I’m back from a few weeks in New Haven. It is not a new revelation, but nothing really is; we know what makes us happy, I know what I like and what I don’t like, I know what I need. I get it and then the whole world on fire is collapsing once more, it is burning but not ever touching me.
In New Haven I wake up to clocktowers, stare at ceilings far grander than I ever thought I would see (the type that my parents might have only seen in European museums), fall asleep half at a hotel with at least four Yale paintings (so you know you’re in New Haven) or in a Twin XL bed in a dorm room building with white people talking about nothing interesting in the room over. I wear my partner’s Aliexpress slides and it’s the only time where we can really go shit together. I am reminded that I am just 22 and could be pulled into any world at all. I am unmistakably a victim of this life: it is all over me. I cancel on half of my friends and do not know who are my friends anymore. One person who ignored several of my texts asks me to answer something about a Google Drive for an article they’re writing; we worked together at the Yale Women’s Center for three years and this is all I have become to them. They write decently but are incredibly uninteresting. I stress my partner out because I am printing one hundred books (not two hundred, I correct him) and made him haul my printer (that was at Kevin’s) to the hotel room. To be fair we Uber’d there, so we just had to bring it down the stairs and up from the car. One weekend we are at a bicycle co-op for a zine fair and the next we are in New York with four of our friends, failing to go gallery hopping but succeeding at a Uniqlo haul. We eat overpriced vegan food at Public Records and see the most beautiful ambient show of our lives. We are all falling asleep in the train and it is maybe one of the last times we will ever be this combination of selves again. I am careful to be precious with each moment. I accidentally pay the expensive Public Records bill on the creidt card that does not have cashback. Another day we are drunk on Valentine’s day morning running through the art gallery, and another night I lose my glasses when we run from a late night happy hour through the streets. I am so in love. Sometimes I am sitting and realize that I am so in love and my body feels so light because there is so much that can come out of all this love. When we are walking through a shitty Feb club party a drink spills on me but he still puts his hand over no one’s glass to prevent anything more. I am finding new bathrooms still in old places. I get pissed because I want to DJ and I wasn’t able to find a place where I can DJ.
At the same time we barter whether we are better people because of where we have been. I am exchanging my sense of self for nothing.
I’m home and I am forced to feel that my body is connected. Something runs through the right side of my throat, such that when I drink water my ear is pierced with a sharp, stabbing pain. I am so scared to eat, chew, swallow. When I try to induce the disorder this is what it must be dreaming of. If I speak and let saliva pile up, I am induced to move my jaw and it feels so violently painful that I would rather starve. I must sleep in a certain way, avoid speaking unless absolutely necessary. Only warm water passes through without something aching. I am on the same bowl of soft pasta that I cooked four days ago.
Last last night I had another violent dream where I imagined my friends old and me still in their lives. I thought about them with all their dreams fulfilled: the risograph machine and all her drums, the dance studio in the house, the garden running from the windowsill to the backyard, my friend married to her high school lover and my other friend in independent and fulfilled defiance. We were all dancing in each other’s small lives and then it was everything. I ugly cried about all my loose projections of their selves, so far from what might 1.) actually bring them happiness and 2.) what we would actually see. I rooted myself again in the best idea of a future I have: where I’m with them in hearing what they want in this tumultuous time of ambiguity where we all don’t know what we even are and don’t know what we could become. I thought of the small thing I bring in their lives, this many times unimportant inkling of who they are (already, or who they are going to be) that they can’t quite name for themselves. I am standing with them until they can name this part of themselves.
When I say it, it sometimes sounds sad but it has always been more matter-of-fact. I never thought I would be the type of person to grow old. I can’t think of myself in the long-term, which is why I do things like buy concert tickets months in advance and beg people to make things with me that might outlast me. I am not interested in legacy as much as being, even if it seems like I’m at direct odds with the ‘being’ part. In the dream I wasn’t there at all. I was a witness to everything instituted, to the wedding and the wine ritual. I had known where they were, what brought them joy, to have been a part of this lifelong act of self-definition: and then it must have been close to a prayer, that realization that this is all a quest of definition and fitting one another in. I was everywhere without needing to see it.
