It’s hard to shake off the feeling of being 16 again, especially when you see the high school caboodle after 19 years of pretending to have grown up. You ogle perplexed at how 19 years is a long time and yet there you all are, still competing over the same title of Queen. Then there’s a tussle between the 16-year old who has to look pretty and talk smart, and the 35-year old who’s presumed to know that charm and wit will get you places, but will only leave you there. The fearful, unsteady, insecure 16-year old won out last night. It didn’t help that I was encircled by the same people of my past albeit set in a 2011 restaurant. We’re much more worldly, having just had ordered exquisite Tom Yam soup paired with a Catfish salad. And yet, there’s no insecurity like having to validate you deserved the title of Queen in high school: or that, the Queen hasn’t been downgraded to pauper or fool.
So I’m shrinking from myself the morning after. I should have been less judgmental, praised instead of criticized. I shouldn’t have bothered I’d be upstaged, allowed others the limelight instead of sucking the light. I should have paid heed to every conversation, heard their voices instead of drowning them in mine. Because just as I tried to out-pretty and out-smart, I lost out. There’s nothing pretty about a girl with a loud condescending mouth that snickers at everyone’s grand ideas. And you lose smart when you stop listening. I left not knowing the richness of their lives, what they have amassed years from when I last saw them. I didn’t even know their new names. And all I left them with was an unchanging image of me. “You’re still the same.” I am 35 but no matter how far you think you’ve gone, shedding off past layers, you just so easily bear it again when fenced in by symbols of the past. I am 35 but no matter how far you think you’ve gone, shedding off past layers, you just so easily bear it again when fenced in by symbols of the past. And I can’t shake off the feeling of being 16 again. At 16, it was pretty smart to bully others with your insecurities. But it’s 19 years hence, and it ain’t no longer a bright or beautiful picture.