High School High

My Tune: The Bitch of Living (from the musical Spring Awakening)
audio link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=reqSQy_69m0

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Questions of a Vigilant Soul

My Symphony: Fix You by Coldplay

Apparently, my promised week-long leave is now officially over. I believe I have finally put all my brain cells back together once again to be able to do what I do—blog. Yes, everyone. I am back in online writing. And as promised, I’m working my ass off now in telling you the overall spill of my very own version of Halloween (Pardon the A word, people. It’s an idiom. Who cares? Haha).

So you see, before, when I’m still stuck as the same old boy who contents himself in simply being with family and relatives in the memorial park as we commemorate our deceased loved ones while eating a bunch of good stuff, I was actually the type who simply sits down and watch all the other teenagers make All Soul’s Day a little bit similar to the casual let-us-go-watch-movie kind of fad. I could clearly see that they tend to forget and defeat the true sense and purpose of celebrating the All Soul’s Day on the first place. In fact, there were even times when I was really irritated. I never seemed to be minding my own business in the cemetery years ago. I gaze at people, observe what they do, criticize the way they behave and piss myself off with all their good-for-nothing superficiality. But since at one point of our lives, we are blessed to change so unpredictably, I was able to get over my self-destructively odd vigilance and just concentrate on finding ways on how I could make my Halloween a little more unique.

So I asked myself. How could I make my Halloween one of a kind? I stopped thinking. I grabbed a glass of ice-cold water from my uncle’s cooler, reached for a couple of Napoleones and sat down on a wide blue carpet which I myself had spread the very minute we arrived at The Bacolod Memorial. In a span of seconds, I noticed that the sky grew darker. I could no longer see the clear clouds and the colorful birds that had flown in freedom. I was able to feel the wind starting to grow even chillier and creepier enough that it made me pull the little blanket from across the bed sheet. Some more time passed and I found that I was no longer sitting—I was lying down with my eyes fixated to the starry evening sky. What’s hilariously peculiar was that if it happened that you were right in front of me at that strange moment, you’d be able to see how I looked just the way I did everytime I go to bed when I was just four years old. I am pretty sure that that time, I was able to yield the face of an innocent little kid, wondering of so many things and very eager to discover what’s behind the inanimate objects he sees. And everything was just sane and timid. Even though it was undeniably dark, the image I saw in the skies was a vivid photograph of both life and death. Oh yeah! Life and death—the things I really wanted to talk to you about.

I mentioned a while ago that I was like a child beneath the covers of his soft bed, looking at the ceiling as he tries to understand things he never really could. Only that, in my case, I was staring at the heavens that had given me the impression of something weird and striking. The first question that popped in my head was this: Why do people celebrate All Soul’s Day? I took a sip from my glass and then suddenly I had an answer: People celebrate All Soul’s Day because they are amazed by the fact that they get to reunite with their friends and family at the cemetery, eat snacks and spend the night in the place. Wait, no! That’s shallow. People don’t really celebrate All Soul’s Day. I think All Soul’s Day is not celebrated on the first place. It is more like venerated and memorialized; thus, those people who give November 1 a room for sanctity and tranquility are those who venerate and memorialize All Soul’s Day. On the other hand, those who fancy the mere snacks and chats are those who celebrate All Soul’s Day. Therefore, I think I had with me a wrong question to the right answer.

“What happens if people stop ‘celebrating’ All Soul’s Day?” was the next question that had entered my asking brain. My answer was this: If people stop “celebrating” this day, it only means that they are not really hungry for snacks and chit-chats. I admit I was a little harsh on this one.

After the second question bugged my mind, I remember that I sighed for several times, quit thinking for a while and listened to a couple of songs in Therese’s mp3. Afterwhich, I went back to the whole thinking craze.

Naturally, I expected that the third question would simply come my way in short notice since I had with me two questions in a matter of minutes without even looking for them. But after waiting a little more, I grew tired. I grew tired of waiting for the third question that’d help me kill time. I turned to my right and I saw an R.I.P. sign. I turned to my left and I was able to spot a bouquet of funeral flowers. I looked straight ahead and I observed that just in that cemetery, there were already countless of corpse lying six feet under the ground. Right then and there, it submerged to me that the third question didn’t really exist.

But the third answer sure does exist…

I realized that one of these days, I will become one of those people who are buried under the green grass I walk on. I realized that though humanity is divided into two very different faces, the richness and fame of Beverly Hills and the slums of Tajikistan, one day will come when everyone will be equal without any partiality  Look at the trisikad driver and the president of the United States. The first thing that will enter your mind is how opposite their lives are from each other’s. The president of the US having only the finest beverages ever manufactured, being able to dine in only the best 5-star restaurants from all over the world and getting a salary which is more than enough, and the trsikad driver, who can barely eat three times a day getting an income which is hardly enough to buy a cup of coffee for breakfast. This is the ugly truth which some of our less-fortunate brothers and sisters have to painfully take. Humans are not born equally. But let me add another general truth to that…

Humans are not born with equality, but they all die equally.

The trisikad driver who scarcely gets a mere nine-peso salary a day and the president who complains about how his cappuccino isn’t served hot with hazelnut toppings will both be stuck rotten thousands of meters under the ground one day. One day, we will all realize that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.

I bet the trisikad driver is having more genuine fun than the president right now, huh?

Well, that was how I spent my All’s Soul’s Day. Just take a close look at how unique it had been, having had observed not just a bunch of teenagers, but a bunch of life.