Our Society… and Game of Thrones

You know, with everything that’s been happening recently, I can’t help but wonder about what’s happening up there at the top of the economic chain with the political leaders. It’s like some Game of Thrones shit.

I mean we know only 10% of what’s really going on. That’s all the media shows – just a mere 10%. Think of all the rest of the 90% – all the things those presidents and prime ministers have been talking about for the past 6 days of APEC. The conversations behind closed doors, the plans they’re proposing, the secrets they are hiding. Their motives, their goals. The mere 10% consists of the commercials and tarpaulins saying “We are for the people yadda yadda” but that’s it.

GoT (or Game of Thrones) is a fictional series that shows us how politics works IN REAL LIFE. The people up there are just on each others’ sides so they can fulfill their selfish wants – more land, more money, more buildings. Was there ANYONE at the top of the food chain in GoT who was truly concerned about the masses? Can you think of ONE character whose pure motive was to serve the people?

And the thing is, from the very beginning, we know that there is a problem in our political system. But like in GoT, it’s HARD, so freaking hard to change it. But maybe we as a whole are not ready for that change. I mean look at how afraid we are of change, that when the stars on Twitter simply transitioned into hearts, the whole world went batshit crazy, that when people started filtering their profile pictures on Facebook, the whole world was divided into being “For it” or “Against it”.

Human beings are just SO. DIVERSE. With all our different opinions and advocacy on so many things, fueled by our differences in upbringing, education, religion and nationality. This is what makes us different from other animals. This makes us so unique – as individuals, and as species.

But the one thing that makes us unique is also the very thing destroying us. How are we supposed to fix ourselves as species when nO ADULT IN THE WORLD actually has their lives fixed in even as individuals? When no one is actually sure of what they’re doing? When even our perspectives of right and wrong VARIES PER PERSON? How are we supposed to progress with that?

Or maybe we’re not supposed to. If we aren’t ready to break that wall between the life we’re living today, and the life we’ve always dreamed of that has only ever been portrayed in sci fi movies, then maybe we were meant to live and die like this, continually existing in such a primal state, always suffering, never moving beyond corruption, like a dog chasing its tail endlessly.

Are we destined to constantly be on self-destruct? Is there a way out?

Our Society… and Game of Thrones

Existential Breakthrough

//Author’s Note: this essay has mentions of depression and suicide. Nonetheless, it is meant to be an inspirational piece, not a dark one. If you are easily triggered, you can close this now. Thank you//

An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether their life has any meaning, purpose, or value. (James, R.)

I experienced the opposite of an existential crisis – an existential breakthrough. Instead of being confused about the universe and my role in it – like I always did – for the first time in my life, I finally understood it all. Instead of questions piling on top of one another in my frustrated head, answers started hitting my face, like calm gusts of wind, wave after wave.

I bought a pair of earphones, and for the first time in months, used them during the car ride home. Having instrumental music blasting in my ear, while staring at the blurry city lights outside the window…. Such a mind-blowing, relaxing, feel-good experience happens so rarely (not just to me, but to anyone in the world) that it has earned its way into becoming one of my ‘core memories’, a term coined by the latest Pixar movie Inside Out. 

Last year… 
I heard that a woman’s mind is a lot like a web – wherein one memory is interconnected with a bunch of other memories – while a man’s mind is a lot like an assortment of boxes – wherein each box is an enclosed topic. Tonight, it was as if electricity pulsed through my web of a mind, resurfacing memories from years ago, tidbits of yesterday, brief instances from 12 hours ago… and like a jigsaw puzzle, my mind pieced it all together. My whole body vibrated with the joy of “I finally understand it!! Eureka!” 

Weeks ago…
I reached one of my many lowest breaking points. I was so sure I had no purpose, no worth, no reason to continue on. I was reminded of every problem the world was suffering and I told myself “I can’t anymore. I don’t want to anymore. No more, please.” I was hell-bent into believing that I was not hardwired for this world. That sometimes, the universe does a tiny little hiccup, and in the end, chokes up a pathetic mistake like me.

But tonight…
What I realize is that I have always been so selfish. I was always concerned about my calling, in how I felt every day, in what I was thinking, what I wanted, what I didn’t have. It’s such a narrow way of thinking. It was as if I were in a labyrinth, trying to find myself. I would have found what I was looking for faster if I had looked at the whole map. Instead, I looked at my own two feet to see if I was walking straight, forgetting completely what I was looking for in the first place.

Months ago… 
I fell in love. And like a lost drowning man in a sea full of thrashing waves, whenever the bliss of the deep dark nothingness tempted me to stop breathing for air, I would think about his eyes, and how much they’d wince in pain if he ever had to stand in front of my coffin. I used my love, admiration, and respect for him as my personal buoy to continue living.

