I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.
Hhhmm, I see a pattern here. I really need to stop overanalyzing these posts before I even write them. Ah, there you go. First goal for 2014. Don’t think, just write.
I have been thinking about this post for weeks. I’m not kidding. Weeks. The different parts have been swirling in my head for some time now but I guess there were too many books to read, feelings to deal with, a mind to put to rest, people to see, gifts to buy, stories to hear, and an emotional corner to reach and turn before I could sit down and write. I also think it has something to do with wanting to do things differently at the tail end of this year. Because 2012’s last two ber months were a blur. By the end of 2012, I could no longer remember where I ended and began and I felt like I didn’t have the time and/or had lost all inclination to reflect, to take stock of the year that went, to think about where I was, what I was grateful for, who I was quickly falling in love with. You know, things normal people do. I mean I was really happy for so many reasons but I had also reached the dip of the expat cycle. The honeymoon stage was over and I didn’t know it. When January 1, 2013 hit, I was unhinged, disorientated and wordless. I remember writing to my close friends in Singapore that first day of last year looking for a way to feel the ground underneath my feet.
I swore I would never do that to myself again.
I also remember, spending the last hours of December 31, 2012 in the middle of Romanceville, polishing a piece I had been working on with my Grade 7 kids, desperately scribbling, typing, revising and editing this poem. Anything to avoid the profound loneliness I felt just a few weeks into my new relationship. As usual, my spirit was filled with impatience, restlessness and contradictions. I thought I was in love. But I had doubts. I thought I met someone worth the time and energy but some things didn’t add up. I told myself over and over, I could make what we had right/work/last if I tried hard enough and ended with the thought, What? Not here again? Damn it, Pau! I thought I recognized him & didn’t know until later that I had recognized someone else. I swore I would never move or fall that fast again. Even if my heart healed a long time ago. Even if he made me really happy for awhile.
Anyway, as much as I have been thinking, I have also been writing bits and pieces of this post for days. In different coffeehouses, park benches, airports and living rooms. Wrote drafts and parts in a new Moleskine notebook I bought to serve as my writing journal for the coming year. I really wanted to pay attention. Choose the right words. And not share them until they were ready. Until my heart was ready. Until I had my word for 2014. Until I knew exactly what I thought of the year that came and went. I didn’t want to feel lost again when the new year arrived. I watched the days of winter break pass me by as I read and rested, hung out with my family, and observed and took pictures instead of blogged. Four books, pages and pages of redundant notes and drawings in my new notebook, a sleepless week, decisions and a brain crammed with emotional stuff later, what I intended to be my last post of 2013, has turned into my first one for 2014. I thought I was too late and then way too early, now I know this post arrived just in time. Here goes …
Before I officially welcome 2014, let me say a proper farewell to a year that wiggled its way into my heart. Thank you, 2013 (and Haikudeck). Here’s to you and the 13* things that have made you some kind of wonderful
(* implicitly includes God and my immediate family, of course #justsayin).
I started biking to and from work for many reasons. One was to make sure I was moving more and incorporating some kind of workout into my day without needing to carve extra time or creating more obstacles to not be more active. Another was I needed to change my morning routine. It reminded me too much of a time when I was really happy and because I didn’t have that routine anymore, it made me sad to carry on status quo. So a girlfriend and I bought ourselves hybrids, practiced and figured out our routes to and from school, lugged a set of clothes, toiletries and groceries the Monday we were ready and started a new habit that we are still committed to today. Biking has forced me to sleep earlier, travel lighter, eat and feel better, find more quiet time and leave school earlier. It’s one decision we made in 2013 that has made a huge difference in my health, well-being and peace of mind.
I love music but I am not like a crazy fan of anyone or any genre really. So many of my closest friends, including my brother, are like music aficionados, complete with blog post series on bands, concert tickets, old CDs or albums and different playlists they searched for and listened to over and over again. It defines milestones for them, says something about who they are and what they are going/been through and I love that and admire them for it. But I don’t think I have that gene. It’s like a relationship I only understand when I think of my love for books or photography or poetry. Or when I think of films and possible songs that will make up a soundtrack filling the air as the establishing shot begins. Anyway, for many reasons, finding Spotify this year has been life giving. Playing music all the time has changed my spaces. My classroom, my home, my commutes and plane rides have all been different. I hardly listen to the old tunes in my iTunes library anymore (which I ripped from my brother, pretty much) and am slowly developing my own muscle for music. I love having access to different types of sounds and discovering what I actually like, what defines me and the best part, sharing playlists with favorite people. I am still no music expert on any single band but I do love walking around with my headphones on curating different soundtracks for different scenes that actually happen to sh*t that’s just playing in my head.
