The days lingered in the heat of the summer, keeping our uniforms sticky and suffering under tropical humidity. We were no longer imprisoned into the eight-hour class schedules of the last four years; instead we had to endure the prolonged repetitions of graduation school practice within half days stretched to three weeks. Three weeks worth of practice for a one-hour long march that would officially signal our entry into the real world. Our “freedom” was to happen later rather than sooner. Electricity was carelessly wasted on 90+ giggly school girls waiting to be released while thousands of others, who were sure to return for the next years, were free to roam around the country or in the comfortable confines of their subdivision homes.
It has been eight years since those long weeks and eight years since I’ve stepped foot on my Opus Dei-run alma mater. The four years after high school were spent under the less strict and formal rule of the Lasallian brothers; the last four years have been spent going to mass on occasion but questioning the authority, respectability, and accountability of the Church. My next four years or so are and will be spent in UP Diliman, the last place my alma mater would run to in terms of agreeing about religion, philosophy, and ideology. But I’ve found a second home in the sprawling campus that’s hours away from my actual house. And two years into my chosen graduate program, I’m already dreading the days I’ll have no excuse to visit individuals or walk freely into the campus with some sort of “purpose.”
Next Saturday, two of my best and oldest friends have decided to attend our high school alma mater’s grand reunion. The event venue’s proximity makes it a convenient gimik/time passer to go on a Saturday, but otherwise I have very little motivation to drop by. Free cocktails and the venue’s reputation for good food aside, I am dreading the performance, the spectacle, the slight pretend confidence I’ll have to put up in front of strangers. The reunion isn’t limited to the other girls I marched with long ago; it’s across batches, across generations, across mindsets.
Eight years since high school graduation is equals to four years in college and four years in the working world. I’m back to school, but in a field dubious and mysterious to most. My tendency to present myself in the best “form” possible has me thinking this is not the best venue for a pretend performance. I’m at the beginning once again: at the beginning of school, at the beginning of learning my craft (and unlearning what I do know for the sake of), and at yet another beginning of my working life. I can’t even call my current state my “mid-career” because the last eight months have been about picking up the pieces and finding a balance between my life’s current and conflicting demands. So how does one explain such complications, such intricacies to total strangers who are begging to know who/what is your best image, eight years after you still carry the stigma, the hangups, the stereotype from being a kolehiyala? And how much of that has even factored into the mess I am today?
Perhaps I am too hung up on that image–blame the last four years spent in media, obsessing over airbrushed sexist photographs of women and turning articles of celebrities into readable, decent texts. That image demanded from a world equally obssesed with putting its best foot forward in spite of glaring ironies. Then there’s my issue with dishonesty: I don’t lie. I can’t lie. But when I can’t quite admit a truth, I give myself away in silence or simply turn away from what/who I want the most or at the moment. So there’s still that ever present demand to be someone else, someone that’s honest to my forever self-critiquing interior yet desperate desire to be much better.
Of course, my less neurotic friends would simply say, “Who the fuck cares?” I do. And that’s the problem. I care so damn much that I’m not sure how or when to let go.
*nodus tullens (from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)
n. the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore—that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong in the same genre—which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure.