I am never emotional at this time of the day but surprisingly I find myself in tears. I am alone in my room, sick and tired. NMAT is four days away and my fever just got worse. Oh joy.
Something happened yesterday which really bothered me and contributed greatly to my current emotional breakdown. It was break time during our NMAT review and my friends and I were talking about minoring. I am keeping the genders neutral to protect their identities. The conversation went something like this:
Friend 1: Uy, magmiminor si Hanhan sa Philo.
Friend 2: Talaga?
Me: Yep. Kinausap ko na rin si Mama, pumayag naman siya so…
Friend 2: Ano ba nakuha mo sa Philo this sem?
Me: Um, <insert my Philo grade here>.
Friend 1: Ugh same kayo ni Friend 4!
Friend 1: Kaya ako mababa sa Philo eh. I have not lived and experienced enough! Unfair.
Friend 2: Mataas kasi standards ni Sir. Kailangan may application talaga sa life mo yung concepts. If not, the highest you can get is a C+/B during orals.
Me: So anong mali dun? Di ba dapat ganun?
Friend 1: Di mo gets eh. I have not experienced enough in my life so saan ako huhugot diba. Look at Friend 4. Marami na siyang napagdaanan sa buhay niya kaya marami siyang applications pag orals. And si <insert name of senior coursemate>, A daw siya kay Sir last year dahil sa nangyari sa tatay niya!
THAT. DID. IT.
Yesterday, I let it go. But thinking about it now, I am in rage. So what does this mean? That Friend 4 didn’t deserve the high grade if it weren’t for the trials and tribulations in his or her life? And that I didn’t deserve my grade if my father had not died? Well then if that’s the case, I’m sorry but FUCK YOU, FRIEND 1.
AND NO I’M NOT REALLY SORRY.
To be honest, as long as it is within my capabilities and moral standards, I’d give anything anything anything to have my Papa back. You don’t know how hard it is during the nights when I just want to be his little girl again. You don’t know my nightmares, which haunt me in every waking hour. You don’t know how I have to hold myself tighter every 28th of the month. You don’t know how much I wanted to stay in some dreams and never wake up, dreams where I see him smiling and happy and alive, dreams where he hugs me a little longer, dreams where I know he’s trying to tell me something and since I haven’t figured it out yet, I try to tell him that I need more time. You don’t know how I have to be strong for my mother AND my brother, who are living away and are constantly reminded that they have been left behind. When I went home last sembreak, I wept everyday because the reality of Papa gone was too overwhelming. How can I move on properly when his slippers are still next next to mine at the foot of the stairs? How can I forget when I see his shirts left unfolded in my brother’s room? How can I not cry when his perfume is still floating in the air? Sometimes, I thank God that I’m here and not in Davao. Moving on would have been so much difficult at home because every where I look echoes a faint memory of my father. I wonder how my mother does it. Heck, I wonder how my brother does it. He’s only 15.
Unfortunately, Friend 1, you are totally missing the point. Although Viktor Frankl said that suffering gives meaning to life, and yes I do agree with him, your life does not have to be tragic to be a beautiful story. Your life does not have to be painful and fucked up to be worthy of an A in your Philo orals. The beauty of every experience is that it is unique to you. Knowing you, I believe you have mentally gone to places where nobody else has and you have discovered life in a way that nobody else can, so why don’t you talk about that? You just have to wake up and see it for yourself. If you truly insist that you have not experienced and lived enough, then listen and learn from other people’s experiences instead of comparing your life to theirs, to mine. I have my own defining moments and you have yours. That’s what makes people people. Instead of whining about how your life is less dramatic than others, take the time to appreciate the little things. There is so much to be thankful for, so much to be taken in. Be grateful for the sun, for the roof above your head, for the extra change in your pocket, for your comfy bed at night. The list just goes on and on, Friend 1. It’s utterly depressing how you don’t realize how blessed you are. I really just want to smack you in the head, srsly.
They say you never realize the value of something until you lose it. For me, I knew what I had. I just didn’t think I’d lose it at such a young age. I learned it the hard way, Friend 1. I hope in my heart you’d turn around and not take things for granted anymore.
I’m still working on how to tell you this in person. I was really just offended by what you said. You kind of implied that I’m just a shallow person if my father had not died. Although I admit his death changed me in so many levels, I refuse to believe I am a shallow person.
You have no right to define who I am.
You have no idea about my past and all the other things I have been through, may they be good or bad.
In fact, I’m starting to think you don’t know me at all, the me which I chose to share with you.
It’s sad. I don’t think I can trust you with my feelings ever again if that’s how you put things in perspective.
