Just like everyone out there, I have a closet that houses all the skeletons I've been hiding all my life. The collection of bones have accumulated over the years as I hopped from one experience to another. From the outside, however, it looks like a gorgeous antique closet — adorned with carvings of flowers and angels — that contains precious jewels, family heirlooms, grand dresses and glass slippers. One of those things that people pay top dollar for at Sotheby's.
I have seemingly led a blemish-free life that therapists hate as my subconscious neither holds any traumatic ordeals or dysfunctional meanderings. I hate to say it but my parents did their jobs pretty damn well raising me — hence, making it difficult for me to put blame on them for any of my psychological paroxysms. Just picture Meredith Grey, just as damaged and broken, without much excuse for being damaged and broken. And minus 95% of the whining.
When I was uprooted from my cushy life back at seventeen years old, my excitement was uncontainable. New life, new environment, new country, new friends — and of course, independence! Well, not exactly as my parents were still financially supporting me 100%, but at least more independence that I got compared to living under the same roof as them. I realized how sheltered I was. This both scared and delighted me. I was thrown in a world where I was about to discover many new things.
Just like everyone, I had been foolish and I had been smart. After all, it was college. That's my excuse. I followed the herd. I drank and got drunk, I had cold pizza and swigs of vodka for weekend brunch (coffee and cigarettes for the weekday ones), I bought more clothes to make up for the fact that I hadn't done my laundry in weeks, I blew all my hard-earned cash on clubbing and going out, I *ahem* dabbled with things I knew I shouldn't be touching, and I incurred excessive credit card debts. Nothing especially out of the ordinary, but it was all new to me. However, the angel perenially sitting on my right shoulder kept me afloat — with constant reminders on why I was there in the first place. Though admittedly, I did horrendous things, I still made sure I still maintained top grades, kept myself out of jail and made sure I graduated. It was the least I can do to thank my parents, right?
There was one instance, however, that brought my fast pace to a skidding halt. This time, my moral values came screaming at me — and truly tested me for the first time. I was with a friend at that time. We just finished taking a horrible final in accounting and we felt we deserved a treat. We had ice cream and went shopping.
“It's getting cold, I really need a new muffler. My old one is already moldy and I could no longer see the colors in its original shade,” I commented as I browsed around scarves, beanies, mufflers and mittens.
She picked up one of the mufflers and examined it. “Hey,” she said. “This one's not too bad. It actually looks pretty warm.” She tied it around her neck as if to prove it.
“Yeah,” I said. “You should get it.”
“Yeah, I should,” she agreed.
“How much is it?”
Before I could get an answer from her, she was already out of the store — with the muffler still around her neck! I stood there agape; my brain still trying to process what just happened there. I mean, she was supposedly my friend. How long has she been doing this? And when were the other times that she did this? If she got caught, I could go down with her. All these questions flooded me.
“I got you one as well!” she said as she triumphantly showed a second muffler hiding under the first one she lifted.
I took it, said thanks, and wrapped it around my neck. She was right, it was mighty warm. That was six years ago and I still have that muffler inside my trunk that has all my winter clothing. I still ask myself why I didn't say anything and why I didn't do anything about it. It wasn't the first time it happened, neither was it the last. And I don't know why I tolerated it.
I may have done so many ridiculous things in my life but I do have my boundaries. I'm not angel and I've never been. There are things I can let go — whether easily or with difficulty, I can still let it slide — but there are things I ought not tolerate. And going against the law is on top of my list. I have no reason to rebel and neither have I got a good reason to disregard my intelligence. I know what's right from wrong and though ethics can cause me to stray over a gray area once in a while, I find no reason to put so much at risk for a measly muffler (or anything, for that matter). If only fate decided to take the red pill on me that day, I would have lost everything — my stellar scholastic and academic career, my family's trust, my independence, my life basically, plus I would be denied of a great future. All for a muffler? Shoplifting is still a crime and though I didn't pull the deed myself, there was no way I could explicitly prove that I wasn't an accomplice. If I were to go to jail for a crime, I'd make sure it was worth it like embezzling billions of dollars to a Cayman Islands secret bank account. Not a ruddy muffler!
I learned a lot from that episode. The gods were definitely looking down on me kindly that day as they gave me a sobering premonition instead of a rude awakening. I have toned down the risks that I take as a result of growing up and learning from my mistakes though I don't regret making any of them. My gut feeling has become my best friend especially now that I am continuously faced with new experiences that I've never encountered before. And I have become pickier with whom I allow myself to be surrounded with. Sure, I've made foolish choices before as to whom I let influence my life, but admittedly, they did show me another world that I know for sure I didn't want to be a part of. It's always a case of “the moon is rounder in another continent” but now that I've seen the other side, I'd like to stick with this one, thankyouverymuch. We do make our fair share of mistakes and there's nothing wrong with that as long as we know they were mistakes. And that they remain in the past.
As for friends, it is our choice whether or not we bite the bullet and get in trouble with our friends. However, true friends don't put their friends in a dangerous position without giving them a choice. It is, indeed, a good test to find out who our friends really are but it isn't a decision for us to make for them.
Big mistakes stem from small mistakes. And good friends keep you from those.