30

Back when I was an elementary campus journalist, my fellow writers and I were told to write 30 at the end of each article to signify the end of it. It’s a habit that I took with me me even as I wrote for the college organ. My editors probably thought I was a lovesick schoolgirl scribbling my monthsary date in each submission. Even now, the habit of writing 30 is something I unconsciously find myself doing when I’m drafting articles by hand. Many theories have cropped up regarding this journalism practice – I’ve yet to find out the real scoop but I find it interesting how a simple double-digit number can indicate that something is finished and how the same number, when taken in the context of aging, can also signify endings.

Websites such as Elite Daily and Thought Catalog brainwash us into thinking that life ends once you stop belonging to the twenty-something age group -that blowing out 30 candles on your birthday cake is the death knell to sweet, savage living. I can’t speak for everyone who was born in 1986 but I have to say that turning 30 was definitely a milestone for me. For starters, it gave me a clearer perspective on what I wanted to do with my finite existence. Other people feel they’re running against time when they reach this age, but I’m starting to feel that time is on my side. It always is. It has helped me filter people and experiences that do not contribute to my well-being.

Something about getting older and consequently getting closer to death also gave me a Heideggerian push to value authenticity. I realized that pursuing graduate studies in international relations was so out of alignment with my true self. I was born a warrior, not a diplomat; I will fight for the underdogs but will never become one. I figured if God had given me this type of personality, I might as well put it to good (and legal) use, so I dropped out of grad school and started the process of applying to law schools. The decision to leave Ateneo was ego-crushing, to say the least. I’m not used to giving up on school, or anything for that matter, but the program just wasn’t for me. I felt disconnected from the world and from my self each time I forced myself to attend class… on those rare occasions that I actually did.

In line with authenticity, I have also learned to embrace myself, idiosyncrasies and all. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the idea that I’m not perfect, that I will never be perfect and that is all right. That it’s okay to make mistakes. That it’s okay not to know everything all at once. That it’s okay to look back and cringe at some of the decisions I made back when I didn’t know better. That it’s okay to end things, thought patterns, behaviors, belief systems, and relationships that aren’t working out in order to have time and energy for more valuable stuff. “You have to let go of something big to make room for something bigger,’ my former boss once said and I couldn’t agree with her more.

A week before my 31st birthday, I continue to write 30 on things that no longer matter. Life and its unending cycle of creation and destruction continues. I look forward to new adventures.

Sacred Space

This week had my social media newsfeed teeming with posts of love and togetherness. I don’t mind. I like seeing happy couples, especially those who have been together for many years because Lord knows relationships take a huge amount of patience for it to work. I myself have contributed to the mushy posts when I uploaded a photo of the breakfast my husband made for me on Valentine’s Day (just like last year, he forgot that we don’t celebrate it) and when I uploaded a photo of us having lunch together (though truthfully, it was more of a I-need-to-get-out-and-get-sunshine-because-this-weather-is-screwing-up-my-head kind of date than anything else). Anyway, I am not anti-relationship or anti-love for that matter. Are you kidding me? I actually believe that love is the only thing that satisfies the philosophical transcendentals Being in that it is true, good, and beautiful. Love is my religion and as Cher puts it, it is the groove in which we move.

That’s why it’s important that we go beyond romantic affiliations when we think of love. I like that Valentine’s Day gives me a chance to pig out on chocolates but I don’t like how commercialism has made it all about couples. If you grew up in the Christian faith, chances are you grew up thinking God is Love. Am not here to affirm or negate that, but I see the parallelism. If God is an omniscient, omnipresent Being then that is also how I perceive love. It is all-encompassing and understanding. It’s not limited to romantic relationships as we know great love can exist between family, friends, or even acquaintances who share the same wounds. It is not confined within the four mirrored walls of jungle-themed motels. It is neither self-serving nor is it self-annihilating. Love is space.

