Fickle-minded Dreamer

Published February 22, 2016 by Marya

“What do you want to be?”

As a fickle-minded dreamer, I had several answers to that question. In kindergarten, I wanted to be a doctor. But early on, I realized how much I hated blood and injection so I changed my mind. Every year I would write down a different ambition when asked to sign slam books in grade school and high school. I dreamt of becoming the country’s first lady to a dashing president, an actress, a rock star, a journalist, a shoemaker, a novelist, a painter and a lot more. 

Growing up watching Disney shows and movies made me believe that I can be anything I want to be. Hannah Montana portrayed by Miley Cyrus, for instance, lived “the best of both worlds” as a normal schoolgirl by day and a recording star by night. This “follow your dreams” mantra is reiterated in televised concerts where former Disney stars like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears tell fans: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

But we, Millenials born between 1982 and 2004, are stereotyped as “lazy, delusional and narcissistic.” A 2013 Time magazine cover story dubbed our generation as the “Me Me Me Generation.” Most of us may flood Facebook news feeds and fill Instagram with selfies. But not everyone in this generation is as self-obsessed as Kim Kardashian who makes millions by simply showing off her ass. A lot of youth work their ass off in establishing social enterprises to help disadvantaged communities. Some think beyond their own success for the greater good like the group of University of the Philippines (UP) alumni in their twenties who formed Sinag Microfunds Inc. to help finance the education of underprivileged students and young Harvard graduates who went back to the country and established Habi Education Lab to reform the public education system here.

According to a 2012 United Nations report, “Millenials are increasingly acting as agents of change in society.”  Howe and Strauss (2000) forecasted that Millenials are the next “hero generation.” The hero of our generation did not wear a mask or take off his glasses to make a difference. He’s not a hunk like Batman or Superman but a boy who has a scar on his forehead and wears nerdy glasses.  We could easily identify with Harry Potter and his friends Hermoine Granger and Ron Weasley because they looked like us. They were kids when we were kids. We grew up watching actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint portray them on the big screen. J.K. Rowling created characters that helped us celebrate our individuality and respect our differences. Harry was the champion of stigmatized groups such as half-bloods and muggle-born wizards and witches.

The series taught us to fight for the rights of the marginalized. Today, we use Twitter and Facebook to support these groups and instigate change. Even those who do not belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community rejoiced when the Supreme Court of the United Sates legalized same-sex unions. The rainbow-colored profile pictures and trending hashtags pertaining to the landmark decision not only showed tolerance but oneness with the sector. And while it may seem impossible to push for the same law in the country because of the strong influence of the Catholic Church, young lawyer Jesus Falcis III, who submitted a similar petition to the country’s Supreme Court, is trying to beat the odds and gaining wide support online. When overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso was about to be executed for smuggling illegal drugs in Indonesia, we prayed, joined movements and wrote long Facebook posts on why she should be spared. But sometimes we tend to go overboard in saving the “oppressed.” Ms. Universe 2012 first runner-up Janine Tugonon was bashed online for breaking up with his not-so-cute boyfriend Jaypee Santos to allegedly flirt with The Script frontman Danny O’Donoghue. It was a hot topic and some of my guy friends even posted blogs expressing sympathy for her ex-boyfriend.

The Internet has given us voice and power beyond imagination. We feel like heroes in our own virtual sphere.  Helping others or tweeting for a cause feeds our ego and makes us feel good about ourselves. Proud, self-righteous and entitled are among the words used by mainstream media to describe us. Perhaps most of us believe we are special and that there’s so much more we can do beyond the confines of office walls.

We have witnessed how Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg changed the world with Apple and Facebook. These college dropouts redefined success and stressed the importance of passion. “If you just work on the stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out,” Zuckerberg said. According to Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, don’t settle. As with all the matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

How do you know what you are passionate about? How long should one search for passion? Should job hunting be like “love at first sight” as Jobs advised?  My Mama told me “love at first sight” is not real. “You learn to love and develop passion for work or for Mr. Right,” she said. When I told her I fell in love the first time I saw Korean superstar Lee Min Ho, she brutally told that he will never reciprocate my love. “Find someone within your reach or you’ll be a spinster,” she added. Ouch! My parents abide by a life manual: study hard, get a job, reach the top, build a family and save enough money so you can live life to the fullest at 60.

It would have been easier to follow my parents’ path. I could stick to a job that pays the bills and forget about my delusions. However, the pressure and promise to be happy and great exist. We take risks and move toward a different direction because of fears that someday when we’re old and grey, we might look back and ask what if? Death may also come too soon.

