Last year, on Independence Day, I boarded a plane bound for Cotabato City. It was a day after I resigned from a job that paid considerably well, because I realized that I needed more than money and comfort to be at peace with myself.
Funny how things can change in a year.
1) A year ago I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I have plans, sure, but they are all within a five-year range. I have causes and advocacies I staunchly support and believe in but, compared to my friends who had some sort of career track already in place, my life felt like some sort of abstraction. At the time, I applied for readmission in my college and was accepted, but then a job offer in Cotabato came up and I knew it was something I couldn’t refuse.
And so I left.
“Lessons in distance” is one of those three-word phrases I am fond of using, and here was a chance to actually live it. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot this past year.
2) A year ago part of me felt like I was on my way to being mediocre. I haven’t published a poem in so long, let alone write one. Poetry used to be a really big part of my life. I used to read, write, and revise on a weekly basis, many of them are attempts which I wished would someday be actual poems. To be honest, it was a time when I felt like I haven’t been doing much for myself and for the person I would someday be.
Going away meant I could start focusing on myself, or at least try to see what I could do on my own. Here in Cotabato I have no friends and family, no one to come home to. At the end of every day, for the past year, I walk into a room that houses only my clothes and some of my books — where I lie on a foldable mattress pushed against a white wall and talk to myself sometimes. At first it was okay. I would usually have monologues about how my day went, what my plans are for the next day, that sort of thing.
Eventually I found myself having monologues where I end up asking myself about my plans for the future, about the life I left behind, about what I really wanted and if I can really find it on my own.
I still cannot answer these questions, whenever I find myself confronted with them. Last night I found myself asking these questions again and although I couldn’t come up with an answer, I did come up with a decision I’ve long been considering to make.
I still haven’t written a decent poem since I left. But soon enough, with the many changes that came with the past year, I think I can start working on my poetry again.
3) A year ago I wasn’t sure about what I felt for you — I wasn’t sure about us. I left a lot of people behind in the city, many of them just passing acquaintances whom I wouldn’t be in touch with five years from now. But there are a handful of people I’ve long built a home with, the kind of home that you take with you wherever you go. These chosen few have kept me sane and have always welcomed me whenever I found myself back in Manila, and they are the reasons why I would sometimes find myself close to tears whenever I’m about to take the plane back to Cotabato.
And then there are those whom I have loved for so long, but have always been in denial about. There are those whom I have loved for so long, but have become so familiar and constant that I have learned to ignore their presence in my life. There are those whom I have loved for so long, but I eventually didn’t mind living without.
In yearning for a semblance of independence, I thought I could afford to let you become a matter of convenience. Never in my life had I been so mistaken.