What It’s Like To Be Inside Looking Out

My Symphony: “Always” / Panama 

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If this was high school, I’d be the perkiest, coolest, most popular kid to ever grace the corridors and hallways of my Alma Mater.

But nope.

This ain’t high school. This is the real world. I am 22 years old, and the only thing I am gracing isn’t the hallways of a school but the streets of this small town, as I try to look for a job that will support me and my lifestyle choices.

At this point, it is safe to say that I am not living the dream. In fact, I feel like I am living the nightmare. My very own version of nightmare. You might say that I am being a little too dramatic about this, but I am not. This is actually the bold, bulging truth. I am happy, yes. But I am not living. 

You see, my whole life, I’ve never been the type who conforms to what anyone else tells me to do. I’ve never been fond of career goals, business plans, 401K’s or the idea of spending close-to-a-decade amount of time in Med school. To state the obvious, I’ve never really been a follower of the whole “Right Path To Success” platform. That’s not to say I am a dreamless bastard, though. In fact, I have this huge dream, this glittery, flowy, almost ethereal dream that has perpetuated within me for many years. And this is the purpose of my writing here today. I need to get this one out, because when the American poet Maya Angelou said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”, she probably wasn’t fucking around.

So here I go…

People usually wonder what it’s like to be “in”. It’s just how it typically goes. Ever since we were  little kids, we were being unconsciously bombarded with elements and factors that contribute to the whole obsession with fitting in, with getting there, with making it. We were encouraged to excel at school, to make as many friends as we could, or to be a part of as many activities and clubs as possible. Not everyone will admit this, but once upon a time in Kindergarten World, we had wished we had the same lunchbox as our seatmate Elizabeth, or that we owned a pair of shoes that looked exactly like what our super gross rich classmate Harry Campbell wore. Sometimes, being seven and clueless, we would take an accidental glance at the neighbor’s kid named Sarah McDowell and wonder (very deliberately) why she always carried with her a cute little shiny handbag while all we had was the same old backpack that aunt Debrah bought us for our third birthday.

It was stressful.

And then we grow up thinking that it will get better, but it doesn’t. Sometimes it does, for sure. But most of the time, it actually gets worse.

We are faced with expectations (lots of them, especially when you are in your 20’s). There are college applications and then, right after you’re done with college, you are faced with career expectations. Inject throughout both those scenarios the cruelty of relationship expectations and you have yourself the perfect recipe for a 20-something’s psychological and spiritual downfall.

Unfortunately for us, we do live in a material world. Most of us don’t mind it, because most of us don’t even notice it, but it’s true: all that surrounds us (and I’m talking about people who live in the city in particular) is an insistent visual reminder of what we should be doing. Every way we turn and every sight we see, we are being reminded that if we do not accomplish this or that by the time we turn x years old, we will be deemed failures. Society and that Pumpkin Spice Latte drinking office girl sitting in the corner of Starbucks will frown at us and maybe even choke upon the sight of us.

So, yes. It is stressful, I figure. But you know what else is stressful? Wanting the exact opposite. 

My whole life, I didn’t feel like someone on the outside looking in. I’ve been the exact opposite. I’ve been  inside looking out

I have always had inside of me this incompressible yearning to be elsewhere. Just… elsewhere. Anywhere but here. Something like that.

I’ve always had in me this powerful longing to escape, to break through walls, smash through roofs and fly over mountains. It’s this sort of constant itching to go on the wildest adventure of my life, of dropping everything and just going somewhere nice. Somewhere warmer, open-er, livelier. Maybe even somewhere nobody else has been. And I don’t know what exactly this inside-looking-out personality of mine has coagulated from, but I know that this has been me for the longest time that I can remember. It’s usually more difficult for most people, but determining whether or not a life of conformity was for me has been very easy. I just had to ask myself these ten super simple questions:

