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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.

It isn’t a leap year

Hello to a new year. It’s no new though, but it’s also weird thinking that a manmade construct gives us a new slate when the operational or academic or anything timeline doesn’t follow it either–but it’s a mindset thing as always, I guess.

There are weirdly vivid times that come into my head when I’m doing work at my computer and just stare at the timestamp in the corner. I move the cursor, hovering gently over the month (paying no mind to the seconds passing by), thumbing over the calendar months til I find dates with nothing on them (not hard to get to) if I happen to be on Windows, and just sitting there like a captive to the passing of something I feel so behind of. It’s pretentious: to be paralyzed, and suddenly lose all focus as if I’ve already lost the year and time itself when I could just simply continue. But it is never that simple. Read More

2018 top albums!

I just finished off my first semester of college this Tuesday, and can pretty confidently say that one of the biggest things that got me to be able to go through everything is music. I’ve mentioned it in the past and still joke about it every now and then, but one of the most exciting things to me about going to school in America is the fact that I can go to shows (!!), see artists that I’ve been listening to since I was a kid after countless years, and immerse myself in incredible local music scenes. (Not to say that it isn’t prominent in the Philippines, though.)

Given an abundance of free time (at times), I’ve been more closely immersing myself in new releases instead of just listening to whatever like I have in the past. I’ve never realized how critical it was for me to be with people interested in the same kinds of music–or any music, for that matter–at all. It’s just something I can so easily slip in and out of between days and everything I do. Before I get back on the grind of things, here’s a little self-indulgent list of albums that came out this 2018 that I’ve been loving, in no particular order.’

Joy as an Act of Resistance. by IDLES

Though my furthest exposure to punk has been pop punk, I’ve heard tons of people talking about how amazing this album was and decided to give it a listen. Colossus is quite possible one of the best album openers I’ve ever heard and it hooked me in ever since that dramatic “goes and it goes and it goes” mixed with the abundance of religious imagery in its lyricism. Deeper into the album is a lot of confessional lyrics that aren’t normally touched on, from stillbirth to toxic masculinity. This is such a gorgeous listen to even if you’re not heavy onto the genre–because wow, it will convert you. Definitely listen in order as well. (Anyway, if you’re not listening to an album in order on the first listen you’re doing it wrong.) The raw energy, honesty, and emotion in this album is ridiculously infectious.

There is a scene of me nodding my head to this album and getting a bit to into it in a random Barnes & Noble Cafe on a Wednesday afternoon that exists somewhere out there.

Favorite track: Television

Be the Cowboy by Mitski

Probably on almost everyone’s top lists, but for good reason. The amount of raw energy, the variety of emotion, and the overall atmosphere of the album that settles me into this dark, somber mood for reflection but picks me up as if I can face the world. Mitski shares words that we see in all of ourselves, daring us to pick up our pieces and reflect on our lives along her. From the crescendoing introduction in Geyser with its static unsettle to the electricity and forwardness in Remember My Name as she sings “I need something bigger than the sky”–Mitski has given girls like me and so many countless others a musical masterpiece that ties in so many themes on loneliness, vulnerability, and how all of this is okay and wonderful. That losing is something necessary yet something below ourselves that we can always pick ourselves up from. I think of how I can’t stop myself from dancing alone to Old Friend in my shitty dorm room, thinking of love and things above me and the world ahead of me, or how my roommates ask me to tone down the volume when I first found the album and played Nobody on repeat as if all the lyricism about smallness made me whole again. It may seem like a surface album about love and all that to many others, but Be the Cowboy is about love, acceptance, and the self; it’s such a necessary entry and an album I desperately needed. A lot of criticism is starting to surround the album, and I just can’t help but think of lines like “Maybe I’m the same as all those men / writing songs of all they’re dreaming.” Mitski didn’t have to give us these words, but she did.

Favorite track: Old Friend / Me and My Husband (can’t choose!)