It’s been a rich year for traveling, 2013 So I am grateful for that too. I went home to Manila four times. Went to Thailand thrice, then Perth, Sibu and Cambodia for different student trips. I also got to visit Kuala Lumpur and HongKong to be with close friends and New York twice to spend time with my sister. What I rediscovered this year is my love cities. Everything about them makes me swoon. From the diversity, the lights, the culture, the pace and its pulse – I miss the ocean and the mountains but this year was a year for city love.
This actually deserves its own blog entry but in a nutshell, one of ultimate highlights of 2013 for me was anticipating the arrival of my sister’s first son, Caleb. It was a treat to have been able to spend time with her during her third trimester in my favorite city on the planet, New York and to be able to go back and MEET and spend time with Caleb AND turn 40 in New York City was like the best birthday gift ever…because of this I will never forget you, 2013.
Which brings me here. This also deserves its own blog entry but right now this is what I have to say about leaving my thirties behind.
Yup. This is what it looks like. Me at 40. Right here. Right now. And guess what, it’s pretty darn awesome. I know a little more…more of what really matters anyway. I also understand that I still don’t really know much and yup, that’s totally okay. I am independent, fulfilled, free and hopeful. I love what I do everyday and am surrounded by amazing people. I live in a beautiful country not too far from my family and can rush to my sister in NYC if she ever needed me. I do wonder what’s next but most days, I take it all in, humbled by the open doors and enjoying the freedom that’s in front of me. At 40, I’ve never felt more grown up but I’ve also never felt so young and ready for anything. Does that make sense? There’s so much out there to still learn and embrace and love; and letting go? That becomes easier because I have also become wiser.
You can read my post on it here. One word – EPIC.
My love affair with images and words continues. Music, art, photography, books and writing our own verses and entries- they always, always save the day. Again, let me use Mary Oliver’s words – because this is what photography and words help me do.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
Don’t laugh. I know. I should have put something more profound um, but I didn’t and I won’t apologize for it today. Because I love that fashion is like art too in many ways. I know it’s a problematic industry and looks like it shouldn’t be celebrated any more than it needs to be but it feels good sometimes to put something together and let it say something about design and style.
Anyway, I think 2013 would have been treacherous without the love and company of my girlfriends, both old and new. They have become my family away from my family.
Seriously, you know who you are.
From saving me from myself to catching me when I fall to trusting me with your own secrets, joys and pain, I love you all. Thank you for always being there.
Heartbreak is only hard while it’s happening, I guess. In the end, because you survive it and come out stronger, it’s all good. You learn from the crappy bits, remember the good stuff, feel grateful and forgive (and hopefully feel forgiven) and just want what’s healthiest for you and your old partner. All the rest, you get to just throw away because it doesn’t serve you. That’s what I did, anyway.
Best part is, I don’t regret, not even for a minute, putting myself out there with my hopeful heart on my tattooed sleeve. I don’t regret loving fiercely and trusting completely. Can I protect my heart better, sure. But I also know that I have learned to leave when I know it no longer feels right for me. I didn’t settle or hang around like I was 23 or 28 or 35. I left like a wise
R 39 year old and didn’t waste any more time than I needed to.
Ah, I guess, I already have three other posts on the back burner because this too deserves its own entry. Ideologically and literally, embracing the sadness is really so much better when you have a tribe to do it with. Sadness comes in different ways, at different times and to carve time today to talk about it and say, ‘I love and accept you whether I get it or not’, has been priceless. Who says you can’t make new real friends as you grow older? It’s just not true. So to my old Twitter/now new IRL friends who I love, respect and admire to pieces, thank you for making 2013 special. You know who you are.
Did I say three extra blog posts? I actually meant four. I wish I could say more about this but I think I will be composing this particular post for awhile. Let’s just say that in the end, 2013’s finish line has been all about this. Receiving and accepting it actually more than my extending it. I take none of it for granted. I am still humbled by it today. Thank you.
Lastly, my second year at UWCSEA-East is coming to a close and my gosh all the learning can’t measure up against a trip around the world and back. Twice! Everyday, I continue to learn something new, consolidating ideas and collaborating with some of the most inspiring, open minded educators on the planet. I am happy to say that I have signed on for two more years and feel like there is no place I’d rather be except where I am right now in my career. My heart is full of love for my place of work, this UWCSEA and Singapore family and I am grateful everyday for all the open doors.
And for all the second chances, 2013…thank you.
Here’s a little something from Google Zeitgeist, 2013 to end this farewell…
And to the new year, a poem, ‘To the New Year’ by WS Merwin. Nice to meet you, 2014. I love you already.
To the New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
Anyway, my word for 2013 was love but now that I think (and have written) about it, should have been rediscovery which would have been a nice segue from my 2012 word for that year … which was discovery. Not that it wasn’t at all about love because it always is, right?
My word for this year is NOURISH, which includes rest, save, balance, read, write and paying attention to what needs replenishment and love. I want to sustain what’s already positive and life-giving while allowing other parts of this amazing life to grow. I also want to be more giving and be more generous to others so my relationships and people around me are nourished too. Because I’m convinced that nourishing others will most definitely nourish my soul.
