“Life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel.” -Horace Walpole

 

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Sporadic

Like a rain shower after a season of drought, I’ve been inspired lately (hence the plethora of posts.) I would even go so far to say that it’s like a tsunami of ideas rushing in. I’ve been listening to NPR again during my commutes, reading The New York Times, and overall just staying informed about the world outside my bubble. I have about 60 drafts on my queue waiting for revision, not to mention the volumes of scribbled ideas in the pages of my journal I have yet to type out.

Since I’m not eloquent, I’m just going to quote Murakami from Kafka on The Shore.

“Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.” 

It used to be that darkness would be my source of inspiration. I’m an adult now, not a kid playing dress up pretending to be all grown up. I can’t shut my eyes and pretend issues don’t exist, or that they’ll go away if I close my eyes long enough. I can’t run away or escape and assume that problems will remain where I left them. It’s really time to grow up, be aware, and see what contribution I can make. I need to open my eyes beyond the comforting walls of college and home to see the future that lies ahead of me.

Like many other twenty-somethings, I’m still trying to figure it out. Ha, how typical; I know. This blog is my mostly thoughts poured into words, or things I wish I could have said had I the courage to say them. It’s a chronicle of thoughts to remind myself of where I came from, and who I was at a moment in time.

On another note… I’m honestly quite surprised that I have followers, seriously. I never thought my writing could garner any attention at all. Thank you though, from the bottom of my heart! It’s quite an encouragement!

I hope you all have a lovely day ahead. 🙂

Six Words

I woke up to NPR’s Morning Edition story about the Race Card Project: Six Word Essays.

It got me thinking about my six words. Six words. All of who I am, my race, background, and identity, distilled into six words. I urge you, dear reader, to do the same. Take on the challenge.

I sat on my bed thinking about the past twelve or so years that I’ve lived in America: the experiences, the struggles, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. How do I identify myself? Is there even a choice in the matter? The following is what I have concluded:

I’m not simply where I’m from.

Let me elaborate.

Upon first meeting, people don’t realize that I’m a first generation immigrant. There’s barely a trace of my native tongue in my speech. I would even go so far as to say that I’m a coconut- brown on the outside, white on the inside. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not ashamed of my race. I’m just culturally Westernized. Some people would censure me  for being so proud of being white-washed, and I can’t say I can disagree. I would argue though, that I am not, and should not be limited by the color of my skin or the country of my origin.

It’s been nine years since I’ve been back to The Philippines to visit. My mother and I spent two weeks rekindling the old flame of home. In the span of three short years, everything I remembered from my childhood were paved over. New buildings and structures stood atop the park where my cousins and I used to spent hours at. Manila was plagued with malls and the miasma of pollution. The years changed the people I used to know like the landscape that seemed all too strange. I felt like a foreigner in my own land. It’s not the same, it’s no longer home.

Although I was born and raised in Manila, there’s few links that hold me close to home. Memories of childhood are all I have tying me back. I can’t say that I have a faint feeling of homesickness like I once did. Maybe it’s because I left at an early age and bonds weren’t solidified like it did for my mother.

I am Filipino. There’s nothing else I’d chose to be. I’m grateful to my culture for teaching me the importance of family, values, and tradition. I’m grateful to be an immigrant, albeit there were times it wasn’t easy. Underneath all the westernization, and the veils I put to fit in, I’m still the family girl my mother raised me to be. But that’s not all I am. I do not want to be placed in a box solely on the basis of my race or my background. Does being Filipino confine me to the stereotypical traits placed on us? The formidable years since I moved to America provided the foundation to build my identity upon. My background will always be a part of me, it’s set a stage of who I am. I’ve grown so much as a person, that condensing who I am in one word just doesn’t seem right. The same goes for anyone reading this: does a word seem to fit all you of who you are?

During interviews, there’s a question that’s constantly brought up, “Describe yourself in three words.” Although most interview questions are loaded already, this is the most difficult for me to answer. It begs to ask, who are you? If forces a prioritization of your values, principles, and identity to be put in a hierarchy of importance. Most of the time I use adjectives that describe me as a worthy candidate for a desired position. The three words you chose speak volumes to the employer, but it’s all inference on your character as a person in general.

Who am I? How should I be? These are questions that constantly echo in my mind. I can’t say with complete certainty that I know the answers. I live a life that’s filled with uncertainty, and that’s okay. It would be presumptuous to say that I know anything at all. I’ve changed so much over the course of the years, especially since college, that I’m not sure what my true self is anymore. I can blame my twenty-something inexperienced youth as an excuse, but older people are still figuring it out too. One day I’ll probably return to my native land knowing more than I do now. Maybe I’ll even have a solid answer to the questions looming my mind. I suppose that a reason I loved Don Quixote so much was because he was so sure of himself despite of the critics telling him otherwise. He had a tenacious grip on his identity, which I truly admired. I hope that down the road I’ll come to a moment of lucidity, come to an conclusion, and have the definitive answer I seek. Until then I refer back to Don Quixote’s advice to Sancho, “… you must look at who you are and make an effort to know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge one can imagine.”

