How To Celebrate Your Birthday in the Middle of Coronavirus

It’s March 16th, 2020. I am at a friend’s house who left for the province, in self quarantine with two friends. I’ve gotten used to my usual birthday shenanigans: out in the pub or at home with friends, but most definitely drinking when the clock strikes twelve. In the morning I’m at work, being treated almost the same way as during Teacher’s Day but the same stress as any other school day. Going home and having dinner with my family. And then it’s over. But for my twenty seventh, everything was turned around. I was inside, spending time (but still drinking) with friends through video chat. No dinner with my family as I don’t want to risk exposure to them if I went home.

They say that at times like this, in the middle of a pandemic, the only way to stay sane is to function as normal as possible.

I wouldn’t know about normal.

I’ve never experienced real, genuine fear before except for the thought of death. Although I often explicitly state that I am tired of living, I am afraid of how this vessel of a mind and body will exist once it comes to me. The comfort of religion would save me for a moment, to a point where I can sleep at night. And then I wake, and I live. Day by day.

Much has happened in my year that led me to this age. Little victories and little setbacks, gained experiences and friends. Stepping out bravely, one shaking foot after the other, into adulthood. And living in defiance to the standards that is set out for my age, gender, and identity. Act more and do better for the next year to come.

And as I contemplate at my circumstance in hard times like these (because there’s not much left to do), these thoughts and principles matter, now more than ever.

I live in a country that is in the middle of a crisis, where more than the coronavirus will be the possible cause of our demise: Fear. Misinformation. Poverty. Greed. Privilege. And most importantly, lack of empathy.

In the rise of free media, it’s so easy to gather information in which some are untrue. It’s so easy to choose a side based on what side of the tracks you are and where you will benefit from. It’s so easy to give solutions when you don’t see the bigger picture. But it is so hard to simply care to the point where you do something without expecting anything in return.

In was in my birth day that I realized that the time to change these kinds of perspectives is now.

We have to find the truth and give it to the people because that is what they deserve. Be it a nasty reality or a devastating truth, it is far more better to see than be blinded by it. We have, as intellectual beings, the capacity to differentiate the truth from the lies. It doesn’t matter what degree you finish or what school you come from. We all have a social responsibility. And to stand idly in the sides is far more worse than the liars who take their money’s worth to spread falsehoods. We can’t simply let these things come to pass when we can act upon it.

With the right information, we have to search for solutions that will affect the greater and common good. Each choice we make trickles down to many possible consequences, with many people affected by it. It’s not easy to think about it, you could need the nation’s greatest minds gathered but it still won’t be enough. They probably won’t even come to a unanimous decision. But it is far better to make those small but certain steps than to make large, impulsive ones that end up to be impractical and anti-poor.

Finally, with the information and solutions we have gathered, we have to do some actions. When you’re privileged, your blindness is a choice. Your adherence to injustice is a choice. Your failure to act is a choice. The reality for the poor is far worse than we can possibly imagine. With lack of medical insurance, safety measures, and the means to live day to day, a pandemic will cause them to either die from sickness or starvation. Both ways to go could well be prevented. Set societal differences and prejudice aside. Think of us as a nation, not as a citizen.

All these things seem too intense to think about in your birthday, but there is no other time than the present, be it your name day or not, to think about these pressing matters. We need now, more than ever, to become selfless. We need now, more than ever, to act. Pandemic or not.

Invasions

I built a castle on an island
for no one but me to see,
even though I long for someone
who could build a bridge to me.

Many brave souls have tried
and some came to succeed,
only to regret it
and all eventually leave.

Some came to built their bridge
out of curiosity,
only to find that the mystery
is not as thrilling as the reality.

Some built a bridge
and I hoped it was just me.
Turned out he also built on others,
about two or maybe three.

Some didn’t even built a bridge,
just came barging in.
Forcing themselves inside,
determined to win.

But instead of meeting halfway
and making bridges of my own,
I burned them all down
and ended up even more alone.

Time has passed, it has been a while,
and now I am pressed to see
the many bridges out there
that want to get to me.

Should I let them? I’ve surely healed
from the past that haunted me.
But it doesn’t answer
the question if I am ready.

Will it be different? Will it be
better than I have known?
Will I risk another conqueror
to destroy the walls I call home?

Just once, I’d like to hear
a simple knock and a plea
than loud battering rams
and threats to invade me.

I am not something to claim,
some trophy you can keep
no matter how you play my mind
or use an iron grip.

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I settle on this island.
No, it does not bother me.
I can let you in.
You just need to be honest with me.

Forgiven But Never Forgotten

I have forgiven fate for all that it has thrown at me to supposedly make me strong and wise. For the challenges that has often brought me to my wit’s end, breaking my psyche and crushing my soul. For the circumstances that made me question my existence, life, death and made me wonder if this is all worth it. But I never forget, and so I try to fight when it tries to consume me every now and then.

