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Listography

1. I have always wanted to be a truth-teller. But the kind of truth I want to tell takes words and time, the kind of time nobody has for me.

2. It is often said that Life does not give you anything you cannot handle, but maybe Life has mistaken the strength of my hands for the strength of my heart.

3. Anyone who tells you that you are in control of yourself has not felt their knees buckle, their voice shake or their vision fade against their will.

4. My heart is constantly failing, but nobody will take that without a medical note.

5. There is so much suffering and I have such small hands.

6. There is no medication for all the hurts I most want to heal.

7. I am often told there is no point in looking back and having regrets. Have you ever been ruined by something you did not choose?

8. Mistakes are so costly, and not so easily forgivable when the breaths you take are limited and few.

9. I want to be an earth-mover, but I myself falter on shaky feet.

10. All I ever want is to feel safe.

( Check out Part I for numbers 1 to 5 )

6. My God is an awesome God, and He loves me endlessly.

He is my Creator, my Savior, and my rock. He is with me, and He is my only forever. It sounds cheesy, and all around the world, the antireligious are probably rolling their eyes at me. But I wouldn’t be writing it down if it wasn’t true to me. There is no hate or opposition that can make it untrue.

I have a God bigger than all my problems will ever be, He is thinking about me, and He wants me to have life.

I may not be the most devout Christian, and yes, my faith can be the size of a speck of dust. But I do believe that He is thinking of me all the time, and if God dreams, He is dreaming great things for me. He has never left my side and He has never let me down.

7 a. Some infinites are bigger than other infinities.
   b. I am a big believer in Something More.

This section will be all about The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

“But yes. I believe in Something with a capital S. Always have,” says Augustus Waters, protagonist of TFiOS.

I adore this book because it deal with universal mysteries, unanswerable questions that we need to think about anyway. About life and death, and love, and infinities. These are conversations I would eagerly swallow despite knowing that I would never fully understand or explain them.

Which is why I’m in love with Augustus Waters. He spends his days trying to bring meaning to the chaos. He and the lovely Hazel Grace tackle the question of infinities, of forever, of what happens after you die, and what you leave behind when you do. They probably know they won’t arrive at a perfect answer, but they try anyway.

I believe in things that may not make sense, yet I believe that they are there and that they matter. I don’t know if the stars we’re wishing on are dead stars, but if they are, it’s something I’d like to know. I believe that hope is bigger than the universe, and that love is bigger than hope.

I’ll hold on to that.

8. The secret to being young forever is to never stop learning.

This is a little theory of my own. When you become old, you accept and believe that you’ve reached the end of the road, that you’ve done all there is to do, and seen all there is to see. The truth is that this never happens. As long as you find something new in each day you’re given, you’re finding yourself somewhere new to go. And that means your journey hasn’t ended yet.

Learning never ends, and that’s what I love most about it. I’d do it forever if I could. I’d always find something new about life. I used to imagine that when I had grandchildren (if I ever have grandchildren), I’d take the effort to learn something for them. Some new game that was created in their generation, some piece of information about the world that seems to fascinate them so much.

I never want them to hear me say this as an excuse, that I’m too old to learn.

I’d leave a little something left for tomorrow, just so I have something to look forward to. Just so I know that tomorrow still exists, because there’s something still waiting for me in there. That’s how I’d like to stay young.

9. I believe in the broken.

It’s a little strange to admit that I just might find sadness beautiful. I think that tragedy contains some of the secret honesty of life that rips it raw, if meaning is derived from finding something that makes you vulnerable. That’s what sadness does. It exposes the parts of you that you’d rather not show. It’s when I am saddest that I am most honest (although not necessarily correct).

I have a soft spot for the broken, damaged people of the world, because I know that they’re survivors each new day that they see through. I think they have found some secret, an answer to a certain question of the universe that you may not understand from being perpetually happy.

I’m not sure I can explain myself, so I’ll borrow the words of Elizabeth Kubler Ros:

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

I’m damaged, and most of the time I just want to be embraced for it. So when I see someone as broken as I am, or even less or more broken than I am, I think to myself that I just want to love them and tell them over and over, “You’re beautiful. I believe it. Don’t you forget it.”

10. I believe in being ‘something else’.

Though I don’t necessarily agree with them, I believe in deviants. I believe in minority groups and those who dare to think differently. I respect the opinionated, I may slightly admire and envy rebels. I believe in mistreated fighters, in struggling, tortured artists, I believe in misunderstood introverts. I believe in hipsters, and in celebrities, and in the cut-above-the-rest kind of people.