Million Dollars to Kill Me by Joyce Manor

I have adored Joyce Manor in ways I can’t really explain ever since their self-titled release, and I feel like this album comes close to it. Another of their twenty-minute-or-so entries with my favorite album art of them to date, this album just gives me the soul and spirit taking me back to summers I never had. The whole ride feels like a raw group of friends making music of the world they live in; there’s no deep metaphors or complex analogies necessary–it’s just growth and fun and dumb things and I find myself in love with this approach. It’s a lot softer and more freeing than their previous releases, and definitely not for everyone who initially loved their S/T as it’s nowhere near as fast (it sounds like they transitioned into a poppier sound–I’ll always prefer their old, frantic screamish stuff but ‘yaknow), but I couldn’t stop keeping this piece on repeat after going through it. The songs blend in together lovely and take me into this subtle upbeat ride–something that not lots of music can do. Joyce Manor always has that kind of sound that makes you want to live through something–not something that one thinks about too hard but just lives through, if that makes sense. This record falls in line with that, fun listen, no deeper meaning to that.

Favorite track: Friends We Met Online

what people call low self​-​esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you by awakebutstillinbed

This is. My absolute favorite emo release of the year, I’m positive. Female-fronted awakebutstillinbed and their debut extended play is just phenomenal; everything in this reminds me of my emotions at their extremes–the most vulnerable parts of myself where I allow my entire self exposed in the face of everyone, empty afternoons where I crumble into this personal, boiling anger at the world that at times comes inexplicable. I am in love with Shannon’s vocals though it might not be a sentiment that everyone shares, but there’s just something so haunting about the lyricism in stumble taking you back from this light narrative about love and regret to “I know I’ll stop breathing one day / and I’ll never be able to justify the ways that I lived my only life / I just want something to feel all right“. On the surface, it does seem totally incoherent and senseless, but in introspection of how we feel–it is what it is. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve revolved my entire self-image about things I shouldn’t have let myself wait for. The album shifts from slow, painful dynamics to straight on switching to lines calling for self-forgiveness; the transition from stumble to fathers best shows this. Another thing: I’ll never forget how I felt the first time the album title was uttered in the line of life; it’s built up in a way that I beg you to properly take in by starting from the very beginning.

Emo albums always sound intoxicatingly desperate and filled with complaints, but maybe it’s a bit of what the world needs. (Also, the interlude here is incredible.)

Favorite track:  life (the world around me fades!!)

The Joy of Loving by Joyd Parker

Oh my god. Oh my god. I came across this from the third track by chance while trying to get on iwrotehaikusaboutcannibalisminyouryearbook’s artist page, and I am so, so happy that I stumbled across this. The mix of experimental spoken word in the song, the screams, all the lyrics about things that hit the deepest parts of myself that I never knew could be put into words until this song pulled it off. This is such a wonderful screamo, emo, whatever album that rolls off a lot of frustration and angst about god and being–things that I am so fond of. In this six minute masterpiece, they pull together so many things that just gave me an experience for an album produced in a bedroom. The rest of the album is amazing as well, and is such an experimental, sleeping masterpiece that I can’t wait for the world to see, even if I could only get this work out to just a handful more people. Wow. I played this album on repeat with pauses in between, trying to take it in. I am looking forward to everything else this band will come up with and this is the greatest thing I have found this year.

I’m still trying to find the words to explain why this hit me so much.

Favorite track: I wrote Haikus About Communism in Your Hotel Book 

Sunset Blush by Kississippi

Kississippi put out my favorite emo-adjacent album with soft indie rock vibes. I first came across the band with Dogmas from their We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed EP, and this album follows through with everything I’ve loved from it. Mostly a portrait from loss and severance, Sunset Blush to me opens up an end not commonly explored: disappointment at how things could just never fall into place, loss of hope after doing everything possible. The mellow sounds throughout the album, how the lyrics come so easy and are just that kind of album where I don’t have to look up the lyrics because it comes after just a single listen. This album is like a lot more palatable Be the Cowboy that’s still on the stage of loss for me; there’s something about the entire sound that makes me feel like I’m there, so intimate and close in a way that all the other indie albums–the same narrative of spilling out a story, girls talking about life and everything–couldn’t do as well as this.

