“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something.”
(Before Sunrise, 1995)
(Before Sunrise, 1995)
I have no public entries for August because there were no travels, no big weekends, no photogenic events. But there were a lot of early mornings, spent attacking blank unlined pages with a 0.3 black pen, writing over and over and over and over: “Stop being negative. Don’t be sad. Look on the bright side. Just grit your teeth and do it.” So I went ahead and did all that.
You cannot ask me about love in the context of presence. Love, after the amount of time that we’ve had, is not anymore about being there or not being there. We have experienced knowing, realizing, knowing some more, breaking apart, putting back together, newness, familiarity, hurt, pain, thrill, silence, calmness, joy, anger, fear, frustration, trust, distrust, humility, pride, glory, and a million other things in the quest to answer: is this love, here? In the end, the answer was that love as itself was not an independent thread that connected your body to mine. Love stretched itself out between all those months and days and miles and went inside us, with every inhale, dissolving into our bodies, running through our veins. Even if you had asked three years ago, when things were much better, if you had asked, and if we had cared to look, you wouldn’t see love with your naked eyes. We were just sure that it happened, and it once existed solidly, and that it changed us both drastically. I guess, in a way, it will always be there, like a childhood scar, like the shape of your nose, like the way my fingernails will grow. But you cannot ask me simply now if it’s still there, like something I can take out my pocket to prove that, here, you see, shiny and smooth. Nothing is wrong. I will fumble and peek and probe and wipe and I won’t be able to produce a thing. But look at me, hold me, and it’s there. It’s who I am now, loving you and being loved. And I presume it must be the same with you. So I question the presumption that this love is an anchor that moors us to each other. I can walk away now, and it will still be there. But its thereness won’t be enough warrant for staying. It will be easy to ignore, like a scar or a nose shape, and even easier to file and shape regularly into a new appearance. #
All the love in the world, if merely coming from one, loyal, sweet well, will not be enough for you. You need infinite oceans. You need flowing rivers. You need rushing, deafening falls. You need torrents of rain. You need the universe, or what you worship as your universe (this superficial world of celebrity!) to tell you, in the most enormous, grandest gesture, what you could be and what you could be presented as to others. But in the overwhelming deluge, as you bob among the waves, you realize that there is no love, right? There is only the consuming awareness. But you prefer it. You crave it. Selfish but you can’t help it.
I called him on the cab ride. Desparate to have someone to spill these thoughts to. Ring, ring. He picks up. His voice is thick with sleep. As usual, I ask him, “tulog ka ba?” – even though it’s plain as day that I’ve woken him up. He had just fallen asleep, he manages to say. Or mutter. Or should it be utter? I try to engage. I begin with – “I saw the movie tonight. It was bad.” But instead of the “why,” which should liberate me with the righteous film student diatribe, there is instead silence, then a soft moan. Because he is falling back to sleep. Because he is not in the mood for righteous film student diatribes. I try a second time, until I realize that there I was – cab ride, blue practicals giving my skin an eerie glow, Friday’s night lights zooming past me – and I was a movie trope, one of the sad ones, that of a girl going home, alone, in a cab, failing to illicit the right reaction from the stranger on the other end of the line, it’s a missed connection, it’s a moment where the audience realizes that the girl is in a pitiful situation, and that she must get out of it soon, but she doesn’t know it yet. Or maybe she does – unfortunately the actor gives it away, on account of her having read the script too many times already – but anyway, we can write that off as being in denial. And then she realizes that how silly it is, imagining this moment as something worthy to appear in the movie. And then she realizes the movie she watched wasn’t so bad after all, for making her think these things in that actual order. And then she proceeds to do a mental once-over of her perennial to-do list again, and she proceeds to remember everything she wants to do that she hasn’t done yet, and everything just keeps starts feeling much sadder, and also very very normal, and also super tedious, and things just seriously finally fade to black.
I embarked on this new task eager to affirm how far I’ve come. I ended up realizing that I still have so much to learn myself.
The desire to stand in front of a classroom while dispelling axioms on writing and its real-life practicalities was born when I was in college. At first, it was not because I thought I enjoyed the act, or had an epiphanic moment that it was what I wanted to do: it was because I considered my teachers as my role models: cool, smart people who seemed to have the luxury of time and who seemed to enjoy what they do – as role models. When you’re taking a Communications degree in college, you learn as early as freshman year that that getting a job will be either super easy or super hard. The reality is choosing to write isn’t the most financially rewarding of professions. I chose it anyway, because I didn’t know how to be anything else.
For me, teaching was the default that I can do in the background, while I pursued multitude of other things – writing a novel, saving the world, creating the best ad, pursuing my masters. Out of all the options of a writing grad, it seemed like the most stable, most comfortable, and most respectable alternative. It was something I could “fall into” whatever happens.
