Note: Pia Dysangco Villamor is the kind of blogger whose writings can resonate with just about anyone. It’s such a great pleasure to have her here. A Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self is a heartwarming post and full of life lessons. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Click here to visit Pia’s blog. – ROBERT LEE

Dear Pia,

This is going to freak you out, but this is your almost middle-aged self. You’ve always been a fan of freaky Twilight-zonish scenarios, so you must be thrilled that you’re living one right now. Remember “A Christmas Carol”, your favorite book as a kid? Think of me as your ghost-of-Christmas-future helping you figure things out. (No, don’t panic. I will not ask you to give out your precious collection of shoes to the needy.)

I know you always get impatient when people give you advice because you always think you know better. BUT I am you a decade down the road after all, so believe me when I say I KNOW BETTER.

LOVE THE WAY YOU LOOK BUT DON’T OBSESS OVER IT

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco VillamorI actually find it a bit amusing how you’re always insecure about your “wobbly bits”. Guess what, you have no idea what real wobbly bits look like until you hit your thirties. Much to your horror, flight attendants will start asking you if you’re pregnant – EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

One day, you will wake up and, gasp, realize that you have lost your thigh gap! And… those eye bags you inherited from the Dysangco’s? They will morph into luggage.

You will look at your old pictures and realize that you actually were kinda cute. And you will wonder why you spent so much time obsessing about every “imperfection”, why you spent hours wondering if you picked the right outfit and why you spent a ridiculous amount of mother’s hard-earned money trying to get rid of your stretch marks.

I’m telling you, you look awesome. And you know what’s even going to make you look more awesome than those stretch mark treatments? (By the way, save yourself the trouble, they don’t work.) Loving the way you look. There is nothing more attractive than being comfortable in your own skin.

You are beautiful, babe. Work it… While you still can.

Wait. That sounds ominous. It’s not as bad as you think. You know what the funny is? Gaining those wobbly bits, getting wrinkles and losing your thigh gap isn’t actually that gnarly.

One day, when you notice that you are the heaviest you have ever been and that Pia in her 30’s can snack on Pia in her 20’s and have some room to spare, you will realize: It doesn’t matter.

You will start going out of the house,  in (double gasp!) pajama pants -not caring if it makes your butt look bigger. You will go to events without obsessing about whether your purse matches your outfit. You will actually learn to laugh at flight attendants who rudely ask you about your protruding bulge.

Losing your youth, growing older, and getting bigger is actually liberating. Because at the end of the day, you will realize that despite changes in appearance, you are exactly the same person you always have been. If anything, now that you have stopped obsessing on the externals, you will learn to relate with people more genuinely and authentically.

So, bottom line – cherish what you have now, but don’t obsess when it’s all gone.

ENJOY EVERY MOMENT BUT BE PRACTICAL

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco Villamor

Being in your twenties is one of the fun-nest times you’ll ever encounter. You’re young enough to pull all-nighters and still be productive. BUT you are old enough not to be policed by adults because you’re actually considered one now.

Pretty soon, you’ll have something that you’ve never had in your life: Financial Independence.

So imagine this: You will have more money than your allowanced-self has ever had – but will not be saddled with any obligation to pay for anything except your phone bill and shopping purchases. I’m still so jealous.

Dude, live the life. Don’t be too kuripot – spend some of your money on traveling. Stop being so self-conscious when you’re out clubbing with Ynez – dance until the wee hours of the morning. ENJOY YOUR EPILEPTIC-MOVING ASS.

You will never again encounter a time when you have this much freedom and very little responsibility.

That being said, it wouldn’t hurt if you take care of yourself a little. Put some moisturizer on and stay out of the damn sun! (Yes, I know you think sunbathing in Boracay at noon time gives you a healthy glow, but seriously, NOT HEALTHY.)

Start learning how to eat right. Repeat after me: French fries cannot be considered a vegetable.

And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but exercise (triple gasp). Our metabolism will thank you later on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving you this advice so you could hold on to your youth as long as you can.

I just think you need to start taking care of yourself better. Worse than wobbly bits and wrinkles, you will develop a multitude of minor illnesses. And these minor illnesses will morph into major ones because you did not pay attention to them.

