I’m Going Home

My Symphony: Home by Daughtry
I don’t regret this life I chose for me,
But these places and these faces are getting old…

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Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation – coming home again. ― Madeleine L’Engle, Meet the Austins

This is it. In less than 24 hours, I’ll be on a plane back home. 

Damn. Typing that out just literally sent chills down my spine. There is something about the word “home” that is very powerful in a comforting way. And that’s what I am feeling right now – this almost indescribable feeling of danger and safety. It’s been a long time coming, and now here I am. My bags are all packed, and I am more than ready to go.

The weeks and the months that have led me to this moment hadn’t been smooth-sailing, though. There was a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of reckless daydreaming and a lot of uphill battles with the people around me and with myself. But I have to say it was all worth it. We take every experience, big or small, and learn from it tremendously.

When I left the Philippines two and a half years ago, I left with one goal in mind: to find whatever it was that I was always looking for. Halfway through high school, I developed this irrepressible longing to leave – leave the city I’m in, leave the people I’m with, leave the life I live. My “past life” (for a lack of a better term) was byzantine, to say the least. I made a lot of mistakes, disappointed loved ones, broke my friends’ trust, caused a lot of emotional trouble and took for granted all the things and moments I now wish I could have back. And instead of facing the world and trying to repair the damaged, I decided to walk away and leave everything behind. And I did that because that’s what I had been wanting to do all along; I wanted to start over, strongly believing that there was another place out there for me which I could call home.

I was wrong. 

I think everybody should leave his or her hometown and go somewhere far at least once in his or her life. Not only is there a myriad of things and life lessons to learn Out There, Out There also makes you appreciate In Here, in a way no other place can. And to me, it’s been an exhilarating ride so far.

Everytime a friend or a family member asks me ,”So when are you visiting the Philippines?” or “Hey Kenn, are you going back here in Bacolod for a vacation soon?”, there’s always this part of me that cringes for some reason. It’s like my heart turns gray and my entire upper body shrinks, and all I want to do is run away screaming like a lunatic. I don’t know, I guess up until now I’ve never really accommodated “visiting the Philippines” as an acceptable oxymoron. Phrases like visit home and vacation in Bacolod sound disturbingly self-contradictory to me. So let us make one thing clear:

I’m not “going on a vacation”; I’m going home.

It’s as simple and as truthful and as accurate as that.

I look at Vancouver and the world that I’ve somehow built here for myself. I look at the bed I’ve been sleeping in for many months; I can see its edges and its weight take up a portion of the wooden floor. I look at our kitchen and then I look inside the refrigerator; I see a dozen eggs with one that’s broken, along with my brother’s sliced cheese which he always reminds us is expensive. I look at the living room; I look at the ceiling, my mom’s new carpet, the big red cushions and the television, which has started to look noticeably old despite its newness. I look inside my closet; I look at the big black bag in which I carefully stuffed all of my notes and physical memories from college. I look at my cat, Dunkley; I see him in the biggest and fattest he’s ever been; I see him groggily walk towards his favorite spot on one of our red-and-white dining chairs, and I see him yawn, stretch, stare devilishly into the air and lull himself back to sleep. And then I look at my pile of luggage sitting tall and proud in one corner of my room. For the first time in a long time, I feel like myself again.

This is why this chapter is very important to me. The farther I’ve been from home, the closer I’ve felt to it. And at these times when I often feel lost and unsure of who I’ve become, I find it crucial to go back to my roots and refresh things a little bit. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had here have all been climactic, and I can never be grateful enough for the opportunity to get to know life and the world around me from such a different perspective. But the time has come. For at least the next two months, I will be in my hometown, the small city of Bacolod. For at least the next two months, I will be breathing a familiar air under a familiar sky. For at least the next two months, I will be storing my clothes and my books in a room inside a house which my feet and my heart have known since I was little. And for at least the next two months, I will be not here, but there.

And there is waiting.

See you soon. 

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High School High

My Tune: The Bitch of Living (from the musical Spring Awakening)
audio link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=reqSQy_69m0

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Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that I’m drastically becoming one of those people who are desperately holding on to their youth. I know that the flower-crowned optimists of this world say that age is just a number and that one can stay forever young if he pleases to, and all those other metaphors and euphemisms they use these days to cover up ugly truths, but I feel like a realist today. And today, what’s real tells me that I am an unemployed twenty-year old artist with a lackluster social life somewhere in the jungle-like Western civilization. And I just can’t help but think to myself, “Dang, boi! Where did all the years go?”