Nothing new came from the dream but the realization that I want to be a continuous part of molding a world that is better for the people I love; that I want to continue using any bit of social capital and power I accrue to give back, that I want my life to be the platform and gathering space for those I care about, that I want to continue connecting people my whole life and be the crossing point, that I want to see my worlds intertwine forever and ever until we are all just natural consequences of one another. What is my life but a vessel for everyone else? What am I holding but the consequence of it all? To believe in people I had to picture myself there as well: that there was this form of communion that we all contribute to no matter how much we abandon our own selves, that there was this grace of being invoked by ‘being’. I wanted the selfish ability to see the people I love around, and thus I had to be alive. No amount of narcissistic fantasy/imagination could fill these gaps in, one of the few parts of living I can’t conjure for myself. I want to keep seeing us until we all know who we are.
I’m trying to explore the art world because it seems like one of the safest avenues where you can gather people around work and share it — and I’m so pleased to share that I’m showing my work at two exhibits around London!
In my last year of high school I was working on college applications in an island province in the Philippines and no one understood why I was so stressed or what I wanted to get out of it. No one was willing to listen to what was painful to me.
I began this act of studying myself on paper more rigorously than anyone had ever afforded me—a scrutinizing and extreme new when this was never an expectation. I was supposed to live in ignorant bliss and to bend to people and pray—but instead, I looked inwards.
In a time where I had to ‘teach’ my teachers how to write recommendation letters and in turn learned how to lie and write in voices that weren’t my own I spent every break in the guidance counselor’s office pointing at what she needed to click so I could get my fucking fee waivers until I couldn’t get the fee waivers than had to starve so it wasn’t a financial burden until she told me to just submit my college applications myself while she recited her password to me while chewing on food and I hadn’t eaten a single meal in school within that three month trimester. I wrote more things about myself than what was ever spoken about me, which is a bold claim when you’ve hated yourself into distancing in a school where you spent thirteen years of your lives with everyone else.
I was so agonizingly exhausted of making and unmaking and making and unmaking myself that I felt like I was about to go insane. (I must have been insane and might still be.)
I wanted to believe that there was a world in my head that wasn’t all about who I was (even if I could never separate the writing as an extension of what I wanted). I wanted to believe that there was a voice I could conjure that was just not telling me what I wanted to become (until I realized that all writing is an extension of the world we wish we could live in). I wanted to live in someone else’s head after deciphering mine. In my last year of high school I wrote a novel.
So I wrote a novel in a winter break where I didn’t remember anything except writing about myself and hating myself and wondering what had become of me to get to this point and a breakup and a million other breakups and more fighting with my family and more pain and praying to get out of this world and writing about a new world.
And then nothing became of the novel because it did what it needed to do: I wrote it to understand all of this until my Microsoft Word was breaking and I had to split it into segments and never sent excerpts of it to anybody. Would I be able to call it a novel if no one ever saw it? What if it gave me everything I needed? I determined that everything I do for myself must, in its collateral damage, be done for everyone else as well. I grounded myself a bit and understood that this world was not the only one that was out there for me, at the precipice of a radically altered life and the throes of one that I had tunnel visioned myself into believing I could escape. Yes. I was nowhere and then I was in this world I made.
Despite, despite, despite, despite: I wrote a novel.
I want to write a novel again because everybody dreams of writing a novel and everyone can write a novel but no one actually does it. It’s absurd how it’s one of the easiest things you can do: put a pen to a paper and start writing some words, watch your cousins drunk at the corner of the wedding and asking you why you never talk while you’re there deciphering why this room might be part of why you’re so fucked up on your iPhone 4, and again I am writing again. I wanted to write without distance. Every time I felt like I was breaking I was writing. I was writing because there was this need to instill what I was feeling in a moment into words, lest I am never able to capture it again. So I was writing.
I like the idea of writing a novel, and I like the actual act of writing a novel. It’s helpful to like the idea of something before you get into doing it. It’s helpful to convince yourself that you enjoy doing the things you like. I like the idea of writing a novel because of what it does to me, and I like it when I can accept that there are things I like the idea of because I like what it does to me and sometimes we need to acknowledge that we are humans who like the ideas of what things do to us and that this is a premise never really divorced from the being. I like the idea of writing a novel. If I could, I would be writing a novel forever. I want to always be writing a novel.