Sacred space. I believe in love as existing from a sacred space that can flow from within or in between relationships (romantic, filial, or platonic). It’s a tragedy that the line from that Tom Cruise movie has often been quoted without analyzing its negative repercussion on our psyche. “You complete me.” Really? Really?! So up until that moment you met that person, you have been walking around with a gaping hole oozing with God knows what? Have we really been conditioned to think that life is not worth living until other people decide to spend time with you? Mind you, this erroneous perspective is not exclusive to couples. We are also guilty of giving way too much of ourselves for our friends, not understanding that a give-and-take relationship does not mean you give and they take.

It all comes back to honoring your sacred space. Take the time to find out what makes you feel loved and try giving it back to yourself. (Geez, I can already imagine the masturbation jokes that will probably come out of that sentence… Whatever makes you happy, though.) Honor the space that exists between you and your partner. (My husband and I have long agreed that we aren’t each other’s soulmates or best friend and we are soooo okay with that). Honor the space between you and the members of your community/workplace/Tinder network. From that space, let love grow. Come to terms with your own understanding of it vis-a-vis relationships and just marvel at its presence. Celebrate it not only through an overpriced dinner every February 14th but through small, yet still significant ways, daily.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” – Kahlil Gibran

Forever, For Now

 

There seems to be a mania sweeping the nation. Day in and day out, I see my Facebook contacts mulling over the concept of forever. The source of this conundrum remains a mystery to me. Was it brought about by a movie or by hours of sitting in the Manila traffic during rush hour? Either way, it is a concept that divides people into Team #mayforever and Team #walangforever. I myself have joined the bandwagon at one point, cracking a joke that my son believes “may forever” as he told his grandmother “Bebe hindi tayo maghihiwalay. Forever mo akong apo”. (It sounded like a threat to Mama, and she is still recovering.)

What is forever and why do we obsess over it?

A salvo of words immediately comes to mind when we are asked to provide synonyms for forever: eternal, endless, for always are just a few. But are these the really the things we pertain to when we sound off our thoughts on forever? Forever means exactly that: forever. It transcends time, death, mood swings, and diarrhea. It does not cease the minute your cellphone battery dies. Forever has existed way before you did and will continue to do so after you die – which makes the the idea of mortals going after forever a little absurd. We yearn for forever yet our existence remains finite.

Crushes, flings, friendships, even marriage, all these connections are temporary because we ourselves are temporal beings. The finite nature of relationships is what makes it more special. We plunge into a relationship and embrace the ecstasy and pain that come with it because we know it has an ending. This does not mean that we are masochists or idiots, this only means that we are human and that our mortality makes us long for that which is eternal. We must remember though, that the infinite is in the finite of every moment. We don’t have to kill ourselves in our search for “forever” because “for now” can be just as wonderful.

The Hesitant Mother

 

The world just celebrated Mother’s Day last Sunday and I enjoyed every bit of pampering I got from my husband and took pleasure in responding to every greeting that was sent to me via Facebook and text messaging. But let me confess one thing: I have not always enjoyed motherhood.

I was not ready when I had Josh. I was angry, depressed, hurt, scared – I was a lot of things but happy when I found out I was having a kid. Motherhood was something I had never envisioned for myself. My goals were to graduate with honors, get a masters degree, get a law degree, be a polyglot, and travel the world. I did not see myself saddled with domestic responsibilities. One moment. It only took a moment for my life to take a 180-degree turn. As I saw the two strips turn bright pink, I cried knowing that things will never be the same again. The entire nine months went by in a haze of crying fits and bouts of morning sickness. I was miserable. Even more so when I gave birth to my son after 10 hours of labor. The minute Joshua was placed on my stomach, I tried hard to look for that spark of maternal instinct but there was none. I felt alienated from my own child. I did the things that were expected of a mother – staying up late, anticipating bottle feedings and diaper changes, working while studying to make sure he has milk and nappies – but I did them out of a sense of obligation, not love. I thought I was a horrible monster to not be as attached to my son as other mothers are to their own children. Looking back, wish I had been easier on myself. Truth is, the bond between children and mothers doesn’t come immediately for everyone. I blame Johnson & Johnson’s commercials for feeding us with the idea that mothers automatically turn into Donna Reed the minute their child grabs their pinkies – that carrying them in your womb for three trimesters automatically ascertains your falling in love with them. In my case, it took about six months for me to appreciate the little creature who inherited my eyes and my temper, and another year to realize that I love him. The bond doesn’t always come instantaneously and I’m sending a big digital hug to mothers who are in the same place as I was back then. Forgive yourselves for not being the perfect mother that society expects you to be. It’s okay to feel sad, to feel different, to feel tired.

