Ode to the Dreamers of the 21st Century
by: Ma. Mikaela Cervania
Being young and a dreamer in the 21st century has to be one of the greatest challenges to this generation. With so many legends, heroes, and geniuses that have come and gone, but are still remembered and celebrated up to this day, it would seem that every single brilliant idea has already been taken and done.
Einstein formulated the theory of relativity that changed the face of physics forever. Stephen Hawking followed to this few decades later, providing a mathematical proof for the Big Bang Theory. Mozart gave us complex yet revolutionary symphonies. Leonardo da Vinci painted the most well-known portrait of a smiling woman (The Mona Lisa). Mohandas Gandhi touched millions of lives with his unwavering wisdom and philosophy. Steve Jobs produced innovations that had dared other creators through time to step up their game. The list goes on and on, and with the knowledge of these people’s great contributions, comes great anxiety and pressure as to how we can leave our own mark.
It awakens that little voice inside our heads that says, “Who am I?”, “What am I capable of?”, “Will I ever make it?”, and the most daunting question of all – what can we, the dreamers of the 21st century, offer and contribute to the world?
Never had these questions felt more overwhelming to me than in the past few months prior to graduation, mainly because the word itself – graduation – sounds like the final note in an extraordinarily thrilling long song, that once it ends, a deafening silence would follow, accompanied by a voice asking, “What’s next?”.
After four or more years of sweating our brows to receive a high grade or even a decent passing grade, sacrificing hours of sleep to beat a deadline, not eating because of overwhelming tasks, finding an isolated spot to cry our hearts out because of failure, and many more unforgettable moments that have shaped our college lives, it just makes sense that we – and even our parents, friends, colleagues – would wonder what we are going to do afterward. Some of us are at the stage of uncertainty, undecided of which path to take. We are confused of the crossroads that’s in front of us.
Others, on the contrary, know exactly what they want, but are sometimes tested by the inevitable feeling of not being good enough or by the invalidation from certain people. And the rest, they might be torn between passion and practicality — a dilemma that is truest for those whose hearts are in the arts and in public service but must fulfill a responsibility for their family.
But let us not dwell on the loneliness and the anxieties brought forth by the nearing end. For a while let’s not bother to answer the questions that keep us up late at night, and instead take a moment to hit the rewind button to the long song that we have all shared together – the college life. Let’s go back to the best and even the worst parts that have helped mold us into who we are now.
Let’s begin with the prelude, the introductory orchestral music to a wonderful operatic act. We stepped in for the very first time in a classroom filled with unfamiliar faces and varying personalities. Suddenly, the baton started to wave and an unacquainted music played. A sound signifying the dread we feel because we didn’t know what to expect. Would we get along with everybody? Would we make new friends? Would the professors be strict and terror? And then, the keynote of the music changes into an exhilarating tune, because we meet someone in the room that has the same interests as us. We learn their names, which school they went to in high school, why they chose to take this course, and the conversation takes off to multiple subjects.
We now fast forward a little to the middle, circle of friends have either extended or stayed the same. There are two overlapping and different melodies. Division was truly noticeable. It wasn’t that there was a clash coming about; it’s just we haven’t learned yet to break barriers and open up ourselves to the opportunity of knowing everyone else much better. The music wasn’t really pleasing, it was disturbing.
We had our eyes only fixed straight ahead, but weren’t exerting effort to expand them to our peripheral vision, where an array of possibilities exists. The two overlapping melodies started to drown each other out, in which, the results turned out sour. We put the blame on someone else and became unwilling to realize that perhaps we had our own share of shortcoming.
We had our eyes only fixed straight ahead, but weren’t exerting effort to expand them to our peripheral vision, where an array of possibilities exists.
Then again, the keynote changed once more, this time to a quiet and slow tune produced by the keys of a piano, serving as the soundtrack as we said our goodbyes one after another to the people and friends that we have met at the beginning of the journey.
Some had to transfer to another university due to certain circumstances, some had to stop because of financial or domestic difficulties, and some had to leave to face the new responsibilities and challenges of motherhood and fatherhood.
