As the waiters cleared the last of the dishes from our table, we became quiet. The laughter had faded away as the night deepened, and slowly, patrons left until there were only four of us- my high school close friends whom I’ve known for fifteen years: Remejoy, a licensed Med Tech who now worked as an editor; Frances, a Bachelor of Laws graduate who is presently teaching in UP Tacloban; and Royce, an Accountancy graduate who just earned his Doctor of Medicine, and is presently a busy post-graduate intern.
This year, we all turn thirty.
“When I failed the Bar exam, I stopped and asked myself- have I just wasted my twenties?” Frances said. It was an honest and very candid thing to say for our usually reserved friend.
“I know the feeling.” I blurted out.
They all looked at me.
“I think all of us, at some point, felt disillusioned when things didn’t turn out exactly the way we planned.”
It was true, so few of us actually followed a straight path when it came to careers. Majority accepted whatever dead-end, entry-level positions were available, and that is a tiny detail which was never mentioned to us in our four years in college. They failed to inform us that actual career growth happens somewhere in your thirties.
“I think we’re all afraid that we haven’t made any difference at all. That you fell short of your own expectations, that even graduating from a prestigious school is no guarantee of success or happiness.”
We looked at each other and smiled, with that same look of recognition on our faces.
“France, you and I are on completely different sides of the spectrum, and yet we share the same sentiments.”
My friend Frances was someone you’d call an ideal student- she majored in Psychology in UP Tacloban, then worked in an NGO as she got her Master’s Degree in Diliman. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, she began her studies in Bachelor of Laws.
I on the other hand, cruised through my youth with neither urgency nor a sense of purpose. I wanted to “maximize my twenties” and by that, I meant have the most fun as I could.
With this philosophy, I shot out like a loose cannonball. It was not that I was lazy or stupid; I was actually quite good with anything that I put my mind into. I helped design a museum when I was 20, which won Best Thesis in the UP College of Architecture. But by the time I saw how much my colleagues were earning in entry-level positions I was disheartened. I chose to work in a Call Center instead- which at some point made me choose between finishing my last units in Hardscape Construction and accepting a promotion. I chose the latter.
Before I resigned my job during my mid-twenties, I was earning more than most of my contemporaries but sadly was now back to square one, as I enrolled in the College of Nursing. As I celebrated my 28th birthday, a student once more, I also asked myself- have I wasted my twenties?
“We’ve all been there.” Remejoy said.
“Quarter life crisis.” Royce said.
“Well, none of us plays life with marked cards. At least we all got a chance to correct our mistakes along the way, and keep going towards the elusive success and happiness.” I philosophized.
“Maybe we’re just getting old.” Frances quipped.
We all laughed. It was one of those cherished moments with friends when you just let your hair down and be honest. If anything, I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one having problems.
A few months later, as I walked up the stage in front of hundreds of people, I bowed my head as Nanay put a medal on me. Officially a BSN graduate, I was just so thankful to have been given a chance to redeem myself.
Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have done anything differently- not just because I’ve learned so much from three different industries, but also because I got to discover what I really wanted in life. I had my fun, didn't I? Now it's time to move on and get serious. We live and we learn, and without regrets.
Most of us friends are now past the crisis, and ready to undertake new challenges and new adventures our thirties will bring. Some of us are moving up the ladder, some are building families, some are learning the difference between a calling and a career, and for sure- all of us are more optimistic than ever before.