In my mind, 2010 was the best year of my life. There was graduation, the best thesis nomination from my Department to our College, Silliman National Writers Workshop in the summer, a teaching post at the DSCTA, the company of first batch of students, the hurdles and triumphs in the Comm 3 classroom, admission into the M.A. CL program, and other nameless graces that could only be felt and remembered with fondness to this day. I was 21 then, fresh from college, new in the job, but nevertheless ready to be at home in a brave, uncharted world.
Everyone cared and wanted to care, thinking that an amateur like me needed assistance and protection. I was welcomed into groups I could only admire from afar in college, like the Department to which I now belong. I became part of events to which I previously could only aspire to be invited. The academe proved to be conducive for my type; it did not feel like work at all, but fun and play and discovery. Students expressed their enjoyment in my classes and went as far as recommending me to their friends. I enjoyed all of it. Every step of the way was thrilling, to be honest, because I felt it was about me, me, and me.
2010 was the year where there was so much to give and receive in terms of skill, talent, capacity, learning. It was the year of adulthood, dreamy entitlement, earning on my own, meeting people, making friends, building contacts, widening horizons, and all the platitudes one gets to hear and learn after college graduation. It’s hard to top that list really, and despite the encounters I’ve come in contact with through time, all of which are memorable in their own right, there’s still something unbeatable about 2010, especially when I think of how positive and willing I was to face my fears and go with the flow at that time. I was bright-eyed, unfettered, and magiliw, to be sure, because I derived so much pleasure from my idealism and youth. Believing I could do everything in no time, without so much help from people, was an inviting disposition as it was an easy illusion.
The succeeding years are lessons in contradiction, predictably. I am no longer 21, and starting to realize how precious time is to be left unused. I am no longer the youngest faculty member in my department, so throwing some tantrums is no longer deemed cute or amusing. There are times when work dulls me, and I’d complain about it as if I were the most battered, most senior in the profession. On stressful days, I turn my back on the world and hole myself up in my office, thinking it’s the best way to evade tension with my peers. Almost always, I find myself staring at nowhere and realizing that despite myself, silence is indeed a friend.
These days, I no longer bother to please everyone–not my students, not my colleagues, not my teachers, not even my parents–and usually resign myself with the painful possibility of getting misunderstood anytime, anywhere, regardless of what I say and do.These days, I mull over what it means to be branded as too abrasive, upfront, or loud, and although I get to sense the context in which these speech acts are made, there are times when I get defensive or mad not at what are said per se, but mostly at how spot-on and true they can get.
These days, when every dream gets diminished by the speed of everyday life and any chance to relax gets deferred by expectations to produce and produce more, I don’t know anymore. I feel the gravity of adulthood and the restlessness that comes within. Independence is now an issue, and so is productivity, and so is financial status, and so is the insecurity that comes from a lack in all of the above. On good days, I bank on fortitude and friendship to keep me going; otherwise, there will always be old, peculiar prayers to recall and say.
These days, I have come to terms with the fact that not all friends would stay as promised, and that at one point or another, some would prefer a path that is away from my shade and shadow. When that occasion comes, either with due announcement or surprise, you just have to assess with acceptance what has happened, to admit the right and the wrong, and to realize that no matter how dear friends are to you or you to them, you neither own nor control each other’s lives and liberties.
From 2010 to 2013, so many things happened: failures, successes, travels, conferences, lost, found and maintained friendships, former students growing by the number, semesters that came and went, expenditures here and there, plans made and did not materialize, broken and regained relationships, to name a few. There’s security in knowing the constants in your life, and in being able to keep track of who or what enters and exits. There’s vain delight in seeing your progress through time, and perhaps relief in knowing that your effort and hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Of course, it has to be made clear that the wish to know stems less from a conceit that marks people as one’s property and more from a desire to return the favor people have given you through these years of faithful friendship. By the same token, itemizing your achievements works more like an accountability report to yourself than a useless list of this and that you may arrogantly carry on your sleeves.
