Thursday, January 22, 2009

Red Light

It's 6 p.m., and you're trying to get across Taft Avenue. Between the giant buses and swerving jeepneys, all you really want to do is to get to the other side without being crushed. At this point, you'd be thankful for a working stoplight.

I know most people take stoplights for granted--and some even blatantly jaywalk all over the place--but for someone who grew up inheriting her mom's paranoia about accidents that can happen anytime, stoplights are a relief.

But since literal stoplights don't really make for an interesting blog, I will, of course, try to relate it to life. (Although I also doubt it will be interesting, but oh well.)

Unfortunately, life has no explicit stoplights. None of those simple, three-colored machines which reliably keep us from crashing and getting crushed (of course, I am not taking into account the perpetually malfunctioning stoplights one can always find in Metro Manila). Things would have easier and less complicated if we had those, but as we all know by now, life is neither easy nor simple.

In fact, taking the commuter analogy further, life isn't just an intersection, nor a highway as the Rascal Flats sang about. For me it a collection of infinitely many intersections, and with different kinds of streets. Some are as big as NLEX, while others mere alleys. To be in the middle of one of these big junctions--I think we all know how that feels. Without a stoplight, in the middle of an intersection, is one of the most terrifying places to be, maybe because we know that if there's nothing to tell everyone else when to stop and when to keep moving, crashes are almost certain.

It's a weird thing, to cross streets without stoplights. I know some people who just walk straight to the other side, without so much as a glance at the cars. But I'm not like that. And maybe there's something about personality in crossing streets. Some of us go through life carefree, stepping out into the asphalt and heading straight to where they ought to go, while others don't trust the cars not to hit them, so they go out of their way to avoid those dangers.

For me, the tough part is knowing when to move and when not to. Of course I'm concerned about a big delivery truck hitting me right on--I know it's something I don't ever want to experience. It's painful and harmful. And that's the reason why in life, we get hurt and do the stupid things that we do--it's because, as we all know, calculating is hard, and often we miscalculate our actions. We're rarely ever certain of anything, so it's normal to get hit by our mistakes. Sometimes they're just bikes, or slow-moving cars--but once in a while we really fuck up and it feels like a speeding ten-wheeler. Sometimes we're lucky to get off with just a bruise or a scratch, but sometimes it cripples us--for a while or for good.

But we have to keep crossing if we want to get anywhere.

And it's not as if life doesn't hand us its fair share of signals. Life has no explicit stoplights, but there are subtle (and sometimes quite obvious) signs which tell us when to keep still. But just like a lot of the Philippine commuting public, we simply choose to ignore them and jaywalk. Maybe we're hurrying, or just stubborn. Careless or over-cautious, it's all up to you. Just keep crossing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kamikaze Conversations

I am an introvert. It's kind of fun (in some vague sense) to be one--this way I have plenty of time to think. But lately I've been spending way too much time thinking and being my introverted self. My ever-so-disjointed schedule and long breaks are kind of alienating me from my friends, hence I have recently learned how to maximize my library nap times. But seriously, I have no plans of being a hermit and all this alone time is driving me crazy.

There are a lot of other people to talk to on campus, I know. But lately my slightly underdeveloped social skills seem to be rusting more than ever. Should I blame my ultra-introverted personality for this? I don't know. Maybe I'm just freaking out a little because I recognize the signs of reclusion and I really don't want to hide out right now. I want to dwell on these messed up thoughts, but not too much.

The best form of distraction, in my opinion, is to socialize. To talk about inane things and laugh at anything and everything--I do enjoy that too. But I've never been one to start a decent, fun conversation with acquaintances. I've never been the ice breaker--actually I've been more of just ice. I swear, people often tell me I look snobbish and galit sa mundo when I'm alone or in the company of strangers. Haha.

I just don't trust myself to make for witty, funny, or even just interesting conversations. I admit to being the kind of lame that would make your brain cells want to commit mass suicide. Sometimes I get annoyed at myself and it gets to the point that I don't want to talk anymore--even with people I kind of like--because I feel so lame. Err. Haha. I've had so much experience in killing small talk that it's bordering on expertise. I even term them kamikaze conversations, except that their death is unintentional on my part.

