Kids my age in the neighborhood spent all day playing around, getting themselves dirty, and mischievously laughing as kids are expected to do. But I was always inside our house, watching things happen. Chances are, my eyes are on the tube or my hands are abuzz scribbling incomprehensible notes.
But back then, it didn’t feel like I was different. I didn’t envy them. Kuya was different – he was with the other kids. And he was the one always scolded, he never stopped anyway. You see, Mama was the meticulous type, who would scold you to hell for dirty soiled clothes. And as a result, I’d rather stay inside the house almost all of the day and get busy with whatever.
But this is not about that me being a stay-at-home kid.
This is about how I have come to realize and accept that I am indeed different and somehow, I need to be happy and proud about that.
My life as a kid was home-school-home-school. It was a repetitive cycle. If you think about it now, it was pretty boring. How you would wake up every day, grab breakfast, take a bath, and carry your big backpack to school walking, the lessons, the homework that didn’t end, and the same things that happen the next day and the next.
But as a kid, you still have no idea about what boredom is, and ‘the spice of life’ still didn’t make sense. So it doesn’t bother you.
Sometimes in my down time or even in my sleep, I try to recollect memories from my childhood. While others would be able to name their best friends or their birthdays, favorite colors, and stuff, I couldn’t. Neither could I recall how my first day went, or how it felt during elementary graduation. And somehow, that makes me feel different.
And in high school, I was not a geek nor a jock. I didn’t feel like I identified to any clique. I was a free-floater. Literally, I was just floating, not too bent on anything. It was all goofing around and laughing and getting noisy. I passed exams in two ways: 1) memory recall, or 2) generosity by friends. I’ve learned to survive by making friends, if you know what that means. And yes, I made some good friends, although you don’t necessarily feel like you and they are the same in a philosophical kind of way. But that realization comes much later.
College is when you start to question things around you – why you can’t afford the same notebook as your classmate, why your cellphone doesn’t have a camera, why the government is killing the poor, why life is unfair, why you exist, why you are different.
Being ‘different’ becomes more complex than ever as it is embodied in different levels, from the visible, the tangible, and those kept inside. Well, more of the last one.
My way into this kind of awakening was a slowly painful process. I’ve always been the soft type. I didn’t like sports, I hated wrestling and basketball. I was more into the arts, the media and fashion. I wasn’t proud of it. I’ve always thought of it as embarrassing, hideous, and ridiculous. I’ve tried to hide it, shun it. But it found me somehow.
Surrounded by the culture that is the college of arts and letters, I have slowly embraced what I know I love to do. When others had basketballs in their hands, I had my pencil on one and a sketch pad on the other. While others solved math equations, I enjoyed writing poetry. While some people sang their hearts out, I sang through the colors that I paint. While people fell in love with other people, I started loving myself.
It was not easy. Tears had to flow. Some nights didn’t meet sleep. Some bus rides home were delayed for hours and hours just to avoid certain questions. Many questions have to be raised. The answers didn’t really matter.
You will one day realize that your individuality belongs in this world. You really don’t need to wear a mask to fit in or hide in the shadows to remain unnoticed. You may be different from the rest, but that will never mean you’re wrong. You are your own awesomeness.