It’s not year-end per se anymore as I write this, but it is just appropriate that I let the 365 days pass before doing an analysis of the year, for who knows how much can change in the few days since I decided to record this? (FYI, nothing much.)

It would be unfair to evaluate the year specifically in successes or failures only. 2011 is the year I truly lived—I learned what it meant to step out of my comfort zone, defy a few rules, take risks and find myself in situations I thought were always just going to be figments of my imagination. It took two decades and a series of wet and dry seasons for me to understand what living really entails.

Below are just a few things I’ve learned, experienced and discovered in no particular order.

Dated a Houdini

First of all, I don’t even date–not since I had my last relationship, and not until I decided to. It just so happened that I thought I was ready again, and I was, but I should have known better than to expect where a three + invisible-fourth month-long dating can end up in. I was a hopeful cynic, ready to finally let butterflies flutter within my intestines again yet keeping in mind the dark side of it all, hoping we won’t ever reach that side. But we did. It ended as quick as it started, but I can’t say I regret my decisions or call the whole thing a mistake on my end (no, I am not in denial, I swear). I learned a lot more than I ever expressed and a lot more than I thought I would in three moon cycles.

For the short time that he was a significant chunk in my life, one of the most important things I picked up from him is that dreams can come true, but you have to start somewhere. It’s okay to dream and not let fear take over me when I haven’t even started. How do I find things out without trying?

And other things I learned…

-I saw the beauty of lies. Yes, a lie crushed my illusions but I have eventually learned to use the white variety to my advantage.

-The local music scene is alive and kicking…when did I stop being in the loop?

-Other things I ought to know in my twenties

-You cannot expect everyone to give you an explanation, as much as you want it, as what my officemate has repeatedly told me a.k.a. life is unfair

-I learned how to ride the bus, which leads me to my next item…

Mastered the Metro Manila public transportation

Back in first year college, the first time I rode the LRT on my own, I felt like an independent and invincible adult. Then, I realized, bragging about this little achievement of mine made me one of the typical inexperienced freshmen. Everyone else in my school rides the train and generalizes it as commuting; I am proud to say I’ve come a long way from that.

I learned how to ride the FX, jeep, tricycle, and cabs that eat up my allowance. Then came the bus. I became a bus girl since I rode one with that guy, and it was my mode of transportation from work to home for a period, enjoying 1.5 hours like a field trip and listening to albums I’ve downloaded. Then I learned about the shuttle service. I’ve heard about this, but I never thought there’d be routes going up north. So now I am shuttle/van girl.

Hurray! You can now leave me in a street corner and I won’t be as terrified as I would have been five years ago. Someone wrote this goal in my life list and I never bothered to erase it, and now I have another ticked off without noticing this lesson unfold.

Got a job

Had I known that I was going to be part of the anxious and whiny employed population, I could have saved a lot of time seeking out the perfect job. My peers are surely familiar with this. We all want the perfect job, and we want it to be the first. Screw that.

It happens for some, but I am part of the most. The way I see it, it shouldn’t be too hard to jump from one chapter to another despite the pressure of having to finish a whole year just to have a fool-proof resume, but right now I am more resolved to focus on finding my next stop. Seems that one way to find out what I want is through a process of elimination.

Fulfilled a dream

This was done in a month-long routine, paired with a few tears and a confused mind on self identity. I wish I could mention this already, but all I can say for now is that I’m glad I did this and refused to let the opportunity slip through. What helped: a little less thought on the future and more living in the present.

Other unusual highlights

I drove with no license from Makati to Quezon City at midnight (thank you world for not conspiring against me); got my way out of getting a ticket by crying; lost appetite and weight for many weeks; hit my neighbor’s water pipes, which meant they couldn’t take a bath or wash anything for a span of a few hours.

I have a bundle of goals for this year, have semi-organized them by priority and I’m all set to take action. Here they are vaguely stated:  eat more, spend more, walk slower, start a business, design and create, think less and act more, make stronger connections, find and seize opportunities, let go, and love myself more. I know I said in a previous entry that I am not a fan of planners, but if there was one year I would have wanted to record with Staedtler pens in a diary, it would have been the year of 2011.