This year, one of my closest friends and I decided to resign. We left the jobs we’ve had for five years to go on a soul-searching sojourn and find out what we really want to do with our lives. Before quitting, we took to heart the to-do-lists and advices on Elite Daily, Thought Catalog and other blogs created by “twentysomethings.” The proliferation of these sites proved that we were not alone in the search for meaning. Like Mace played by Angelica Panganiban in “That Thing Called Tadhana,” we travelled to find clarity. It was not the love story or the beauty of Sagada that grabbed me but the honesty and frustrations that the characters shared.  This was highlighted in the scene where Mace, who wanted to be a novelist and frustrated artist Anthony (JM de Guzman) expressed their hopes and disappointments:

Aren’t we supposed to be great by this time?-Mace

To the great people we could have been.”-Mace

“Parang ayaw ko naman yatang mag-cheers dyan.” – Anthony

“To the great people we are today.” – Mace

“Sinungaling.” – Anthony

“To the great people we will be?-Mace

“To the great people we will be.” – Anthony

Leaving one’s old life to form a new one is among the ways to cope with the so-called “quarter-life crisis” or QLC. Similar to mid-life crisis, it is characterized by depression, insecurities and disappointments caused primarily by the failure to meet one’s expectations. Growing up, we were fed with the notion that we have all it takes to be anyone we want to be. Who says I can’t be Beyonce Knowles? We both have 24 hours in a day, right? Youtube and all other social media platforms can launch our way to stardom. We have seen how lives were instantly transformed by the Internet. Can I become all that I have written on slam books when I was younger? Solenn Heussaff is an actress, a painter, a model, a singer, a dancer, an entrepreneur and so on and so forth. She has so many titles attached to her name. They’re celebrities, I get it. But Facebook has turned our friends and peers into somewhat celebrities.  They post every milestone and even minute details of their lives online. We know when they land a new job, volunteered for an organization, travelled somewhere, get married and have babies. Those Facebook updates made me feel worthless and insecure because I had nothing new to share.

We live in the era of oblivion. Everything is fleeting. What is popular today could easily be forgotten tomorrow.  Remember how even grandmas and little kids would dance to “Nae Nae” and upload their videos a month ago or how Taylor Swift shocked us with “Shake it off” and “Bad Blood?” Try dancing or singing these songs today and your friends will say, “That is so last year!”  They quickly become viral and swiftly disappear. QLC is a byproduct of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, iPhone, iPads, tablets and other gadgets. I can’t help but ask myself: “Change is happening so fast, can you keep up?”  Zuckerberg made us believe that we can change the world in our twenties. We feel old and unaccomplished at 25.

I’m a grown-up now but I still can’t answer the question my nursery teacher asked: “What do you want to be?” Perhaps there is not a single answer to the question. Who knows where “destiny” will take me? What matters is the “narrative” keeps going. As sociologist Anthony Giddens puts it, “The individual’s biography, if she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day-to-day world, cannot be wholly fictive. It must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing ‘story’ about the self.” (cited in David, 2002). 

We take risks for a happier life because as Meghan Trainor’s song goes, “We are not promised tomorrow.”

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What If? Lessons from Cinderella

Published January 19, 2015 by Marya

When I was just a little girl, I believed that there’s a place and someone out there made especially for me.

I used to think I was special. Life’s a fairy tale. And no matter what I do, everything will end happily ever after…

But I realized that even Cinderella took the risk of going to the ball.

Happiness involves going out there and exposing yourself to uncertainties.

Cinderella wasn’t sure the prince would fall in love with her. What if her stepmother and stepsisters recognized her and humiliated her in front of everyone?

That’s the worst that could have happened. But thank God, she’s smart enough to cheat and use magic.

Aside from giving her a makeover, the fairy might have cast a spell on the prince to make him fall in love with Cinderella.

Don’t you think she’s a scheming little bitch—acting like some goody two-shoes when she’s actually cunning and manipulative?

Hey I’m not destroying Cinderella’s image. In fact, I’m trying to break the notion that she’s helpless and naïve.

She may not be confrontational but I guess she’s brave. It’s totally hard to make decisions that can turn your life 180 degrees.

Truth is I aspire for change but I’m afraid of change at the same time.

Doubts still clog my brain. But I’m glad my heart tortures my veins and make my body ache that I am forced to make tiny steps away from my “cage.”

Just a little more “push” and I think I’ll be able to break free.

The future, I believe, is a consequence of the choices we make today.

The boring or the exciting? The predictable or the unknown?

It’s up to you.

You don’t have to chase butterflies. But at least you have to allow yourself to bloom.

Or make some bold moves that you never thought you would.