I don’t think the novel has to be good. If it was good then it is good. But I want to write a novel even if I have nothing particularly interesting to say and even if I am bad, and my life has been filled with so many disinteresting things that even what I choose to reveal can’t help but be a bit disinteresting, too. I want something to be reflective of myself and a completed novel isn’t reflective enough: I want all my broken promises flayed, I want my imperfections nestled in everyone’s minds, I want my words to live uncleanly for the rest of time. If I was good then it would be good. Whatever it is, it must be. I want to write a novel.
I’m thinking painfully about self-publishing and authorship; particularly that I’ve fallen into a life where I share things that have no traditional or historical precedent to be gathered around and I think this act of making myself visible and palatable and sharing it all is actually distancing myself from everyone I love. I have been vomiting a lot, not eating, and what somehow hurts most is the fact that my friends don’t like my Instagram posts. I am thinking about my ways of self-expression and perhaps I should just revert to doing it for my own sake; which involves this convoluted journey of distancing myself from the belief that my artifacts are my sense of self-expression and memory—the most surefire way for me to have made record of myself. What can I do when no one can tell me who I was before I started saving pieces of myself? No one is interested in the records or the story of my life. It is time to make again, to understand myself—whether I become important in that conquest, or whether I continue this life lonely and isolated and important only to myself. The world ends when I deem it no longer important. I’m coming awfully close to being disinterested in everything and all of my relations. I’ve seen the dirt and the skies and fallen in love with everything and now I am killing the love I have left for myself. Maybe I will write a novel.
I want to write a novel because I want to be the type of person who is saying they are writing a novel. If I do nothing in particular in a day, if I’m sitting down drinking a chai latte at a cafe, once the hairdresser is taking out my depression knots one after the other and trying to make conversation, once I have to face my friends and make myself interesting, if I’m on a flight and the man asks what I’m doing before asking me to get up and fuck off—I have something interesting to say. I’m writing a novel. They will then look at me, the sad 22-year-old thing I am, with more delight and astonishment or nothing at all. I will be a sad thing or a beautiful thing. I will become a thing. I will make them feel something today. “This person told me that they’re writing a novel.” Already in these few, brief, powerful words we have made an assessment of grandeur and delusion of someone — refusing to trust that anything could come out of it. I will become as small as they want me to be, and I will maybe make them feel good. I want to write a novel.
I want to write a novel because I have no good reasons for it and because everyone really has a good reason for it. The good reason comes once they have found what they are going to write the novel about and have finally made themselves interesting. I am already narrativizing myself and everything before me. Wouldn’t I be the perfect author? I am lying so much and hold so much and there is so much I have yet to be. When I am everything and nothing it will be an interesting response and identity, I think, to be the person who is writing a novel. I will have something to look forward to and also nothing because the novel becomes the project of my life and the novel becomes the one thing I can hinge on and I might be too complacent and happy that my being is sufficient and anything can be strung out from it, even if nothing of it is particularly holy. Each word I put on paper would be a new extension of myself and I would wield the terrible agency to make and unmake and make and unmake the self and no one except those who dare to read would ever consume any of it. Every page and note and error and mistake an extension of myself, my brutal humanity in words. What I devote myself to, what I have deemed worthy of devotion. When I am doing nothing I will be writing a novel. When I am sleeping I would be writing a novel. When I am living I would be in this grand process of putting myself down as other people might one day see me. I should be writing a novel.
I want to believe in self-publishing in the way that I do making anything: that I alone can name what is valid, that I don’t need a third-party actor to validate or legitimize my beliefs. I want to write because I have to understand myself; I want to write because mostly, I want to deem myself as someone worthy of understanding. I want to write because there must be some artifact that comes out of this, because I have always believed in preserving myself and believe that I’m torn in a life of constantly preserving myself to no one’s interest and I have to again, convince myself that the story of what I devote myself in this brief life to has meant something—even if it is only to myself, seen for myself. I hate how we have attached the production of the book to a need to be legitimized, verified, consumed by a third-party — it has ruined our relationship with human knowledge, production, and people. It has turned culture into a commodity, which is not a new plea or revelation at all, but it just dawned on me how painful it must be to have seeped into even the simple declaration of writing.
