The skies have finally cleared after weeks of unrelenting rain. Sometimes a light shower falls in the afternoon or the evening, adding to rush-hour madness; yet they’re almost pleasant, relative to the dense, grey clouds that loomed all through August and drowned the city. The first day the sun came out, I put on my funky shades and skipped down the stairs to the streets to get roasted in the late-morning sunshine. Though there had been no end to my complaints about the incredible heat and glare during the summer months, I felt absurdly joyful to be out again, and savored the warmth on my skin, UV rays be damned.
Last night, as I walked to my dorm in one corner of the campus at a quarter to 11 in the light of lampposts and a rare starry sky, listening to “The Sound of Silence,” I thought: these days, these buko-juice-and-fishballs kind of days, I could cry for happiness.
When I was an undergrad, sometimes I got so harried with school and extracurriculars that I only had time to eat fishballs and buko juice in between classes, trips to the library, movie screenings, org meetings, and social commitments. I’d buy street food from one of the stalls near my college, and settle myself underneath an acacia tree along the acad oval, or find a quiet, solitary spot in the fifth floor of the CAL building, in the deserted stairways of AS, or the ramparts of the Vargas Museum (this was before a café got installed there). Sometimes, I ate while I walked, or read while I ate, but mostly I tried to breathe and relish the breeze, the lull, the silence.
Now that I’m mired in the “real world” with “adult concerns” like work and bills and household management, professional, intellectual, and artistic development, social relevance, familial responsibility, and, uh, romantic pursuits (or the lack thereof), often I feel like I’m trying to live two or three lives at once, and there’s never enough time for all that I want to accomplish. When I was an undergrad, I could always pull an all-nighter (or two or three, as needed) to get everything done. But now, I move and think in a haze if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep. I find myself longing for the focused, level rhythm of my student days, when all I cared about was learning and making the most of an environment filled with interesting characters, interesting ideas.
So when they come by, I cherish buko-juice-and-fishballs kind of days, days that bring back memories of the many afternoons my orgmates and I spent in our nipa hut tambayan, watching and flailing to music videos of pretty Japanese rockstars after three hours of literary theory and textual criticism, of long walks along winding pathways to the Math or Physics buildings, discussing Eastern philosophy and anime, of reciting “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” with increasingly exaggerated diction and gesticulation after a class in Romantic poetry. Such days tend not so far from the mundane or the routine, but have an element of loveliness or curiosity to them that bears their commitment to memory.
The other day, for instance, began with a sort of gag: I went out to take a bath, locked my room, and forgot the key inside. So I had to borrow a spare wearing only a towel—in a co-ed dorm. Fortunately (or not? XD) it was still too early in the morning for a meet-cute to happen, so I was able get into my room and dress for work without too much embarrassment. Still, that little episode set the day on a lighthearted note. After some hours of productivity, I got off work early to attend a class on Foucault (who is becoming one of my favorite philosophers). Afterwards I went to free screenings of the Japanese films Colorful and Villain. They centered on rather depressing situations (childhood suicide and murder, respectively), but they made me think about life and the ways in which we deal with what happens to us, with the people and the world around us. As I stepped out of the Film Institute and basked in the “golden hour” of UP, I thought, hey I could make this life work. Like that grandma in Villain said, I have to take life’s challenges head-on and not stint on the effort.
The day afterwards, with the encouragement and help of my co-apps, I finally passed the UP Mountaineers’ 6.6 KM running test with a pretty decent time of 44 minutes and 16 seconds. That was after weeks of training and two previous, unsuccessful attempts (one of which landed me in the Infirmary). That was only the first (and easiest) of a series of physical, practical, and theoretical tests including a timed 12.5 KM trail run, but passing it meant so much to me. I’ve been wanting to join this organization for three years, since I started climbing mountains. Yet, at some point in the application process, after a weekend of camping in the mud and rain, getting feasted upon by ants and mosquitoes, and committing not a few blunders, I almost gave up. I thought, maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I’m not “hardcore” enough. Not fast, or strong, or skilled. Then the weather cleared, and I realized that like the monsoon season, this period of trials, too, will pass. That I can choose to merely suffer, or learn from the challenges. That when the storm hits and devastates, you don’t break, you buckle down and build things right back up. That there’s a rainbow after rain, a silver lining in the clouds—these may be clichés, cheap and commonplace, but we forget that clichés are often true and meaningful until they happen to us.
After that run, the first thing I looked for was buko juice.
That night, when I walked to my dorm in one corner of the campus at a quarter to 11 in the light of lampposts and a rare starry sky and thought that I could cry for happiness, I had just come from a UPM lecture on geological processes and environmental conservation that made me appreciate once more how beautiful our planet is, how wondrous Philippine ecology is, and how important it is for us to stop fcuking with them. Earlier that day, I also attended a conference on literature and childhood; had a lively discussion with students, teachers, librarians, and artists; inspected the final proofs of a book I am so proud we’re publishing. I started that day with yoga practice upon waking.
In a way, it’s just the turn of the weather that led to this good mood—because it helped me understand that I can get into a good mood when I try to live the sort of life I dream of living, when I face life’s challenges head-on and not stint on the effort. When I think about it, I already have a lot going for me. I reside in a place in which I find so much beauty, be it in the patterns that tree branches make against an indigo sky, or a scattering of fallen leaves on the asphalt road. I am occupied with work that I enjoy in an industry that I care about with people I admire. In my weekly grad classes, I engage with texts and discussions that expand and challenge my understanding of the workings of my mind and of the structures of society. I am in the process of joining my dream organization, a process that is physically and mentally arduous, true, but also one that is shaping me up to be a more resilient and informed individual. My family is supportive of my endeavors. I learn something new or meet remarkable people everyday.
Of course there are boring days, lousy days, days in which I only see myself as an utter failure, days that make me feel lost and stupid and weak, days that make me think the air I breathe and the space I occupy in this planet would be better given to a colony of polyps or a single flowering tree. That I would be more useful six feet under, as fodder for earthworms and vegetation. But I also know that such days pass, that the blues aren’t forever—that no matter how long it takes or how tough it gets, making it is a matter of hanging on. Because though the disappointments never cease, and I still don’t know what all this is about, I’m quite happy with the way my life is turning out. I’m finding that there are a lot of things to be thankful about.