Favorite track: Shamer

7 by Beach House

The most frequently-used term that I’ve heard for Beach House is “immersive”, and there’s no better word that I can imagine. I constantly feel like I’m being taken to new places, breathing in times and memories that aren’t mind, and scraping my own self for pieces of my story that can compare. This is music that I’ve played walking back to my dorm room at early 6AM when the sun is barely rising after pulling off an all-nighter, and could just dream to. Also, I still don’t know how to distinguish Beach House songs by title–but that doesn’t stop it from being a good album.

Favorite track: Drunk in LA 

M A N I A by Fall Out Boy

This is probably cheating, but technically the album was still released this year so I’m plopping it in! Fall Out Boy has stuck with me ever since I first listened to it in middle school in a hazy summer in a place that is no longer the same–the band itself coming in different forms to millions and millions of people since the mid-2000s. The thing is: many people drift away from Fall Out Boy, severing their pre-hiatus and post-hiatus selves, praising the former and calling the latter anything but praise. Like many “still in love” fans, I’m in awe of the evolution of MANIA–I felt it ever since I sat down excitedly upon the album’s rolling Spotify release, hearing the vocal run at the beginning of Heaven’s Gate, saw adoration in the maturity of Patrick’s vocals where I literally sat back at my chair, stunned, and giggled because I was so surprised. That first listen to the Church-Heaven’s Gate combo, to hearing Stay Frosty kick in brought me back to that summer in a different lens. I walk the same places in a wholly new way, and I am immersed in something familiar but in an entirely new nature. I am so, so utterly in love.

This is a pretty biased view, perhaps because this band is entwined in a lot of nostalgia for me–but then again they were nominated for a Grammy for this album for the first time since their entry into the scene with the Best New Artist one. There are some misses in the album, but even Young and Menace gets more pleasant the deeper you dive in.

Favorite Track: Church

The Yunahon Mixtape by Oso Oso

Oso Oso is the emo-adjacent gateway that brought me into the midwest emo side of music that has helped me a ton throughout this year. Starting from the pastel hues given off by the album cover of the popular dgadsgk in Hong Kong, The Yunahon Mixtape is such a delightful, upbeat album that gives me such positive energy and vibes. There’s something about how diluted the vocals are, the continuously resonant sound, the drumwork, and everything that perfectly piles up the album into this indie-esque exploration of emotions, living, and love. This reminds me a lot of almost a counterpart to Sunset Blush, with nearly every song here maintaining more of the colorful energy. It’s as fast and as true as it needs to be, its lines filled with passion and intent. Even on tracks with “sparser” vocals like shoes (the sneaker song) hook you in with the “when we sing our song the words never need to rhyme” in between a chorus of ooo’s and aaah’s; there are so many songs here about living and love that mean everything to me, and this is definitely worth a listen. I’m sure you’ll find a song or two (or maybe the whole album?) that you’d love to make yours.

Favorite Track: great big beaches

Now Only by Mount Eerie

My heart fell apart over and over again while listening to this. Now Only connects to Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, albums dedicated to the death of his wife. It’s filled with poetry, melancholy, and just absolute anger and disbelief at the world in the midst of loss. The way Mount Eerie handles death, holding its carcass in his arms with the unwavering commitment to sending a message about how futile and unfair the world can feel when it rips something so wonderful away from you hurts. I’ve closed my eyes and played this in full so many times in the summer, memorizing the narrative in Tintin in Tibet from the casual pain tearing in from “You don’t exist / I sing to you though” to Phil recounting, in such beautiful imagery, this trip he had with his wife in Vancouver Island in the midst of a story crushing her death and instead letting the fact that she was alive and there resound greater than anything else. Many albums try to portray that things happen for a reason, and that there are greater meaning to things, but Mount Eerie confesses that nothing can resolve death, and that there is no greater reason or deeper meaning that could come out of someone no longer being there–a thought that isn’t commonly shared today. At the bottom of everything, the whole album is a whole symphony about how unnecessary the loss of life can be; that one can exist with loss, but confesses that without it, life would be so much better. And in some cases like in this beautiful narrative, it is.

