I Have Accepted That People Will Always Get My Name Wrong

After two and a half decades of difficulty finding them in Coke bottles, keychains, and coffee orders, I have accepted that people will always get my name wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks. For one, I don’t have to wait an extra week to get my NBI license because someone with the same name as me has a police record.

And… that’s about it.

It’s that extra h in the end, which must be a Filipino name giving thing. Some get it in the middle, like Jhun or Jhemerlyn. I could simply say that it’s silent, like the m in mnemonics, to make it fancy. I could use my second name, which is French variant of a Celtic word that means ‘sea’ or ‘bright’, but it’s too late for that. Some people even get too lazy to say the second syllable and just call me Ai. But yes, I have accepted my fate and the doubt that comes with having it.

It’s not so bad right? My mother said she first thought of naming me Antoinette, which would have been mortifying for two reasons: one, combined with my family name, it sounds redundant. People would probably think my parents were trolling me. And two: it’s pretentious as fuck. As glamorous and remarkable as it is, I don’t want to be named after the model of the excesses of the monarchy that tells people to ‘eat cake’.

But a name, after all, serves one big purpose: identity. The name is associated with a face, then the face is associated with the history. It is the name that endures in epitaphs, obituaries, yearbooks, etc. And when it’s constantly mistaken or confused, it can invalidate the person. We all know this to be true. If your identification card is wrong, you cannot get, say, your cheque when you win the lottery. Why? Because it’s not you.

So is it a big deal? To some yes, because it must help them feel validated. But maybe, and I’m speaking for myself here, it doesn’t have to be.

When Freddie became part of Queen, he changed his family name to Mercury. Edson Nascimento became Pelé, one of the most famous football players in history. Hedwig Kiesler became Hedy Lamarr, the actress who helped invent WiFi.

Names are just a mixture of letters that they associate to what you are, but it does not dictate it. It is the actions that you do, the mark that you make, that will affect your life and others. Names can be changed, but words, actions, and time cannot.

So sure, you don’t have to spell my name right. No pressure. You can call me by my second name, too. Call me names for all I care. But will it affect my life? Meh.

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2018

It’s a gloomy dusk before we ring the new year and rain has fallen nonstop. I just recently came back from a final beach trip in La Union, my future retirement home. I had, as expected, the best time. It didn’t bother me that there were showers there too. Walking on the beach despite the drizzle, I told my friend that it looked sad to which she replied:

“It’s not sad. It’s poetic.”

I laughed my ass off at that remark. It was typical for us to think like this, to find the beauty in the somber and macabre. I’m at that certain age and generation that liked to romanticize and glamorize death, that had anxiety and depression, and just the general feeling of the crushing weight that is our existence. We would talk about the best ways to die or if Jesus had a brother while we were sober. We said ‘what the fuck are you doing’ to our friends lovingly. We laughed at the faces of the people who hated us because the joke’s on them, for we hate our own selves more than anybody else. We spend an overwhelming amount of money on alcohol or Grab. And we rely on memes to utter the words that we are not brave to say, such as our daddy issues and lack of self-worth. This was how we cope, and hopefully, recover from it.

Not sad, but poetic. That was what 2018 was for me. It was the best and the worst of times. My mind, body, and soul were in constant arguments, resulting to the most unexpected year I have ever had. I had unexpected getaways such as going to Baguio impulsively on a weekend. I had my first international trip this year in South Korea. I froze my imaginary balls off in there, wearing many layers instead of almost nothing like I do here in my tropical country. It was also the week where I walked the most I have possibly ever had my entire life, in heels, but had the best samgyupsal ever afterwards. I went to concerts, gigs, and events on a whim, without second thoughts. I met people, fought my social anxiety to merely say hi, to strangers and people I never thought I would have the courage to talk to.

I achieved unexpected heights that I didn’t think I could. Passing and topping the LET was one of the greatest achievements I have ever had back then yet I never really felt proud of it. The impostor syndrome I had was so high, resulting in me cringing when somebody ever mentioned that fact to people I just met. The solution I had, healthy or not, was to continue on learning and growing in my profession. Since then I have finished two courses given by the US Embassy and just passed my comprehensive exam for my Masters in Education. There was a slight setback on the latter, for I was supposed to graduate in the summer but my scholarship got delayed due to my busy work schedule. No one is in a hurry, myself most of all. I’ll cross the bridge when I get there. I still think I don’t deserve all of these things, and perhaps I never shall, so I can only keep on going until I find myself worthy of… well, I don’t know. Something. There is beauty in the pursuit after all.

