There was this little bit of life advice that I unwittingly took when I was younger. Much younger, I must say. I was around six or seven years old back then. And unwittingly, because I took it from local films. Romances set in college, or family dramas. You know, the mainstream stuff.

My tendency to oversimplify things back then - don't we all? - led me to determine that there is a certain sequence to major things we all have to go through in our lives. Elementary school, then high school, then college. Then the barkada. Only then. And then, after that, your girlfriend. It was just supposed to happen, but I suppose I never really thought about the idea of courtship. Then marriage comes, then starting a family, then looking for a job.

Of course, that sequence is utterly wrong, which is probably the reason why I subsequently tossed it a day later. Still, it somehow survived for years - that, or I was just pretty focused with my studies. I know, that sounds unnecessarily noble. And I know, that's probably hypocritical. I did have crushes in elementary, but they were mostly childish thoughts about growing old. Nothing more.

The one thing that shattered those thoughts were high school. I guess it's because I spent eight formative years in a small school near our subdivision, reasonably sheltered by childhood innocence and slightly conservative beliefs. At least that's where I blamed it. Suddenly, I'm in the middle of a highly-evolved (questionable) and highly-civilized (questionable) society, where students bypassed the sequence. Friends! Group of friends! Dating couples! One of my classmates was recovering from a bad split with her boyfriend. Apparently it was so bad she had to visit the psychiatrist. Another of my classmates had a girlfriend who was a batch higher than him. I remember that rattling me. And then he asks me, casually, before computer class: "alam mo ba yung masturbate?"

It's been nine years since I began high school. I've been expelled and reintegrated. I've had my first beer. I've written love notes in tissue paper, which is remotely much sweeter than covering my face with my bag so I don't see this girl. (That's why I got a 78 in English.) I've had one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve huge crushes. I've thought about courtship only once, and that, as you all know, ended in miserable failure - perhaps because I never tried.

I never really rushed things. I guess it's my ADHD and my tendency to focus too much on certain things. Sure, there are things that I want to do, but there are, or so I thought, more important things. So it's beyond me why later bunch of kids are rushing to get to places. I was introduced to the concept of teenage pregnancies during high school, when one of my classmates came in and proudly said that he got his girlfriend pregnant - only to call her up right after some other guy fucked her.

And then there's one of my first college friends, who admitted to me that she's pregnant... and promptly disappeared. The baby did not see the light of day.

This morning, I was at DLSZ, having breakfast before the (ultimately pointless) Pacquiao-Clottey match. My mother mentioned this story she heard from a friend of hers. This woman's son is just, I don't know, four or five years old, perhaps, and he already has a girlfriend. And he worried about Valentine's Day gifts, and now he's worrying about a birthday present. I know, I've had crushes in pre-school, but apart from the childish "mahal mo ba ako?" comment, nothing else happened.

I was looking at the cover of today's Sunday Inquirer Magazine when a kid suddenly came to our desk and tried to grab the paper away from me. I didn't know what to do. It was a little struggle, one quickly solved when the kid's mother came by and apologized. "Say sorry," she said. The kid, maybe three, didn't budge. I later realized that the boy saw the advertisement on the back of the magazine, with Carmi Martin wearing a bikini.

Kids. They're rushing. No wonder the mainstream press was shocked when a study revealed that girls are hitting puberty at a younger age - menstruation, breast development - and I know this sounds gross but this is an actual study. They're maturing too fast. The next thing we know they'll hurtle into relationships before they're even born. Arranged marriages will become the norm in every society! Then someone will revolt, and the marrying age will return to the early 30s. The cycle continues.

I'm 21. I have a hopeless office crush, I feel rejected by most of my peers, and I am lonely. With kids younger than me making more progress than they should, no wonder I feel immature.

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