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Impossibility as normalcy

September 14th.

I left Manila on the 25th — not even a month in and I’m waiting for routine to kick in. Walking to Walgreens alone at 4am looking for potassium supplements, making the walk from Chapel to Hillhouse and sitting in the Department of Computer Science waiting rooms — lifechanging if anyone says hello, drinking beer cans alone in my room.

The Yale undergraduate enrollment nears 6,000 people and I feel like I know about 30 faces.

Home

I don’t know how else to write this than proclaim I’m listening to Mitski a lot and am alone.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about loneliness by choice. In the past summer months (the second to last summer I may ever have) — I traveled city to city, from Los Angeles to the daily commute from Las Pinas to Alabang to Ortigas — taking days to figure out the geography of my home nation as I had memorized train lines and optimal Uber routes in my two weeks in California. I burnt myself knees sinking into sand, on the rooftop of a 200-year-old theater in California with bummed Camels, and in the face of an earth.

Sometimes I’ve been opening up about this. In high school, you had the constant of a group of friends, a selection amongst 400-or-so where I had at least one person I could talk to – or a groupchat to dump my daily annoyances (a screenshot: can you believe he fucking said this, or looking for empty affirmations in things I should buy – places I should go) into. The more impersonal, the better. But now I can’t keep thinking about how college here is a solitary experiment. Me scoffing at surface level connections was perhaps problematic because that’s the only type of connection we can all stomach here, anyway.

At Yale, surface means being open about your personal traumas and mentioning your greatest fears in passing. That is: walking into English class with your first personal non-fiction essay, and forming an intimate bond over the next 12 weeks with people who will be forced to digest your fears and thoughts — accentuating your pauses and gaps, as if filling in spaces and understanding you from how you present yourself on that table every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Fear works like this. Or, passing around something – a drink, a story, a look – enumerating the worst parts of ourselves before a 9-minute walk home and losing everything about myself.

Lucy Dacus on September 11th, 2019: a Wednesday

I don’t know whether the issue is in me disliking people or me just not knowing how to connect. There’s nothing deeper or more beautiful about me than what there is to see. I’m standing alone in shows, looking at the remnants of my reflection in windows, making space.


Can I be honest about everything I have ever wanted

Friends told me to read Kim Addonizio lately; I spent a 7AM breakfast crying over a poem on Laura Palmer (I have never watched Twin Peaks); I sit in the Yale Women’s Center and I laugh over a post generating women, gender, and sexuality studies thesis titles with a reimagined queer perspective on queering the female psyche. My country says that gay people don’t deserve rights, use the church only when it is convenient, and the last time I heard a news report about drug raids (akin to ICE detentions, but think of Manila’s underfed, scrappy police guards riding on the high of San Miguel Light and Christmas bonuses as they cheer over a video of Tito Sotto) was over a year ago.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know if I have enough time to be gay and discover myself when there’s something desolate happening. This means that the gentle image of a girl kissing a girl – just for passersby and shittily drawn-over stories in the middle of Manhattan but something revolutionary and repugnant in Manila is washing over me again and again. “I want a girlfriend,” I tell my friends – and I remember the last time I was told of the image of young girls in Catholic school being stripped apart, suddenly it feels illegal with the weight of history and the uselessness of wanting. I want to be alone, I believed in myself and let myself have that for over a year: in the comfort of biting chashu and speeding over lines where independence feels as whorish as being gay in southern Alabang, to looking over the Saybrook grass courtyard as the lights blare and freeze in mid-September while I’m in blood-stained sports shorts – pouring the kettle, tangled earphones and all wondering why everything in life has led me to this image of myself, so desperate and unfound in the nighttime.

At this point, I’m running out of things to write delicately about. How will the white man in non-fiction class look at me when I write more about my growth on online chatrooms and YouTube videos I remember more distinctly than my conversations in the past week? How will my professor react to it when I talk more about the girl I fell in love with when I was 11 over the time I watched someone grow up in the bottom of my house, in sprawling cemeteries, or the time I saw a body washed over in the foot of a canal – trash coagulated over his skin? I am desperate. I’m writing about smoking in ways I never have. Will Toledo wrote an entire fucking album about drugs and acid and admits that he doesn’t do them (lifeless and criminal, says the band formerly named Teen Suicide; overreported by the music media circular and somewhat affirmed with 81 claps on Medium. [The max claps an individual can give to a story is 50.]). I haven’t loved a girl since then, successfully. How will I find what to write about? What trauma is digestible on these expensive Ivy League tables that I’m living through now? That I am the dream of my nation and an unlovable, lonely fuck?

Telling my friends I was an incel this summer. Telling my friends I’m doing good at work. Telling my friends if I should buy this shirt or if I should dye my hair gray or that I want to die sometimes. Telling my friends what if the love you felt was the last love you’ll ever really feel. (Telling my friends that in Her (2013), “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”) Telling me no, I’m nineteen, that there’s still so much of life and fear to come: but I’m nineteen and what if this is it? I was on the verge of writing about everything every few hours at sixteen, making things and producing and breathing in life from my bedroom – god, there was nothing then but dissatisfaction and drive too – but this time, I think I’m just going to be good at losing. I don’t even want to feel the sensation of fucking, or of anything anymore, I want to be allowed to be with someone – lie down on them, take in the afternoon with nothing but the feeling of being – for once.

In the brief second where I feel like a connection is forming, I’m doing anything I can to savor it. I feel so little nowadays that anything at all would be enough. In any form.


The heart and the mind are distinct states

My heart (the thing, always been there, underexposed) has felt long and worn long enough. I think – if I try hard enough – that I have the capacity to love one thing as much as I do anything, non-reductive; that the more I love the more I understand and the more I can give, then.

An Ivy League education is the fastest way for one to move up in social class. It is the fastest way for someone low-income to bring themselves, their entire family, and their entire future up onto a higher pedestal.

I used to write that my favorite thing about coming here would be the ‘diversity of perspectives’ — that in 500-words, refined and refined and typed over Christmas break when there was nothing I wanted to do but collapse and cry and yes, I would be fantastic at your school because I am Catholic and into computing and have some ounce of compassion and creativity in me.
Perhaps Manila feels stagnant if you just stay in the south end, in the realm of Marxist-Leninist friends and protein shake high school classmates and knowing people who haven’t been in parties but know the revolution when it’s about to come. I’m carrying this burden of getting close again to the circle of Catholics-turned-agnosts drinking for the first time in their freshman year then never again — relinking as easy as the severance had happened.
Closer, here, in a crowd of people who have done the densest readings quoting verbatim names and issues I can’t put my mind together to focus on. There’s commonality in Mitski, something on a diaspora, and how the only thing people want is to fuck.

I’m okay with anything, really.

Sometimes I think about the fantasy of people finding their life partners here. I’ve given up on stalking people, knowing I will never know their names and that their life path is likely set on a direction that will never cross with mine (read: they are far wealthier, they are far better, and they are on another space, essentially). I think about Addonizio writing about the tender, gentle thing of kissing and breathing and being alive; and I wonder where I could find that here – or anything that is something more than walking to the club 2 minutes down. I’m dread-heavy, walking, my legs bucking into themselves and my body flooded with pause. If I’m not going to make a name for myself, I at least need to make my name known with some others – right?

