OUT OF THE BOX The author walks the dog around the perimeters of her quarantined space in the middle of the pandemic

On May 16, 2020, I turned 20 years old. Biologically, at least. From the time I began my gap year in 2018 to now, having finished my freshman year at college, I feel I have lived for a decade, if not two. Perhaps the greatest privilege of all the experience that has been packed into the last two years of my life is that I have learned—a lot. Now, spending my birthday on lockdown in the midst of a global pandemic, I realize that life will only continue to amaze, surprise, punish, reward, and terrify me for as long as I am on Earth. The human experience is never as straightforward and pleasant as we often hope. With this in mind, I would like to share the 20 most important lessons I have learned in the 20 years I’ve been alive. I know it has been a while since I’ve written, but I think this is a good place to start.

  1. Many of your dreams won’t come true, but sometimes, what ends up happening will be better than anything you could’ve dreamed of in the first place.
  2. Rejection is sometimes the best thing that will ever happen to you. When you feel like you’re losing, you’re often setting yourself up to win a much larger battle.
  3. The people you love most will hurt you the most, because they occupy the largest spaces in your heart.
  4. Control is a powerful thing, but some of life’s best moments happen precisely when you let go of it.
  5. You can—and should—plan and prepare. But you never really  know what is going to happen next.
  6. As a young woman, people will tell you time and time again that the most valuable thing you have to offer the world is how pretty you are and how agreeable you can be. The people who tell you this are wrong. You do not need to act like a man to succeed. You can act as feminine as you want and still be the person holding the most power in the room.
  7. As your life circumstances change, so will your body and your appearance. Everyone will have something to say about it every step of the way. Being a woman makes this doubly the case. What matters is how you feel about who you are inside. Pursue a feeling of strength and wellness. What this looks like on the outside will change as you grow.
  8. Doing well is tantamount to feeling well. Your body knows things often before your mind and heart. Listen to it. Do not abuse your body because it seems like the surest way to make people (yourself, included) happy.
  9. A sense of duty and obligation will stay steady and keep you going when other things like passion, love, and happiness ebb and flow.
  10. Trust is your most special gift. Give it wisely and sparingly.
  11. Romance is fun, exciting, painful, and important. The proper partner adds to who you are, and never subtracts from your life or sense of self. They better enable you to fulfill your dreams, rather than demand all your time and energy so that you may fulfill theirs.
  12. Sometimes the most powerful revolutions are the ones that happen silently, inside of you.
  13. It is better to be warm and kind even when everyone else around you is trying to be reserved and cool.
  14. The best gift you can give someone is to make them feel accepted, understood, and capable of achieving all their dreams.
  15. To be alive, healthy, and capable in this world is something you should never take for granted. You will end up taking it for granted anyway. Every so often, something world-shattering will come along and pull you back down to Earth.
  16. Your life is shaped by extraordinary privilege. You must never forget that. In the same vein, enjoying luxury is not solely about enjoying unique, rare, costly things. It is about knowing how to find art, value, and beauty in the most mundane experiences.
  17. The thing that most empowers you is also often the thing that makes you the most lonely. Loneliness sometimes means you are doing things in a way no one has ever done them before.
  18. You are allowed to be a complex person. Many people will object to it. Many people fear a woman who is hard to label and categorize. This does not mean you need to simplify who you are. Rather, you should actively strive to be as multifaceted as you please.
  19. You are perhaps the only person who will know your entire self. Do not look for someone to carry the weight of all that you are for you. Just because you love someone does not mean they are ready to contend with every part of your being.
  20. Your life is not just about you, even if a lot of mainstream media makes it seem like the best thing you can come across as a young person is fierce independence and a consuming love that makes it okay for you to throw everything else away. Your life is as much about those who gave it to you in the first place, and the community and society within which you exist. Everything, and everyone, is connected.

Source: Manila Bulletin (