Age of Worry

 

I turned nineteen approximately eight hours ago. That’s a long time to be around already, if you ask me.

 

First order of business was to run, which I haven’t done for about a week and a half now. Life, that is, the collective term for the craziness of school, work and hopping around the city in search of nothing, really, somehow got in the way. I managed to clock in at least an hour, roughly two kilometers maybe, despite panting pathetically for everyone to see — blame the gradual return to smoking and the hiatus. My body hurts and I literally can’t feel my legs right now, but if I am gregarious enough to deem climbing a mountain on Saturday as a ” birthday celebration”, I should perhaps think of running as a piece of sumptuous red velvet cake, right?

When the summer started, I realized I have only just started to like the freedom that comes with being unloved  single, and unattached, real or imagined. That meant I had too much to internalize and so decided to take myself up on the challenge of spoiling myself as much as I could, from the little things (like hunting a Mcdonald’s branch that serves breakfast whenever I crave for that sausage mcmuffin meal, which is like every other day) to the monumental decisions (like getting myself an expensive book or signing up for an out of town trip with random strangers.) It’s amazing, this get-away-with-everything pass. My life is brimming with friendship and love and travel and the still-crazy battalion of hopes and dreams, and while that’s not exactly a Nobel Prize or a Palanca Hall of Fame distinction, I try to think I am worthy in every way and every bit of the bliss.

After running this morning, I settled down at a rusty swing at the neighborhood playground and realized that after ten years, I’ll be twenty-nine, which, for normal people, means I should have nestled comfortably into a definite career path and have met the love of my life to produce kids as stubborn as I am. Ten years! Ten short years. But what if I decide to live in Timbuktu or study astrophysics instead? What if I’d rather be Gellhorn and switch paths to become a war correspondent? What if in a miraculous moment I reaffirm faith in God and decide to live my years in a convent? How about Cambodia, India, Burma? What about love letters sent from Prague or photos taken in Dublin collecting dust in an old shoebox so when I am old and grey and full of sleep, to borrow from Yeats, surrounded by boisterous grandkids or not, I’ll have tears in my eyes whenever I reach for them to relive the high moments and the consequences of wanting too much and needing very little to get by?

There are times I feel utter helplessness for not having a slightest clue what I really want, but most of the time the indecisiveness is liberating — worth it. I won’t feign maturity, or feeling the slightest bit of settled, or even knowing with utmost certainty what I want the next few years to be like. Because I don’t. And this not-knowing, this tendency to go into everything and everywhere at warp speed, most of the time without the assurance of a safe return, that’s enough to live for. That’s enough to celebrate. Happy birthday, indeed.

 

==

 

 

Bawat bituin ay isang tahanan,

Kumakaway at naghihintay,

Nagpapasikdo sa mithiing maglakbay.

Wala, wala akong kasiyahan;

Walang pantalan o himpilang makatighaw

Sa bughaw na uhaw

At matandang pintig ng nunal sa talampakan.

 

—  Rio Alma, Estranghero

 

 

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Endo and other drugs

 

 

I should really make time for my movies. The three Mendoza DVD’s I got for my birthday a few years ago remain unwatched, gathering dust on my bedside shelf, while I politely decline all requests to borrow them because I am still operating under the assumption that I’ll get around to finally feeding the discs to the DVD player. Believe me, I have been meaning to watch Lola and not fall asleep within five minutes — maybe I will, soon, on a good day, when I’ve had enough hours of slumber to actually focus on anything else other than how exhausted I (usually) am.

Tonight, though, is a different story. I have every intention of watching the Cinemalaya fest this year and so decided to hunt for Endo, which bagged major awards back in 2007. To no avail.  How come Ligo na U, Lapit na Me’s available online together with all the 80’s films in the world I usually like more than the relatively new ones, while this, my first indie film that left me confused over the ambiguity of the ending  (and of life, and of love, but hey I was sixteen when I first watched it, not that I am any more enlightened now), sits only as a trailer on Youtube mocking everyone with its absence from cyberspace?

I suppose that makes sense. I keep forgetting piracy is illegal. I keep forgetting too, that indie film endings are the AV counterparts of Kafka and Murakami and Peixoto. I keep forgetting that the rawness of the scenes, that the dire lack of a comprehensible and convenient patterns, aside from the ability to drive one mad with confusion for days, sometimes weeks, on end, are almost always intentional, and are, in fact, what distinguishes independent cinema from mainstream. Real life is a dish best served cold, after all. I keep forgetting names, titles, years — but Endo stuck. A series of terminable contracts, how appropriate.

Funny how I’ve always wanted to forget. Now I’d give anything to remember.

 

1. I am figuring that talking to myself — out loud or in paper, potato, po-tah-to — is definitely the best way to de-stress, to organize the clutter residing in my head into neat, orderly piles mommy would be proud of.

2. Conversely, because I fancy myself to be independent and proud of it, despite the charm of spontaneity, I’ve grown to understand what fear means. Fear is utter helplessness, not too different from imagining yourself drifting aimlessly amidst the currents lying face-first on a dilapitated bamboo raft.

3. This is exactly how I feel when I am unable to write. Writing is my anchor.

4. The Garment Workers Union of South Africa wrote prose and poetry during the turbulent 30’s to “give their lives imaginative coherence”. Which, if you think of it, completely makes sense. Reality then is transformed into bite-sized anecdotes, compiled into episodes, to be taken in small doses.

5. If writing is a catharsis, running is restoring tabula rasa — for at least an hour, that is.

6. Thinking has gotten too dangerous. Concentrating on steady breaths distributed evenly on a typical uphill dash forces superficial concerns out of your head. Breaking the rhythm has serious consequences — you start feeling pain. To each his own distraction.

7. I, however, am not complaining. The good life is a full life after all. It just takes some getting used to.

8. English short stories translated to Cebuano and vice versa, work, Meditteranean food and reading fiction on buses during rush hour — this is my life now.

9. I must really learn a thing or two about pacing. And how to write in paragraphs again.

 

What’s up, you may ask, and I’ve been asked one too many times.

In the past I would have rattled off a list of things I’d rather be doing, or would be doing sometime in the near future, and these declarations too often tend to lie near the improbable — if only for my tendency to be completely enamored by something one moment, only to disregard it fifteen minutes later. I’ve always joked about having the attention span of a five-year old. It exempts me from any real responsibility whatsoever, plus it grants that insatiable charm exuded only by those eternally in flight.

But to what end? At the end of my days, I want my life to speak of conquests, not one abandoned pursuit after another.

I’ve learned a thing or two about the proverbial real world, but perhaps the most important is this: that you are only as good as the things you’ve actually done. For years I’ve always admired those who can easily fill in late-night conversations with tales of the multitude of things they want to do with themselves, and while this admiration has yet to waver — I like people who know exactly what they want, I’m already too indecisive to want someone as random as I am — I have a deeper respect for people whose eyes light up when they speak of the last place they’ve been too, the stories they’ve actually written aside and apart from those they have yet to tell.

And so, what’s up, you may ask. A lot, actually, I’ll respond. But let me just tell you when I get there.