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Hello, Baguio weather

The cold weather of the last few weeks is a thing of pure joy. 

It reminds me so much of Baguio - and what a wonderful, twisted kind of chill it brings down my spine.

The last time I was there this April, I had no idea what was going to happen to me. I was torn between decisions, and life was suddenly at a crossroads by my own doing. I had to make a choice, and I had to make one quick. But before all that, I had Baguio - the strawberries, the clear skies, the comfort of the chill. In hindsight, it was the calm before the storm.

Nothing was ever the same after Baguio.

But I can say the same for someone else too. 

He probably had no idea that buying ube for some acquaintance back in Manila would turn his world upside down. Where he was at that point in his life that May, if he was at a crossroads too, I can't say exactly. But he was elsewhere, in another place that probably had no direction yet. Then he picked up that jar and decided it might lead him somewhere. It got him here.

We didn't know it at the time, but we probably both embraced the cold with a sense of hope and longing - that one day the chill can be shared, that the coolness will one day lead to calm.

The frigid breeze is cruel to a lot of people, but it's comforting for some of us. It reminds me of Baguio, and it reminds me of the many things that came after. Mostly the good things. I had no idea they were going to come, but come and linger they did. 

So thank you for this weather, January. It reminds me of the cold - the cold that bites, and the cold that leads you to something warm. The cold that lingers, and the cold that brings you home.


Learning to love again

I've written about it, I've talked about it, but a part of me thinks that the actual heartbreak of the last year has been greatly unacknowledged by me. It played a far bigger role in the past twenty months or so than any other factor in my life, but because of certain circumstances, I let its impact be overshadowed by other sentiments -- far too greatly, I must say, because now that I think about it, this is actually what magnified the confusion and heartache that came with all the other things that happened.

Law school.

Since June of 2012, I haven't been the same. And it has partly to do with the change in relationship status, but everything to do with the change career-wise. Ever since I entered law school, I stopped being someone else. And I say "stopped" because it wasn't entirely a conscious decision coming from me - I graduated from college, and I began my journey as a postgraduate student. It was something that happened to me.

Law school has always been the dream, the future. It was always set in stone; it was something that has been planted in my head ever since I can remember. Granted, I've gone through a lot of "dreams"  - as most kids have, I assume - depending on whatever "phase" I was in as a kid (or actually, depending on what toy I had). I wanted to be a newscaster, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an architect. I wanted to be all those things, and it changed depending on whose autograph book I was signing in grade school. But some time between watching Ally McBeal dancing in the Cage & Fish unisex restroom and seeing Elle Woods donning that hot pink suit to court, I realized I wanted to be a lawyer. So it's not the most ideal nor noble of beginnings - but it was a dream, and for once, it was concrete. It didn't hurt that my parents also really wanted me to become a lawyer, as does the rest of the family. (Both my grandmothers were supposed to be lawyers.)

So the end goal was always law school. I took up Accounting as my specialization in fourth year high school. I was set to become a CPA - or at least my parents were. But nonetheless, all my other "back-up" options were geared towards law school. All the other courses I applied for in different universities was a possible pre-law.

Then, UP happened.

It was actually my dad who suggested Creative Writing. Admittedly, it was a strategy (because it was not a quota course.) But he also figured out that it was something that would sufficiently equip me with the skills I actually need in law school: reading and writing. Immersing myself in literature is the closest I can be to the practice of law -- which is, in reality, immersing yourself in literature. Granted, it's a different kind of literature, but you get the idea. Plus, he knew that I loved to read and write. He knew how much I could enjoy it.

Which was pretty freakin' brilliant of my dad. Because what was never truly acknowledged as a proper dream of mine growing up was that I wanted to be a writer. My dozens of notebooks, scratch papers, and typewritten "documents" were all testament to the fact that I liked telling stories. I'm an only child, and to deal with being alone most of the time, I immersed myself in my own kind of universe. I created friends, and characters, and people whose lives were so different from mine. I borrowed tales from the many books I've read; I played with ideas from the many things I saw and heard. Of course, I had to be a writer. If I was going to do anything else - at least, before being a lawyer - it had to be writing. It had to be.

And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I could not even begin to describe how deeply, madly in love I was with my course. It was not a walk in the park, and it was never easy, because I had no formal training before - I was never part of the school paper, and I never really pursued it as a serious hobby. But it was something I was willing to learn. I worked hard at it. And the feeling I got after every class, workshops and critiques notwithstanding, was that of certainty. I liked what I was capable of producing. I loved that feeling of knowing that even with just a few words, I can string together feelings and thoughts and ideas. It was so empowering to be able to capture moments and paint pictures just by putting together sentences. I was so, so sure I was doing what I wanted.