I have forgiven time and distance for it’s cruelty. For how it ruined the pacing of my life. For how it made me feel alone. For how its presence made me give up no matter how hard I tried. For making me lose things and people in my life. But I never forget, and so I try to fight through them now as much as possible.

I have forgiven people who have said things that made me feel insecure. For doing things that caused me to feel unworthy. For treating me like I am a toy that they can use only when they are bored or sexually frustrated. For asserting themselves towards me then pretending I don’t exist. But I never forget, and so I keep myself away from certain people who I feel would hurt me the way they did.

And I have forgiven myself for feeling worthless. For wanting to finish my life shortly. For constantly being negative and destructive. For continuously isolating myself at the sight of something or someone new. For holding back, keeping it in, and burying it inside. But I never forget, and so I let it go.

On Red Flags

instagram.com/violetclair

I like to joke to people about how I don’t have feelings or how I have a switch for it. It’s such a typical, cliché female persona nowadays. Every single scorned woman has an icy cold heart, and no man has ever been worthy of them. We live in this ivory tower with no stairs or doors but has a high WiFi connection, obviously. And if they can’t respect the thorns of this rose, then they can say goodbye. It must make us feel unique, because we are, but it’s a common tale now. Capitalists are using it. They make Netflix series with these characters. I remember listening to Cool Girl by Tove Lo and thinking, this is too accurate. It’s not that I disregard those who are really incapable, I know people who actually do, but for the most part these walls instantly come crumbling down when a worthy opponent arrives. That inside that robot exterior is a soft blub filled with emotions. I, for one, was admittedly one of these losers. Until, of course, someone arrived.

Of course like any other woman of my situation, I was instantly blinded by all the red flags that I saw. Thinking that if I wanted to love them, I had to accept all of them, flaws and all. In the beginning I felt so altruistic, thinking, “This is how I know I love this person, because through all the despites, I still choose them.” I thought it was the bravest thing I have ever done.

Nowadays, the braver decision is to walk away from these red flags.

I know what you’re thinking. “Airah, you’re already so guarded. If you walk away even more, you’ll never find someone.” Well, let me tell you something Karen: I would rather be guarded than keep guarding someone.

I don’t want to keep thinking when this person will change for me, because I don’t want anyone to. Yes, I want them in my life. But if I have to tell them what to do in order to live harmoniously with them, then I would rather not have them at all. I don’t want to have to worry about if they’ll live long or get ruined because of their habits. I don’t have to tell them that they’re a hot mess and how to become a better person. Changing someone, subtle or not, can lead to resentment in the future.

I don’t want to keep thinking where this person is, who they’re with, and what they are doing. I am already paranoid of my own life. I have to check our faucet and sockets three times before I leave the house. I have the crushing pressure of worrying what others think of me. I already feel bothered for the slowly deceasing vessel that is my body, what my purpose is, and what happens to my consciousness after I die. The least I deserve is coming home to someone who will at least make me feel that the remainder of my unsure days are peaceful. I want to feel secure about our relationship.

I don’t want to keep thinking how I need to look, dress, or act in order for them to stay interested in me. My sarcasm and depreciating sense of humor cover a majority of my personality. My love of macabre despite my domestic exterior should not come as a surprise. I can only love three things in this world: animals, the stars, and chicken and if heaven is relative, I will be in outer space, with floating animal-shaped chicken nuggets. They have to accept the close fourth optional alternative.

In fact, with all that is said, I don’t want to have to think at all.

And I admit, I’m sure I have red flags for some people (see all statements above). I’m not my best version at the moment. I still forget that you should turn off and not close the light. Or that I shouldn’t sleep on you in the middle of an online conversation. Or that if I want to disappear for social rejuvenation, the least I should do is inform you. I get that some people disregard them because they love me despite all of it. I appreciate that. I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I am thankful. But to make me think that it’s only fair to disregard the same flags for others is just falling into that same trap again, and it will backfire in the end. I can be stupid sometimes in the relationship department, but I think making the same mistake multiple times would surely make me want to not do it again. And so if you want to leave me behind, feel free to do so.

Maybe I’m being delusional. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe Karen was right, that I will never find someone. But I would rather be all of these, waving my white flag, than pretending to live and accept their red flags.

Bodies of Water

I once saw love an ocean away
on a far, distant shore
where I was drowned wave after wave
until I can feel no more.

I once saw love at the river
with its great and powerful flow;
my heart was pushed by the water
until I let it go.

Every time I’ve tried to cross
I’ve left one foot behind,
breaking me at an irreparable loss
and damages I can’t hide.

I once saw love by a puddle,
easily in my grasp;
where we could have met in the middle
and had a love to last.

Now that it seems too easy,
I still refuse to touch
for the fear that it will shatter me
and my heart turns to dust.

Can you put a blame on me
on how I choose to cope?
Can you set my fears free
and give me a slither of hope?

And so I resolved to just hide
and stay in my island alone,
the feeling on the other side
perhaps I’ll never know.

On Accidents

My month of September was filled with freak accidents.