I believe in the different. I believe in people getting what they earn and deserve─justified inequality, if you will. I believe in whatever sets you apart, no matter what it is that sets you apart. I believe in the bold and italics. I believe in the genius and the insane. I believe in people who have a story to their name, no matter what that story is.

I would like to reject conformity and ordinariness, because we’re all too big for that.
All of us.

* * *

There you have it. These are ten things I know to be true. This list was challenging in input and still a little raw in outcome, but I think I’ve learned some very important things about myself that I’ll be using in future writings.

The two best things I’ve accomplished with this listography are, first, that I finally got around to writing this list that I’ve been avoiding for months; second, that I convinced myself to look around for other areas I can start digging in. Now that I’ve found I can write about other things, I’m just going to keep exploring.

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 )

and being loved by me

1. You will have a lot to learn. You will have to learn the way I speak and the way I keep silent, how to tell when I’m angry, sad, or just really tired. You will have to learn what picks me up, what to say when I call you at 1AM and I’m crying. You will have to learn what works, what only works one time, and what will never work. You will have to learn me. You will have to memorize me.

2. You will get very confused. I confuse everyone, even myself. No amount of learning will save you from getting confused ever again. The signs that I told you about will get all mixed up once in a while, and you’ll follow them to the wrong place and have to start over.

3. You will have to be very patient. I’m a work in progress, ultimately stubborn. I need plenty of time and space, even after the plenty of time and space I’ve collected in my life so far. I will always need it. We will always do our journey slowly; getting to know me, getting to know you, making mistakes, learning from them, growing older and closer. We will get better, but you will need to wait for me.

4. Let’s be honest. The hardest person for me to love is someone who cannot be honest and open with me. Someone who turns out to have been lying to me, hiding things from me, or telling other people things they should be telling me, is someone who will lose a lot of respect from me. I once said that I’d forgive almost any crime, failing, or hurt from someone I loved, so long as they were honest with me about it.

5. I believe in tough love. This may be hard to remember along the way, when I am so sensitive and vulnerable to everything. But in line with my love for honesty, I want you to tell me when I am wrong and, more importantly, how I can correct myself. I love you and I want to be better for you. Hopefully, you will feel learn to feel the same and let me give you my tough love too.

6. I don’t believe that love has to hurt. I mean, it will hurt. But that is not love’s fault. It is the absence of love. It’s life, what with it constantly trying to teach us something or the other. I believe that love is what heals us. Love is what makes it better, and love is what brings us back together. If we fight, it is because we are angry, not because we are no longer in love. If we fight, I will still struggle to tell you I love you above the anger.

7. I believe that love is powerful. Powerful enough to penetrate my skin and flesh and make itself at home in the crevices of me that I never knew existed. It makes its way into places that we don’t want to be touched, but when we get there it’s so hauntingly beautiful. That’s the kind of love I need from you, and that’s the kind of love that I am willing to give you. If it’s the kind of love we have, we will feel it in our bones.

8. We say love in different ways. Sometimes I show the people I love that I love them by spoiling them, materially. I can treat you to lunch, buy you shirts, pay for rides at the amusement park. Most of the time, I say “I Love You” with all kinds of words except those three. When something means so much to me, I write a lot about it. We will say love in different ways. But let’s make sure we say it.

9. These “rules” can be bent or broken. These are things I have learned and gathered along the way, by falling in and out of love. These are things I have seen and felt from experience. But they are only experiences, not rules and not necessarily patterns. They can change. Especially if you want to change them enough.

10. I love you. Simply and truly. I don’t go into love half-assed. Well, maybe sometimes, but I am resourceful with feelings and love grows quickly within me. I don’t have a lot of other things to give, but if love is what you’re here for, then sure I’ve got a lot of that, even if it terrifies me to give it away sometimes. Give me your love and I’ll give you mine.

I’ve learned a lot of things in my life so far, and some lessons are more memorable than others, whether or not they are more important. This list compiles the ones that have gotten me further.

I’m glad I’ve learned:

1. That I’m afraid of being alone. I was raised in a big family, in a close community and an easy routine where I saw the same faces regularly. I never needed to be alone. But then I began the process of growing up; fell in love, said goodbye, moved to college, and realized that sometime, somehow, I am going to be one small person in a big crowd. It was going to happen, and I realized that it terrified me. I didn’t want it, to grow up and lose the people who knew me better than I knew myself. But at that time, I had the best friend in the whole world by my side, who knew how I felt and why. She was the one who brought my fear to my attention, and I’m grateful. Because as soon as I learned about it, I started learning how to fight it.

