30 December 2010


We'll probably be busy preparing for New Year's Eve stuff tomorrow, so I'm going to do this now.

I don't set too much store by horoscopes, but it sucked to hear that next year would be bad for me. I mean, I'm not going to look for the lighter side anymore; I'm just going to say that 2010 wasn't happy. To get another crappy year just might make me crack.

That's what I want for 2011, though. (Crack? No, silly.) I seem to have lost my optimism. I'm no longer convinced when I tell myself and others that things will work out for the best in any and all aspects of my life. After a downer of a year, it's been hard for me to get my hopes up about anything anymore.

It's just no way to live. As it is, there are very few things that keep me happy in the big, bad city; without basic optimism, I'll never get anywhere. So this is to say that the pursuit of happiness will be my new year's resolution. I really hope I keep it.

Don't get me wrong, though. There have been some good times, with good people. For these (and for you), I am thankful.

28 December 2010

"So writing's really your passion, eh?"

I look like a twelve-year-old, so it's hard for receptionists, guards, and pretty much everyone on the way up to whomever I'm about to interview to believe that I'm employed and, yes, interviewing their boss. After a while, I stopped telling reception that I was there for an interview, because then I'd get, "Ah, you're a job applicant? Well, Mr. So-And-So doesn't usually interview applicants himself." Now I just say I have an appointment or official business or something like that.

Another thing I get, usually before or after an interview, when my friendly interviewee and/or their assistant is making smalltalk, is, "Is this your first job?" If not that, it's, "So, how long have you been at BusinessWorld?"

The next question, if they ask another question, is almost always, "So, this is your passion, eh? Writing?" or its twin (fraternal in the way the Olsen twins say they are), "So writing's what you really love to do?"

I hesitate, shrug, half-nod, and give a shaky, "Ye-es."

Maybe it's unfair of me to stereotype, but I feel I'm being stereotyped by corporate types. (Or maybe I'm just being defensive.) I make my living doing something that they might see as impractical, therefore I must really love it to have said no to something more lucrative.

As much as this next sentence/paragraph may endanger my employment status, the truth is that this job is not my passion. I do not take joy in writing articles for advertising-driven supplements. I enjoy writing articles, and I tend to actually enjoy writing about the things we have to write about (except credit cards and cars--I don't charge, and I don't drive, so I don't really care). But other aspects of the job--dealing with Vogons and Golgafrinchans; bugging decent human beings for an interview, getting them excited, and then having to tell them that the lack of advertisers means that the article may/will not be published; and dealing with Vogons and Golgafrinchans--make whatever enjoyment I get out of writing almost negligible.

The other thing is, when I first entertained thoughts of becoming a writer, this was definitely not what I had in mind. When rhyme was still cool, I thought I'd be a poet. Then I gave that up and focused on writing stories for kids and good pulp for all. My D/R/NSPC days had me thinking that I had a future as a journalist, too. If I were doing any of those things for a living, then I'd be able to say, "Yup, it's what I love."

It's not just the weekly whippings from Golgafrinchans that get me down, though. Recently, I've had doubts that I should have become a writer at all.

I'd always liked making stuff up, but only when my fifth- and sixth-grade teachers told me that I was good at putting pen to paper did I believe that it was what I should do with my life. Now, I'm not so sure whether I am where I am because it's what I want, or because it was encouraged. Because I'm not happy, I think it's the latter.

Before I got this job, Martin and I tagged along to last year's Heights writer's workshop. We went back to Manila with some fellow alumni and Martin's now-boss, Ma'am Beni, who told us that we shouldn't do what we love for a living. To be specific, writing for a living would just ruin writing for fun. I wonder now whether that--burnout--is what happened to me, or whether I just didn't love writing enough to begin with.

The scary thing is, it feels too late for me to try anything else, because anything else I was good at and enjoyed before college would require returning to school to do again, this time for a living. While my parents would probably support me, I'd like to do whatever on my own time and dime, and I'm not sure I have both.

Perhaps it's my fear, but the other problem is that "whatever" is just not so clear to me. I like design. I like computers. I like science. But I don't know if I love them, and isn't that what we're supposed to do? Know what we love and do that?