Advertisements

I did not look forward to Christmas, and I’m not even too giddy for the new year. Like a true Filipino, I used to look forward to the ber months—the cooler breeze in Manila, lounging in coffee shops with a book or a buddy, shopping for a few presents (and receiving some), and nonstop playing of Christmas songs. Well, not this year. It was warm all throughout December, and I only felt the season on the eve itself. What a bummer. Recapping the year I can see and dissect exactly why I am a Grinch this season. I finally understand what it feels like to be on the side of the anti-holiday.

I strolled around Greenhills for a few hours yesterday, stopped by for a drink and indulged in a moment I have been fond of since I started driving after twilight—parking the car. And no, it’s not because I’m about to make out with someone; it’s turning the engine off and letting the music roll that turns me on. It’s perfectly still as I let the radio station play their soundtrack to the weekend, and I can only focus on nothing more than the instruments and vocals that lightly reverberate within the space that wraps me. I am breathing pure sound in a concert for one. I have my feet up on the seat, curled up with shins resting against the steering wheel, and it’s just a moment when I feel so safe; everything else is suspended. Beyond the dashboard are some Christmas lights adding color to my thoughts.

I am also reading Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down. It’s about four troubled Londoners who encounter each other at the top of a fictional tower block called Topper’s House during New Year’s Eve for one reason: to throw themselves off the rooftop. This book is very timely on my part for a trifecta of reasons: I bought this novel months ago and now I am reading it on the same holiday when the whole story starts off; it shares with four perspectives on what ticks people off and decide to cross the line; and I see myself in two of the younger characters—reading their struggles, resolutions and youthful idiosyncrasies is like reading advice tailored to my own life. It’s not sappy, does hit home on some counts, but this writer can lightly talk about heavy hearts with humor and not turning it into a joke.

These are just a few things I want to share with less thought on organization. Earphones will be blasting Generator by the Foo Fighters when the clock strikes twelve. Happy new year.

That’s what’s in for me one Monday morning, the day I was set to tell my boss I was taking three more days of vacation leave, right after I used up the five days I filed for the month. I won’t elaborate on what happened; all I can say is I got what I wanted.

Reading the daily paper—once a habit done purely for leisure—is now also a requirement for my nine-to-six (nope, not five) day job. As I scan the papers for pickups, there is one section I will always avoid: the horoscope. As much as I am curious about what it has to say about my day, I would always convince myself that I can’t let two sentences take over the next 16 hours of my life. But then occasionally my officemates take a detour and read out loud their own fate, then ask my sign; and I am compelled to say it because I want to know mine.

I do not know exactly how the workings of astrology are done and how the writer formulates predictions to make anyone feel like something is looming over him. I read it because sometimes the assurance of a friend or giving myself a pat on the back despite the turmoil in my head is not enough. I want another option to tell me that today I will find a missing piece, or an opportunity to do something great, or that I will meet people and that today I can be courageous.

I always make sure that reading my horoscope works out for me by being partial to what I choose to absorb:

Gemini: You will find love today. You will finish something you’ve started long ago. Your lucky numbers is 23.

I say: Great! This is totally possible!

Gemini: You will have an awkward encounter with someone. Money is not your friend today. Two stars today and lucky color is orange.

I say: The hell. Noo, it can’t be. It just can’t.

My take on this is not to take it seriously. The cool thing is when it matches or your status or un-status quo, but these are just a few words put together to tell you how your life might run, or how you might want to run it. It serves as a reminder to what I’ve forgotten I can be: that I can be creative today, that I can start a business or a project, or that I can choose to take action despite this piece of print telling me today is not a good day to do ambitious things.

spreads I’ve taken out from the daily paper + two-month-old magazine issue + sketch pad for poster entry brainstorming + distractions

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my life’s just a list of tasks. I am not creating nor am I even consuming. I don’t know where to start or when to stop. I have ideas recorded on paper and typed on notepad files that never flourished enough. This must be what quarter-life crisis feels, assuming I live to 88. And it doesn’t help to know that others go through the same thing, or that others have bigger problems, or that it will all be okay. It’s irrational albeit comforting to say any of these, because these words are kisses to a man with a broken leg—it makes him feel better, but it does not fix his injury.

The thought of the future brings anxiety to the present. I see where the lives of older people have headed, and I am afraid of two things: becoming the mess like they are, or growing up not being as good (what does that even mean?) as any of them. Everyday, I walk to the station where I get my ride home; I know the route, but I feel directionless.

