By: Danielle Escobal
July 8, 2019. The clock strikes midnight on my 17th birthday. The feeling is quite anticlimactic. I expect to be a new reinvented woman with a new set of qualities and talents to explore. While my friends and family hug my sides and squeeze my cheeks, turning them redder than they already are from all the attention, my Ate slips a neatly folded hotel notepad paper into my wallet for me to read later.
By later, she probably meant in a couple of days, but my forgetfulness led me to unfold the hotel notepad paper almost a year later. As I cleaned the depths of my room for the third time this week, the note falls lightly out of my wallet. It barely grazes my carpeted floor before my curious hands take hold of it. Affirmations, inside jokes, and words of wisdom fill every corner of the note. My Ate ends the letter with two words.
I stare blankly. My body moves before my mind as I shove the spilled coins back into my wallet with my right hand and hold the letter to my chest with the other.
With the four-month anniversary of quarantine approaching, I am running out of rooms to clean and bananas to bread. Productivity has always been something to look forward to, yet why do I hate it? The robotic motions of my day are desensitizing. I miss seeing my dad's face free of n-95 indents. I miss seeing my dad's face. Despite the shining rays heating my bedroom, I've never felt more cold without the warmth of daily hugs from my friends. My body aches. The weight of the world jabs my shoulder forcefully until I drop to my knees. Yet, I clumsily pick myself up and deny any feelings of sadness because despite being stripped of so many secure variables in my life, I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a laptop to zoom with. Claire de Lune plays on repeat through my headphones because it's the only calm noise in the ringing chaos of the world.
I'm stuck. The world is moving forward, backward, sideways, but I'm standing still.
I release the tension in my hands and unfold the note to read once again.
In two words, my Ate summaries her wishes for me.
In two words, my Ate summarizes what I have failed to do.
'Live Deliberately.' She writes. 'Live Deliberately.'
And what have I don’t instead these past months? I go through the motions of my day to simply check them off my to-do list. I make jokes on Facetime my friends can laugh and forget about the memories we're missing. I sing so my younger brother can fall asleep without thinking about the anxiety of the world. I bake cookies so my dad has something to look forward to after working strenuous shifts at the hospital. Have I lived deliberately if it wasn't for myself? I've forgotten that I need to laugh sometimes. I've forgotten that I need to sing to release my own emotions. I've forgotten that I bake to make something out of nothing. I've forgotten the fire that ignites my body when I present a speech. I've forgotten why I fight so hard to spread awareness on topics I'm passionate about. I've forgotten why my body needs to rest. I've forgotten to live for the beauty of the mundane. I've forgotten to live deliberately.
July 8, 2020. The clock strikes midnight on my 18th birthday. The feeling is the most climactic emotion I've felt in a long time. I stare at the ceiling in the fortress of my bed. Just 30 minutes ago, my brothers premiered a compilation of videos from my friends and family all over the world sending me birthday wishes. I may not be the reinvented woman my naïve 16-year-old self envisioned, but there is no doubt I have changed. I cry myself to sleep that night but not of frustration or sadness. I cry for happiness, for change, for another tomorrow to try again. I cry to live deliberately.