What I will tell my younger self as I approach 30

It’s the month of the year that will mark my three decades of existence. Time is very long when you are waiting yet looking back seemed like it was just moments before. Maybe it is because I oriented myself to look at the future as a destination where struggles would magically disappear, my wants will all be in my possession, my needs are attained with several extras. I was wrong.

When I was still a kid, I have grown frustrated of what my parents could provide. I won’t deny it. It would be hypocritical to say that I didn’t want to travel the world at a young age, to have the latest mobile phone (like the Nokia 7650 or the Express Music series), to have everything that I wanted. Life is not fair. I also aspired to be in a school that I want, to develop a career that I enjoyed.

However, after all those selfish pain that I felt, I am here. I have a decent job. Over the years, I traveled to five different countries, experienced using the gadgets I only imagined to have, and do whatever I want. Despite of not being able to become a chemical engineer just as I planned, I ended up impacting the lives of people through the work I have done in the government.

We only have one life to spread so thinly and to find its true meaning. So here are some things I want to say to my younger self at 30.

Chase your dream while you can.

I can recall my computer programming professor in high school telling us that we are getting closer to the real jungle of our lives as we approach college. He wasn’t wrong about it. Come to think of it, the very first step you make in college could have a lasting impact, even for a lifetime. In my case, I wanted to pursue a career closely related to chemistry, although some of my professors also recommended I take architecture as they see my potential in it. I was pretty lost back then. I also considered practical options like marine engineering and information technology. I also considered things I enjoyed doing like physical education (though it has completely outgrown me now).

This photo was taken in 2013 during our on-the-job training. This is now one of the largest hospitals in Mandurriao district in Iloilo City. We spent at least two months working in this building.

I ended up with civil engineering. Close enough. LOL.

Nevertheless, civil engineering has indirectly driven me into getting to know what I want to do with my life. I graduated and became an engineer without any career plans in mind. I was merely driven towards where others would push me and where opportunities were. That led me into my first job in the government where I was able to earn a decent salary to afford those dream gadgets that I wanted and to eat all the food that I only saw others enjoy. It also led me into traveling opportunities including my first all-expense paid international trip to Japan as a youth ambassador of goodwill.

This is my host family in Japan who took care of me. They made my visit to Japan extra memorable.
Watch a video I created about my trip to Singapore with my mom.

I was able to afford to take my mom on her retirement to Singapore. I also visited places I only recognized in the books I read like the Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok, Thailand. And finally, before the pandemic broke out, represented the Philippines in the World Road Congress in the Emirates as the lone Filipino delegate.

October 2019 – This was my most daring feat in my career as a civil engineer. I flew on my own and represented the Philippines in the 26th World Road Congress in Abu Dhabi, UAE where I presented my research paper.

Although I am suggesting that you chase your dream, I can definitely tell you that the universe will conspire and lead you to your heart’s desire. Just know what you want to happen in your life. Do what has to be done and your dream will be served at your doorstep. Similar to how I finally joined the National Economic and Development Authority after five job applications in a span of two years, I just did what I had to: build myself up to deserve my position. Like what a colleague told me, I am one persistent applicant. I never stopped until I knew it was over.

Expectations will imprison you, don’t dwell in it.

Growing up, I already felt the deprivations because of our overall economic standing as a family. My dad was sick and my mom had to fill in all the gaps. I am very fortunate to have ended up with several scholarships through the skills I could offer as a campus journalist. This ultimately opened a huge door of opportunities that molded me into who I am now. Even this blog would not come into reality if I failed to learn how to express myself through writing. The key is perseverance and creativity.

This was one of the best days of the USA Publications under our leadership as editors. It bore fruits in the form of national awards.

Deprivations continued as I built my career. Without dealing with too much details, you will not get what you think you deserve. Rather, in a career, especially in the government, you need to factor in what other people think of you and what they think you deserve. After all, they also have their own journey and a path they also want to build. This may or may not include you, even if you have the best credentials or the competencies for the job.