Purposefully, this is just a call for someone to know me. Let me find me in you, let’s talk: thighs up, skirt down as we lean over the university closets and sticker hook stains, eating unleavened bread and talking about how everything failed us. Even if you talk about god, or greater things. At this point, I’m down for anything. Even if I talk about loneliness and mortality at nineteen, when I’ve barely lived a life yet and am going insane – when the best years of our lives are in this little half and I felt like I’ve lived none of them, yet.

Genre-wise, moving to college songs about loneliness and everything are hitting only now. I was so sick for something in my freshman year and didn’t even realize it in the toxicity of me trying to make sense of a space where I hadn’t even lived myself. Going back, retracing my steps, understanding what it means to be born and to want to die in Manila put me in a better place — but now, I’m thinking more carefully. Earphones in, sitting in the dining hall to Yale plates placing salmon and dry spinach in my mouth on empty side tables in Saybrook. Apologizing to the boy and girl kissing in the entryway before pushing them aside, smelling like laundry detergent and the lower level of Bass Library. Being the first to start jaywalking on that crossing on Hillhouse. I’m ahead of my feelings, almost, trying not to spill everything and make it obvious that I’m troubled on the internet – to anyone, but me.

And in this time I am only asking for someone to be here. I want shitty matte lips swatched on my arm and on the mirror, something in my arms that I’ve never touched before, the skin-on-skin between ripped jeans, palms on my back and gentle thank yous, breathless in thought.

The last time I was in love was when I was 15 and sadder. I want something to take my breath away with intention. I want to be intimidating in the deepest senses. I want to feel someone praying for me – believing in something again. Like the love I couldn’t have in the morning, traipsed over courtyards, buckled in the dark with my kneecaps on dollar store rugs, of foreign names beyond the biblical sense. I want to rewrite the names of every man and woman I had loved. Taking them into my hands, figuring out what it means to hold a hand and feel your entire body jolt and have a name to think about next to yours – like the unbeliever in astrology but finding their birthdate anyway. Thinking of you whenever I think of me. Thinking when I don’t have to.

Love is held in this fanatical lens I have. I’m getting older and I need something to make me feel. Something realer that begins when you ask me if I’m there, and choose to love me even when I can’t. I want to fall in love again. Haven’t I heard enough about it?

Chia’s Failure Resume

Aside from my every waking moment being a disastrous anti-portfolio in itself, I wanted to take some time to be mildly introspective on my setbacks since I’m already overly self-deprecating on the regular anyway. Putting this together (and maintaining it) — I’m most ashamed about not having more failures to list down. (I am also ashamed with how bad this title is.)

I was inspired by seeing Kat Huang’s failure resume on my Twitter feed. Sometimes it’s nice to be open about our challenges as they happen; especially in that rush of being young and feeling our achievements lose their glamour as you leave your teens and enter ‘normalcy’. I feel like I often only hear about failure once someone’s writing rigid LinkedIn posts and selling their coaching services, or on the keynotes of conferences where we’re sitting in the back and so far removed from the speaker’s journey. Not that their stories are any less inspiring – but when looking at academics, celebrities, or C-levels reflecting on things a decade ago – it’s not particularly moving.

With our current landscape, I want to surround myself with people who are unapologetically open about process as they are with resume bullet points and humblebrags. I feel like I tend to walk between groups that are afraid of taking any amount of pride in what they do, undervaluing themselves – but also with people who ingest failure so regularly that it becomes procedure without insight. I’m no stranger to extremes: falling into this mentality where I’m undeserving of anything but also – if I didn’t get something I really wanted and even in the slightest, perceive my resume to be a point better than someone else’s – believe everything is all rigged. It’s ridiculously toxic, and I know I’m not alone with it. Hopefully this list helps in developing a more intentional consciousness about yeah – the randomness and unfairness of trying (especially with things like college applications maybe) – but also how we’re just not meant for most things, and that’s okay.

Again, this isn’t a new or special concept. There’s a New York Times article about it. I do hope to see more of these from people my age. I hope you learn something from me.

2019

Internship season is here, so expect this to grow!

  • Rejected from Microsoft Diversity Conference Scholarship
  • Rejected from Pinterest Scholars, MongoDB Summit, and a lot of other event scholarships that I apply to on a whim
  • Rejected (i.e. ghosted) from over fifty software engineering internships (Explore Microsoft, Dropbox Launch [though I think this is only for second-years])
    In retrospect, I should have applied to *way* more.
  • Denied from Fast Forward’s tech nonprofit accelerator
  • Didn’t get Forbes 30 under 30 Asia (first year trying, many more attempts will soon be made…)

2018

  • Rejected from Lesbians Who Tech Scholarship Ticket from a handful of sources (from in-school/external sponsors)
  • Zero press attention (after a near-hundred emails and a dozen warm introductions) in the Philippines for my achievement at the Grace Hopper Celebration
    I thought I could easily get at least a release or something to elevate the work being done with my organization Developh, but I didn’t – and subsequently feel like I failed my team since I’ve always been terrible with the media
  • Interviewed -> Rejected as a Dorm Room Fund partner
    Wasn’t too engaged with startups in the North American sphere yet since I just got on-campus!
  • Rejected from Google Computer Science Summer Institute & Generation Google Scholarship
    Wasn’t directed to any other programs/future career opportunities, unlike many other applicants
  • No acknowledgement for Developh in my high school’s club awarding
    It was as if we hadn’t done anything — mostly felt bad for my team and friends who had built this group up with me
  • Applied to over 23 colleges and got rejected/waitlisted from all but eight
    I have multiple blog posts that essentially document me breaking down crying every single night for months in fear of my college results. It didn’t help that I went through the application process so late and carelessly. The one that hurt the most was my waitlist from Wellesley since I was so in love with it; Stanford, Harvard, Brown, etc. were pretty much expected (I’m a poor international.)
  • No Ateneo Dean’s List/Freshman Merit Scholarship or DLSU Star Scholars
    Probably because my test scores were terrible (lmaooo)

There aren’t as many experiences down here since these were all pre-senior year — but hopefully someone (from my high school, probably) can still get value from these half-rambles:

2017

  • Made the shittiest video ever for the Cards Against Humanity Science Ambassador Scholarship (no response/next round)
  • Rejected from every Student Judiciary Board position I had applied to in De La Salle Santiago Zobel’s student council (which is an inherently broken and useless position)
    In the interview, they requested me to “do a cheer dance coming into the room”, made me lead a prayer (I’m atheist), and asked me who they were and who my crush was. They flashed the position’s responsibilities on the screen that would literally not be known to anyone but them — also highlighting the excellent lack of transparency in this position. Hopefully this will be helpful to any Zobel people who read this?

2016

  • Finalist (amongst all La Salle schools in the Philippines) –> rejected for a full-ride scholarship to an international high school with IB programs
    I was convinced that this rejection was my biggest missed opportunity at changing my ‘life’s trajectory’. The final round interview was a huge wake-up call: they asked me about my hobbies, skills, extracurriculars, generic bullshit that would look good on a college application. All I did this time was play League of Legends 🙂

This list also leaves out how I’m not putting myself out there (read: afraid of connecting with people, being a bad communicator in general) or maximizing the opportunities I can get (read: being way too lazy to apply to things I would love to try for).

