Brave

People would tell you to toughen up. They will constantly remind you to be strong and to never let yourself crack—to never let that vulnerability be seen, to let yourself remain unbroken, unhinged. People would tell you to be all these because they want you to be brave. But the truth is—being brave could mean many things.

Yes, you are brave when you are strong. You are brave when you go through the dark without the lights on. When you can sleep in the woods with the wolf howling—you are brave. When you are walking down the street at 3 in the morning, never looking back, just walking straight ahead—you are brave (also—let’s be honest—a bit crazy, but that’s a whole new different story).

But you are also brave when you are able to make some changes in your life. When you are able to look life right in the eyes and say, “I’m going to create ripples of change, and I’ll start with myself.” It’s important to recognize the things that we can do, and the things that we cannot. It’s important to understand that not everything has to be grand—that every change starts with something small, a hopeful idea, a vision. It’s important to know the significance of our insignificance, the devastatingly beautiful smallness of our beings.

You see, you are brave when you try something new. When you are so scared you never knew when the right time was for you to jump and take a leap of faith. But you see, that is also the thing about being afraid. There never was a right timing. The minute you feel scared, that’s the moment when you take giant leaps into the unknown. It is in allowing yourself to recognize the gut-wrenching feeling of being afraid that you truly find yourself—that you knew in that moment that you have the ability to go beyond your comfort zone, that you have the capacity to exceed your own expectations, that you can rise above the surface-level feelings of what being afraid entails, that you can be—above all else—brave.

The thing is you can be brave even when you let yourself be soft—when you let that vulnerability settle in through the cracks. When you open yourself up to another person, when you let trust be the foundation of a relationship, when you let that someone else be your backbone, your rock, your pillar of strength, and ultimately when you let that someone be your person.

You see, when you open yourself up to the world, you open yourself up to the many things that can and will hurt you. You open yourself up to emotions—the many in-betweens of nothings and somethings, of wanting and needing, of the hopefuls and the hopeless. You open yourself up to a world that can cause you pain, to people who have the capacity to leave when all you want for them to do is stay. You open yourself up to a world where you know nothing of what happens next—where the unexpected is a thread that slowly unravels, allowing a story to unfold right in front of you.

You see, when you open yourself up to the world—you are brave. Because the world is a place where the unknown resides, where darkness can be found, where chaos is inevitable. But you, my dear, are the wonderful paradox that makes the world go soft. You are the familiar despite leaving a zone that brings you warmth and comfort; you are Light in a place where the overwhelming void surrounds you. You are—above all else—the calm, the peace, the tranquility.

Brave is a beautiful word, often misunderstood to be one thing and that thing alone. But brave does not always equate itself to being strong. Because brave is many things—it is a gentle soul that softens the world, the light that goes in through the many cracks which life misunderstood as the brokenness of beings but what you have always known to mean as simply being human.

 

Photo as seen from: http://newyorktoparis.tumblr.com/

 

A ramshackle slate

With every new year, people would often say that they want a clean slate. They crave new beginnings like the way they look for things that are no longer there—presence of people that depict familiarity, things that remind one of the people who left, memories that are inevitably kept in the dustiest corner of one’s mind and the deepest recesses of one’s heart.

I, too, crave a slate. But perhaps, instead of a clean one. I want an unclean slate—one that is rough around the edges, imminently forgotten, and eventually goes unnoticed. It’s like a piled up paperwork—you know it’s there, but you choose to ignore it. It’s a mess—for sure. There is no doubt about it that an unclean slate is one that is an abstract work of art. It takes time to understand. It takes long hours standing in front of an artwork, trying to figure out the artist’s why. But, you see it. Soon enough, you figure out details. You understand it; you just know.

I guess, the thing I like most about the idea of an unclean slate is that the past remains. I’ve always thought that the past is haunted—a ghost town of memories, of mistakes, and regrets. But when I look back, I think of the past as a movie montage with a colorful language, people that make up a four-letter word which is home, chances taken, mistakes made and lessons learned. When I look at the past, it no longer haunts me, but it builds me. It makes me stronger; it makes me better. It’s like finding something good in the in-betweens of a messy life, epitomizing hope within chaos. It no longer makes me want to forget things. It no longer makes me focus on the things I could have done, the things I could have said, the things I could be. When I look at the past, I feel contentment – a feeling that recognizes progress: “This is who I was. This is me now.”