Being that the album is an incredibly personal recount, to fully appreciate, you must read the stories and interviews and comments left about the music. This is music that isn’t just meant to entertain us, but this is someone’s life and loss in a transcendent form that we don’t deserve. The least one can do is see the true meaning behind the things here. I urge you to.

Surviving with what dust is left of you here
Now you will recede into the paintings

Favorite track: incredibly difficult decision but Tintin in Tibet!

That pretty much wraps up my top albums for the year! I’m not as updated as I’d like to be and I know there are tons of other interesting releases this year (Foxing’s Nearer my God, the new Carseat Headrest, the abundance of T-50 albums that don’t really hang around my wavelength)–but this is the collection that I had to list down. If this list helped you expand your taste a bit or rediscover something you may have forgotten this year–I’ve done my job!

Without music, 2018 wouldn’t have been the same for me. This was the first year that I spent consistently listening to music (I go on some weird droughts at times) and it was an interesting rollercoaster; though it seems like 2019 will be even more interesting–so here’s to more obscure videogame soundtracks to guilty pleasure pop hits and long-awaited spins.

November 13, Tuesday

You are busy. 
Preparing for something, waiting for something, getting somewhere.

I place the most selfless thing that I have made for myself scribbled on the back of a workshopped poem. It is a love letter addressed to myself, signed from myself. It is unsealed and vulnerable. It is hastily written in pen from a conference where I had to pretend to be someone. It is the rawest thing that I had ever known.

For the first time in a long while, I ate well. There is a Starbucks in the corner that I visit in early mornings and late afternoons; yesterday, my emptiness echoed into a lecture hall, and then a library, and then the guards checking my bag as I stretched back to my dorm. My nightly fixation is how the drone of my stomach is equivalent to a bomb: that is, it is atomic and resonant and pierces everyone’s ears, that is, it is likely disregarded and forgotten by everyone else in history but the people it has directly inflicted, that is, I exaggerate and wince at the thought of me clutching a stomach fueled for days on cereal every other day and a bag of kale chips that one time. 

Last night was different, though. I waste twenty more dollars. I wash all my bowls and utensils for no reason and unseal the others while discarding the sushi containers. I clean my room and study for a test I am unsure I will take. When I put things inside of myself to make sure that the body is still there, I am sure that one day I will feel it when it is freed.

There is a dream where I lay in bed and I watch her knees on the ground with the growing lacerations and scraping at the neck.

I take care of this image. I become her.

I become everything I ever wanted to be.

An American Dream—from the Heart of Manila

I first began thinking about studying abroad in my junior year of high school. In America, particularly. It felt like the safest option in terms of diversity and accessibility, and was entranced by the prestigious Ivy League dream (I knew about Harvard and Yale before most local universities, Western media influence and all).  One day, I brought it up to my mother and was pleasantly surprised with encouragement. If we can afford it, go for it.

In 2017, Town & Country Philippines released an article called “The Best and the Brightest: Brilliant Minds From the Class of 2017“. Questionable title, they’re definitely not “the best and brightest” but the point on their international education stands. The universities mentioned in the list are all selective–they’re not those kinds of schools that accept anyone that can pay the full fee and boost their international student count, a metric often used in top college rankings. If you do a quick Google search for a school, you see their acceptance rates–or you know, you know that Harvard is Harvard because it’s hard to get into. The thing about international admissions is that it’s even harder to get into than what is publicly listed. MIT’s 7.9% acceptance rate is actually somewhere like 3-4% for international students. It was an interesting article to see (even knowing some people there!) and of those I were familiar with, I knew it was well-deserved. It was inspiring to see students that shared interests and activities that I had who were able to get into incredible dream schools.

It became a mental note: I’d be on that list next year, my story listed somewhere.

After an insane application process that took hundreds of hours, emails scraped together for fee waivers, discovering my own self again and again, panic attacks and breakdowns and scraped bank statements and riveting moments of doubt and oh my god I really haven’t done enough to get anywhere what am I doing what am I doing I’m wasting my time, spending hours churning out everything I believe in and love into words, getting rejected, getting rejected again, oh wait an acceptance–oh god this school is incredible and I can’t imagine–I somehow made it into incredible schools. This fall, I’ll be heading to Yale.

