So last Sunday, I met my high school friend, Irene.
She was on a much deserved vacation, and she wouldn’t be staying for long. That alone was enough reason for me to send her a message and ask for a quick meet-up. Because let’s be real, people. It’s always nice to reconnect with friends, right?
I don’t even recall the last time we met and had a good conversation, since she now lives in Australia. So I have to admit I got a little nervous right before I ordered an online motorcycle taxi to meet her. My paranoid self just loves to imagine the awkward pauses, the detached conversation, and ten million other ways our meet-up would go wrong.
This brought me back to more than a decade ago, when both Irene and I were still high school students, unsure of what we would be doing in the future. It comes without saying that at the time, our biggest worry was passing the national exams, since our highly optimistic Math teacher put a convincing countdown on the whiteboard in front of the class.
I remember she would gleefully announce how many days were left until the national exams, as if that would actually cheer us up. Some students even booed at her and said that national exams would kill them (figuratively), but my math teacher insisted that we had to “believe in ourselves” and we will pass the exams no problem.
Back in the day, I was one of the skeptical students in the class who thought that was one of the stupidest thing a person could say to anxious students, waiting for the examination days. And I still, too, am skeptical of how a lot of things would turn out in life, as you might have surmised from my anxious thoughts of just meeting an old friend.
But we did pass the exams, with 100% graduation rate to boot. And while I don’t know how much “believing in ourselves” took part in it, I can’t help but to think fondly at those times, and replay the very same sentence my math teacher had said over and over again, whenever I’m feeling rather down.
Irene and I talked about a lot of things.
And by a lot, I mean a lot.
Needless to say, we both really love to talk, tell stories, and laugh at bad jokes. So even before we met at Upnormal that evening, I already expected us to be one of the loudest bunch in the whole restaurant. But the loudness of our voice speaks volumes
(pun intended) about everything we talked about.
We talked about our friends, of course. What are they doing right now, how is that girl dealing with loss, how is that guy preparing for his wedding ceremony, did that girl achieve her dream, and so on, and so on.
But we also talked about ourselves; what life had shaped us into. Irene talked about how life’s been treating her after she went to Australia to continue her studies, and I talked about my demanding day job a bit. I also talked about my books, my publication journey, and how am I feeling after “living the dream”, so to speak.
It was after telling her how I got into publishing two books in the past three years, did I feel like I was reciting someone else’s story.
I mean, more than ten years ago, a younger version of myself would never dream of having my writings published. And although I had some loyal readers from my school (Irene included), I never really thought I was worthy of a real readership.
Of course, we didn’t have the time to discuss about this. Frankly speaking, I didn’t want to ruin the mood by mulling over nostalgia, but I’ve noticed that this always happen whenever I’m meeting someone from my past. It would start with a conversation, then a line of thoughts, and then straight into reality comparisons of past vs. present, which often times would make me contemplate of what had transpired over all these years.
For Irene, her college happened. Australia happened. Her incredibly popular food blog happened.
Granted, those achievements could be minuscule compared to what other people have under their belts. But for us, they were something.
I couldn’t say for myself, but I saw Irene blossomed from this reserved (but secretly hilarious) girl who listened to music with her Nokia phone, to one of the funniest, most confident individuals I’ve met in a while.
There was one topic that I didn’t have the time to discuss with Irene that evening. It was the age-old question of “what would you tell your younger, high school self?”
Meeting her made me realize just how much time had passed since we barely hit puberty. So many things happened since then. So many dreams forgotten. So many love unanswered. So many hopes crushed. So many doors closed.
But looking at us now, I want to believe that we are the best version of ourselves. We outclass our high school selves by a mile, and although life isn’t perfect, it shaped us into who we are today.
Quoting the lyrics of a song by RoomForTwo: “Gotta have roots before branches / to know who I am before I know who I want to be”. It was exactly upon this moment of epiphany did I find truth in what my math teacher had once said: we just have to believe in ourselves.
Life is not a national examination. We don’t get graded for how well we do in our lives. And there is no countdown on the corner of a whiteboard to remind us that our time is getting closer and closer with each passing day. But the same principle applies; believe in yourselves, and believe that the best is yet to come.
And what would I tell my younger, high school self, you might ask?
Hmm, I’ll probably just tell myself to put more efforts in studying physics. I really suck at it.
I will see you again soon, Irene. It was great seeing you, after all these years. Please look forward to my writings in the future. It has always been, and always will be, a delight having you as a reader.
Irene’s Getting Fat
Obsessed to food, hoping to share my culinary adventure. “Irene’s Getting Fat!” is a Jakarta – Sydney food blog, and actually a portfolio, it is mostly about food, but also includes travel logs and lifestyle.
I will be posting new content every Saturdays, be it writerly stuff, or just things that I like to write about. This includes my own stories, information about my books, and things that interest me. Keep yourself updated by following me on Twitter and Instagram.
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