Throwback Tuesdays

Because I don’t want this post to celebrate one of the most depressing days in a person’s life.

Perhaps the most rational reason people dig their trunks and the dark recesses of their computer memories to look for the most horrendous and dated artifacts of their pasts during Thursdays and have them posted on their virtual walls is because even though the past is ugly, sepia-ed, and moth-infested, it has never abandoned them. It is continually remembered with much fondness, like a 5-week old cereal-and-milk mixture sitting happily inside one’s refrigerator, forming crust on top of desiccated crusts, that can turn into either a sour-tasting granola or an organic charcoal–both wonderful byproducts.

Throwback Thursdays appeal the most to people in their 20s. That stage in one’s life when nothing’s uncertain, and the future looms devoid with kindness, when everyone seems to have moved on, but one still finds himself stuck in one place, silently crying for help, but not wanting to cry too hard lest his Facebook friends think he’s a whiner and a bitter participant in this party called life.

And so he quietly posts reminders of the kinder past, hoping, just hoping, the future will be much better, and for friends to drop him a like or two.

Don’t ask me about that giraffe and its various permutations.

What am I talking about? Today is just Monday.

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Choosing to be happy*

It has been four years or so since I graduated from college, and the past four years left me a bit disgruntled, dissatisfied, and aimless, even angry. At some point I began to question my motives for staying in Manila, teaching Literature (a subject I did not study in college) to undergraduate students in a university on Katipunan Avenue. At any given point, while on a cramped train for my daily commute to one of the three jobs I currently hold, or while walking in the rain to my next class, I would question the wisdom of the choices I have made, my existence, the reason why I am where I am now. At any given point, while in my class in graduate school, or writing a paper due the following day, I would feel out of place, lost maybe. What brought me here? What are these for?

I left home for college more than eight years ago. It was an inexorable day the Chinese protagonist in Jorge Luis Borges’s The Garden of Forking Paths would refer to as “day without premonitions or symbols”. Looking back, I sometimes think I should have never left home; I should have just stayed in the province, enrolled myself in a university in the nearby city of General Santos, be with people whose familiarity led me to feel that constant sickening ennui then, and live a life released from complications.

I embarked on a personal odyssey, though to a home I imagined I belonged, and chased Fate in the big city. And that day without symbols changed me forever.

Now I understand the hesitation, a subdued abhorrence, of the character of my favorite novel, Tomas, for symbols. I have chosen heaviness thinking the choice will lend meaning to my curious and starry-eyed 16-year old self then. My search for “something higher” caused this spiritual vertigo, this fear of falling.

And an unconscious desire to fall, says Kundera, “the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves”.

I do not have any intention of letting myself slip down the slope of existentialist rage for I am completely aware I shall never recover from this existentialist hole unscathed. I believe the exercise is not only a complete waste of time but also fatal.

But these questionings, far from being philosophical, are, to me, as corporeal and visceral as corporeal and visceral can get. I am enraged. And being this sensuously enraged is beautiful. It is not mere abstraction.

How I hate philosophizing!

I am in my mid-20s. They say this age places one at the pinnacle of his vitality. But too many times I saw myself irreparably exhausted, dragging myself in doing the things I once loved doing, being on the verge of running amuck. All because of the unfulfilled promises of this vitality.

For too many times, I have feared that those little cracks have already surreptitiously made their way into the dark crevices of my being and have already eaten me from the inside out and that what is left of me now is a mass of bloody flesh incapable of distinguishing the real from the fictional.

Below layers of fictive security our daily routines deceptively make us feel we possess is a reality so shaky, shifting, and unstable. Most people my age would disagree with me, vehemently judging my cynicism as vain, if not selfish, as I am a product of the comforts bestowed upon me by the equally frivolous and elitist institution of higher learning that situates itself in a country in the third world and a premiere state university that touts itself the bastion of liberal ideas amidst the crushing weight of ugliness, corruption, poverty, and hopelessness surrounding it.

One day I shall pack my bags, say adieu to my life in Manila that I used to love and learned to detest (though these diverging feelings of love and detestation, in some very rare moments, converge).

One day I shall redeem myself from the routine and the make-believe.

And go on an odyssey back to my real home.

I think of my situation now as being caught in deep shit. How I love to say this word, shit. It is liberating. It is free of abstraction.

Shit is the highest good so long as one is not caught, deeply, in it.

A week ago, I took a jeepney ride on campus going to Quezon Avenue MRT station when I happened to be seated beside a classmate of mine in grad school who studied Literature in the university where I am teaching the subject now. Our conversation meandered until toward the end of our trip the subject of our talk settled on world-weariness. She related to me how bad it felt to be jobless and added that the stigma of being a graduate of that exclusive school along Katipunan and be unemployed was just too much to bear, and how she felt, during that very moment, palpable weariness of the world.