This year’s article had a lot of familiar names. There aren’t much platforms that celebrate student achievements, and there aren’t much resources or stories about Filipinos from here who got to pursue education abroad; it’s a well-intentioned step.

This tweet gained a lot of attention after its posting. Bottom line: it’s true. Obviously, the life we live through revolves and is continuously impacted by privilege: the resources we have, our priorities, and at times–the entire course of the life we live is constrained and dictated by circumstances decided by birth. Speaking for myself, I’m going to be studying at a fucking Ivy. It’s the pinnacle of elitism. The network, the status boost, the instant nod and opportunities given just because of one line of my educational background. The opportunities offered to me because of my presence at this school are going to be unattainable by the vast majority of the world, and every single aspect that enabled me to know what an Ivy League school even is, apply, all the resources, credentials, stories, and all that I have are attributed to the financial and social status I was credited with by luck of draw when I was born. My ability to study, craze through the process and go through self-induced panic is all credited to the fact that I have 1.) the time to do so, 2.) the knowledge to do so, and 3.) the place in life to do so.

The only vindication that people should have ever taken from the list would be to acknowledge that privilege plays a heavy role in the extreme difficulty it takes to get to those kinds of schools in the first place, and to resolve to work towards a world where more kids could dare to even dream towards that place.

After seeing this tweet, I was invited by one of the writers of the article to be part of the Leaders of Tomorrow list. Sure, why not. I sent in the only decent-framed photo I had of myself and was an insert.

I’ve been bothered by the dialogue surrounding the tweet for a few days after seeing responses and conversations about it but couldn’t exactly put into words my frustration with it until now; enough to warrant a post about it. The frustration pervades through both sides.

Above all, this dream is not the extreme elite’s alone.

Let’s talk about the picturesque image of a student who gets to study abroad, or, what I thought at first: obviously smart enough to get by, has enough to pay the ludicrous ~70,000 dollar annual tuition, opportunities, network, media publicity, and curriculum vitae spoonfed by their parents. Pushed into activities good on paper initially, maybe. You know how they joke about the rich international student heading to morning class decked out in designer gear where their parents back home are oil tycoons or vapid politicians. Indebted to follow what might be their parent’s footsteps, knowing the process and setting sights for it since middle school.

College admissions for schools in the United States are a lot more holistic than local school applications. They consider everything from your financial status, your personal background and any extenuating circumstances, standardized testing, your performance in high school, involvement in school, competitions, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, geographic location, race, everything. In contrast, you take a test specifically designed by each university here (at least for the major ones), submit a transcript of your performance in high school, then everything gets determined by that: two numbers. Everyone on that same playing field, dictated by their intellectual capacity and how well their education institutions or review centers or private tutors had prepared them in the last decade.

The thing is, not everyone on the Town & Country article fits that elitist “pinnacle of success” vision. Writing off, in particular, the college admissions process in the United States as a dream for only the most elite minority of people is extremely misleading, especially to the audience of high schoolers who could have instead been inspired and see that it’s more than just a pipe dream. What people need to know is that the holistic admissions process that everyone on the list went through is a lot more accessible than the exclusively bourgeoisie tycoon-rhyming last name dream that it appears to be.

My entire college decision was based on which place would be the most affordable. Standardized testing fees and financial aid applications were scraped together using the money that would have been put into my high school tuition, off because I was on a full academic scholarship. I’m sure several people on the list–international school or not–and other unlisted Filipinos pursuing university abroad lived on that same factor, on application fee waivers to even get a shot alone. I didn’t get the chance to pour money out on Advanced Placement classes or get an International Baccalaureate diploma, or even know what in the world those things were until I was in the twelfth grade, and took that as an immediate sign that I had next to no chance, but still went for it anyway.