Here’s the thing about me: I am lethargic. I am lazy. Bed-ridden. I mean generally speaking, I barely even walk for more than a total of 90 seconds per day, and I don’t really consider sweating a prerequisite to my well-being. The most active thing I do is take a shower twice a day, but that’s about it. I might as well dub myself “The World’s Youngest Retiree Ever”. But here’s the catch: I wasn’t like this before. Not at all. I was one of the most energetic, most party-fueled, adventure-filled, life-loving people I know. Now I’m sitting here just wondering what happened to the livelier version of myself; the one who always found excitement in the littlest things, the one who would not allow a day to pass without trying something new. You know, the one back in high school.

High school. Here we go again. I’ve written several things about this already, but if I actually wrote each time I start to miss high school, even if it’s just always momentary, then at least half of this blogsite would be about nothing else other than high school. But here I am right now. And besides the fact that I haven’t set foot on the grounds of my high school for three years now, what brought me here?

An hour ago, I was re-watching an episode of 90210, and it’s the one where the West Beverly Hills High produces a performance of one of the most notable plays in history, “Spring Awakening”. It is the work of German dramatist Frank Wedekind written sometime between autumn 1890 and spring 1891. And it is one of my favorite plays of all time. It definitely is the real High School Musical.

One of the songs in Spring Awakening has always stood out to me, and that is the song “The Bitch of Living”. If you also love this song, or if you are not familiar with the play and are curious, then go click the audio link I so kindly provided for you at the very top of this write-up. There’s just something about this song that makes me vividly remember how it felt like to be in high school. All of those events and stage plays held in our university gymnasium, amphitheater and football field always top my memory list. I mean, jesus, I’m having goosebumps just thinking about the moments I had there, with my friends, with their hearts, and with all our innocence.

When I think of the past, I think of high school. This is a choice I make because high school, despite the bumps and grinds, was the best time of my life so far. Hold on, I know what you could be thinking right now. “My gosh, what a shallow little stuck-up human being you are, Kenn! High school was the best time of your life? Ugh, that’s just sad and pathetic. You were probably popular, had lots of friends, had a cinematic lovelife and didn’t have social anxiety that’s why you love high school! Fuck y–” But I’m stopping you right there. “The best” is something relative. And right now, I am at that point in my life where I appreciate the past because it’s the only thing I am sure about. And I am so sure about high school…

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I am sure that none of those sleepless nights trying to figure out Algebra was a waste, because we weren’t really dealing with those x’s and y’s and binomials anyway. We were up, yes, but we were dreaming. I’m sure we were. We were dreaming of ways to eat our lunch the next day and the ways to get our crush’s number without looking like a retard. And I’m sure that sometimes we all did look like retards, but none of that entirely mattered. Because we had so much energy in us that humiliation and consequences were but fractions of motivation that only kept us going.

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I am sure that those hallways weren’t just hallways; they were our very own world stage. Those hallways had seen so much of us – from the casual chit chats and last-minute note-scanning to the cutest holding-hands sessions and the overwhelming battles of forbidden love. Secrets were blurted out, love was confessed, friendship was made, friendship was broken, all in those hallways.

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I am sure our dusty classrooms during our last year in high school weren’t just classrooms, either. Underneath the drama and some inevitable social discord, those rooms had been an echo chamber of a complex yet blissful familial dysfunction. Those rooms were our homes away from home. And I’m sure we all learned at least a thing or two about teenage hormones in there.

I am sure that those first times were going to be worthwhile. That first drop of beer and vodka was merely the beginning of a journey. That night we decided we wanted to try smoking, that night we got drunk for the first time, that same night we saw ourselves not just as students but as people. All those mini fights, mini flirting, mini kisses, mini heartbreaks and mini nights-out made room for memories that were gonna be larger than life.

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I am sure that puberty, sexuality, poverty, love, rape, abortion, religion, gender, suicide and child abuse were all subjects very fresh to us. Most of us were just getting to know life through a peephole, and we were stoked! We were nervous, yes, but we were ready for anything life was gonna throw at us. We knew at the back of our minds that that was the time to learn, bit by bit, and then all at once.

