The truth hurts worse than anything I could bring myself to do.
Oh, dream schools.
I made this weird promise to myself. I held this weird sort of belief.
If you take enough time to think when your minds are in that chaotic dearth, you see the sky clear again. You see the world rise once more. You see beauty against pain, reason to triumph over conflict, the light cascading and piercing through—symbolic of hope: in good mornings, fully-rested naps in the middle of the night, good food and the extra pound or two post-buffet, your heart tumbling, twirling, and fighting after the climax of a movie you’ve seen over and over, teenage freedom and believing that you are in love.
What I mean to say is, there are many feelings that we believe are pristine and pure. Convincing ourselves these are unique sensations, looking forward to moments of happiness and sense in an otherwise bland and decrepit world. These are innocent reasons for our being, which I firmly believe are the ones that drive our soul. When I speak, these are the gaps in conversation that can only be filled by what you think of me: what does this girl want to do? Who could she become? What do we want to help her become?
There are those days where I believed in hope. Logging into the MIT portal before I could receive my decision, just hoping for that sliver of faith in its transformation to a student portal—before slipping back to reality. An entire world lies, waiting, severance before I know it. The word on my self-worth before it can all come crashing down on a single webpage: blinking, waiting, crashing down in front of me–four, no, seventeen years of work.
It’s more than a job. I had to go in sideways. I just didn’t fit.
But truth is: I don’t think I’ll ever find my fit. These days, I don’t know where my mind runs. I am in the limbo of wanting to feel everything and wanting to be nothing all the same.
But the truth is: MIT will never know me. They will never ever see the way I could have fit in and contributed, numbers and figures diluting that a bit more–the new face 8,000 miles away in crowds of other mixed people as well. They will never know the sacrifices I made, the consistent three-hour drive to school and another two going back home, the way I woke up at 3AM and lived on twenty-minute naps for dozens and dozens of days. They will never understand the amount of grit and commitment it take. They don’t know the exhilarating anger and confusion I have when listening to the stories of my people, trudging against mud and fire and assault all my life to proclaim the words for people I wish to save that will never know who I am. They don’t know the way my tongue twists in blithe–English to Filipino, flickering for comfort in the eyes of people and then regressing once more like the linguistics of conquered lands could ever be our own–lest they ever be for us. They don’t know the way I drown myself in so many commitments so I stop thinking about my inadequacy in every single thing. They don’t know that beyond “technology nonprofit with over 250 members” it means one single girl doing nearly everything, eating at school for only what? four days out of the entire school year because my money has to go to my organization, my money has to go to my basic necessities, and they don’t know the way my stomach turns and crumbles and the way I’ve sacrificed everything I’ve known for the sake of everything I love and the pain and heartbreak in my eyes when the people around me brush off everything I do, saying “that it’s nothing”–or the emptiness in my body because everything has been drained and I am tired of the world and living the moment the words “we regret to inform you” flash on the screen. No one will ever know that side of me, no one will ever be willing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars to ship someone so utterly mediocre nearly ten thousand miles across the globe: but my biggest fear is that even if you knew every crevice of my story, the heart-tugging moments and all the pains and endeavors that can’t be expressed in words–I still wouldn’t be enough.
And it’s not okay. None of that was ever okay.
And even with a yes, it would still be something I will never forget. Fuck high school, and fuck being on the brink of wealth and inundated needs that since age ten I had not been eating regularly.
And this is the first time I ever say that. This is the first time I ever acknowledge that something was terribly wrong. And you will never know that. And you will never know every other sacrifice I had to make in the course of high school brushed off as I sit down in the side of the hallway the entire breaktime, wondering where I am meant to be.
I become an empty house. Begging for someone to walk in. A number. Give me purpose again.
Don’t pretend you ever forgot about me.
This is why I write. This is why I calculate. This is why I try to transform the walls of my room into numbers and concrete, waiting and praying for them to make sense. This is why I stare at the world, stray away from tests I spend seconds for studying for and had longed for something bigger. This is why I swore to myself that no other person should ever face this, or worse, like a game against education and basic rights is something we have to pick and fight against every single day.
What I am trying to say is, I don’t know if I will ever find more days. I don’t know if I will ever find more reasons. My mind is a deserted hearth, longing for logic and semblances of rationality. There is such thing as waiting too long. There is such thing as this is too much, and I am sorry. The world is so big and momentous and we can only be so much—until not enough becomes the word we use to quantity one another. Not enough becomes quota becomes privilege over right and somewhere along the way, education is a game of numbers and paper and humanity scooted over financial aid documents, deciding if this child’s dreams and aspirations are worth anything at all.
Now press repeat.
One of the brightest memories of my childhood was receiving a gift from my paternal grandfather: a book of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. The edges of the book were covered in gold; it was huge and beautiful and I traced my hands over the embossed letters on the front page so many times over and over. I read of snow queens and death, the little mermaid turning into foam and other stories that were grim and dark and the foreword in front that warned of the content of these–but they were made for children, anyway.
I remember the story about the Little Match Girl, trembling in the hailstorm and the vivid imagery of the scent of roast against frail bodies and fragile heads: dancing from the pages the sound of hope and faith amidst misery and pain. I remember my mind entranced around a Caucasian girl, the only story that I had ever connected to. Her lifeless body, bundle of matchsticks, stiff and abandoned and the pre-mortem beauty that she had seen amidst all the tribulations that life had thrown at her. I remember myself going to sleep hungry more often than not, counting coins and bills to be able to afford notebooks and pens.
And as a child, that led me to think that this was okay. That falling asleep on empty stomachs (or sleeping in general to get rid of the pangs of hunger) was okay. To do more “productive” things than eat, and that is okay.
And it’s not. And they won’t ever know. And they might picture themselves as Gerda and Kai, discovering the conflict between good and bad and the strife within both–falling out and in love again and discovering a happy ending in the fiercest of snow, but I am the lifeless, red-hushed stiff at the edge of the road. And I never even had the opportunity to understand right from wrong. And this is all that is wrong with the world.
Here, I am learning how to wake up in the dead of the night to avoid all human contact. I’m dreading the moment everyone asks me if I got into something, telling me to smile at my waitlists when all it means is I wasn’t enough; or thinking again, about how everyone around me knows that I can’t get into anything. How fucking depressing is it that even everyone around me, every single person who has known me and seen me struggle and fall through all of this–believes that I will never make it: the lack of belief in me, the sealing vow that I am nothing. Here, I think about every single thing that had went wrong in the seventeen years and nine months of my life–my existence falling on fatality, numbing me to the core and making me recognize that perhaps someone this shallow and shattered should not have even been given the chance to breathe life in a world that could have loved someone so much more.
In another world, the stars are aligned just right. I am enough for at least one dream of mine to be fulfilled: a dream simply rooted in education, opportunity, love for impact and of the world. Everything remains the same; I am in, I am enough. Here, the stars shine just a little brighter.