Gay girl prays for a gun

Dealing with my pansexuality, and sexuality as a living void that I couldn’t come to terms with — and am still trying to understand. It’s not really just easier to say “bi”, I often don’t say anything at all.

I’m nineteen-years old and answering emails in the middle of a storm while many people I love march for pride in cities away, in a nation that has long misunderstood what it is we are celebrating. This is a nation that has granted me the privilege of silence.

My family exists with votes thrown for the yellow party; in that sense — gay people are something to be tolerated. I buy overpriced $15 rainbow socks from the middle of a crowded street in Japan and wear it when I get my hair cut for $2; the hairdresser looks at my mother and asks me if I’m “you know…” and she answers that I just wear it for the colours.

Some days, I’m still trying to figure out if I’ve actually fallen in love with m best friend. I dig up old messages where I scream about going gay for girls, long before I knew it was okay to be gay. When I first looked at porn, I looked at drawings of boys kissing each other — and enjoyed it more when they had an emotional connection to one another. During the more vulnerable days I would fantasize this scene with us in place: on shitty beds and sidewalks pushed, looked down upon, taking in the voyeur of knowing there was something so intimately wrong about every single touch.

I’ve written a lot about loving boys. I’ve loved them in the form of music, in the form of their warmth in a crowded auditorium despite never having known them outside a theater or a mall. I’ve loved them in a college dorm room before a relapse and in the dark of a field with dozens of other people, making out and feeling them next to the plastic ID in their pocket that costs us 20 dollars to lose. The premise of these anecdotes is to tell you that I’ve loved in the most fucked up (read: awkward) circumstances possible; there was no tender, forbidden love in a summer church camp, nor did I pass notes with anyone in class and receive a promposal to seal in my heterosexuality. In fact, I ended my high school career with one proposal: to a barely-friend in a Roblox map recreation of their city (read: two free modeled houses and a sign that read SUCAT), the school bus that I (not he) rode every day of senior year, and of my Catholic high school the night before the event. We barely talked the entire night, and afterwards I watched my friends get smashed up high school drunk while I remained completely sober after several drinks — doing my best impression of obnoxious tipsy girl with the scent of sweet tea all over my mouth. There was nothing fantastic or orgasmic. Until this day, I have still not orgasmed.

The other function of that was to tell you that I’ve loved beyond metaphors. I’m nineteen and haven’t been the sexual pariah I’ve told many people I was for years, but I figure that’s most people who go to Catholic school. (It also lets you know how I’m apparently not good enough at this stuff yet.) I’ve texted people that I loved them and meant it at that time. I look back today of course, and know that none of those acts could meet the standard of the love I give now. But I also look back today while crying because I just want to love something without it needing me.

When I was in ninth grade, I thought I was absolutely unfuckable. One of the solutions to this was to go to the mall and get my arms waxed off. That was the first and last time. I was then still deeply uncomfortable with loneliness and myself, and desperate to be like all the other high schoolers who received dozens of anonymous questions on their inboxes sent to themselves or had interactions that consisted of showing up to each other’s houses in gated villages somewhere in Ayala Alabang or just off Alabang-Zapote carrying a bucket of fries to post on Snapchat. This changed when I met my first high school boyfriend. We sent each other long love letters on our iPads and hid the notifications of our sexts in the middle of class. We had promised to march to a Sigur Ros song for our wedding one day. We ended our relationship by cutting each other off. If I think hard enough, I would be able to remember the patterns on his uniform and the scent of his cologne faded into deodorant in the early morning heat, rendered into nothing and air conditioning when we’d say bye to each other every day again. I no longer remember his voice. Now, we last talked when he greeted me for my eighteenth birthday and sent another sorry a month later. That was over a year ago.

I can tell you something deeper. But know that recall is a curious thing: if I could, I would largely leave the arrangement of my mind to something higher or to pure disorder – just picking things apart as needed. But memory is what has made me forget my second kiss just as I did the last, the names of people I should, tests on paper and in life; that’s it, really. What it offers me instead though, are glimpses of strangers and people I know too fondly to be able to detail so perfectly without any history of intimacy. This is how I know that there was nothing about this being a choice.


Whenever I listen to songs that deal with the common topic of unrequited love and pain, like to listen to them live. I listen closely for every inflection: the kinds of things that can’t be replicated in studios.

It’s kind of selfish to indulge in other people’s memories and feelings. I think about the people I idolize, their traumas restless on-stage heard for 20 dollars.

We like hearing ourselves in music. Or pretending to see ourselves in films. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen someone like me loving in a way I was familiar with; having to love in ways I can’t base something around is kind of tiring. Somedays I want to love easy and with reference – in a way where this can grow. I want to see commitment that I can fall in and out of easily; like convenience.

Our theory in co-educational Catholic girls school was that people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between friendly hand-holding and something deeper. Like the subtlety of a hug a few seconds too long, skin-on-skin just below the knees, and legs hanging on each other’s laps from the sun. I’m heteronormativity on pews.

Pragmatics: in the afterschool finding myself on ramps, I listen to music and try to find places where no one can. Underneath pronouns, girls, people — I want to learn that my love is something that can happen and hear songs that tell me so. This is the power of pauses, stops, hers.

I want anyone other than boys to sing about loving than girls; I want there to be more than pop punk songs and ballads about waistbands — I want to talk about string theory. I want to talk about why I can’t talk about loving myself or girls until it was too late. I talked myself into listening to music and secluding myself and not being like anyone else when it was all I wanted.

I’m listening to more music than I ever had, unlearning the billboard voices I listened to in high school and the music we played from phones in the back of buses. Living at the edge of nineteen, I’m finally finding the same voices I wish I had. Waiting for boyfriends and boyfriends and something deeper than holding hands. I pretended I hated how girls were, promising myself to never be like them; many people I believe, come to that far before they know what love or hate is. Sometimes I don’t know where to draw the line when we play songs that talk about fucking or hold someone a few seconds longer — I don’t know where to look when I say I love you without it being an afterthought. We’re afraid of being the lesbian at the party.

Michelle Zauner sings about head, breakfast, and marriage with girls on an album grieving her mother. I can picture it: uncombed hair staring down girls and wanting to be as pretty and feeling so far. There’s something I know too closely about not taking care of myself and feeling intimidated by anyone who I liked. I often felt at war with the girls I’ve loved and the people around me – not knowing what kind of person they’d want to kiss and watching everyone surround them. Upbeat and ecstatic, I like to think about how many bedrooms I’ve walked into and piled myself into — Instax film trades and wanting to be in profile pictures with girls to see myself better, and in turn, see myself with them.

Countless songs already give us the girl-wants-boy narrative. I’ve played it in every way: asking them out first, falling out of love first, getting tired and wanting to walk away. I joke with my friends about how scared I am around girls; even falling into traps and circles about how I feel I don’t click with them when I’m just afraid of talking to someone I might love without knowing how they feel in the first place.

This song has never been on neutral grounds. My love is built on jealousy and isolation. It’s easy to defy school and god with boys – it’s basic. But there’s something different when it’s internalized – when I still am unsure if what I’m feeling really is love or just lust or longing for touch again with fear. Physicality is also lying to me here. I know what it feels to touch something as friends but know nothing about giving power over myself when necessary when I’ve struggled so long with what degree of love I am allowed to have with these types of people.