This is an absurd plea at self-importance. Is there anything more narcissistic than the act of writing a novel? Do you know how much of a fucking asshole you sound like when you say you’re writing a novel? Do you know how much the world laughs at you and forgets you when you declare that you are going to make something, but haven’t even made yourself important? Do you know what to do when the world has stripped you from everything you have held holy, everything that you have poured your heart into, because they can’t remove themselves from their own capitalistic relationships with the mediums that you care about? Do you know anyone who even reads? Not for the Goodreads style of reading, but to read to determine what is important, without the list? Do you know if someone can make themselves important? Do you know anyone who would save you but yourself?
I wish we could all write novels. I wish we could all be writing the story of ourselves. I wish we were all in love with the idea of each other putting something out into this world, of a concretization and a self-definition that we are never given the chance to explore. I wish we could take what we think of as impossible and never put it in each other’s mouths. I wish writing and making was a visible act and self-publishing was worthy of gathering around so that all of my loved ones and I could be writing our stories and that the witnessing there was enough. Or the self-witnessing. I wish it wasn’t seen only as a self-surveilling thing to care about the artifacts that you leave after you die—because it is in precisely this lack of care over what legacies we leave, or the ability to even declare our legacies and how we might be memorialized, that there is a collapse. I wish my life were extending forevermore.
I wish I was writing a novel right now because I have so many novels left to write in me. I have so much to say and it hasn’t even begun. I must write and live and stargaze and dream and become and witness and love and live and see and be in this constant process of being, presenting, living. When I am so sick of knowing myself I will turn to a novel even if it is again, an act of meeting myself on the page. I love words because there is only truth in them. I love being a novelist before I have become one because when I am a broken thing, even when there is nothing in me, I can say that I am writing a novel — and no one would be able to take that away from me. I wish I could save myself. I wish this would save myself. I wish we all had books that captured our lives, even if only a fragment. I wish we could have the artifacts of a life that someone had dictated for themselves, in a world where we understate how much we mean to each other.
Maybe in the next months I will get rid of all of myself after a life of only me carrying me. Maybe it is time to have another thing that contains me. Maybe it is time to see myself in something that is not myself. Maybe I will write a novel.
( Or how my heart has been feeling incapacitatingly full & bursting even when I am still, or how the pleasures of slowness are pleasures for a reason, or how self-actualization in a vacuum is a sordid proposal, or how everywhere I go I keep finding myself and I can’t stop walking because I’d like to keep meeting them, or how when you tell me to go slow I still have to keep running )
I often think about who I am. More embarrassingly and more precisely, I’ve been thinking about what people know of it. The generous interpretation of this is that I’m trying to live life more legibly—endeared by treating it as a prompt, an invitation. We are all just pieces of each other. What belies me are the source of the conditions that indulge me in this taking, conscious or not. When I think about who I am, I wonder what is the self that I work towards. Who am I but my relations to others? All this life is about other people.
When I invoke legibility, I attempt to separate this from simplification. I divorce legibility from the act of reduction and palatability—there is still all of me, symbolic and lived, just poured out so that anyone can know it if they choose. I think this permeates most of my philosophy around being and finding: I like personal, intimate blogs more than newsletters because of the act of intentionality needed to continue returning, and how I’ve dwelled here for six years without feeling the need to look for metrics so much that I’m surprised when people comment or worse (in the most loving way possible), people mention what I write in real life. Maybe the simple comparison would be a handwritten piece of complex text, where the contents themselves are largely unaltered, simply written so that I author stories that others can read if they choose. I find that this makes it so that I can actually read myself, too.
I have been pacing around my apartment and haven’t been sleeping. I wake up after thirty minutes or an hour if I’m lucky, my heart pounding infinitely. When I run this feeling escalates, but the sweat provides reason for it. I walk to the beach and I feel like I am walking to the end of my life. Since I was in college I’d be being, sometimes just reading, and then I’d collapse. This happened again a few times this week. I probably need to stop myself. But when I am still, I am still running.
