle-like Western civilization. And I just can’t help but think to myself, “Dang, boi! Where did all the years go?”
Here’s the thing about me: I am lethargic. I am lazy. Bed-ridden. I mean generally speaking, I barely even walk for more than a total of 90 seconds per day, and I don’t really consider sweating a prerequisite to my well-being. The most active thing I do is take a shower twice a day, but that’s about it. I might as well dub myself “The World’s Youngest Retiree Ever”. But here’s the catch: I wasn’t like this before. Not at all. I was one of the most energetic, most party-fueled, adventure-filled, life-loving people I know. Now I’m sitting here just wondering what happened to the livelier version of myself; the one who always found excitement in the littlest things, the one who would not allow a day to pass without trying something new. You know, the one back in high school.
High school. Here we go again. I’ve written several things about this already, but if I actually wrote each time I start to miss high school, even if it’s just always momentary, then at least half of this blogsite would be about nothing else other than high school. But here I am right now. And besides the fact that I haven’t set foot on the grounds of my high school for three years now, what brought me here?
An hour ago, I was re-watching an episode of 90210, and it’s the one where the West Beverly Hills High produces a performance of one of the most notable plays in history, “Spring Awakening”. It is the work of German dramatist Frank Wedekind written sometime between autumn 1890 and spring 1891. And it is one of my favorite plays of all time. It definitely is the real High School Musical.
One of the songs in Spring Awakening has always stood out to me, and that is the song “The Bitch of Living”. If you also love this song, or if you are not familiar with the play and are curious, then go click the audio link I so kindly provided for you at the very top of this write-up. There’s just something about this song that makes me vividly remember how it felt like to be in high school. All of those events and stage plays held in our university gymnasium, amphitheater and football field always top my memory list. I mean, jesus, I’m having goosebumps just thinking about the moments I had there, with my friends, with their hearts, and with all our innocence.
When I think of the past, I think of high school. This is a choice I make because high school, despite the bumps and grinds, was the best time of my life so far. Hold on, I know what you could be thinking right now. “My gosh, what a shallow little stuck-up human being you are, Kenn! High school was the best time of your life? Ugh, that’s just sad and pathetic. You were probably popular, had lots of friends, had a cinematic lovelife and didn’t have social anxiety that’s why you love high school! Fuck y–” But I’m stopping you right there. “The best” is something relative. And right now, I am at that point in my life where I appreciate the past because it’s the only thing I am sure about. And I am so sure about high school…
I am sure that none of those sleepless nights trying to figure out Algebra was a waste, because we weren’t really dealing with those x’s and y’s and binomials anyway. We were up, yes, but we were dreaming. I’m sure we were. We were dreaming of ways to eat our lunch the next day and the ways to get our crush’s number without looking like a retard. And I’m sure that sometimes we all did look like retards, but none of that entirely mattered. Because we had so much energy in us that humiliation and consequences were but fractions of motivation that only kept us going.
I am sure that those hallways weren’t just hallways; they were our very own world stage. Those hallways had seen so much of us – from the casual chit chats and last-minute note-scanning to the cutest holding-hands sessions and the overwhelming battles of forbidden love. Secrets were blurted out, love was confessed, friendship was made, friendship was broken, all in those hallways.
I am sure our dusty classrooms during our last year in high school weren’t just classrooms, either. Underneath the drama and some inevitable social discord, those rooms had been an echo chamber of a complex yet blissful familial dysfunction. Those rooms were our homes away from home. And I’m sure we all learned at least a thing or two about teenage hormones in there.
I am sure that those first times were going to be worthwhile. That first drop of beer and vodka was merely the beginning of a journey. That night we decided we wanted to try smoking, that night we got drunk for the first time, that same night we saw ourselves not just as students but as people. All those mini fights, mini flirting, mini kisses, mini heartbreaks and mini nights-out made room for memories that were gonna be larger than life.
I am sure that puberty, sexuality, poverty, love, rape, abortion, religion, gender, suicide and child abuse were all subjects very fresh to us. Most of us were just getting to know life through a peephole, and we were stoked! We were nervous, yes, but we were ready for anything life was gonna throw at us. We knew at the back of our minds that that was the time to learn, bit by bit, and then all at once.
I am sure that everybody had a blast during that on-campus camping when we were in junior year. I’m sure that the air that night was rather intimate, but not necessarily in a sexual way. It was intimate in that it brought people who were already close even closer, and that it smelled something like a quarterback’s sweaty bedroom. I’m sure that that bonfire lit up something inside each of us, even though we weren’t conscious of it right when it happened. But it was there, happening. I’m sure that every single one of us who looked straight into that tall fleeting fire felt this underlying gratitude for being alive. We were just so full of life and hope. I’m sure that the tents we slept in, the grass we walked on and the friends we laughed with were gonna be there for the long run. We knew nothing was permanent, but we also knew that that night was gonna last for a long time. In fact, so long of a time it still lives in us today.
I am sure that one afternoon in the gymnasium was a fateful one. I was rehearsing with my co-emcee for the Sportsfest Opening, and you were standing by the gate carrying your sports gear. And you weren’t exactly looking at me the whole time, but I would stare at you every chance I got, and I saw the 4-PM sun light the left part of your body and the wind blow your perfectly straight hair just enough so that a small portion of your right eye was covered, and then revealed, and then covered again, and then revealed again, and I thought you were just beautiful – just you standing there from a close distance, looking like someone I was going to spend the rest of my life with. And of course, neither of us intensely believed that. We both knew it was all on the surface, but we didn’t care. It just felt nice. And that’s all that we could hope for that day; to feel something nice.
In a world where everything seems so ephemeral, it is a gift to be able to keep great memories close to your heart. We are almost at that point already, my dear high school batchmates. We’re in this for the long haul. We were gossiping about crushes back then, but soon enough life slaps us in the face with jobs we don’t enjoy, bosses we hate, financial crisis we can’t escape, menacing strangers and some pretty devastating bad hair days. I mean, it is the bitch of living. We will eventually lose that youthful energy we always used to own, and we will someday feel like sleeping for a decade. But I think that if we just hold on to those moments from yesterday – those minutes and hours when all we cared about was feeling something simple and nice, those nights when we were living just for the hell of it, times when we were counting clouds and not assets, months when we didn’t have to worry about rent, or how much we had in our bank, days when it didn’t matter how badly we sucked at something because we would always just laugh at it – then we can absolutely feel nice forever.
I was losing all of my energy. But I just suddenly remembered, “I was a fucking teenager with all those fucking bad-ass moves and trips”. And I still am. I will forever be.