Poetry allows me to compare my love to guns. I was barely a teenager when something triggered inside of me – I couldn’t love on a binary or based on measurements… I think there is something inside of me that just wants to love. Intrinsically and without measure, as I see fit. It’s that the world around me allows the discard of judgment as I do, but only when it’s convenient for their agenda. Like: in America, it’s easier for me to gauge when a girl might not just be here for giggles and we’re all open and gay and gorgeously lost. Like in the Philippines, I’m left begging in the remnants of plaid skirts and loose undershirts, struggling once again to see if my love can mean something – suspending me from acting.


I think we think the same. I tell my girl friends. I want a girlfriend. I say I want the world to stop and let me learn how to love. There’s too much inside of me that has divided things into binary and too much fear leftover from sidewalks in Manila. Girls in the summer can’t walk alone, or girls are too loud and open and I could never be with someone who was so into themselves that it scared me.

I want to feel anything means I want to be allowed to feel what I have felt for the past ten years.

Factually, I have never had to come out of a closet — maybe because I didn’t feel the need to. Until today, I’ve never been in relationships (or encounters) with anyone other than boys. Especially the boys that find it emasculating to be with a girl who knows that she could love someone other than their sex; like there’s an entire new dimension of threat and they forget that they are the replaceable one in this story.
I have the privilege of looking like an ally (doing nothing but saying some things, maybe) and wearing one earring on my right without anyone really saying anything. Folks inform me that this unneeded proclamation is furthered by my lack of trying to love in general.

But I want to fucking move. Let me find the logic in why it’s taken me over five years to realize that I truly am uncomfortable with the term bisexual for myself – as interchangeable as it may be with what I am (pansexual) – because gender has never been a factor in these feelings except for the fear of its audience. Neither term used properly conforms to the exclusionary language of only referring to two genders or anything – but I don’t know how to say that I’m afraid of specifying how I love because everyone I’ve loved has come to mind before labels – only furthering my fears out of the convenience there was to love them in public, in person, in purity.

No duogamity – no metrics; I want to make known the love I have and all the spaces in which I was not allowed to continue it.

Like I say I want a girlfriend because I’ve been in love with them and haven’t been allowed to touch them for years. We look back on high school yearbooks and laugh at how many bisexual girls have come out and how easy it is to conflate touch to meaning but it was always never anything with girls — that Manila taught me false informalities and the removal of meaning in embraces that I’ve been so desperate to find it and so wary of hooking myself on it.

Justice, I believe, is trying to erase the baiting between how I’m still fucked and discomforted over showbusiness kissing and the years of allowing myself to feel that certain types of human touch could weigh more than others. Today, I’m gay and relying on repetition to see if anyone femme genuinely wants something about me: because religious intuition has taught me that their actions are high-class formalities or at worst, mockery. My body still shuts down, prolongs responses, and carries the unbearable space of guessing what it means when a girl tells me how I look in lines. Like there’s something persistent about hands on my wrists at any age – not being able to piece together what they want from me and the fear that emanates from that because of years of confusion.


On the rooftop in the middle of a show, I lit up a cigarette for a girl overlooking the industrial dead of downtown Los Angeles, still trailed by all the ideas of love left of me from meaningless college freshmen year and what religious schooling had left on me. There are truly scars that follow you when your inception of love is so dwarfed now by what everyone around you gives: like the rush, the feeling, the intimacy that I mistake for a thank you when it also means I want to give you this. I don’t have time to be held. We practice talking on the balcony: where she goes, how the Philippines is an eighteen-hour flight, and how the song playing reminds me of all the girls I could have never loved.

“What songs do you think Mitski has written about girls?” I type this into Google and then ask all the girls I know. The touch is lost on me – but I know there’s still that divide; that different kind of delicacy and lingering when you talk about girls. We guess Once More to See You, because no woman like this writes about the necks of dead and gone boys. And there’s something about women loving women where we believe the world is in love with them – and then have to hide it all when this is us, and them.

And we are waist-to-waist in the California stars. Imagine all the black hair bleached there is left in the lines of everyone you wished you could have had.


Make this the radical act of tenderness and vulnerability. I want to love someone skin-on-skin in a time where the world can destroy us. This is secrecy beyond hearsay and fear; it’s the ultimate act of destruction – maybe, to love in a time where love can lead me to be disavowed.

There is as much power as there is security in love — no matter how disjointed it could be — in illegal times. I harbor all my feelings for you and know that beyond this, everything could kill me.


In my room, folding papers in one of my last summers. Asking people out to coffee and tea. Going to church with family on Sundays.

Perpetual war has no clear conditions that would lead to its conclusion. Maybe I am scared because I don’t know if to touch means that the love I have would lose its build-up, just like loving boys in junior high or be as unspecial as the last. But this is something I’ve felt over and over again; something I can’t dictate to stop or forget – like anything else. I’m unsure what the term for it goes.

It’s nothing until you can feel it, I believe. And I want to know what it’s like to feel. I’ve never imagined myself in this position again, but it happens. My hands cupped for communion, looking up at concrete ceilings and the world there is to love, walking back down the aisle afraid of what it means to hold a hand.

Wild college years

I write this a few weeks after I’ve finished my first year of college. I broke and lost lots of things while moving out, and gained a lot more footing in reality after realizing how much of me can be tucked away in boxes–practically compartmentalized in medium-sized luggages. There is a repeating image of me, airport to airport, staring at rows of Smarte Cartes and wondering if it’s worth spending six dollars to save myself some back pain. (It never is.) I can’t express how much I’ve changed in the span of a year, and the gravity of this change alone is something I have trouble comprehending. Last year, around this time in 2018 I was traveling to America doing nothing surrounded by family: was so frightened and scared into my decision of choosing my current college over Dartmouth that I never replied to my admission offer, caused a war in a one-bedroom apartment occupied by a near-dozen people because I wanted to go to a shitty, local record store on my birthday (I picked up my Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven vinyl there), spent three weeks in America doing nothing. In the past year I’ve been in America more than I have been home, wandering aimlessly from New York to New Jersey to San Francisco to Los Angeles doing everything, but alone. My worldview on everything has drastically shifted. I feel I use myself and other people differently now, but am no less manipulative than I was one year ago — not that I ever was good at it. I can’t read huge blocks of text or spend time pouring over long threads, which is something I’m trying to reverse but frequently regret doing since I realize I learned nothing at all. I can talk over the phone but I still need some preparation and can only do so for career-related things, I can be perfectly content with being alone, I can’t hold conversations in-person and am pained if I don’t get to talk about something that interests me or something that I make with others, I think nothing in particular is as painful as undoing all of this.

I want to tell you that my first year of college has changed me dramatically. When my friends back home ask me what it feels like to be thousands of miles away, I offer nothing but complaints and give them the impression that school in the United States is nothing but an overglorified fantasy — but it’s really not that overglorified, I think. There’s no way for me to be able to express how much everything is, and how I’m still having trouble taking it in. There’s change that I can’t articulate, nor do I have any lists for or stories. It’s this deep, fucked transformation that makes me afraid to be reflective; because it’s something that has yet to settle.