People say that the only thing constant in life is change. Of course, there lies a heavy weight of truth in that statement alone. But let’s talk about impermanence. Let’s talk about the things that scares us the most. Let’s talk about the uncomfortable. Let’s talk about the unknown. Let’s talk about uncertainties. Let’s talk about headaches and heartaches and the messy knot that is entangled inside our brains.

Let’s remember to go through the ruins, the fallouts, the unfathomable sadness. Let’s remember the countless times we’ve heard goodbyes and false promises. Let’s remember the times we’ve been told about the truth that turned out to be an abyss of lies. Let’s remember the many lasts that the year before has brought us—the last conversation we’ve had before drifting apart, the last time we saw someone we truly loved, the last time we were called ‘beautiful’ and actually felt like it, the last time we did something for the first time, the last time we cried so hard that we thought our ribcage would break, the last time we laughed so hard we have tears rolling down our cheeks.

Let’s allow ourselves the possibilities of falling and failing and breaking. Perhaps, there will be many times when we feel like people set us up for failure. But life, as you know it, surprises you. Life would look at you with light in its eyes and say, “I am not setting you up for failure, but something greater than that—to learn.”

And this is what I know is true—an unclean slate is nothing more than a canvas of colorful abstract, a list of things to remember your old self by: the way you hoped fervently, the way you held on tightly, the way you risked bravely, the way you fell gracefully, the way you loved fiercely.

All these are worth bringing into a ramshackle slate—a magnificence that is beautifully shredded, details of someone’s light shining brightly, blinding like the sun—always like the sun.

Photo from: http://scar3crow-and-fungus.deviantart.com/art/Corruption-315485728

Dear Millennial

Perhaps by now, you are tired of hearing this label. You are exhausted by the stereotype associated with you being a millennial—someone who enjoys the loud and upbeat rhythm of an electronic dance music, who frequently goes to the clubs and rave parties, and the so-called laziness that comes with the label. Because you know that deep down, this is only a tiny percentage of who you are. You enjoy these things, even lazy weekends and downtimes. But you know that this isn’t exactly the case all the time. And perhaps, this stereotype isn’t so much a stereotype but the only version most people perceive you to be.

Dear Millennial, I want you to know that you are so much more than your electronic dance music and rave parties. While there is nothing wrong with these, you must have forgotten the seeds of potential planted in you to bloom and grow. You go through time, flying about, with your faces just a little too close to your iPads and fingers fumbling about through your iPhones. But dear Millennial, while you are highly capable of adapting in this technologically advanced world, may you never forget other versions of you.

Dear Millennial, I want you to remember the first time you set foot on a sandy beach, with the sun rising high at noon and no electronic dance music surrounding you except for the dancing of the wind as you stroll by the shore.

Dear Millennial, I want you to remember those times when your mother would ask you to take naps. But with that crazy ball of energy you had at the age of seven, you go on and on watching shows on Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. And your grown-up millennial self probably misses those times when you have an allotted time for naps. But while missing those times, you lose sleep waiting for text messages from someone whose name you wish to pop up on your screen.

Dear Millennial, I want you to remember the first day of kindergarten. With your wide-eyed cluelessness and sense of wonder, you go through that day as a milestone, the very first steps of learning. I want you to remember this as you go through your graduation day. Or if you already have, remind yourself how you have savoured that moment. And how you’ve unleashed the ultimate millennial in you to capture moments and innumerable selfies. Perhaps, you aren’t so much as a millennial but someone who lives for moments, who feels alive with moments like this—of euphoria and  pure, uninhibited joy. And then, the day after graduation, you’ll feel it, dear millennial—that same wide-eyed cluelessness and sense of wonder, awaiting for the next chapter of your life to begin—that feeling of stepping into an unknown territory, of immersing yourself in a place called, “adults and grown-ups.”