You have health care (courtesy of our doting father), buddy. Use it. Drink your vitamins. Go to the doctor. Drink plenty of water.

And this goes for non-health-related stuff too.

I know I just told you to loosen your purse strings. But learn how to save for the future as well. You are kuripot, yes. But being money-savvy is more than just putting your money in an unused wallet in the dresser. Talk to our dad about investing in stocks and mutual funds. Learn how to grow your savings. Be on top of your finances.

Now is the time to explore, for sure. But you need to invest on more than just memories that you can fondly look back on when you’re a middle-aged tita. You also need to start thinking about the practical stuff so you can prepare for the future.

FOLLOW YOUR OWN BLISS BUT BE MORE DELIBERATE

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco Villamor

I know I already talked to you about being practical. But your career deserves a totally different section altogether.

You are blessed with a multitude of undeveloped talents (and now is not the time to demur, just take the compliment) – unfortunately, you are also a space cadet.

You will go through life shifting from one career to the other for the stupidest reasons. You’re in 3rd-year college, right? You can now choose your schedule and are given the freedom to pick out electives. USE IT WISELY.

Do not take classes just because Roxy and Miong are taking them; or because you cannot bear to wake up at 7:30 in the morning. Take classes that you really feel like taking. Don’t let the reputation of professors stop you either – Fr. Dacanay, Eddie Boy Calasanz, the ones who have a reputation for being tough are the ones you can really learn from.

The thing is (and I know you will protest when I say this – but believe me when I say I know you better than you know yourself), at the bottom of this weird space cadet thingy is not because you are living in the moment.

Bottomline, you don’t make deliberate choices because you’re afraid to challenge yourself. You are scared that things will get too difficult – so you choose to let other people make decisions for you. You’re afraid you’re not good enough to hack it – so you stay within a certain comfort zone.

Unfortunately, this will be a recurring theme in your twenties. You will take certain jobs, not because it feeds your passion, but because you think you don’t have what it takes to go for something that you really want to do.

You were given that passion, those interests, those talents because you have the capacity not just to succeed in the conventional way, but to touch other people’s lives.

These gifts are given to you to cultivate. So follow your bliss. Don’t be afraid to look stupid and to learn new things. Take career risks.

(No, this is not a go-signal for you to drop out of college and take a course in bikini-making. Don’t be a smart-ass. I said follow your bliss- not your fleeting fancy.)

You have to start making deliberate choices. Even this early – you are wise enough to know where your talents and real interests lie. So ask yourself, what do I really want to do in life? What activities make me feel the most alive? Plan it out and take classes (and eventually jobs) that can take you a step closer to these goals. Do not just take opportunities just because they’re readily available. Keep your eye on the prize.

That being said, following my advice doesn’t mean that you will not wake up one day and realize that you actually want to pursue something else. That can still happen.

But that’s totally fine. Don’t be afraid to shift your goals no matter how doggedly you pursued the previous ones. Because I promise you, if you follow your REAL bliss, and you take more deliberate steps to pursue them, every goal that you set out of yourself can be used to build on these new goals. You will not waste your time.

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR PARENTS BUT LEARN HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT THEM

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco VillamorI need to tell you something, and this will break your heart: You will not have as much time with your parents as you think. Before you’re even quite ready to let go, they will both be gone.

And, you will remember all the times that you took their presence for granted; all the times you made some seemingly inconsequential choice of locking yourself in your room or doing your own thing instead of going home early, hanging out on the terrace and chatting with them.

Before it’s too late, please, please spend time with Mama and Papa. It will not kill you to watch another one of mom’s telenovelas – even if always ends with some orphan finding their rich, long lost parent… Listen to dad’s videoke rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon for the nth time – even if he follows it up with a medley of the Cascades. Those are the things that you will miss when they’re gone.

Sometime in the future, when they both become ill, you will experience days when you’ll find it emotionally difficult to be around them. And you will end up distracting yourself with other endeavors because you can’t deal. But those are the times when they need you the most. You need to be strong for them. Everything else can wait.

I know I dropped this bombshell on you, and you’re probably reeling from the shock. But there’s another important, practical thing you need to hear.

In as much as I’m telling you to cherish every moment with them, you also need to practically prepare for the inevitability of losing them.

As early as now, you need to learn how to adult. Both you and Det have pretty much relied on them for everything your whole life.  (What the hell dude, you don’t even have your own bank account.) And when they’re gone, you will both be overwhelmed with making decisions that they used to make for you. You need to start learning how to fend for yourself. Start handling your own money. Learn how to manage the house. Be a little bit more active with learning the family business. Familiarize yourself with estate matters.

BUT most of all, learn how to take care of our folks, instead of relying on them to take care of you.

You know that they’re the best parents anyone could ask for. At least before they’re gone, give them the privilege of being pampered, and the peace of mind of being able to let go without worrying about you.

CHERISH YOUR RELATIONSHIPS BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO LET GO

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco Villamor

You seem to have this part down to a pat, so I will not elaborate on this advice too much.

Now that you’re 20 and have pretty much gotten over your adolescent angst, you have acquired a knack of making friends very quickly and easily. And the relationships that you’ve built are not superficial either. You have been blessed with the ability to make deep, long-lasting relationships.

Do not ever, ever take that for granted.

You’ll be glad to know that your best friends will be your friends for life. (Well, I’m not sure about life, I’m only in my 30’s after all.) And they will be there for you pretty much for all your toughest moments (and there will be a lot, unfortunately).

So cherish the experiences you have with them. You will never have this much free time to spend with each other again.

Pretty soon, some of you will be married, some will have kids, some will be too busy with work. Bottomline, everyone will be caught up with adulting; although you remain good friends, you will not be able to spontaneously hang out when the mood arises. (By the way, traffic will also be terrible by the time you hit my age so meeting up will be a logistical nightmare.)

Even more disconcerting, some of your best friends will move to other countries and you will lose touch. And a handful of them, you will have some sort of falling out with.

This is a bit sad I know, but I hope you don’t feel too forlorn when this happens. Growing in and out of friendship is just part of life. Let the process happen.

The silver lining is, even at my age, you will continue to make meaningful friendships. Some old friends will come back after a long relationship hiatus. And some people who will become a big part of your life, you haven’t even met.

Continue to build memories. But do not cling. Part of being a good friend is letting the person grow – regardless of whether they grow with or without you. Always leave a space for them in your heart, but know when you’ve outgrown a friendship, and quietly, without drama, move on.

BE YOURSELF BUT LEARN TO PICK YOUR BATTLES

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco Villamor

You are definitely a feisty one. And I actually admire that about you. In your mid-twenties, you will sort of lose your voice. Without getting into the detail, part of your heartbreak will cause you to lose your self-esteem. You will start believing what a handful of people are saying about you. You’re going to start thinking, “hey, maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m a bit too in-your-face. Maybe I need to tame down the crazy”. And you will start holding your tongue, start swallowing your opinions so you will be deemed more “likable”.

Don’t. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to give up your preferences and identity in order to become more palatable to other people. Keeping up this whole tongue-in-cheek façade will just cause you a lot of stressful nights. You will soon find yourself in a constant state of anxiety – worrying about whether you said the right thing and whether you offended someone because of something that you did … Dear Lord, IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

You are blessed with so many people who appreciate the bratty, opinionated, neurotic busybody that you are. The people who don’t will always have something to say regardless of how much you conform to their standards.

So save yourself the grief. Continue to speak up, continue to have opinions, and continue being yourself.

That being said, you do need to learn to choose where you expend your energies, buddy. Not every battle needs to be fought. Being in a constant state of negativity is just as exhausting as keeping the peace.

Discern what conflicts are worth your time and what conflicts need to be let go. Being strong doesn’t necessarily mean you have to push your weight around. Being strong also means having the self-control to let go of things and conflicts that will not further your growth.

LOVE SELFLESSLY BUT DON’T LOSE YOURSELF IN THE PROCESS

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco Villamor

So, you have just broken up with your high school sweetheart. I know you’re pretty much over him, but you’re wondering if you will be able to meet someone who can handle your prickly personality.