Motherhood is exhausting and scary, yes, but it also opens you up to the idea that no matter how long it took or will take you to get there, you are capable of loving someone other than yourself and your shoe collection. Prepare yourself for the toll that it will take on your physical and emotional well-being but also be ready for those times that your kid will you with gestures that make rethink their age. I was fortunate to have such moment this morning when my son sidled up next to me, intertwined his fingers with mine, and whispered, “Nanay, I love you.”

It may have been six days late but it was the best Mother’s day greeting I’ve had so far. Some things may take longer than usual but it doesn’t make the result any less beautiful.

Of Coffee Cups and Pyramids

The message came from a high school classmate I have not talked to in years. “Free ka ba ng Monday?” she typed. Thinking it was a message meant for another person I replied, “Wrong send ka yata?” She said she wasn’t mistaken, that the message was meant for me and that she wanted us to meet for coffee. Being burned one too many times by invitations such as this, I bluntly asked her “What for?” to which she answered, “May ipe-present kasi ako sa iyo baka magustuhan mo.

Just as I thought, another Multi-level marketing (MLM) pitch. I graciously turned down her invitation and resumed my office duties.

Two things can be taken from the paragraph above: One – I should not be opening my Facebook account while in the office and two – MLM is a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing down. I am pretty sure that one in three of my Facebook friends have been propositioned for a coffee meeting and perhaps some of them might have even been gullible enough to take the bait. I can’t blame them, these people seem pretty sincere when they’re asking you how you are and telling you how they are excited to see you after all these years. You might even enjoy the conversation, but then comes the sales pitch and you find yourself doing all sorts of diva hands just to reinforce that you are not interested. “But it’s a pretty foolproof way to earn money!” they argue. “I have not even been doing this for two months but I’m earning thousands of pesos per week.” For chrissakes do not, under any circumstances, give in to the get-rich scheme. If that person really has been earning tons of cash per week, then he/she should be inviting you to a steak dinner and not to measly cup of coffee with no refills. I do not blame the Juan de la Cruz who gets sucked in to MLM scams. Every one of us dreams of being able to pull in millions without so much as a sneeze. But you have to draw the line between dreams and reality.

Weeks ago, I was talking to a co-worker who said she has joined a lot of networking businesses. I almost fell out of my seat laughing when she said that one of the products she had to sell were special sanitary pads. Now I’m a person who hoards sanitary pads and I use three types per cycle so you can say I have no problems doling out cash for breathable covers and wide wings, but the product she mentioned was ridiculous. It claimed to regulate hormones, prevent pimples, and all sorts of stuff. Maybe it even prevents cancer, I can’t be sure as I was too busy laughing. On a more serious note though, the extent in which some people stretch themselves for multi-level marketing has gone borderline cult-like. My co-worker was lucky to have snapped out of it early enough but others are not so lucky. Here are people who do not care if they burn connections as long as they tell anyone and everyone on Facebook that their brand is the holy grail of health/weight-loss/skin-whitening/vagina-tightening products. They’ll even cite celebrities to back up their claims. Though I do not doubt that these celebrities use, and at some point, endorse their products I don’t think they do it as zealously as some of our Facebook friends. To be fair, the products these people are selling are quite good (hence, the expensive tag price), but the manner in which they are distributed is kind of shady if you ask me. Instead of focusing on selling the products, the heads of MLM schemes prioritize the recruitment of people who need to cash out for membership and training. Then, when they’re on the inside, they are also tasked to recruit other people who, depending on the program, may or may not contribute to the upline’s (recruiter’s) income. This system really perturbs me, what happens when they hit market saturation?

