12 Lessons in 12 months

12 lessons in 12 months

I had little expectations for 2011. I always felt that some of my peers were a little too uptight with everything. Furiously scribbling down resolutions that – let’s be real – won’t get checked off the list, worried about job-hunting, boyfriend/girlfirend-catching, school-excelling, and place-going is a lot of pressure to put on oneself, especially when factors out of their control are involved. So I decided to go with it. That was my goal. To not be completely subject to the moody whims of life, but to accept them with an open mind and the thought that perhaps there is purpose behind the seemingly-random events that we like to label as ‘all of a sudden’. I feel like I did what I needed to do this year, but also a hell of a lot of what I wanted to do. Because life is too short not to do what you want. It’s also too short to just sit there and wait for things to happen to you. So the following is a short outline, a quaint marriage of what happened to me and what I made happen. That’s life in its most condensed forms, I guess.

January showed me that I am not impervious to externalities like a touch of seasonal depression due to the rainy days. It came as quite a shock to be completely honest, because I’m always the one to waive off things like medicine and the side effects of stress: “It’s all in your head!” I would proudly proclaim, believing that the mind is in control of the body 100 percent of the time. It didn’t help that my window faced a back alley and my bedroom was devoid of sunlight even on the brightest days. In turn, I decided to start kicking-ass in my Russian program, and I think I did. It was a wonderful case of reciprocity: I put forth the effort, and the profuse tangles of Russian grammar started sorting themselves out.

Lesson #1: Despair can be avoided by teaching yourself something.

February was a month of random dating. To some, dating is a wretched yet mandatory process, a channel for which to sort through the mud to get to the diamond. But I date simply because more often than not, I get a story out of it as well as the occasional reminder that there are people weirder than me (they probably think the same thing). Like the one young gentleman who, as it turned out, harbored severe anti-Polish sentiments and revealed them in a tale-worthy manner. I’m Polish. LOLZ. The other great thing about dating is that an immediate choice is traditionally attached to this social more – will you see that person again? If so, to what extent? This choice is sometimes awkward, confusing, or painful, especially if you’re on the receiving end. Or it could be the best thing you’ve ever heard. But a choice, the ability to directly alter your destiny – even if this resolution seems as inconsequential as a butterfly blinking its wings and choosing to rest on a Dahlia rather than any other flower – is what distinguishes you from the rest of the populace. February was also the month I had to watch my dad linger on the verge of death from an unforeseen hematoma. And all of a sudden, dating shenanigans seem altogether unimportant, and you reach the realization that sometimes choices should be made while you still have them.

Lesson #2: Choices are a luxury.

March was a month of running around like someone lit a fire under my ass. My friend Blake can be blamed for this proverbial flame because he’s the one who forced me to do things like prepare for our summer trip by carrying out the tedious Russian and Chinese visa process. My iCal from March 2011 looks like a toddler scribbled all over it, and in retrospect I probably paid as little attention to my responsibilities and appointments as I would a toddler’s scribble. With an average of four consuming things to complete everyday, it’s a wonder how it all got done. In fact, it’s amazing that having such a firm grasp on life was at all possible. How can you have control over something as random, unpredictable, and mindboggling as life? I also went zip-lining on March 5th. It was an obstacle course in the trees and of the four long stretches of zip-line, I was the only one of the group to land ass-backwards 100 percent of the time – despite the reassurances of the guides that if you bicycle kick you can reposition your body to face forward while cutting through the air. But no. Bicycle kicks don’t fucking work. And so every time I would approach a landing spot, I would shut my eyes, hope for the best, and inevitably end up with a muddy ass and wood chips in unspeakable places. Zip-lining was advertised as something you should have control over, and somehow I ended up with no control, completely at the mercy of the laws of physics and I suspect a bit of karma. The day before, you see, I had scooped up the last of the cherry tomatoes at a salad bar to the disdain of an evil-eyed girl with long brown hair. Life surprised me that month, as it turned out I was the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. Except for fucking zip-lining. And yes those trips supposedly to Russian and China never pushed, instead I ended up Climbing Mt.Daguldol and yes it started the whole climbing wherever frenzy, THANKS SO MUCH TO MY BEST FRIEND DOODS.