All this time… 
Whenever the darkness wraps their arms around me at night and I had nothing but my bare hands to wipe the tears away, I would think about my families – my blood-related family, my Search-In family, my cosplay family, my friendship-bonded family, my Victory family, and how much it would hurt them if I successfully hurt myself. I used my responsibilities as an eldest, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, to continue living.

A few days ago… 
A friend of mine told me, “You should not only live for your loved ones, but also for yourself.” Remember every single thing that has made you unique, everything that has made you you. Inflate your own life vest by blowing your very soul into it. Inhale your own characteristics, and squeeze them all in it. Be your own life buoy.

But, tonight…
I’ve realized that, using love, responsibility or confidence may work for other people, but not for me. My life consists of  every person I have ever met, loved, hated, admired, but my life is not about pleasing them. It’s not about pleasing myself through eternal contentment with how I turned out to be.

I am not going to continue living just so none of you would cry over my death. Life should not simply be about avoiding a dark path. That’s not what it means to be alivethat’s barely holding on.

5 years ago…
I had another one of my “dark days”, and after I have stabilized, I wrote down my reflection. I wrote along the lines of “I can’t die yet. One day, I will be crossing the road like I always did, and a little girl will be walking a little too early. A truck will be coming at full speed, and I would have to be there, alive, to save that kid. If I die now, I won’t save that kid in the future.”

I remembered that journal entry with such clarity. I now realize that If I die any moment now, no one would save that girl. Sure, any other human being would see it coming and save her, but I have to think that I have an intangible role in the world. I have to believe I’m important, in a way that other people’s lives depend on me. I will save someone’s life in a way that no one else would. And so, I have to live for them. .

And by ‘them’, I don’t mean just that little girl. I aspire to become a film director, not to gain wealth or fame, but to reach out to the audience, and hopefully change a kid’s outlook on life.

June 26 2015…
When the legalization of gay marriage was announced, my first thought was about the kids. For some reason, I have this strong urge to help kid. I thought of the homosexual kids being confused about their identity because they grew up with homophobic parents, the kids that being called “gay”, the kids being bullied, the kids going through depression, the kids thinking of suicide, the kids being victims of our educational system, the kids with no money for school, the kids living with divorced parents.

And maybe this strong urge to help kids is part of my purpose.

Those helpless innocent kids, those people I hope to save in the future… I have to continue living, for them. I’m alive for others. We all are. Our greatest fault as human beings is believing that anything that we are is ours alone. Thinking that our kindness should simply be ‘quirks that will get people to date us’ rather than have it become an active work of reaching out to others is one of our biggest mistakes as a species.

The thing that hit me the most tonight was remembering that day I was so so close to committing suicide. Grade 9 Sports Fest, 12pm right after the Angelus. I was on the rooftop, standing on the ledge. One more step. That was all it took.

If I do commit suicide, I would have blocked so many possibilites. I wouldn’t have had this awesome epiphany tonight and I wouldn’t have felt this awesome feeling. I wouldn’t have joined Search-In and become a part of Circle 15, and CirCore3. I wouldn’t have passed in the top university of the Philippines. I wouldn’t have started cosplaying, and met the funniest, corniest, most creative people ever. Tonight, my whole life since that day just flashed in my head.

I can’t ever commit suicide. Not ever. Not today, not next month, not during college, not after it. I understand it now. It’s not just about looking back and seeing how far I’ve gone. It’s not about looking at what and who I have now, and worrying about how they will feel.

My past and my present is not going to save me.

My endless possibilities of the future will.

Because I have finally found myself in that labyrinth, I no longer worry about where my feet take me. I have thrown away that so-called map. Instead, I look forward to every twist and turn, every nook and cranny. I will use hope – hope that I will save someone – to continue living. And for everyone’s sake, god I hope that this time, it works.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
― John Lennon

Existential Breakthrough

Missing Someone

I read an article once: “Why do people cry over fictional characters more than actual real people?”

I remember it said that it’s because of closure.

When a fictional character leaves, it is sudden. One moment he’s there, and next, he’s telling his best friend goodbye and falling off the St Bart’s Hospital rooftop. One moment they’re his companions, and the next, the madman with a blue box is travelling alone once again.

When 149 other students say goodbye, we don’t feel anything. Because it’s been ingrained to us, we think about it every single day, that it has lost its thrill. We got so used to the fear of losing someone, got so used to looking around and seeing them there, that when graduation comes, you don’t feel the loneliness just yet. You got used to that assurance that they’re still there.

