Sunrise, Sunset

Dearest Friend,

As I think I’ve brought up before, I’m unable to write when I’m happy. That’s probably why this blog has been relatively inactive for a while now – because after a long stretch of time, these last few months are the happiest I’ve had. Nothing fresh brought on the contentment. But I’d finally started to understand my job, finally established a daily routine of sorts, and finally started meeting up again with friends I’d been hiding from for years.

Still no love life. Still pretty unfit. But coping and coping fairly well.

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The other day I wandered into the Facebook page of someone two-degrees-of-separation away from me, and I read something telling on her wall. Essentially, that person was lamenting the glory of years past. All of us from the State U, you see, we were incandescent when we were much younger. All of us were the crème de la crème of our high school batches. All of us were big fish. And then we went to UP, met other brilliant kids, and then – for most of the UP population, I would say – we suddenly felt our early brilliance diminish. Which, when you think about it objectively, isn’t at all true.

Still, that’s what it feels like when you’re stuck in a roomful of other strapping, motivated thinkers. You feel much smaller than you really are, bogged down by expectations of which yours are the heaviest.

The bottom line being, I’m happier now because ten years after entering college, I’m finally beginning to catch up with the reality that the older you get, the less chances there will be of the world treating you like a Promil Kid. The achievements of your early youth, they only seemed much grander back then because they were seen through young, unknowing eyes and a narrow perspective of the world. Your seventeenth paycheck is essentially no less valuable than your first gold medal. Pitching a successful proposal is just the same as getting recognized for a well-research investigatory project.

I’m getting older. I think that’s what happens when you start getting older, you start spouting calm nonsense like this.

A.

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Do Not Let the Children Come to Me

Dearest Friend,

I don’t remember exactly how we came to the topic, but once a friend told me that I was too selfish to be a mother. That stayed with me after many years – it’s probably the most striking thing anyone has ever told me, and I’ll never forget it.

That statement, declared essentially as fact, returns to me during moments like tonight. As is tradition in our extended family, Christmas is spent at my aunt’s house. My cousins’ kids – ranging in age from one to ten – were all over the place, unwrapping gifts. No one else could operate this bubble gun that had been prepared as a prize of sorts, so I was entertaining my one-year-old second-niece by making bubbles. Suddenly, she fell and hit her head on the wooden base of the couch I’d been sitting on. The floor, I hadn’t noticed, was wet with soap from the bubbles that had fallen. And as they carried the poor girl away, crying her lungs out, she looked at me with an expression I wouldn’t have expected from a child so young.

It would have translated to, why did you let me get hurt?

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Though no one blamed me outright for it, naturally, I blamed myself. Towards the end of the night, as I tried to make myself as small as possible in one corner of the couch, my five-year-old second-nephew – the brother of the girl who had fallen – suddenly muttered that I should leave. Later on, as I was walking out the door, he suddenly blurted out that I was a bad person, that I had made his sister fall.

Right then and there I resolved never again to hold a child younger than the age of ten.

To be fair, I dislike holding children of all ages. I like kids – I wave at kids passing by in baby carts, I reach out to their pudgy hands with my little finger, but I dislike holding kids. For all the children that my cousins have, I only remember one I’ve held – ironically, the same boy who told me I was a bad person. It’s probably because I’ve always been around people older than me, but I’ve never had to look after anyone else. I don’t have siblings, I’ve never been directly responsible for a pet, and the only living thing I was completely and solely responsible for was the patch of mungo beans that we had to grow for a project in elementary school.

Which brings me to the conclusion that maybe I’m one of those people who aren’t meant to have children, or even marry. I was rewatching Season 1 of Downton Abbey earlier, and in one of the episodes Mrs Hughes asks Mr Carson if he’s ever wondered what it would have been like if they’d never dedicated their lives to celibate service to the Crawleys. I look at Mrs Hughes and think, I could totally do that. Never marry, I mean. Never have children. Work to the end of my days.

Maybe, in thinking this way, it’s true – what my friend said. Maybe I really am too selfish to be a mother.

Ugh

Dearest Friend,

I find it pathetic that, at the end of a fairly good run this year, I am ever so slightly disappointed that I somehow still find myself single this December. So I’ve found a well-paying and challenging job. So I’ve managed to balance my laundry, my rent, and my (fast food-based) nutrition these past twelve months. So I’m still sane. I’ve accomplished all this and yet when I tick of the invisible list in my mind, I find myself frowning at that checkbox marked boyfriend. It bothers me that I’m bothered because I know I shouldn’t be.

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A 2017 planner I came across somewhere has a status check in one of its front pages that goes – I’m single by choice, not my choice, but anyway. No matter how much I gripe about how oily my face is or how fat I am, I know in my heart of hearts that I am not so grotesque as to completely turn off the average human male. Moreover, I know I’m a pretty tolerable, if not likeable, person. If I really wanted to – if I was brave enough – I could go on a couple of blind dates, I could practice flirtation with some anons online, and I could probably even bully someone to be my boyfriend for a few hours just so I can say I’ve had at least one boyfriend in this lifetime – incorrigible behavior which, if you’ve met me, is something that’s alarming consistent with my personality.

But do I really want to? Be un-single, I mean. I know I’m not brave enough to initiate, if only because the process towards un-singlehood terrifies me.

Person: Let’s have coffee sometime?
Me: Sorry, I need to do my laundry.

