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On the brink of change (and sleeplessness)

The last few weeks have been incredibly overwhelming. The things that I've got on my plate right now weigh so much, that I cannot help feeling like the next several months (even years) of my life depend a great deal on this crucial time. Because of this, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately - some serious, critical pondering about my self and my future, and everything else in between. I guess that's inevitable, given that I'm almost graduating and I'm at this point where everything is about to change. But it's also a bit daunting, especially since I have always pushed thoughts about the future away (and quite successfully so.) I'm afraid this time however, "Let's cross the bridge when we get there," isn't going to cut it anymore because the bridge, all rickety and atop an endless pit of darkness, is already right before me.

1. My thesis is probably the most understandable cause of all this stress, that goes without saying. The vision is still there, but I'm finding it difficult to get to where I want to go, because (1) I feel that my original plan was too ambitious and (2) a lot of other equally important things are demanding for my time and attention. Other papers to write, books to read, meetings to attend - I mean, sure, this is not the first sem I've had an incredibly demanding schedule, but this is the sem where it actually all matters. I cannot afford to have dried out creative juices at this point.

This is the last sem, and I can't mess it up.

2. Speaking of the last, lately I've been taking in UP like a lover just waiting for the break-up to happen. I'm feeling overly nostalgic about everything, from my solitary afternoon walks to random lunch dates with friends and coursemates. I've only been in the university for four years but I don't think I see myself someplace else. After having been embraced by this campus, I can't leave- I just can't.

Just last Sunday, I took the LAE, aka the next most important exam of my life next to the UPCAT. Law school has always been the goal since high school, and UP the destination. Getting into UP Law would mean so much not only to me, but to a lot of people around me too. And of course, it would affirm not having to leave the university at all. By itself, the pressure that comes along with passing is understandable. But what was even more disheartening than the pressure was the exam itself. It was difficult - it was exhausting both mentally and emotionally. Long after the pencil had been put down, the feeling of fatigue and anxiety still remains. It was that tough.

This test is going to define the next four years or so of my life. The only thing that's more frustrating is the waiting for the results. I'm trying my best to shrug it off and not worry about it, but I think I'm failing. Miserably.

3. Yesterday I had a conversation with a classmate whom I've only gotten close with in the last six months or so. We were never really friends and we've only been in the same class once, but we hit it off immediately the first time we bumped into each other at the Acad Oval. Apparently, we had a lot of things in common aside from belonging in the same department (DECL), like us being Scorpios, and falling for mechanical engineers, among others. Since that day, we would see each other unexpectedly on campus, and after the usual pleasantries of Hi and How are yous, we would always find ourselves in the same situation as the other.

We had a talk the other day about the ambiguity of feelings, especially with boys who value physics over poetry. It wasn't as if I don't already know the things we said to each other, but somehow, just sharing them and having someone else understand completely made everything clearer.

Futures and feelings always remain uncertain, but at least there are people to make you feel less alone, less scared.

4. Something certain, however, is a particular milestone this week. For all the worries I have about the future, at least for now, this is something permanent I can hold on to. It's the quiet constant that's been keeping me together lately.

Admittedly though, it makes me think a lot about the next few years or so, especially after my cousin's wedding last Saturday. Not that I'm imagining my gown and arranging the flowers in my head already - God, no. It does however beg the question of longevity and devotion. We've managed to reach this point mostly unscathed, but how long can we keep this up, considering the many changes that are just about to come? How stable is this anchor we're holding on to?

Twenty years, five years, or even maybe just a year from now, I might look back on this post and scoff at the triviality of these things I am now considering important. Perhaps they will not even change the course of my history as much as I believe they would. And maybe I'm just over-thinking things. But until everything is calm, and until things have fallen into place, these feelings will be pervading my thoughts, distracting me all day and keeping me up all night, forcing me to blog about them in the hopes of lulling myself to sleep.


A Very Clingy Greeting.

I've been trying to begin this paragraph for about an hour now but so far the only thing I've gotten out of it is the vertical blinking cursor judging me for the lack of anything of substance. It's been looking at me, judging me intently, with a kind of questioning glance that said, "How can you not say anything to Andee?"

You see, therein lies the problem. Yes, there are so many things I can say to you. In fact, I cannot think of anything that we cannot talk about. We have talked about the weather and sex and post-structuralism and milk tea and boys and their jackets and yet I feel like there is still so much we have not touched. Like lipsticks. Or donkeys and horses and other farm animals. But then I am reminded of a particular person who turned pretty with makeup on and who is vaguely tangential to a donkey reference, and I think, "Oh God, maybe we have talked about everything."

Also, we have been together for roughly the last four years. And I think that for every single day of those four years, not counting the weekends and holidays and vacations, we've seen each other. That means around 220 days a year of being physically together (yeah, I did some math - don't ask), and that's not counting our texts and chats. That means it's been 880 days of talking in person and a total of 1460 days communicating with each other since we met. That also means I see you more often than I do my parents.