When you’re in your toga, taking pictures with people, saying your last words to the people you’re going to see for the last time, you don’t feel it just yet. It doesn’t sink it just yet. It’s as if you’ve accepted the fact that they were going to leave.

But no. You haven’t accepted it. You are in a state of denial where your mind, body, heart and soul still believes that it’s not over yet.

Because when you walk on that stage, you feel as if it’s just another Graduation rehearsal. You sing the Baccalaureate songs like you did countless times before. It does not sink in that that was the last time you were going to do it, that it was already the real deal.

But one day, you’ll walk along the corridors and listen for voices you will never hear again – batch songs, angklung ensembles, shouts of joy, shrieks of laughter… One day, you’ll enter a classroom and feel that something is missing – there’s no one asking for food, or complaining that there’s none, or no one asking around for answers. One day you’ll look around and be surrounded by a sea of strangers you cannot even look twice at.

One day, you’ll wonder where this person is, and you’ll realize that he’s not just a few steps away. One day, you’ll think of how they’re doing, you’ll worry if they’re still alive in the first place, if they were able to reach their dreams, or if their nightmares have caught up to them. One day, you’ll miss the way they laughed, or the annoying sounds of their voices, or the way they complained.

It’s a slow process. You won’t see it coming. It won’t hit you like a tidal wave. It will drown you like a wooden boat with tiny holes on its floor. And once you’re at the bottom, you won’t be able to breathe. You won’t be able to do anything but struggle and scream, to no avail.

That’s what missing someone feels like.

Missing Someone

My father and brother were talking

Father: See those construction workers? That’s you if you don’t study well.

Brother: How much do they get paid?

Father: Very little!

Brother: But that’s unfair. They’re doing heavy work for small wage?

Father: Well that’s just how it is. If you do study well, you can be the architect of the building. It has a higher wage!

Today, I had an epiphany. These construction workers are being used as a cautionary tale. “Study well so you don’t end up like that man over there”. That’s what we tell children so they’ll follow the system. Yeah, let’s ignore the fact that society needs construction workers too.

Because we do. We cannot just have a world full of educated people.

For who would clean the floors of your school while you are studying? Who would clean your house when you are busy working? Who would drive you back and forth? Who would work blood, sweat and tears to make your dream house come true? These are the uneducated. These are the under-appreciated.

So who deserves the higher wage now?

No one. For education should not be the basis of a person’s wage. A person’s occupation should not identify the range of the money they could earn. A construction worker should be able to become a potential millionaire just by working physically. That privilege should not just be given to men in suits and ties, who only use their brains and not their muscles.

The problem with our society is that it values industrialism; it is the idea of creating, of making, of inventing, of selling, but not the idea of using your own hands to accomplish it.

My father and brother were talking

A study in Politeness

People are selfish. Our ancestors have taught us to ask “How are you?” and they have taught us to reply with “I’m fine, thank you.” They have taught us to lie to people that, to us, do not care how we really are. We are taught to lie and they have disguised it in a term called ‘politeness’.

It is considered rude in our system when we reply with something other than “I’m fine” because really, people do not want you to tell the truth! We are selfish creatures, always have been! We have been taught – and are teaching others – to feign ignorance, to pretend we care, when we really want to hear what we expect to hear. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Because this is the dark yet simple truth about humanity, and their manners and their so-called ‘politeness’. We are told to ask these questions as a sign of greeting, and to expect others to lie. Because deep inside, even years ago, we hope others would not tell us what bothers them. We are afraid of feeling hurt, of feeling pity for them – sympathy, pain. We’re afraid of spoiling our own goddamn fine day by caring. Because caring is not an advantage.

We are taught – and are still teaching others – to lie and say “I’m fine” because we are programmed to think that it is rude to spread your negativity to others, even to friends. Why do you think it is so hard for people to open up? Why, do you think, do people open up only to their closest friends? Why can’t people just make eye contact to the stranger beside them and start ranting about their relationship problems?

Because we are selfish. We human beings, we shy away from our troubles, we cover the sides of our faces with our hands, to look straight, to not look at the people who need our help. Because we are taught to help ourselves. 

So often are we told nowadays that one does not need company as you walk along the road of life. It had never occurred to us that there are those who can help us better, yet we have shunned them away. 

It is this very reason that love is so hard to find. One has to look deeper before one can earn a stranger who will care for one’s well-being. It is this very reason that makes caring such a rare trait. Maybe this is not such a bad thing after all. But let me remind you that you could have saved a life, or made one even better, if only you allowed yourself to break your walls and lend a helping hand. 

You can start by changing the system. “Hi, how are you? And don’t just tell me you’re fine. Don’t lie. Don’t be scared. I just thought you might need someone to talk to. You looked kind of sad. Is there anything wrong?”

A study in Politeness