Star Dust in a Dead Star: A Venture on Quarter-life Crisis
Every mom’s dream is for their children to finish schooling. Every dad’s hope is for their daughters not to get pregnant before graduation or their sons not to fall prey to smoking, drug, or alcohol addiction. Every society wishes to have well-educated people, to have a better place to live in. All these glittering dreams, hopes, and wishes are eventually accomplished by a few people who are looked up to as the successful ones. Upon closer inspection, however, this status ascribed to them is one that does not sparkle at all. Rather, it is like a dead star waiting to glimmer again but sadly becomes a gloomy black hole joining the rest of the celestial particles in the universe.
Intrusive Red: The Inception
As a young star, you were destined to tread a pre-determined path, a route less traveled but mostly longed for even before you were conceived. Thus, you were then exposed to the norms of social graces, groomed as a gentleman, and shaped by the mores and laws of the land to become a man of principle.
You will never forget the numerous times you were punished, spanked with a bamboo stick or a leather belt and attacked with sermons given not only on Sundays but throughout the week, allegedly penalized for disallowing to join cousins and barkadas who were dubbed as a bad influence. All these and more are in adherence to the verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As a result, you never wanted to commit mistakes and were frightened to be penalized at home. In the event that you accidentally broke a glass, secretly watched a TV program after curfew hours, or ate some candies and chocolates at night, you were obliged to hide these things from your parents, securing your child-like acts with playmates.
Following footsteps were never easy. There’s the task of reading books that you don’t fully understand, calculating so many numbers and writing lots of letters without even knowing the significance of doing so. All you knew is that everybody was doing it – schooling in the morning, sleeping in the afternoon, doing homework before bedtime, and hoping for weekends to have couch potato moments.
Cultivating Orange: Welcome Teen-age
Coming from the concept wherein studying is the only stuff a child should do productively, we were trained to respond to motivations. Several stars were stamped on our hands during our pre-school years, and if you did not have that after school, your merienda surely would not have been as good as the others’. Over the years, extrinsic motivations from school varied from medals and certificates to good grades and honors in recognition day compensated by proud parents through gifts and rewards provided that you will finish the school year with flying colors. As a naïve child, believing that having recognition is the precious gem life can offer, you did everything just to be on top – competing hard, memorizing everything that your teacher told you so, and copying the book to your notebook without hesitation just because the guy who was top of the class did it too. Those who missed this logical part of studying will ended dancing in P.E., cooking in H.E., or gardening in T.L.E.
Then puberty came. Physical changes were evident. Boys became men through the right of passage known as circumcision which mostly happened during the summer before high school. Their adam’s apple also started to appear as well experienced a growth spurt. The girls became ladies as soon as they experienced their first menstrual period.
Puppy love filled the air, as classrooms became awash with love letters and stationery. Telebabad and frequent texting were palpable as well. But our parents of course, cut these illusions and often told you, study first.
Raging Yellow: The Rebellious kind
Curiosity kills a cat. We tried almost every vice just to say that we enjoyed our youth. Pre-marital sex was the norm as well as drinking all sorts of alcoholic beverages. Breaking the rule was a challenge to prove that you could do it your way. And if you did not do it – goodness gracious – you would have been branded as either a nerd, or a killjoy. Worse, you would have also been called gay.
The nerds often succeeded as honor students, missing their youthfulness, fulfilling only their intellectual faculty. But of course, they were really admired by their batch mates.
Glowing as it may seem, a star at its peak will shine from fad, fashion, and crazes. From new hairstyles and outfits, to the latest trends of gadgets and accessories life can offer. The standard now of success depended on material things that you could receive once you succeeded as an honor student.
Soon you realized that needs and wants just kept on increasing and would never be completely satisfied. We started stealing from our parents just to satisfy our longing for these things. We coveted material wealth of our classmates and friends, thinking why we are so poor not to get those.
Nurturing White: The Finishing Years
Some would say that high school life is the best because college life has been so serious for futuristic people. The glow started to dim. Being mature would now be the measure of success. You will never forget that the course you’ll be pursuing is not your choice, your parents or significant others do.
More than half of the Filipino youth would reach this stage – a privilege to many. The short four (4) years will be a test, either to finish schooling or to end-up earning money or to start parenting due to early pregnancy. This will be a tough one.
Challenges will be on your way – be it suffering from the death of a parent, being a working student, or worse, stopping school because of poverty.
It is not a matter of what you really like, it is a matter of getting a college diploma to fulfill your parents’ dream and land in a good job. They will now get their long-term investments that you cannot pay: the debt of gratitude. Elite families seldom encounter this, but they are not exempted for getting what they want to pursue as they were obliged to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. Scrap having a fine arts or culinary degree as they will never help you feed your family.
Now, the game is over. Graduating with flying colors from college was the most valuable gift that you could give to your parents. It would have been a bonus if you topped the board exam. Schooling has finally ended. You’re at the brink of being a citizen. Congratulations, you have now stepped into the real world!
Shimmering Blue: Last stage before Dying
A typical Filipino family will invest so many resources for education. As the cliché goes, “heto lamang ang maipamamana namin sa inyo”. In a baranggay of around 1,000 people, less than 10 will be a full-fledged college graduate. You were very fortunate.
Struggles were not confined to people who didn’t finish schooling. Struggles doubled after finishing school. Later, you will discover that graduating with honors and drafting a 9-page resume will not land you to a good job; it’s a backlog after all. You need to have skills, not credentials.
A collection of more than 400 certificates, dozens of medals and trophies, not even a cum laude diploma and transcript will secure a good paying work.
You may want to go back to school and study again. But, you just can’t. You need to earn now for the family.
Then you discover that you don’t want your work, you shift and transfer from one office to another. Restless as it may seem, you don’t like what you’re doing.
Suicide is an option, the best possible one to deal with peer pressure.
You’re the top graduate of your batch, but you are alone. Your usual barkadas at your neighborhood seem to have an imaginary line that hinder them to communicate with you. You’re a learned individual now, you don’t belong to them. If only you could turn back time, you would not want to graduate.
Relationship matters now, more than ever. A lifetime partner will be a goal, but it’s hard to look for one because your route from the beginning was focused on studies, not relationships. No turning back, too lonely to reminisce, too worn-out to flashback, too burned-out to shine. You will now go back to the galaxy of dead stars, a black hole of endless hopes and dreams torn by misaligned goals.
Few Star Dusts: Light to begin again
Let the dead star die, let it die with the misconceptions of the past. Your hope should now rely on the falling star dusts from your death to serve as life as you enter a new path. Forget the twenty plus years of rigorous studies, face now the life set forth for you.
A dead star should not be wasted at all. Learn from its awful death, pursue another star to shine again and glitter so that we could make this place a better place to live in.
Some moms might dream that finishing schooling is not the only thing a child should do. Some dads might hope that engaging to vices is a natural thing to do as a youth. Perhaps some societies might wish not to have well-educated people so that there would not be inequality in the world. These dreams, hopes, and wishes were not theirs to pursue. It’s already ours to deal with. It is for future generations, a kaleidoscope of star dust in a dead star.