This past week has been crazy. I didn’t realize my final chapters of youth group would get so wild so early.
First of all, I became a volunteer at AWANA’s trek. To be honest, I was more excited to participate in this than I was when Wildfire started. It was something new, something I’ve never really done much before—be with kids. Ever since I met my youngest cousins Daniel and Mateo over the summer, I’ve learned a lot about myself and also about kids. I’ve come to have a better understanding of what they can do, how they can act, and how they can comprehend things at their age. Since I became a teenager, I’ve been awkward with kids because I have this fear that they won’t respond to me even when I make a fool of myself. It just used to be so awkward and embarrassing to deal with them. But since my cousins responded so well to me, I was kind of thrilled to feel that again—to feel like I’m setting an example for them. So what better way to do that than volunteer in AWANA?
I wanted to volunteer for kids around the age of 9 but it was pretty cool that I ended up with the 12-14 year old Trek kids, too. Although they’re still young, they are already great at comprehending and understanding things and they’re not that far off my age. It’s easy to go down their level of fun and comprehension of the Bible. I was also very excited that I actually knew someone there. It was that girl that I said liked Seventeen in my previous blog. Her name’s Laura. She’s turning 14—she’s probably the oldest Trek kid there—and we seem to have a lot in common. She’s a cool kid. Anyway, the first day was fun. No one recited verses yet since they didn’t have their starter booklets. We just introduced ourselves, wrote on each other’s backs our first impressions of each other, and planned on 5 things we can bring on a deserted island. So far I don’t know most of the kids’ names yet so I might write something better about AWANA as I get to know all of them.
At Monday, Christelle suddenly messaged me and asked me if I wanted to lead the band with her. As we were just talking about unprepared leaders a week ago, I was thrilled and said yes immediately. So I asked her if she had songs already, but she said no. She also said if we should do two new songs and one that everybody knows. When she was saying all that, I got a little bit frustrated at her because she wanted to lead but she didn’t even have songs ready yet when we were going to practice two days later and I still have to write the chord sheets. Besides, we can’t do two new songs that only she can sing! With her excitement, she has probably forgotten that this wasn’t just for jamming and that it was worship. If she was talking about good leaders for the band, I at least expected that she has thought about these things at some point. But I guess she really is a newbie at leading since it’s her first time. If she didn’t have me who has thought way too much about the whole aspect of the youth band, oh gosh…
Also, I figured that if we were both leading, I should sing, too. (Oh, damn Ronali’s implanted leading personality on me…) I saw no harm to it since we picked Oceans and I could already harmonize well with Christelle on that song. So I also practiced the harmony of Come To Me by Bethel Music and Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher. It was kind of fun and nerve-wracking at the same time because I’ve never sung on the band before. Either way, I was doing it for God and for Christelle, so I was really determined to do well.
At practice, the band sounded great. We finished practicing really quickly even if we had little time. And circle time was back again even though it was unplanned. The band was really a sub-youth group in itself and I’m glad we’re gonna be discussing what worship is and what approach we should have in music on the next coming year.
When the practice ended, John A wanted as to come to Refuge the next day. As I said before on the previous blog, I didn’t really want to go. There was no point of me going if Christelle wasn’t going to go. But since that Thursday was going to be a holiday, she said she might be able to come, but she won’t come if I won’t go. She hasn’t been to Refuge before and she did say last week that she didn’t want to keep meeting new people. And also since she’s so socially awkward even if she’s an extrovert, she wouldn’t go if I won’t go.
Last year, I didn’t really feel like Christelle could comprehend or give back the same love that I expressed for her, but just two weeks in this year I could tell that things have come to a circle. She seems to be leaning a lot more to me now more than ever, and I’m guessing that’s because she knows our time together is limited now. There are also very few girls left from the Wildfire of last year that she knew well. There’s literally just me, Jessica, her, Sarah, and Keziah from last year’s group of girls in Wildfire. The rest of the girls now are all from the Forge last year. Since Jessica has a boyfriend and both Keziah and Sarah are not exactly from the band, I’m the only one that she sees often and clings to at the end of the day.
