01 June 2011

June: Cutting and Folding

I just reread this entire entry several hours after posting it and thought, Wow, I am a boring, repetitive person. That explains everything. Thanks for sticking with me, people whom I can count on one hand.

The start of a new month seems as good a time as any to get a solid life update on the blog, so here we go.

I'll start with work because it seems to have had the biggest ripple effect on my life so far. I recently got promoted to assistant editor. I had my proverbial baptism of fire last week.

The last week of the month is when everything seems to pile up at work, and it just so happened that our boss had to fly out of the country for two-and-a-half days, leaving me more or less in charge. I get tired just thinking about it, so I'll spare you the details. I'll leave you instead with a mental picture of me reading until two or three in the morning of Saturday, a few hours before I had to wake up again and get ready to go back to the office, because the energy drink I'd taken to get me through a late night of working from home hadn't worn off by the time I was actually done.

I don't plan on doing that again anytime soon.

All things considered, however, last week actually made me pretty happy. It was the most productive and fulfilled I'd been in a long time--possibly the most I'd ever been in my brief career so far.

It's a pity and an irony, then, that there are some changes coming at work that mean I probably won't have a week like that again. I won't complain, though; as enjoyable as it was, it was also mentally and physically draining. I get tired just remembering it. I guess I'll just be glad that I have a better idea now of what I can do and what the future might be like.

This brings me to the change in the plan I'd made earlier this year, when I'd just returned to Manila wracked with homesickness and city sickness (related but not identical). The plan had been to leave again before Christmas if nothing--whether some changes at work, a new job elsewhere, or just something big with significant repercussions on everything else--had happened before then. I wanted to spend time with my family and get away from the city before I had to confront again the idea of settling down here for good.

Inside, I had really believed that nothing would happen. I would really go home.

The promotion definitely counts as something, though. So, I'm staying here for at least two or three more years to see what happens next.

I'm not too sad about it, actually. Let me get back to you when I start feeling directionless and depressed again.

What happens next is, my brother might soon take his turn at getting a job and seeking his fortune in the big, bad world of Metro Manila. When that happens, I'll have someone to share a decent apartment with as well as a chance to catch up with the family I've been away from for so long.

With my brother around, I'll see what being a sister means now that we're both out of school and old enough to pay taxes. To some extent, I'll see what being a daughter means, too, as my parents will have more reason than ever to keep an eye on our lives in Manila.

I expect this will cramp my and Martin's style a bit. My parents have cut back on asking me if I've gotten home yet after (or during) a late night out since I moved, and I've been pretty free to go where I want without worrying about what they'll think, but I understand Martin's apprehensions that me living with Mikko will rejuvenate their wayward-offspring sense.

It's not like I go out clubbing or drinking; it's more likely that I'm with Martin at some out-of-budget restaurant, chatting while he plays his computer games, or falling asleep in front of his TV. But once one of my parents gets the sneaking suspicion that it's getting late and I haven't even thought of catching a ride back to my own rat's nest yet, they'll start with the "Where are you?" and "Are you home na?" messages. Now, even without the GPS tracking (which I'm not entirely sure they've stopped using), my parents will probably improve their fingerspitzengfuhl of these comings and goings through my brother.

This picture frustrates Martin quite a bit because we get little time together as it is. With him living in Paranaque and me in Cubao, it's practically a long-distance thing, and we see each other only on weekends. That situation won't soon change with his impending move to Katipunan; given my brother's likely line of work, I'll probably move soon to Ortigas or Makati. On top of that, Martin's started studying for his master's, so his Saturday classes will leave us just one day together a week.

At this point, our liberal acquaintances may ask why we don't just move in together; how old is Kat, again; what do you care what her parents think; and similar variants of those questions.

I've thought about it myself quite a bit, and coming home to Martin at the end of every day sounds better than coming home to a dimly-lit boarding house full of strangers or to my brother (sorry, Mikko). But while I've given up certain beliefs, I'm not yet ready to give up the idea that marriage should come before you start picking out furniture.

"It's a societal construct," you say,

or "You don't need some ceremony to legitimize your relationship,"

or "Lots of couples live together for years before sharing a long and happy marriage, or a long and happy life together without marriage,"

or "If it came down to it, which would sound worse, a breakup or a divorce?"

or even "Do you really doubt Martin's commitment that much?"