Lesson #3: You have as much control as you perceive yourself to have.

April was a month of  shit-throwing. At every turn and corner, new work seemed to not only pile up but also increase exponentially. Then again, if you fail to tend the garden the weeds will start to grow. This was a burden completely of my own creation – I don’t feel as I’ve ever truly applied myself in academia, often leaving things to the last minute and failing to stir up a passion for metamorphic rocks, Rudyard Kipling, and the principles of economics. As well as the principles of how to properly teach or transfer out skills to others, I had other things on my mind, like pork spare ribs, Beat literature, traveling the whole wide universe, hefty and thorough analysis of professional tennis, and how I was going to acquire my dream beach house in Zanzibar or pull that Delhi diamond heist à la Pink Pather. I believe that just as much time, if not more, should be donated towards emanating Peter Sellers as to silly things like academics. And if anything, my new diamond would pay for my beach house. But the day that catapaulted me into mental exhaustion was April 14th – I apparently documented this in my calendar. I had just realized that I couldn’t go home for Easter, a holiday that I view with utmost admiration simply because it’s the day my grandma makes my favorite soup. And now the soup-rug was suddenly pulled out from underneath my tired feet. So what do I do when so much shit is being thrown and I can’t get across the battlefield shit-free? I start throwing shit. Literally. April 15th just happened to be the university’s celebration of Holi, a spring festival for Hindus where you attack people with mushroom clouds of neon pink, yellow, and green powder. So I partook in the shit throwing, this time with some friends and a smile. And with one whole-body throw, a properly oversized Super Soaker, and a target hit, everything was made a little bit more manageable.

Lesson #4: Perspective is your shit shield.

May 26th  marked the 2nd month . It was also the day two friends would leave the States for one of the coolest backpacking trips of  their lives. I on the other hand soak up the unknown like a liver in a lightweight, and I am the happiest when I’m on the road, but before every trip the dangerous question ‘what if?’ reliably pops up – what if something happens back home while I’m away, what if something happens to my friends or to me. While I can always count for this poisonous inquiry to emerge, it is always brief and fleeting, and I get back to my normal carefree senses pretty quickly. But when it did happen, its effect was deeply rooted. And like the symphony of rain that pattered against every umbrella, a waterfall of tears was uncorked. I did my best to hide it because tears don’t mesh well with my slightly callous exterior, so when my little brother said something about it, I responded with something along the lines of “don’t be stupid” followed by an affectionate yet appropriately tight headlock. I take my older sister responsibilities very seriously. At the end of May I would find myself early bouts of depressions since I lost Carlo last march  I THEN PRETENDED TO BE  perfectly happy and in the position to spit in the face of “what if”. I was on the road, after all, and the road is my home.

Lesson #5: “What if” is the single stupidest phrase anyone can ever utter.

June was a month of delights and true pedagogy. I realized the breadth of my reach when one day, I set off running in a random direction in the middle of Cebu. Why, you ask? I answer this with why the hell not. It was a time of doing exactly what I wanted at the time that I wanted to do it, because people don’t abuse this inherent right nearly enough. It was a time of being ridiculous and spontaneous for the sake of ridiculousness and spontaneity. It was a time of going with the waves and the wind. I  had no plan, no agenda. I was just some kids who dreamed of seeing the world and we were slowly but surely realizing that dream – that’s happiness if I’ve ever known it. Back to the running. My heart was pounding and I had a grin so large it probably split my face in half. I pointed to the distant horizon and told myself to stop when I reached the sun. In retrospect, I  didn’t do anything else but to travel back and forth hence this was the first time I celebrated my birthday alone .June, and the whole trip rather, was a time for me to truly excerise my love for dramatic, colorful, and sweeping gestures in the name of excitement and simply doing something. Life is too ephemeral to do anything but. Cebu and Iloilo hosted me in June and it was a time of veritable adventure and uninterrupted stimulus. Much was learned, little was lost. And hopefully you’ll see me running towards the sun sometime soon, the same sun that was denied to me last January.

Lesson #6: What was lacking before will be in abundance later.

