For some reason, my social circle spans a wide age range. I have friends who are in their teens, majority in their twenties and a few others in their late thirties – the oldest of which would be 38, I think.
I do not really know if it is because of the fact that I am a blogger and I get to meet lots of people or maybe I am just that personable. Probably both and the nice thing about having a social circle like that is that you get insights from the lives of different people of different ages.
Recently, I attended a lifestyle event at The Fort. The event started with dinner and they served really damn good and tasty food. After a while the speaker started talking while we were eating and needless to say, we got a little bored. I was seated on a table where no one knew anyone and you could just imagine how quiet we were. So to break the ice, I started introducing myself and talking to the four people in the table sitting closest to me.
Sitting right in front of me was a girl named Lisa. She is 26, and works as a brand manager of Skechers and a few other shoe brands.
Seated beside Lisa was a guy named Jan. He is 32, and is a music blogger. It’s kind of obvious because he wears rockstar clothes.
Right beside me was a guy named Mark. By his looks you can easily tell that he is still young. He is a fresh graduate and he works at the marketing department of HP.
Going fifteen minutes into the conversation, our group composed of Mark, Jan, Lisa and I all had a connection. We talked about different things, different experiences and the stuff we all do at work. We have also found a common interest: blogging, social media and music. I guess that is how friendship all starts.
But what intrigued all of us is Mark. We were talking about our hobbies and here is how our conversation went.
Me: So what do you guys do on a weekend?
Lisa: I go wakeboarding sometimes and just chill with friends
Me: Impressive Lisa. You must be damn rich. I’ve heard a single day of wakeboarding costs 2,000 bucks!
Lisa: *Laughs* No, no no I’m not rich. I just save some money to be able to afford it. I love it, it’s fun. You should all join me one weekend.
Me: Yes sure. We’ll see, but you’ve got to teach me.
Lisa: No problem!
I then looked at Jan expecting him to answer the same question, and without hesitation he spoke up.
Jan: As for me, I’m into music so you would expect to find me going to gigs and concerts. What about you Chris?
Me: Cool. I’m also into music so whenever I go out with friends, we attend major concerts whenever there is one. I also blog about men’s fashion and lifestyle so you will also find me in product launches and other lifestyle events like these on weekends when I’m not busy.
Jan: Nice. So what’s the best event you’ve attended?
Me: Probably FHM’s 100 Sexiest.
Jan: Damn dude, you should’ve invited me too. Haha.
Then suddenly, we all realized that there is just one remaining person who has not yet answered. It’s Mark, the fresh grad. All our eyes went to Mark’s direction.
Lisa: So Mark, what do you do on the weekends?
Me: Yes Mark, maybe we can all hangout.
Mark is a somewhat timid guy. Although it’s ironic that he’s in marketing (a career where one should be extrovert and not shy), he is in fact a bit shy. He just smiles at people and seldomly starts a topic. Maybe because he’s still a fresh grad and somewhat culture-shocked to all the marketing work.
Then Mark started to answer:
Mark: Uhm, on weekends I take care of my family.
Jan: Wow, what a good kid! So you take care of your parents and siblings?
Mark: No, I take care of my own family.
Me: What? You have your own family?
Mark: Yeah, I’m married.
At that moment the four of us all went silent for a noticeable 5 seconds. We were stunned. We didn’t know what to say. He looked very young (baby-faced even), fresh out of school, a new hire at HP and all of a sudden we found out he has his own family.
Then Mark continued.
Mark: And I have my own kid too.
Another moment of silence. I pretended not to be bothered by it because I didn’t want him to feel more shy and more awkward than he was at that moment, but I just had to ask:
Me: Wow, that’s awesome. How old is your kid?
Mark: My daughter just turned five years old.
Mark: Yes, I guess I married early.
Our jaws dropped and then again, for the third time, we were all speechless. Mark, a 23-year-old fresh grad has a 5-year-old-kid.
In our heads, we started doing the math to find out how old he was when he got married. 23 years old minus a 5-year-old kid is equal to an 18-year-old guy who tied the knot.
You see, I don’t mean to be judgmental. Neither does Lisa and Jan but we were just surprised. In the Philippines, especially in the city, people get married at their late 20s or early 30s. The only person I know who got married at a young age was a highschool classmate who had his own kid at 21. Mark here was 18 so it is somewhat unusual for someone who lives in Manila, where everyone is very much career-oriented.
For the rest of the evening, our group continued to talk about other things. As soon as Mark started to feel more comfortable with us, he came out of his shell and even started to open up more. Soon, he was sharing his whole life with the group. And suddenly all four of us became more talkative now. When the event ended, we agreed to meet again next time so we exchanged contact numbers and left the venue.
As I headed home, I couldn’t even recall what the event was all about. I actually felt guilty that time because we didn’t pay much attention to the talk and all we did was eat and indulge in conversations. But can you blame us? No one was listening anyway because we couldn’t understand the speaker. The sound system was crappy. The only productive thing I did was to socialize and I am really glad because I gained some new friends.
Then as I sat on the train, I started to think of Mark being a teenage dad. I couldn’t help not to think about “what if I got married at a young age as him?”
The reason why it got me to think about that is because Mark reminded me of myself. Like me, he seemed to have good choices when it comes to clothes. He acts youthfully and on the surface he even looks happy-go-lucky. But the difference is that, underneath all those covers, you can see a young guy who is working very hard to get a good career, be serious and act more matured for the sake of his wife and kid. I actually admired him for that.
In the days that followed, Mark added all of us on Facebook and sometimes the four of us would even meet up to grab some coffee.
One time at UCC, the four of us met. Mark was showing us his family’s photos on Facebook using Jan’s iPad. I enjoyed looking at their family pictures. You can see two young parents (of the same age) with their five year old kid. Heck, they even looked like siblings!
At one point, while looking at the photos, I said to Mark that I envied him for finding love and having a family at such a young age. I also told him that I dreamed of having my own family too someday. Then he turned to me and said: “Thanks. Guess what Chris? I have no regrets of my family because I love them. But at some point I also envy all of you three for having the time of your lives. You can party, you can go out without restrictions, you are able to enjoy your youth and you have a fantastic career. As for me, I’m just starting out”.
The moment he said that, I began to think about how life can be ironic at times. Lately, I’ve been starting to think about having a family of my own, let’s say in 3-5 years time. I want something that Mark has. Meanwhile, Mark wanted the freedom, the career and the life I get to experience as a bachelor. He wanted something that I have. Now, isn’t that crazy?
I guess we all have different choices and different priorities in life. But one thing that Jan, Lisa and I learned from young dad Mark is that no matter where life may lead us, we should never stop trying to pursue our dreams and what we want for ourselves – whether that would be a satisfying career, a meaningful relationship or a burning passion.
Disclosure: Photo above is not Mark and is credited to Thirdage. Jan, Lisa and Mark are pseudonyms for privacy purposes.