This year was filled with unexpected discoveries in my personal life. I started dating again after a long hiatus, which is still a work in progress. I am, and might always will be, the densest person when it comes to relationships. Revelations were made, some I saw coming, some I did not, but one thing is for sure: I still don’t know what to do with it but to just let it be. Granted it is the passive, traditional way, we are living in the modern age after all. I. Just. Suck. At. Dating. And. Everyone. Just. Needs. To. Accept. That. It’s funny in a sarcastic way, how I know myself to be an overthinker whose instincts are often right on everything else and yet when it comes to men I am just completely thick. Whoever cursed me to be this kind of woman, please free me already. I’ll wait.

I went through unexpected breakthroughs. Albeit I lost my writing juju sometime this year, I intend- nay, I am determined- to jump back to it again. I have future projects, big ones, that I have brainstormed and plan to slowly but surely execute until its fruition. I’ve been thinking too much that I forget to just simply relax and take it one step at a time. No one is pressuring me to be someone great. I don’t expect people to remember my name when I die. So why rush?

Ultimately, I came to unexpected conclusions. They might sound like old news to you, but it has only taken 2018 for me to realize them.

One: you cannot expect or force yourself to have a happy life, but what can you be without the scars that you bear from your past? What will you be when you don’t let them haunt you?

Two: How you take care or be yourself does not necessarily have to be the same with others.

Three: You only have this life. Here and now. Say yes, say no, say one day. But don’t give up on it yet, not until death greets you and says it’s time. By then life wouldn’t be truly sad or poetic, just real.

Cheers to all the beers, tears, and fears I got through this 2018. May life be less ridiculous by the next.

I Am Single And There Are Some Things You Need To Know

My name is Airah and I am single, and here are some things you need to know.

I am not a man hater. I don’t think men are scum. True, there have been instances where the male species made me want to roll my eyes out like slot machines at a million miles per hour. Sometimes they use their dicks more often than their brains. But there are moments where I find them redeemable and, dare I say it, attractive. I love a man with wit and a sense of humor, who can make me laugh even if it’s a dad joke. It also wouldn’t hurt if he was a man of culture and taste. And, most importantly, it reaaaaaally wouldn’t hurt me even a tiny bit if they looked like football players in the World Cup. So I don’t hate men. I love men. A little too much in fact.

I don’t have insanely high standards. Albeit it is important for a woman, or any woman, to have an idea of what their future partner will be like, I’m realistic. I know I’m not perfect, and I’m not saying that to bring myself down. I still think I’m a strong independent black woman on the inside. Yet I wouldn’t expect myself to marry someone immaculate because that only happens in the unrealistic contemporary romance novels twenty- to fifty-somethings like to read nowadays to quell the drought and unleash their wildest, messed up fantasies. Hey, it’s all relative anyway. Besides, it would be hard to keep up with it. I still like to look like a slob every now and then, like sweatpants and baggy jackets with mysterious holes in them.

I like being alone. I enjoy eating by my lonesome self with a good book for company. I like to watch movies alone even if the rest of my friends don’t prefer it. I walk aimlessly around the mall, with no one to ask if the clothes I try on make me look baggy. I don’t ask anyone, not even my own father, to pick me up when I have a ton of shit to bring home. I have an app for that. More often than not, I’d like to be by myself than be surrounded by people I don’t enjoy spending time with. I’m an introvert, where I have a very low social interaction budget, and that’s perfectly fine with me.

I’m not desperate for a relationship. I don’t need another person to make me complete. I’ve tried that before and when they left, it didn’t matter to me eventually. I can rely on myself, which is why I have the strength to help others who can’t help themselves. Relationships are welcome, but not a priority as of yet.

I have plenty of time. I don’t know what the future brings, for all I know this could be my last. And even if it was, not having a relationship is excluded from my list of regrets. I’d be much more concerned about the fact that I missed out on spending some time with my loved ones, reading all the books in the world, going to places, and taking risks. I don’t want to dwell on my inevitability, I can only make the most of the borrowed time that I have. And relationship is not something I feel that lacks me.