July was a month of carousing around in drunken stupor, hiking tens of thousands of collective steps at the Osmena Peak, becoming *very* well acquainted with bus and train station floors, hanging out with awesome Cebuanos, discovering and falling in love…with Cebu street food, meeting the most amazing people I could possibly meet; it was a month of constant motion, constant seeing, constant doing, constant learning; it was the month I realized that my wallet is small but my heart is big, that my tastes are simple but my dreams are expansive, that my faults are many but my merits are many more. July was a month of sheer discovery, life-changing adventure, a massive acquisition of stories, and a healthy dose of perspective. China and Nepal did that to me a few years before but this time I was just all over the Philippine Islands. Let’s say the average life expectancy of a Woman is 81 years of age, or 29,565 days. There are 31 days in July, which means all of the aforementioned events can account for roughly 0.105% of my entire life. One month. If I live every month like I did in July of 2011, I’m going to be very happy, very wise, and one hell of a storyteller. I take into account that perhaps I won’t live as long if I carouse around every city in drunken stupor, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, should I not accidentally fall off of it.

Lesson #7: Never stop traveling. (I knew this since day one, but a lesson of this significance cannot be reiterated enough)

The high I’d been riding the past months of non stop travel to different places especially during my best bud’s birthday trip .It was the morning of my departure and I wasn’t ready to leave. I was going mad, you see, deliriously upset that that chapter of my life, one of the best ones, was closing for good. My bags somehow packed themselves. I checked that I had everything important, I returned my room key, and I left. As I turned toward the exit, I stood there. My eyes glazed over and I spaced out. I imagined my backpack and I – the best travel buddy I’ve ever had – as we caught a chicken bus south to the border, shirking my date with Flight PR859  on the way home. I imagined us continuing like no one ever left, like I had no where to be, like I had no one waiting for me. I imagined how nice that would be. And then someone asked if I’d like a cab. Angry with this person for jolting me back to reality, I gave him a terse ‘no thanks’ and trudged off. I smiled the whole time, soaking in every bit of this energy-sucking economic ritual that is so customary around the world and yet finds itself to be absent in the PH. He must’ve thought me creepy and conceded to lower the price. It came time to board the plane too soon. They had us walk across the landing strip as some personnel rushed to shoo some lazy cattle away. As people queued up to have their passports and tickets checked,. I dropped my bags and turned towards the cityscape and the almost ruined airport of Mactan ., but it’s charming despite these things. Underneath is a city of smiling faces, food of immense flavor, and paramount beauty. The weather was typical of monsoon season – overcast but unusually bright. I felt strange and truly foreign for the first time, for the road is my home and I was leaving it.

Lesson #8: Nothing lasts forever.

 

In September I fell into a rut. Being completely apathetic towards the whole working/university thing, living in the past three months, and being virtually taunted by all my friends who were studying abroad are comparatively good problems to have, but they are problems nonetheless. Makes sense. After all, what happens after a high? The crash. After months of which my only responsibility was staying alive, it was shocking that mundane academia didn’t appeal to me. I escaped to inside my head where I held precious memories, newfound knowledge, and a joke or two when the time called for it. It was a month of pointless impulses: driving to the middle of no where, picking a random book in the library and reading it no matter what it was, and ordering just one more pitcher of beer at the local pub even if it was last call and everyone had enough. Education became a towering roadblock in the way of my learning, and the control I enjoyed in March seemed far off and out of reach. But as per lesson #8, the nature of ruts and the highs is transience, as is the case with everything in between. And ever since I’ve been slowly climbing my way out with a little help from my friends and my own resolution that I am better than that. It was time to move on, get done what needed to be done, and plot my next move.

Lesson #9: Ruts and highs are inevitable and impermanent.

I didn’t know what ‘anything is possible’ really meant until October.

Lesson #10: Moments are fleeting by nature. Hold on to them, remember them, don’t lament when they’re gone but be grateful that they happened.