I guess, she is as deeply entrenched in shit as I, though the fashion of our being entrenched differs. She wants to escape it; I, on the other hand, wallow and linger in it, though maybe not for long.

For some, those who are lucky in the real sense of the word, still have that choice. For most, the choice is not theirs. I am grateful that I can still consider myself to be part of the former group. After all, I am still afforded choice probably because of my education, my age, my ability to use language to my advantage, my meager savings in the bank, my mother’s prayer, or simply because of sheer luck. And this opportunity I am exhausting to the fullest.

I always tell my students that being young gives them enough excuse to commit mistakes and to learn from these mistakes, that failing should not be something to be afraid of because they are at the best time of their lives to commit mistakes without having to face the grave repercussions that adults committing stupid mistakes face. And that they are lucky to be given this choice. And that this choice is theirs.

Although I feel miserable at times, it’s a little comforting to know that this misery is self-inflicted, and that I can choose, if I want, to be happy. That I can choose to end this spectacle, be kinder to myself, and, from a note my favorite professor in university once wrote me, “smell the flowers”.

*a reflection written more than a year ago I unearthed while searching for an old college picture a few minutes ago.

Tonight, I am writing again

I was beginning to feel uncomfortable during the past week I was not writing. In the last seven days I was absent here, I felt I was falling uncontrollably down the dark pit, scared of being unable to gather my thoughts, myself forever. And tonight, in the quiet of a small room I am sharing with a friend, amid the quiet humming of the air-conditioner and the unknown songs I am ripping from borrowed CDs, I am relishing the nice emotions brought about by having to write again my thoughts, convoluted and discombobulated as they usually are.

I am staying here in Manila for good, finally putting an end to my nomadic existence. Often times, it’s not enough for somebody to only have a strong resolve to make big decisions, in most cases, decisions are made with somebody. And I am happy to have made this decision thinking of somebody else other than myself. It’s easier to carry burdens when they’re shared; life is more exciting if all the bliss it has to offer are not kept to one’s self.

I am one immature twenty-something who professes to know what he wants and how to get them, but the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t. Not even an inkling of what they are, much less how to get them.

Be a guest writer

For how can something be truly a representative of a certain sector if it is a thinking of an individual who has, for the longest time, been trying to isolate himself from the rest of the world?

Only after a necessary question is asked do we begin to find the correct solution.

There have been plans during the conception of this blog to invite guest writers. Few people responded. The articles submitted were either too specialized or to technical for the tone of this blog. There were email correspondence that showed promise but eventually died out. Either the proponents have given up or I was too inefficient in updating this blog that I ended up losing the people who could’ve been partners in realizing the main objects of this blog – letting twenty-somthings express themselves and challenging existing stereotypes associated with these group.

It so happened that I belong in this group who are in the forefront of change caught in a setting of constant flux. You may brand us ‘confused’ if you find yourself in the extreme end of cynicism or ‘simply seeking adventure and trying to have a real taste of life that they are just starting to live’ for people who empathize with our struggles.

They say that the twenty-somethings of our time are apolitical, indifferent, disinterested, selfish, even asexual. But time and again we have proven them false. We saw ourselves involved in the very vortex of change situated in different venues: in our family, community, university, the national scene, and in the world. We are as diverse as the colors that represent us, the job we do, or the opinions we have of life in general.

We questioned prevailing mores, challenged the status quo, and transcended our supposed fate. We work in places unimaginable during our parents’ days. We travel to places beyond the confines of the comfort of our culture. No one can impose their thoughts on us, compel us to stay in one place, or do what we hate to do.

This blog is a celebration of that free spirit. And what better way to celebrate this spirit than to write about it.

Going Against the Current is inviting all twenty-something to write about anything – your experience, victory, defeat, first love, travel, work, passion, art, angst, sadness, frustration, hope, dream, plans for the future, disappointment, opinion, political leaning, school, sex, writing, food, fear, prognostication, prediction, criticism, anger. . . .

. . . .anything.

(You may send your entries to eraserattsokfev@yahoo.com.) And from there we’ll see.

The last post written in Vietnam

This is my last post while I’m in Vietnam. I’m now at Tan Son Nhat International Terminal (Saigon International Airport) waiting for my 1am flight to Manila. For some reasons I am not feeling anything special now after having to deal with a very ordinary predicament of an excess baggage. I was overweight by 9 kilos which means paying 90 USD;  that would be too much for a poor man like me. So I had to maneuver my luggage enabling it to be just within 15 kilos allowable baggage weight. After the ordeal, all romantic feeling that I had before leaving Vietnam vanished and was replaced with sweat, fatigue, and an extra weight I have to carry with me as hand luggage. And I forgot to mention the 3USD coffee that almost caused my eyeballs to fall off my eye socket.

