21 May 2012

Enjoying the View

The view from my new apartment, which I moved into on Saturday, overlooks a nearby subdivision where I can see kids playing basketball, people walking their dogs, and trees, trees, trees, trees, trees. And in the distance, behind a layer of smog, is the Ortigas skyline and a bit of Greenhills.

In the past two days, I have drunk in the view and felt myself in other places, particularly gorgeous green Singapore or just somewhere like home. I think it's because it's a little hard to believe that I am right here in Quezon City, that this view is mine, and that this life is my life.

The dark cloud over everything in the past month or so has been my own fear that all this amazing stuff — my wonderful dream of a boyfriend Cris; my move-enabling, actually enjoyable job; and now this fantastic apartment — will be taken away, just as so many other things were taken away or I was pushed from them. So, I half don't want to believe in them to make the impending pain of losing them easier to bear.

My friends (rightly) say I'm being ridiculous, being afraid of things that haven't happened and may never happen. Cris would say that people don't know they can choose to be happy; "We're going to be happy, Kat," he likes to remind me.

I know, really, because in the past few years, I told myself to choose happiness and work on whatever would get it for me. I wanted career fulfillment, some nice (if only rented) real estate, more family time, and more love. But really, I wanted to be at home in myself, to learn to be my own anchorage, and to architect my heart into the haven I longed for amid all the changes, disappointments, and adjustments.

The thing is, I did that because of the disappointments; I did that while telling myself, "Life is not entirely the wonderful thing you've dreamed about; just roll with the punches and find something to smile about regardless." I guess it was really just another way of saying, "Life will get better, but not by much, so don't ask for much; be content with what you get."

And then, life got better by a ton.

And quickly, I realized that while I was good at living like happiness was a light at the end of a long, long, long tunnel, I wasn't prepared for when I found myself standing outside with the sun in my face and the sea at my feet.

Or inside a new apartment with the lease in my name.

It was just so much easier to be self-confident when I had nothing to lose and nothing to miss. That's it, I think. In a weird way, the lack of fulfillment was armor. I'm so much more vulnerable now that I'm where I always wanted to be, with the kind of people I always wanted to be with, and doing the kinds of things I always wanted to do.

For the past couple of years, I lived believing happiness depended on strength in the face of difficulty; now I find it depends on openness and vulnerability in the face of fulfillment, especially fulfillment you never thought was possible.

This post features photos by Cris.

Prayers these days are alternately, "Thank you, God," and "Oh, God, what happens next?"

More of this, I hope with all my heart. Please let there be more of this, and help me to enjoy it.

14 May 2012

Packing Up

I'm moving out of Cubao this weekend.

I'm happy about the change; I wanted it for the longest time but was never really able to pack up and go until now. And while I no longer detest my current neighborhood as much as I did when I first moved in, I know it's the right time to move out.

Cubao, or at least, the part of Cubao where I live (and will have lived), is an in-between place. Physically, it's between Araneta Center and Anonas and thus between any decent place to eat or get transportation; it takes a little extra effort to get to or from anywhere.

But when I think of the dingy bars, abandoned buildings, motels, and dusty hardware stores I saw every day, as well as my own street's sari-sari stores, low-rise offices, suburban houses, roosters, and sidewalks decorated with animal poop, I think of myself when I first moved in, still between being a clueless kid and getting my shit together.

I was between working for my parents' friends at a job I'd accepted mostly out of quarter-lifer desperation — no one else seemed to want to hire me — and believing I could find and be offered a new job by myself. Once at that new job, I was between existential, "do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?" crises and learning to just do the work, enjoy what there was (is) to enjoy, and make life outside the office rewarding enough to compensate for having to write (and now assign) yet another article about _____.

I was between being angry and disappointed with myself, for not having attained/achieved everything I'd expected to have achieved by the grand old age of 22, and being proud of what I'd accomplished instead, kahit papaano.

Faith-wise, I was between the loss of a sense of belonging and frustration with the community I just no longer belong to; and a quiet contentment with the few prayers I still say, as well as acceptance of the good that conservative religion can still do for other people.

I was also between using fight-or-flight in an increasingly serious yet still kinda new relationship, and learning to just do things because I loved someone who deserved an awesome girlfriend. And when we broke up, I was between bitterness, disappointment, and rage; and celebrating how I had, in the process, still become the kind of person I'd wanted to be at the start.

More recently, I was also between a crippling fear that I couldn't open myself up to another person again, and allowing myself to just step out and be happy with someone amazing.

So, this upcoming move to a nicer apartment (and tighter budget, haha) feels like a natural next step. And when I say I won't miss Cubao, I say it not out of dislike for the neighborhood (it's actually improved in the past couple of years) but out of recognition that you can't and shouldn't miss something you've outgrown.

Sure, I know that the years to come will involve a lot more moving on and, I hope, moving up. I hope I'm as ready as I feel. But for now, I just want to dwell.

Actually, I know I have to relearn dwelling; for so long, the mantra was, "Just hang in there till things get better." I'm slowly rewiring myself to accept a new one — "Things are now awesome! You can now slow down, stop worrying, and enjoy them."


It's easier for me to throw or give things away now. I no longer feel the need to save every last bus ticket and piece of ribbon. I'm looking forward to getting home tonight, sorting my belongings, and putting some of them in bags that will end up on the curb or at a church.

I am actually thinking of throwing out or shredding* my old diaries, every last one, even the first one I wrote when I was just ten. Little things — the lack of clutter in my family's new house, the clandestine visit to the now-empty old house, an article I read about the imperfection of human memory, the way the silver paint has flaked off the shoes I wore to my senior prom, my own general lack of concern over my inability to find certain photos in my hard drive — are telling me, the present is just as important as, if not more important than the past.

I'll still try not to forget things, and I know I can't ignore how much the past has shaped me. But, the more old things I hang on to, literally and figuratively, the less room I have for other good things that may come.

* Burning would be more dramatic, but that would be bad for the environment.


First, I have to find the truck guy's number.

03 May 2012

The Penthouse on Mars

I guess it's time to make a less cryptic, more press-release-y post, especially now that people around me are catching on, anyway. I suddenly have a boyfriend.

And by "suddenly," I mean, "think you're boarding an elevator, find you're on a rocket ship."

I don't tell many people the details (and I won't tell them here) because people say it happened really, really, really fast. I know, guys, I know. The thing is, every time I expected a red flag — some mental warning to be careful, some personality quirk to be careful about, some potentially insurmountable incompatibility — it just never came.

That's never, ever happened to me with a guy before. Never. I still have trouble believing it sometimes, because it's weird to hear your own instincts, which for so long told you, "wait wait wait wait," suddenly screaming, "get off your ass, girl, and GO!" Yet there's less and less of that trouble every day.

So what can I say now, except YES?