Crawling out of the slump

The lockdown seems to have dug me a creative ditch, and I’ve been slumped there ever since. I realize that the last thing I blogged about here was something I wrote pre-quarantine, but it’s not like I’ve not written anything else since mid-March—I even contributed one article to an online lifestyle magazine. Still, I feel like this is the driest of the dry spells I’ve ever had. I tried picking up novels to read for inspiration, but even that I didn’t have the energy to do.

One night when I was having trouble sleeping, I randomly revisited a playlist of music I used to obsess over back in college. I couldn’t remember which Arctic Monkeys track came up, but hearing it made me want to…create something. It’s not even the lyrics that pushed me, though I was a huge fan of Alex Turner’s (and Miles Kane’s!) writing back in the day. It’s the feelings that the track dredged up. They weren’t very pleasant emotions, but they were fuel nonetheless. So lying on my bed with nothing but phone in hand and Turner’s vocals flooding my ears, I opened my Notes app and began translating those emotions into actual words. It’s the first poem I wrote in a long time, and it’s about grief.

Perhaps I’ll be able to post the whole thing here soon, when I’ve chiseled enough personal rawness off the edges for it to be understood by other people. But writing it was cathartic. It made me want not only to write more, it also urged me to return to my other creative pursuits, like drawing. Since I couldn’t publish the poem here yet, I posted here a quick sketch that complements it: kintsugi.

Here’s to hoping I get to produce more soon! Art, whether writing or drawing or painting, can really be therapeutic, especially this time.

Here’s to the new decade!

The decade that was has flitted like a tempest that left a riot of both blessings and losses in its wake. Time and again I was reminded of our reality: it’s a world where it’s sometimes necessary for personal goals to be pushed in the back burner, a world where we must learn to earn our own peace as it constantly dances to the dissonance of broken dreams, deadlines, and traffic jams. It’s become common for our daily fuel to consist of extra-strong caffeine, silent prayers, and the relentless determination to put food on the table.

Admittedly, there are some days when it would feel as if it’s a sin to even think about our personal dreams from a long, long time ago. See, in kindergarten, they asked us what we want to be when we grow up, and the eager answers would range from teachers to astronauts, from scientists to Presidents. Today, these kids? We often quip that we could’ve just said we want to be happy.

It’s not that we’ve thrown away our ambitions as we age—it’s our habit to tell ourselves we’ve just taken a temporary rain check, but we’re not entirely sure when to go back. It’s not even that we’re not happy to sacrifice what we want for the sake of our loved ones—in fact, nothing can curl our lips into the most genuine of smiles than the thought of being able to provide for our families. But the world has grown harsher over the years, and it simply tells us that, “There aren’t no easy happy-ever-afters here, Working Class kid. This is what you prioritize.”

And in all those years, this I retorted: challenge accepted. I’m not backing down. I’m going to strive, and I’m going to survive. There are days when I lost sight of my purpose, sure; there are days when my knees buckled under the weight of all the lives I thought I’d be living by now. There are moments made of tears and held-in screams and gloom that held me captive in solitude, and I learned to accept that this is okay (even healthy). I promised to bounce back, and I did. I believe there will be times teeming with hope and light, and I will move forward again to work the long, hard slogs.

In a quiet corner of my head, I acknowledged, too, that there are days when I will not have to ignore the knock of the young dreamer in my heart.

I’ve always told myself that thriving in adulthood would entail keeping my inner child alive, and this remains to be true. To fellow dreamers: listen to the whispers of that kid. Do what the hummingbird beats in your chest tell you—write that poem, sing that song, sway into those dance steps. Know that aspirations don’t always festoon the skies like stars, that sometimes they are embedded deep beneath layers upon layers of our obligations to the world. Know, too, that visions of both loft and depth require a steadfast soul and a patient heart.

Responsibilities would always ride roughshod over our dreams, but this doesn’t mean our ears should always fall deaf on our heart’s desires. Bring them to life bit by hard-won bit, in the margins of what we do for others. Do this for ourselves.

For we may not live fairytale-fodder lives even if we pursue this, but we can always go out there—complete with an armor and weapon of faith—and slay our self-made dragons whatever form they may come today.

Here’s to the new decade!

I, writer

(as published on The Philippine Daily Inquirer Young Blood column today, December 8, 2019)

Half-baked characters from my half-written stories have this habit of lingering precariously on the peripheries of my undemanding days. Not always, of course, but they are frequent visitors at hours they think they are most welcome. With their sinews and bones molded from printer ink and several unfinished drafts several folders deep in the corner of my laptop, they would say hello when a certain scene in my day would trigger their presence.

For instance, when a shaft of sunlight poured from the blinds straight through my clear mug of coffee one morning, it reminded me of the color I gave the eyes of a Little Prince-sque kid in a fairy tale I abandoned. I took a sip of the beverage and he was there, slumped on the chair beside me.

“Have you ever thought of coming back?” he asked, cradling his face in his cupped hand. “You know… of opening my story again and giving it a happy-ever-after?”

Continue reading “I, writer”

Still life with skies and hope

(as published on The Philippine Daily Inquirer Young Blood column last July 16, 2019)

“Why is the sky blue?”

When I was a little kid and no one would answer when I asked this question, I simply imagined angels playing in heaven, with one clumsy cherub accidentally spilling a can of blue paint right between the clouds. This was enough of an explanation for me back then.

Today, witnessing sunsets that douse the skies with an array of color, both warm and cool, makes me want to curl back into those innocent thoughts.

Science may have taught me Rayleigh scattering and atmospheric optics, but in a world that has unfolded to be so complex before my growing eyes, I would sometimes like to revisit the vision of little me: that girl whose tickled mind made her so curious that she poured all contents of a paint box onto paper to imitate the skies. That girl who then wrote about them with all the words she knew, which eventually made her decide that her heart was for the arts.

Continue reading “Still life with skies and hope”