Pardon my eschewing these rational reasons while I'm still just plain afraid. This is precisely why the concept of cohabiting as some kind of test drive strikes me as ridiculous. I don't want to open myself to that kind of vulnerability. I don't want to give someone an all-access pass without some kind of assurance that they don't still have one foot out the door. Yes, even if I know that it's Martin, who wouldn't do anything like that to me.

Maybe one day, I'll see that marriage isn't any different, that solemnized or no, relationships don't always last, and breakups can be amicable or ugly regardless of whether rings were exchanged first. Even then, I think I'll take comfort in knowing that I gave it my all without fear.

As for caring about what my parents think, well. I am 23, more than old enough to make decisions for myself, including whether it's okay for me to stay out with Martin well past the curfew I outgrew when I moved into my first apartment. Yes, you people who think I should have a mind of my own, I know that. The thing is, that mind cares what its family thinks.

It's not to say that I'm completely under my parents' GPS-tracking thumbs. I've butted heads with my mother over the years, and there will always be something over which we'll disagree. I've accepted that, and to some extent, I think she has, too. We are Facebook friends, for goodness's sake, which is more than many children can say about their relationships with their parents. More importantly, I'm able to live without guilt with decisions I know my mother wouldn't quite approve (my dad has generally let me be and voices his support whenever I seek it).

My grandmother, however, is another story, precisely because we've disagreed only once. Nearly all my memories of Lola are happy: letters in her curly script, gifts of Reader's Digest books, my first journalism lessons, her general pride in all my achievements, small as they may seem now. The happiest I was about my promotion was when I got to tell her in person and see the look on her face. The last thing I want to do is anything that would get the reverse.

The one time we disagreed, the one time she lectured/berated/scolded me for anything, was when I was 16 and I closed my bedroom door so that my then-boyfriend and I could have a little privacy from my youngest brother, who was six and kept following us everywhere. I was mad because we weren't doing anything, we just wanted to talk, and she seemed to immediately assume the worst. I know her reaction then was and her reaction today would be out of a concern both loving and old-fashioned (just like my mom's). I kind of want to spare her from that kind of hurt.

And while I did say that living with my brother might tighten the influence my family has on my decisions, I kind of welcome the challenge, too. I've been living more or less outside of their presence for the past couple of years. All the consequences I've imagined my decisions to have on my relationship with my family have been just that--imagined. It's well past time for me to see what happens for real.

Of course, that depends how uptight my brother might be and whether he'll tattle--but see, I wouldn't know. Even though he's also been in Manila for the past couple years, I haven't had a lot of time with him since he lived on campus and was tied up with school. I've only just started to see how he's been now that college is done with him, and I already beat myself up about not being there for our younger brother Mon. I don't want to pass up on this chance to touch base with my family beyond calls, texts, and e-mails, especially since there's no telling when and how things might change again.

What else is new? I've developed an interest in architecture. That's not really new, but I haven't really talked about it much. I still haven't figured out where it comes from.

It might have started two years ago, when one of my first assignments at BW was on the ten tallest buildings in the country, and I read that G.T. International Tower had a "fin." It might have come from all those commutes to interviews around the city, all the time I spent staring at the buildings while waiting for it to be time to go inside one of them. It might have come from looking at all that PR material for new condos and projecting, asking myself if I wanted to live in a building that looked like that. It might have come from when we wrote about different Filipino architects (these articles never got published) and I got lost in the Palafox Associates portfolio.

Maybe it started before I came to BW, when I was still at CCF and Ortigas was my stomping ground. Or, maybe the seed was planted in high school, when I tried to make sense of "The Fountainhead," or even earlier, when I was ten and reading about Fallingwater in a Core Knowledge textbook.

However it started, all of a sudden, buildings were awesome, and my respect and admiration for the people who know how to design great ones is such that I'm afraid of looking stupid by continuing this paragraph.

Anyway, once the initial amazement died down, I stopped regretting that I hadn't been exposed to more of it as a child and developed an early ambition to supersede the two Franks (Become a writer? Pah!), Now I'm content to read articles, play with paper, and keep looking at buildings. Maybe this will turn into more than an interest at some point, but I'm not in any hurry to get there.

Beyond being possibly the most practical artistic pursuit ever, architecture has also given me one more reason to like life in the city. The rest are Martin, Washington SyCip Park, trains, bookstores, and--wouldn't you know it?--my job.

I guess that's it so far. I'll leave you here with a preview of something I've been working on.

Here's hoping for the best, as always.

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