Everything felt right. I'm not saying that I produced great works of art, but I was sure I made my work with the kind of passion and hard work needed to come up with such. I loved reading about theory, I loved trying it out on my own. And the important part was, even at my suckiest, even at my most down, as a CW major, I never resented it. It was love. It really was.

Then, it came to an end. It was about time; it had to.

I guess I don't have to explain anymore how tiring and exhausting and incredibly frustrating law school is - how different it is from everything I've grown accustomed to. I've ranted enough about how difficult staying and wanting to actually be here is.

I spent the entirety of last year forcing myself to love Law the same way I love Literature. Because of the shit I had to go through, I had no choice but to force myself into it. But that's the problem - I was so preoccupied with putting on a brave face, of letting people see that I liked it here, of proving to people that I deserve to be here, when in fact, I shouldn't have. Because I don't like law school, and it doesn't like me. There is no magic here. It's not like that.

I guess what I'm saying is, what frustrates me so much about law school is that it's never something that truly, deeply moved me and made me genuinely happy. I work hard sure, but it's not that rewarding. I try to finish my cases on time, yes, but it's not... satisfying.

Before you say, "That's the kind of attitude that sets you up for disaster," -- don't be so quick to judge. I'm very thankful for the people I decided to surround myself with, because I really think that if it weren't for them, I wouldn't have stayed. (Hi, UP Portia Sorority. Hi, #Dog. Hi, to the incredibly handsome and supportive boyfriend of mine. I love you all.) And all of them have done wonders for my self-esteem. I've long stopped thinking that I'm unworthy of being called a law student; I haven't thought about quitting anymore.

But I also now realize that law school is not something I love.

No fireworks. Nada, zero, nil.

And you know what? It has something I've come to accept, and learned to come to terms with. Surprisingly, it's also something that has helped me tremendously in the way I deal with my day-to-day life.

The moment I stopped putting myself - and law school - up a pedestal, I realized that I can manage. I can study law. I can survive. When I stopped comparing how I study law and how everyone else in class studies, I became more relaxed and more intent to just do what I have to do. It surprised me how motivated I became when I stopped telling myself to do well, and just let myself go with the flow.

I also stopped blaming law school. Sure, I still find something incredibly wrong with the system. (How can people want to stay in this college when they're so intent on kicking you out?) But as it is, there is nothing I can actually do about it on my own. If I fought it and resisted it, I will only end up going nowhere.

There really is no spark between us.

You'll be surprised, however: when I embraced the fact that there isn't any magic here, I became a much productive student. And a much fulfilled one, at that.

It's so incredibly weird. Sometimes, even I don't understand it.

I hope no one thinks I'm such an ungrateful student, when so many others would want to be able to just fulfill this dream. I'm not quitting - this, I'm very sure of. I'm working my ass off just to stay, because I also don't want to lose this. I don't want to lose this.

I hope no one thinks I'm just deluding myself and that maybe I'm better off going after what I really love. Well yeah, sometimes in my case, survival includes delusion. But it's not like I'm on a completely losing end when I continue pursuing law school. I end up being a lawyer after all this, for crying out loud. That's not an awful end of the bargain. And if some years down the line, I decide I don't want to be a lawyer, I can pursue whatever career I want then. But I'm here now already - might as well just finish it and get it over with.

And I hope no one takes it against me when 70% of the time, I'm doing this for my family. I'm staying because this is what they want for me - but I don't resent it. Let me just clear that up: I'm happy to make them happy. I'm an only child, and an only granddaughter in one side of the family. I know they only want the best for me, and likewise, I also want to give them the best from me. So when I say I'm in law school because of my parents, it's not something I say with disgust. I'm actually proud and happy that such a reason exists to make me want to stay in law school and not give up on it (or on myself.)

Like I said though, it's not something I love. But it's something I'm learning to like enough, I guess. And maybe for now that's fine.

Maybe to put things in a much better perspective: Law school was my biggest crush. Then she said yes to me and we started dating. But then it dawned on me how much we didn't click. So I tried my hardest to make things work - I tried spending endless hours with her, I tried proclaiming my love for her, I spent nights being intimate with her. We just ended up fighting and resenting each other. It got to the point where I hated it so much. It only made me realize, again, that we can never be lovers.

But we can be good friends.

And you know, as sucky as that situation may be in real life when it comes to the relationship-status department, (thank God when I ended up with this crush of mine, it's all magic and butterflies and everything I expected it to be -- but that's a completely different story), I found that it's not such an awful situation to be in, especially in this case.