That's a lot.

So, why then, am I finding this extremely difficult? It's not that I don't have anything to say or that we haven't been seeing each other enough. Clearly I can say anything whenever, wherever.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that for all our 1460 days together, I have never written you a letter.

Now before you say anything, this isn't about my thesis. I won't be using this as a manuscript, don't worry.

We all know a letter is a very intimate conversation with anyone, enclosed in the exclusivity of the paper and the envelope. It possesses a distinctiveness in that anything that transpires in it is only between the receiver and the sender. It is affirming on some degree to the relationship between the two. But the one thing that distinguishes a letter from a regular conversation is that it's one-way. It's just the "I" talking to the "you," - it never answers back.

And I guess this is what stumps me. I can't imagine talking to you without you laughing or throwing me that look of annoyance or slapping me - anything, anything from you. I think we've gotten to that cliched point of finishing each other's sentences, or more accurately, completing each other's expressions of amusement. It just isn't a talk with you without me throwing you a Karla face all of a sudden or you raising your eyebrows in a sinister way.

Wow. I never thought of all people, you would be the most difficult to write to.

I hope this doesn't make you love me any less or take away my title as your Most Clingy Friend. I swear if I could just write you a decent letter that would so much as stir your goosebumps, I would have done that much sooner. But I can't, and to tell you frankly, I'd rather not. Because if anything, that only affirms how close we really are, that not even the separation brought upon by a piece of paper can come between us. There is no space for a letter, because there is nothing a letter can contain that we cannot share in person.

And besides, I'd rather not write you a letter because it's sure to sound cheesy and needy and clingy and I'm just not like that. (Ha! See, I can imagine you rolling your eyes!) So you know what, I'm not gonna write you a letter.

("Stop trying to make a letter happen! It's not going to happen!" - obligatory Mean Girls reference)

I am going to post this picture though, just to show you how I think we're both gonna react if I said all this in person.

I love you, and there is no one else I would have spent my entire college life with. I've always found comfort in our closeness, and I pray that even if the actual, physical nearness were to change, the familiarity wouldn't. So I hope I won't get to have a reason to ever write you a letter, because truth be told, I'd rather always have you in person.

Happy birthday, Andee! :)


Now drive me far away, away, away

Listening to Deftones on a cool Monday afternoon while attempting to write a news article, reading about Rizal and the revolution, watching an impeachment trial, trying to review for math and logic for an upcoming (very major, life-altering) exam, wondering about the future.

And all I can think of right now is I just want to get away.

It doesn't help that Chino Moreno's voice makes your hormones want to rage with someone. Look through all the comments on their videos on YouTube and you'll see how people have classified their music as, to be very decorous about it, passionate. In a perfect world, all the hooking up scenes (in film or otherwise) would have Deftones playing in the background.

It feels good to know you're mine
Now drive me far away, away, away
I don't care where just far away.


On my bedside table: The Marriage Plot

(Part 1 of On My Bedside Table's The Best of 2011 edition)

First of all, an apology is very much in order. This was supposed to have been posted more than a week ago, but a lot of things got in the way, mostly acads and thesis, partly other personal stuff. I'm now thinking of not doing this list in succession as I fear that I may not be able to do it as religiously as I would want to, but without doubt, I will write about them all in the course of the next few weeks. But let's not go into all that anymore. Without further ado, the first book that made significant impact on my life in 2011..

This was one of those rare books that I read about a few weeks before its release, eagerly anticipated through some preview excerpts, and immediately rushed out to get the moment I heard it arrived on our shores. Yep, it was that kind of book. "The Marriage Plot" was actually the first Eugenides book that I have read, and while a lot of people say his other works are by far so much better, I find this a very fitting welcome to his works, given the situation in which I read it.

Probably the major reason why I was so thrilled about this? The lead character, Madeleine Hanna, was an English major at Brown University in the mid-1980's who was in the middle of writing her thesis on Victorian era novels. Of course, all that spelled out a big, fat "IS THIS ME?" as I first read the blurbs. (Note that this is just the first "IS THIS ME?" comment I had uttered among the many in the course of reading this book.) There aren't many novels about female English majors who are passionate about their course, you know. It got me very curious and, to my delight, hooked.