Most of the time, it’s not the things we did that we regret  but the words we never said, the  actions we never took or the reply we never sent.

What if I walked with him and helped him look for his family?  That could have been another version of “A Walk to Remember.” But I’m selfish, self-centered and I only think about my own comfort, okay? 

Or what if I exchanged text messages with the total stranger who gave me a ride in his golden vintage car because it was raining so hard? We could have been friends. We talked a lot. We seemed to have chemistry. He’s cute. He’s five years older. He cooks!

Girl, he went out of his way to help you and the least you could have done was say “thank you” when he said “It was nice to have met you.” Why do you have to be so rude? Learn some courtesy, Miss!

God must be totally frustrated. I hear him telling me, “My child, I have given you opportunities to make landi with some tall, good-looking guys. Haven’t you learned from your history class that it was Maria Clara who made the first move and kissed Crisostomo Ibarra?

Oh My G!

Serendipity? Destiny?

Let’s not close those chapters yet. Our paths may cross again someday, who knows?

The prince searched for Cinderella. He didn’t even know her name; all he had was a shoe.  😉  

#GGSSpost

Beating the Red Light

Published July 9, 2014 by Marya

The stoplight is blinking.

In a second it will turn red.

I shouldn’t be running.

I should have stayed on the platform and waited until it’s green again.

I don’t have Usain Bolt’s speed to escape every moving bus.

But I love the thrill that comes with beating red lights.

It feels like reaching the finish line in a marathon with a greater dose of andrenaline.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to run from Quezon City to Makati with all the buses, jeeps, cars and all other vehicles you can imagine.

Woman vs. Machines.

Hahaha.

What a dream! And when I wanna rest for awhile, I can just hop into a Supernova and jump off of it at any bus stop and run again.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Wonder Woman.

I love her hair!

And who wouldn’t want to have her body?!

Wouldn’t it be nice to be strong enough to break boundaries and defy conventions?

Journey to the Unknown

Published March 15, 2014 by Marya

“If you have to choose between something that has form and something that doesn’t, go for the one without form. That’s my rule. Whenever I run into a wall I follow that rule, and it always works out. Even if it’s hard going at the time.” –  Chance Traveller by Haruki Murakami

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The gate toward the vast ocean and limitless sky is always open.

But most of us choose  security over freedom so the unknown remains unknown.

We dream. We imagine. We wonder what’s out there. But only few go beyond the gates.

I wanna leave and live, disappear and discover.

It’s about time for my imagination to make love with reality like the ocean kissing every curve of the sky.

Boredom makes us braver, giving us courage  to leave the familiar and embrace uncertainty.

I am scared. But fear adds to the excitement.

I’m ready to hit the road. Wherever my journey leads, I know I won’t regret.

I have learned to accept failure and the fact that mistakes are necessary for growth.

We live to grow.

And I’ve finally found a new dream. It’s something that goes beyond my own satisfaction. That’s what makes it worth pursuing. My new dream doesn’t require stairs and ladders. It does not recognize competition. It is born out of passion and compassion.

I’m saying goodbye to deadlines. No more tailored tomorrows. I have learned to stop anticipating the future. I have a dream but I am a woman without an ambition.

I dream of wearing a black bikini, sailing a boat, dancing  on top of a stranger’s car and of  endless roadtrips.

I will do all these while I’m 25.

Life is not all about earning money to pay the bills, saving for a brand new gadget or dating at fancy restaurants.

I know how it feels to be full.

You’re only happy for awhile but soon you  feel the void again and the urge to fill the emptiness with whatever money can buy. It’s a  cycle I want to end. I’d rather feed my soul and experience  a thousand “firsts.”

Tailored Tomorrows

Published February 11, 2014 by Marya

“Where there’s life, death is inevitable. Dying’s easy; it’s living that’s hard. The harder it gets, the stronger the will to live. And the greater the fear of death, the greater the struggle to keep on living.”

Mo Yan, Big Breasts and Wide Hips

I can’t die tonight because I have yet to know life.

I’m still searching for something. And that something doesn’t have a form.

It can be anything—a tree, a bird, a shoe, a key or a door.

The world offers a plethora of choices. I aim for what fits best.

Entertaining possibilities is liberating. For too long I’ve believed in stairs and ladders. But elevators were invented for a reason.

You pick a number. Life takes you there.

I’ve given up the idea of “tailored tomorrows.” We complicate life by trying to create the future.

A wise woman told me that success is “50 percent talent, 10 percent determination and 40 percent destiny.”

Sometimes we try our best but we don’t succeed. Maybe we’re not good enough. Or maybe it’s not for us.

