Quarterlife Crisis

Exactly three months before my 25th birthday, I felt quarterlife crisis knocking on my door.

The realization came when I received a text message from mi amor Kathy about starting a food blog. We’ve been sharing quite an impressive and extensive series of gustatory adventures for a few years now: along with her fiancé JR, we visit restaurants offering different cuisines. As much as we can, we shy away from popular, mainstream dining places in pursuit of authentic flavors that are just as satisfying to the pocket as they are to the palate. Taking food photos is a must, of course—but beyond these, nothing else gets documented.

Thus, I immediately bit into her idea. First, because I love her so much; and second, because the thought of translating my passion for food into words has been resting at the back of my head for years. Then a long-held thought resurfaced, and after it did, it seemed that everything else followed:

Can I still write? Gone are the days when I wrote poetry with little effort but still awakened the senses of my readers. Gone are the essays that provoked deep thinking and constructive reasoning; blog entries that moved hearts with the powerful emotions weaved through the lines; or homo erotica that created controversy as much as it gathered praise. Everything I write today feels devoid of emotion: that is, everything feels like an email at work.

Which leads me to doubt if I have enough skill to qualify for graduate studies in Creative Writing. Even the wit and dexterity of the writing process itself seemed to have deserted me—I would, for instance, catch myself proofreading all the time as I pour out my ideas into my literary canvas, or struggle with the right word to write which once came so naturally. It doesn’t help either that words go just as I am to write them down. It appears that my mind has lost its ability to focus.

Which actually shows (among other more important things) in my newest fantasy to date: taking MBA. The marks I received in my draft MA thesis proposal lifted the dark clouds of self-doubt that have been circling above my head. Turns out I can survive the rigors of advanced academic studies. I suddenly felt capable. Studying business seemed less intimidating. And so the past two days saw me researching on graduate business curricula, feeling excited, extremely excited, … until reality snapped back into my senses and told me that I still have a long way to go. Mock proposal defense on Monday. Actual defense the week after. Comprehensive exams in summer. If I’m lucky and smart enough to pass, I would spend the next year or so writing the actual thesis. Then there’s final defense and research publication. All these on top of the 200 practicum hours that I am yet to fulfill.

Which seems to derail me even further. My practicum projects are either research-based or consultative in nature. I just finished analyzing interview transcriptions with some peers, in our quest to discovering what makes an organization a great place to work for Filipinos. My upcoming project this April will explore the best performance management system for my client’s employees. The one slated for August requires developing a survey on global citizenship behavior on college students. Didn’t I love test construction so much that I wanted to take an MS in Psychological Measurement after my MA? That was the plan until the only university that offered it ceased the program.

In any case, I need to graduate soonest. My violin has been sitting lonely beside my closet for more than a year now, and I did promise to study music after graduate school.

But first, let me find a job in Singapore.

Now, I’m wondering if I should really be a banker. Research excites me. Consulting appears to work best with my short attention span. Going to graduate school speaks of my desire to enter the academe. Or might as well open my own restaurant, as people always suggest.

Wait—weren’t we talking about the food blog that mi amor and I are planning to put up?

I hope I did not shortchange you by talking about a myriad of other things. Told you, I’m one confused soon-to-be 25-year-old.

Quaint

I could barely recall the last time I found beauty on a Sunday afternoon.

For the past years, Sunday served as the single, most critical day to catch up on the waning week’s activities. Sunday means frantically typing on my laptop for a paper to be submitted the next day, working in the kitchen to salvage spoiling vegetables in the fridge, hitting the gym, or nursing a hangover from the previous night’s heavy partying. Not that I regret doing these, but the burden does take its toll from time to time.

Then came today. Having the entire house for myself, a heightened sense of awareness washed me over—of the cool breeze that was brushing past my skin, of the garden plants dancing gracefully with the wind, of the sunlight illuminating the interiors of the house, bringing out the beauty in its walls, despite the age, the dirt, and the wear and tear. The world felt so distant, so untroubled; and for a moment, I forgot that the reason why I sat beside the window is to write the next chapter of my thesis for tomorrow’s submission.

And so I reacquainted myself with this blog instead.

The Edge of Glory

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There he was, lying
On a makeshift bed,
A needle piercing his skin
Pumping life into his veins.
His pained howls would struggle through the silence
And then, a profound stillness mourns:
Saline dampened his deathbed
Half of which flowed to let go,
while the rest poured to hold on
to dear life…his life.
Is it selfish to pray for more?
Many would say 11 years is more than enough
But our Jasper is fighting,
And fighters deserve a second chance.