  1. Do I really have to have a six-digit income, compromising my time for money?
  2. Do I really need to have a triumphant coming out as the Entrepreneur magazine’s youngest tycoon in year 2018?
  3. Do I really want whatever materialistic things everyone else has?
  4. Am I gonna die if I do not marry and have kids at 25?
  5. Will it hurt my soul so bad if I decided to buy a one-way ticket to Indonesia or Thailand instead of buying the newest iPhone and the newest Jeep?
  6. Say I decided to work as a cashier at Walmart; will that really mean I have failed as a human being because I do not sit for 8-9 hours a day behind a mahogany desk on the 36th floor of Manhattan’s busiest commercial building?
  7. Would I really be happier if I owned more? If I had more? If had earned more?
  8. Does being alive mean making ends meet and making sure I pay all my bills?
  9. Do I really have the capacity to envision myself working for a corporation for the rest of my life?
  10. And, most importantly, will I ever be ready to trade all of my time and my energy for a dream that, somewhere down the road, may turn out to be not mine but someone else’s?

And the answer to all of these questions is a big, fat, poutine-devouring, cholesterol-obsessing, obese-looking NO.

At the end of the day, I refuse to obsess over society-dictated goals because I have my own mind, my own will and my own person. I do not have to trace out the edges of my life against some carefully carved out model designed by someone else. If you come to think of it, almost everyone is on to some grand master plan for the future – go to school, get a job, pay the bills, find the man, have kids (make them go through the same cycle), be happy. It is this vicious cycle where your freedom and right to a life of your own are being taken away from you without you even knowing it.

There has got to be something bigger than just schooling, or working, or buying a house and making money. There has got to be something more to life than just surviving, or financially thriving. Sometimes, I even ask myself the question, “Would I rather be rich and die not knowing who I really am, or would I rather be so-so (meaning roof on top of my head, food in my mouth three times a day, clean water in my stomach and a few good real friends and family), and die not only knowing who I am, but also die knowing that I have gotten to know the world that I once lived in, that I once breathed in?” 

This has been said before (a billion times) but I will say it again: life is fucking short. We are all here right now, but a time will come when we won’t be. We won’t be here anymore. Hell, even our planet Earth will one day collapse! The sun will explode and everything that we know right now will be non-existent. Where will your riches take you? How will your 13-million dollar condo unit in LA save you from feeling already dead even minutes before you actually die? Will you be laying in your death bed remembering all the hours you worked in the office? Or will you be laying there remembering the few moments in which you truly felt alive?

I personally would rather invest in actual life experiences rather than tangible materialistic possessions because at the end of the day, I have been through enough in life to realize that things are just things. Money is just money. When it comes down to it, life is meant to be lived and experienced (not owned and achieved). It is already there! Our lives, in front of us. This is it. The clock is ticking and we only get this one run to experience love, laughter, friendship and even crazy-ass adventures that will always keep us human.

There is a reason we do not have wires attached to us. We are not electric appliances or robots that were made to conform and follow a specific program. We are allowed to make our own goals, our own plans. There is so much out there to see, so many people to meet, so many highs and lows to go through, and so many oceans to swim in!

So, I guess, it really is time for me to act on this. It’s been 22 years. If I do not start working on my dreams now, when will I?

I am determined to live. 

5 Reasons Why I Do Not Believe In #RelationshipGoals

My Symphony: Despicable Dogs (Washed Out Remix) / Small Black 

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It’s 2016. Now more than ever, our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are filled with lots and lots of memes ranging from a trivial Leonardo DiCaprio non-Oscar win to the weekly “It’s Monday” comics featuring faces of grumpy cats and less-than-excited beavers who allegedly dread coming back to school/work after a weekend of drunk dancing at the club.

Another thing that has made its way to the social media stardom recently is the hashtag “relationshipgoals” or, as people are typically visually familiar with, #relationshipgoals . And while having goals in life is undeniably essential and even attractive to a degree, relationship goals are a completely different story. In fact, these relationship goals of yours may be the very reason you are still internally unhappy (regardless of your relationship status). I personally think that relationship goals are exponentially nonsensical and downright useless. Here’s why:

Reason #1: A relationship is an experience to partake, not a job to get hired for. 

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way: at the end of the day, a relationship isn’t exactly something that makes for a palpable goal. It’s not like a job interview that you can train for, prepare for and eventually ace. Relationships are foremost experiences, and they are on-going. You don’t just dream of a holiday in Maldives with your Special Someone and call that your goal. Because that would just be totally short-lived and sad.