I guess I should do something to address this--I need my damn social skills back, or else I'll be heading nowhere--except the musty CAS library, to stare at the musty spines of brittle-paged books, and eventually, to get my much needed sleep.

But then, I'd rather be a laughing zombie than a well-rested hermit any day.

photo from Joe Bullinger.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Background Noise

Not sleeping. Again. This is turning out to be a blog on periodic insomnia and the rantings of one who is afflicted by it. But that will be another story, for some other time (maybe when the lack of sleep, combined with school-induced stress, starts to kick in).

At almost four in the morning there is silence. I'm used to this kind of silence by now. When I'm not in the mood for music, the playlist of my dawn hours consists of the tapping of keys and the subtle clicks of a mouse. Everything else is background noise.

If I would be a kind of noise (and maybe I already am), being background noise would be the least of my options. Double jeopardy, that's what it is.

First off, it's noise. That means it's unpleasant, unwanted, and unwelcome. It's annoying and bothersome that people would rather live without it. They think they'd be better off without it.

If that isn't bad enough, background noise is the kind of noise that gets tuned out. The sounds that, after some time of annoyance, start to become almost unnoticeable. After being pissed off, people become immune to it, and they ignore it. At some point, it's like it doesn't exist.

And while noise doesn't have emotions, people do. And I know--I see, and I feel--how some people turn into background noise. Based on personal experience, it's not fun at all.

I don't mean to sound like a desperate attention seeker, but the part about being annoying is really fine with me. I still believe in what my high school freshman Literature teacher told me: Hate is not the opposite of love--indifference is. So for me the worst part is when you start to get tuned out. It's when people go from criticizing and throwing negative reactions at you, to acting like you don't exist. Just another hum in the background, just like the airconditioning system in a room.

But well, maybe that's how it really is. Sometimes we're just background noise to others whom we consider quite significant.

This post was inspired by Patricia Bustamante's Behind Discoloration, on the emanila poetry site.

Photo courtesy of Dan Zen and protected by a Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Drawn To The Ones Who Never Yawn

If all our life is but a dream, fantastic posing greed
then we should feed our jewelry to the sea
For diamonds do appear to be
just like broken glass to me

It's a school day today. In less than four hours I will take another bath, put on another shirt, and another pair of pants, eat another breakfast, and ride another two jeepneys and breathe in the usual morning pollution. Life is back to its routine--to its rythms, to the lullabyes that drag us down into a subtle and willing monotony. Sometimes I feel like I'm sleeping through my life, on the days I spend on autopilot--counting hours so I can go home to sleep and count hours again the next day. It really is a lot like the lullabyes that my mother used to sing to me, recurring, beckoning into the unconscious.

And that's what I'm trying not to do--to live my life unconsciously. I don't know why I'm feeling this restless all of a sudden--maybe I'm just young and stupid, like they all say. Well if I really am, and I want to make the most of this stupidity and youth--because I know that's what older people miss. I'm not going to pull a Peter Pan and hide away from growing up. I want to grow up, but I want to be aware of it too.

The ink is running toward the page, it's chasing off the days...

I guess this is partly about the things I want for myself--the things I've always wanted to do--that I haven't accomplished until now. I know I'm not running out of time, but there's just really so much I want to do, and I don't want to cram my life. Haha. I know I practically have a doctorate in procrastinating, but I don't want to live my life cramming, spending the last days of it in a rush to live the way I've always wanted to.

And then she said she can't believe
genius only comes along in storms of fabled foreign tongues

I really don't know what's come over me these past few days. My theories range from the need for a post-break up self-reinvention, or maybe this a post-18th birthday stress syndrome...what the heck. I'm just hoping this isn't something like teen angst part two, because I was never happier than when I realized that I'd gotten over that. Haha.

I know the world's a broken bone--but melt your headaches, call it home.