Simplest of Words

Geographer- Verona

You call me all the right words but the right words sound so wrong
You say that I am changing, I guess I will before too long
Will you give me a way out or a past to live down?
Either way it co couldn’t be worse than it is now

I’m watching while a wild doorway circles round and round
Is every single whisper a life that we should know by now or is it just a sound?
Something keeps a river from sinking into the ground
Was I ever any different?
It’s the simplest ones, the simplest ones

White lies in the night
If I could be yours and you could be mine
As long as it rhymes, it’s all that I’ll ever need
I hear white lies in the night
If I could be yours and you could be mine
We keep what we hide and you told such simple lies…

Can’t decipher why I feel such a deep connection to this song. I suppose that’s the beauty of music, it fills the missing gaps when words fail to encompass how we feel. The lyrics, along with the melody, and Micheal Deni’s beautiful voice come together in harmony to produce a sense of heartache and longing.

Have a listen or two…or twenty…

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

I Ain’t The Same

I keep hearing people say that they have no regrets about the things they’ve done. I have a gripe with the media for perpetuating this YOLO generation and reckless actions with no remorse for its consequences. If you live life like it’s your last, you need not worry about the repercussions of your actions, right? Unfortunately, or fortunately, life isn’t quite short enough for us to avoid the consequences of our recklessness. Living with no regrets leaves no room for remorse and accountability. Remorse is important in empathy. If there is no remorse, then we never grasp our ability to hurt others. It’s the mirror that helps us see the mistakes we’ve made and the possible ways to amend them. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my twenty-something lifetime, especially since I left for college. Once I left the nest, I spread my wings and went where the wind took me. I exposed myself to the various facets of a college experience by cramming, joining clubs/Greek organization, partying, interning, and working just to find where I fit the best. Eight times out of ten, it seemed like I was jamming a square into a circle. I wanted so badly to belong that I was willing to change who I was. At one point in my college career, particularly at the latter part of junior year, I felt like an decagon. I was completely changed from who I was, I barely recognized the person I turned into. I turned from being a timid nerd into a stereotypical sorority girl. I spiraled out of control, I let my grades slip by, my relationship with my dear mother deteriorated by a margin, and I was befriending toxic company.

It wasn’t until I received my first ever D in a midterm that I started to realize the demise. I crammed my way back to a decent grade and I found a cause that truly made me realize what I wanted to devote my life into. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten close to my former state of normal, I’m back to being a square and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve found a prince after kissing so many frogs along the way. I regret what I’ve done in the past, and I feel remorse for the people I’ve hurt along the way.

However, I can’t change the course my life has taken. Going in reverse isn’t going to reset the mileage of experiences in my life. The period when I was broken allowed time to put back together the disassembled pieces of my life, while leaving out the unnecessary bits behind. I can only go forward and be wise enough not to take a detour back to where I was. There are still times when I feel like I’m losing my way, or as though the map to my desired destination is incomprehensible. Unlike before when I turned to partying to escape and feign freedom, now I stop and look at the miles I’ve covered and lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Given the chance to reset my mileage and avoid having wasted resources on useless travails, I wouldn’t change much. Don’t get me wrong though. I’m regretful for my recklessness, but without them I wouldn’t have gained clarity and growth. Had I stayed the same as I was before, I would have been stunted in emotional growth. I would not have learned how deeply words can cut, or how my action can have so much collateral damage to people in my vicinity. The remorse I felt after I realized my wrongs helped me become a person who is more capable of understanding, empathy, and compassion. I do not want to return to follies of my youth, but without them I wouldn’t be the same. Just as a tree needs trimming for proper growth, or as a book needs several drafts before it reaches publication, cuts need to be made before a final destination is reached. Heck, even Pokemons evolve to become stronger versions of themselves. But in order to evolve, battles must be fought in order for the next level to be reached. I used my mistakes as the vehicle for change and transformation. I’m still in the drafts, I’m undergoing constant revisions, I’m still fighting my battles in hopes that one day I’ll be happy with my final destination. Without the mistakes I’ve made, I would have remained in the drafts of my former self, but mistakes were made and I ain’t the same.

Concerts: What Defines an Experience?