November was a month of impulse; pure, liberating, unadulterated impulse. Not to mention extreme sexual impulse as well. I woke up one day. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, threw on the kicks, and guzzled down a coffee. In the next hour I found myself  someplace where I don’t usually go to. I was there out of curiousity, trying to see if the Southeast is really as dangerous as the media, word-of-mouth, and supposed ‘common knowledge’ makes it to be, if the situation is really that dire. Future explorations and documentation are coming, but what I have learned is not surprising. What can be found there is people. People with a similar way of life and people in a similar place physically and mentally. People who should not be confined by the construct of the place they live. Southeast is one in the same; the danger is there but it is wholly distorted by distant group perceptions. It was not a search for trouble but for understanding, a project of which the goal was personal introspection. I just wanted to feel I was doing something worthwhile and substantial for myself, not trying to save the world but trying to understand this world that so badly needs to be saved. If I applied the previous ten lessions of 2011, directly acknowledged them, and took them to heart, I knew I would be okay.

Lesson #11: Substance should never be sacrificed. 

Oh, is it December already? When the fuck did that happen. It’s difficult to be introspective about something that just occurred. The dust hasn’t settled, the smoke hasn’t cleared, and I’m still biased and completely lacking the wisdom that time always offers to an individual should she is willing to accept it. But I suppose December has been a month of observing the most convential wisdoms from the most unconvential sources. For example, after being handed an extremely large paycheck, a decision had to be made as to what to use the money for. Normally savings would be the primary go-to, but the holiday season has the uncanny disposition of complicating even the simplest of matters. So in the wise words of the talented Notoroious B.I.G., “mo’ money” indeed elicits “mo’ problems”. But even then, I just did what I am naturally inclined to do – store the money away, forget about Christmas, and then panic last minute when I am left present-less, stressed out, and inclined to turn to my go-to emergency gift in embarassing quantities. I firmly believe that every citizen of the world should watch Eroll Morris’ stunning, compelling documentary Fog of War, an expertly clipped and arranged interview with former Secretary of Defense, the ever controversial, ever fascinating Robert McNamara. It is truly amazing. One of those ‘bigger than yourself’ pieces, to be sure. And so the Fog of War shall rain down on unsuspecting family members. And they will thank me later. It’s been a whole 28 days of this month and that’s all I can think to write about. Which is fine. Come February or March, I will likely come back to this paragraph and view the last month of 2011 completely differently. This is one of life’s certainties – your present perceptions change how you perceive the past.

Then again, it is stupid to talk about oneself in such exhausting quantities. The world in 2011 was a pivotal one, truly unlike any other in history. What’s a little seasonal depression compared to the devastating January floods and mudslides in Rio de Janeiro that claimed 903 lives? While I fought for control with a zip-line as if it were a matter of life and death and not an ass full of pinecones, martyrs, heroes, villians, and victims were being made in split-second decisions that would change the course of history in the Libyan civil war. I will say: I do reckon my shit-throwing dealings of April much cooler than the royal wedding – history was made on that lawn that day when I pawned that n00b so hard with a handful of pink powder to the face. If only I got two billion people to watch. May: America celebrates the death (anyone else think this to be strange??) of head honcho Osama bin Laden, while I’m preparing for a trip that will eventually lead me to Pakistan’s general hood. Serious considerations ensue as to whether I should hop the fence, so to speak, from Nepal’s western most point into Uttarakhand, then Punjab, and then Pakistan simply to see what’s going on there.  I constantly remind myself that it can always be worse, that I can never stop giving, that compassion and empathy are my most precious possessions in a world experiencing a deficit of them, that I am so lucky to have the life I have, and the most important lesson of all:

Lesson #12: There is a world beyond yours.

I took on the task of summarizing and analyzing a year in a few paragraphs. I cannot wait to read this in ten years and smile. Looking toward 2012, I have no expectations. I have goals, intentions, and dreams, and these will be completed or left unfulfilled by my action or inaction, my resolution to move forward or to stagnate, bucket-list-wise.

Speaking of the bucket-list, I’m off to who knows where  now. Whether the Mayans were correct in their morbid prediction or not, I think people should view it as a pressing reason to either begin to live their lives to the fullest or to continue doing so. What else can you do, than to do what you need, do what you want, and play the cards you’re dealt.