11 Mar 2014
A lot of things can happen when you cut yourself. In biology, your skin undergoes a multi-stage process of regeneration. The inflammatory phase begins when your leukocytes spring into action to avoid infection and your platelets, along with your clotting factors, work together to help seal the wound. Your body then releases a flood of chemicals which prompt the healing process. Over the next few days, specialized cells clear the wound of debris and your epithelial cells then undergo mitosis to give birth to new skin cells, thereby forming a new protective layer. The remodeling phase occurs after two to three weeks, wherein the replacement layer strengthens itself and becomes more normal in color. A sense of tightness is felt when a wound heals, but this is normal and will diminish in time. When the wound has finished healing, a scar develops.
But of course, there is more to a wound than meets the eye. If there’s one thing I learned in Philosophy class this year, it would be the art of appreciation despite being wounded. Let me start by telling you that 2013 has been tumultuous. Papa’s demise has shattered me more than I could ever imagine, leaving me broken beyond repair. I wouldn’t go into the excruciating detail of his passing. Rather, I’d like to emphasize the bittersweet metamorphosis his death has inspired in my soul.
People say you never realize the value of what you have until you lose it. Well, I beg to differ. I definitely knew what I had. I just didn’t think I would lose it. I definitely did not see myself fatherless at such a young age. However with Papa gone, I got to view the world with new lenses. Each moment was taken with a newfound sense of clarity. I grew more conscious of the world outside of me. I lingered a little longer. I learned to step back and just allow everything to unfold before me, to be. It was disorienting in the beginning but I soon got the hang of it. I started noticing the littlest details – like how light was more spectacular when it had to struggle to be noticed, how the stars twinkled more brightly in the province than here, how my closest friends fought the urge to awkwardly look away whenever I recount a memory of Papa, among others. More than anything, I realized how each moment was fleeting and usually taken for granted. Because of this, I began to develop a kind of nostalgia for the present, wherein for a second I snap myself outside of a lived experience and then return to reality. It felt like letting go of something but also finally being in the world. It was nice being able to exist in a kind of other-world, but the sensation did not last for long. My (over)thinking competed with my living and it exhausted me. I no longer just wept for my father but also for every second that slithered into the past. It was all too much to handle and I grew more confused and disturbed day by day.
I started to question everything in my past, present, and future. What was the point of holding on to little details if we were all going to die anyway? What was the use of memories and moving on? It was not like these would bring my father back from the dead. As I grew cynical of the world, I shut myself out without even realizing. I distanced myself from my family and I alienated my friends. I built walls around my heart in an attempt to protect myself from others, not knowing that I was subconsciously trying to protect myself from myself. I did things just so I could get them over with, not because I loved doing them or because they were a means to greater end. I switched back and forth from the desire of mentally killing myself and mentally killing others, and anything in between that spectrum was just a matter of killing time. Perhaps this was my way of coping.
As I witnessed the loss of being my father suffered when he had his heart attack, I also lost myself. I found it immensely difficult to place my trust in anyone or anything again. How could I when the man I thought would never hurt me was apparently the first one to ever break my heart? I felt cheated and betrayed. I despised having to involve myself in life’s daily battles. I no longer wanted to be invested. When you do, you run the risk of getting hurt. My heart has been beaten black and blue that I have grown terribly numb. I considered myself broken beyond repair and I just did not want to feel anymore. In the movie Winter’s Tale, Peter Lake, the protagonist, once asked, “Is it possible to love someone so much that they don’t die?” During Papa’s final moments, I thought that if I just held on to his hand a little tighter, he would squeeze back. But he didn’t. Instead, he let go. So my answer to that question, though rhetorical, would be a big resounding “NO.” I experienced it for myself. Hope failed me. My faith in the Lord failed me. Love failed me. Death had won.
Or at least, I thought so.
This was the point where Philosophy saved my life.
I will forever be grateful for that very first reading assignment for Philosophy 101- Viktor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning. An unforgettable quote by Nietzsche says “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” This struck me like a lightning bolt. I felt the relentless need to reevaluate my life and the choices I make each day. A wave of realizations came over me and below is a quick condensed list of my epiphanies:
(1) I may have lost my dad but I’m still very thankful for the short time we had together. Looking back at happy beautiful memories is bittersweet and it still does make me cry. But the fact that I have these memories and moments to hold on to is a blessing in itself. Though it is utterly exhausting to break every single night and pick myself up again the next day- a vicious cycle I’d say- I’d still choose this over not feeling anything at all. As John Green said, “It hurts because it mattered.” I finally realized that my love for my father transcends the limitations of space and time, and this is something no one can ever take away from me. I believe my father is in a better place now- a place where there is only happiness and no more suffering. The thought of him eternally happy even though this happiness isn’t meant for us to be shared as a family is enough reason for me to endure and stay strong.