What about after your Maldives vacation? What happens next? Does your goal end there? Will you then be super contented with your white sand beach getaway and go, “Wow, my hashtag goals just happened. I knew Dylan’s the right one for me, I just knew it!”?

Being with someone is more than just the vacations you take. There is a fine line between having an actual relationship and having a mere summer fling. So if you feel that crippling sensation of discontentment in your body each time you scroll down Instagram and see the strangers you follow post their 29th photo in Bora Bora, then you should probably reassess the label you and your partner wear around your necks.

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Reason #2: Your #RelationshipGoals are giving you anxiety, and you don’t even know it. 

Maybe you are already committed to someone at the moment, or maybe you have been single af your whole life. Either way, each time you share that photo of “The Cutest Couple To Ever Walk On Earth”, you are unconsciously allowing yourself to succumb into a severe case of insecurity-induced anxiety.

I’m not here to throw shade at you for admiring other couples out there, but I am here to remind you of your worth. So listen, here’s the thing: so what if you and your lover are not master chefs who go to the gym eight days a week and eat salad instead of popcorn when binge watching Netflix? So what if the man you love doesn’t have six-pack abs or if the lady you are with doesn’t skip bonding with her friends to play DOTA 2 with you? You need to remember that everyone’s different, and there should not be one exclusive model of what a relationship should look like.

It shouldn’t look like anything! Hell, it can even be faceless. Learn to focus more on what it feels like for you, rather than what it should look like for you…

Reason #3: Such goals take you away from the present moment and put you in a pretend place. 

You are with who you are with right now for a reason. You fell in love with that person because that one fateful night (or day), you looked into his eyes and felt like you could get lost in them. You were there, in the present moment, as he held your hand in the cab on your way to grab dessert at your favorite local bakery. You felt every centimeter of his lips as you kissed him goodnight. And then you both broke away from the kiss, stared into each other’s souls, and smiled. And it was magical. You wanna know why it was magical?

Because it was real. And you were both there, right as everything was unfolding. You were the players in your own love story, not mere spectators or some highly-sarcastic romance novel critics.

I don’t know if you’ve already noticed, but relationships are only made possible when two people are present. The minute either one of you goes off into some daydream that highlights a perfect world for yet another perfect love, that’s when your relationship gets taken for granted. You are not obliged to be like other couples. You are not supposed to be where they’ve been, to see what they’ve seen or to hear what they’ve heard. None of us is sitting in our sturdy futons rooting for you and your hubby to look just like Brangelina.

You are who you are. Your relationship is what it is. And you should be very proud of that, because you are writing your own story.

Come back into your own reality ASAP. You belong nowhere else but there. For you and for your lover, it is the only place where magic can happen.

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Reason #4: RelationshipGoals photos/videos/articles are aggressively deceiving. 

Nothing screams “LIES!” louder than #RelationshipGoals posts all over social media. I’m not saying that these posts aren’t real or didn’t actually happen in real life. What I’m saying here is that these posts do not determine how real or successful anyone’s relationship is.

We have to remember that these posts feature the highlights of other people’s lives. What’s sad is that there are lots of people who see these highlights and compare them to their regular day-to-day living. When you do this, you are basically comparing someone else’s annual 2-week vacation to your normal Monday morning at the office. Of course you’re gonna be jealous and of course you’re gonna wanna do what they are doing in those photos and videos! Because I mean, who loves Mondays, really? Nobody. 

You have to remind yourself that you, too, have your own highlight reel. You do have your weekends and you do have your annual 2-week paid leave. You will have weddings to attend, high school reunions to be a part of and concerts to watch, eventually. Needless to say, NOBODY (and I mean nobody) sips on Grey Goose cocktails in a private jet plane on the way to Cancun every single fucking day of his or her life.

Ponder that.

  1. The cocktails are eventually gonna run out.
  2. The person is probably gonna get shit-faced hammered by the end of the day if he doesn’t stop drinking the beverage.
  3. The trip is obviously gonna end as the jet plane reaches the destination (Cancun or whatever).
  4. And, most obviously, nobody in the history of mankind has ever reached Cancun via a private jet plane, and took the flight back to his origin right after, just so he could keep on posting photos and Snaps of him in the plane.