For the past 4 years, I never really needed that “fall into” option. I didn’t really shuttle between jobs – being in media, though exhausting and crazy, proved to be exciting and actually more stable than I thought. I did stay in one company for a while, and finally transitioned to another one, but when there were times when I was going home late again, or when my script came back with various edit comments, or when a segment simply refused to render on time, and I was questioning if all this was worth it, there was always a voice at the back of my head, saying “go back to school.” Reverting to the academe seemed like the only convincing excuse to opt out. It was less frenetic, it would justify wanting to get a graduate degree, It would mean more regular hours (or so I thought).
But who am I kidding – I simply wanted to find an acceptable appropriation of reliving my college life – being inside a comfortable enclave, immersed in speculation and writing and moody thoughts, wearing comfortable clothes, being insulated from worrying about real things. Or so I thought.
It did take me a while to do it – I was so sure I was ready to teach as soon as I finally started doing my master’s but circumstances proved otherwise. A) I was scared as hell to apply B) I became actually quite busy juggling production and freelance work, C) I eventually transitioned to a new working environment.
This year I was finally able to do it after a series of events opened up the opportunity. I had a more or less regular schedule again, my grad classes were lighter, and I had a classmate who was recruiting his grad school classmates in a storm. Things happened really, really fast. I sent in my resume, did a demo, proposed an arrangement w/ my Rappler Mama, and things were settled. I was assigned to a single section. Provided the syllabus for Interactive Content Development. Given stuff to read, told to add on more of my own. And suddenly it was first day of classes! It was all laid out to be fun and effortless.
I wish I could end here with “And we all lived happily ever after.” That I was the bomb, that I fell in love with my students, and I became the coolest teacher they’ve every encountered. That I’m now looking forward to the incoming term. But I’m actually a nervous wreck! I still don’t have a complete assessment of whether the past term was a success or not (eval results aren’t available yet, and I think I’m writing this to create my own assessment). Generally, I think I could’ve been more prepared. But I guess there are some things that you’ll never be totally prepared for. I know it’s impossible to be 100% prepared for anything in a classroom environment. That still doesn’t make me feel completely great about everything.
I super appreciate how my family and friends have been supportive of the gig. I guess I’ve been prattling about it for so long, and I guess I pretty much convinced everyone that this was something I seriously wanted to do w/ my life and everyone had so much faith in me. When I wondered, out loud, if I could do it, their sales pitch would be, “It’s just talking about what you know and what you do,” they’d say. I was almost convinced that it was the case.
On my first day, I was super stoked to finally be the awesome lecturer I’ve always imagined I’d be. I was always early, I planned what to wear each week, and I labored over making my keynotes as entertaining and brimming as possible.
Here’s what happened in the 12 weeks or so of this term: Kids will not always show up for class and will not always recite or submit their work on time. (Well I was like that in college, so I should learn not to take it personally or against them – kids go through so much sh*t these days right but stillll). I will not always make it through the entire three hours and so I have to make up stuff for them do to maximize the class hours. There will be times when I have to finish an article over finishing my lesson plan. And so on.
Looking back, maybe my classes weren’t that bad – I was able to talk about relevant things for at least an hour and a half each week (plus an hour of letting them do stuff i.e. seatworks). But every night I was so aware of being relieved when the clock reached an acceptable hour to dismiss the class. Then on the way home I’d be plagued with worry, replaying what I did and said and mulling over how the class transpired. Did I teach them enough? Did they understand what I was rambling about regarding using fonts or design personas? Did they appreciate the cool examples I hunted for them the night before? Are they gonna hate me for taking off points? And so on and so forth.
Towards the end of the sem, in church, I heard this nice advice re: leadership: “Always just be one chapter ahead. That’s all you need to be.” It was a comfort. It made me more or less calmer for the last two sessions. I guess I was always so worried that they’d always know better, I forgot that I wouldn’t be given this opportunity if that were the case. I keep assessing them as peers, not as students that I actually need to pass on knowledge to.
This sem was too short – and there was so much trial and error – for me to have any warm fuzzy feelings for my first-ever class. But now I’m just mentally chilling out and focusing on being thankful for what has happened. It is what it is. if it wasn’t a thrill, but I guess that’s partly my fault. First times aren’t always perfect, but the beauty of the process is that they’re not always the last.
I need to convince myself, next term, that it isn’t so bad, that all I need to be is sincere in giving them advice and checking their comments, and that as a teacher, making the lesson is only a quarter of the battle – more than anything, I need to be confident. And that the passion to pass on can’t be faked. It has to be found, understood. You need to have faith, not just in yourself, but in your students. And at the end of the day, there’s always the next session to make up for what you may have missed.
I pretty much set-up the last four years telling everyone I’ll eventually be teaching. And now that I’ve done it, I can’t identify if this feeling is dread or relief. It seems a mix of both. Maybe this is the feeling of being challenged and spurned on forward and I need to accept, realize, adopt, and love it.
Last night, going home from a friend’s Dad’s wake, we were 9 people inside a sedan.
Because nobody wanted to walk across an empty cemetery at the turn of midnight.
Some rainy nights I feel like all I need in the world is inside a 2×2 meter square room. It is perfect in its smallness, for it is easy to understand. In there I can sense everything and ourselves in one sweep, all at once, without moving a single limb. In that room, we are creators, we are gods.