I appreciate the heart of the sentiment of slowness and stillness, but hurt at how even that is often a privilege.
I suppose this all boils down to what we ourselves define as treading, and to what environments we are walking on, and how everyone’s slowness looks different.
When I think about myself I think about the pace in which I live my life. When I am, I am running. When I become myself, I often take time to withdraw and more clearly — without the expectation of others — I work to find what exactly of me I have become. Seeing, like hearing, like the feeling of interdependency and interconnectedness, is a more involved act than many think. A simple exercise I do is to clearly recall and name what I saw immediately after waking up, which is often not the ceiling. When we look, there is an entire environment and the periphery, and then the conscious choice of noticing. The noticing is the most potent part of this action—what makes us human, what gives us agency, what allows us to perceive so that we can intuit. Familiar, grounded seeing is an attentiveness to an entire picture, to its details, and then the naming of its history. Seeing is a challenge, initially bounded by what we know, and oftentimes what we deem as worth knowing.
“Actual ‘self-invention’ — if we are measuring it in range of expressivity — appears more like self-dissolution,” Rob Horning writes. When I become myself every moment, when I contend that every moment known or not does “permanently alter my brain chemistry”, actually, I become more interested in the act of naming. Or realizing. Or knowing. These are all the same things. What I get most from others are behaviors and patterns and the vocabulary, irreplaceable toolkits to mend and piece this life for what it is. I appreciate that the ‘arbitrary’ constellations we recognize have been continued on from the earliest recorded histories. I live with a name that I did not give myself, somehow still having made it my own. I choose the words. I am the author of this life. “We’re born into social life and shaped by it; self-discovery may thus entail a destruction of social bonds, not a sounding of them.”
This is why I am restless when I am most confused, and found that the answer to self-identity was to continue constructing it until it could come to me — whatever activity I trusted this construction to be occurring in — and whatever that construction was my complete decision, and an unquestionable part of my self-making. Sometimes I was just waiting until I deemed the self worthy of naming, where my form of patience was allowing this temporary ambiguity. Naming is never a finalizing act, of course, it is simply a vessel to evolve and become. Even a named object remembers the time it was nameless. I grow attached to naming things that are fleeting, names that are not unique, continuing their lineages. Sometimes other people give me the words for myself, tells me about the history I am part of that I did not know I was partaking in. This is when I feel most connected. This lets it be so that everybody shapes me but nobody tells me what I am until I declare it so.
Imagine if it were not already the sense that lets you take in my words. If the limits of what we can see are often constrained by our imaginaries and experiences, then it becomes that ‘seeing’ is one of the most important methods to living. We define nearly all of our waking moments by when we begin actively sensing, and more dramatically when that sensibility is absent.
Seeing is undeniably tethered to my practice of self-construction. Seeing does not replace becoming, but it is an integral part of it. Seeing is an active, involved act that accompanies self-construction. Seeing necessitates movement. Walking Is an act of seeing is an an act of walking.
Everywhere I go, I just keep finding myself. I want to keep finding myself so I keep going.
One of my closest art professors at Yale shared with me the recommendation letter he wrote me back in April, and in my absence last month I reread it for the first time since he first sent it. “…In class their freshman year Chia was quiet and reserved, and at first I did not notice them, then we had a critique and their work broke the computer, literally. They turned in a project that forced the computer to shut down and restart in the middle of our critique as a meditation on the digital medium and as an expressive gesture that undermined the interface itself as a way to highlight the fragility of digital experience. You don’t notice Chia because they demand to be noticed, you notice them because they are impossible to ignore.“
Most of my asking for witnessing might have come in a seeming overcompensation for an invisibility. At its core, my self-preservation is a radical act against a world that has kept erasing me. I am not blogging for the people who will read it after I die, I write to know myself and what I think and what I had journeyed to until I die. I write because the world has become noisy & polluted, and when the most beautiful thing we can do is to attend to each other, that this is best done when we present the invitation to do so; that I trust in myself, and maybe even other people, to filter through and deem what is important beyond what is in our periphery. This is maybe the magic of agency, the biggest lesson from wading through any dark place: I can choose what is important, I can choose what I believe, I can choose what I see. To do this, you must first see everything. I try so hard to be in a way that is unquestionable.