Whenever I think about how an extrovert like her became willing to spend time and stick with an introvert like me, I’m just overwhelmed by God. Because this… this is all I ever wanted. Ever since I was 10, all I ever wanted was to have a friend who would want to be with me as much as I would want to be with them. All I ever wanted was to have a friend that I could talk with alone about life with God and manage to be a fun pair at something we both do well—in this case, it’s music. All I wanted was to have a friend that people can look at us and say, “Oh, that’s Mia’s friend” or “She is good friends with Mia.” All I wanted was to have someone that I can call my best friend. And with the most simple plead to God, all I wanted was to have a close friend that lasts longer than just one year. She is an answered prayer. I guess that’s why I treat her like a precious jewel. She is a friend sent to me by God.
She’s been expressing more often know that she doesn’t know what she will do when I go, and she seems really troubled about that. I get that she has a socially awkward personality, but she’s an extrovert and she’s pretty good at making new friends. And even though I am the only one who can play the guitar well and jam with her with the style and songs that suit her, I’m not God’s only talented musician. If she asks for it, I’m pretty sure God will give her someone to fill my position when I go.
Anyway, when we got home, I asked her again if she was going to go to refuge. She said she was able to and so I made up my mind to go to. The next day, that Thursday, she asked me how I was going to go. Since it was a holiday, my dad was had a day off so I he was gonna take me there. So she asked me if she could ride with me and I said yes.
In the car, we talked about how we were going to go about starting the worship for Friday. There’s this thing that John Surya always did before starting worship was that he would make everyone hug at least 10 people. Christelle was strongly against doing that and wanted to make people say what they’re thankful for instead—the only problem was that she didn’t know how to say it. We also discussed who was gonna pray. I was strongly against speaking because I know that I stutter a lot and I lose thought every time I pray out loud. However, since she already had a lot on her socially awkward shoulder, I agreed to do it anyway. Besides, I didn’t want to argue anymore about it. One way or another, I knew praying out loud is unavoidable in Christian’s life who is part of the front lines.
We went in to St. Andrews together and it was funny how we came in way too early. The junior high group were still in their youth room so we had to wait outside for about 10 minutes. After some time of waiting, John A and the rest start showing up and we were able to come in. John A apologizes to me when he sees that I brought my bass because I’ve been asking on the Wildfire chat if I should bring my bass and he answered way too late. Anyway, it wasn’t a burden so I forgive him. Anyway, for the first 30 minutes or so, Christelle stuck with me. Many of the people that were there were people we knew from Wildfire, but there were also a few people that we did not know. John A introduced to us a French girl and the four of us talked (or maybe just the three of them because I felt awkward). When Jessica finally arrived, Christelle drew to her and left me alone. That did not bother me much, though, ‘cause I borrowed the acoustic guitar and jammed to whatever they were blasting on their speakers.
After about an hour or so of just goofing around, worship started, and then the Bible study. It was a very short Bible time that the point Jill (their youth leader) was making didn’t make that much sense or just didn’t seem enough. I don’t even think the whole thing lasted for 15 minutes. Anyway, I only came because I wanted to spend time with Christelle—and eat shawarma afterwards. But before dinner, we jammed along with Jonathan, Gabe, John A, and Christelle’s new friend, the French girl. It was great but I left my capo there just when I needed it for the next day’s gig… oh well, at least I know how to find chords quickly even without a capo.
