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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

entry arrow11:24 PM | The Birthday Suite

30 years later, and it's another birthday eve.

I'm not even going to deny it. In thirty minutes, I turn ten years north of 20. And there goes, for me, the last blush of youth. Ayayay. For comfort in my aching acknowledgment of impending seniority, I plan to turn to the bromides of daytime TV tomorrow. Meryl Streep was being interviewed on Oprah some weeks ago, together with those other glam, brainy gals of recent years, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore -- and something she said struck me: "The greatest compliment you can give yourself is to say your real age, and live it gracefully." Or something to the effect. (I'm bad at memorizing lines -- but I do remember Oprah calling Meryl a "quote-a-minute.")

So, all right. I'll admit it. I'm finally... 30.

It has been a long, often hard road to self-realization. Even with truth-telling and age. I am in that cusp of age that bridges the wild days of the twenties, and the more settled (old?) fashion that the thirties promise. It's nearing the middle life of an average man's age. That has got to start anyone thinking: what has life brought for me? Am I living the dreams I had as a boy waiting breathlessly to grow up?

For the most part, I've known life to be a series of stops, with battles and skirmishes along the way. I don't remember my late teens well, except that it felt like the insides of a comfortable cocoon -- but I have a general notion that I enjoyed college quite well, but enjoyed it more when I was in my early 20s.

See, I was not one for the typical, and quick, four-years-then-graduation arrangement. That was not college for me; that was a useless race with meaningless time. But I remember leaving high school determined not to be a "geek" anymore, and deigned to see the world even before I'd feel the texture of a dirty black toga on my skin.

I kept that promise: I fell in love for the first time at 21, saw the world at 22, had my heart broken at 23, went through the Real World hell at 24, found myself again at 25, gained professional momentum at 26, began reaping the early fruits of my labor at 27, and now I'm 30 -- and the world, I know, can only be a beautiful place, still full of pain, recriminations, hurts, and daunting challenges, but I've become patient, I think, and more knowing. I've grown old, one might say -- but beautifully, the way good wine becomes vintage.

Yet I almost did not make it this year. For the first time in years, my regular birthday blues came early: that was three days ago, and I felt the familiar grip of depression on my chest, an eagle of a dread that began with doubts and paranoia, which finally paralyzed me. What was I doing here? Where am I going? What is my life all about? The same unanswered questions mitigated only by denial and evasion. And then, as expected, it let go. Somehow, I suddenly knew the careful protocols to negotiate such things.

The days going into my birthday, I finally saw the world for what it was: a battlefield of beautiful cripples and those with enough spirit to just go on, despite the war wounds. It was both sad and hopeful all at the same time. (But I do mean to be vague here... there's just no point singling out people for being the examples of life's caricatures they've become. All I know is, life cannot be great if one is spiteful, intellectually arrogant, or bound by little rules without meaning except petty power and red tape. Ack. Enough.)

Also this: geography does not define the man, or destiny. So I don't live in the big city. So I'm not in America or elsewhere like the rest of my country's middle class. Life tells you, eventually, that contentment starts from within, not without.

It was also a good time to awaken from old, stagnant dreams. I've decided to finally say goodbye to so many baggages. I've done well the past three years keeping so many lingering old things out of my consciousness. Yet, something the eminent marine biologist Laurie Hutchison Raymundo said to me during the garden birthday dinner she gave me two years ago (with Bing Valbuena and Marge Udarbe), proved ultimately cathartic. And she didn't even know it! I can't repeat it what she said here ... what for? But I knew ... I knew that was it, the last invitation for goodbyes.

My Birth Day, I know, will be a good day. I will sleep late till 8 a.m., until my brothers will give me a call to wish me some happiness appropriate for the age. One of them will probably pick me up later for mother's house. I share a birthday with my mom, see. She turns 73 tomorrow, and she is still as spritely as the woman I've loved all my years. We will probably have a small party, with friends I've known since I was a kid, and then it will be back home for the rest of the night in my apartment. Just now, I have finished cleaning everything from top to bottom in my pad, and it feels good, cleaning my own apartment, a kind of objective correlative for the cleaning of the slate I want: to begin a new lease on life dirtying my hands first in order to keep clean. Now, after I blog this, I will go out and see the stars. That will feel fulfilling.

Right now, I'm beginning to live life without the sweeping preambles for changing: just little things to tell me I'm doing right: waking early, eating breakfast (finally!), doing what needs to be done during official work hours, getting healthy meals, exercising once a week, and finally sleeping at 12 midnight. So far, I'm doing just fine, and I'm glad.

Birthdays should always feel like this. Like a breath of fresh air.

And I will end by quoting the great Susan Sarandon whose wisdom in years allows her to say: "I look forward to growing older, when you are becomes more important than how you look."

Adios for now, my friends! Time to see the stars outside.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich