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Reading through Facebook greetings on my birthday, I’m quite glad people remembered me, thanks no less to the social media notifications, but even more because it reminded me of the men and women in my life whom I’ve always felt were true friends (I keep my friends list limited to people I know in real life).

While I’m afraid that 28 can be rounded off to 30 (that was what they taught us in elementary), and consequently, I might be categorized as someone in his thirties (which I don’t agree with), I’m just happy to celebrate another year alive. I’m not going to play games and say my life is perfect. Unsurprisingly, no one’s is, no matter how much you and I curate our social media profiles. I have been equally blessed and stressed, victorious and defeated, practical and profound (in some ways), restless and contented, over the course of two decades, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And while some might have seen (videos and pictures of) or experienced me at my funniest, my worst and my most ridiculous and assume I’m effusive and reckless in real life, some (of my closest friends) have also seen me in my greatest tragedies (quitting a job, losing myself to someone) and know there is probably more to me than being a flamboyant queer divided over religious upbringing and modern enchantments. For reminding me of my humanity and inherent capacities, I am eternally grateful to them.

At my age, I’d like to believe, as a good friend so brilliantly made me realize, I am almost whole, not in the sense of refusing to change or closing any doors to becoming a better person, but that the gist of my existence has settled, and I hopefully have more years ahead of me to make people laugh, makes bosses mad, make parents proud. I once so foolishly thought a year back that I deserved more than toxic, city-air of Manila, and that someplace else would help me become someone else, someone new and successful and worthy of praise, in the process forgetting that our malleability has a limit, and our affections, no matter how volatile, will retain certain loyalties. I realized places and spaces should not always define who we are. The greater challenge is how we define the places we live in, and the spaces wherein we move, act, affect and alter the lives of others.

And so while I’m not THAT old yet, I am just glad I’m not as young anymore too. And even though birthdays no longer bring the same charm as it did when I was a young boy, I’m happy to find out, even if it is only once a year, there are certainties in my life which remind me I can anchor myself to something steady, strong, and stable.

If you look over the years, the styles have changed – the clothes, the hair, the production, the approach to the songs. The icing to the cake has changed flavors. But if you really look at the cake itself, it’s really the same.

– John Oates