My friend worded that nineteen is kind of the year when we’re fucked. Lorde has made no music describing the feel of anything past; Boyhood ends on the note of mushroom-induced, teen pretentiousness in college freshman year. Personally, I made it a note to swear to achieve a slot on Forbes 30 under 30 as a teenager (because all your achievements become significantly less impressive when you lose the -teen moniker), and given my nonappearance in this year’s Asia list – I’m falling significantly behind. I still get anxiety when I talk to people, and just spent four hours of my night having a crisis while contemplating posting myself on /r/amiugly; this is something not so different from when I was thirteen, naive, and scared of the world.

Listen: nothing is remarkedly different. I make fun of Silicon Valley tech bros and people who listen to IDLES, but I will still likely date one (either of the two personas I enumerated, but preferably a mix of the two) and almost wore my “Idles Brutalist Socialist Club” shirt out today. This is the college computer science major equivalent to who I was in middle school: thinking I’m better than everyone else because I listened to Pedro the Lion instead of Hillsong, making fun of the English majors who smoke Camels and the Economics people (according to Facebook meme groups such as “Amazon Presents: Elitist Memes for Ivy League Teens“, they’re referred to as “snakes”; I should use this term to make this droning essay more relatable so that people can actually recognize some of these jokes but that’s not up my alley). It sometimes feel as the dramatically forced directional shift in my life has done nothing but force me to reroute familiar experiences, replacing Rustan’s department stores with Macy’s with the only forced exchanged of having to treat service workers with a lot more humanity than I’m used to.

Growing up with this affirmation that I’m as naive and impressionable as I was back then is scary. Because I had room to grow back then, and it was more acceptable for a token Catholic school sad girl to be confused and hate herself. But now I have a LinkedIn nearing 500+ connections and still go through my Twitter feed liking a lot of activist-driven rants about political theory that I’m only half-assing, liking something until somebody else tells me that’s bad and going “oh” until someone tells me that that take was bad and going “oh” fully affirming my lack of mental independence until now. My Philosophy T.A. also pushes this in the academic setting, blessing me with a remarkable “just a third of a grade below the class average” grade of C+ as I blabber about my home country in ways she thinks is interesting (potentially a spot of pity, to show that her 3-sentence response to my 3,000 word behemoth is not all overt “god you fucking suck”) but really not because the goal of the paper was not to be critical or offer any new insights but be very surface-level about the readings regurgitating what we had discussed in the sections I only attended half of. Now if I’m unsure of what I stand for at any given moment, it seems like my worth as a person is inherently deducted. Now I bear this implicit weight being an international scholar from a country I miss and can’t stop missing, the only one of four in my year at a prestigious foreign school, while not understanding the white language of my philosophy readings and still being uncertain about politics – much less that of America’s.


Manila’s sky is often so blistering that I don’t recall looking at it often. I know, though, the clouds are thick and wispy at the edges – the kind you see in stock photos. Closer, at sunset, I see this image in beaches with mountains and roads at their turnstiles, steep and diving and clashing with the humid air. They’re left as thin strips, wavering and almost never there.
Skies in Connecticut are grey and unbowing. Winter is a lot less worse than I thought it would be, but also a lot longer than I expected. Sort of like how my mental illness has reimagined itself into long-term dysthymia, if you will. My favorite spot during freshman year, I tell people, would be the Yale University Art Gallery. I held a job working for it (but not in the main building, alas) during the Spring semester, and I’m proud to say that it has a beautiful contemporary art collection and a nice courtyard. (Across it is a British Art Museum which I have never stepped foot in, yet.) I say these interesting factoids: it’s just a three-minute walk from my dorm room and I go there to destress, which is false because they closed the High Street gate next to Linsly-Chittenden around mid-Fall which has made it a five-minute walk. It’s open late on Thursdays, and I love the programs there. (I have not attended one, but I did attend a film screening once.) The true answer is that my favorite place on-campus is the Starbucks on Chapel Street, especially at 5am on opening days — and best during the winter. There’s an instant intimacy about being there first thing, a desperate connection between graduate students, residents, passerby, and all. In the dead of the morning I’ve felt like the only noise; arguing with everyone, staring into my phone before making the conscious decision to skip class as I walk over to pick up another matcha latte, become someone distraught over the six-day drought of matcha powder. The last thing I did before heading to Union Station on move-out day was stop by, and call my last Uber from the school year there — a backpack and two totes strung over me, plastic carrying four too many vinyls leaning on a carry-on luggage, the driver sharing a “shit” after shoving the biggest trolley in the back of his car, quickly running to rearrange things in one of the last New Haven suns on the corner of Chapel and another street I never learned the name of.

My life here could be measured in shopping malls and department stores. Manila routine is going to school, going home, and maybe going out every few weeks or so. On some weekends, the way I glimpsed the world and slipped out of my sheltered place came from these trips to malls. Never riding the ferris wheel along the boardwalk along Mall of Asia, stepping into the church beside people sleeping along stalls selling fishballs and parking lots to find a bathroom while running out of a line wrapping three times around the convention center, losing a polaroid photo on the steps of the arena after a concert at fourteen. I walk across the heat of Alabang on familiar tiles, places I haven’t stepped in since being eight, no longer having to surrender my bag at a shrinking Fully Booked.

When I arrived home, the second place we went to was the mall. (The church, then it.) Wading through wings and shining tiles, I thought about the pace of the Filipino life. Never mind the silence, the inability to confront in all these people, but the passive and all that follows. There’s no intention in the way people here walk. There’s no need to justify why we are, and where we have to go; a sore change from the urgency in metro lines and the gaze to let someone know that I’m here in century-old buildings. As we walk, we exchange the same diluted conversations: a new place here, where old people are now, money as a constant chaser.


Returning back home I know there is nothing grand. On the fifth day my luggages still line the floor of my room, and the spaces in front of my closet strewn with clothes I’ve never worn since being twelve. Even after a year away, I find all my old habits return instantaneously: there is no reason to be friendly, or even kind here in a space where everyone treats me as an enemy; there is no genuine word for respect in the Filipino tongue and this heat has taught me that I can only walk away; ingrained lessons. Don’t flush the toilet until you absolutely have to, bathe only by soaping your body and rinsing off the surface, walk over plastic bags and shopping bags and know that you do not need to exchange any works to the service workers. Compare prices, costs, and pretend you know all the people you meet.

At the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art

Manila does not care about my education, personality, or what I dream about. When I come home, everything I have proven to anyone but myself is taken away, and it is like renewal. There is nothing I can say or offer or anything that I really am willing to do anymore: listening to the faces of people I no longer know and perhaps never truly knew makes me realize that there is a leaving story here, finding that the bounds of where we came from are sometimes the most destructive things.
But these are bad things to say. Living isolated from the Philippines has done more wrong than good, and it’s probably just the initial shock of returning to all the old values that I have worked hard to erase. Greetings extend to surface value banalities (things masked as you look so bad now) that I almost would prefer white people at parties asking me how my English is so good. Sometimes, I do. In fifteen seconds you become a bit more understanding of comment sections and the tired, enlightened middle-class letting down their guard and saying there is nothing left that they can do for this country as they blame the people for never willing to be educated. And in the moment, when you see someone talk about how they’re going blind and left to find work for eight sons-and-daughters with how they greet you and never learned anything it’s almost like you understand the word about leaving. And it’s easy to say you love a country when you only say it when you’re no longer immersed in it: beyond skyways and telling yourself three-hour commutes for work you’ll never leave a dent in will mean anything to this universe, trying to find some form of justification for why I still have this meaningless, dainty dream.