I like it enough to make me want to learn, to make me want to understand things. Sometimes, it bores me. But sometimes, it also makes me genuinely interested. Sometimes, I still wonder how different my life would have been if I did accept that internship at Summit. On most nights, when I'm cramming for something in school, I still end up thinking about how nice it would be to come up with an anthology like Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book. I find my comfort in things outside law school. However, given the right professors, and the right attitude, it's something I've grown to enjoy spending time with. It's not magical and wonderful and all kinds of marvelous - but it's not such bad company when you're watching the news and hearing legal jargon being tossed around here and there. It's a good feeling to be able to tell someone what his legal remedies could be when certain situations happen. It's nice to be able to share certain cases on a car ride to Trinoma, or explain provisions while eating a heavenly slice of chocolate cake with ice cream. It's great company to have around, when no one's shoving it down your throat.

Truth is, I really believe that I want to be a lawyer. It's just that it's law school that's getting in the way. I do want to serve. I do want to give back. I do want to empower people by providing them the service and protection of the law. I just have to trudge my way through this sometimes unreasonable and often unjust (ironically) environment that is law school.

So perhaps, this year, my real resolution is this: being happy with law school, just the way we are. I've come to terms with the fact that it's never going to be like before, with Creative Writing. I've accepted that it's not the head-on-your-heels, crazy-in-love kind of relationship. I don't love it. But I don't hate it anymore. I'm fine with that now, I guess. I'm getting by.

Malcolm and I, we're better off as friends.

Who knows, maybe it leads to love somewhere down the road. Hopefully. But it's not something I will worry about. Maybe it's just not written in the stars. Or maybe it is, just not now. Life has its ways.

But it is what it is, and it is where I am, and maybe that's okay for now.




Of faith and fate

Not quite surprisingly, 2013 was, in many ways, an extension of the heartache and turmoil that 2012 was. I welcomed it with a confused and heavy heart: while I was making an apparent effort to stand up and dust myself off from everything that happened, I knew deep down that there was no ground to stand on in the first place. I've lost faith in a lot of things in life: mostly love, but also partly, myself.

And perhaps that's the biggest heartbreak of all: to lose your self. To find out that stripped away of certain things (and people), you do not recognize the person that you are. To realize that outside certain expectations, there is no you to speak of. 

I thought I was crippled by my own sadness. But little did I realize that I was crippled by the wrong sense of self I was trying so hard to reach. By the end of 2012, I just wanted to be happy. But happy is not something that comes crawling back to you one fine afternoon, inviting you for lunch, begging you for a second chance. Happiness is not a call at two in the morning assuring you that it's not getting drunk with a girl in Ilocos. It is not sacrificing what you want for some version of yourself that someone else is blindly holding on to.

Happiness is a choice. It's walking away when you have the chance; it's cutting your losses when there's no more left to gain. 

I had a lot of heartaches for 2013, more than what I've had in the last few years, definitely. I lost people I've once loved. My grandmother hit her head and suffered a minor brain injury. My grades were not something to be proud of. I seriously questioned the power of prayer.

But it's true what they say, that when you're at your lowest, it's when the universe surprises you. When you finally look up to the heavens and think, "Where else do I go from here?" does the cosmos align finally, as if waiting for such a password, and moving to make things right again.

Little did I know that the choices I had to make would pay off so quickly. But they didn't seem so in the beginning. It was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you're crying yourself to sleep every night, or when you're standing up in the middle of recit, stumped, even when you've read for everything. The good things certainly didn't come trickling in in a second.

But trickle in they did. And I couldn't be more grateful.

I once thought that I could no longer be the former happy person I once was after everything. I couldn't be more wrong. Because it's only after such a bad experience that you are able to wipe yourself clean and truly be able to feel what it's like to be glad and content, sans all the hurt. 

Last February, I saw my most favorite band in the world, Stars, perform live, and it brought tears to my eyes, and a great shock to my entire being. "Hold on when you get love, so you can let go when you give it," they sang. I raised my hand then, closed my eyes, and swayed myself to the song, not knowing if it was true, and if it was going to happen.

But it did. It did. Life (and love) has a funny way of working itself around our everyday. We shouldn't - and should never - stop holding on, even when our entire being says so. 

I was truly lucky to have been given the chance to just push restart and have everything go back to zero some time in the middle of the year. It was a fresh start - the real new beginning that I truly needed. Looking back now, because of certain choices, 2013 wasn't such an awful year after all. I gained the most amazing set of sisters with the UP Portia Sorority. I've been having the best, most honest conversations with my grandmother after her injury. I realized how much my parents truly loved me, faults and all. I discovered that true friends know no time or space; they will stand by you regardless of your personal decisions. I realized that going to Mass every week is truly an enriching experience. And I found out that love is never a stranger to a heart that always believes.

And that's the greatest take away from all of this, I guess: at our lowest point, it's hard to believe that things will get better. But they will. They really will. And it will always be so much more worth it than it ever was. You just have to trust the universe, and wait.

Because you never know. Sometimes happiness is a strange fellow. Sometimes it will come with a jar of ube in tow from Baguio, and before you know it, nothing - nothing - will ever be the same again.


Oh hello, 2014 :)