 

12 lessons in 12 months

I had little expectations for 2011. I always felt that some of my peers were a little too uptight with everything. Furiously scribbling down resolutions that – let’s be real – won’t get checked off the list, worried about job-hunting, boyfriend/girlfirend-catching, school-excelling, and place-going is a lot of pressure to put on oneself, especially when factors out of their control are involved. So I decided to go with it. That was my goal. To not be completely subject to the moody whims of life, but to accept them with an open mind and the thought that perhaps there is purpose behind the seemingly-random events that we like to label as ‘all of a sudden’. I feel like I did what I needed to do this year, but also a hell of a lot of what I wanted to do. Because life is too short not to do what you want. It’s also too short to just sit there and wait for things to happen to you. So the following is a short outline, a quaint marriage of what happened to me and what I made happen. That’s life in its most condensed forms, I guess.

January showed me that I am not impervious to externalities like a touch of seasonal depression due to the rainy days. It came as quite a shock to be completely honest, because I’m always the one to waive off things like medicine and the side effects of stress: “It’s all in your head!” I would proudly proclaim, believing that the mind is in control of the body 100 percent of the time. It didn’t help that my window faced a back alley and my bedroom was devoid of sunlight even on the brightest days. In turn, I decided to start kicking-ass in my Russian program, and I think I did. It was a wonderful case of reciprocity: I put forth the effort, and the profuse tangles of Russian grammar started sorting themselves out.

Lesson #1: Despair can be avoided by teaching yourself something.

February was a month of random dating. To some, dating is a wretched yet mandatory process, a channel for which to sort through the mud to get to the diamond. But I date simply because more often than not, I get a story out of it as well as the occasional reminder that there are people weirder than me (they probably think the same thing). Like the one young gentleman who, as it turned out, harbored severe anti-Polish sentiments and revealed them in a tale-worthy manner. I’m Polish. LOLZ. The other great thing about dating is that an immediate choice is traditionally attached to this social more – will you see that person again? If so, to what extent? This choice is sometimes awkward, confusing, or painful, especially if you’re on the receiving end. Or it could be the best thing you’ve ever heard. But a choice, the ability to directly alter your destiny – even if this resolution seems as inconsequential as a butterfly blinking its wings and choosing to rest on a Dahlia rather than any other flower – is what distinguishes you from the rest of the populace. February was also the month I had to watch my dad linger on the verge of death from an unforeseen hematoma. And all of a sudden, dating shenanigans seem altogether unimportant, and you reach the realization that sometimes choices should be made while you still have them.

Lesson #2: Choices are a luxury.

March was a month of running around like someone lit a fire under my ass. My friend Blake can be blamed for this proverbial flame because he’s the one who forced me to do things like prepare for our summer trip by carrying out the tedious Russian and Chinese visa process. My iCal from March 2011 looks like a toddler scribbled all over it, and in retrospect I probably paid as little attention to my responsibilities and appointments as I would a toddler’s scribble. With an average of four consuming things to complete everyday, it’s a wonder how it all got done. In fact, it’s amazing that having such a firm grasp on life was at all possible. How can you have control over something as random, unpredictable, and mindboggling as life? I also went zip-lining on March 5th. It was an obstacle course in the trees and of the four long stretches of zip-line, I was the only one of the group to land ass-backwards 100 percent of the time – despite the reassurances of the guides that if you bicycle kick you can reposition your body to face forward while cutting through the air. But no. Bicycle kicks don’t fucking work. And so every time I would approach a landing spot, I would shut my eyes, hope for the best, and inevitably end up with a muddy ass and wood chips in unspeakable places. Zip-lining was advertised as something you should have control over, and somehow I ended up with no control, completely at the mercy of the laws of physics and I suspect a bit of karma. The day before, you see, I had scooped up the last of the cherry tomatoes at a salad bar to the disdain of an evil-eyed girl with long brown hair. Life surprised me that month, as it turned out I was the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. Except for fucking zip-lining. And yes those trips supposedly to Russian and China never pushed, instead I ended up Climbing Mt.Daguldol and yes it started the whole climbing wherever frenzy, THANKS SO MUCH TO MY BEST FRIEND DOODS.

Lesson #3: You have as much control as you perceive yourself to have.