None of us had imagined or hoped that the day would come when we would decrease in number. Wouldn’t it be merrier if we made it to the finish line altogether? But as wonderful as that thought may seem, perhaps the sudden and unexpected departures of those people had a purpose to serve us. Maybe, just maybe, they were meant to lead us to the path of embracing one another and realizing our potentials. Maybe, their battles were no longer the same with us.
But as wonderful as that thought may seem, perhaps the sudden and unexpected departures of those people had a purpose to serve us. Maybe, just maybe, they were meant to lead us to the path of embracing one another and realizing our potentials. Maybe, their battles were no longer the same with us.
Sure enough, the battle deliberately becomes bloodier, signaling for the music to make a drastic turn – an eerie, earsplitting, screechy sound. What started out as a playground suddenly transformed into a battlefield, putting all our strength, courage, willpower, patience, and well-being into test.
Some were gunned down with a massive blow, and when they hit the ground, their minds and hearts fought against the decision on whether they would be better off dead or they would rise up to continue the fight. Some obtained wounds and scratches but managed to remain on their feet. Some offered a hand to others despite being injured himself. At the midst of all the commotion and blood, the tears and fears, the broken hearts and discouraged souls – a sudden, significant change in the keynote of the song occurs. It was serene, sweet, and beautiful. We met one another’s eyes, communicating in silence how divine the music is, and then we started to laugh, to share jokes and funny memories, to poke fun at how we all looked wasted and drained. The war zone was eventually filled with laughter, newly-formed and strengthened friendships, acceptance, love, and most of all, harmony.
The war zone was eventually filled with laughter, newly-formed and strengthened friendships, acceptance, love, and most of all, harmony.
We were able to turn our misery in to magic! We were able to use our talent, creativity, and intellect to put the pieces together and create a wonderful art. The instruments have started to play in tune with one another, the orchestra has now produced a harmonious melody. We defeated our own demons, egos, and pride, settled our differences, and as a reward we attained victories.
We defeated our own demons, egos, and pride, settled our differences, and as a reward we attained victories.
But apart from the praises and recognition, we also gained a sense of self-discovery in which our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, and even enemies, contributed. With the help of their support, wisdom, and faith, we have braved every single trial thrown our way, which in the end made us realize that we have so much more resilience and grit inside all of us than we have ever believed. And now, with all that said, I’m afraid I can already hear the approaching final note of our song. I’m sure you hear it, too. The strings of the guitar are strumming louder, the beats of the drums are thumping harder, the keys of the piano are playing faster…
It is coming. Can you hear it?
The final note of the music. It is coming.
The instruments are joining forces to create an overwhelming sound all over the place, eliciting emotions from within us that we tried to set aside earlier. Anxiety, pressure, loneliness, fear – it’s all coming back now, aren’t they? Who am I? What am I capable of? Will I ever make it?
Here it is, the final note we’ve all been dreading and waiting for…
Can you hear it?
It’s coming closer and closer now…
Are you ready…
And when our song has come to its end, and the silence that followed seemed to be eating us alive. And we can’t resist to compare ourselves to the legends, heroes, and geniuses that came before us, or to the people who are currently making a name for themselves, here’s what I hope we strive to remember: We are not the next Albert Einstein, nor the next Stephen Hawking, nor the next Mozart, nor the next Leonardo da Vinci, nor the next Mohandas Gandhi, nor the next Steve Jobs. We are also definitely not the next beauty queens who have bagged crowns in international pageants, nor the next filmmakers whose names have flashed at the closing credits in a cinema, nor the next writers whose works have been published and can be found in bookstores worldwide, nor the next singers or artists who have earned critical acclaims for their music, nor the next doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, developers, and businessmen who have contributed their knowledge and abilities locally and internationally for the greater cause, nor the next everyone else who has crafted or is crafting their own legacies.
We are not the next anybody. We are the first, the only, and unique from others, overflowing with purpose, creativity, imagination, and ideas that will try to make a difference in this world. We carry the music we produced in our hearts, being our guiding light as we lead a life of our own.
Yes, that is who we are, the dreamers of the 21st century.
We are not the next anybody. We are the first, the only, and unique from others, overflowing with purpose, creativity, imagination, and ideas that will try to make a difference in this world. We carry the music we produced in our hearts, being our guiding light as we lead a life of our own. Yes, that is who we are, the dreamers of the 21st century.