The academe, reality shows and success stories make us believe that perseverance and hard work will lead us to our dreams.

The earlier you get there, the more praises you get.

But sometimes what we want is not what we need. Halfway, we get bruises. When the game is over, we realize why we had to lose.

Someday I’ll take my future daughter to a shoe shop and tell her: “Finding the perfect pair of shoes is hard. You try a lot of pairs that don’t match your size. Yes, it’s frustrating. But remember that trying is NOT a waste of time.”

NEXT Shoe Room. Photo from whatemmadid.com.

Love…Like Spaghetti

Published January 9, 2014 by Marya

“Love is like spaghetti. You have to twist it before taking it in.”

Disney's The Lady and the Tramp. Photo from hdwpapers.com

Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp. Photo from hdwpapers.com

 

I don’t know how to eat spaghetti.

It’s a messy treat. I always get red smudges around my lips.

My big cuz taught me the “sosyal” way of eating spaghetti. 

Place your fork at the center of the plate, turn your fork thrice and open your mouth wide enough to welcome the spaghetti-wrapped fork.

That’s the proper way of eating, she said in a matter-of-fact way.

But I never learn.

Mama once told me not to bow my head when eating. “Let the fork reach your mouth. Never meet it halfway.”

Every family dinner, my Papa reminds me to take it slow. There’s still a lot in the pan.

“I like to seize the moment. Devour everything while it lasts and savor all flavors,” I want to tell my dad but my tongue always holds back.

They always say I’ll scare away possible suitors with the way I eat.

Haven’t they seen Koreanovelas?

Leading ladies eat the way I do and they live happily ever after with handsome rich men.

That’s true love.

Why do you have to be prim and proper with someone you want to spend the rest of your life with?

Don’t you want to be with someone you’re comfortable with? Someone who’ll adore your quirks and love your crazy antics.

Only a narrow-minded man would judge a girl based on the way she holds a fork or eats spaghetti.

Love is not loving someone because he or she fits the “ideal.”

Love is more than “chocolates and marshmallows.” You don’t just pick and chew.

Love is like spaghetti.  

You have to twist it before taking it in.

Twist until the strands snuggle perfectly with the tines of your silver fork. Raise her up until her imperfections become the “ideal.”

 

 

TOUGHER

Published January 7, 2014 by Marya

“’It’s never the changes we want that change everything…”  – Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Change.

I tried to seduce change but it shied away.

Growth requires more than the blowing of candles and the passing of years.

Change happens when you least expect it. And it’s not always the change you want to see…

Wild waters and strong winds raged for less than five hours but it’s taking forever to restore the city.

Yolanda ravaged Tacloban.

My hometown is no longer what it used to be.

Gone are the Christmas lights that brighten cold December nights. Gone are the merrymakers whose voices fill the air with the spirit of Christmas.

But the silent night made me realize the essence of the birth of Christ.

The supertyphoon has changed my wish list. What used to be a long list of must-have gadgets, places to travel, classes to take, books, shoes, shoes and shoes…has been reduced to one item—my family’s safety.

A Walk to Remember

The horrors of Haiyan, Yolanda’s international name, still haunts me. Truth is I still cry whenever I remember the week after the typhoon.

I went to Tacloban on Nov. 11, three days after the storm surge washed out parts of the city. That day remains vivid in my memory—the stench of death, the silent cries of those walking along rows of corpses, the deafening roars of vehicles trying to get past the living, the dead and the debris, the excitement of hugging my family and the fear of not finding them home.

It was a walk to remember. As surreal as a nightmare but my senses tell me it was real.

What you try to forget, you can never erase. Horror lingers, penetrating deep into your soul, altering your universe, leaving traces of what could have been.

When I neared the street where our house stood, I prayed as images of destruction axed my hopes. My glasses magnified the second floor of our two-storey home. It was impossible to see it from the corner of the street. But I did. My memory might be lying. Or my four eyes may have developed some special powers.

“Run!”

Unmindful of the muddy ground and the fallen trees whose leaves entwined with wires and posts, I ran as fast as I could.

I rushed as though every second mattered, as if a minute could make a difference. The agonizing hours has finally reached conclusion.

“Mama,” I shouted.

Our dog, Kahlil, welcomed me as I opened the gate. My cousins and uncle were shocked to see me. “Kay ano ka aadi? Di ba tikadto ka hadto ha Germany?”

Not knowing how to reply, I just smiled.

Opportunities come and go. But there are moments that can only happen at a certain point in time. After days of disquiet and nights of despair, I considered seeing my family alive and well as a miracle

With all the joy and gratitude I felt that day, you would have expected me to be generous to others in return. But I was selfish.