April was a month of  shit-throwing. At every turn and corner, new work seemed to not only pile up but also increase exponentially. Then again, if you fail to tend the garden the weeds will start to grow. This was a burden completely of my own creation – I don’t feel as I’ve ever truly applied myself in academia, often leaving things to the last minute and failing to stir up a passion for metamorphic rocks, Rudyard Kipling, and the principles of economics. As well as the principles of how to properly teach or transfer out skills to others, I had other things on my mind, like pork spare ribs, Beat literature, traveling the whole wide universe, hefty and thorough analysis of professional tennis, and how I was going to acquire my dream beach house in Zanzibar or pull that Delhi diamond heist à la Pink Pather. I believe that just as much time, if not more, should be donated towards emanating Peter Sellers as to silly things like academics. And if anything, my new diamond would pay for my beach house. But the day that catapaulted me into mental exhaustion was April 14th – I apparently documented this in my calendar. I had just realized that I couldn’t go home for Easter, a holiday that I view with utmost admiration simply because it’s the day my grandma makes my favorite soup. And now the soup-rug was suddenly pulled out from underneath my tired feet. So what do I do when so much shit is being thrown and I can’t get across the battlefield shit-free? I start throwing shit. Literally. April 15th just happened to be the university’s celebration of Holi, a spring festival for Hindus where you attack people with mushroom clouds of neon pink, yellow, and green powder. So I partook in the shit throwing, this time with some friends and a smile. And with one whole-body throw, a properly oversized Super Soaker, and a target hit, everything was made a little bit more manageable.

Lesson #4: Perspective is your shit shield.

May 26th  marked the 2nd month . It was also the day two friends would leave the States for one of the coolest backpacking trips of  their lives. I on the other hand soak up the unknown like a liver in a lightweight, and I am the happiest when I’m on the road, but before every trip the dangerous question ‘what if?’ reliably pops up – what if something happens back home while I’m away, what if something happens to my friends or to me. While I can always count for this poisonous inquiry to emerge, it is always brief and fleeting, and I get back to my normal carefree senses pretty quickly. But when it did happen, its effect was deeply rooted. And like the symphony of rain that pattered against every umbrella, a waterfall of tears was uncorked. I did my best to hide it because tears don’t mesh well with my slightly callous exterior, so when my little brother said something about it, I responded with something along the lines of “don’t be stupid” followed by an affectionate yet appropriately tight headlock. I take my older sister responsibilities very seriously. At the end of May I would find myself early bouts of depressions since I lost Carlo last march  I THEN PRETENDED TO BE  perfectly happy and in the position to spit in the face of “what if”. I was on the road, after all, and the road is my home.

Lesson #5: “What if” is the single stupidest phrase anyone can ever utter.

June was a month of delights and true pedagogy. I realized the breadth of my reach when one day, I set off running in a random direction in the middle of Cebu. Why, you ask? I answer this with why the hell not. It was a time of doing exactly what I wanted at the time that I wanted to do it, because people don’t abuse this inherent right nearly enough. It was a time of being ridiculous and spontaneous for the sake of ridiculousness and spontaneity. It was a time of going with the waves and the wind. I  had no plan, no agenda. I was just some kids who dreamed of seeing the world and we were slowly but surely realizing that dream – that’s happiness if I’ve ever known it. Back to the running. My heart was pounding and I had a grin so large it probably split my face in half. I pointed to the distant horizon and told myself to stop when I reached the sun. In retrospect, I  didn’t do anything else but to travel back and forth hence this was the first time I celebrated my birthday alone .June, and the whole trip rather, was a time for me to truly excerise my love for dramatic, colorful, and sweeping gestures in the name of excitement and simply doing something. Life is too ephemeral to do anything but. Cebu and Iloilo hosted me in June and it was a time of veritable adventure and uninterrupted stimulus. Much was learned, little was lost. And hopefully you’ll see me running towards the sun sometime soon, the same sun that was denied to me last January.

Lesson #6: What was lacking before will be in abundance later.