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I am sure that everybody had a blast during that on-campus camping when we were in junior year. I’m sure that the air that night was rather intimate, but not necessarily in a sexual way. It was intimate in that it brought people who were already close even closer, and that it smelled something like a quarterback’s sweaty bedroom. I’m sure that that bonfire lit up something inside each of us, even though we weren’t conscious of it right when it happened. But it was there, happening. I’m sure that every single one of us who looked straight into that tall fleeting fire felt this underlying gratitude for being alive. We were just so full of life and hope. I’m sure that the tents we slept in, the grass we walked on and the friends we laughed with were gonna be there for the long run. We knew nothing was permanent, but we also knew that that night was gonna last for a long time. In fact, so long of a time it still lives in us today.

I am sure that one afternoon in the gymnasium was a fateful one. I was rehearsing with my co-emcee for the Sportsfest Opening, and you were standing by the gate carrying your sports gear. And you weren’t exactly looking at me the whole time, but I would stare at you every chance I got, and I saw the 4-PM sun light the left part of your body and the wind blow your perfectly straight hair just enough so that a small portion of your right eye was covered, and then revealed, and then covered again, and then revealed again, and I thought you were just beautiful – just you standing there from a close distance, looking like someone I was going to spend the rest of my life with. And of course, neither of us intensely believed that. We both knew it was all on the surface, but we didn’t care. It just felt nice. And that’s all that we could hope for that day; to feel something nice.

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In a world where everything seems so ephemeral, it is a gift to be able to keep great memories close to your heart. We are almost at that point already, my dear high school batchmates. We’re in this for the long haul. We were gossiping about crushes back then, but soon enough life slaps us in the face with jobs we don’t enjoy, bosses we hate, financial crisis we can’t escape, menacing strangers and some pretty devastating bad hair days. I mean, it is the bitch of living. We will eventually lose that youthful energy we always used to own, and we will someday feel like sleeping for a decade. But I think that if we just hold on to those moments from yesterday – those minutes and hours when all we cared about was feeling something simple and nice, those nights when we were living just for the hell of it, times when we were counting clouds and not assets, months when we didn’t have to worry about rent, or how much we had in our bank, days when it didn’t matter how badly we sucked at something because we would always just laugh at it – then we can absolutely feel nice forever.

I was losing all of my energy. But I just suddenly remembered, “I was a fucking teenager with all those fucking bad-ass moves and trips”. And I still am. I will forever be.

For Giveness

My Symphony: Iron Doors by The Lighthouse and the Whaler

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When I was 13, the shallow, naive, vapid person that I was, I would get myself in heated fights and arguments and I would always say, “I don’t forgive and I don’t forget, so don’t fuck with me”. I don’t really know what I was thinking, except that I wasn’t really thinking. Who am I to be so cold and bitter? Who am I to be so mad at the world and the people in it that have disappointed me? Who am I to live a life of hatred, anger and coldness? I am nobody. And for this, I forgive.

I forgive my brother for being utterly annoying and self-righteous.

I forgive the people back home who haven’t made it to my present life – I forgive them for being a thing from the past.

I forgive my English teacher in Eleventh Grade for not buying me the lunch that she promised me, and for not returning my favorite Greek Mythology book that I let her borrow.

I forgive all of the fucked-up drug addicts in this world. I know it is not entirely their fault. What happened to them and to their lives could have happened to anyone of us.

I forgive Nicholas Sparks for writing novels that have caused millions of people to get confused about the real nature of love and its naked identity.

I forgive my Mom for not being in my life physically for the past twelve years. I forgive her for not being around when I had my first zit, or when I flunked a test in Elementary School for the first time, or when I had my first crush, or when my voice started to get a little deeper. I forgive her for being away from me all the time. I forgive her; I do. Because she’s my mother. And at the end of the day, she’s the one person I love the most.

I forgive my Dad, too. I forgive him for being so thrifty. He wouldn’t even consider a three-dollar cup of coffee cheap. I forgive him for his dishonesty and his being secretive and closed off. I forgive him for thinking that I am too weak and too prissy to be his nail boy when he was building that tree house when I was six. Because I do know how to use hammers and nails! But I forgive him for believing otherwise. I forgive him because he’s my dad. And at the end of the day, he’s the first guy in my life. He was the one who made me stand on his wide, strong palms and carried me around the house and the streets, making me feel like I was the best thing that has ever happened to him and mom.