I’m a child again here. And when I’m here, I always will be. There is no explaining how hard it is ingrained in me to hate the sound of doors opening and closing in my own home, or how each and every knock (if ever there is one) takes me back to meaningless repetition in high school or fistfights to the head. Nothing I can do will stop these memories or make this country understand me.
Sleeping in my bed (a mattress on the floor) and tucking myself over piles of clothes unwashed for years, asking for water like sin, finding these granular bits and pieces of a younger me and discarding everything. No one asks about what it’s like to be away for a year because all they can think about how great it must have been. No one will ever hear about what was good, because this country teaches me to say only the worst things about where my life is going: I need to convince them underneath the supermall lights that my existence and wherever I am going is a mistake and that the work I do is a blur and that I will fall again into the same promises unmade of me when I was young: be enough, eat only consecrated bread on Sundays, and say nothing back.

As I write this, I find that I’m going through all the nauseating emotions that being alone countries away allowed me to unlearn. I’ve slammed my fist down on my glass desk a dozen of times before ten in the morning – because this personal assault is the only way I know how to deal with anything here. It’s as if suddenly I understand why the lack of intervention had made me grow so much, and why I was pained by anyone back home. I can now articulate, I feel, what exactly in me has changed a bit more clearly; these are the same things that people pick at me for when I’m no longer smiling and picking up myself in the counter with more breaths than necessary, when I walk faster and faster and faster in a sea of people who wait aimlessly until they can predicate themselves on anything they perceive to be smaller, why the shift in voice and tone is signatory of fear more than my own experience. Because speaking louder and noticing the smallest of things to allow my own voice to fill all the space in the room is not what I am meant to be taught, or what I would be allowed to.

Because I’ve fucked myself over in the dead of the night in the most unsafe streets in a country away. Because I’ve learned to wash, dry, cook, burn, save, salvage, and push into boxes in ten months what I was meant to in eighteen years. Because I piss without stumbling in front of seven other people and boil my own water to share and not to keep. Because I left this country knowing that I would never be happy and return knowing that those words were put in me to prevent myself from being what I could be.

But you couldn’t believe that from the few pictures I took. (Never got to finish a single roll of film.)


When I arrived at the airport terminal to California, I heard the first breath of Tagalog spoken, in person — not just on shitty Facebook videos, if you’d believe in — the first that I’ve heard in months. Suddenly waiting an hour going on two next to a tired mom, lola, and a young girl chewing off a Hello Panda packet and swinging in the domestic arrivals section of LAX was the most comforting thing in the world. I caught myself carefully listening for the little tidbits: the na, the same way I listen to myself – stumbling and never able to speak straight while leaving conversations half-fulfilled.


Everyone wants to write a book. None of my writing here will mean anything unless it’s in some sort of novel form. That’s the thing about words. I could leave them littoral, far away from the spaces I choose to let myself be in. Nobody believes in what you have unless they come with leaflets and loose words. In high school, I was the girl who said I was writing a novel. I let it live and die in a Microsoft Word document, accessed only by a .edu email I can never really get into anymore. Whenever I tried to write, my laptop would crash — or come close to it. The entire story never really left that space. I did not talk about what I was writing, nor did I ever take time to plot out what was happening or why. I sat down in long stretches of time, beginning conjectures and applauding my senior year self for writing witty, intellectual deliveries about the world around me. I did not know a thing about the world. The protagonist in the novel, of course, was me. Everyone was nameless as I chose to refer to people solely with pronouns; a choice that was pretentious and disastrous, but featherweight with how there were really only three people in the story. My biggest feat was the personification of the world into two divisive characters and myself: a telling sign to how I viewed things, and maybe even continue to view them.

I never finished the book. Never either, did I scroll back up and understand where I was in the story. I wrote about highways and looked up the composition of lakes: I wrote about women and men and young girls in bedrooms and their thoughts because it was all I could write about that would make someone feel; I can’t tell you deep things about the sky or come up with seamless dialogue that doesn’t hurt a little bit. You can’t make me write stories when I don’t know how to tell the one I’m in, at the moment. There’s no reason either to finish the novel when its useless: there’s no power to words, I’m losing the edge of being able to sell what I make in my teenage years before I lose out on the already dwindling interest in my selfhood, and I want to leave the banks of my youth in places more concealed, like this blog. There’s a story to be found here, too. It fascinates me because I can keep writing and writing, and nobody will read this until I’m dead or something great happens — and the extraneous never come here. This is my novel, perhaps.

There are no words left for the feelings here. I want to make something big. I want to be the star of it. I want to feel like I can put myself into something nice, brace myself for the overwhelming realization that I am alone in everything I do — but perhaps not without the comfort of words.

Last night, I dreamed of myself as immensely mine. Along the Library of Babel, strewn room to room with all my selfhood and orifices stripped for patronage and pilgrimage: I imagined writing over the letters, making sense of things, and penning the words down. There is no use in searching if the answers could be here, with me. And in the sunless dust I looked over at the finitely bouncing reflections and wondered what man could be in a universe where we are left with time only to think: then I caught myself falling downwards in this world that we cannot yet truly illustrate, like my chest evaporating with my hands slowly going numb as I looked up into the endless things that we could never unread. And then I knew. And then I woke and sought to see.

Sitting in Theaters with Girls

I am going to preface this by saying an outright truth: I have no personality. Unfortunately, I missed the formative phase of my life somewhere between developing object permanence and early onset scoliosis that must have been crucial for me to gather tangible personality traits aside from my present distinctive ones of: not enjoying The Office, and attending Yale. Nevertheless, I am adaptive and refuse to accept that I have peaked. Throughout my adolescence, I’ve lived vicariously through characters from movies. My outright hobbies are independent cinema and good soundtracks, sometimes with ulterior motives. This in part, is due to my bad habit of adopting hyperfixations (attributed to my self-diagnosis of bipolar disorder from a Tumblr post in 2014) and fear of discovering that I do not actually have an identity.

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chia was fifteen

I recently shared a project for a video class from last semester on Twitter. Navigating girlhood through the internet, I realized much of my maturation occurred online. (This not being a good thing, clearly.) Coincidentally, I first showed it off to the general public in a place where it could rest as another permanent artifact of the internet.

Play Chia was Fifteen (PC)

(chiaski.com/fifteen) Best experienced on PC, these three parts were also intended to be some sort of installation — but it’s also quite navigable in this web format.

It’s interesting to think about the current generations condemned to live and die on the internet. Making this, I thought a lot of Nina Freeman’s Cibele and vewn’s kittykat96. Both pieces explored blurs between reality and the online — but my experience didn’t really have that. There was a distinct boundary, and I chose to live the life I had online. I learned about the world there, found most of my friends on there to the point where I spent years talking to them through chat instead of ever conversing in real life. They were two distinct spheres and my memory only ever rests on the one left on the internet. My relationships were birthed and then killed through exchanged words, and I’ve written endless letters to dozens of people that will never be seen — that I can never talk to in-person.

