Recently, I tried to exercise my writing, filling up my Tumblr with purposeless paragraphs and attempts at fiction. After the last piece that I wrote, I realized what my problem was. I was writing the same stories over and over in different ways. I was limited in the things that I knew to talk about.
I thought of Sarah Kay, one of my favorite personalities in the whole world. In this popular video of hers, she performs two beautiful poems and, in between, talks about her work travelling the world and teaching youths to write poetry using lists.
Since the first time I watched this video (I’ve watched it over five times), I have been wanting to write my own list of ten things I know to be true. However, I am cynical and full of doubts, so writing down a list of “truths” was a total challenge for me.
Now more than ever, I need to get in touch with my innards. So I decided to push it, and surprisingly got some output. Here, then, is the first part of my over-thought list of ten things I know to be true.
1. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ─ Oscar Wilde
I could (and did) preach about how happiness is a choice, but that makes me a certain kind of a hypocrite, because I constantly find a little sadness in every day. I am a pessimist by nature, especially to events in my own life. If happiness is a choice, I have not been making it. But I know two things: that it is possible to choose to be happy, and that there are many people who do.
We live in a cruel world, one that I could hate without trying too hard. Sometimes, however, I look at certain kinds of people—particularly those with worse sufferings than I have—and wonder how they could still want to fight for life. Some people are simply looking skywards, and it affects the way they look at the ground.
One of my favorite things that I learned from Sarah Kay’s talk is about the way we go through life, with our arms crossed protectively in front of us or hands outstretched and ready to catch. Without a doubt I am the first kind of person, but it’s a comfort to know I can relax my arms and open my fingers any time I’d like to.
Sarah’s talk is my favorite because it summarizes all that is bittersweet in life, all that is honest and golden, all the truths that we are scared of because they make us vulnerable. Sarah Kay, without a doubt, is looking at the stars.
2. To me, there are few things more attractive than a person who is in love with something.
Give me someone who is passionate about something, and I’ll show you someone with the means to be happy. We’ve always been taught that “life is not about the destination; it’s about the journey”, and the best way to keep going on that journey is to have something that pushes and pulls at you.
Basketball, dance, art, literature, a boy, a girl, clouds, triangles, music. I can get to know someone so much better just by finding out what they’re in love with and why. What brings about the spark in their eyes and that aura of “this is what gives my life meaning”. What they would fight for, if given the chance; what they believe that everyone in the world ought to love as much as they do. I think that’s where world-changing really begins.
Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I love people when they’re just that—alive. It may as well change the world, or at the very least, it can change someone’s life when they see how much better you have it, when your life is full of something. It gives us something to chase, something to invest ourselves in, something to build our life around and toward.
My love for the books and words makes me giddy; my love for writing gives me something to pursue. It adds life to my life, that’s all. Which leads me to my next truth.
3. I set the plotline for the rest of my life when I realized I was good at writing, that I loved it, and that I wanted to keep doing it.
My writing life began sometime around the second grade, when I wrote compositions and poems for class and was praised for it. I couldn’t understand then, why I was being praised for something anybody could do. I didn’t know what a talent was.
My decision to centre my life on writing happened in the fifth grade, in an event I come to call the silly classroom essay. My English teacher of then gave me the honor of having my essay set apart and above most of the rest of my classmates. I discovered that I had the ingredients to happiness: something you love, something you’re good at, and something you can do, all in one.
Since then, I prided myself in the one and only talent I could really boast about. I fell in love with words, and writing became my comfort zone. It’s one of the things I can be sure of when I can’t be sure of anything. I can always write.
Most importantly, I decided, I will always write.
4. “This too shall pass.”
This is my motto, and I discovered it during my personal Dark Ages. Then, it was a way to comfort myself that my winter would not last forever. When I got out of that darkness, I realized that it applies to every feeling I’ve ever felt, not only the hurts. The celebrations too. Time heals and changes. Everything is temporary. It won’t always be like this.
Whoever came up with that must have known what life is all about.
“Ce passera aussi.”
5. I have a deep-seated fear of being ordinary and unremarkable.
My worst moments are when I crumble down and doubt myself, because that is when I’m made to face the possibility that I am not as big as I have always wanted to be.
I grew up in a warm community of people rooting for me, urging me on the supposed path to greatness. I’ve known people who just believed in me so much it was hard for me to imagine that they might be wrong. I might not be great. But I always assumed I would be.
The path is rocky, my feet unsteady. I trip and stumble a lot. When my face meets the ground, my fears come rushing up to meet me. Flaws. Flaws everywhere. It terrifies me, because I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I don’t make it to the finish line. If I don’t become the person I had always believed I would be. I don’t know how to live a life I had believed I wouldn’t be having.
I play with this fear a lot, especially when I am comparing my life in Manila to life in Bahrain. Dreaming was so much easier there because we were so determined to have “a better life than this.” Living those dreams, on the other hand, is getting harder and harder. Most of the time, this fear is the weight that slows me down.
When I think about it, it could also be the fire that propels me. We always run from our demons faster than we run towards our dreams. I just can’t be ordinary.
( Numbers 6 to 10 can be found in Part II )