XV. It is coming to terms with adulthood — bidding goodbye to rolling on the grass and making flower crowns and bracelets from santans.
15 is venturing to a foreign land. It is hoping and praying that you don’t mess this up. It’s putting your heart on your sleeve and your entire being into the palm of the hand you use to shake someone else’s. You do this so maybe, just maybe, for just a split second, you could be remarkable in their eyes. Remarkable. Special. Unforgettable.
15 is becoming your country. It is embodying every tradition you can, displaying 175 different cultures in a barely 5’0, pint-sized little body. It is weighing your words and calculating your actions; it is holding your tongue when necessary and abandoning the rash outspokenness of the you before.
15 is saying goodbye to friends who have become like siblings then staring at their photos on Facebook. Very proud, slightly envious, and always always wondering, “How could I say goodbye to this?”
15 is meeting new people who will touch your life and whose lives you’ll change forever. People who will cry for you when you step onto that plane and who will wait, every single waking, aching day for your return.
15 is missing milestones — your brother’s first press conference, your baby cousin’s first school performance, your father’s recovery. It is missing anniversaries and birthdays and finally understanding how your mother felt in Saudi Arabia all those years ago.
15 is learning how to be proud of your own milestones. In a land full of familiar strangers, of people who don’t truly understand your depth as a person, who can’t possibly understand within just a year, you learn how to become your own supporter. What you relied on others to do for you becomes your job. At 15, you learn to say “I am proud of you.” for the first time and mean it.
At 15, you learn how you are still terrible at saying “goodbye”. You learn that, whenever you are sick, all you really want is your parents’ tender affection. At 15, you learn that you really do need your mother’s admonitions otherwise you let your room turn into a pig’s sty. You learn that showers don’t mask tears very well because your eyes are still puffy whenever you step out.
At 15, you realize that it doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 50 or 500. It doesn’t matter if you say goodbye to the flower crowns or the Pokémon stuffed toys or the cartoons in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter if you are in the Philippines or America or Antarctica, for that matter.
At the age of 15, you are still a child.