Ugh. I don't know where I wanted to go with this entry. I don't know where I want to go.

Caught in the Roots

Home usually waits till I'm about to leave to tug at my heartstrings and make me wish I could stay, but just two days after Christmas and four days after I flew in, I'm already torn up inside.

My mom is getting older. She still doesn't look a day over 30, but the usual holiday stress is starting to wear her down. She was about to crack on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, she was running a fever and had to go to bed. For the first time ever, we ate Christmas dinner out. We ended up at a roadside carinderia that night (not to sound picky, mind you; our first choice was some other roadside spot that our family has loved for years, but they were closed for the holidays).

I kind of envy my friends who are also daughters and get to stay at home all year. If that were my situation, then I'd be around to relieve my mom of some of her usual Christmas "duties" as she got older, and she wouldn't be too stressed to really enjoy the holidays with us. Instead, I live on the other side of the country and fly in at the peak of the rush (and the stress), and the most I can do to help is not much at all--wrap last-minute gifts, tidy up, set the table. I can't even cook.

Then, there's the news that a friend of my mom's wants to start a daily newspaper in the city and could use some help. The reason I always gave for moving to Manila--there's no jobs for people who aren't entrepreneurs--is starting to look less and less correct. There's also all this outsourcing stuff that lets you work from wherever, and that could be home.

And then, there's just the fact that when I look out of the window here, I see more trees and flowers in two seconds than I ever see in my entire commute to and from work in Quezon City. When I look at the sea, I know I'm not separated from it by a huge cement barrier and miles of garbage. When I go for a walk, I don't have to watch for passing vehicles--I don't have to watch for anything, except maybe the occasional trigger-happy guard who can't tell a friendly collared dog from a rabid stray.

Why don't I stay? It just gets harder and harder to answer whenever I return.

18 December 2010

The Yearbook

I claimed my college yearbook today.

While I think the design was so-so and my picture was terrible, I like the whole thing because it's artifact of my college years.

"Um. Duh, Kat. That's what yearbooks are supposed to be."

Sorry. It's just that I used to judge yearbooks, particularly yearbook photos and yearbook writeups, the snooty way. I'd scoff at how unoriginal the "creative" shots were, sneer at the shoddy writeups, and roll my eyes at the arrogant smirks. After seeing all these pa-cute poses, pa-rocker hand signs, pa-seductive pouts, cheesy song lyrics, bad poems, and writeups by SOs extolling how "wonderful," "sweet," "cool," and of course, "unique" the subjects were, I couldn't help but come away with my own conceited judgment:

Ha. You're not as special as you think you are.

But today, while leafing through the pages, no matter how "objectively" unoriginal, uninspired, or downright terrible the pictures or writeups were, I realized that these people were special. Some of them were special to me, of course, and not just because they were my roommates, orgmates, blockmates, etc. Of course there were people I saw every day for four years--people whose effect on my life is indelible.

After a while, though, I went over each page just to look for the familiar faces, people I passed in the hallway, went to one study group with and never saw again, admired from afar, etc. It's them I feel like paying albeit small tribute to today.

"Oh, there's that guy who hung out with Dave. There's that guy who looked like Carl Jon. There's that guy I had a mild flirtation with and then forgot about when I started going out with Tim. There's that guy who chatted to me about the Ataris one afternoon in the blue. There's that guy who helped out in our final presentation for English class.

"There's that girl that Joey was talking about at our last reunion. There's that girl that everybody had a crush on. There's half of that couple I saw everywhere. There's that girl who looked like a Korean pop star. There's that girl who used to be in Bio."

And so on.

As for the writeups, I couldn't help but feel that they summed up each person well enough. The people they'd chosen to write, the words they'd used, the form each writeup took--however wonderfully or terribly the job was done--were all perfect as artifacts. I can't bring myself think about how cool or uncool they are. I can only think of how each person must have felt upon sending their 15 lines in, after a couple of revisions, or none, or bugging a buddy to come up with something at the last minute. I think of how it must have felt, at the close of one's college years, to be satisfied--or unsatisfied--with how they're making their final impression.

