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Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

I’ve lost my angst. And I don’t know where I put it. Or maybe, I’ve stopped caring.

I realized this when my friends and I started a book club (the operative word is started), and read one young adult book. It was supposedly a coming-of-age story about a teenager who comes to grips with a tragedy. In true melodramatic fashion, he falls in love with a carefree girl who cannot be bound by rules and other such nonsense created by the grown up world. In the end, she commits suicide and he must pick up the pieces and make sense out of it all.

And when we started discussing the novel, my friends were wondering if we had ever been that melodramatic ourselves because we could no longer relate to the characters. I wanted to shake the characters’ fictional shoulders and tell them that contrary to what they believed, (1) the world did not revolve around them, (2) grown ups had better things to do thank think up of ways to make them miserable and (3) there was more to life than falling in love.

What is it about being a teenager that makes one feel as though nobody every really understands him? That, in all the universe, only his story is the one that needs to be told. That, in all of history, only he has ever loved and lost.

I guess the only way to go from being angsty teenager to a hopeful adult is to go through it. Growing up cannot be read about nor lived vicariously through others. If it could, I would have been saved a lot of heartache. But I would have lost a lot of wisdom as well. It used to irk me to quote the cliché of experience being the best teacher until I realized there was a reason it became in a cliché in the first place.

Sometimes I see myself in the students I teach. And I realize what got me from where they are to where I am are the experiences over the years. Some of those experiences were painful but a lot of them were great too. And somewhere along the way, I lost my angst. Perhaps it was when I learned to love myself with my own limitations. Perhaps it was when I saw that my purpose in life is not to live for myself alone. Perhaps it was when my faith in a loving God grew. Perhaps it was a combination of all these things. Whatever it was, I’m truly grateful for it.

I suppose I look back to all these things because it gives me hope. As I go from early thirties to mid-thirties to the big 4-0 (which is still many years away), I want to welcome all of the experiences that come my way, whether they are painful or not. Someday, I know…I hope…I have faith, that I will come out from this stage of my life with my joy overflowing, my faith stronger and my heart not just wiser but bigger.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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