In a Quarter of a Life

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Talk about choosing the most clichéd quote for intro, right?

When the clock struck 12, I found myself laughing at the sight of my friend panicking because their surprise was failing. The others went for a smoke, and I sat there inside the pub, quite contented with one bottle of beer which, due to my acid reflux I did not miraculously finish, while my friend told me to act surprised. My other friends returned with some delicious mango dessert with a candle on top, singing Happy Birthday. And I did act surprised, at least I tried based on my poor acting skills. They gave me a book— one I’ve been eyeing for months— as a gift. I’m too easy, honestly. Just give me a book and I’ll squeal like a banshee. We spent a week night (such rebels!) drinking and laughing and hugging it out until I got home, forgot I left my keys in the house. My sister, bless her sleepless heart, opened the door for me and went back to bed while I did the same.

The day started like most of mine these days: quiet, tedious, but with a certain determination to a distant, blurry goal. I opted not to open the messages flooding my phone that morning, focusing on getting ready. I went to work, greeting by my little wildlings, and treated my coworkers and friends. I got another book (at this point you could say I’m quite predictable as well) and stuffed myself with carbs until my visitors left the house and I fell asleep.

I wouldn’t say it’s because hey, I just turned 25 today, I’m a real adult now so birthdays aren’t a thing for me anymore, no. To me, it was just another day.

I’m not big on birthdays for myself. Looking back at the past years of my life, I’m big on birthdays for other people, including mine. My debut was a surprise, because I didn’t expect anything. They were for my parents, with their unending love for their firstborn. And they were for my friends, who adopted me as their own.

But do I feel anything different? As I write this, I want to say yes and no. But I’m not quite sure. I like to joke that I am officially, accurately capable of a quarter life crisis by the time I turn 25. It’s too early to say, since it’s only been a day, but I’d like to start by negating that with everything that has happened last year.

 

The uncertainty of not knowing who you truly are, as I have come to realize, is a gift. Looking back, I’ve always thought of myself as a sponge: highly absorbent of the people around me. Like water, I flow through the motions of the people around me, adapting to get by. I thought this ambiguity was an identity problem, an existential crisis, because I never really know who I am if someone made me describe myself. But now, it’s something that I wish to celebrate about myself. The fact that you find yourself lost, even to yourself, is an opportunity to start again. Mistakes can be laughed at, grudges can be forgiven; it all returns into a blank slate. Like a fresh coat of white paint. A clear canvas. A new page. This has worked wonders on the year that led up to this. The impossible things became possible for me.

The lack of courage and perseverance over many things have hindered me from a lot of things in life. I was sheltered, is sheltered, and maybe I will be all my life. Missed chances, missed opportunities, all because I was too scared to try. But they’re not worth dwelling over now, not anymore. There’s always a restart button, this I see clearly now.

Moments of hesitation will still eventually come. You’d think it’s so easy to change until you’re in that moment before the dive and think, ‘Holy crap, I really can’t do this. This was a bad idea and I take it back’. However, there’s beauty in the attempt. I’ll try my best to get past that.

Here’s to another year. May it be as unpredictable as the last one.

Turtles All The Way Down: A Temporary Fix

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. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Calcified

I once thought my heart was too wild
that I let it cower, and in its cage it grew;
any sign of life, I run and hide,
so it was smaller that most hearts that I knew.

But then I made the mistake of letting a stranger
touch my wild heart and then it went in flames;
my heart was never the same as I remembered,
I thought I was even going insane.

Now my heart is too big, too raw for my cage,
and it leaves me with no other option-
to let it burn in a fiery rage
until someone willingly accepts my destruction.

The Stranger

There are things I should know about you but I don’t, but frankly, my dear, does it matter?

I don’t know your zodiac sign,
and I wonder if the stars align
for us to be together
but I know how your eyes
can never tell lies
when you are happy, angry, or somber.

I don’t know the name of your mother and father,
or how many siblings you have if there are any
but I know you work harder
than all of your friends combined together
and love to spend time with your family.

I don’t know your favorite song,
book, movie, weather, or day
but I know how you’d like
to sleep in on weekends
and snooze that alarm
on a Sunday.

I don’t know you, my dear,
quite frankly I don’t you at all-
and yet somehow I know you
like how I should after all.