(2) Losing my dad was excruciating, but at the very least I didn’t have to endure it alone. My mother and brother shared the pain with me and I am deeply grateful that I still have a family. My mother and my brother, along with the spirit of my father’s memory, are my Why to get me through this labyrinth of suffering. It is because of them that I’d still choose to get up in the morning and attend my classes and try to live my life. It is because of them that I’m still here, sticking it out in this cruel world. My family has always been my rock, my pillar of strength, my constants- a reminder that I am loved and never truly alone.
(3) “I get by with a little help from my friends,” sang The Beatles back then. It still holds true today. I am thankful for the second family I have found in my friends here in college, especially since I live away from home. Because of shared moments- be it boisterous laughter, an inside joke, a friendly insult, a hug, a pat on the back, a look and smile of recognition in the hallways, a silent realization of a mental connection, spontaneous adventures, silly conversations to deep, sensible ones- each day becomes a little bit more bearable than the last. They may not truly comprehend the sorrow I went through during the aftermath of my father’s death but the magic lies in the attempt. The fact that they chose to stay even after I pushed them away goes to show just how blessed I am to have real-life angels.
(4) This school year I was given the opportunity to share in the gift of service, particularly service to Project LAAN, a non-profit organization which seeks universal healthcare for the poor and the vulnerable. The opportunity to serve as head of Donor Marketing for this year has not been entirely a bed of roses but thank God for competent and amazing deputies, I was able to surmount all the tribulations that came with being a leader, one project at a time. Moreover, being able to work with passionate, driven peers for universal healthcare has been truly rewarding and eye-opening. The encounters I had and the stories shared by our partner communities in Galvaville, Laguna and Camp Explore, Antipolo endlessly disturb me and remind me of the tension between two kinds of battles – those that we think we can win and those that need to be fought. In Project LAAN, I found a new sense of purpose and I gained an in-depth understanding of the thrust of my course (Health Sciences). The injustices faced by millions of poor Filipinos due to the unavailability and inaccessibility of health care services cut me straight through the heart but at the same time they are also a cause for unity and hope.
(5) Finally, I realized that the ability to appreciate even the littlest of things holds so much power because it affects one’s disposition and one’s choices. I’ve had days where I blamed myself for not being a good enough, smart enough daughter to my father. A thousand “If only’s” and a million “What if’s” haunted me at night. I talked to people for help and one friend’s words moved me the most: “Never feel sorry for the things that could have been. They were never yours to begin with.” It was then I realized that before I could fully move on I had to forgive myself. Truly, the only person standing in my way was me. I am thankful for gift of forgiveness, human interaction, genuine dialogue, and meaningful encounters. Though these do not entirely close the gap between people and their differences, these gifts allow each one to feel a little less alone in this world. Moreover, I am grateful for gift of uncertainty and the fact that it is okay to be confused and scared and lost. I have discovered that not all things come with a solid, foil-proof plan. I don’t always have to figure everything out right now. I just have to learn to open my heart again to the possibilities that await me, to love anyway despite the risk of getting hurt.
2013, though heartbreaking, has given so much meaning to my life. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl pointed out that one of the ways in which man can achieve meaning in his life is through suffering. To suffer proudly instead of miserably is the ultimate challenge. This led me to finally come into terms with myself and accept that I am wounded, that it is perfectly okay to embrace pain because it demands to be felt. Indeed, pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. It’s all a matter of perspective, really. Just as happiness and love are choices, suffering is too. Though I cannot always control what life hurls at me, I can however control how I react to them.
In a nutshell, attending my Philo classes was like pouring salt to my wounds. Though they reaffirmed the pain, they helped me heal better, faster. Because of the lessons I learned throughout the year, I was able to appreciate the beauty of brokenness, like how a broken heart can still continue beating. The heart is a muscle and will always heal with time. Sometimes, you just have to give Time time.
Thus, a scar is not just a net of collagen fibers that mends and replaces the damaged skin. More than anything, it’s a beauty mark that echoes, “Hey, I survived.” Your experiences – both good and bad- are what set you apart from others. These help you grow outward in love and creation. For me, they are a constant reminder that I shouldn’t dwell on what I lost but rather focus on what I have. 2013 may not have been my best year but it taught me so much and filled me with so much hope. I was thrust into a place where I had to act and think beyond my years, making me tougher, bolder, and wiser.
So to you, my dear reader, be proud of your scars. Each one is a reason to celebrate life. Kiss each one of your scars today. They tell the world that you have truly lived a life of love, of pain, of suffering, of appreciation, of acceptance, of hope, and of everything in between.