Although it’s far from perfect, like all the years and days of our lives, and despite not being 2010, 2013 has still proven itself generous and eventful. It’s the year of hotel escapades, out of town trips, being on the road, a summer of romance and friendship in three different beaches, sojourns in and out the country, fancy dinners and curious night-outs, late night chats and sexy conversations, goodbye speeches, emotional investments, short infidelities and petty infatuations, financial gains and losses, feelings of being center and left of center, two academic conferences, a handful of academic papers, my Singapore fellowship, intercultural dynamics, credit cards and credit limits, a pseudo-independent life abroad, activism and rallies, gelato, milk tea and coffee, a strong and steady relationship, museum visits, long walks in Manila, theme parks and big chocolate bars, spicy Singaporean food, laksa bowls and vegan meats, theatre productions and performances, gatherings and send-off parties, photographs of me and you, movie dates and romantic dates, private talks, guilt tripping, jogging, Booksale, Fully Booked, Kinokuniya, bookshelves and more bookshelves, new books, secondhand books, donated books, shipped books, borrowed books, among others. These gains, moments, and things, vacuous or mundane they seem to be, deserve emphasis and thanks, for they compose the outgoing year.
As 2013 draws to a close, let me reminisce what the Year of the Snake was to me. Here are montages of the highlights of the year that was and possible departures for the year that will be.
“I am made for the classroom” sounds a bit presumptuous to say. But like what I tell friends and workmates, I can’t imagine myself doing something else other than teaching. To be confined in the classroom may sound disastrous to some; but that’s me and I’m fine with it. Certainly, like in the previous years, the classroom remains valued in 2013 and so is the company of all these students, wonderful or wacky or both.
People say I am too gregarious a person and operate on so many circles of friends. However, in my quiet moments, I feel that I only have a few cherished ones. I value these friendships and mean them. There’s so much to be thankful for, as regards these people. From giving me confidence, renewing my faith in what I do, pushing me to do good and more, making me evaluate my social skills and ideologies, to supporting me in whatever chance or crisis–they’ve been there.
No matter how imperfect it is, my Department remains a special place. I cannot claim that it’s family to me in the strictest sense of the word; but what I can admit is that it’s the home base in which I feel needed or into which I intend to invest my professional growth, time, and aspirations. There are important people in this bunch, and you know who you are. To you I will be grateful, for the support and the love, for the trust and encouragement, for being the voice that tells me to go and just go.
The closest persons in my life: one’s a neighbor and the most unexpected friend, and another’s a significant force in my life whose company and care give me strength and courage to quell any trepidation, full blown or in bloom or both, I have within. I can’t imagine 2013 without talking about the two of you and the adventures we have had in and out of the Metro. I know of my shortcomings, which you always put up with not without reprimand or complaint and for which I will always be apologetic. Better ways of extending my gratitude to you guys escape me now, so pardon the platitude that’s no less sincere and heartfelt: you, in various means and manners, are my wall, my shoulder-to-cry-on, loves of my life, people I treasure and intend to keep, my best buds and chums, and the ones whom I will never hesitate to contact in triumphs and trials. There’s no other statement to express in the here and now of this moment, this ending year: I love you both.
To travel away from the center of comfort is to be closer to oneself. My Singapore fellowship was the highlight of this year. In the Lion City and in this capacity at ARI, I was able to discover the joys of independence, of being far from home, of welcoming strangers as friends, of having a piece of the world that’s apart from what I am used to, of getting to realize so many things about myself by being in and out of contact with certain duties and individuals. Singapore, to you I can only pledge a return that’s full of fondness and fervor.
There are times when going solo becomes a tempting idea, especially at an age and time when independence and self-identity offer themselves as requisite components of growing up. I’ve always felt that I am the prodigal son as much as I am the achiever in the family. Our dynamics may not be the smoothest, what with my persistence to have it my way most of the time, my domineering attitude, and what’s considered as my relatively unorthodox view of things and tradition, especially those which are held dear by our family. But we held on together and will continue to do so, through thick and thin, miles apart or a few inches away, like how we believe family should be. To be clear, I still think of moving out of our house and oppose the idea of remaining as an extended family through and through; but if anything, I will stay with you and care for you, near or far, like what’s expected from a son or a brother, like what I am truly willing to do. Thank you for this year and for the coming ones of being together, of sticking it out with me, of just being there without any clear-cut impositions, and of being the traces I at once follow and leave behind.