Bottomline: It doesn’t matter how awesome and rich someone is. NOBODY LIVES THE ENTIRETY OF LIFE VIA A HIGHLIGHT REEL.

Even the sun goes down when it’s time for it to go down (i.e., 5:30PM Philippine Time).

The relationship goals posts you see aren’t to be compared to your life. These are people either on vacation or a boredom-induced photoshoot with the help of VSCO filters. It ain’t got nothing to do with you or your love life.

Reason #5: By obsessing over your #RelationshipGoals, you are sabotaging your future with your partner 

It is already bad enough that we live in a society that enjoys constantly dictating how we should act, where we should live, and even what we should wear; now we’re voluntarily dictating our relationships how they should be?! It is pure madness.

I am not a relationship expert, nor am I a life specialist, but I do know this: when you truly love someone, you aren’t gonna need a guideline or an instruction book on how to do your relationship. When it’s real, things should just flow, naturally. Un-premeditated. Un-rehearsed. Unexpected. One of the things I dislike the most about these hashtag relationshipgoals is that they take away from young couples nowadays the spontaneity and the surprise factor that come with every relationship, with every human to human connection. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be in a relationship where I have no fucking clue how it’s gonna end up ten years later, or even how it’s gonna end up five minutes later. I think that it is important to experience the rawness of a genuine relationship. The candidness of every kiss. Those moments when you wake up right next to the person and see his face light up as he sees your face light up. Those moments when you see someone for what he truly is, without any filter, without any inhibitions. Just you and the person, in this crazy mad world that we all live in.

I’ll Keep On Dancing While The Sand Is Pouring

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When I think of time, I picture an image of an hourglass. I mean, the traditional ticking round clocks also count, but they just do not have that same amount of impact. This thought has always been inside my head, and I had written about this several times already, but I just cannot stress it out enough: time is everything. 

Of course I am a firm believer in the infinity of the universe. When you think about the stars, our sun, the planets, the asteroids, the other galaxies and everything else in space, it is very obvious that time doesn’t exist. Life in the universe is and will always be there. And everything out there in space is active – way before the Earth even came to be.

But for us human beings, it is a totally different story. Time is almost always never on our side. There is a reason why the overused and overly popular saying time is gold exists. The most important thing you can give to someone is indeed your time. Every time you give someone your time, you are giving that person a portion of your life that you can never get back. Your time is actually your life. Time. That’s all there is. And at the end of the day, that’s also all that we have.

The sands inside our hourglasses won’t stop for anyone, and one day all of our hourglasses will be empty.

Only when you take this imagery very seriously will you completely understand how important the here and now is. This is your life, my dear. And yes, it is ending one second, one minute, one moment at a time.

How much are you willing to risk now?

Pre-graduation Thoughts

My Symphonies:  “Svefn-g-englar” by Sigur Ros; “Girl Out West” by Speck Mountain

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You know, those stars up there, they might not even exist. I mean, it takes so long for the light to travel here that the stars themselves, they could be gone by now. You know? It´s just weird, but they are like a message from back in time. The universe is bigger than we can imagine. I guess it just kind of puts things in perspective. All the stuff that we think is so important when in reality, it’s not. It’s nothing. Our planet, nevermind, our species, you and me, we´re nothing. We´re like a blip in time. We can´t worry. We just have to lie back and enjoy the ride.

– Jasper Herman, 90210

I can’t seem to unwrap my mind around the fact that graduation is in one month, exactly. I’ve been going back and forth with the list every pre-graduating student mentally makes when he’s nearing the end of a tunnel. Although, I think the list I have come up with so far isn’t entirely helping me clear up my mind about the big future plan— that blueprint for the brighter tomorrow, as some put it. Instead, my list ended up as a thread of reminiscence, rhetorical questions, apostrophes, metaphors, realizations and declarations.