I have been working on a a set of goals/plans and projects that I have outlined in my Moleskine journal and when it’s ready, I will share it. Just needs to percolate a little bit more. But this recent article on HuffPost Books is the basic framework for most of my plans this 2014 with a special mention of my friend’s New York Times article, Chris H, which inspired me to no end. I hope to someday write with the same heart and conviction but with my voice. Thank you, Chris.
One thing I did start the year with is a Facebook/Instagram fast. People who know me well will know exactly why (and think it’s silly because they completely understand and accept my documenter gene). If not, my #embracethesadness tribe and I will surely have a lengthy conversation about it. I love Instagram but I need some time away from it to discern what’s next with that space. It might change after this fast or it might stay the same but I want to take a step back and reflect on what it has become and what it can be more of. As for fasting from Facebook – it’s just detox from an addiction that needs to be curbed. I am a social media cliche, I know. A post on how it’s going or how it went coming soon. In the meantime, I hope to breathe life into this space and this one too.
So, what’s your word for the year? How do you plan to live 2014 by it? and what was the first thing you did today to mark a new beginning? Drop me a line below to let me know.
And with that, thanks so much for passing by and reaching the end of my massive post. I really appreciate it. Happy New Year! 🙂
grateful slice: Yearly roundups, reflections and new beginnings
You are a cinema, I can watch you forever.
Currently on repeat.
Argh. I have so many stories to tell, but too little time right now.
Doesn’t mean I am not grateful, though.
In fact, I am so so grateful, my heart is about to burst.
So thank you.
Just wanted to take a moment to say thank you.
grateful slice: life
“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.”
― Ray Bradbury
February is here and it didn’t come as a surprise. I know it feels like we just spent New Year’s Eve/Day half awake and full of hope but February walked a few steps behind January all month long, looming, peering over my shoulder, getting ready to pick up its pace and race ahead. True enough, February has arrived. It has bulldozed my To Do lists and has threatened me with deadlines front, back, side and center. I am taking it all in though. No sense in pressing the panic button. I don’t want to feed the allostatic load and get wrinkles and heart disease in my thirties. I’ve been here before. We’ve reached the crazy season of being a teacher. But everything will work out, I know it, so I take it all in; even if I have the annual trip to the North with the kids staring me in the face right smack in the middle of report card season. Yup, it’s Sagada time once again, which means, February is HERE all right, exactly where it needs to be.
There’s a lot to be said about these trips to Sagada. The first time a bunch of the teachers went up to do an ocular inspection six years ago, we ended up attending a local baptism where the traditional thing to bring home was a plastic bag of bloody pork. It was an amazing thing to be invited into the locals’ homes, to sit and chat and celebrate and hang out. The multitude of tourists swarming the streets of Sagada that year had no idea what was right under their noses. Then year in and year out ever since, by the time February rolled in, the students and four to five teachers got ready to get on a bus, travel all night long and a day to arrive in one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines.
This year, as tired as I am and as overloaded with deliverables as I am, I don’t care. I can’t wait to get on that freezing bus. To take a break from all major cities and bond with the Grade 8 kids. To take pictures with my prime and my new wide angle lens. To breathe in fresh air and eat yogurt churned with butter (I just found that out) slathered on top of big fat strawberries and granola. I can’t wait to wear fleece and gloves and funky bonnets and warm vests. I can’t wait to spend time with Tommy and Vixenne, Mr. Fau, and the humblest of highest chiefs, Pulat. I can’t wait to see the mouth of Sumaging cave, trek down Echo valley to see the hanging coffins and watch the sunrise from St. Jo’s with a hot cup of Sagada coffee. I can’t wait to see the kids interact with this unique community and learn something new about a place that’s part of where they are from. I can’t wait for the bonfire and the s’mores and the Aha moments, new friendships the kids will make and the many little discoveries this place provides opportunities for. I am harassed with work but I can’t wait to get to Sagada where the trees know so many of my secrets. There’s so much in my heart I want to whisper to them right now. Ssshhh…
Anyway, ironically, at the end of the day what I am really grateful for right now is time. It’s my last year to go to Sagada with the Beacon kids and I am glad I have this time to take it all in. After that, five months and some left. That’s just enough time to fall in love (again) with my complex city, time to say goodbye to my home and say see you real soon to everyone who matter (because Singapore is not far and I predict many visitors often); just enough time to pay attention, to take photos, write and document life as I am living and leaving it. Enough time to sort, pack, throw and give stuff away. Enough time to say it’s been super, but I have to go soon; no matter how bittersweet, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how scary and exciting. Yes, just enough time to know and cherish what I am leaving behind because I am certain I will miss all of it to bits.
Well, thanks again, G. Sagada always manages to make some kind of statement every year, without fail. Welcome, February. I know you will go by fast but I also know you will be unforgettable.
grateful slice: time and reflection