Dear Millennial, so much has been said about you. And perhaps, there have been countless moments when you felt like most of these are true. But these versions of you on sandy beaches and sitting by the living room watching cartoons and taking naps—these are the versions most people have forgotten about. You are that child with the spark that fuels your imagination. In a world full of grown-ups, try your hardest to be just like the Little Prince—the one who watches 44 sunsets in a day and tames foxes, ultimately becoming responsible for that which you have tamed.

And so, dear Millennial, may you never forget that child in you that thrives in simple joys, that is made alive by the beauty of sunsets and stars.

Dear Millennial, may you find it in you to remember who you were in order to keep yourself grounded for who you will become.

Dear Millennial, you have this lifetime to find and become the version of yourself you’ll like the most—the one you’ll be proudest of and happiest to be. It’ll take time. And at this point, you are still figuring most things out. And that’s ok. Don’t rush things that need time to grow. In time, you’ll bloom.

 

P.S. Time will never be enough. It will feel like time is the greatest enemy. Forget that. Instead, befriend it.

 

Love always,

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(Featured photo as seen in http://queensummit.tumblr.com/post/135920494659)

Spaces

Sometimes, it’s as small as inches or as tiny as centimeters. Sometimes, it’s as long as miles or as far away as kilometers. But sometimes, it’s as close as two hands touching, fingers intertwining—and even then, there’s still spaces.

We’ve heard it way too many times:

“I want space.”

“I need space.”

But often, we are left dumbfounded, figuring out our why’s, questioning our actions, and ultimately doubting ourselves.

What could have made a difference? What could have made people stay? What could have created this space? And why?

But you see, spaces are never non-existent. Even when you can literally feel someone else’s warmth in such a close proximity — holding them in your arms, hugging them—there still feels like an enormous room for space. Even when someone’s around, when we can hear tiny decibels of their voices, when we can feel their heartbeats thumping in rhythm, we can still feel them drifting away. Not unless their own souls—their own beings—merge with ours. While we are beings meant to love and be loved, we are not possessions. Nobody owns us; nobody can have that much power over us. Nobody—not even the people we love the most—has the ability to close gaps, to make oceans disappear, to create folded maps as the Earth so that the distance between two souls are brought to nothing.

While the Universe intends to bring two souls together, it does not force a merging of beings. Even the Universe becomes powerless over spaces. Even the Universe tries its hardest to plant seeds of togetherness, to allow room for sunshine to illuminate, to allow the seeds to grow, to bloom.

But the spaces—oh, these spaces. You’ll never see it coming. It remains to be unseen. You’ll never know when these spaces will hit you. You’ll wake up one day, and realize how the people in your life are drifting away. And perhaps, there are moments when you have even asked for it—for some space to allow yourself to grow, to have that time all for yourself. But still—still, this comes to you as a shock. All the in-betweens were flying through time, and this right here—this space—is the most unexpected grey in the world that is black and white.

Spaces exist because you need that time to be with and by yourself. You need to find time to understand that while someone’s presence creates a surface-level fullness, there is a certain kind of depth in solitude.

Spaces exist not because you need it, or that you want it. Spaces do not exist for you. Do not feel entitled to having space. Before even craving for it, its presence was already lurking among shadows—hidden and unseen.

Perhaps, the reason why we ought to feel entitled to space is because we do not know that it’s been there all along.

When it’s there, we too often fail to notice it. When it’s gone—or at least, when we think it is—we tend to want it. We want it so much that it feels like our hearts are about to burst. We tend to think that we even need it—that it’s a necessity; that these spaces are supposed to be a part of our lives—that these spaces are supposed to be constant reminders of all the temporary things and people we encounter in this lifetime. But it’s not. Spaces are not supposed to be constant reminders because the truth is, they already are. They always have been. But like what has just been said, it has always been forgotten, ignored, and unnoticed.

It’s the same as taking someone or something for granted. We know it’s there, but we pretend it isn’t. And when they’re gone, we look for them in everyone.

But I guess, the difference lies in knowing. There’s a certain kind of awareness in taking someone for granted because you know all about their presence, but you still choose to ignore them. Choose it was a conscious decision; it was something you knew. 

But with space, you don’t really know. No one ever really knows. You’ll never really know because spaces are conniving and treacherous. Even when someone’s head is already on your shoulder or even when you feel inseparable because you are in each other’s arms, there’s still tiny spaces unseen.