I tripped on a flat surface of a street as I turned around looking for the jeepney sign on my way to a bridesmaid fitting on the first. A week and a day later, I fell halfway on a manhole. The following Saturday, I stubbed my toe on a sharp object and bled as I walked through Poblacion. And on my last day, on a Monday nonetheless, I had an emotional breakdown in the shower. I also had the first day of my period, which probably explains the breakdown. (Sorry for the TMI)

I’ve had a weird month, one of the many in my weird year and my weird life. I don’t know how I’ve gotten this far, being like this. I was so sure that the plane I rode during the last week was going to crash and I’ll die, being the pièce de résistance of my boring journey called life.

A week before my flight I told my roommate that if I died in the plane crash, she should remember that I love her. She slapped me with her unicorn doll and told me not to say dumb shit like that.

Then I thought to myself that I should say more dumb shit like that.

Tell the people that I love that I do, no matter how cheesy it sounds. Tell them how I appreciate them tolerating my unpredictable nature, and how they care for me nonetheless. Tell them how grateful I am that they care for me, and that I feel the same way, I just don’t know how to express it properly. Tell them how they made me a better version of myself, or at least I’m trying to with their help. Tell them that I will go through hell and back for them. Tell them that I am happy they are in my life, and how I wish they would never leave.

I should tell them when I feel sad for no reason, or all the reasons at the same time. Tell them that I feel like I need to be alone, but it’s not their fault and I just need the space. Tell them that even if I need that space, it doesn’t change how I feel about them and I will come back to them. Tell them when I come out of the darkness, I will need them to get adjusted back into the light. Tell them that there will be days when I need to be away from people, even from the ones I love, because I’ve dealt with too many for one day from work. Tell them there will be days when the silence is a comfort for me.

I should tell them sorry for the times when I did not understand when they get tired of me. Tell them sorry that I did not reciprocate their energy. Tell them sorry that I didn’t wait longer. Tell them sorry that I hurried. Tell them sorry that I didn’t say the things I should. Tell them sorry that I realized things when they were too late. Tell them sorry that I made them feel bad about themselves. Tell them sorry that I didn’t at least explain my actions. Tell them sorry that I had no explanation for some of my actions.

I should tell them that they all deserve a great life. Tell them they deserve happiness. Tell them they deserve peace. Tell them they deserve love.

But I guess I don’t need a series of freak accidents and my impending death (hopefully not soon) to say dumb shit like that. It should come out, day by day, in the moment. Because we don’t know what time and life and fate has in store for us. We only have now.

The One

I used to have this person who I would go to hell and back for, until this person wasn’t anymore.

I won’t disregard everything we’ve been through. I fought, I hurt, and I suffered. I jeopardized plenty of my other relationships for it without any regrets or blame. Sure, at the time, a few months after we’ve separated, maybe I did. When you’ve given your all without being aware of the consequences, exhaustion is bound to happen. You can become bitter and cold-hearted. And it might take years, like in my case, to recover. But as I grew older, my heart has become at peace with the events of the past, as everyone should at some point. The emotional part of myself is delayed, so it took me longer than usual but I made it now.

And with all things said, I wonder how it would feel like to have that kind of person with the kind of person I am now.

I wonder how a person would feel if I had given them my undivided attention and support, even in their little quirks. How they would feel if I helped carry the weight of their burdens, even when they are drowning to the point of no salvation. How they would feel if I showed them what unconditional love felt like, even and especially when they think they don’t deserve it. I wonder how they would feel if I told them how beautiful they were, even in their lowest. I wonder how they’ll take it all.

Then I realized that I was so concerned and desperate to look for someone to give all of that to, when I should be giving it first to myself.

I’ve resolved to be selfless and accustomed to pushing myself out of the spotlight since I was young. As the eldest in the family that was short of ideal, I had to be. I needed to put other people’s needs and burdens a priority over mine because I thought mine was too shallow or superficial, until I didn’t know I completely disregarded myself even when I needed it the most. And then when I got bullied a lot during my teen years over my physical appearance was just the icing on the cake. As a result, I insult myself more than anyone else. I have accepted being no one’s first choice. Everything that’s been thrown at me has made me turn from stone to steel. Tears don’t come easy for me, but when they do it’s usually hidden from everyone. I don’t know how to express myself without sounding logical or heartless. I don’t think I can even say sorry and thank you without looking uncomfortable, my face contorting like I just got a root canal. My self-pity is my source of entertainment and a constant butt of all my jokes. I self-depreciate a lot more than I eat on a daily basis. Overall, I am emotionally constipated.

As I slowly move out of my former self, particularly when I moved out, there were tiny changes in me. I rejoiced my tiny little victories and laugh at my tiny mistakes. I opened myself up to people without the fear of being judged. I’ve learned to distance myself from people who don’t bring out the best version of myself. I let the tears overflow when they want to. I say my gratitude even if I look like a shy 5 year old when I do it. And I simply became kinder to myself.

I know there’s a person for me out there. Or not. But in case I don’t have one, that’s okay. I need to make up for all the times I did not choose myself anyway. And this time I will.