I patiently waited for the next bus that will take us back to Busan, South Korea. It a was cold night back in April. I was in Jinhae Bus Station, happy and contented after experiencing my first cherry blossom festival.
We were not the first persons in line so I thought my friend, Ate B, and I might not be seated together. True enough, when the bus arrived, the window seats got filled quickly. We ended seating across each other in aisle seats. I glanced at my seatmate and noted he was probably a European based on the language he was speaking while on a phone call. A few seconds after his call, he was sniffing and he took out a roll of tissue. I thought to myself he probably has colds due the weather.
Yesterday, after a very toxic day at work, I ran somewhere. I met up with a friend and we had a bowl of ramen for dinner. Because I was pretty much not myself anymore, I managed to spill a lot of sesame seeds in my ramen. Imagine what my tonkotsu ramen tasted like! It wasn’t very bad but it was definitely crunchy. Afterwards, we each bought a scoop of ice cream and walked around the streets talking about random things.
I told my friend, “This is possible, huh? Take a break in the middle of the week and let some steam out?”. She nodded and replied with a smile.
When people ask me these days what I fear the most, my answer would always be “to belatedly realize that I have already become part of the system I abhor”. In the Filipino language, it’s better known as “nilamon na ng sistema”.
It’s not only me who have this fear. After meeting with high school and college friends lately, I realized most of us have this fear or worry. Our common denominator is we are all in our late 20s or early 30s, struggling to climb our respective career ladders and general “in between” either in our respective communities and workplaces.
I sleep and sleep some more.
Because it’s not everyday I can sleep soundly.
I eat and eat some more.
Because it’s not everyday I can enjoy the food I love.
I stare at the skies and stare some more.
Because it’s not everyday I can appreciate a clear sky full of stars.
I laze and laze some more.
Because it’s not everyday I am not chasing time.
I play and play some more.
Because it’s not everyday I get to be a kid.
I live and live some more.
I got out of the van and looked at my wristwatch. It was 8 pm already. I had a very long week and today was no different. I also barely slept the previous night.
I can see the mall from where I stand. I crossed the street and debated on whether I should still eat dinner and buy some groceries. I was too tired to do both. I decided to just go home.
It was still quite a long walk…12 mins I think. On my way home, I thought about the things that need to be done for work. There are a lot. I cannot even fathom where to start and I cannot imagine if there is an endpoint.
My brother arrived in our apartment a few days ago exclaiming he is going home over the weekend. I asked him why he is going home again when he just visited a month ago. He replied, “Because I am suffering from homesickness lately.”
I often forget that my brother has only lived in Manila for 3 years. To date, he has lived most of his life in Bicol. On the other hand, I am more of stranger and occasional visitor in our family house, being away since I was 11. That’s almost 17 years.
I tried to recall what it feels to be homesick. Missing your pillow and beds at home? I don’t have those. I don’t even have a room and a cabinet in our house. The local neighborhood? I barely even know who lives in our street now.
Earlier, I had the same thoughts again while looking at the Christmas lights that decorate the trees on the way to my apartment. I said to myself, “It’s almost Christmas again. I can finally have a long vacation at home.”
Home will always be an interesting concept for people who have lived in so many places. What defines it? The physical structure, the people, the memories? As for me, home… is a place where my mom and siblings are, where I can enjoy my favorite dishes, and exist for a while without caring what the world demands from me.
I guess I am homesick after all and I am not even making any sense.
Every now and then
You stumble, you fall
To a point where you can’t stand up.
You cry, you bleed
To take the pain out.
You fear, you doubt
Because you can’t hope enough.
Yet you smile, you laugh
Because that’s when you are at your best.
You love, you give
Because you’re human,
You and me, we move in the same space.
The left is yours.
The right is mine.
An exact replica of each other.
You, 9 to 6. I, 9 to 6.
You look up to sky to count the hours until sunset.
I look down to count the hours until sunrise.
You, wondering how it is to be different.
I, trying to define what is normal.
You and me, we move in the same space.
But never at the same time.
Your style has gotten classier.
You don’t fret over sales.
You value quality over quantity.
You don’t say yes to every invitation.
You don’t bother to please everybody.
You laugh at yourself.
You shut up.
You don’t stress over every single thing.
You stand up for yourself.
You choose your friends.
You choose your battles.
You are confident.
You are wiser.
You just got older.
Yesterday after defending a research program for renewal, one of the board members of our office asked, “What is your background?”.
I replied, “I took Chemistry as my undergraduate course, then International Health for my graduate course”.
He then replied, “Wow. I never knew you were a chemist. Do you want to go back to the lab?”.
I was so tempted to reply, “Why, do you want to pirate me?”
Hah. It’s not the first time I got this reaction in my current line of work. The project leaders of one of the studies I manage once asked me, “Do you know any chemist? I need one for the project.”
I joked, “Do you want to hire me?”
Shocked, he then replied, “You’re a chemist? We’ve been working for a while now, but I never knew!”
I am still surprised when I see college students going out and about this summer. I often forget that major universities in the Philippines have already implemented academic shift. Classes now start in August and ends in May. This also means that summer breaks which used to be from April to May now fall on the not so summery months of June and July.
As a kid, I would always count the days until summer break. I felt 10 months for a school year was too long. Time also went by too slow. Summer meant I could wake up late, laze around for the whole day, and bury myself in the comfort of my books. I remember devouring shelves and shelves of books. It came to a point my mom would scold me because she had to keep my books in boxes under my bed.
