These past two Saturdays, I went to two separate reunions. The first one had me meeting Rie after more than five years. Rie is a Japanese friend whom I met on a ship coming from a Palawan holiday in November 2008. She was a foreign exchange student in Ateneo back then and this year she returned for a short vacation in Palawan to escape the winter in her country.

We met in Greenbelt with her friend Sachiko, as well as Sachiko’s friends Henritier from the Congo (I’m not sure whether from the Republic of Congo or the Democratic Republic of Congo; I didn’t bother asking), and Tim who just came home from Dubai.

There was a mishap at the MRT on my way to Makati so they had finished eating when I arrived there, but not too late to join in the conversation. Obviously, there were the catching-ups. Then the topics shifted to culture. Henritier, relating a bit of how it’s like in the Congo, shared that his country has two official languages – French and the dominant local dialect. Then he joked about how the French  can’t pronounce the letter “r”. This has become a cause of joke among other Europeans, especially the Spanish, who pronounce it with an exaggerated trill.

Which brings me to what Sachiko said – it’s the differences that make the world interesting. And to appreciate this diversity, you not only have to be able to understand other people from different cultures, but you also have to communicate effectively and appropriately with them. A society has two kinds of culture – the visible part that comprises only a small portion, and the not-so-visible, which is the much larger and more significant part.

Obviously, it is very easy to discover and experience the external culture in short period of time, because they are quite visible, observable. It’s easy to see a country’s traditions, cuisine and arts scene. The challenge is to understand the other part, which includes beliefs, values and thought patterns. This involves interacting with culture more and experiencing it in different situations.

Yeah, it’s that kind of conversation. It’s always nice being with fellow travelers.

……….

The second reunion was with my former high school classmates in Sambokojin along EDSA in Ortigas.  This one had a more nostalgic feel, since these people were whom I spent a chunk of my teenage years. It’s not like we didn’t have any reunions prior to this, but this one was by far the most well-attended in a long time.

Of course, a recurring topic is the fact that most of us them are going to hit 30 this year.  I’ve been actually feeling rather philosophical about it the past few days and have been asked a lot of times how I feel about hitting the start of a new decade. Honestly, there are mixed feelings. I am quite glad about being almost done with my twenties, but at the same time, I’m frustrated because I feel like I haven’t done a lot of things I would’ve wanted to accomplish before I turn 30.

My twenties was a big jumbled mess of emotions, experiences, and a lot of confusion along with self-discovery. I may have made it sound like it was a bad thing, but it wasn’t. It was a beautiful chaos of growing up from being an adolescent into an adult that I became today. I was a late bloomer. I spent a lot of my early twenties trying to catch up after I bungled the first four years in college in a degree I didn’t want to take in the first place. So I didn’t graduate until I was 24. Before that, I spent a lot of time trying to find what I really wanted to do in life. This was before I had the opportunity to travel, so I didn’t even know traveling was an option for me. Without going into details, let’s just say I was very emotionally immature.

Things changed when I became a part-time high school teacher. It was during this time that the concept of commitment slowly had a strong effect on me. I went through some tough time emotionally, especially the past two years, and it really forced me to process my feelings that I had held in for so long. In a sense, it was when I really grew up. It practically took up all of my twenties to find my voice, to figure out who the heck I am, and to be really okay with it. Once I figured that out, kind of, I felt ready to be an adult, and to dive into the treacherous waters of adulthood. I met students who became a glue to my beliefs, ethic, and moral values. They really helped me in many ways.

As my twenties draw to its end, I can’t really say I am contented. But I now know what I want, I don’t feel lost anymore and, while I still sometimes feel pangs of sadness,  I am happy – that deep-rooted happiness from inside you. So yes, I expect my 30’s to be much better simply because I’ve accomplished finding who I am, and the confusion, instability, and not knowing where to go next are over. It’s not to say that I don’t expect any more struggles. There will be more. The point is, I’m comfortable with facing the challenges, and I am grounded to myself. I feel authentic of who I am, and I’m confident. This confidence is going to help me soar through all the problems, decisions, fears, hopes, and get through unfinished business.

But what am I talking about? I still have eleven months left in my twenties. Enjoy it while it lasts and all that jazz, right?

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