And besides, I'm not angry at the world. I love it. It's so full of possibilities. I'm just restless to be reckless. Maybe this is that feeling of invincibility that older people call stupid. Haha. I don't mind. I have a life to live--corny jokes to crack, friends to laugh with, people to love, and songs to sing.

Which brings me to another topic--I just love Panic at the Disco's Northern Downpour. That's where all these lyrics came from. Just promoting. Haha.

Hey moon, please forget to fall down, hey moon, don't you go down.

See, I'm so restless that I don't even sleep anymore. I am, literally and figuratively, drawn to the ones who never yawn.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's Complicated

This topic is so complex that it deserves a lengthier post, I guess. But as I don't have enough time or sense for that right now, this will have to do.

Relationships are weird. The dynamics of a normal relationship (between parents and children, or between friends) are unique to each and every person in this planet. So that's a lot of different dynamics. Freakin' complicated.

Relationships (except maybe family ones) can also vary from one state to the next. Strangers can become friends; friends can become enemies or lovers; lovers can become just friends, enemies, or strangers again. Sometimes it's confusing to tell where the definite limits are in these cases. Freakin' vague.

I don't know. It just popped into my head. It's something we deal with every day, and whether we notice it or not, our relationships with the people around us have a very significant effect on us.

On a more personal note, my life is filled with those complicated, vague relationships. I don't know why, but I tend to bond with people who make for not-so-stereotypical relationship dynamics. It's a real headache when I try to figure them out. But I guess with most of them, I don't really need to. I never really liked norms anyway. It's better to color outside the lines sometimes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

On Silence

*picture courtesy of HDR Landscapes

I began the new year in silence. I was up until around this time yesterday morning, so got I to watch the first sunrise, and revel in the morning silence. It wasn't intentional--just a mixture of my periodic insomnia and my still on-going stomach infection thing. And despite the stomach pains, it was a really nice feeling.

I've almost forgotten about silence. When I was in high school, we used to have what they called one minute of silence after breaks. If I remember right it was "to pray for peace..." and something like that. I don't really know if everyone took it seriously--I admit that most of the time I didn't. I was usually half sleepy during those times, or just plain out of focus, probably praying for my Physics teacher to be absent.

But I've always appreciated silence. I don't know if growing up in a school run by nuns did that to me, or if I'm just really introverted. I can sit for minutes, and possibly hours with my silence and my thoughts. It's calming.

Another high school memory: we had a retreat, during our senior year. In Tagaytay, of course. It was early November, and it was such a relief to be there that I almost wanted to be a nun. Plus the food was great. Haha. It's one of my favorite memories from high school. We spent the mornings, afternoons and evenings in prayer, reflection, and other stuff retreats are made of. Then we spent the odd hours sneaking food into the dorms, playing card games, taking scandalous pictures (I didn't join in on that, though), and calling people up--when we weren't allowed food, cards, cameras, and phones in the dorms at all. We had to surrender them, but of course we didn't. We skillfully hid them in our luggage, and we got them past the slightly freaky inspection process. Haha. They pooled the beds together and made quite a party out of it. I distinctly remember my Australian lab partner telling ghost stories. It was hard to decide when I was supposed to be scared, since she talked kind of fast. Yeah, nose bleed. Haha.

That last paragraph had nothing to do with silence. It was nostalgic rambling, as you may have noticed. Sorry.

On the first morning of that three-day, two-night retreat, I showered earlier than my dorm mates, and decided to head out and spend time alone with the life-sized statues of our school saints in the garden. I just wanted to take in the view. But somehow I ended up thinking, and praying--I remember I had left behind a lot of issues in Manila that time. And until now I haven't forgotten that feeling that just came over me. I think I may have felt the peace that the sisters were always talking about. And I still don't know what changed, but something did after that. And I came to love the silence.

I didn't get to do it again--by the second morning I had a terrible headache (I didn't know if it was from Steph's stories or from all the potato chips), and we all slept in so late that our adviser had to wake us up for breakfast. But since then, I knew I needed silence to keep me sane.