Kasarinlan

Ni minsa’y di mo inakalang
May kakayahan akong tumula
Sa wikang di banyaga
Gamit ang ating salita.

Malamang ay di mo batid
Na sa payak na wikang ito’y aking naatim
Ang kauna-unahang dangal sa pagsulat
Sa aking pangalan, na aking ipinagdiriwang.

Di mo ba ito sukat-akalain?
Minsan ako’y napapaisip:
Dahil ba sa inaakala mong tatas ko sa Ingles
Ay para bang ako’y nakulong
Sa di matatawarang bighani,
Sa mga mapanlinlang nitong ngiti?

You, from the Past

Your touch is silken, yet
It reaches through my skin
Moving from within
And clutches at my breast

From “Only When I Sleep”
by The Corrs

Beseech

For a moment I hoped
it was I you meant
How I hid the heartbeats in cupboards
and boxes
How you turned to have done the same
How we are sharing them now—oh, the
possibilities—
How you would ask for acceptance
of your indecent past
How I would express my love
and say it’s nothing I care
about.
Images of us immediately swirled
     inside my head
In the very short moment that I waited for answers
Then, all suddenly, the beating plummeted
After it became clear it was him you
said.

The Rustic Kitchen

image

Aging gracefully
Brewing all sorts of magic
Forever summer

Under the Weather

“I can’t fall in love with this weather. I know it’ll be gone soon.” @francistan

We all yearn not to fall in love
with the weather, at some point
But unlike the weather (that is here  if  when it is,
and gone when it’s not), yearning is an intricate mix
of burning passion on the coldest nights
or of freezing on a hot, summer day
Yearning then becomes yearning for something else
and, when not achieved, turns into another
………….and another
and another
until we find ourselves yearning
..incessantly,
…………..in the hopes of finding that something else.

Breaking Traditions

The year 2013 started with renewed hopes and unprecedented challenges. It kicked off with a new job that, incidentally, paid really well, dispensed employee benefits better than what I got accustomed to, and (finally) tapped onto my core strengths and professional interests. It came to an even greater surprise that I would be an assistant manager and a supervisor. Imagine a 22-year-old with direct reports and a seat in the management arena—something stupid not to be proud about. It’s something you don’t see everyday.

School was just as wonderful. Statistics—that treacherous course known to kill a thousand dreams—turned out to be the greatest subject I could possibly take in graduate school. I had a professor with an impeccable skill in teaching; topics that, to my gratitude, came very timely with the challenges posed to me at work; and classmates that blended well together. It was perfect, each piece of it, and I had nothing else to ask for.

That was until I started to see the downsides. I found out that reimbursing my tuition fees would bind me to the company for at least two years. That wasn’t part of the deal. I became increasingly exasperated with my team—there’s always no structure, no mature and professional attitude, no speed. I couldn’t keep up to their complacency and slow pace (Have you ever heard of having to keep up with something slow? Ridiculous!). Graduate school started to feel like college, where the goal is to just earn the diploma at the soonest possible time, because I am so eager to move on with my life and do all those things that I’ve been putting on hold (i.e. working out, violin lessons).

There’s the big family thing going on, too. My sister is a mess with an insurmountable hatred for our mother, our mother is always in pain, and my dad simply doesn’t care. Fuck family. It doesn’t exist. It never did, even if to those outside we’re the embodiment of sheer perfection.

Speaking of perfection, a group of gay buddies suddenly stopped talking to me. I am not dense, of course (even if, for a time, I think they thought I was, that I wouldn’t notice the change in the way they treated me). The issue? There were bits of stuff here and there, but ultimately, the problem is I’m high-maintenance. I’m this person who enjoys violin concertos and theatrical plays, who dodges their invites for leisure activities for a wakeboarding experience in Nuvali, who declines to drink beer but indulges in wine, who hates fast food but encourages everyone to try Mediterranean cuisine. And oh, this person happens to be an Atenista who converses in English. Predictable, huh?

I didn’t know when these happened, but things changed. MRT lines were suddenly excruciatingly long, 24 hours is simply no longer enough and exhaustion cripples me at night. I’m always getting sick, been performing poorly at work, and not passionate about school anymore. In attempts to salvage myself from the drain, I started to do things a bit differently. I kept every possible social circle around but committed to spend time only with my college buddies, the people who are dearest to me. I refused to read anything other than academic articles, if I am to make more time for school. I started drinking vitamins (that left me sleepy all day) and declined car rides from my boss; after all, taking the LRT going home is way much cheaper and faster. Obviously, none of these worked very well; otherwise, you wouldn’t be laying eyes on this essay.