Naming is not a linear or generous act; maybe I described it as so. It comes hungrily, when my soul pangs for a sense of purpose, or a clarity of desire and self. It comes arbitrarily, in surprise and in embarrassing relief that I had already become who I wanted to be so long ago, being so irrational and headstrong in my own judgment of self, to everyone’s derision. It comes when the things unnamed now demand names, where the ordinary have become everything, where rhythm and structure have ceded to the undeniable tangibility of presence.
When I live I am in your field of view, and whether I am truly seen is a choice not always conscious. It’s difficult to engage in something you see but do not name or know, and sometimes people make the choice to further seek—and many times they don’t. But what can you see if it’s not observable, especially of something for the first time? To even begin being present with others, I’ve learned that I must move, be apparent. To be seen we must first be near each other.
When seeing accompanies self-construction, we are always moving: with our eyes, our senses, our body, within the environment in which we choose to realize ourselves. When you are walking, nothing really moves. Frederic Gos believes that slowness is less the opposite speed and more of a regularity of paces and uniformity, painting pictures of still landscapes and mountains becoming almost embodied within us instead of us drawing nearer. This is pretty, but I am dwelling in a world that to have me, needs me in motion. Before I am slow I must be seen. When I go slow I am laboring to be there. Sometimes I am told that brutality and exertion are the most abundant, true forms of provision; this is why I falter to thinking that when I suffer I feel most like myself, that when the heart is pounding it continues to feel like the right direction—even if I might very well be killing myself. Sometimes and often lately I am told that presence is enough, being is enough. What if the body is still dying either way. What if to meet myself I have to get someplace first. What if to put one foot in front of the other means that I chose to act on the desire of motion. This is why when I go so fast I also feel most alive.
When I find myself, I’ve often run into myself.
My main gripe with slowness is that to be in the observable universe, or to continue staying in this very room, I must always be walking. Next to others, my walking looks more like running. I’m preoccupied with my relations to other people because I do not have the luxury of total isolation and divorce from others; my choice is to live a life in deep devotion to the communities that have brought me to where I am—that taught me the language, and my lived reality is that I am literally geographically bound and physically restrained based on systems not my own. Next to others, my slowness looks like slowness but is fatiguing me deeply—simply because our paces are different. I forgive myself not just for my tire but for the conditions the world has put me under to even continue being in this space—continuously working, mending, attending, to continue having what I have. In many cases, staying still often looks like walking. To many historically marginalized people, walking often looks like running.
Less ambiguously, I’m living with the realization that there is no quick victory to the life path I have. It’s been no secret that to get to where others are, I’ve had to do things at an inhuman pace often unkind to me; I knew this since I was seventeen years old, thinking of getting out of my country. What I didn’t know was that this put me on a path that I couldn’t quickly get out of, tethered to so many worlds old and new, indebted to many others and to myself by choice. What I didn’t know was that I would feel soulfully incompatible with most people no matter what intersecting hobbies or beliefs we had because of the sheer magnitude of effort needed to get there that often underscored every interaction, let alone with how few people were interested in knowing this. What I didn’t know was that I would be mispronouncing every other word in conversation with people who laugh and then ask me for how I get to where I am in life, or who have to see the fruits of this running to even want to attend. That I would still be teaching kids who pay full tuition at an Ivy League school—when all I wanted to do was to take this precious time back to people who could use a computer to take their family out of poverty, not just multiply their already six figure spending. I learned to play the game so well that not only do people ask me why my English is so good—they ask me what part of California I’m from. That I would have to think more seriously about my time, what routes I am laying for people, and who I want this journey to be retraceable for. That everyone’s time is precious, and I don’t even know how many years I’ll have in this country, and I don’t even have anybody in this country. What I didn’t know was that this was the beginning of running for a lifetime.
