Life goes on

It may seem like I’ve taken a hiatus from writing, but alas, ‘life’ as they say, has taken over. Or rather, the indecision or uncertainty with my own words in how to capture the pretty significant events in the past few weeks. Memories have been made, along with new chapters opened and doors closed (but windows kept open). All right, I’m sounding very, very vague. Let me clear up what has been:

1. As seen in the last writing exercise I posted, I went to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia with my high school friends. The trip was definitely an adventure, as we conquered wild rapids and survived an intentionally capsized raft. I also fell in love with the sea–not just the clear, pristine, aquamarine surface that reflects the sky, but also the depths that are home to schools of fish and technicolor corals. I finally understood why so many make the effort to submerge and explore what lies beneath.

2. A really, really good friend migrated a few weeks ago. I’ve had several friends leave the country since high school, and I’ve been to my share of despedidas. And I knew this friend had plans of leaving and going back to her roots–it was just a matter of when. It did happen, and it’s somehow sunk in, but not quiet. But the awesome thing about it? She’s in a city that I also fell in love with once upon post-graduation and I have an excuse to visit.

3. On the first week of March, I took an exam that would seal my fate in the next five or less years. With the questions having answers that would be assessed subjectively, I was second guessing the style I had attempted and the flow I managed in four hours. But I made it, thanks to my determination, recommendation letters from three awesome professors, a portfolio achieved in the last six years, and an application essay guided by that person who unknowingly pushed me into crossing this line. I am officially a graduate student of the College of Art and Letters in UP Diliman. Honing my writing has just begun.

4. It’s only been four months since 2011, but my lifestyle last year seems so far from what I am currently living. Knowing that I had to start grad school this year, I had to give up late night to early morning parties. The last actual drunken night I had was during my birthday celebration; otherwise, if I have too much alcohol, my body doesn’t seem to agree. That, along with eating too much. My appetite is now more vocal about its limits. I could be getting old, or it’s just the universe’s most direct way of telling me to get my eating and drinking habits together.

And just to drive that point further (no pun intended), the taxi I rode last Friday (early) morning nearly ran into a car that was driven by a drunk person. The taxi driver went on cue at the green light, but the car coming from the other side at the intersection decided to be an asshole; thankfully Manong stopped in time, only to be faced with a shotgun passenger holding a bottle in his right hand and giving him the middle finger. Ah, assholes. Then there are the assholes who drink and drive. The day before, I came from a wake. Oh death, how you love making yourself known to me.

Life is short, but we don’t really fathom this meaning as the days go on. Maybe when we’re at the end of our days or have finally accepted our mortality can we really understanding the temporary state of our existence. But one thing I can fathom is how we need to keep moving forward. This year has been taking new steps and starting chapters, to take new chances and let go of any hangups that are holding us back. Time moves forward, and if we get left behind, then time is wasted. So is our short moment on earth. And just like that, it could all be gone.

Yesterday and today

In the last one and a half years, I’ve put up with negative comments ,uncalled for accusations, unnecessary demands, impractical responsibilities, and well, the list goes on. The point of that list of rants? I’ve managed to do all of them–not alone of course, but with an ah-mah-zing (amazing) set of people sharing the burden […]

Anecdotes from my adventures

I’m currently spending part of my Holy Week taking notes and studying Lonely Planet’s guide on Travel Writing. I’m posting the third exercise from the book on my blog, which requires me to write a ‘personal and compelling anecdotal bridge’ to the last place I visited. Here’s my attempt at describing my wild adventure at Sabah, Malaysia’s wildest rapids at the Padas River.

The waves rushed among each other in speeds that were made audible by the magnitude of the water’s collision and their furious direction. As the train snaked towards the opposite direction of the river we were about to paddle through, the possible injuries and struggles this adventure trip required only dawned on me as we were two stops away from the day’s paddling starting point. It didn’t help that the guides had shirts that said “Paddle or die!” Either it was their way of telling us to sit out from fear, or to force us into paddling away from that fine line between life and death.

Nature has a way of reminding us how insignificant and powerless we are when its dominating forces overcome us. As the guides told us how to position ourselves should we fall off the boat, panic seized my reason. How could a girl that barely makes it to the gym stay balanced and a float on a raging river?

But travel is about new experiences, letting go of your comfort zone, and overcoming surprise challenges. I once had to walk in front of a furious, God-knows-how-many feet waterfall in Bukidnon for an assignment, so I simply had to deceive myself into thinking the Padas River was nothing compared to that experience.