Lately, I've been to celebrations where the people never seem to stop wanting to talk. I've been through another noise-filled New Year's Eve, with the fireworks on one hand, and my singing neighbors on the other. I've almost forgotten to be silent. In a few days I will be back in school with all the fuss and noise, and stories about the break. So I'm glad I got to enjoy my silence early this year. And of course I'll be looking for it, in the oddest places. Silence keeps me sane.

This has been an ironically long-winded blog about silence (well, technically I'm not really talking). But anyway, I'll stop here. I've been rambling about silence, now I'll leave you to enjoy yours.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Janus Tributes: PLAY

Otherwise known as FAST-FORWARD v2.0. But I changed it for this year, because I fast-forward is, well, something I want to avoid doing this year.

I still believe in New Year's resolutions--though not the kind where I promise to clean my room more often and not cram my homework. Those are 18 year-old promises that I've long since given up real hope on. As the priest said in his homily yesterday evening, a wishlist is different from a resolution. A wishlist is where you want to be, but a resolution is a map of the road you'll take. And while I'm sure my mom's wishlist includes me waxing the floors and organizing my drawers more often, I've got other plans.

Actually I have just one resolution. And cliche as is it, this is the first time I'm resolving to do this--to live in the moment. I used to be a planner--but if there's anything I've learned in the last year, it's that life is surprising, and that's mostly because there is a Higher Being who has better plans for me.

I'm not saying I'll be carefree and stupid this year. Of course I'll have to do a little thinking ahead. I just won't be as stubborn. I'm learning, slowly and steadily, when to push on and when to quit. I'm starting to see the difference between trying to open doors and trying to ram into walls.

I will, of course, still strive to make progress. As Jek told me in one of my darker moods (from Meet The Robinsons)--KEEP MOVING FORWARD! But steadily this time, no more rushing.

I will try not to let a day go by unlived and meaningless (although it will be a challenge to derive meaning from a weekend afternoon on an HBO marathon). I will live and learn from the best and the worst days of this coming year, because I know I'll never be able to get them back. Each day will be different, and I'm realizing that it's quite a shame to miss one. Yes, even the really bad days are worth living. Damn, I'm sounding too optimistic. Quickmelt mode. Haha.
..I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...
-Henry David Thoreau, an excerpt from Walden
And my mom might be glad after all, because I'm suspecting that to the phrase carpe diem might involve scrubbing and waxing floors, too, some days.

Today is January 1, 2009. It's a New Year. Let's live it well and keep moving forward. :)

The Janus Tributes: REWIND v2.0

Okay, I've had two celebrations and a nasty stomachache, thus my year-end post is technically late, because today--oh yes--today is the start of a new and wonderful, wonderful year! :D But before I get over-perky and drain this bottle of wine, I just can't let 2008 go without thanking the people who have made it great (or just plain bearable, in some cases) for me.

WARNING: This is really cheesy. But it's the new year anyway, pagbigyan niyo na. :D

My Family
They will probably never get to read this (except my sister, possibly, but we're banned from reading each other's blogs, haha), but still. They have been the best this year. With all the crazy changes that went on, especially with my academic life, they've been overwhelmingly assuring in just being there and being supportive. Even when I'm rude and angsty teen-ish, when I'm cranky and when I act like a stubborn 3 year-old, they tolerate me. And in turn, I washed more dishes than ever for them. Haha. Nothing can ever replace family, so I love and treasure these folks. :)

Julie Ann
You've probably seen this name over and over and over again in my posts, in surveys, and wherever else. She's my best friend, and I can never be grateful enough for that. Armageddon, alien invasions, or the ABS-CBN Twilight knock-off may come, but knowing that I have someone like her around makes me feel quite better about it all. Simply, thank you for everything. And when I say everything, that's a whole lot. Like 5 happy years of my life. :P Stay happy. :)

