Before 4 a.m.

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This old woodshed stands a few feet away from the airport runway. | Dumaguete City, October 17.

 

THE SEASON of rain has finally come. These days, the sun shows up for an hour or so, then disappears behind thick clouds in order to give way, first, to a slow, steady, quiet drizzle then, almost imperceptibly, on to a sudden downpour. Some days when I wake up at ten or eleven in the morning, I look outside the window and see the overcast sky  imbuing a delicate, somber mood which ultimately registers throughout the day. As a response, I usually curl up on the couch, still half-asleep, as I try to pick up those little fragments of my dreams that seem to deftly slip past my half-conscious grasp. Chase them down for a couple of minutes, although to no avail. Surrender kicks in like an exhausted friend slumped at the corner of the room. So I decide instead to get up and make myself some coffee.

I open my laptop, check my Skype, and quickly scroll down for some updates from my supervisor. Between 15 and 40 unread messages altogether in five or six separate group chats. At least, no private messages for me. Yet. Quick sigh. I wait for the coffee to brew.

Earlier this month, I was transferred to the writing department for this online ESL company I’ve been with for a year and two months. My job then was much simpler: lead generation, posting ads across different sites, the usual marketing tasks. The main goal’s to gather as many online English tutors to teach for the company, and I was among the few tasked to hunt for these particular online job seekers. It was the kind of job I knew I’d eventually get tired of. When, about a month ago, my supervisor pitched in the possibility that I’ll be writing blogs for the company soon (she knew I love to write), I took it like a giddy kid would take a lollipop handed to him through a stroke of some well-deserved luck.

Now I’m on probationary period which — I’m hoping — will last until the end of this month. The task is to write eight 500-to-700-word articles every day from Mondays to Fridays. Topics vary from tips on teaching English to tips in learning English, and other marketing write-ups to push the company forward and spread the word.

I’m a little skeptical about this whole thing, to be honest. I’ve never done full-time blogging before, so now I’m still having a hard time catching up with the pace. I’ve so many pending articles to write — about 35 of them — but every time I sit up straight, face the laptop, and start fidgeting with the keyboard, nothing comes up. Or something does, but it feels too contrived, too bland, that I end up staring at the first few sentences I’ve strung together and realize they don’t make sense. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Speaking of things not making sense, I just recently turned twenty-eight nine days ago, and now I’m utterly and completely broke. Which doesn’t sound like a great way to welcome a new year of my life, although having almost nothing at all, while it’s confounding and, quite frankly, extremely perplexing for the most part, also allows me to patiently look for those small, tender graces I tend to ignore. I really really really have got to start being responsible with my own finances.

On a brighter note, I recently discovered this singer/songwriter called Tom Brosseau. Stumbling upon unheard-of singers is like finding little, precious gems. You take immense pride in showing them off. His song “Fit To Be Tied” is just too beautiful I was a little disappointed to find out no one has transcribed it online. So I did.

Fit To Be Tied

My head is so heavy
It’s hanging like the moon
Well I’ll find a way to love you
And I know ain’t no way gonna do
Well I’ll find a way to love you
And I know ain’t no way gonna do

Well I’m leaving and then I won’t look back
And don’t you expect a goodbye
I said all my prayers
Returned the vows and the honeymoon
I ain’t got the answers
My prayers never made it out to you
I ain’t got the answers
My prayers never made it out to you

Well that’s just the way you wanted it
Ain’t that just the way the story goes
I’m cut from my connection
A solemn anchor cast to sea
I ain’t fit to be tied
I keep driftin’ down without security
I ain’t fit to be tied
I keep driftin’ down without security
And my home’s the abyss and I know
I won’t be missed at all. 

 

 

 

 

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That Woozy, Ticklish Feeling of High

A FRIEND once pointed out to me that the next time I embark on a gigantic, life-changing decision, I should rather keep it to myself than have all the people in the world know what I’m about to do. The most apparent culprit for this, of course, is Facebook, this tempting beast of an online platform where our most personal frustrations, those well-deserved triumphs, or even our most mundane moments such as the well-garnished lunch we had or this multi-flavored frappe we downed with our friends in a franchised hip coffee shop somewhere in the city are exhibited in the open, curated by our well- or ill-discerning standards of taste in which ‘critical’ assessment comes in the form of emoticons or a ‘well-thought-out’ review in the comments section below the post in question.

Well.

The last time I did, it was a text message I received congratulating me for being hired for a Vietnamese company from a prospective recruiter who, at the time, was hiring English teachers to work in Hanoi, which I posted on my timeline, because, as much as I hate to admit it, I wanted instant recognition. Minutes after I screen-captured the text message and posted the delightful news on my wall, my notifications soared to a ridiculous high number of congratulatory comments, and each time I hit them back with a trite Thanks, the feeling of elation swelled inside me, like when you’re in a car running 60km per hour and suddenly the road curves down, and that split second when your heart seems to come off, you feel a woozy, ticklish feeling of high that you want to do it again and again.

Of course, she’s right. That proved to be a huge mistake. And in retrospect, a kind of blunder, I must say. Because months later, I’d still be in the Philippines. And when people asked me, surprised to see me gallivanting around, “I thought you’d be in Vietnam by now?” I’d give them this nonchalant, unperturbed look and say, “Plans change, don’t they?” One night, my friend even posted a picture of us at a bar, when we were out celebrating for our other friend’s arrival after a month or so of being away-there were five of us-in which he captioned the photo “Welcome back Yannick, and goodbye Aaron #leavingforVietnammaybein2019”. It was funny. But deep down, fuck.

Fuck, no matter how unabashedly banal and unapologetic it sounds, seems to sum up the whole experience entirely. That proved to be my first, gut-wrenching lesson on 50 Ways on How Not to Use Facebook. It also made me critical about the things I should post there. But more importantly, it gave me a glimpse of my naïve and pompous 26-year-old self: at the core of this is an underlying lesson to be had.

In a letter written by Cheryl Strayed in response to an anonymous 22-year-old penned Seeking Wisdom who asked the 40ish-year-old writer, “What would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?” Strayed’s first response was arrestingly simple: Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit?

It was her rhetorical question that made me close the book, pause for a minute and stare at the wall for a few more goddamn minutes. Who gives a shit?

Because I guess in the long run, we’ll always find ourselves confronted with this ridiculously yet surprisingly wise question. In my case, now that I’m a year older, I still do. Or better yet, I have to. It’s a bittersweet, face-smacking wake-up call that puts your tail back between your legs. It keeps you at bay of all of your baseless, puffed-up assumptions about yourself. It keeps you grounded.

Or that’s how it was-and still is-for me. Who gives a shit?

Well.