This pep talk however, did not last as the boat rose abruptly and then dived down–all while an (approximately) four-feet tall wave rose up in front of us. In paranoia for my life, I balanced my feet firmly on the raft. Thankfully the raft was sturdy, as was my balance, and we all floated according to the coming waves’ direction. The four-feet tall wave, thankfully did not swallow us whole, but instead refreshed us from the noon time heat. As the water felt calmer below us, my girl friends, the guides, and our two tour companions cheered together to celebrate that we officially survived the first rapid for that day: the Head Hunter.

There were six more rapids ahead of us: the Cobra, Lambada, Whirlpool, Break Point Rapid, Scooby Doo Rapid, and, Lambada Rapid. The waves were true to the direction the names followed after, with the Whirlpool being the most dangerous of them all. Should one of us fall off the raft with the Whirlpool beneath, we would have to shape ourselves into a ball so that the water’s force would shoot us back up to the surface. I had no faith in my stronger powers of panic over adrenaline, so my feet once again held on to its dear life as the boat followed the waves’ circular motion. After whirling about without any casualties, we once again lifted our paddles for a “high five” to celebrate our survival.

To finish off our adventure, the guides introduced to the last rapid, the “Flying Fish.” We were instructed to stay at the end of the raft, and simply hold on to our paddles. In effect, the front and middle areas of the raft were empty and lifted off the water. We thought this was a technique to ride out the rapids–but then we found ourselves submerged underwater, gasping for air. My first thought wasn’t to follow the guides’ survival instructions–which was to float according to the river’s current. I was too busy seeking air, and after having my mouth and nose flooded, found myself under the yellow raft. In a few seconds, it was off me and I saw my two closest friends registering what had just happened: we capsized, intentionally. And it was the most surprising yet exciting moment of my travel life. I wouldn’t mind capsizing off a boat all over again.

Such is the fruit of adventure: doing something you would have never imagined and coming out of it alive. Flying as a fish taught me that most of our qualms about daring activities are merely well, qualms. The only way to confirm they are otherwise is to go ahead and do what the task requires. Unlike the comforts of civilization and architecture, nature begs us to understand its course, while making us more alert in how we can survive. But it can also surprise you with its openness to being a venue of new experiences.

Caught in the middle

The scariest thing about growing up is asking yourself what’s next, and discovering that even after reaching your number one goal after graduation, it isn’t enough. There will always be that inner struggle—that discontent void or uncertainty about your current situation and the never ending question if there is more to what you already have.

But why should I complain? Growing up is also about adapting to the circumstances you are in. Sixty percent of the time, I am doing what I love and at the end of the day, it’s what I aspired for myself three years ago. The remaining 40 percent includes the downsides and inevitabilities of my situation—you can’t have everything, so I have to deal with what is happening with (subtle) power and grace. What can’t kill me can only make me stronger—dealing with things will also make me a better person, and hopefully, better prepared for the big things I hope to achieve in the future. Life isn’t over yet, and discontent—wait, let me rephrase, aspiration—keeps me running (although I’d rather speed walk, haha) to the finish line.

The one thing I love most about what I’m doing? The everyday chance to learn. I learn from my colleague’s advice, from so-called ’emergency’ (read: last minute) situations, and the professionals I interview. Just a few days ago, I got to sit down with one of the country’s top cinematographers. I got a one on one session on how to plan a short film, a movie, and commercial, and even got right down to the equipment needed.

I also learn a lot about people. I’ve been told to have ‘kutob,’ which according to my weak translation skill, is a sort of gut feeling about someone’s overall personality (read: trustworthy or not? friend or foe?). But even gut can fail, and only experience can improve better judgement. I have loads to learn about timing (and controlling) my reactions and responses to the people I work with and deal with outside of work, but I’ve gone a long way from the girl who easily trusted just about anyone.

Then there’s what I learn about myself. Thankfully, I don’t like to bullshit myself. If I’m pep talking myself, it’s about the reality of a situation and how I can turn it around. And in all honesty, I haven’t been the best person in the last few months. I let my anger consume me, I sometimes don’t give a second thought about what I say to superiors, and I still let other negative, defeatist emotions get the better of me. I still struggle with these weaknesses, and I’m grateful my colleagues at work are Gela whisperers (aka people who call me out on my defects with love 😉 . There’s still a lot of work for me to do, a lot more growing up that I need to demand from myself before I can say I’m truly ready for the next step forward.

I’m still not quite sure what’s next for me, but I’m certainly more conscious of what is required to get there. Hopefully these constant reminders of being grateful and driven will clarify things in the future. Life is scary, but it can only be lived if I don’t hold back.