Is this really the way to earn money now? By being “exclusive distributors” and by building pyramids where only the people on top get to enjoy the riches? Should we dedicate an entire business program in colleges to study this format? Is it just a fad that will run its course or is it something we will all catch, one coffee cup at a time?

First of Many

My son just confessed that he has a crush on someone. I don’t know how the topic came up. We were just watching episodes of 7th Heaven when I suddenly felt the urge to ask him if he liked someone in school. A sheepish smile broke across his face and my heart stopped a little. “What’s her name?” I asked. “Or his name”, I added for good measure. He replied that the girl’s name is Zayna… or maybe it’s spelled Xena as you know parents cannot be trusted with giving their kids uncomplicated names.

So kailan ko siya makikilala?” the nosy mother in me asked. “Punta ka ng school para makilala mo siya“, he answered. Poor boy, he doesn’t know what he is suggesting. He went on to say that we should keep it a secret and I agreed.

Some secret it was, he told Aaron and Mama five minutes after. I asked if he already shared his “secret” with any of his classmates and he nodded his head… there’s that coy smile again. Drat. He told Zayna/Xena herself. “Anak, wag ganun. Girls like it when you keep things cool.” I advised my son. Just then, my mother piped up, “Hindi, okay lang. If you like someone, you let that other person know.” I looked at Aaron to back me up but he was engrossed with his tuna carbonara that time.

Man, I wasn’t ready for this. I thought he’d start having crushes while he’s in grade school but the heart wants what it wants eh? Oh well, in a couple of years we’re going to have “the talk”, whether he’s ready for it or not.

Oh, and Zayna/Xena? We shall see each other soon.

Ten Signs You’re Getting Older

 

I just celebrated my 28th birthday and while everyone was reminding me that I am two years shy from hitting the big three-oh, I kept a demure smile and told them that I still feel 23.

At times though, certain things remind me that I’m not as youthful as I would like my cells to believe. In my opinion, the following items are experiences familiar to people inching towards their 30th year:

1. You can no longer pull all-nighters.

Remember when you crammed a semester’s worth of lessons into three hours of rapid studying and memorizing? Yeah, so do I. You probably had time to party after the exams. Try duplicating that while you’re making a presentation for your boss and see if you’re not asleep after the first hour of cramming.

2. You get exasperated at kids who don’t dress their age.

My eyeballs immediately roll at tweenies dressed like twenty-somethings, forgetting that at one point, I also tried to pull off the party girl look while waiting for puberty to hit.

3. Sunday is becoming your favorite day of the week

I used to hate Sundays because they herald the coming of busy Mondays yet now I appreciate the sense of laziness that comes with this day.

4. Fast food is something you avoid as you can immediately see its effects.

Don’t you just hate that you can no longer eat a burger without it showing on your gut?

5. You forego the hip and trendy club for something more relaxed.

Who cares if they are offering beer at 50% less? Well, I don’t drink so this never mattered to me… but yeah, I want to be in a place where I can actually hear the other person talk!

6. You take more chances…

…because you’ve seen people your age die and you realize you’re lucky to be alive, you should be making the most out of life.

7. You begin to realize that your parents have their own life stories.

I went through the whole “My-mother-does-not-understand-me-at-all” phase too but now I am beginning to see that my mother has her own history – her own reasons for being who she is, for thinking what she thinks, for saying what she says. I used to respect her (grudgingly) for being my mother but now I respect her as an individual.