Judging by just the first line, and even the first page, alone - "To start with, look at all the books." - I already had a feeling this was going to be one of those novels I would not be putting down until I had read it completely. And yes, that was exactly what happened. It began with a description of the paperbacks and hardbounds that cluttered her bookshelf - from Austen to Barthes. How quickly my heart palpitated! It was like looking at my own shelf, or at least a shelf that I have always dreamed of. ("IS THIS ME?" number 2)

Madeleine and her obsession with books is not the main topic of this novel, however, it plays a big part. The title, "The Marriage Plot" (which can be off-putting for some, because it does lend a chick-lit-esque sound to it) is a reference to the recurring theme in Victorian novels and consequently almost all great love stories: women finding the men they will marry. This was mentioned first in Madeleine's Semiotics class - which she enjoyed, by the way ("IS THIS ME!?" number 3) - by one of her professors, who suggests the strong influence of this narrative on the framework of novels and literature in general. A novel discussing the Novel - it's kind of meta in a way, which makes it all the more interesting. (Which is why I will italicize the word Novel to refer to the novel in general and its place in literature, to differentiate it from the novel as in this book.)

Madeleine's grappling with literary criticism and structuralism serves as a backdrop to her own personal struggles regarding her past, present, and future, ("IS IT MEEEE!?" number 4) all somewhat intersecting through two important points: the great love of her life/turbulent bad boy and genius, Leonard, and the best-friend-forever-longing/sensitive religious studies major, Mitchell. The juxtaposition of these three characters was done so eloquently for me - their characters were fleshed out through a consciousness that very clearly echoed their state of minds and respective fields. While Madeleine viewed life through novels and literary devices, Mitchell did so with such mystification and curiosity, and Leonard through biological decadence.

There is still so much to the plot than just a love triangle and an English major. But it would take too much of the fun out if I laid it all on the table. A lot of people have been saying that this is not Eugenides best work, but I believe they are missing the point when they say that the characters are too inert or lack clarity. It is precisely the ambiguity and the haziness that this book is questioning, both regarding the art of the Novel and real life - without the comfort of the societal dictates that the idea of marriage, or anything else considered "secure," brings. How much are our dreams and motivations dependent on the changing face of society? How much does our future change once the setup of normal social structures evolve? Do the risks we take chase off worries or congeal them? By analyzing the evolution of the Novel, he also brings into light the evolution of society, and in turn, the fruition of our psyche, especially as we are thrust outside the comforting walls of the academe.

The book may feel a bit alienating to someone who isn't familiar with Barthes or Bronte or Wharton, but anyone who has ever questioned the promise of the future that lay ahead after college would definitely find familiarity in this one. It helped that it came to me in a time where I find myself in somewhat the same place as Madeleine. I too am faced with the rest of my life ahead of me - but what would become of me? How would the choices I make define my future? The idea of graduation somewhat introduces the feeling of adulthood, of invincibility, of the desire to make decisions only my way. But it also makes one realize how much of the future one is putting at stake even in the simplest choices like what thesis topic to pursue, or by choosing who to love and who to leave behind.

"The Marriage Plot" could not have come at a better time in my life. That five-minute brisk walk to Fully Booked Katipunan to secure myself a copy was most definitely worth it. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time; and I have never been so appreciative of being an English major (and taking all those comparative literature classes) until this.

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On my bedside table: The Best of 2011 Edition

I will be the first to admit that I have not exactly been reading for enjoyment as much as I would like to (and I have said this numerous times before), with most of my time devoted to writing papers, reviewing for LAE, or just plain bumming around, which has given me a huge backlog in my reading list. There were some books I am still in the middle of, and some books I gave up on as well. But the several books that I did finish in 2011 were probably the most important and thought-provoking that I've come across in the last four years or so. While I busied myself mostly with classics and literary canons both local and foreign, which are all mostly required for school, I did manage to squeeze in more contemporary but equally ground-breaking work from authors that I have only discovered the previous year. Some I've looked for in bookstores for months, others I just got drawn to on the bookshelf; some took a couple of weeks' savings, others just a few pesos cheaper than a bottle of beer, but all of them rewarding in their own ways, satisfying with every line break and character.

I'm glad to say that quite a handful of them left me a bit paralyzed after having read the last page - the kind of impact they had on me felt like a lover saying goodbye, or a close friend moving out of the country. It's always painful having to say goodbye to characters you've spent almost every night with, but like friendships, the beauty is in the reminiscing, and unlike breakups, you can always go back for a second (or a third) helping when you're just feeling lonely and not feel remorseful about it. Also, unlike breakups, you wouldn't mind sharing it to your friends because they were just so, so good.

With that, I'd like to write about some of the books that were most compelling to me in 2011. These are not all of the books I've read in 2011 - just the few that I can say truly changed me on some level, as a writer, as a person, or both. I have to say too that I cannot assure these would be completely unbiased reviews of these books, nor would they be critical in a literary sense, because I'd prefer to share my experience with them on a more personal level.

I shall start tomorrow. I'll do one book at a time, as I feel like they each deserve their own posts. (Also, it wouldn't take too much of my time to write about just one per day.) They will be in no particular order although I think I would like to start with what was the most symbolic and timely of them all - Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot."

Until then.

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