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But seriously, Vietnam shall remain a very special place to me, especially Hanoi, for it allowed me to value things I used to ignore: national pride, history, friends, myself. The nine months gave me enough time for self reflection which I would otherwise not experience had I refused to accept this opportunity. I became more aware of my vulnerability, but then again all is not lost because I met people who shall remain my friends until in my thirties, forties and beyond.

Career-wise, a lot of people questioned the cleverness of this decision, even myself sometimes. But looking back, I know it’s one of the wisest things I’ve done.

Vietnam also resulted to the creation of this blog. Writing the posts in this blog forced me to write almost daily, something I never considered as a chore but a responsibility to few readers who keep on coming back and making me feel that indeed there are souls interested to read some thoughts of a twenty-something.

The life I’ll have awaiting for me may be scary at first glance, but it means a new territory to conquer, and more importantly, new experiences to write about.

Manila, I’m coming.

Letting go of fatalism: finding a job

I’m on a frenzy now. A mix of emotions that border on the absurd. I just started looking for jobs in the Philippines last night and it’s not easy. I’ve never tried looking for a serious work before. My application as an instructor in the University of the Philippines was not that difficult, at least, because the panel already knew my strengths and weaknesses and that I did not have to sell my self to a certain extent. But for a job in a private corporation in Manila, my credentials may speak for me, but I think it won’t be enough considering the competition in the working world this time.

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I intend to work in Manila after, in case, this will be my first time to work in my country’s capital city and to actually stay there and immerse my self in the hustle and bustle of a big metropolis. I am scared but am even more excited. Bigger world means being able to experience a lot of things that I will otherwise miss if I stay in one place during my entire lifetime.

I am trying to console myself that the economic condition of the world in general and my lack of working experience might delegate me to the lowest position, or worse not being able to find a job at all, but I am trying to be hopeful.

In fact I am considering finding another scholarship for a graduate degree just to postpone my entrance to the working world. I just hate the idea of working. I loved formal learning so much, but this time, I’ve got to choose, and it appears that the best choice is to work.

For most twenty-somethings this part of life is one of the most dreadful. I just can’t imagine being asked about my salary and not being able to answer because it’s dismally low. I can’t imagine being asked about what I do if it’s something I am not happy doing. A lot of things to consider, but at the end of the day it all boils down to a fact that I have to work. I may study forever and reason out that I am learning for learning’s sake, but then again, learning is not an end in itself. I have to apply what I have learned through a job and receive remuneration for doing my job.

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I’ve been quite fatalistic these past few years. If given a chance to choose between a stable job or studying abroad, without any consideration, I’ll choose the former, but as I age I am starting to realize that I can’t think of adventures all the time because travelers also have to take a rest, or that superheroes have Louis or grandma waiting for them after a day of saving the world from all nemeses.

I guess I have to slow down on my fatalism and be more pragmatic and realistic. I have to plan my next action. A new life will greet me a month from now, and I cannot afford to fail.

First post for 2009: what a wonderful world

I have been blogging for the past seven months, which  started in June 2008 when I came here in Hanoi, Vietnam to pursue a scholarship on Vietnamese Language. The creation of this blog was prompted by my existential yearning, of the need to constantly assert my existence. Though the reasons may have changed why I write my blog entries this time, the blog is still grounded on the basic objective to tell the stories of a twenty-something caught (or chose to be caught) in a situation of almost-daily uncertainties.

My 2008 was a year of pandemonium and constant changes that sometimes I felt I have most of the time failed to digest and reflect on all the events that occurred to me. These I think are missed opportunities that could have allowed me to grow more, learn other things, and ask important questions whose answers are equally as important if not more important. I met a lot of people, lost contact with old friends, but at the same time linked those lost ties I have with people whom I thought will forever not cross on the same path with me.

Last night, while I was with a group of foreigners celebrating the new year in a small pub in Hanoi’s old quarter, amid the singing of Abba’s “Happy New Year”, and the all-important countdown, I almost ruined the mood when I started asking my self why I am in that place and doing the middle-class version of meeting the new year, and then began thinking that this is a wonderful world while humming Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cool, deep version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

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My life may not be as perfect as I want it to be or people who are close to me think, but I am happy with my current status. My bank account contains shameless, almost nonexistent amount of money; I don’t have a house to go to at the end of every tiring day, but at least I don’t have something that would keep me rooted in one place and continuously ask myself what can be found in the moon’s dark side; I don’t have a permanent job to speak of, but I promise after school l will look for a decent one that I can be proud of and will provide me a compensation that won’t make me feel short-changed.

What lies ahead is what today is yesterday – uncertain, unknown, but something we look forward to.

I may not sound hopeful, but I am a man of hopes and almost boundless dreams. I’ll bring 2009 on. I danced the night out last night, I hope my 2009 will be as exhilarating, as exciting, as challenging.

Happy New Year everyone.