8. Your role during the holidays has changed.

The feeling of  getting excited over Christmas Eve dinner and opening the presents are now distant memories of your childhood. You don’t know exactly when or how it happened but you suddenly became in charge of cooking dinner and shopping for presents.

9. You don’t feel the need to read every book that is trending on social media.

Who cares if the author is being touted as this decade’s Dan Brown. If it isn’t your genre, you pass up on buying it and letting it collect dust bunnies on your bookshelf.

10. There’s a particular thing you spend a lot of money on.

For others it’s shoes, for me it’s perfume. It’s not about being pasosyal, it’s merely realizing there is one thing in your life that you won’t make compromises with, even if it means shelling extra dough .

The Ugly Side of Love

 

She looks at you from across the room, your heart beats just a little bit faster while you recall the lovely afternoon you spent by the seaside. A slow smile spreads across your face as she mouths the words “I love you.” Right that moment, you feel everything is right in this world… and that there’s no way you’ll love like this again.

Seven months later, you’re cursing the day she was born. This, ladies and gentlemen is not a story of love gone bad. This is the true story of love, with all its fats and trimmings. If you’re sixteen and still optimistic about the idea, do yourself a favor and stop reading this; you’ll just be disillusioned. On second thought, maybe it will do you some good to stick around and learn a lesson or two. Brace yourself, oh innocent one, you’re in for the shock of your life.

Many definitions have been attributed to romantic love. We have the oft-repeated slam book phrase“Love is like a rosary, full of mysteries”, the highly-clinical “it is a feeling commenced in the hypothalamus”, the cynical “It is the best excuse to make a complete ass out of yourself” (oh wait, that’s my personal definition), and the one lifted out of Antoine de Saint Exupery’s book, “looking together in the same direction” (mostly used by men who want to sound smart while trying to get into your pants). I won’t even get into the details of the different levels of love by Plato because this is a blog, not Philo101. What am I trying to point out here? Your definition of love may not always be in congruence with that other people. For example, I know of a woman who is happy even though her husband has fathered children outside of the marriage. As long as she and her family are well-provided for, she is content with the idea that her husband is a loving and responsible man. What may seem like utter foolishness to you is sweet, tender love to others. Just like religion, it’s useless to argue about it. We each have our own ideas. Don’t think that this is the ugly part yet, I’m merely reintroducing the basics.

After establishing what love is for you, you decide, or maybe not (good for you!), to experience it for yourself. Perhaps the warning you got from your parents or your already-hitched friends weren’t enough, or maybe you’re into self-inflicted pain, I don’t know; but you still go ahead and plunge into the world of relationships. Excited, you can’t wait for that first hit of love. As is often the case, you take the first thing that remotely looks like love and take it for the real thing. Sex is usually the main culprit why you stick around for something fake even when your friends are telling you you have the cheapest taste in women or that you’re in need of new prescription for your eyeglasses. After a while, you get a hold of yourself again, and you call it quits. It hurts, and you make a big deal of showing it to other people. They, however, aren’t sure if you’re really in pain or bemoaning the fact that you won’t be getting laid until further notice.

But the the gods are good, and you find yourself falling again. With renewed vows to make it work this time, you pour all your energy into making sure your partner feels what you feel. Everything seems so beautiful. The sun is shining just a bit brighter. There is a spring in your step. You forgive people easily, even wishing them a good day as they mutter apologies for smashing your face with their bags while getting out of the MRT. You feel that the moon is casting a glow on your face just to mirror the radiance within.

You insufferable narcissistic twat. Not everything is about you, as you will learn in the succeeding months. You’re in for a very rude awakening.

I will let you in on a little secret that rom-coms conveniently leave out in the script: Love is a messy inconvenience. Yes, despite the headiness that you feel during the first few dates and the rush of excitement that comes after finding out you listen to the same bands, you will still come into the realization that love is ugly. If you can delay this as much as possible, well and good. But once you stumble upon this revelation, there is no turning back. All the things you once found attractive in your partner become the very things you will hate his/her guts for. Then comes the make or break part. You decide whether you can leave with these imperfections (because if you are anything like the deluded cretin writing this post, you would assume that all  the issues in your relationship are through no fault of your own), or you can decide to stay and wade through the muck.