I recently went to a Passion Pit concert with my boyfriend. We enjoyed the band sufficiently enough to want to see them live. For me it wasn’t so much to see Passion Pit, Matt & Kim, or Icona Pop, I just wanted to share a special moment with my special someone. The night started off pleasantly, we managed to get in the middle center section of the crowd. However after the first opening act, the crowd thickened. More people shoved their way to the front to get a better view of the main band playing. While I understand the sentiment to see a band you love perform live, I don’t think that it justifies ruthless shoving and overall douchery to your fellow concert goers (hey, we all paid the same price to see the band play, so cool it pal!) When the main act was preparing for their set, the crowd grew exponentially. There was a miasma of thick smoke from a combination of marijuana and cigarettes.

Although I ended up seeing Passion Pit only through the backdrop of the big screen while I was covered in sticky alcoholic beverages from intoxicated concert-goers, I still considered it to be a memory I’ll cherish. It really only takes one moment to make the stress and frustration away from any situation. For me that moment came when the band performed “Constant Conversation.”

Everybody now, oh oh oh oh oh
They come singing through the window, singing through the trees, yeah
They’re singing through the bright spring leaves
Everybody now, oh oh oh oh oh
Yeah they love you when they need you, but someday you’re gonna need to
Find some other kind of place to go, oh

In that moment, it seemed like all the frustration of being soaked in beer and being rudely shoved aside washed away. In that moment, it felt like the two of us were part of something bigger. It was a moment of unity. The words of the song resonated to me; I felt it in my bones. Maybe it was the loud speakers or the rest of the crowd swaying together while singing in unison, but I swear that in that moment, it was as though the song had a new life. It’s these moments that make concerts worth it despite the struggles it sometimes brings. It’s the feeling of community and congregation of people who like the same thing rallying together in that moment. At that moment, it didn’t matter if you were an over-privileged twenty-something San Franciscan that just wanted to do something fun, or the biggest Passion Pit fan that saved all his/her money just to see the band live, all that mattered was being one with the music. The hundreds of voices singing “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” created an electric feeling that can’t ever be mimicked through YouTube or multiple listens to iTunes. For me, that moment of unity is what defines a concert experience. It’s the feeling that you’re not alone, and somehow the song has touched other people’s lives too. For that moment, it seems like your voice is part of something bigger and something greater.

And while taking copious “selfies” at the concert or pictures or videos of the band performing can make the memory last longer, one also risks missing actually being in the moment. A picture is a nice remnant of a memory, but if you’re just focusing on taking pictures to preserve for later you risk missing what’s in front of you. If you only focus on capturing the moment for later reminiscence, you miss out on what you came for in the first place. You miss out on the present when all you’re worried about is forgetting the memory in the future. What good is going to a concert if you don’t even stop to enjoy the performance, to feel the power of the music that moves people and brings them to a moment of repose from a chaotic world?

I can only speak personally, but music has been a form of therapy during trying times. At moments when it seems like the world is dark and grey, I turn up the volume in my music player and just soak in the lyrics to Bright Eyes, Kevin Devine, Geographer, or the like. Music has a way to hit the emotional spot at times when I’ve felt broken and vulnerable. It’s true that it can’t provide a warm embrace that a caring friend could offer, but when I’m at a lack of words to describe the storm inside, music seems to be the only antidote.

So, when people ask me how the concert was, I turn to the time when I felt one with the music, when the words of the lyrics resonated to my heart. I’ll remember the time when everyone stopped cramming and shoving their way to the front and just enjoyed the moment. It’s these times that make the ticket prices, inconvenience of travel, overpriced drinks, and obnoxious concert-goers worth it. Despite whatever struggles we encountered that night, for that precious moment in time I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Faulkner’s Patient Noiseless Spider

Faulkner once said that, “man’s tragedy is the impossibility or at least the tremendous difficulty of communication.” In the same fashion, merely saying something does not guarantee a true conveyance of a message or a connection between two individuals; people verbally exchange statements, but unless the individuals involved in the conversation understand the words spoken, real communication is impossible. Just saying a word does not guarantee that it has the same meaning and importance to whom it is being said. In the same way, true communication is only possible if it connects the speaker and the listener. In the novel As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner shows how some meaning is lost through language; in doing so, he demonstrates that communication is not always possible through words alone, and that sometimes actions create a greater resonance than simply creating a sound to fill a void in time.