As an effect, I could trace my being through cables and screens. It’s infinitely surreal and til this day, I’m convinced that I cannot be myself without this dimension. Not only was it formative, but it was where I continued to exist in. This is something I’ve taken a long time to cope with; the fact that the online did not only inform my experience but was where they all were lived out scares me. I feel this constant link and debt to it but have yet to settle on whether this is actually a bad thing.

Maybe this is really the product of life today. Perhaps we’ll settle on more narratives that exist only in this space. And for these eighteen years of words I have all the more to come.

chia was fifteen is extremely intimate and a revealing part of myself, but there’s no use in living if you do not say some things at the wrong times. I hope you enjoy, but most dearly do I hope you get to think.

Literal Commitments

I have been having issues with work-life balance, and understanding what to prioritize in my life. Aside from the constantly-shifting mental state that comes with being a teenager, I’m getting accustomed to the bigger picture of things: what it means to seize opportunity, what metrics actually matter, and what it means to learn.

In other words, I dropped my first class. It seems irresponsible, and maybe it is–but it was a computer science 200-level class that was taking upwards of 20 hours each week that I didn’t feel was really rewarding at this point in time. I still fully intend to be a computer science major, but I’m currently embarking on several projects and preparing for what is perhaps the fullest months that Developh will undertake ever since its founding in 2016. I’m engrossed in Philippine politics, and am working with several campaigns that have also affected my sleeping schedule since I’m working around the clock. Over-all, it’s an interesting experience that I think shifting my major classes will be worth for.

There are some things I want to do in exchange:

  1. Be consistent and persistent with my work at Developh–something that I consistently want to do, but just as frequently have worries about in terms of sustainability, teams, motivation. I am almost certain that the path I’m taking in this little student group is something I want to do for the rest of my life. The greatest thing for me to do would be to constantly build towards it.
  2. Make at least one commit a day, I’ve lost so much of the dev energy I’ve had in previous summers and it’s impacted my excitement for code. I’ve been getting into this for the past week, and the feeling of it as a passion rather than just as an obligation has been returning.
  3. Get serious about studying computer science as I’ve picked up the holy grail textbooks, and am looking things up in advanced for classes that I’m excited to take. Another version of this is that I’m relearning things with my current stack (since I’m still functionally operating at the knowledge I had when Web 2.0, shiny gradient-filled [not the lava lamp kind, but the bevel and emboss kind] were still a thing), learning more things about full-stack development, taking lead, and actually putting into action agile dev practices. I’m also immersing myself more in a broader dev community and it’s making me really, really happy.
  4. Write. I had an attempt at a weekly goal, which didn’t work out–so now I’m trying for at least twice a month. I have a huge backlog of videos I want to edit, film in need of putting together, design that I want to make just for me, and words I have to put out that are eagerly there and waiting, especially for the angst to transfer onto a more creative and expressive outlet as opposed to my papers.
  5. Understand why I believe in the things I do, which is a really convoluted thing. I’m bad at admitting the faults of the people I follow but easy to shoot my own belief down. There are thoughts that swim around my head that never get out because they deviate from the conversations and networks I choose to immerse myself in, and I have a habit of conforming and viewing these sociopolitical/ethical thoughts as bad of me to consider. I want to get a firmer grasp on things now that I’m more bound to reality than I am specific people, and a big part of that is looking for reason, history, context, and conversation.
  6. Get a work ethic.

 

It’s just a small goal of mine to be a type of person that I can view as objectively good (as much as possible), or someone who just tries. I’m not there yet, and I’m still inconsiderate and abrupt and volatile–but I’m taking these months to think of my actions, the years I have spent in life and what I have ahead of me and the value I put in the uncertainty of knowing. These are times when I need to step out more and understand that life is beyond face-to-face human connection when it’s a dimension that grounds us too much, especially since I’m living in a bubble. There is a greater world I need to see through other’s experiences, the things they’ve decided to write down and show and document for the world that we don’t let ourselves digest as much. There is creation inside of me waiting, I think, and I don’t want to lose sight before eighteen.

Chia

Pinkerton, home, floods

The next three thousand words are selections of writing I did for a class I had this Fall. I am slowly learning, and hope to return with better pieces to make the most of this. A lot of my writing dealt with religion, home, and expectation. If you read this blog, you’re probably used to that. Thank you for following my journey from my first “chapbook” (not really) to my first college works.

The title comes from the fact that I did delete a Pinkerton reference in the fiction piece, somewhere in the attempt to copy Borges (we read a lot of Le Guin and Borges–the comment was that there was too much extraordinariness in the listing of lives and beings, and I agreed, we have to dwell somewhere more common at times) but without the experience and knowledge to actually understand what a worthwhile life is like, but I’m getting there. I don’t really spend much time publishing or sending out things (I don’t do this at all), but I’ve been writing a lot lately, so here.

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Love as repetition

Incomplete, last update: 2/6/2019 11:44AM

How do I tell you that I think I fell in love with someone on Skype. Their screen name revived by the spam message I accidentally sent, everything unanswered and rewinded. Like I spent my teen years thinking I was better because I lived in another world in my room, listening to 8tracks playlists by all my past lovers. I closed my eyes and listened to the Ending of Dramamine.
My hair is the longest it’s been in years. We bleached it thrice but I couldn’t get it to gray. It’s the darkest and thickest it’s been in years. I wanted so badly to make it wither and gray, anything but how it looked then.

Did anyone ever send you a death threat in BBCode? Or maybe the war we started in phpBB. No amount of trying to get myself to like what you love will fix this.

Do you wonder what you would be like if you were a kinder person? Not anything amped up, just kinder. Forgivable in every sense of the word.

Looking at myself in the mirror with my skin tearing red and my body defeated and slump into the corner of the room to push my body against and against the force of gravity and against and against everything you ever thought of me and I can see the bones on my neck again and I wonder why I hadn’t done this sooner.

 

I cried the most when I lost all the dreams I wrote down on my Notes app. I think I had over a hundred there.

(I am driving the car and you know I told you I would never drive except for this.)

Newfound Interest in Snowstorms

I became a girl alive three weeks into class. Even before I left Manila, I fell into this annual sick mess. Like when you can’t breathe you pray to just remember something you have had for your whole life, over and over and over, with every little glimpse at having that again being some cruel joke until it subsides and you think nothing of it. I am so sick I could die. I am so sick I could wait and wait to be okay again and endure it all.

The first two weeks or so at Yale (and many, many other colleges in America) are an add/drop period, they call it shopping period here. Your classes aren’t finalized until the period finishes but you have to keep up with all the work for all the classes you choose to attend. Being sick and walking around campus with your head spinning and holding back the urge to start coughing out one’s guts for 5 minutes straight is quite possibly my worst experience here so far. The time my mental state lets me go is where my body fails me, and it’s like 2019’s opening trick on me. But it’s okay.

Homesickness usually kicks in around the second semester of your freshman year. You are apparently too busy going around and getting overwhelmed with everything that college freedom has to offer, but I spent much of the Fall doing nothing. I’m starting to get these periods where I wake up in the middle of the morning (I try to sleep at least 6 hours a day now) in a panic, remembering fragments from the dream I just left and then thinking–thinking about the most inane of things. My mind often goes to the fact that I am here. That this was what I was thinking about a year ago, waking up wondering if I would wake up here. Past me must be so disappointed that I’m spending Friday night walking back to my dorm at 10:30PM combing through my Letterboxd “to watch” list to see what my plans for the rest of the night are.