July was a month of carousing around in drunken stupor, hiking tens of thousands of collective steps at the Osmena Peak, becoming *very* well acquainted with bus and train station floors, hanging out with awesome Cebuanos, discovering and falling in love…with Cebu street food, meeting the most amazing people I could possibly meet; it was a month of constant motion, constant seeing, constant doing, constant learning; it was the month I realized that my wallet is small but my heart is big, that my tastes are simple but my dreams are expansive, that my faults are many but my merits are many more. July was a month of sheer discovery, life-changing adventure, a massive acquisition of stories, and a healthy dose of perspective. China and Nepal did that to me a few years before but this time I was just all over the Philippine Islands. Let’s say the average life expectancy of a Woman is 81 years of age, or 29,565 days. There are 31 days in July, which means all of the aforementioned events can account for roughly 0.105% of my entire life. One month. If I live every month like I did in July of 2011, I’m going to be very happy, very wise, and one hell of a storyteller. I take into account that perhaps I won’t live as long if I carouse around every city in drunken stupor, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, should I not accidentally fall off of it.

Lesson #7: Never stop traveling. (I knew this since day one, but a lesson of this significance cannot be reiterated enough)

The high I’d been riding the past months of non stop travel to different places especially during my best bud’s birthday trip .It was the morning of my departure and I wasn’t ready to leave. I was going mad, you see, deliriously upset that that chapter of my life, one of the best ones, was closing for good. My bags somehow packed themselves. I checked that I had everything important, I returned my room key, and I left. As I turned toward the exit, I stood there. My eyes glazed over and I spaced out. I imagined my backpack and I – the best travel buddy I’ve ever had – as we caught a chicken bus south to the border, shirking my date with Flight PR859  on the way home. I imagined us continuing like no one ever left, like I had no where to be, like I had no one waiting for me. I imagined how nice that would be. And then someone asked if I’d like a cab. Angry with this person for jolting me back to reality, I gave him a terse ‘no thanks’ and trudged off. I smiled the whole time, soaking in every bit of this energy-sucking economic ritual that is so customary around the world and yet finds itself to be absent in the PH. He must’ve thought me creepy and conceded to lower the price. It came time to board the plane too soon. They had us walk across the landing strip as some personnel rushed to shoo some lazy cattle away. As people queued up to have their passports and tickets checked,. I dropped my bags and turned towards the cityscape and the almost ruined airport of Mactan ., but it’s charming despite these things. Underneath is a city of smiling faces, food of immense flavor, and paramount beauty. The weather was typical of monsoon season – overcast but unusually bright. I felt strange and truly foreign for the first time, for the road is my home and I was leaving it.

Lesson #8: Nothing lasts forever.

 

In September I fell into a rut. Being completely apathetic towards the whole working/university thing, living in the past three months, and being virtually taunted by all my friends who were studying abroad are comparatively good problems to have, but they are problems nonetheless. Makes sense. After all, what happens after a high? The crash. After months of which my only responsibility was staying alive, it was shocking that mundane academia didn’t appeal to me. I escaped to inside my head where I held precious memories, newfound knowledge, and a joke or two when the time called for it. It was a month of pointless impulses: driving to the middle of no where, picking a random book in the library and reading it no matter what it was, and ordering just one more pitcher of beer at the local pub even if it was last call and everyone had enough. Education became a towering roadblock in the way of my learning, and the control I enjoyed in March seemed far off and out of reach. But as per lesson #8, the nature of ruts and the highs is transience, as is the case with everything in between. And ever since I’ve been slowly climbing my way out with a little help from my friends and my own resolution that I am better than that. It was time to move on, get done what needed to be done, and plot my next move.

Lesson #9: Ruts and highs are inevitable and impermanent.

I didn’t know what ‘anything is possible’ really meant until October.

Lesson #10: Moments are fleeting by nature. Hold on to them, remember them, don’t lament when they’re gone but be grateful that they happened.