Aurielle Junine and Jamile Ayla
The first real barkada I've had in years. Haha. Thank you, nauubusan na'ko nang pagka-cheesy, pero thank you talaga. Kahit na halata namang medyo kakaiba ang trip ko sa kanilang dalawa, these girls have never made me feel out of place. In fact, they've helped me find my place in the chaotic world of UPM. Whoohoo! I lab you both. Haha. :P

Block 12 AY 2007-2008
My wonderful, wonderful blockmates. College life will never be the same without you. These are some of the smartest and funniest people I've ever met. Kahit na baka umalis ako at kahit hindi ko na kayo makasabay magpuyat para sa mga MP, alam niyo namang lagi niyong kasama ang kaluluwa ko, wishing you luck. Itanong niyo na lang kay Bona kung anong sabi ng kaluluwa ni Rizza. Hahaha. Whoohooo! Galingan niyo mga GC, dapat may mag-US na sa ComSci. :P At sana lahat ng regular pa ay makagraduate na sa 2011 ha. Hahaha. At magplano pa kayo ng block bonding, bilis. Sama pa din ako. :D

FBC (and VFBC) Family
And when I say family, I mean it. That's how you've really made me feel. My UPM experience will not be complete without you. Sa mga ka-batch ko, thank you for making this year a fruitful one. Paging George Geotina, kung mababasa mo 'to, miss na kita. Haha. Dahil nawawala ka dyan, special ka. :P To our seniors (and super seniors), thank you sa guidance, at sa maraming marami naming natutunan sa inyo. :) It's been a singular experience to work with all of you guys, and I love you all for that. :)

Old Friends
Namely, si Pareng Jek, si Norie, si Tinabear, si Louise at ang iba ko pang friends from high school na bigla na lang sumusulpot at nawawalang parang mushrooms. Haha. Miss ko na kayo. Sa mga grade school friends kong nakikita ko pa rin araw araw sa UPM, namiss ko kayo ngayong Christmas break. :P Seriously, even though we don't get to talk or see each other as much as we used to, I know you guys will always be there. And know that I will too. :D

Andrew and Angel
My pull-me-out-of-the-sofa-on-a-sem-break-morning tandem. Oo na, mga BI kayo. But if anything this year, you've done a great job of cheering me up. Instant ate at kuya (haha) pa. So thank you. Let's have more pancakes this 2009. :D

(Ayan, special ka na.) My best friend from the land of far far away, who alternates between cooking up dishes with fancy names, and reading my detailed blogs and emails. Umuwi ka naman kasi, daig mo pa ang TNT diyan. :P Hate you. Haha. Thank you, for being a constant. You know what I mean. :)

New Friends
To the people I've met this year, to those I've talked to and shared stories, laughs, and lots more nonsense with, thank you. Kasama na din ang mga nagiging kaklase ko sa mga GE ko ngayon. Hi din sa BehSci sophomores dahil talagang mabait kayo. Special mention ang 2008 Freshies, lalo na ang Doctor of Dental Medicine Block 15. Kahit na hindi ko kayo laging nakakabond at kahit disoriented akong FBC, you've made this year special for me, kaya salamat. :) Syempre, hi din Block 16. Lalo na kay SK na binabastos ako lagi. Haha. Sa mga kasama ko sa SoComSci lalo na sa fourth year--kina Kuya MC at Kuya Bong, at kay Ate Perl. Sa idol kong si Kuya Robert, at sa napaka-friendly na si Juvy. Sa mga DPSM Profs, lalo na sa MCSU, lalo na sa mga Math profs na super sipag--kay Ma'm Weng na diyosa, kay Ma'm Len na makulit at super bait, kay Sir Mong, at kay Sir Jobert. And to other people whom I've shared meaningful conversations and discovered surprising connections with, thank you for being a part of my 2008. Feeling close na kung feeling close sa mga taong mentioned dito, but you've made a mark on me for the last 12 months, so thank you. :D

That's my rewind for the year. Because there are no better memories than the ones I've shared with the people who are dear to me. :) To all those mentioned above, and to all those reading this,

Cheers to a


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