Last night I was thinking about my homesickness. I’ve told so many people that I feel this immense sense of regret (that is completely irrational) about being away because I am no longer really part of the country. The moments where I get to speak a full sentence in Tagalog reading out my essay in English 120, the little bits of Taglish that slip out and I have to say sorry for, or the times when with full intent we converse–apologetic to those who don’t get the bits of slang we say, combed through high school and computer shops and living the life I have lived. These are all my little bits of self that keep me put together. They’re why I continue to walk out, seeking those little pieces of home, my language the only secret I can truly hold in this school where nothing of my culture is taught.

Whenever I check the weather to decide how many layers of clothes I should wear (currently, it’s usually 3-4) I also check on Manila. I could tell you easily how my days go, how everything is methodical. My day is filled with meetings where I can’t wait to move to the next, where I’m often left wondering why I do the things I do–I exchange apologies and “next times” with people who cancel and people who I have to cancel on. My interactions are filled with me trying to find the right words, arranging them as clean and easy as everyone here has bene taught to do and wondering why it’s so difficult to express my thoughts if I don’t intonate in the same way as them.

I can show you a picture of my schedule, the rare times I speak in class to hit that participation cut-off and feign interests and say thank you and go out to buy food and refill the bathroom supplies. And I could ask you in return for yours. But nothing will ever let me see the things I want to see. The slow erosion of the unfinished concrete wall across Daang Hari, the feel of my bedroom with the mattress on the floor in the dead of the nighttime–my air conditioner set to 18 degrees and the ring it does that reminds me to switch it off every 15 minutes. The way the skyway looks and how Manila Bay is now after the cleanup, how food is just better in every single stall and where I don’t have to have empty conversation with workers who just want me to leave. The sky there, where it’s hotter and easier to breathe and where I can speak this secret language and be on the right time again. I still get notifications for gigs that play in Mow’s even though I’ve never been there. I like to think a lot of the things I’ve missed that I can never really experience again, taken away because of age and circumstance and parents and maybe everything at once. It won’t be the same when I come back at twenty-four (or later), and it will really never be okay to me that there are these things that I will ever only experience as a tourist, as a visitor, as someone returned but not home.

I have a long list of everything I’ve ever wanted to go to and do that I’ve compiled since sophomore year of high school. A lot of them I couldn’t do anything about. There are just these lists of things that you will never be able to do again–because they’ve been closed down, because the experience has changed and management moved over, because you’re not with the same people you wanted to experience that thing with, because you’re coming back to your country with people asking you a list of what you want to do for the ten days you really get to do anything like you’re the tourist now and I just answer nothing, really. And you see no one but everything at the same time. Because I’m coming back to the country with a carer and a degree at a school that wasn’t truly my first choice robbed of experiences that I wish I had at eighteen and most things I know will be gone. There will be new things, but there’s this anger in me that this list is something I kept in a plastic folder hidden in my drawer that I cross things out of every few weeks or when I hear something in the news. I just wanted to listen to music and see these pieces that will never be there again or take that class or go on that day that everyone has marked down but me–to have been like this and been there and now I can’t help but to picture myself during the break and think now of how I can’t go back as the person I was. I can’t give a fucking list of what I want to do because everything I’ve ever truly wanted to do was gone.

There will be new things, but that list of no’s is there. I can head to New York today or watch a show alone in Philadelphia, I can bring you here and we would share the same experience because we’re both strangers to this country. But you can’t bring me back to my home and let me have a temporary stay and act like what we have to do is mine. And for this I’m most homesick. I will never truly understand what it meant to live there, in that time. I will never let anything fall apart in that way again. I never knew I didn’t like leaving.


Someone told me that as an international, America is the winning team. San Francisco, wind and hills and fat paychecks. My friend tells me that billionaires earned it at all. I can’t find the same common ground on jokes. I can’t lie on the ground yet for the problems of a country that is still unwelcome to me. How do I sound white on the phone? Where can I find someone who listens to some similar, generic trash as me. You exchange your favorite foods like the only way we can tie ourselves back to the country is through overpriced restaurants in New York, I want the word for my food to mean the same as it did back there for for eighteen dollars less.  Can my voice get any more of the American accent but still feel so detached? Tell me the best way to let you know that I can be everywhere and nowhere at once. Told a boy about how I played League of Legends in a computer shop that had papers posted up every three feet about how you’re not allowed to expose your genitals, for a quarter an hour. And yes, League of Legends has its own server in the Philippines. We exist. She’s Only Sixteen is like my secret recommendation but what everyone is tired of back home. Our President is the murderer and yours is, too–but you’re louder for less bodies. Do you really think billionaires got there by hard work only? Is it ethical to be that rich? Your jacket could feet an entire town. Not everyone who works hard moves forward in life. We’re in the Ivy League and all we know is how to lie to ourselves. You want to be a billionaire one day too. How do I.

Does it feel good to work for something for big 0s that people near you could never use? When I give back, is it going to be a charity thing in my name and for the Filipino people that I’ve been so far from? Is my philanthropy learned from effective altruism classes, reports placed on my desk, second-hand smoke, and the noise outside of the people keeping close with full intention? Do I become someone else’s person, continuing to do things I don’t believe in when I got here because of the very fact that I dared believe?

One of the most frequent fights I had with an ex was because we didn’t know what it meant to be alive. I don’t know what it means to be alive if others around me can’t be alive, too–and I latched on to this belief and way of seeing the world. More than this circle or bubble and group and school and something as insane and irrational as love for one person, perhaps even moreso–is love for everything. What can you even do?

Maybe this is why I’m always in a state of crisis.


The rules for student employment allow me to work up to nineteen hours a week, which I do my best to reach. (I’m currently searching for a job to help me hit the nineteen, just a few hours away–when every hour counts.) I find it sort of incredible how we’re a paid a few dollars above minimum wage, and how it in itself is an insane amount of money for someone coming from the world I come from. I get a break from thinking and requests and people I can’t fully commit myself to. I wake up every morning at 4AM to go out and try to find some semblance of routine that isn’t this.

To maintain some sense of self, I decided to start making monthly playlists. Here is January, and this is how February is going.  I write down my favorites again in paper, like the last time I did when I was in ninth grade and writing love letters in yellow pad and slipping them into schoolbags. I write little goals again that are the same as years ago, “step out of your comfort zone” when it’s more like enter this war that is not yours. “Be a more welcoming person,” when I have to switch my tongue with every person I speak to. “Give this (at least) the chance to be the best years of your life,” but it is there. It’s getting there and I have no idea why.

New Haven is beautiful and it feels so weird to be in a city that can be namedropped by a song. It feels like I don’t hear my name that often anymore. It’s unfamiliar and not golden and I am average and I walk by Broadway in the mornings for no reason at all and into the “dangerous” part of the town when the sun is rising in the winter and I repeat the name of the state while not knowing where it is on the map because it’s how I call myself now and how everyone knows me.


The other day, before any words could even come out of my mouth, a stranger followed up their question with a “wait, do you even speak English?” and I almost wished that I couldn’t.