While we were at Seashell, a few of them were arguing about British English and American English pronunciations. The British guy there was probably the one who tackled every damn word that is pronounced differently or has a slightly different grammar and I was honestly slightly annoyed at him. After watching Dave with his friends pronouncing things in different countries, there are really different ways to say one thing. Getting his head worked up about every single word just made him look so ignorant. Anyway, since it was 10 PM and I was already kind of tired, I didn’t really talk that much so I just listened here and there. Aside from that British guy, Christelle and John A were on my left talking by themselves. While they were talking and laughing, I stared at them for some time and a thought struck me. “Well, well, whaddya know… they do look good together.”
Now, I’ve been against pairing them for a long time, but as I was getting to know John A for the past two weeks, I was beginning to see that he was after all a nice guy. He’s kind of introverted but nevertheless friendly. He always makes Christelle laugh for some reason and their conversations always seem to be fun and nice. They also agree on a lot of things. I can even see that he is more of a gentleman than Edwin used to be. So as I was looking at them, I wondered, “Were they always this close? This oddly looks like it could turn into something in the future. All the suspicions Gabriel and Edwin used to say makes more sense now.” Because of what I was seeing, I have never been more curious to know if they had a thing for each other. Maybe I can ask John A, but I don’t know if I can ask Christelle. We always talk about serious band topics and occasionally rant to each other about how people around us act, but we never talk about crushes. We talk about how weird Nithin and Jessica’s relationship are sometimes, but when it comes to how we approach romance–it’s not at all a thing we would sit down and talk about. The last time we talked about crushes was when we discussed Edwin confession, and we were internally cringing hard during that conversation. I wonder if I will ever know her ideal type? Either way, I’ll find out even if it gets awkward… All I need to know is if it matches anyone I know. I just don’t have to mention anyone’s name, especially John A. I’d still be mad if they do start a thing while I’m still here for her. Yes, that’s me basically saying I’m lowkey her current boyfriend. Ha.
At some point we started talking about how Christelle’s vocals are really loud. They both said that many people are saying that she’s not really singing and that she’s just loud. She was a bit conscious about that and asked me about that. Since I get to hear her often with my recordings, I know her weak points as a singer. I‘m not much of a singer myself, that’s why I never spoke to her about it. But now that she was asking for it, I was able to tell her some of my observations. To be honest, she can get very loud when she is taken away by the song. She loses the emotion when the part becomes quite high and powerful. And ever since we jammed with Vida, I knew she was lacking the skill of portraying emotions through her voice. So I told her that, and we discussed it even when we went home. She appreciated a lot that I offered some constructive criticism. She told me that she has been a little insecure about her voice ever since her brother Edwin criticized her, especially when people say she’s just way too loud. She doesn’t even like hearing her voice recorded. Either way, she is good enough for me. She just needs to pay attention to some small details when she sings.
By the way, around Monday and Tuesday, my parents have been asking me what I want to do on my birthday. Do I want to throw a party? Do I want to invite my friends to have dinner at some place? Do I want to bring food on Wildfire? Do I want to bring food on band practice? I was in such a crisis because I didn’t know what I want. I know that I’m turning eighteen and that I at least have to make it memorable and special. The fact that I was going to sing in Wildfire or the fact that I was gonna help with Trek kids was already enough for me for my birthday. I never really wanted anything big. I didn’t want anything that required me to invite people and then plan to eat at some restaurant. It’s because I had a fear that I’m not really anyone special (other than to Christelle maybe) and people I’d want to be there would probably say they won’t have the time. I especially didn’t have the guts to ask Nithin (Jessica’s boyfriend) to come because I didn’t come to his birthday party two weeks ago, and if he’s not coming, there’s a huge chance Jess won’t come, too. So the only ones that I know I can officially ask is Gabriel and Christelle. If Gabriel is not available, I’d be satisfied with just Christelle because I know she won’t say no. And if it’s just with her, it required no planning. We could just hang out at Al Wahda or at any mall and I would appreciate it a lot. But of course, explaining my insecurity is hard so I just proceeded to say to my parents that I don’t really want that much attention. Because of that, they said something like, “Yes, it’s good that you’re not seeking for attention, but think of it as a celebration that you’ve come to live as far as 18 years with God’s grace. And it’s your last birthday in this country—show at least how you’re thankful for them even if you just invite like 3 or 4 people.” They had a good point. I do want to show how thankful I am for my friends. I do want to have at least some gathering for birthday. I do want to do something that I would remember for a long time. But since I was so emotionally conflicted about my insecurity, I just didn’t know what I want. I was so frustrated because I was pressured to do something I wasn’t really thinking that much about. And the morning of Wednesday, my mom has summed up why it was frustrating: “It’s hard because planning gatherings is a part of adult-ing.”