So the next question is why. If you’re somebody I get to see often, you will notice that all I talk about is work and school, school and work, work and school, insert some family concerns here and there, and then back to work and school. That, I think, was the problem. I forgot to live.

Then came the month of December.

Two of my dearest ex-officemates, Irene and Dawn, gave me a call one Friday afternoon and asked if I wanted to go out. I agreed; we went to Fort after my classes. All the things that happened were a first: I personally enjoyed partying in a “hetero” club (I go to gay-friendly clubs, obviously); became friendly with a bunch of guys we met; bumped into my best bud Niko inside (how random can you get?); and sincerely enjoyed a meal from Max’s the day after (wow, boring Pinoy food). All were pleasantly weird.

There also came an intimate Christmas gathering with old friends. It’s been ages since I last saw June, Jasper, Eugene and Dave—especially June, who I miss dearly. Lands and Marc were also there, and although we get to see each other more often, the last felt like an eternity away from the present. Gerald hosted, which he always did, and it was nice, having these people around once again, the people for whom I came out and instrumental to accepting myself for what I am.

Some time in between, I got hold of a copy of Paulo Coelho’s Veronika Decides To Die. It was out of the market for some time, and so I immediately grabbed a copy the moment I saw it in the bookstore, despite feeling unsure if I’d really find the time to read. Gladly, I did.

The book tells the story of Veronika, a young woman who tried to killed herself, survived, but only with a few more days to live. She woke up in an asylum after her suicide attempt, intent to kill herself again—successfully this time—to finally put an end to her mundane existence. While waiting for her time to depart the living world, she realized that her sorrow was all caused by living life the way she thinks she should; that is, the way her mother wanted it or how society expected her to. She realized this during her stay with the “crazy folks” in the asylum, where she was able to express herself fully because crazy people can do unconventional things and others will just blame it on their being crazy.

The book tells us that the reason why we are unhappy is because we limit ourselves to what we are accustomed to do and to what society dictates as right. We will never achieve true happiness if we won’t dare do things differently. Paulo Coelho gave a totally new definition to “crazy” through Veronika’s persona.

So I decided to be crazy a little. I set aside my academic readings and bought two new books to read. I’m starting to learn to go outside myself to understand the father I’ve always disliked. I stopped complaining about having to play counselor for my sister and my mom, because I realized that all they need is somebody who can understand. I’m hoping I can extend this to work as well, because really, while my team is unthinkably slow and poor in strategizing, a huge chunk of my dissatisfaction comes from the whiner attitude that I have. I will no longer make amends to Leo (and perhaps the rest), because now I accept and I fully agree—I’m high maintenance! If he (or they) can’t keep up with that, then so be it. It’s not that we didn’t try. Maybe it just really is.

This exact blog post is a craze; an aberration. Never have I name dropped, nor have I written a piece that’s not literary. For the first time in many years, I am not proofreading my work for grammatical lapses and coherence issues; I’m just letting my fingers do the writing. The resulting piece feels pure, unadulterated and truthful, in turn. And if I may give one more shot at being truthful, allow me to confess (the same way that I am sharing with you right now that I just got inked) that I also go by the name Ryan See, the blogger who wrote gay erotica and about the unrequited love he had for his college best friend (the blog, of course, is now dead, as you would have known if you happen to enjoy getting off with what was written there).

Mss. Tina, Ednie, GL and Vicky, please don’t be surprised if I start joining you in car rides again. The same goes to Lands, Jasper and the rest—I’m looking forward to more Distillery nights. Maybe I’ll allow myself to enjoy the crass music ubiquitous to the office a little. As long as it doesn’t hurt you and others, do it, Coelho did say.

The year came to a close with a bottle of pinot grigio shared with Irene and Symel, looking after the sick Dawn, and joining Symel on a bus ride home. She, as she always did when we were still colleagues, engaged me into a philosophical dialogue, finding myself once again learning from her unique views on love and life in general (she, for instance, translated love that night using physics—classifying people as luminous and illuminated)—and really, that felt good.

Actually, December felt good. Really good. It taught me that we need is just a little reminder—and a lot of craziness every chance we get.

[Here comes my New Year’s Resolution: to be crazy. It’s starting to feel crazy already, because I never believed in New Year’s Resolutions!]

Thirty five thousand feet high

Those lines
Silver strands gleaming at night
Struggling to hide by day, yet
Welcoming, as if restored to a
well-missed abode
Settling at each side of my eyes
Smiling to the years ahead.
They put me to wonder—what is it
That’s so enticing with age
That makes me want to see it,
or you again.