The holistic status of admissions weighs into everything. Why I actually want to pursue higher education 8,500 miles away from home, the opportunities I was given and the environment I was raised in (not a private international school, a school that had never sent anyone in all its years of operation to a place of its tier). I had the opportunity to explain my situation and apply to schools that gave need-based aid (basically: if you can get in, you can attend). On the alternative: the major universities in the local system do not offer any tangible weight or need for “diversity” in its class. It exclusively boils down to the quality of education you had, your adeptness with whatever niche topics they choose to include, the language you remain exceptionally fluent in, moreso how ridiculous the material and lack of transparency are on the tests. Quick but commonly agreed-upon judgement, but it’s essentially something that can be perfected with constant practice and knowledge of the material. Whereas, the process that I preferred leaves their standardized test (the ACT or the SAT) that is also heavily proven to be improved upon with practice and also has performance heavily correlated with household income  as but one portion of your admission. You could argue that the local university system is in heavier favor of those with well-off educational backgrounds, and those with more resources and opportunity, in terms of pure admission factors.

What actually enables someone to have the resources to perform well in school, be it GPA as an indicator for work ethic requiring a student to consistently submit and do well on homework–an impossibility for most–or standardized testing as a metric of innate intelligence or ability to repeatedly study for a test? Privilege is rooted towards that, which is why it shouldn’t exist as the lone metric, and is decidedly advantageous for students of different backgrounds and not just the homogenous legacy-line applicant that would be thought to be commonplace.

 

 

Picture equal playing fields on a numerical factor for college admissions abroad. Using GPA, the video illustrates how things would work out. Most notably, the student with the 2.8 GPA is unfairly favored by the system due to donating huge amounts of money to the school–but you see that with all the other factors into play, there’s a lot more weight on who you are, your story, and the diversity you offer to class. Admission officers moreover, are trained to understand and favor high achievers from more disadvantaged backgrounds, especially when admitting internationals for geographic diversity. In America, race plays a huge factor as standardized testing scores display favor towards more generally well-off races. In this case, the application process does not simply disregard the inequality. Instead, it offers a lower “threshold” of expectation for applicants of that certain race. This is one out of many examples of admission officers understanding the barred equalities rooted in privilege and try to alleviate it. Of course, the process is flawed and affirmative action is widely debated, but it’s safe to say that there are much stronger and significant attempts to balance the playing field.

It’s a system like this that enables students like me and from other high schools with the right amount of resources to have a chance to even apply given the interest, perseverance, and the right amount of funds to go through the initial process. Ultimately, it’s still a draw of luck: is the school, knowing our financial status and our need for financial aid, willing to accept us over another lower-achieving but richer international? It’s a gain of 280,000 dollars for them over four years in contrast to maybe 12,000. Are we the right person applying to the right school with the right interests with the right background with the right circumstances with the right mood of the admission officer glancing over us and all our numbers and hopes and dreams and agh maybe you’ll just be placed into another pile because they’re really not feeling a trumpet-playing biology major today… You get the picture. The opportunity however, remains there.

There are international applicants alongside me who faced countless waitlists and rejections because of the amount of money we can offer. There are international applicants alongside me with just a laptop, waivers, and endless desperation with internet soul-searching and external scholarships in tow still struggling to pay for the flight going there, but do it anyway in pursuit of a better education. There are international applicants alongside me that forgone eating and time spent with their family to work, earn money on the side, and focus solely on the application process. There are international applicants alongside me that tore apart their families and applied backhanded in desperation, and made it work. There are international applicants that hold stories that you can’t imagine,  There are international applicants that breezed through it with private tutors, essay coaches, opportunity coaches, parent networks and parties that landed them an easy spot.

It’s only through things like the holistic nature of the American application process that students like me could have tried despite not ticking all the marks of what a good applicant should be, or even personally meeting the bottom 25% of scores for what most of these schools had. It levels the playing field with students from 1,200,000 peso a year schools and disregards money (ability to attend) and numbers as the only indicators for acceptance, letting students from more unconventional backgrounds apply. I’ve had friends from underrepresented countries and really low-income backgrounds get full-rides, perhaps not to Ivy League schools but neither did they need perfect standardized tests and scores–simply because their story was worth believing in.

