Rant and rage

Most people my age who can’t really be called young neither can we be called old straddle that point when nothing much is going on, but so much is at stake that quitting isn’t really the best option there is. We have children, or pets, a stable relationship, a job that can be considered all right, and a circle of friends that gets wider but paradoxically narrower. People my age are afflicted with this feeling which escapes decent description. It’s boredom, a certain degree of emptiness, being rudderless. I simply have gone too inarticulate to express it in a language that is crisp and does not rely on cliche. I have to admit that not writing for a quite a while now makes my thoughts disorganized. I also don’t want to whine and rant here because I would sound like a thankless millennial who fails to recognize how despite the comfort I am able to afford myself of I still find it almost natural to complain about how bad life is treating me. But I also don’t want to sound like life is truly good. I am not depressed, nor am I the happiest in the world. I hope this is all just hormonal imbalance. 

I can go on with this, fill the whole screen with nonsense. And tire myself writing meandering musings, complain about work, wax vitriol about this country and how one is left with no option but to be indifferent and numb because being indifferent and numb is the most visceral response one can have amid all the killings and scandals hounding this country. I find solace in watching cat videos before I go to bed every night, in petting my three cats when at least one of them decided he wants to be petted, or in watching videos of the gaffes and stupidity committed by Trump. Schadenfreude. I find consolation in the fact that I don’t have the unfortunate hairdo, the propensity to drop daft statements, and the sadness of having to face all the ire and rage of the world alone.

I still am luckier. But I don’t want to be just lucky. I want to scream and be enraged and be part of a bigger narrative. Honestly, I don’t exactly know. There are days when I’m thankful that I’m one of those nameless faces on the MRT and nights when I think I deserve more than all these. 

Advertisements

Here’s to the five years of blogging

I began blogging exactly five years ago. That night of 8 June 2008 when this blog debuted was like tonight; it was raining hard. Traffic of motorbikes scurrying to reach their destinations halted outside because the downpour was just too much to bear for the antiquated drainage system of that old district of Hanoi. The woman selling pho outside our compound was still there, seated in her red kiddie plastic chair serving bowls of steaming rice noodles submerged in that divine broth to stranded motorists who did not bother taking off their colorful raincoats and equally multi-colored helmets.

That night I was suffering from a level of boredom too extreme and painful it was one of those rare times I can recall I cried. I cried a lot. I missed home so badly. I felt invisible because I was indeed living invisibly. For the woman selling pho outside I was just “that” strange ngoui nuoc ngoai, for the rest I was a nonentity.

Writing down about those gamut of feelings  I knew I would never fully capture in writing, I thought, would be the best way for me to at least have some semblance of order during those months when nothing seemed to make sense. (It’s not as if things make more sense now. (Often they still don’t make sense, though I never stopped attempting to understand them.) I was twenty-two then. I could feel I was poised to realize whatever it was I was dreaming of. I have completely  convinced myself then that whatever inconvenience it was that I was going through in that foreign country was a way of gaining a foothold to something bigger. I didn’t know what that something was then, and I can never be less sure now.

I didn’t care that “Going Against the Current” was too corny a title. But it was the first thing that occurred to me. I subtitled it ‘thoughts of a twenty-something.’ I wasn’t aware then that I was having my share of quarter life crises. I didn’t know the term existed. But I knew there was something odd about that whole set-up. Living and studying in Vietnam was not part of my plan then. I only wanted to escape from the banality of my existence right after graduating from college that I was willing to be hurled anywhere, only to find myself hurled nastily in that blah. I was living by myself in that shoebox of a rented place on Tran Hung Dao Street in the old district of Hanoi, which only exacerbated what then was a terminal case of ennui. At that time, it was the aptest title I could think of for a personal blog.

I wrote this to console myself:

“On Being an Exile”

I have been reading a short essay written by Jorge Luis Borges, and he talked about how being an “exile” brings out parts of our personalities that is unknown to us, and will forever be unknown to us, unless we allow ourselves to be exiled or for us to be exiled by force (which can be in any form such as that of the state, an organization, or the bigger society).

Here, I shall be talking about throwing one’s self away, figuratively, that is, one chooses to embark on the feat of a self-exile. Consciously choosing to leave, and here it means physically deserting anything that has to do with a secure life, and living in a place that is foreign, a place where doing something for comfort will prove burdensome. Barriers will include inability to communicate one’s self, lack of cultural knowledge, ethnocentricity, etc.

