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!]