Worry not! You will meet someone soon. And he will be the love of your life. He will be your best friend, your number one confidante, your biggest cheerleader, the only person you can see yourself growing old with.

There is a catch, though: Things will not be smooth-sailing for your relationship. And he will break your heart. Over and over again.

The thing is, despite your friends’ advice, and despite even your own logical judgment, you will not give up on him. And you will spend a lot of time judging yourself because you deem it as a weak, non-Beyonce-independent-woman move. (Sidenote, even Queen B will go through her own boy trouble. Do me a favor, in 2016, google “Lemonade”.) Don’t. Deep down, you know your gut is telling you that this is a relationship worth keeping. Your instincts have always been on point.

He may lose his way. But believe me, the person you initially fell in love with? That’s really who he is. He is still the same, wonderful, loving, generous and patient guy that you first fell for.

Follow your heart. Trust me when I say it will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

The thing is, sometimes, love can be exactly like what you see in those sappy movies that you’re fond of. It’s all rainbows, butterflies, sweet nothings and grand gestures. And the affection and support that you get from your partner can move you to aspire for greater things.

But there are also darker and more hurtful experiences that come with every relationship. Choosing to move past the hurt and choosing to love during these moments will make you a stronger, more accepting and more compassionate version of yourself. It’s during these moments when you learn to become velveteen rabbit, legit-bunny real.

And yes, he will goad you and push you and hurt you to the point that you want to lash out. But accepting him despite these things will teach you about what real love really is. Inversely, you will goad him and hurt him and push him to the point that he would want to lash out too. (You are after all, just as insufferable.) But he will accept you and love you regardless. His compassion towards you will teach you to love and forgive yourself.

Long, emotional lecture aside, though, I hope that you also learn the difference between loving selflessly and being so obsessed with the person. There is no need to go all intense and dogged up his ass. Relax. Nothing good ever gets away.

I mentioned earlier that he will go through things that will make him lose his way. The sad thing is, you will be so preoccupied with your tragic love story that you will no longer have time for anything else. And you will end up losing yourself as well.

Loving a person doesn’t mean you have to revolve your entire world around him. Learn how to focus on other people and things that make you happy as well.

You owe it to your relationship, and more importantly to yourself, to be whole with or without him.

The great thing about it is, after everything, you will find yourselves in a legit, adult relationship. This time with your eyes wide open – and without the you-complete-me foolishness of your youth. You will learn to relate to each other as equals and appreciate what the other brings to the table. You will both be fully aware that the other one is a little bit crazy – but you will CHOOSE to love each other NOT in spite of these flaws, but precisely because of them. You’re both far from perfect- but the imperfection brings with it an opportunity to love and be loved. Being with each other means embracing the good and the bad- because that’s what makes the person whole.

HEED MY ADVICE BUT KNOW THAT YOU’RE STRONG ENOUGH TO ENDURE WITHOUT THEM

Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self | Pia Dysangco VillamorYour eyes are probably glazing over by now. So I will try to make this succinct. I wrote this long-ass letter so I can help you make better choices, and possibly correct the “mistakes” that we made.

But the truth is, you KNOW better. So, choose to follow my advice because it resonates with you, not because you’re afraid of “suffering” my fate.

If anything, these so-called missteps will lead you to adult. And you are a better person because of them. All these experiences will teach you that you stronger and wiser than you give yourself credit for.

Whatever life throws at you, you will endure. And you will thrive. So take my advice as a whole, pick out bits and pieces that you feel makes sense, or discard everything all together.

As our favorite author once said, “You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the one who will choose where to go.”

Follow your gut. Revel in the uncertainty and complexity of life. And more importantly, live without regrets. You got this, babe. Go make us proud.

Your mountain is waiting,

Pia

Before the Letter to Self

I had been reading Pia’s blog and loved her posts. She agreed when I asked if she would write a post here. It took a while, not only because this post has over 3,400 words, but also because Pia and her husband has recently moved back to Metro Manila. On behalf of the readers, I would like to thank Pia for her graciousness and wishes her family the best of everything.