People who are on Tinder amaze me because I think it’s very brave to put yourself and your heart out there, essentially giving the general public the authority to shatter your heart and your ego. I could never go on Tinder, not only because my highly conservative parents would sit me down to have a ‘talk’, but because I’m brittle. I’m frail. So I never lose the keys to my house. So I never run out of clean sheets. So I don’t need a shoulder to cry on – don’t even want a shoulder to cry on, because it’s embarrassing and a logistical nightmare to get snot on someone else’s shirt. That doesn’t mean I’m strong or that nothing can break me. It just means I know how to stay alive.

I forget, yet again, my point in ranting about this. I’d been thinking of a good theme to write about for the holidays, and yet, like a pining, whiny, googly-eyed heroine in a romantic comedy, I ended up writing about the joys of being alone.

A.

The Necessity of Ranting

Dearest Friend,

I’ve always envied people who are able to express their feelings. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m weird, but I don’t know how to deal with my emotions. They’re inconvenient. I was raised by a father so taciturn he mainly texts using default mobile templates, and a remarkable portion of my childhood was spent shielding my body language from my mother, who’s actually trained to read that sort of thing. So feelings to me have always been like icing on a cupcake. Nauseating.

Recently though, I’ve learned the value of ranting. Some of my friends are able to take an entire hour just ranting about how horrible their day was or how awful so-and-so had been to them, but in my case, the most you’ll get out of me when I’ve had a bad day is, “I had a horrible day and I don’t want to talk about it.” And then I sleep it off.

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I always feel like when I rant, I’m burdening the person I’m ranting to with worries that should be my responsibility to carry. Theoretically, I understand that friends are supposed to help you with that sort of thing, but I feel awkward depending on people. I’m not used to being treated gently by people other than my parents – who I don’t talk to about feelings anyway – and I’ve always accepted bluntness as the rough, roll-with-it way of the world.

To bend the words of John Green, we only accept the love we think we deserve. So I tend to accept the scraps of tenderness that float my way with disbelieving gratitude paired with tempered expectations.

It’s the same with romantic affection – that’s an entire Pandora’s Box of complications that I’m afraid to unlatch. I feel like telling someone that I like them would burden them, and somehow make them feel responsible for my happiness. Couple that with my acquired fear of rejection, and you have the formula for spinsterhood. Just the other day, I found a possible title for the story of my life so far: In a Relationship with Spicy Cup Noodles, or Too Awkward to be in a Relationship with Anything Organic.

The point of all this being, I’m exhausted – mentally, physically, emotionally – and nothing makes sense anymore.

A.

Milk

Dearest Friend,

I cried over a milk commercial recently. To  be fair, it was at the end of an excruciating day, I couldn’t go to sleep yet because I still had to fold my laundry, and I was just very very exhausted and overwhelmed from weeks of back-to-back overtime.

But crying over a milk commercial – it’s a remarkable low in my fairly long list of lows, the only comparable one being that case from 2010 during which I burst into tears in public after watching this YouTube video about a kiwi bird.

This milk commercial I cried over, it’s an spoken word poem by Juan Miguel Severo for Bear Brand Adult Plus. I could explain it to you, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to translate the damn video:

Dreams Don’t Come With a Warning

When we were younger, we were always asked,
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This is how dreams are born
By answering, by choosing a destination
By declaring to the world that this,
This is the future that I will achieve

We are not careful when we choose
Then, we had no clue that whatever we would choose
Would never be as easy
As easy to fulfill
As easy to own up to

The dreams that we chose in our childhood
Don’t come with a warning

No one ever said
That though you might stand the heat
You will not be guaranteed relief

No one ever said
That the time you would give up would be a gamble
That love is not the only thing that can break your heart

The dreams that we chose in our childhood
Don’t come with a warning

You were never told that sometimes
You would have to turn your nights into days
And your days into nights just to reach your ambitions

You were never told that part of dreaming
Was working even though the world had gone to slumber
That there will be people who will not understand your struggle
That there will be those who will belittle and humiliate you

But continue to dream

Though the garden of the life you wish to build
May be a wild jungle

Continue to sow time, effort,
Endurance and strength,
Goodwill

Gamble in what lies ahead
Stand up for life

The dreams that we chose in our childhood
Don’t come with a warning

But they hold a promise
Rise, work hard, fulfill your dreams

And no matter how many times the world may make you feel
That everything will be difficult for you

Continue to dream

Damn milk commercial.

A.

You Scare Me

Dearest Friend,

Last night I dreamed of you.

You were with me on the first day of college, which doesn’t make sense because I only met you a few months ago. I don’t remember much about the dream except that you spoke to me and said that you wanted to get to know me better. And when I woke up the next morning, I was for the first time in a long time hopeful that I had something to look forward to from now on.

Until I realized that everything had been just a dream. Mortified, I wondered how I had come to dream about you in the first place.

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There are times when I look back on that conversation and wonder if it simply had been an effect of lightheadedness. Was I maybe too sleepy, or maybe a bit drunk? Am I so starved for affection that any new person who truly talks to me makes me come up with a thousand imagined futures? Did I just misread that moment – or did you enjoy talking to me as well? Did you think, too, that after trudging through several painful and forced conversations over the years, you had finally found a person that you just wanted to talk to indefinitely?

Nothing about this whole mess makes sense and it scares me. Perhaps in a week or two I will find a new obsession and will forget that once I dreamed of you.

A.