I’m exhausted by the idea that it is only in slowness and stillness that you can pay attention to the world. While deep resonance and perception has helped me become interested in the development of ambiences and ecosystems, more precisely the environments in which we all be, I am more interested in how the constant construction of these worlds and the paving of paths to even begin running on make you the deepest attendant to everything around you. The extracted quarries and the jagged stones are mine. I show pictures of the place where I grew up, sometimes the most mundane roads in my country, and others ask me if they’re really real. What deeper inhabiting can I do when something has come out of myself, and in return I can run with familiarity. I go deep into motion because I sense everything around me, because I have made them. I get sick reciting anecdotes because sometimes it feels less like universalities that others can respond to and more like snippets of entertainment. I am comfortable not stopping because I know where I might be heading. I don’t stay still because stillness in a world that keeps taking looks like running. When I’m running and most embodied, everything is inhabiting me.
I can go slow to you when I’m running and it’s not beautiful. I am seeing the same world dancing and I myself am there too. I am in motion to see what you see. When my ancestors went slow there was something still brutal in their conditions. Slowness is a gift that we hand off to the people of the next generation, and more tangibly the very people around us. We carry burdens for one another to let the road be lighter, we pave paths for each other as an act of I love you. Instead of erasing the need to be in motion, we can simply attend to that need and look closely at how the treading looks for one another. We dream of journeys that are kinder to the ones we love. We trust that it the human desire to be alive often comes with some form of moving; that to see the skies we still need to look up, and to connect to nature we must allow ourselves to eat, and that there is no one who doesn’t want slowness—the question is in the world that we have designed for them that allows them to even be presently still.
All this to say that when it looks like slowness or ease, it took a forever to get here. There’s privilege that I manufacture for myself (if I can even call it that, from nothing); the effort behind the pace in which I go something I’m spending my life finetuning.
This standard of obscuring labor and effort that permeates our everyday accompanied with the performative indulgence and praise of ‘stillness’ is only breeding more inequity & social resentment rather than tackling the roots of why we all cannot just rest. Even moving beyond the commodification of rest as bubble baths and lit candles, I think for instance: the access to nature and the oceans become a far privilege for the urban population of Manila, many of whom actually immigrants from the provinces where this rural environment was once their norm—abandoning these environments to better meet needs because there is more to life that we want to picture and give. While we can fantasize that the next generation might realize that all they want is to return to this quiet stillness, the frequent reality is that unlike many American brands of lifestyle inflation and downsizing into the woods—we worked to rid ourselves of a complacency masked as stillness because our fundamental needs deprived us, because we wanted to continue seeing alternative realities. When I say that life could’ve been easy: I didn’t have to move here, I discount all that I learned and all that my privilege can now bring me back home—and most of all, the perspectives I’ve developed from my dwelling, no matter the suffering, that have given me the capacity to pave more paths for those. I want it easier for the next. I want the option to dream to be present until there is nothing more that we long for. Underneath the dinner parties that are quiet displays of wealth and ‘if you know, you know’ signals or signals that you have the very luxury of living near the people you love—or the privileged aestheticizing their participation in activities & spaces more for the commons, like pop stars posing next to tricycles. These now pose as tiny mockeries for what are now impossibilities for other people, or an obscene way of relating when these moments are staged & your lived truth is far more comfortable. I consider how all my friends and loved ones all separated from each other because the environment in which we could live together was hostile and cruel, and when we were together it was always just reinventing it until finding alternatives was a necessary. I talk about this state of rest in so many senses: not just the obvious anti-capitalist attitude towards work, but the ways we perform being and attend to each other, and mostly the acts of dissolution and dissonance that aid to us better educating ourselves and seeing alternative imaginaries.
