In Real Life

Hey, Internet! I need your help with a little bit of therapy.

You see, I have a lot of feelings, and not a lot of places to put them in. I’d put them out on the Internet, but having them there makes me come back to them over and over, which is the opposite of what I want to learn.

This past month, I thought of writing letters. I’m decent with that, but they still need somewhere to go. I need a regular exercise of sending things away from me and not having any power over what happens next.

If you think you wanna help me out, you can volunteer to receive a letter from me.

I can do email or snail mail (Philippines only, sorry!), totally up to you what info you give me. Everything you enter is completely optional and, of course, confidential.

This comes at no cost to you, except possibly the burden of what I tell you. If you want me to talk about something close to your heart, plug it in and I’ll try.

If you’re in, drop your info over at and I’ll get back to you when I can.

Thank you very much for reading! :)

My eyes feel tired from crying, like I’ve been crying all afternoon. I haven’t. All I had was a meltdown.

If I could describe what I’ve been feeling lately in one word, it would be: dread.
In another word: empty.
In another: desperate.

They say on the good days, you’re supposed to feel like what you’re doing is right, like you can and will work hard to deserve the work you’re given, like this is where you’re meant to be. My good days are simply days I managed to survive through. My good day thoughts are, “One down. How many more do I have to go before I’m finally allowed to be selfish and do something for me?”

I told my best friend I didn’t know if it was work or depression. Maybe it was how they collided, how each one expected to be put leagues ahead of the other. If I give up work, my life loses its current structure and becomes heavier. If I pursue work more closely, I might decide I want nothing to do with my life.

I currently want nothing to do with my life.

I had a breakdown this morning. After I rose early and realized I wanted to escape this day, after hour after hour passed with me making excuses and dodging responsibilities, after the time had finally come that I was “too late” and no longer had an alibi to save my skin: I had a breakdown this morning.

My sister left the condominium and my soul went unbearably quiet to the world’s steel coldness. Music did not feel like anything to me. I returned to my bed and there: suddenly, the air around me thickened and felt like water I was drowning in. I was floating in a fishbowl and I couldn’t breathe. I was so scared of myself because in those moments I didn’t care about anything.

I didn’t care about my work, I didn’t care about what happened to me next, I didn’t care about whether I might just die in place or not. That amount of apathy was too much responsibility for me, that emptiness was too large and too dark. I was scared that I might trust it. I was scared that I was very close to that point where I couldn’t go on anymore. I was scared that that was it. I was giving up on myself.

I was absolutely terrified because I knew with every fiber of my pain that I was right: that was definitely what it felt like to almost give up on myself.

So I ran.

I finally get a (Sun)day where the world slows down. I finally got to sleep in, only to wake up and find my head quiet.

Much of what I’ve been trying to do lately is give, or in a sense just keep saying or doing things outwardly.  I exert myself for work, and then I come home and think about how much I want to be giving to people I care about. And then I proceed to do what I can.

It doesn’t make much sense, I think, outside of my own thoughts. A giver is the kind of person I have always, always wanted to be. I get drained from the giving anyway. I’ll cry and complain the clock round. But I aim to see it as a stretching exercise for my heart or spirit, a conditioning if you must, for a long life of continual giving. That’s the life I intended for myself, so I intend to have it.

No, I don’t have an explanation why I’m so unfit for the kind of person I wanted to be if that’s who I’ve wanted to be since forever. Maybe I was a giver once, and it didn’t pay off. Or it exhausted and bruised me. Maybe those are memories I don’t have anymore. I meant it when I said I don’t know.

I think I’ll just return to being thankful for this slow day, to focusing on where I am.

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Manila has been getting some very heavy rain lately. While I worry about the damage the weather is surely causing, I can’t help but feel soothed by the gloom. Whenever depression hits me, I feel a deep disagreement between my inner and outer worlds. There’s a darkness or brokenness that lives inside my mind, and remains there; but when it rains, it mirrors my world a little bit and it’s comforting.

Daniela Andrade’s voice is my mood music of choice today, especially her cover of La Vie En Rose. I’ll aim to learn that song next on the ukulele, when I’m feeling better.
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Yesterday was Airell’s birthday, exactly eight days before mine. The day I figured this out, I had my mind made up: we were celebrating birthday week, and we were celebrating it together.

It’s our first birthday week as a couple, and it happens to be our 21st birthday. We actually had bigger dreams for this celebration, like a kiddie party, or a water fight/nerf battle between his friends and mine. Too bad we couldn’t afford anything.

Still, I wanted his first birthday with me to be special. So we had a simple “us” day, filled with some of our favorite things.

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Alex TalmonAlex Talmon

I went home in April, and it was wonderful and therapeutic. Going back to where we come from has this way of providing perspective we otherwise miss in life; the kind that reminds us everything is relative to something else.

Things like how I went there wanting to slim my stomach, but family friends did nothing but point out how thin I had become since I first left. And I was being hard on myself for the slowness of my progress in life, but there I saw how much I had actually grown and changed.

Things like that.

Today marks my fourth anniversary with Manila. Four years since my plane landed here and I started a brand new life. It’s been crazy. I faced culture shock, homesickness, and existential crises. I started over and over and over. I asked myself why I was doing what I was doing, or what it was that I really wanted. There were days when all I wanted was to pack up and go back home. But I couldn’t.

The good news is that I survived it — all four years of rocky, ill-fitting times. Just barely, but at least I’m still here to write and rewrite the story. And I do rewrite it a lot, because there are good and bad things to tell about everything.

I just can’t go back to who I was before it. I always remember Paramore’s song Franklin, which talks exactly about going home and realizing it isn’t what it once was; not because home changed but because I did.

I have become both softer and tougher; more cynical but also more empathetic. I hit the ocean floor so many times I started to like how sadness looks on me. I know I’ve grown a lot, more or less for the good. I know better and (sometimes) do better. But I constantly feel under attack when I just really miss feeling safe.

I took my time, but I did manage to find a new home in Manila. I fell in love with its dusty charm and its potential, slowly. I found this odd thrill in commuting, this roar in watching its people fight an identity crisis. In my deepest heart I am dreaming of a happy, healthy, and prosperous Philippines, and wondering what I can do to help it get there.

One thing I haven’t decided is whether a person can have two homes. We even discussed that in my last Literature class (“Contemporary Fiction of Filipinos Abroad,” phew). Is home where you choose it to be, where you’re used to, or where your heart is?

My favorite answer comes from Abraham Verghese: “Not where you are from, but where you are wanted.” It fits the drifting image I sometimes paint of myself, and allows me to believe that I have several homes because I am loved in several places. Bahrain, Manila, even a quiet fishing village called Nigui.

But they are all different kinds of home who have given me different kinds of love. Manila has always been about tough love. Mostly I feel its toughness alone, but I know that it’s because it’s going through a rough time too.

And love is for rough times, so here’s me loving you even though you often suck, Manila. I know you’ve got a beautiful heart. Happy fourth anniversary to us :)