Maybe sometime from now--maybe now, considering that we'll have tossed the yearbooks somewhere for our younger siblings to pore over by this time of day--younger kids will browse through our yearbook and sneer as I did. That doesn't matter to me. I mean, call us cheesy, call us corny, call us uncool or stupid if you want. But that's who we were. And somehow, whether only to our few friends or to some unknown admirer or to that one "random" guy we always passed on SEC walk on our way to Philo at 1450, we were special.

11 December 2010

Here's my wish list, Travie.

Someone finally claimed the P741 million lottery prize (about $17 million at today's exchange rate) the other day, but that hasn't stopped me from fantasizing about what I'd do with the money.

1. Hire a financial adviser. You don't stay at this job a year and learn nothing, and while I still have a lot to learn about investing, if I had the money now, I'd go first to someone who knew how to grow it. I'd ask for short-term investments to give me some kind of regular income and long-term stuff for security. If they do their job right, I should be able to afford everything else on this list in time.

2. Anonymously pay off the debts of people I care about. In my fantasy, it plays out like this: they're at their house or place of work when someone from the investment bank shows up to have a talk with them. The rep explains that someone knows how much trouble they're going through and would like to offer them a fresh start. The moment they say yes, they will be debt-free. They will also be given a choice between among a business franchise to keep them financially independent, a retirement fund to which they can look forward, or a lump sum with which they can do anything they want. From then on, of course, they're on their own.

3. Fulfill a few wishes for my immediate family. You know, things like pay for my brother's wedding, take my grandmother on a trip around the world while she's still young, and buy my dad his Pinzgauer.

4. A scholarship foundation for deserving kids from my home region.

5. Funding for marine science schools and research bases.

6. Investments in eco-tourism programs for my home region.

7. Investments in Metro Manila's public trains and a real bus rapid transit system.

8. A foundation for indigent families in need of healthcare.

9. Martin's master's degree.

10. A nice house and a new computer.

That's all--for now.

02 December 2010

Goodbye, Decade 1.

Last weekend at Martin's house, I caught the CNN TIME Frames special on TV. It was all about the biggest newsmakers of the past decade, also the very first ten years of the 21st century.

When I woke up the next morning, it hit me that nearly everything important that has happened to me, the "newsmakers" of my own life, happened in the same ten years. Life is rarely so neat.

While EDSA Dos and 9/11 happened, I went to high school. My best friends and I first got together. We wrote each other stories. I finally worked up the courage one day to tell a boy that I liked him, and I got shot down. I went on my first date ever. I shot a guy down for the first time. I had my first boyfriend and first kiss.

The Indian Ocean tsunami happened during my freshman year of college. I made new friends, including the guy I would hang out with for the next five years. I had a secret admirer who sent me a bouquet of peach roses. I shot down a guy for the second time. I got depressed about how much I sucked in college and changed my major. Someone I liked asked me out twice, but I had to turn him down both times because of prior engagements.

I read some books that completely changed my views on relationships. I went out with someone nice but later decided that the books should've given more credit to chemistry. I took philo and theo classes under some really good teachers. For the first time ever, I showed my writing to people who've made it their job to critique writing, and it wasn't horrible. I met Martin in a book and then in passing.

I left home and moved to the capital. I got my first job at a church. I moved into my first apartment with a college roommate. I ran into Martin again and decided to hang the old books. I fell out and lost touch with my best friend from college. Michael Jackson died and Obama won.

I quit my first job because the church wasn't for me. I was finally able to pay all my bills without my parents' help. I got a new, more difficult job and moved to a seedy neighborhood at the same time, and the stress and disappointment made me cry almost every night for a month.

Ondoy came, 58 people were massacred in Maguindanao, and Noynoy won. I made new friends at work, and work became not just tolerable but actually kind of fun. Martin's leg broke and changed personal life literally overnight. Last month, the leg finally got fixed. It looks like the life will follow.

I understand that in the grand scheme of things, the past ten years of my life aren't much, and these reflections may seem pretty shallow considering that some people had to live through disasters. I don't intend to demean Hurricane Katrina or the Ampatuan killings.

Still, there is some comfort in the idea of life happening--and continuing to happen--in spite of the real newsmakers. People do live through everything. In one month, the new decade begins. I can't wait.