For many people, the best life that all these platitudes towards rest point towards is only possible because we are working towards it. Indeed, if we look at slowness as a state of contentment and being—then we should consider what it means for different bodies to even be idle. Our roads are all differently carved, and the desire for maintenance or rest cannot be simplified. Oftentimes the true ‘action’ of stopping writes people out of histories, discards their needs, placates them in the negligence of the present. I feel angry, excluded—when we forget that ‘stillness’ for some people means being forgotten, when the state of our ‘stillness’ is one where we must be in motion, because the same actions towards ‘stillness’ would place you comfortably in your place, while mine would put me in oppressive, hostile environments. I want my nothingness to be violent, but when I am nothing the world is violent to me. I want us to trust in rest as a future that we can share in; more than my inability to rest as a signal that I’ve failed or succumbed to a system—when there has been nothing done to help me escape the very system that takes the form of rest away from me. I want to know that this is a failing of the world and not of own. I think about how even thinking about myself is a privilege when I sometimes go so hungry that I can’t feel anything the way I’ve ignore my body—so much until I can’t feel hunger anymore. I think about how I’ve abstracted beauty into the process because it is the truest promise that I can give myself. I think about how I can only name this frustration today because of everything that has taught myself it: from the spaces that have carved me, the people who have impressed on me, and the body that craved a true understanding. I want people to be open about how we are trying as hard as we can, actually, and to empathize in the labor of that trying rather than dictate how hard we should each try. It sometimes takes so much effort to look up and simply see the sky.
I can’t imagine how much more difficult this is for people who are less able than me, and for all those who lack the small privileges I had to get to where I am. I know we are all exhausted. I know that no matter how tired we are, we can still continue to carry the world for others—the simple human act of making this existence lighter, more worth it, worth seeing.
When I want to be still with you I am running. Let me do this because I want to be with you. Instead of telling me to stop, tell me how I can run better. Tell me what’s ahead.
I get that thing about knowing people: it feels like a shortcut. I don’t think about this solely in terms of the cursory ‘connections’ talk, but it might be the most familiar way to measure it. I think about this emotionally: I build this future for other people more than myself, I keep treading best when I know that if I were ever to falter I would not stop—that someone else will help carry me along the way. We can do so much for each other. Just as we live in a world where we can give the next generation the gift of taking it a bit more slowly. Just as this journey doesn’t have to be for our own self.
I want the picturesque rest, don’t get me wrong. I want to listen deeply every day and never think about capital, name the flowers around me, and indulge in myself and reap all I have become. I want the coffee shops and the woods and the retreat from everything and to have the time to pray, if prayer was a thing for me. But I am always becoming myself and I am always laboring to get there. And there is so much of this world that I cannot see if I am not moving towards it—because nothing has been given to me, and even the act of naming is entwined with becoming and the naming is a privilege that I am still giving to myself against a complacency of exploitation, repression, hostility. I see all the beauty around me, of what I can name and am still learning to name, and still these moments make me think about how much more there is to do when others do not have the privilege of moving at my pace from the violent ground that took them. When I talk about getting somewhere with you I’m mostly talking about how so many others can’t even get to where I am.
What are the answers here? To rewire a world where someone else can walk slowly; to acknowledge the pace in which others are going more conscientiously, more interest in histories & paths than pure outcomes to truly know a story; to realize that how we name what we live in is a futile act if we are not seeing wholly, if we do not know who made it or what it is here for. Oftentimes, the clearer answer is to be okay with not climbing nor maintaining pace, even, to rewind and fall back to one more manageable—but what if that isn’t an option? What if I trust that the world is something I continuously make—and risk it without that participation. I’m not interested in you meeting my pace or experiencing its very beginning: we run because we want a better world, and empathy doesn’t come in unnecessary suffering—what if sharing in the struggle was rooted in a tangible optimism instead?
What if my desire is precious because I was born into a world that wouldn’t even allow it for me? And what if you chose to honor it instead of looking at it as self-inflicted wound? What if these desires were born out of necessity as I was born into a world that was designed to turn and leave me and my people behind? What if all the selves I want to become and all the paths I take constantly have me colliding while the spiritualists and the privileged mangled the only way I’ve ever known to carve my sense of identity and save myself, deeming it as a failure. What if we recognized desire was inseparable from being, and instead of marking a place to stop, we can more radically realize that we can always want better for one another.
Or another alternative: to continue building towards a place where we can finally go and rest. To trust that my investment in systems and in people will eventually carry me and let me not have to leave behind a life—instead welcoming me in so that I can finally count the breaths I take. We pay attention to each other as we do the path, in hopes of not only meeting each other at the end — but walking alongside each other. When it comes to it I’ll show you who I have become.
Perhaps my ancestors’ wildest dream was to stop dreaming.