Dear Justin, you’re never going to believe this…

Dear Justin in 2011,

young boy

You right now are 9 years old. Today, it’s 2023, and you’re almost 21. I know that you’re freaking out about being almost 21, and that you have so many questions about who you’d become, so let me recap the next 12 years of your life.

You said that you wanted to become a chef whenever someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up, you loved math and science, and your baby sister drove you crazy.

You’ve always craved independence. You’ve always wanted to have your own cell phone, your own credit card and to live away from home. Although I mostly think it’s because Mom raised you well enough to stand on your own two feet when the time came to it, I can see it in your eyes that you were also scared and insecure at 9 years old.

Sometimes about your appearance or your voice, but mostly how growing up without your dad is going to mess with your head as you become an adult (no matter how awesome Mom was. You’re still best friends with her by the way). And believe me, that insecurity doesn’t go away for a long time. We’ll still be working through that for the next little while.

You almost fail high school chemistry, but you won’t actually know that there would be a future outside of STEM until you reach grade 12. Some of your family is going to be fairly confused when you tell them that you want to be a French teacher, mostly because you don’t know how to speak your mother tongue.

You’re going to wrestle your identity as a Filipino-Canadian because no one else in your family understands that struggle, but find comfort that your identity makes you unique. You’re going to go back to the Philippines and feel like a stranger. But you’re also going to move to Victoria for university and not see people like you every day.

In high school, you wanted to be a journalist, a radio host, and a pastor, before settling on pursuing a career as a high school French teacher!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention – we ended up moving out for university! Funny enough, to a school you never knew existed until you were in grade 12. Before then though, you’re going to go to Quebec City and fall in love with the culture and the language. You actually end up speaking pretty good French – I know how much you wanted that. You fall in love again with the south Island (not without struggle, of course) and have the best job in the world as a Campus Tour Guide.

And thank goodness you didn’t go to culinary school because you suck at cooking! Mom is going to lecture you that you gotta stop eating ramen and that you haven’t eaten a vegetable in an embarrassingly long time (please eat some broccoli). You’re going to start going to happy hours and have late night conversations in your friends’ basement suites. You’re going to meet some of the funniest people in your life and encounter loss in so many different ways. But I know you’re resilient, and that despite the challenges, you don’t take anything as a barrier between you and your passion.

For the next 12 years, you are going to discover life and learn disappointment. You are going to become a funny, caring, sensitive man, and that all culminates here at the University of Victoria. I am so proud of the person you are becoming, Justin in 2011. And I hope that you, the kid with the insecure smile, look forward to that day when you’re almost 21 for you to be proud of who you become.

Yours truly, Justin in 2023

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