It would be a baloney for me to deny the fact that I am stressing out. Because it is true. I’ve been pulling my hair out and punching myself in the throat over the past fourteen weeks (figuratively speaking, of course). It’s actually painful to constantly analyze my life and my emotions in the context of  pre-graduation blues. Wait, did I just say “blues”? Okay so yes, I did. I mean, that’s me. The last month in each chapter of my student life is always dreadful. Yes, I get all giddy and excited about moving on to the next step along with my unicorn friends and octopus fathers-in-law (reference to my make-believe companions in life). But at the same time, I tend to turn into this massive tumbleweed of extreme emotions: I begin to detach myself from my classmates, hate everybody, hold my middle finger up even to the innocent inhabitants of the earth and cry without any conscious reason.

I’m used to this, though. I just keep my focus on the good things that come with my hormonal student-life hostility. What are these good things, you may ask. Well, these are the priceless things in my list. My very own pre-graduation list:

Kenn’s Pre-grad List:

1. People in the city are simply richer, smarter, busier and fancier- but not necessarily happier. Three weeks ago, I decided to have a long walk on both Burrard and Robson. Now I love this place not because I am a Starbucks-addicted young tycoon who thinks the restaurants and boutiques on these streets are “beyond comparison”. No. That’s not the case. I love Burrard and Robson streets because of the distinct unforgettable memories I made there last summer. I was telling one of my classmates, Audrey, that sometimes I miss those streets so much I can hardly stand it. Her response? “Then go be there.” Sounded quite reasonable to me, so I ecstatically hopped in the train towards Burrard station. It was a sunny little winter day. I was there standing inside the vehicle, listening to “Cold Dessert” by Kings of Leon, ready to revisit a fresh past on downtown’s streets. When the ride was over, something cinematic happened. The moment I got off the train, everything literally became a blur of fast-moving black-and-gray images. More than a hundred people crowded the station– some getting in and some getting out of the train. I found myself feeling light-headed and out of balance as I marched towards the escalator. I took a deep breath, removed my earphones and let my eyes flutter open. I saw a little boy wearing a turquoise jacket getting dragged by his mom up the stairs. I looked around to see dozens and dozens of people mostly in suits, blazers and work uniforms- all in a rush, many on their phones discussing matters that sounded urgent. Not a single smile from any one of them. Not even a glimmer of content. I looked down and saw the little boy in turquoise again and I saw the only colorful thing in the entire motion picture, holding tightly on the hands of his mother as they get overtaken by the soldiers of the city. In that moment, I felt so strongly, that this isn’t who I am. This isn’t even who I want to be. Marching with a hundred people who are so used to such life, who are so conditioned to the society and who are all going somewhere to be productive? It made me feel so alone. I was the only one, apart from the boy, who had nowhere specific to go. I was the only one without a calculated purpose that day, the only one without a homework to submit, or a project to finish, or a deal to close. I was the only one in that march who wasn’t marching. I was instead gliding, floating and dreaming– fascinated once again by the humans of my time.

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2. I have 921, 758 deaths and only five lives. Sometimes I just stare at the blank tv screen and I see a meditated photograph of the ocean. I would then look out the window and realize how much I miss feeling alive. Truthfully, I feel most alive when and only when 1. I am having a walk on the beach with the view of the sunset, 2. I am laughing hysterically with friends and family, 3. I am gazing at the night sky on a starry night, 4. I am bonding with my pet cat and 5. I am sitting on an old tree’s branch eating fresh mangoes right next to someone special. I know these moments so well because these moments contribute greatly to the person I am today. These are the moments that shape me and continue to nourish me through my years. These are the moments that remind me of what’s important to me, of what I love the most about breathing. These moments are my lifetime vaccines against futility, convolution and adversity. These moments are what I am made of.