I’m under the pile right now, and I need something to push myself up. Until when will I be a wallflower? Will I ever shine?

How long can you outstay your welcome in a coffee shop? I’m sure you already know that you can do this without any purchase and not have any of the personnel bother you. You can sit outside and have a smoke, or stay inside, talk to a friend or pretend to wait for your order, or a friend, or a date who never shows up.

But what if you want to stay for a really long time? Whether you’ve got a book to read or papers to study or a laptop to do whatever business you can do with it, you will eventually need to make a purchase of at least their cheapest product—maybe a lollipop or extra syrup.

Right now, I am sitting alone in a Greenbelt coffee shop on a Friday night, and I hope you do not think I am square for hanging out with myself when everyone’s in costume celebrating Halloween tonight. It’s past ten in the evening, I can see people in line for their orders, no seats guaranteed. And here I am, sitting on one of the shop’s woven chairs with aluminum framing, one-third of my espresso pistachio biscotti left, and it’s been more than an hour since. “Ooh, her biscotti’s left alone while she’s doing something else. And look—crumbs all over—she’s made a little mess which means she must be busy or too enthralled with her other activity that she cannot even mind her food that much.” In reality though, I want to mind it more than you think, give it the attention it deserves; it’s food, for crying out loud. But as long as I plan to stay here, I cannot gobble this hard biscuit which we call biscotti.

Now that’s exactly why you cannot consume what you order in a coffee shop at a time like this. There are at least a dozen pair of eyes prying for an empty seat. It’s a tough competition—how do you stay in line AND race to that vacant spot AND leave your bag on the table to mark your territory? You need strategy and a quick response to this crisis, especially without a buddy around. If you already have a table, you are no target for this as long as you leave some food or coffee on your table. Leave your partially bitten cookie or half-eaten cheesecake on the plate. Again, make sure you have crumbs on the table to add some drama, how you’ve ignored your edibles for another. If drinking a frappuccino, make sure there’s some content left and make sure it’s in view. If it’s in a paper cup, then it won’t be a problem. Pretend to sip once in a while to dodge any doubt from unseated customers.

Bottom line is, you have immunity from being kicked out of the place as long as you have your leftovers displayed. Besides, you are only getting your money’s worth, right? You really do have every right to stay where you are, you just need to showcase your evidence if you don’t want the awkward glances that 1. look at you 2. look at the door where you can exit 3. look at the food and drink they are holding 4. look at you again.

It was almost 3 AM, and I was sitting among the disarranged monobloc chairs, and people were leaving. My hair was in a ponytail, a slight mess like it always is, strands brushing my face like I just got out of bed. Beside me was my friend. Let me describe what was in front of me: An interviewer holding his list of questions; a boom mic hanging above; the cameraman and his recording device; and the man I decided I would want to see  again after that day. His overbite smile and singular chuckle as he looked for a second to where I was sitting was enough to drown the voice of my friend who was telling me something, but I cannot remember what because I was not listening. My nervous self unknowingly smiled back.

Three months passed, and the plot which I primed myself to be familiar with has come to the inevitable point. I was careful with my heart, knowing sweet words were things he has said to those he might have loved or fucked. I made certain that his whispers did not mean too much to me, but eventually the words that came in one ear and out the other took a different direction and entered my bloodstream to affect me like any substance can. I was a seventeen-year-old again, turning the apple and refusing to see what was rotting here and there; I made sure the fresh crisp peel was all I can see. And I took a bite. I allowed myself to be special to someone again. It was a risk I was willing to take on again—letting a new person into my life, like one would open a door for a stranger to step into one’s home, going beyond the doormat that says welcome. I wanted to ask him who he is, to know who he is, to see who I am, but I held back from speaking my soul out of fear, out of logical excuses of the mind.

There were things I wanted to say—how I loved his eyelashes that pointed down, making his eyes look sad, delicate, but beautiful; that a month before his birthday I was already excited to get him a present, to write him a letter, to see him again and tell him how happy I am to have him around, to invite him to my home, curl up and talk for hours. But I only exist in one of the parallel universes, and to where I belong, he has decided to set me aside like a task and end a budding connection with an unapologetic lie—the funniest part that came with the twinge in the organ under my left ribcage.  And because the right time I was waiting for was not to come anyway, these words are only meant to be written, and maybe shared, but never spoken.