I left Direk and the two nurses.

Until now I still feel guilty for not being with them through the whole journey. I still wonder if they were able to be with their families again. The least I could have done was be with them through joy or pain.

But I am selfish. I struggle to fight my demons and end up making choices I regret.

Yolanda has unleashed a side of me that I dread.

Survival. Is that all that matters? During that week, it was all I could think of.

The Exodus

I thought the worst was over. Being with my family made me feel invincible but paranoia’s contagious.

It was just my second day in Tacloban when my brother dropped “the bomb” that forced everyone to pack their bags for an unexpected trip to Manila.

Prisoners were freed, houses robbed, families killed, women raped and above all the alarming news (or rumors), we were running out of food.

Thanks to my cousins from Naval who brought us canned goods, biscuits and gallons of water that helped us survive as we waited for our tickets to Manila.

One by one, our neighbors fled. Those who stayed used bamboo sticks and kitchen utensils as weapons against criminals. They were awake all night, warding off anyone who looked strange.

My family did not take risks. At night, we left our home and slept at the airport. There were no cops in our village, only watchmen with “batuta.”

During that time, the airport seemed to be the safest place. Good thing we had a car that served as our bed. Others slept on cold benches while some chose to stay awake so as not to lose their chance of getting on the C-130. They endured the scorching heat and even the pouring rain, desperate to leave “the Lost City.”

“Please get me out of here…” I prayed for days. I wanted to leave Tacloban as soon as possible because I was so scared. Everywhere everyone was talking about the murders and robberies.

The killings could have just been rumors. But if we stayed longer, we could have died of hunger.

We ate one meal—rice and Century tuna—a day and drank water sparingly. Fortunately, our neighbor offered bottles of Coca Cola.

Relief goods did not reach our village. We subsisted on what relatives and neigbors gave us, and what my parents stocked in preparation for the storm.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reportedly wasted some of the relief goods. My mother’s friend said that DSWD staff threw nutribars and bottles of water, hitting her daughter’s face as they lined up for the C-130. Some nutribars fell on mud, making it unfit for consumption. “Why did they have to throw food? Why can’t they properly hand it to the people,” she asked.

Help from the government came too late. Sad to say, I felt more genuine concern from foreigners than our own government officials.

“I cried for the dead. But I cried more for the living,” my Mama said.

Living in Tacloban was hard enough but leaving the city was even harder. The C-130 seemed hopeless because the people in front of us had lined up for days to no avail so we opted for commercial flights, PAL and Cebu Pacific. Ticket from Tacloban to Manila was worth P2,500.

We were able to book the tickets on Wednesday but unfortunately, we had to spend two more nights in the airport because our flight was still on Friday.

All of us were optimistic that we’d be able to leave on schedule but after waiting for six hours, PAL told us that there were no more flights, better luck tomorrow.

I just hated how they treated us. They could have told us earlier that our chance of flying to Manila was super slim then we wouldn’t have been waiting for SIX hours.

We were all getting rowdy. I even screamed “What the FUCK!” at the PAL staff.

On Saturday, we finally reached Cebu. PAL Tacloban told us that there would be a connecting flight from Cebu to Manila and their staff in Cebu would assisting us.

What I’ve learned from this experience is never believe the lies of airline companies.

So we patiently waited for our names to be called. But three hours passed and I was starting to get agitated so I approached the staff. At first, I tried to be calm and respectful. But I just got smiles and all so I requested for the manager.

Lo and behold, the manager thought we were waiting for a “mercy flight.” When my father and the other passengers pointed out that we paid P2,500, we got on the plane to Manila in less than 30 minutes.

They told us that all flights were full-booked that day but how come there were lots of vacant seats. The manager must have been blind or a liar.

If we didn’t mention the money, I bet they’d never treat us like customers. Define MERCY.

Finally, after much delay, my family and I arrived in Manila on Nov. 16. My parents immediately went back to Tacloban after buying groceries and other stuff they needed to survive.

That week wrecked all my beliefs about “humanity.” How human is human? In a jungle-like scenario, does “animal instinct” triumph over humanity?

I have betrayed my ideals. “Para sa Bayan,” the panata of Peyups. “Walang nabubuhay para sa sarli lamang,” my favorite church song. I’ve forgotten all these in a place where people are called “Waray,” which means nothing.

I could have done more for others.

The mirror reflects a new version of me. It’s not my new hairstyle or the weight I’ve gained for turning to food in times of stress.

I see a “tougher” woman.

No longer will I sit in the corner and wait. I make demands. I chase change.

I just hope I don’t lose my heart in the process.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISAcj3jre4Y