This close isn’t close enough. But I guess when you love someone so much, nothing is ever enough.

But spaces crave something, too. It’s the intensity of wanting to be recognized. It’s the desire to no longer hide in the dark. It’s the need to be seen.

But sometimes, it’s simply knowing that it’s already been there all along.

Photo as seen in newyorktoparis.tumblr.com

‘I can feel you slipping away.’

We’re always running. And once, you told me that when we run, we feel infinite—that we are what our bodies are made of: galaxies and stardusts. You said running made you feel alive—like everything in your life is falling into place, like the puzzles finally fit.

I asked you, “What puzzle?”

You said, “Life.”

– – –

We’re always chasing after the dark. It’s funny—people run away from the dark, but we bask in it like the darkness—its nothingness—is its own glow. It’s as if it is in the darkness itself where we see light. It felt like the few seconds we needed in order to adjust our eyes in the dark. And after that, we feel okay despite being surrounded by the unseen, the unrecognizable.

You and I—we’ve always been different; we’ve always turned on that weird spark—that weird light that only us could see. We find beauty in the unique, and we revel on it.

– – –

We’re always screaming into the void. Because every breath we exhale is an effort we put in to release every bit of negativity that invaded our soul. Because when we scream into the void, we felt free—like no one’s watching, like the world is ours, like we’re in our own little haven.

“We’re the crazy ones,” you once told me.

I smiled at you and whispered, “We’ll change the world, you’ll see.”

– – –

We’re always leaping—into the unknown, into the uncomfortable. I was scared to step out of my box, but you said that I’ll never fully live if I stay in it. So, I took three steps forward, your hand waiting just two steps away.

And you reached out for my hand and I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad.”

– – –

We’ve always understood the impermanence of things—of pain, of sadness, and even that of happiness. We’ve laid out the groundwork for our own pathway towards happiness.

You said, “It’s simple—we take life as it is. We do not pressure ourselves to be who we are not.”

“But what if we want more?” I asked.

“We will always want more. But life is a paradox—we want what we can’t have.”

“But what if we get what we want?”

“Then, you are one of the lucky ones.”

– – –

We were lying on a field of dandelions, stargazing with the wind coming at us just a little too strong. The quiet was comforting, and I am slowly drifting away, falling asleep in the arms of peace. Then, I heard you whisper, “Maybe this is it.”

I softly whispered back, “What is?”

You said, “It’s time I step out of my box.” With sadness in your eyes, you said, “You are my box.”

_______________

I said nothing, and the almostness of all the things left unsaid creates a zigzag line in the middle of my heart. I can keep on waking up in the middle of the night, wondering about the what-ifs and could-have-beens of our almost-relationship. But I no longer find myself wallowing in sadness and wishing for things to be the way it was.

I have realized that in order to heal, I must create my own line of possibilities disguising themselves as the impossible. I have decided to forgive myself—for the many string of words left unspoken, for the countless phrases of love and affection left in the quiet, for the sentences so simple turned complex that were ultimately left unsaid.

And so, I do apologize for keeping my words from you. For not telling you when I felt it, when I knew—I felt you slipping away, and instead of holding on tighter, of making you stay, I ripped edges of the box and let the world steal you away.

I do not apologize for becoming your comfort in a time of chaos. I do not apologize for becoming your haven, for being the box that allowed you to fall apart without having to build walls—hiding away your softness, choosing to cover up your vulnerability, creating a surface-level strength, a facade that screams, “strong” but insides that scream hollowness.

They say that the people you love will go back to you; they say that people tend to go back to who feels like home.

Was I home to you?

Dear God, I hope I was.

 

I hope I am.

 

Photo as seen in http://favim.com/image/1592725/

 

To you who might have forgotten

This is what we may have forgotten—

We may have forgotten our ability to shine. We have been stuck in the darkest corners of our lives that we have forgotten we are light. It happens. One day, we wake up and we know nothing. We are only surrounded by darkness—pitch black, nothingness. We try to grasp things; we try to find reasons for every little thing that we do not know. But often, we are left with the crippling fear of the unknown.