Lastly, I forgive  myself.

Kenn, I forgive you for being such a disaster right now. You are like, I don’t know, Magnitude 8.6 earthquake, but I forgive you. I forgive you for feeling totally alone, lost, scared and vulnerable. I forgive your non-stop drama, and the way that you see the world. I forgive you for not being so proud of yourself these days, and for not having a backbone ninety percent of the time. I forgive your flaws, and your heartaches, and your romantic-idealistic take on life. I forgive you for the way you handle your emotions. I forgive you for almost killing yourself because at one moment you felt like life was not worth living. I forgive you for your weaknesses and for feeling like you’re never going to be good enough. I forgive all of your mistakes and your shenanigans. I forgive you if sometimes all you want to do is to just run out of the room in the middle of the class and go to the Sea Wall and watch the birds do their thing as the sky falls in closer and closer to you.

I forgive you. I do. Because at the end of the day, it is what it is. At the end of the day all of this is your life. Nothing more, but definitely nothing less.

Mi Ultimo Adios: My Curtain Speech

My Tune: Love Alone by Caedmon’s Call

Yesterday, I made a very crucial decision. Yesterday, I clearly saw that it’s not everyday that one person can just pick up where he left off.

I agree that sometimes, simply saying goodbye to something that can never seem to be right is way much better than hopelessly waiting for it to actually be finally right.

Everyone has a certain past life. Everyone makes mistakes.

But not everyone’s past life is perfect, and not everyone’s mistakes are corrected. Some stick to their past and desperately try to relive it, while some move on, hoping to start a new beginning.

I? I choose to give my curtain speech herein.

I believe that I have two kinds of speech in my mind that I’m planning to deliver. The first one, is this- the written remark. The second, is the visual remark- the one I will give both deliberately and randomly.

Here is my written remark.

So I was talking about yesterday. This is because it was yesterday when I decided to clear things up in my mind. I bet everyone who’s close to me knows how my past life isn’t really that smooth-sailing. I believe it’s about time I put an end to some things that I know will never have a space in my life.

Do you know the feeling of wanting something or someone so badly but you know for yourself that there is no way that you’ll ever have it or that person? Do you know the feeling of obsessing with something or someone that on the first place, isn’t even close to being in like with you? Do you know how it is to wonder why good things just simply come to an end without even showing signs and signals? Most importantly, do you know how it is to live with love alone? Because I do.

Right now, I just want to laugh with bliss because finally, I’ve given myself a present like never before; that finally, I made a decision using both my heart and my mind; that finally, I found the place where I know I can start something fresh and wonderful.

I came to think that there’s just more to living life than waiting for something to come. I believe I should keep on taking chances. I believe that I should keep on telling myself that I should let other people take a way into my life. I came to think that there are still other beautiful things that are waiting for me to embrace them. Take for example the evening showers. They are the ones, not the catastrophic hurricanes and tsunamis, that make the green grasses grow healthily, but they get no publicity. Sigh. I guess before now, I lacked the understanding of the existing fact that big things indeed come from small packages. Now, I just want to make everything up to myself. I’ll fill the spaces in my life with little, but beautiful, things.

Plus, I realized that waiting for something which you know doesn’t deserve your longing is like dancing under the rain. It somehow feels good, but you know it’s going to make you sick like hell.

And looking back, I was just as sick. So now, I’m taking my medicine, which in my case, is a new beginning.

Everyone can move on. It’s just that not everyone chooses to.

In my watch, I will not be the “everyone” who’ll stay a martyr forever. I’m telling you, I am The Strong One. The Brave One. The Invulnerable One.

You’ll see. I can bounce back.

I’ll embark on a new journey [ I know, I know. It’s cliche’! haha! So what?!]. What is important is that I know that I can move along.

This is goodbye to every single thing and person in my life that actually made no sense in it. This is goodbye to every big thing that hadn’t even offered any genuine happiness. This is goodbye to those sleepless nights, those sympathetic longings… those good-for-nothing midsummer night’s dreams.

I’ll embrace something fresh, new and beautiful.

I believe, I believe.

This, my last farewell, I give to you, with a lifted head and a sinister smile.