This is nothing new. I find myself still processing being uprooted from the only way of living i’ve known at 18 & not realizing what being the immigrant of the family would mean. (When I say ‘first’ or ‘0th’ generation and have to explain that I’m alone and don’t know when I’m going back or what I’ll have…) I don’t really remember anything from high school or backwards—I’ve been searching for memories to complain about or turn into stories but there’s genuinely only fog there. I know so little of what I’ve went through but it feels like most of them have been regrets.
At the same time, I’ve never really ‘lived’ a life in Manila. It was simple and droning in a controlling, repressive way. The first time I stepped into a park and public library I cried—I don’t think I’ve ever had that here (and I say ‘here’ and still mean Manila). The closest thing I had to a park was this empty lot in my neighbourhood where we would throw rocks into the sky. Most of the time I was putting things together or on a screen, making more spaces where I could really live. I realized lately that most memories I have of my home are quite painful. Maybe that’s why I don’t think about home often. I still very much miss the painful thing. It’s hard for me to find good stories to tell where I just witness the good thing happen to me or something else and don’t make it; creatives like me often tell boring stories. There is so little to romanticize or miss in terms of tangible moments. This sometimes makes me think I can go and live the rest of life missing nothing, but I know that’s not really the case. I love missing how pathetic and sad I was—this signals there’s nothing much ahead for me here.
Today is Monday, April 25th 2022 and I’m about to graduate from Yale. I’m sitting in an underground theater for a class that screens Southeast Asian films every Monday at 7, of which I’ve attended about three screenings this semester. I’ve probably thought about loneliness much more than three times in the past hour.
My biggest problem right now is having no sense of a more ‘lasting’ community. There is so little to witness me. I didn’t expect to find this in college, especially as someone who wasn’t very present for most of it and was generally too cynical to believe that anything here would like to hold onto a thing like me. I didn’t have it in the Philippines, so that made the leaving part four years ago easy. Now I’m anxious. I don’t know if I’m ever going to find a ‘space’ this time, and I’m tired of being the one to shape it when it’s not there. What I’m saying is that it feels like I have nothing and had nothing and will have nothing. I don’t know what that means about loneliness—perhaps it’s the truest form of it when you’re in that abyssal state. There’s so many problems with myself and carrying the enormity of me feels sickeningly martyr-like, and I think martyrdom is an easy way out.
Lately I’ve been thinking about myself as a fragile person in the ‘binding’ sense. All my relationships are ephemeral and unsubstantial, as I am the weakest link. There needs to be something stronger in myself or in what I do that makes returning an interesting act, but I can’t find anything around myself. The loneliness bullshit is a bit reductive, I’ll admit; there are people around but I make little to no concerted effort to sustain anything. I like to think about the leaving quickly. Lately I’ve been thinking about myself practically, too. What can I afford and give to someone; how can I be some useful utility. I go back to this way of thinking often because it’s mechanical and I can think less about feelings. For six or so years I’ve always been making things and putting people together came as an afterthought—but they’ve always followed, somehow.
I like unrealistic things, lasting things. (Here’s my Valentine’s Day Poem.)
This morning I woke up and watched self-immolation videos. A body can light up in ways no other object can really replicate. This is one of the beautiful things about being human. We burn quite uniquely. The human body does wonderful things when in immense distress: like pull up videos of people dying when in bed with someone you love because you like to think about endings. Two days ago a man burned himself on the Capitol and they tried to erase all the pictures and evidence of it, but I got to see it. I like to watch videos of horrible things so that I cry more often when I see them before me, like reverse desensitization. Reading through reddit comments people like to ask: “I wonder if they regret it in those last moments”, citing all the other posts we’ve read about how those who throw themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge and survive only think about stopping the drowning when they’re in the water. Even in these last acts they are not afforded the sanctity of an unquestioned death; there must have always been something to regret and miss in the process. When you pour gasoline on yourself is there anything left to do but ignite the lighter? I love to be in control of my end. I would have no problem with ends if I could always see how they would go—the variability is the only uncomfortable thing.
This afternoon I started hyperventilating so intensely that I couldn’t breathe. I coughed a sputter of blood and couldn’t bring myself to write an email to my professor about how sorry I missed the meeting earlier this morning because I was dreaming of burning a body and now there’s a bit of blood on the crevices of my cracked screen and how I think I’m going to have nothing after this
This evening I watched a movie where the homes suddenly started to look like my own. Exposed metal sheets wringing the ceiling, aging concrete and splotches of mold at every corner. I miss hearing people speak my language. I don’t enjoy correcting people about the fact that I carry languages—not just dialects and derivatives—worth of untouched speak in me; I wish I was the type of person who could talk to myself so the language wouldn’t die inside and feel more foreign than English.
All these bad things point to a want for presence: I wish there was a way that I could consistently be known. I’ve barely begun processing the city I’m in. I feel so much love for so many things that I know I’ll never get to fully know, and often try to tell myself that you can love a thing without knowing everything about it and I wonder why I reject the love of anyone who loves me for those outside things too
I want to understand why whenever I make a space for myself, I’m so desperate to use language that talks about it as an infinite thing while leaving it so quickly. I forget how much of this life is about maintenance and the art of sustaining something; the interesting thing being the progression and all. I don’t know when next will I be in a space where I know I’ll be for a long while.
Here are the two paths that are generally known to me:
- I go home to Manila, a ‘simple’ life where there are people who speak my language and I’m average height
- I stay in America, where I find extreme joy out of mundane pleasures like coffeeshops, DIY house shows, trading cassette tapes and live an extremely comfortable life
But living at Yale where I had nothing made me turn towards art and privileged me to even have the resources to explore art in the first place—which changed my life. On the other hand, living in Manila made me want to learn about the great big world and what I could bring back to it, of the things I’ve learned at Yale I have so many.
But I left people at both places. I forgot about the people, rather. That’s the important part.
I wish the inbetweenness of things was easier.
Even if Manila made me kill myself it was the same burning place that I was going down with. Security would feel nice. But I think there’s a truth here: I just want to live through something, even if it’s painful. I know the only thing I want is what I can no longer just make alone. There is so much more that I could have held. I want a memory. I want to be a good memory.
I love the thing they do where they cut the I love you and kill the girl before a happy ending can be found. I love all premature endings and the people that make things around premature endings. I love believing that only an end can transform me.