2. How to be alone (sometimes). I am an extreme introvert. My parents worry about me often because of how long I can stay in my room and go without talking to anyone. It is quite contradictory to what I just told you, to my fear of being alone. It goes hand in hand, and I don’t know how that works either. But it works for me because, as Charles Bukowski said, “Beware those who seek constant crowds for they are nothing alone.” I know that in a crowd of people, I am not a part of them. I just happen to be among them. I draw strength from myself, deep in the wells of my own thoughts, and I exist alone. Yes, I will get lonely if I go long enough without sharing my thoughts with anyone, and somewhere in time it will begin to hurt. But I will continue to exist, and that means I’ll get the chance to find someone.

3. The power of words. This can be divided into two: reading and writing. Reading is a passion passed down to me and my sister by our Dad (and which I’m very grateful for!) It is also a passion I’m known for. I don’t get tired of receiving books for Christmas and birthdays, or any occasion with gifts. They add color and comfort to a world that leaves me jaded. It has given me many lives to live, and worlds to live them in. Reading has been my escape, just as writing has been my outlet. In painting my own words, I get caught between being too confusing and too brutally honest. But it has always made me feel better, and that has always been the important thing.

4. To love the color green. Friends who have seen enough of me would notice that I adore the color green. There was once a time that I flatly stated, Green is probably the last color I would ever like. The story of how I became in love with green is a rather cute one, but I won’t share it so it remains a special inside story between me and my best friend. (Clue: it involves a boy.) Now, the sight of green makes me happy in a way that my old favorite colors couldn’t do. And the story of how it came to be reminds me how came to be. It reminds me of the big meanings that can come with little things. And simply, it makes me happy, and I’m glad I allowed it to try.

5. That things can change. (Need I say more?) I both fear and long for change. Routine can get so comfortable because I know that I get better as I go, with practice. It becomes easier over time, and soon I don’t have to think too much about the life I’m living. I just live it by habit. Sometimes, on the other hand, a cruel winter comes along and sweeps me, or maybe sometimes I find myself buried twelve feet under, and it basically sucks. I’m eighteen years old, but it didn’t take me that long to learn that things can change. And better yet, that they change for the better.

6. That things will change. Just like learning to be by myself, like falling in and out of love, like new friends and places, and bidding goodbye to old ones, I have had to face a lot of changes. Sometimes I don’t like the change, and getting used to it is a difficult river to cross. But half of my battle has been taken care of when I reach the river already knowing that it has to be crossed. I’m more ready for it perhaps, and hopefully, stronger. Change is the only constant in this world. I have come to expect it, accept it, or even better, embrace it. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get to make it work for me.

7. That my family will never let me go–and that’s a good thing. My family deserves so much more than a paragraph, so I will try and save them for the later stories. For now, I have lately come to the conclusion that my family is, has been, and will always be, one of the best things to ever happen to me. Perhaps I have been a brat for most of my life, but they manage to look past that and see their sister and daughter, and love me for that. I have a happy childhood to come back to, and it feels great to come back to it.

8. How to fold a paper boat. Again, this sounds strange and perhaps a little petty. But last year, I had an experience in which I fell in love with the idea of a boy, and somewhere in the middle of it, I was folding paper boats. It was a shallow source of happiness–so shallow that no one could take it away from me. I promised to no one in particular that if I should ever see a flood, I would fold paper boats and set them free in the flood. I am not in love with his picture anymore, and I have not seen a flood for myself yet; but those boats have been a symbol of my floating in murky waters. And that I can always refuse to sink.

9. The power of a smile. I am not a very happy person. When I am sad, I swim in my sadness. But somehow recently, I began to pay attention to that saying that simply the act of smiling can make things better already. So I’ve been trying. One morning I woke up and just wasn’t in the mood. I hid my face and (warning: I am crazy) tried to muster a smile to myself. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I did it. Sometimes people catch me in an unguarded laugh, so they compliment me and tell me I’m prettier that way, and I should smile more often. It’s rewarding, it feels wonderful. And yes, smiling when I’m hurting makes things feel a little better. I’ve decided to hold on to it.

10. To choose myself. One of the toughest lessons to learn. One of the lessons I’m still learning as I go. Many people will not understand, or will mistake this as selfishness. After each of the lessons I’ve listed down here, I keep arriving at the conclusion that I am the most important thing I have. Not the only, but the most. Because when people leave and reappear, or when things and places change, the only one I can keep up with is my self.  All of these things I learn? They don’t mean anything to anyone else, just me. When I feel happy or hurt, I am the only one who feels it for me. So (and you can take this as a lesson for you, too), I’ll let go if it gets way too much for me to handle, and I’ll embrace it if it’s all I’ve ever wanted. No one is better for me than me. So I’ll choose me.