As we grow, from students to young professionals, we will become prisoners of our own expectations, of what we think we deserve, of how we want the world to become as we slowly get integrated to it. Therefore, acceptance is something we need to embrace. There are simply things we cannot change to meet our expectations. What we genuinely have control of is how we deal with our heartaches and frustrations. It is never bad to expect something. But when things do not go as planned, focus on what you can control and make sure you end up in the winning end. The winning end here is indicated by yourself moving forward and not dwelling on those flat tires you experience in your own journey.

This photo is just an imagination, a daydream when I thought of my future. But yes, being impactful to the world is one of things I want to do with my life. This probably capped my journey towards becoming 30.

Follow your heart.

The community I grew up in has always stigmatized the LGBTQIA+. I grew up without allies and had to hide at all costs. I lifted the weight of the fear of judgment to myself and to my family. Traditional people, as I experienced, would see having a gay child as bad luck or a disgrace. I carried extra burdens that any straight person would never understand. The planet is over 40,000 kilometers in circumference yet my whole world felt like it was just barely a square meter. I was in a constant battle of denying my feelings while also working hard to be what the world perceived as normal. I almost destroyed myself in the process.

Coming out was not easy. It is not customary. Coming out is not for everyone to know you are gay. It is your own acceptance of yourself, who you really are. I did it in phases. The first people whom I confirmed my identity was with my friends in college back in 2012. That same year was critical. I had the courage to finally tell my dad of who I really am. He got concerned when I almost lost myself. I expected to be sent away but I can vividly remember that he simply kissed my forehead and act like nothing happened.

Moving forward, my dad was very vital to my coming out story. When he passed away, I felt the need to complete my unfinished business and to come out to the most important people in my life – my family. I took on the courage of coming out and also introducing the love of my life to them. I recognized parts of disgust and disappointment but I bravely faced it. This is where I truly learned the meaning of following your heart.

I realized that in my case, my family was just as concerned as I am with how society would treat me. They simply did not know how to protect me. It is definitely a two-way process. Coming out is not just about yourself, it is also about your family and the people who care about you. You also need to assure them that you can handle it. Yes, it is an extra burden but eventually you will find your allies, in them or the people similar to you.

Right now, my boyfriend and I are both making the world a better place in our respective careers. My heart felt lighter now that my world is not concealed. I do hope that the future of coming out will be easier for everyone and that the world would be kinder. Not everyone can be as strong as me or can be surrounded by supportive people just like I did.

Time will never come back.

As a conclusion and a final word, I want to tell you that the success stories of older people you see should not be seen as an inspiration. Why? As time progresses, only luck will be our refuge. What will happen if luck was never on our side? As much as you can, do not, (I repeat) do not waste your time. Wasted time will turn into a cancer of regret that will haunt you for a lifetime.

Approaching my thirties, I also have a handful of regrets. These regrets will trigger all of the what-ifs which induce more heartache and frustration. Thus, when opportunities come in, think clearly and be decisive. It is hypocritical to say that you have no regrets. My mother once said that we are governed by our choices and that everything that happens in our life comes from our choices. Good or bad, make decisions, make choices. Don’t run from it. You will never know what lies ahead if you simply stop.

As a general strategy, I always act on decision points and let the things ahead progress until I reach another pit stop or face two paths to choose from. I never leave anything hanging, especially those with a deadline. After all, life is full of deadlines, we only fail to see them. Just think of your loved ones and even yourself, we never know for how long we stay in this world. If Colonel Sanders of KFC died in his 40s, would there even be KFC? I am not saying there is something wrong in his success story. He was a success because time permitted him to do so. We do not have the same success story, but we are all constrained with time.

So, these are the things I will tell my younger self. Enjoy life while it lasts and work on things you can control. Expectations will imprison you so do not dwell in it for too long. Chase your dream while you can. Follow your heart even if it means hurting it in the process. And always remember, time will never come back. You did it self. You will go far.

Published by Ilonggo Engineer

Ilonggo Engineer or Ray, is a civil engineer and a writer who strongly advocates for road safety, technology literacy, and social equity.

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