We ask ourselves repeatedly if this is it. If this is the worst thing we could have experienced. If this is the tunnel and we’ll be reaching for the end where we see no light. And in the process of wanting to find light, we have forgotten that it has been inside us all along. We have forgotten how to shine because we have invalidated the idea that within us, light illuminates.

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We may have forgotten our ability to crawl. Often, when we talk about rising above the ashes of sadness—of avoiding it, of wanting the assurance that we do not become it, we immediately think of the verb – stand. We stand up; we rise. But most people struggle to find the strength to stand up, and that doesn’t make them any less strong. It makes them human. And to become vulnerable, despite the world constantly trying to steal your softness, is such a beautiful and brave thing. When we become human, we open ourselves up to every pain. We fall back many times, and we may have understood the notion that in the end, we will be incapable of rising above because we can no longer stand up. The truth, however, is that we do not need to immediately stand up in order to rise above. We can, after all, simply crawl. For progress is progress no matter how little it may seem to be.

When we were little, one of the first things we have learned how to do was to crawl. That, in itself, was a milestone. When we crawl, we have that little strength within us — the heart to start over, to take things one step at a time, to not be afraid of becoming small for a short while because there is the ultimate belief that all this will be worth it. That in the end, we bloom.

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We may have forgotten that we have the capacity to choose. We blame circumstances for many things—we blame it for not allowing us to find ourselves, for wandering off, for being lost. We blame the universe for letting us go astray, for not letting us meet the possible love of our lives. We blame fate for not bringing two souls together, for not finding our soulmate, for not allowing us the happiness we know we deserve. We blame many things—heck, we even blame Mondays. We blame Mondays for our lack of motivation, for our hatred of the things we do. But goddamn, we do not hate Mondays. We hate the idea of being stuck into something and wanting it to end. We do not live for the weekends because living only for the weekends entails the idea of us not living our lives to the fullest.

The thing is, we can always choose. We can choose not to blame anything—not the universe, not fate, not circumstance, not even Mondays. At the same time, we can choose not to blame ourselves for the many things we have failed to be, the many things we have forgotten to do and to become. The only thing we can do is to choose the path where we know our heart truly is. We can choose to become the persons we want to be—a doctor, an artist, a writer, a poet, someone who longs for love, someone who seeks love, someone who is loved, someone who loves.

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We may have forgotten what it’s like to feel alive. We have often resulted into thinking that when challenges arise—when we think we have done everything we could yet we still find ourselves stuck in a difficult situation—we end up thinking that there is nothing else we could do. However, when things become difficult, when things become too much, when we end up basking in the almostness of giving up, there often appears something or someone we can hold onto. These—something or someone—are the things that could make us feel alive.

While we often want our own little selves to be the reasons of euphoria and life springing forth from within us, we almost always find ourselves encountering things and people that ultimately allow us to keep going. We tend to find simple reasons for our existence among simple joys in our lives—the many firsts we have done in this lifetime. The first time we learned how to ride a bicycle, the first time we had a sleepover with our best friend, our first day in kindergarten, our first day in high school. There are and perhaps, there will be many firsts to come in this lifetime—our first kiss, the first time we cried over an exquisitely beautiful movie or a heartbreakingly wonderful book. There are other firsts—the first time our hearts were broken over the wrong ones, the first time we fell in love over the possibly right ones (but who is to say if there really is the right one?), or even that moment, with all the luck in the world, our shoulders brushed against a then-stranger who turned out to be our person.

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So, why have we forgotten all these? Perhaps, these have all been preserved in the deepest, dustiest corners of our minds. Maybe, even then, when we thought we have forgotten all these—our ability to shine through, to become light, our ability to not give up, to crawl while struggling to stand up, to choose, to feel alive—we have all just been waiting, longing, wanting to remember. We want to know that deep down we are all these, that we can be all these. Perhaps, the problem isn’t so much as forgetting, but remembering—the struggle to remember, the struggle to know, the struggle to be. Perhaps, the struggle is excruciating, or maybe—just maybe—it can be beautiful.

And so when the crippling fear of the unknown touches our existence, allowing doubt to slowly settle in, and darkness to fall behind us, let us embark on a journey towards light—one that will allow us to experience firsts and make room for seconds and thirds and all the lasts in this lifetime. A path that unravels ourselves as light—one that makes us feel alive, one that allows room for growth, one that allows us to feel, to love, to simply be. And one that allows us to be the sun—unfailingly rising, unapologetically beautiful, golden.