Unless statements bear meaning to both the speaker and the person to whom it is spoken, they remain to be mere words or a shape to fill a lack. Throughout the novel, Cora assumes that Addie and Jewel’s unorthodox relationship implies that “Jewel is [her] punishment,” while Darl, the unfavorable one, had the “true love.” Cora never truly communicates because she has no message to convey; she only produces audible air and strings of words conveying nothing. Like an empty barrel making the most noise, she states things without fully knowing the situation and what lies beneath the surface. Her statements do not mean anything to her or to anyone around her. Likewise, atonement is just a word unless the sinner genuinely tries to redeem his or her sins. Upon realizing that Addie did not proclaim their illicit affair, Whitfield thinks, “He will accept the will for the deed, who knew that when you framed the words of my confession it was to Anse I spoke them, even though he was not there.” Ironically, “confession” or honesty and truth have no magnitude to Whitfield, a minister, a man of God. Though ministers are supposed to know the significance and the meaning of confession and salvation, Whitfield disregards them to maintain his righteous image. He feels vindicated and relieved that his reputation remains untarnished even after the scandalous affair. Like meaningless words to Cora, to Whitfield, salvation and love are also just words, simply a name or a label to hide the contents or the true meaning.

Unlike words, actions bear a greater magnitude that connects individuals. Unlike Cora’s careless statements, Addie concludes, “words are no good…words don’t ever fit even what they are trying to sat at.” The difficulty of choosing the right words baffles Addie to the extent that she ends up refraining from ever saying what she feels. To Addie, physically expressing an emotion is better than saying it, because when the timing is right, “you wouldn’t need a word for that [feeling of love] anymore than for pride or fear.” Like his beloved mother, Jewel acts rather than talks; his actions speak louder than words. He strenuously works for a horse that represents his love for Addie. He loves his mother so much that he endures crossing a frigid river and goes through fire just to comply with her wish. His heroic feat speaks magnitude about his relationship with his mother. Verbal communication fails to detail the magnitude of love Jewel has towards his mother. He cannot say it therefore he acts upon it instead. The two characters exemplify the inefficiency of words to fully describe a tremendously complex emotion like love.

In contrast to Jewel, Darl struggles to communicate which hinders him from ever creating healthy relationships. The lack of familial affection ultimately leads to his mental deterioration. Throughout the novel, Faulkner never shows any indication of love towards Darl from anyone including his parents instead, is referred as the “queer” and “lazy” one. His gift of perception delineates him from everyone else; his mind can comprehend what others cannot. Unfortunately, he uses his gift in the wrong way. Upon knowing Dewey Dell’s secret, Darl tortures her instead of helps her. He states, “The reason you will not say it is, when you say it even to yourself, you will know it is true”. This causes Dewey Dell to face the harsh reality of her untimely pregnancy; the statement strips her from the lies she tells others and herself leaving her bare and defenseless to the piercing truth. Darl forces her to face her demons. It causes Dewey Dell to harbor hatred towards Darl. Once an opurtunity arises, Dewey Dell “jump[s] like a wildcat so that one of the fellows had to quit and hold her and her scratching and clawing at him like a wild cat”. Because of the torture that Darl causes, it destroys their relationship. Darl’s inability to communicate efficiently not only sends him to the asylum, but it also hinders his ability to form a functional connection with his family. Without any support, nor strong bonds, Darl cannot use his mind for his benefit, it leads to his demise.

Although tremendously difficult, achieving communication produces healthy relationships. Before he goes to the mental institution, Darl vulnerably asks Cash, “Do you want me to go?”. The statement produces a scene where Darl finally establishes a true connection with someone. Because Darl creates a bond with Cash, his fate is less tragic. Now, he has one connection, one hand to save him from drowning in his complex thoughts. Cash responds to Darl’s plea assuring him, “It’ll be better for you…Down there it’ll be quiet, with none of the bothering and such”. By comforting Darl and reassuring him that going away is better than staying with the family, Cash provides something Darl desperately needs: a connection. If Darl and Cash established a stronger relationship early on, Darl could have been saved from the precipice of madness.

Man tragically struggles to achieve true communication. People, in order to truly communicate, must understand the implications and the significance of their statements unlike Cora and Whitfield.  The relationship Addie creates leads to a great hindrance because each problem goes unresolved; dilemmas just linger under a façade, getting worse by the day. Ultimately, Darl suffers from the lack of true communication. His gift of perception is tragically wasted because he cannot express the beauty of his mind to good use. Darl’s depth and awareness is lost in translation, it conveys only to madness in the eyes of the family. In trying to contain or summarize a feeling in a word, the less powerful and significant it becomes. The more one verbalizes a pure emotion, the more obscure it becomes. Verbally stating a feeling is like describing a work of art, no amount of words can ever express the impact and feeling it evokes to whom ever sees it. In a way, verbalizing emotions like love, fear or pride just gives it a label, a mere box in which to confine it. Unless man understands how to truly communicate through words and actions, he will be like a futile spider launching forth a filament trying to connect to its vast surroundings.