Turning 16 was kind of emotional, and no doubt, turning 17 was the best because I’m neither young nor old (And I made the greatest friends). But I can see now that it’s probably gonna be emotionally and mentally tiring to be 18 and for the next few years… If I already had a crisis just choosing what to do for my birthday, oh boy, I need to train myself to trust God better and make bolder decisions.
I didn’t have an answer ready for my parents until I went to band practice. Since I was so frustrated with how I should go about celebrating it, I told Christelle and Gabriel, and they were ready to come whenever I plan it. Since I didn’t really know what to do, I asked Christelle for ideas and she basically told me stuff that I already thought of. I also told her that I didn’t know who to invite and she told me to invite the same amount of people that I also thought of. Either way, at least now that she knows that I was thinking about it and that I didn’t want anything big, she would be willing to help me if I thought of something.
On Friday, I sang and it was less nerve wracking than I thought. I have to credit God for giving me strength and aslo this moment for helping me control over my fears:
I probably heated up more when I prayed after worship. Praying out loud was just not my thing and man I just got so nervous. Good thing I’m good at looking calm. I’m so phlegmatic no one can tell my insides were twisting after that.
When Wildfire finished, we jammed for a while. I was really impressed when Sebastian started playing the drums because he was damn good at it! And playing bass with him while his brother was on the electric guitar was the best! It was so fun.
While we were jamming, I was already looking around for people I could invite to hang out with me for a while at Al Wahda mall. I just wanted to treat some close friends for ice cream. If only few were available, I wouldn’t really mind since Christelle and Gabe are all I really want hang out with. Either way, I was able to get some courage and ask people. While I was packing, I told Christelle to tell Jessica. Jessica then came up to me and asked if it would be alright if she just stayed for an hour to hang and then go because she had other things to do. I also asked Sebastian if he was available and he said he could make time but also for about an hour or so only since he has to study. I didn’t really care when they would leave as long as I can buy them ice cream and hang out with them for a while. That was really all I wanted so I told them they can leave whatever time they want. I then asked Gabe and he asked if he could bring his brother Nathan. Even though I didn’t know his brother, what was the harm, right? Anyone to make the place livelier since I’m not much of a mood maker myself… I also asked John A and he was down for it.
And so Christelle and I decided to take taxi, but before that, she got money from her parents. When she got them, her mom says she could take us there to the Mall instead. So we got Jessica and Gabe’s brother to ride with us.
When we reached the part of the Food Court near Baskin Robins, we waited for about 5 minutes until everyone just started arriving—and by everyone I mean a bunch of guys. I know them all but I’m not exactly close with them. Most of them didn’t even know why we were all hanging out at Al Wahda. So obviously, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people because I never expected 12 people to join. And how was I going to order ice cream for every one of them? Good thing Christelle was willing to list what everyone wants and John Surya was there to help order. All I merely had to do was hand in the money. It’s funny though ‘cause most of them, especially Sebastian, didn’t want me to pay because they think I should be the one who is treated, not me treating them. Oh well, Asian culture… If it’s your event, you pay for it. When I came back to my seat with John, Christelle, and some few others after ordering for 13 people, people started singing Happy Birthday to me. I didn’t really know how to react to that and I recall a tumblr post that says what are you even supposed to do when people sing you that song. Though I was shy, I enjoyed it still. That song has never been sung to me for ages. Then they thanked me for buying all of them ice cream. After that, they went back to their own sides of the table and talked with each other. I just talked with those near me, mostly John Surya who was at my right.