Larme D’or Artwork by Anne Marie Zilberman

If feelings had a diary

If feelings had a diary, feelings would make a list. If feelings can make a list of what is true, maybe this would be it.

  1. I get easily attached. It starts with this overwhelming feeling of caring too much. There is this need to go all in for another person because I am not the kind of person who goes halfway.
  2. I am afraid to let go of people. Because I have been attached to you, I now have the inability to let go of you. Despite you being such a huge toxic in my life, I still find myself wondering how you are and often weighing the good times I had with you against the bad. More often than not, the good wins. Because when I look back to those times that felt good, those were the times when I felt free and happy. I understand that once a toxic is in your life, you must find a way to cut it out. But you were once a constant, so how can I let go of the familiar just to find myself swimming in the dark?
  3. We may have been labeling ourselves as friends, but we’re not. I realized that we have stopped being friends for quite some time now. I look back to our old conversations, and those seemed natural—not one thing felt forced. But we talk now, and it is such a struggle. I have to try to catch up with you because at some point, you have left me into a place called, ‘we will get through this together’, but you’ve moved on. You’ve found new people who understood you better because you are now in a different place than I am. I’m stuck, and you’ve moved forward. And for the longest time, I’ve been happy for you. But not once have you looked back to see how I was doing. You assumed I was fine, and that’s the worse part. You thought I was fine, but all I felt was stuck.
  4. I need people who will not hinder my growth. Our friendship has always been about you and your loud personality. And I’ve always felt small. But I’m tired of feeling small. I no longer feel the need to restrain myself just because you are no longer someone who applauds my growth.
  5. I need to surround myself with people who truly understand me. I have always been different. This is both a blessing and a curse. To stand out in a crowd that tries so hard to fit in is a wonderful opportunity to find oneself. On the other hand, to be different can mean that no one else understands. I have always struggled to know who I really am, what I can do, and who I can be—the limitless possibilities I can find myself in, the weaknesses that disguise themselves as strengths and vice versa, and the many versions of myself that evolve as time passes by.

I need people who understand what it means to be lost. Because the thing is I have always tried to find you. But this time, it’s about me. It’s about loving myself more. It’s about choosing me.

  1. I need to stop feeling like I have to explain myself to anyone. Because I do not need to feel like I owe anyone an explanation. I have always had this need to let people know me better, to let them know who I am, what I am thinking. But life is too short to think about what anyone else thinks about me. It is exhausting to have to put other people first before your own. It isn’t about being selfish. It’s about knowing that there will come a time that you will have to choose yourself. Because in the end, all we really have is ourselves. The thing is you have made such a big deal about the decisions I’ve made. You do not support most of it, and even when I try to explain myself to you, you disregard everything I’ve said. So, really, what is the point? My soul is tired from having to exhaust myself of words and redirecting them to people who are incapable of hearing the volume by which they speak.
  2. It’s okay that you have found your people. I have mistaken you to be my person, and I do not blame either one of us for that. I think that part of the idea of you becoming my person was the idea that you understood and knew me well. But things change, people grow, and nothing ever really stays the same. You were a different person then, and I was, too. Maybe this is better for us—to grow up while growing apart.
  3. I want to allow myself peace. I deserve calmness. I deserve fresher air to breathe while having to let go of toxics in my life. I want to allow myself peace—to have the ability to walk away from people who treat me less than what I know I deserve. I want to allow myself peace—to be able to look at you and not feel an ounce of resentment. I want to allow myself peace because I deserve it.
  4. I want to be able to look back while moving forward. When my heart is at peace, I want to be able to look back and see this as the attempt of the Universe to set people apart just because there is nothing to grow from. Because the Universe knows what it is doing, and it understands the need of falling apart for better versions of human beings to fall together.
  5. You are not someone who is easy to outgrow. But I am not someone who is built to settle. I do not want to settle for a mediocre friendship, even more so a mediocre love. I do not want to settle for whatever is there. I know what I deserve, and you are not it.

Photo by Daehyun Kim