3. Are we humans, or are we dancers? I say I’m both. Everytime  a teacher or a classmate tells me I am hardworking, my insides manage a skeptical grin. Some tell me I can’t seem to relax, slow down, lay back and breathe. It has even been an issue brought up in my Singing and Voice classes. And it’s true in the literal sense, too. I mean I do have a verbal diarrhea every now and again, and I constantly feel grumpy and stressed out. But if you could read my mind, you’d know that my internal struggle towards a bigger energy is so disturbing and so indescribable that my dour appearance is but a poor mirror of it. I choose not to open up about my real thoughts in class simply because I do not trust myself with them. I am scared of my own thoughts, yet at the same time I embrace them; so much so that I am not willing to share them to people I know are less likely to understand. Sometimes, when I say in class, “I can’t seem to slow down”, it actually means I can’t seem to stop deliberately over-analyzing life in general and whether or not I will have the courage to fight against the conventional standards and live the simple life I know I want and need. My speech is quick, my facial reactions unplanned, my emotions rushed and my visible presence aloof and indifferent. This is why I write. It is only in writing that I am able to entertain my thoughts one at a time. More importantly, it is only through this medium of communication that I get to encounter life at a fairly rational level- the rest is chaos. It is official. Writing is the only thing that keeps me sane.

4. I am a man of no plans. Contrary to popular belief, the story of my life is written in real time. I have no concrete agenda when it comes to “success” as viewed by the society. Questions like “So what are you doing after graduation?”, “Got any work yet?”, “What kind of actor do you want to be?”, “Are you moving downtown by then?”, “So you’re saying you will work here for eight months. Where will you go after?”, “Are you planning to be a part of a web series or something? Like, what’s your strategy?” are all laughable to me. Not in an insulting way. It’s just that a big part of me finds humor in my lack of direction in life. I know that it is crucial to at least know what you want. But I already know that. And I know who I am. And if life takes me on a different spin tomorrow or thirty years from now, there will be no regrets. I may be a giant ball of question mark, but I get to know the world in a way I never would had I been born to live and die as a sturdy period or a loud exclamation point.

5. Life is a free verse prose-narrative written by a three-year old starfish with a brain tumor. Why are some people white, and some black? Why do some people believe in God while others in the Big Bang Theory? Why are some people so easy to get along with while there are some who are so intensely annoying you just want to grab them by their nipples and give them axe kicks? Why are there people who were born rich and famous while others have to technically excrete blood and sweat to get on even just a slightly higher ground? Why are there people with ten fingers while some with eleven, or nine? Why are there class valedictorians who end up waiting tables and dumb high school slutbags who now own a villa somewhere in Greece? Why are there people who haven’t smoked a single cigarette in their lives who have lung cancer, and others who do all sorts of smoking and drug abuse and manage to live without complications until the age of 92? Why are there so many innocents stuck in jail cells and so many criminals planning on their next dirty deed as we speak? Why does the six-month old baby die? Why does Burundi suffer so much financially while Dubai just carefreely throws itself away at 828-meter tall buildings and dancing fountains with camels on parade on a year-round sunny season? Why is the earth so big only five percent of its total oceanic area is explored? Why do some people dislike beer while others drink it eight times a day like water? Why are gummy bears so freaking irresistible? Why are there deserving people who have empty hands and lazy-ass hipsters who are given so much in one way or another? Why are there no stars in Surrey? Why do birds suddenly appear? — It is obvious. Life has no rhyme nor reason to it. We desperately turn to Religion, Science, Literature, Government Laws and Societal standards to try and make sense of the universe, but that’s the thing the majority do not understand. The universe is way bigger than we can imagine. Yes, you may be able to explain why birds suddenly appear or why there are black and white people through Physics and Anthropology, but you will never be able to rationalize the why’s in the full sense of the word. Why as in “how come?”, why as in “to what extent?”, why as in “for what possible reason?” Why?.. as in “WTF?!”

6. Even the stars die. I have been and always will be in awe at the massiveness of life both in the visible and the invisible sense. I am 19 years old, Filipino, unemployed, still living with parents and brothers, a writer with a recurring existential crisis, passive-aggressive, a self-confessed literary activist, and one the most unstable human beings you’ll ever meet. This is me. I can say a million other things about me in here, but that’s not the point. My living condition, my financial status, my emotional progress and my favorite past time are nothing compared to the dangers and beauty of the universe. I do not live each day towards a bigger goal. I do not wake up each morning to build a tower I can stand on so I can look down on those whose towers had crumbled down, or those who haven’t built one yet. I do not breathe to have a better tomorrow. I instead live each day with literally millions of wonders, as I lay down on the sand facing the ocean, knowing that right now is the better tomorrow. Just me. And the universe. Together as one.