Just like all ethnographic researches, the researcher, or as in our case the exiled, faces several stages of coming to terms with himself in relation to his environment and its actors. Roughly, there will be a period of much patronizing and romanticizing, that is, the exiled will think that everything around him is better than what he has left behind. It will be followed a realization that things around him are different and therefore will tax his understanding of all the cultural truths as well as subtleties in his new environment. This will awaken the hidden ethnocentric (and xenophobic) character of our subject which lead to a gap and further distancing from everything around him and creating a world of his own making. Although this may sound pessimistic, this is necessary for the subject to create a giant leap towards understanding and eventually living in harmony with the foreign people surrounding him.

The third period, which I will refer from hereon as ‘distancing’, is a very crucial step because this is where the hidden and repressed selves of our subject surface and thereby allowing different personae to make themselves known to him. Here, creativity, appreciation of one’s former society, and objective probing of the world in general are strengthened and are highlighted.

In distancing, the mind of the subject shifts from a passive, non-observer of events, objects, cultural truths and subtleties, and idiosyncracies into a more active, peering, and critical entity. Interestingly, this also leads to a blossoming of the artistic mind, scientific inquisitiveness, and more understanding of the inner self as well as the emotion. Distancing allows the exiled to have a hold of his world and shape it in a way that can be radical, sometimes, but most of the times more reformative, and in general beneficial. It can be in a form of literary works such as Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain or Tolstoi’s novels War and Peace and Annakarenina, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

It is, therefore, necessary, especially for the young people, to travel and to detach themselves from the mundane and the usual and immerse themselves in a world devoid of comfort and security.

No amount of feigned cockiness could hide the insecurity of my twenty-two-year-old self, of my inability to know where exactly I was heading. Still I treaded on because doing the most difficult was the easiest thing to do. And I never regretted having gone on with the journey. The ride has been exciting and I look forward to more years of blogging. I just hope that when another five years is done, I’d be a lot better.

On depth

Whenever I write here, I begin with almost nothing in mind. I rely so much on spontaneity in easing my thoughts out. It’s an inefficient method, a hit-and-miss approach, that leaves me more baffled than enlightened as to what exactly constitutes good expression. These past few days I have been reflecting like a maniac on writing, thoughts, living in general, wealth, rest– pretty much the things that people my age would find themselves thinking about right in the middle of whatever they’re doing at a  certain time of the day. Daydreaming. Sometimes, I would catch myself daydreaming while giving my insights on my professor’s lecture or thinking about some alternate universe while standing in front of my class explaining epiphany or deus ex machina.

If this is my mind’s way of waging an imminently un-winnable war against the tide of ennui that grapples me, I am not very happy about it. This is tantamount to losing control, to not holding on too fast, to not being good enough to be able to rein my subconscious (I am not even sure if I am using the right concept or word in this case). This imprecision, which most would misconstrue as depth gives me that gnawing guilt. Depth I got not, only carelessness of thought.

http://wrice.blogspot.com

Ennui

MRT MAnila

I’m not emo or something. Though I’ve already come close to slashing my wrist or jumping off from my room in the eleventh floor, and it was not even because of love. My love life, for lack of a better word, is as perfect as perfect can be. Had it been because of love, it could’ve been more reasonable, it could’ve made a lot more sense. But it wasn’t. It’s boredom and the meaninglessness of life.

The sound of a big jack hammer across EDSA seems to mock me even more. And the contractor of the road repair is too thoughtful to schedule the repair at this hour. 1:04 in the morning. The faster the jack bores the concrete sidewalk the faster my heart beats as if wanting to be regurgitated. The Coke I am drinking doesn’t help. Neither does the empty screen in front of me.

I’ve been complaining about chronic headaches these past weeks, it’s just that I have no one to complain to. I see people everyday in the streets, inside the trains and jeepneys, at work, but all of them are blank entities indistinguishable from the gray expressways and skyways. I read them in the paper, I watched them in the news on television and the last time I’ve watched something on TV was three months ago; regardless, all I see is a mass of monotonous humanity that lacks spirit. Soulless.

I try to drown myself with reading. At least with my books, I can be in a totally different dimension that allows me to escape from the crowd. Still I am confronted with emptiness right after I close the last page. I earn money to survive, but the workplace environment alienates me to a point that I feel stripped of my humanity and identity.

I saw a reflection of myself once in the train’s glass window. It didn’t take long to make me realize that I’ve already fallen in with the crowd that I loathe. I became one of those faceless faces in the crowd. I am nothing different. Nothing sets me apart. Indistinguishable.