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Stuck in High School

Friday, October 24, 2014
If you ask me, we are all still in high school.  See those women by the coffee maker, gossiping about a certain co-worker? Totally high school. See that politician over there, scheming with his "friends" to get what he wants? Totally high school. See that chick, thinking she's better than everyone because of her (undeserved) success? Totally high school. See those men, competing at some silly election and not stopping until it's their name that they see? Totally high school. You can't even tell them to go back to high school, because honestly, it seems like no one has ever graduated from high school.

High school was a big contest for popularity. It was the reality show wherein everyone was watching, and at the same time, competing. Entering high school was such a big deal for all of us. It was the confusing time when insecurities suddenly became more important than anything. The thought of high school first seemed so warm and bright, but that thought quickly faded away. Soon, we all wanted to figure out who we were. We wanted to belong somewhere, anywhere. Soon, high school became a game of survival.

Soon, we divided ourselves into groups, and associated our personalities with names. Even if none of us admitted it, our lives then mirrored the lives of high schoolers in movies. Everything was a cliche. Girls found their cliques and boys huddled together. At times, it was a matter of "fake it to make it" even with the people whom we deemed our friends. Fake a smile, fake a laugh, fake your feelings just to get on the good side of that person. The strategy of stepping down on someone also worked. Start a rumor, wait for it to be as widespread as the air, and instantly feel a hundred times better about yourself. And let's not forget about the unhealthy desire for gratification. In high school, being appreciated meant everything, and that meant doing nearly anything to get what we wanted.

Unfortunately, the attitude of high schoolers has been carried on, even after graduation. It can be seen everywhere; in the news, at work, and even when you simply overhear two people as you walk down the street. We are still compelled to succeed through immature ways. When they say you should leave your attitude behind in high school, you really do have to leave it behind. Because if you carry it with you, do you think you'll actually gain something? You get what you want, sure, but that does not determine if you truly have let go of the silly high school behavior you once sought protection from.

If you ask me, it's quite sad to see so many grown men and women fighting and getting over petty things. It's extremely disappointing to see office workers stomp down their co-worker because they don't want anyone to rise above them. It's sad to see politicians lying and hiding behind their "tough friends" so they can get through easily. It disturbs me to see successful people boast about the achievements that they never worked for. It's sad to see people hating each other for something so simple. It's heartbreaking to see so many people follow the norm because they're afraid that going against it will return the labels they received when they were fifteen years old.

So what then is the purpose of graduating, when the silliness of high school never leaves? It's time to let go of all of the high school crap and deal with our lives as respectful, decent human beings. If we hold on to this mentality, to this attitude, do we even have the right to tell others to "grow up" when we ourselves have not? Deal with issues with grace. Don't let the fifteen-year-old take over. And in time, maybe - just maybe - the world can graduate.

Note: This essay was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on December 4, 2014 with my consent.
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