Summer also meant lots of sunshine. We would go to beaches around the Bicol Region. Back then, sunblock was not yet a fad. Instead, we were forced to apply baby oil to protect out skin from the sun. And since I hated applying any form of oil in my body, by the end of summers I would end up so dark than my usual color.
I was in my hometown two weeks ago for the Holy Week break. It’s an annual practice—going home during Holy Week, All Soul’s Day and Christmas breaks. Apart for the reason these are only periods I get to spend time with my family, these are also the only periods I take long breaks from work.
A favorite habit of mine when I am at home is to sit in our terrace during sunset. Because it faces our gate and of the almost 1.5-meter elevation of our house above ground level, I get a good view of the setting sun, the road in front of our house, and railway that bisects the road.
During my recent stay, there was a day that I was suddenly overwhelmed by the utter calmness of my surroundings. There were hardly any cars passing by. Children were happily playing on the street. I could vividly hear the sound of chirping bird and insects, and even the sound of the blowing wind. It is a fact that in some places like my hometown, life can still be slow and uncomplicated. Yet, it still amazes me I am still able to experience how slow and uncomplicated life can be.
I frequent a massage shop called “Vibes” in a mall near my apartment. I usually go there twice a month to relieve myself from stress due to work and life, in general. One interesting aspect of Vibes is the massage therapists are blind. Unlike other regular customers though, I don’t favor a specific masseuse. I am fine with being assigned with the available masseuse because (1) I am generally impatient, and (2) it enables me to differentiate the massaging styles of the masseuses.
In the past three years of frequenting Vibes, I’ve observed a lot of things about their staff which often amazes me more than not. The massage therapists have very keen sense of touch and hearing. Even without saying a word and just by touching my back, they can tell if it’s me, if I lost or gained weight and if I am more stressed than usual. They also know my voice very well. They would say, “Oh! It’s Ma’am Melissa.” even if I just uttered, “Good evening”.
When they are in a light mood, some masseuse also share their interests. There is one instance when I had to wait for the masseuse for a while. When she arrived, she apologized profusely. She mentioned she was just replaying the episode of a drama she missed the previous night. I asked her how she replayed it. She replied she listened through the YouTube application in her smartphone. She further shared that sometimes she replays TV shows on her Acer laptop. I was simply dumbfounded.
The other week, my classmates and I were joking on our Facebook group what we would award each other for our upcoming graduation this July 25. One classmate said he would give me a “Master Procrastinator Award”. I was appalled so I asked him why.
He replied, “Because every time I am cramming for our paper or an exam, I would see in your posts that you are either in Korea, El Nido or some random beach. You don’t seem to be bothered by school or work at all”.
Am I one?? (Image credits to keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)
I was surprised that some of them had a perception that I am a “procrastinator”, so I clarified that when I am on travel, I bring my iPad and laptop. I study while waiting in airports and ports. I write papers at night or during the wee hours of the morning. I always put my phone on roaming to make sure I don’t miss anything work or school-related while I am overseas. Simply said, I multitask.
I always get questions related to this: How do you juggle things? How do you manage to keep up at work and school and still get to travel? So I thought I’d share of some of “tactics” of how I managed to do all three for the past years:
1. Multitask but do so efficiently. This is inevitable. I am not someone who can let go of my day job just to prioritize school or travel. I don’t have someone who I can say I can lean on in case I get into financial trouble. I don’t want rely on scholarships either because in the Philippines, more of often than not, stipends are delayed. I also still send money to my family back home every once in a while. Multitasking is not ideal, but to be able to do all things I want to do and have to do, this is the compromise I make.
I am lucky enough that my classes are online. So while on travel, I can still participate in class discussion late at night or write papers at dawn. When I have something important for work that coincides with my travel, I usually check my email at least three times a day to make sure my workmates would still get the information they need from me.
I was browsing thorugh my drafts and I found this unfinished post. I wrote this in May 2013. I wondered why I never got to post this. So here’s a sort of flash back Friday post:
Last night my brother told me, “Should I go out of the country next year?”. He then followed up with, “What should I do about the promotion offered by the company?”
I just replied, “Do what you think will be best for you. If you feel you like doing something, then try it.”
There was a time when I have also been bothered so much by such questions. I was very envious of my peers who are already leaving the country to get their PhDs. I felt bad seeing pictures of people who were able to travel to different places. I was jealous of people who already know what are the things they are good at. I was too consumed by the so called “quarter life crisis”.
I don’t know how but thankfully I am slowing easing out of the stage already. These days, I am less bothered by how far my peers has achieved, how many places they went too and whether they are now rich by mastering their craft. Instead, I have diverted my energies on trying out different things such as finally booking a ticket to go the place that I want to and enrolling in a course even if I am not yet sure if it’s the track I want to pursue. I now don’t feel so bad that I haven’t achieved yet the things that I want to do when I was 23. I have now appreciated the investments I have made to secure not only mine but my brothers’ future are as well. In short, I have finally found my footing and I am now in betters terms of myself as far as capacities and experiences are concerned.
The path towards this state was not easy and I am not even sure how I came to such kind of peace and understanding. However, one thing I have always acknowledged is that every one of us is unique but at the same time share certain universal traits. By understanding individual differences, I realized that is no point in competing with anybody. When we strive to improve, it should not be because you want to beat someone but because you know you are lacking in certain areas. And by acknowledging that we share certain universal traits, I realized that despite status differences, people still seek the same thing… happiness, acceptance, contentment.
Whoa. I was thinking of these things when I was 23. But I feel happy that I still feel the same way I felt two years ago. You don’t compete with anybody but yourself. 🙂