At some point, Gabriel and Sebastian wanted to buy some water from Lulu, so I gave them a bunch of my spare coins. Then they left with Jorge, Sebastian’s brother, and John A. Since there were two escalators that they should go through that we can see from where we were at the food court, we were waving at them as they went down. But Jorge and John A weren’t there on the second escalator down which was a little strange but I didn’t really think much of it. At the same time, Jessica tells Nithin to buy food for Christelle because she was hungry. Since he looked kind of upset waiting at McDonald, Jessica joined her eventually. When there were bunch of missing people, I took out the metal puzzles I got from the Philippines. As expected, it drove them all mad, especially Christelle and Walid (arab guy that was also in Edwin’s farewell dinner before). The most chill doing those puzzles was probably Gabriel. Anyway, as people started coming back and my 10 puzzles were all over the place, John A gives me something in a Borders plastic. I didn’t realize immediately what it was and even asked, “What is this? Is this for me?” I wasn’t really expecting anyone to buy me a gift because the gift of 12 people being there was already something. When I took it out of the Borders plastic, it was the kind of 3-set Moleskin sketchbooks that I’ve had eyes on months ago, though I never bought them because they were expensive and I already had way too many empty notebooks. But anyway, I guess they knew me well after all… John A said he wished they could buy me something more musical, but he remembered that I mentioned at band practice that I received a sketchbook from God during the Christmas Party of 2015. I’m glad they didn’t buy something that had to do with music and bought that instead. At least I’d make better use of the notebooks than I ever will with something else. Oh, and apparently they gathered money to buy that when I wasn’t looking, probably when I was ordering with John and Christelle. Man all of them must’ve felt the need to buy me a present since paying 150 dhs just for ice cream on my own birthday was kind of absurd. Their conscience would probably go nuts if they didn’t lol. Anyway, I’m merely happy they enjoyed themselves.
And I’m just beyond grateful because while I was trying to plan how this event would go, I stressed to God that I’d be happy just with Christelle and Gabriel. So here He goes dragging along 10 others probably saying, “Why are you being so timid and afraid that they would not see you as someone special? I have set you apart as My faithful servant these past few years and they see that. Is that not the recognition you desire? If they praise Me for You, then You are special to Me. And why are you asking so little? I know what your heart truly wants yet you shy away from me now, thinking you don’t deserve them. How humble I have turned you! Since you are my child, of course I want to make you happy. And for the last months you are in that country, I will beautifully wrap up the great desires of your heart ever since you were 9. I going to make it all happen. Trust me.”
In a nutshell, at this point I can just see God waving at me like, “Hey ummm, I’m right here tho?!? Why u lookin down again???”
Two days later, at my actual birthday, so many people greeted me in whatsapp. My close friends greeted me with some short paragraphs about how I’m blessed I am or how they loved me—again, something that I don’t receive every year. And when I was on AWANA, I only revealed it to Laura that it was my birthday but then she told the whole Trek class so all the Trek kids sang happy birthday to me. Also, apparently John was preparing a surprise party for me but it didn’t really work out since nothing happened after AWANA. I know he’s a kind guy but I personally celebrated with friends on Friday so that I wouldn’t be a burden on anyone’s time on Sunday. I know he wouldn’t be able to pull it off well anyway since he’s John, like duhh. I guess the thought matters, at least. Oh, and my parents bought me this ring that looked like Wonder Woman’s headband. Lol it looks really nice but I can’t believe they felt the need to buy me something even after giving me 500 dhs for that weekend party. I only spent 150 so the leftover for that was enough! Anyway, I still feel like I don’t deserve most of what I received, but oh well… God wants to spoil me a bit, I guess.