24 / by Shaun Ventulan

24.

Twenty-four, oh, you have defined who I am.

I lost myself. I fell deep into a tar-laden pit of angst. A constant battle between fear and loathing was burdensome. As the blood in my veins infused anxiety all around, routines became an obstacle. At twenty-four, I felt as if defeat had embraced me. A life of fear will be the life I will live.

Fuck it, I said to myself. A life lived in fear is a life not worth living for. At twenty-four, I ran away. I bought a ticket to Tokyo after I was inspired by Murakami’s novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. A beautiful mess it would be for a claustrophobe to get lost in the unknown. Running away was survival as my disdain for the mundane drove me mad. At twenty-four, I lost a friend. I learned the day of my arrival back from Tokyo. The man who smiled the most carried the heaviest burden.  

I came back with the immense feeling of liberation. I conquered. I lived. I explored. The wanderlust had been satiated temporarily. I craved more. I craved so much more that I still remember the vibrations of the speakers making its way throughout my body. I vividly remember crossing the bridge invigorated with euphoria, feeling so much love from everyone. As my fingers glide through the cold and smooth rails, my anxiety faded away. The feeling of belongingness that I found in travel was found not too far away. A little haven called Lightning in a Bottle was my first music festival.

Ah, the angst of graduation. The confusion. At twenty-four, I felt vulnerable. I studied a major without definition. I felt like a Rothko situated next to a Michelangelo. I was scared. I feared the inability to succeed. My irrationality became my own weakness, so I inebriated it by running away. Again.

The ultimate testament to my bout with uncertainty and anxiety was to do a grueling pilgrimage by myself. The thought of being alone without knowing a single soul terrified me, as it would with others. My legs trembled as the tires hit the tarmac. I knew that this very moment meant that I am now on my own. I am now on my own. Solitude frightened me as I’ve always had a fear of being alone. I no longer had arms to run back to, or a shrink to talk to when my mind starts to run. Many times throughout my travel, I had panics, but I lived. I thrived, despite the difficulties of being alone. Solitude became my friend. Walking through the unknown embraced me. I learned to appreciate myself. At twenty-four, I discovered myself again.

The strap dug down my shoulder as I traversed up the rocky path. Yosemite epitomized heaven on earth. The cool air was of abundance. The water flowed without hesitation. The silence evoked solitude. I felt at peace. I fell in love with life during my trip to Yosemite. This was a journey unlike any other. I also fell for someone else. We became warriors after this trip. Our passion for adventures is what brought us together. Santa Barbara became our escape, but La Jolla became our home.

 Oh, love. I feared love. Rejection and heartbreak elicits unbearable pain and mental fatigue. Fuck it, I said to myself. I dove right into it. I looked forward to holding her whenever I started drowning during my adventure. At one point, she was mine as I was hers. We lived. We loved. We became warriors. We grew together, learned together, and shared ideas. I learned so much from her. Most importantly, I learned to love again. I gave her my all. We cannot have it all. As we spiraled out of love, I started to feel the hurt again. Rejection and heartbreak, the duo that I’ve been avoiding, has embraced me again. I regret nothing as the void and suffering means that at one point in my life, she was significant. I know that at one point in her life, I was significant too.

 At twenty-four, I got a job that will steer me towards my career. My fear of finding a job became obsolete as I found a job the very same week after my trip. I ran away. I came back with what I was looking for. I found myself, and found a job. I owe a lot to you, my friend. Now, I feel security. That’s one less burden.

 To find oneself again is quite a beautiful feeling. Despite my recent heartbreak, I love life. I am happier than I was when I turned twenty-four. I grew a lot. I got to know myself a lot better. I learned to live and love. I found myself again.

At twenty-five, I am hopeful and I will thrive. Twenty-five will be mine.