Love is ugly and you know what makes it uglier? The fact that you would have to go through crap like this many times before finding someone who is willing to stick it out with you despite your own hideousness. And even if you are lucky enough to find that person, both of you will still go through repugnant things that will make you question your sanity.

Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because I feel like finishing a draft that I made three years ago, that’s why. Also because I feel it is my duty to remind humanity that except for Meryl Streep, nothing is perfect and everything needs work – including you, me, and relationships. So whether you are posting “Single Is Sexy” status updates to convince us (more like yourself) that you’re okay with being single or wearing one-half of a couple’s shirt (in which case, I am judging you), please be reminded that having a Valentine is more than someone give you three pieces of Ferrero. It takes utmost courage to plow through the ugliness of a relationship to finally see its beauty.

13 Most Annoying Terms of 2013

 

My karaoke-loving neighbor on the left just hit an all-time high on the machine with his 17th rendition of Pusong Bato, the one on my right just cranked his radio up a notch so we can all hear Pitbull’s latest (illegally-downloaded) single, and the entire street is covered in soot. I should be putting the finishing touches on our media noche but as my mother kicked me out of the kitchen, I have nothing better to do than write this list of the top 13 words that made me groan in 2013.

Pag may time

Oh. My. Goodness. How in the world did a repetition of a certain word followed by this line become one of the most overused phrase of my generation? Push up push up din pag may time, Facebook Facebook din pag may time, tulog tulog din pag may time. Arrrgh! Bigti bigti rin pag may time!!! I know a lot of people who are also bothered by this phrase and they have used it themselves either as a way of mocking the zeitgeist or as a symbol of surrender to the powers that be. As the old saying goes. if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Join join din pag may time. Kill me.

Yun oh

The first few times somebody said this to me, I would actually turn around to check what the other person was referring to.

Yan tayo eh

Ikaw lang yun.

Fam-bam

Sounds a little dirty and not family-oriented at all. Then again, that’s just me.

Looters

Oh Yolanda, not only did you wreak havoc in my country you also introduced a word to people who took liberties in using it without bothering to find out what it means in the first place. I cannot call the people in Visayas looters, even if some of them got electronics instead of food. For all we know, they were thinking what they can acquire to sell when things in their town return to normal.

Just sayin’

Want to unleash a torrent of ranting and wash your hands off of the consequences? Add this phrase after your long tirade.

Irregardless

Regardless that some people claiming that this is now acceptable, I refuse to use it.

Slut-shaming

I believe that every woman should be allowed to dress and act the way she wants without the judgment of other people. I believe that no girl is ever “asking for it”. I also believe that “slut-shaming” is a very problematic term in describing the embarrassment others want to cause women who prefer to live their lives against people’s notion of how a lady should act. Why call her slut in the first place, eh?

Enough said

… and its variations, ’nuff said, nuff sed, ’nuff zed (shudder). Enough said is this year’s “that awkward moment”. Take a random moment, smack this label on it and watch as people automatically assume that what you said was actually something of substance.

In some cases though, this expression is totally warranted for. For example, a friend once posted on FB that her daughter claimed she was already full yet went back to the buffet table for more bacon. Her husband commented, “Bacon. Nuff said.” and that was truly a beautiful moment.

Lake show

Obviously, I am not a Lakers fan.

Nerd

A real nerd never owns up to this title. Same thing goes with real geeks.

Hater

There are a lot of mean people out there who truly hate on  you for no reason. My ranting right now makes me a hater. However, if these folks consistently”hate” you for the same thing and your mother agrees with them, then they are not “haters” but just people.

Anything included in a hashtag that’s not really a trending topic or something that people particularly search for

This is pretty self-explanatory.