November was a month of impulse; pure, liberating, unadulterated impulse. Not to mention extreme sexual impulse as well. I woke up one day. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, threw on the kicks, and guzzled down a coffee. In the next hour I found myself  someplace where I don’t usually go to. I was there out of curiousity, trying to see if the Southeast is really as dangerous as the media, word-of-mouth, and supposed ‘common knowledge’ makes it to be, if the situation is really that dire. Future explorations and documentation are coming, but what I have learned is not surprising. What can be found there is people. People with a similar way of life and people in a similar place physically and mentally. People who should not be confined by the construct of the place they live. Southeast is one in the same; the danger is there but it is wholly distorted by distant group perceptions. It was not a search for trouble but for understanding, a project of which the goal was personal introspection. I just wanted to feel I was doing something worthwhile and substantial for myself, not trying to save the world but trying to understand this world that so badly needs to be saved. If I applied the previous ten lessions of 2011, directly acknowledged them, and took them to heart, I knew I would be okay.

Lesson #11: Substance should never be sacrificed. 

Oh, is it December already? When the fuck did that happen. It’s difficult to be introspective about something that just occurred. The dust hasn’t settled, the smoke hasn’t cleared, and I’m still biased and completely lacking the wisdom that time always offers to an individual should she is willing to accept it. But I suppose December has been a month of observing the most convential wisdoms from the most unconvential sources. For example, after being handed an extremely large paycheck, a decision had to be made as to what to use the money for. Normally savings would be the primary go-to, but the holiday season has the uncanny disposition of complicating even the simplest of matters. So in the wise words of the talented Notoroious B.I.G., “mo’ money” indeed elicits “mo’ problems”. But even then, I just did what I am naturally inclined to do – store the money away, forget about Christmas, and then panic last minute when I am left present-less, stressed out, and inclined to turn to my go-to emergency gift in embarassing quantities. I firmly believe that every citizen of the world should watch Eroll Morris’ stunning, compelling documentary Fog of War, an expertly clipped and arranged interview with former Secretary of Defense, the ever controversial, ever fascinating Robert McNamara. It is truly amazing. One of those ‘bigger than yourself’ pieces, to be sure. And so the Fog of War shall rain down on unsuspecting family members. And they will thank me later. It’s been a whole 28 days of this month and that’s all I can think to write about. Which is fine. Come February or March, I will likely come back to this paragraph and view the last month of 2011 completely differently. This is one of life’s certainties – your present perceptions change how you perceive the past.

Then again, it is stupid to talk about oneself in such exhausting quantities. The world in 2011 was a pivotal one, truly unlike any other in history. What’s a little seasonal depression compared to the devastating January floods and mudslides in Rio de Janeiro that claimed 903 lives? While I fought for control with a zip-line as if it were a matter of life and death and not an ass full of pinecones, martyrs, heroes, villians, and victims were being made in split-second decisions that would change the course of history in the Libyan civil war. I will say: I do reckon my shit-throwing dealings of April much cooler than the royal wedding – history was made on that lawn that day when I pawned that n00b so hard with a handful of pink powder to the face. If only I got two billion people to watch. May: America celebrates the death (anyone else think this to be strange??) of head honcho Osama bin Laden, while I’m preparing for a trip that will eventually lead me to Pakistan’s general hood. Serious considerations ensue as to whether I should hop the fence, so to speak, from Nepal’s western most point into Uttarakhand, then Punjab, and then Pakistan simply to see what’s going on there.  I constantly remind myself that it can always be worse, that I can never stop giving, that compassion and empathy are my most precious possessions in a world experiencing a deficit of them, that I am so lucky to have the life I have, and the most important lesson of all:

Lesson #12: There is a world beyond yours.

I took on the task of summarizing and analyzing a year in a few paragraphs. I cannot wait to read this in ten years and smile. Looking toward 2012, I have no expectations. I have goals, intentions, and dreams, and these will be completed or left unfulfilled by my action or inaction, my resolution to move forward or to stagnate, bucket-list-wise.

Speaking of the bucket-list, I’m off to who knows where  now. Whether the Mayans were correct in their morbid prediction or not, I think people should view it as a pressing reason to either begin to live their lives to the fullest or to continue doing so. What else can you do, than to do what you need, do what you want, and play the cards you’re dealt.

 

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One thought on “12 Lessons in 12 months

  1. haha, this made me laugh! I don’t normally read blogs but i’ll start reading yours, if I still remember tomorrow.

    Take care:)

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