It was a gloomy Tuesday afternoon and everything was traumatic. I had an unannounced observation for my last class where I lacked resources for the lesson. I had to spend forty excruciating minutes that felt like hours inside the computer laboratory, pretending that I knew what I was doing as I taught second grade kids about Rizal. The experience was similar to getting a root canal.
When it was all over, my head told me we had a meeting. To my dismay, I have misplaced my friction pen. Again. Hoping that my Mumuso pencil case (a gift last Teachers Day) will help me be organized with my writing materials this time, I went to National Book Store to buy another pen and its refill. As I tried not to overthink and replay the events of my day as if it will do anything to change it, my aimlessly wandering eyes landed on the Just In at the Fiction isle and it was like Christmas morning.
Yes, John Green has that effect on me. Us awkward nerds, we have to stick together you know? But kidding aside, I remember chatting with my fellow bibliophile cousin and when she saw me with the latest copy at the exact day of its release, she didn’t doubt my urge to buy it. It’s the John Green, man. You can’t give an excuse for that. But fret not, my wallet did not die in vain. I used up all my Globe Rewards to pay for a portion of the price. How much money did I actually shell off? P179. What a steal! It’s like a Book Sale from the year 2030.
I finished it in three days, forcing myself to pause and sleep because I had work the next day. As per usual, if I didn’t have anything else to do, novels would only last a day on me. I like to finish things at hand at all costs or else I would spend the rest of the day just completely anxious to finish it. I can’t function. It’s going to have a voice in my head saying come on finish the book but I have work tomorrow morning how can you sleep not knowing what happens next in the story I’ll read it when I have free time at work you can sleep while the students are copying notes no I can’t I should be working but we need to find out what happens next.
Such as the case of Aza Holmes, the girl with the beginning and the end in her name and cool vintage car named Harold. She’s a little more anxious than most, and who wouldn’t, when you know certain facts about microbial organisms that are more than the amount of cells in your body? But she tries to be normal, especially for her mother, with the help of her best friend and resident cool kid Daisy. And she does become somewhat cool, because she has met Davis Pickett when they were at Sad Camp for children with a dead parent. A few years later, Pickett becomes a household name, and a controversial one at that. This leads Aza and Daisy to snoop around the Pickett estate to find clues, only to be warped inside the world of the rich and the famous. Warning, it doesn’t feel so good.
Although sometimes it does, when Aza is with Davis. She discovers that he is more than a rich man’s son, and that he writes poetry and blogs that make her blush when it’s about her. They like to look at the sky despite the crappy Indiana weather and watch space movies in the home theater at the basement.
Just when you think things are going so well, sometimes you are your own worst enemy. That’s not uncommon, according to Dr. Singh. More often than not, we like to hold a grudge on ourselves, as to why there could be many reasons or in this novel’s case, none. It just simply is. Dealing with anxiety is not something that is easily cured by medication and therapy. How can you deal with an internal thing using an external force?
They come in the form of thoughts, some solicited and mostly not. You cannot unthink something. You can try to put it deep within you in your subconscious, and it might work temporarily. But some people cannot simply do that. It will be hard for them, and more often than not, for the people around them. It will get frustrating.
I have always wondered why we are so complex as human beings- with values, morality, intellect- only to disintegrate with our depreciating bodies. I would lay in bed at night, hearing my body work like an old grandfather clock with its wheels and hear it churn inside myself. Then I would always sleep with the fear of what happens to me when I die. Where does me, or the vessel of me, go? Maybe that’s why people who are devoted to their religion are blissfully unworried about these things. They have something to believe in. The rest of us ask: How can you simply believe? And so the thought spiral goes on and on. They’d never understand that because they are so sure. And we’d never understand anything because we’re not sure of anything. Nothing is ever really certain.
The way I see it is that it’s like the Philippine seasons: rainy and sunny. Except that it doesn’t always last for a few months. The rainy days can last for a year or two or ten, until it drowns you and the people around you. So you try to sink to the bottom, hoping there’s a plug at the end. But plot twist, there is no plug. You just drowned yourself swimming to the bottom for nothing.
We can’t say sorry enough that we are causing other people pain over our anxiety. We wish we could take all that burden away, keep you all at a distance so you won’t see. We feel more like we are a bother if we tell. It’s going to be a constant battle of wills, which in the end we just give up on. Mental health is such a sensitive topic that is easily diverted into something else- religion, self-confidence, sakit ng mayayaman– for it just to make sense. When in fact you just have to let it be. Not let it be in the sense that you abandon your search for the cure. It is never going to be cured, but it is something that can be perceived with understanding.
Turtles All The Way Down somehow made me validate these thoughts with a character you can relate with. I found myself crying at the part where Aza and Daisy fought all the time, because it’s just so accurate. People can love flawed people, yes, but you can’t demand them to change something they can’t control. It’s like having a family of lizards with one pig, and every other lizard wants the pig to be like them. It’s biologically impossible.
At a topic just like this, the only thing that’s left to do is to use your damn heart for once in a good way. Understand and empathize. That’s all there is to it. There is no great moral, no big reveal to a secret to this story for the whole world to know. Only something to read and hope on. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️