There are those stories too, of people who began from close to nothing or random no name schools and families that strived through the process: whether succeeding long enough academically to receive scholarships to private high schools that offered them more opportunities, or being a newsworthy riser that defied odds and made it to exclusive schools, then entering that elite. But: the potential lies to anyone with the right amount of resources at a barrier that isn’t really unprecedented to a still notable amount of Filipinos. We are a far cry from it being accessible to the vast majority of Filipinos, but to a good amount of high schoolers that would have otherwise never thought of the possibility, the opportunity is there.

It’s good to encourage people to pursue higher education abroad as well if they have the passion for it and believe it would ultimately be beneficial to the nationalism and acts they can do. It’s good to spread stories to the middle-class who hold a fair amount of resources and enough determination that this is more than just something for the extreme elite. The American system I and others on the list aimed for is more reliant on just the right amount of luck, personal conviction, and that threshold of ability to apply than it is pure cash, international schooling status, standardized testing prep, and IB diplomas. The dream I had, one that I thought was an impossibility, is a dream that many more deserve to share.

On invalidation (it’s not.)

From the very beginning, being able to consider studying abroad alone, getting affirmation from my mom, and having time and strength to pursue the process is a testament to privilege and the position I had in life that allowed me to get here.

There are students who don’t even get to attend class or receive any form of education. There are incredibly advanced students that have to drop out to work, or are displaced and lose the opportunity to learn. There are students with unrealized potential, far more capable and intelligent than I could ever be, betrayed by the society we live in and the inherent lack of justice and balance in life. (And god, do I hope to be part of lessening that one day.)

“There are” students is an understatement; the reality is that most Filipinos will never have the chance. I consider myself somewhat hardworking, and someone could do what I do and a thousand times more but still never be able to know what Yale is, and it’s a reality that I acknowledge while bearing incredible contempt for. The 12,000 dollars I quoted is considered low for internationals wanting to study abroad, but is an amount most families here would never even make in their lifetime.

The original tweet shouldn’t be seen as a direct attack, and it’d also be pretty funny for someone like me, who was elevated to this place by getting accepted into the school of my caliber, to be disdained at someone pointing out a very true barrier. Literally, the collective Ivy League meme group is called “Elitist Memes for Ivy League Teens”.
Words can’t express how grateful I am to have even been given a shot at getting rejection letters from schools, or to stumble out in confusion of taking my first American-sealed standardized test, or to convince my counselor (my school has a guidance counselor!) despite having to literally get on her computer and use it myself to explain the steps of a very foreign to both of us system. I cried every night (and randomly publicly loll) for nearly two months because of fear over the process and how I was wasting time and how I really wanted to eat more than one meal for two days because I felt like I was dying but I had to save and work on the things for my application and my parent’s money last year–and that’s something that very few people can cry about. Privilege existed when I even had the opportunity to gather funds for my application fees. Privilege existed when I even had the opportunity to collapse from exhaustion over anything school-related. Privilege existed with all the problems I had, be it the mental health issues that I went through, the stress over school, or anything.

It’s more of nitpicking on the irrational attacks, I guess. Aside from the tweets offhandedly telling everyone on the list to gouge their eyes out or the ones assuming that we’re all going to become investment bankers or actuarial scientists sending out LinkedIn requests all day that will abandon the country completely because studying abroad and the mere existence of the F-1 Visa is the greatest form of desertion, the criticism is more than fair.

We are incredibly privileged to different degrees, but all face realities that a huge portion of Filipinos will never have the chance to experience. Breaking the barrier, however, still remains a near-impossible occurrence, but there are internationals I know bearing that Visa and ticket out that deserve the applause. With that, it’s not completely just to equate the mere act of studying abroad as privilege in itself. It is privilege indeed because of the status, but beforehand, there are stories of people (that may not be as prominent as international school! tycoon!) that deserve the attribution of going against an incredible amount of obstacles. That exception, against all other students in the country, is miraculous, but it is present.

On invalidation, god, no. Getting into the school is validation in itself already from chance and being favored by whatever odds out there, especially as I was a student needing a near-full amount of financial aid–the same should be said of anyone else sharing a similar path.

Privilege is something that I can say explained everything that comprised me: my education, financial aid requirements, vocation, activities and interests, essays, dreams–but it’s not what all of those only are. To take it as an attack is selfishly defensive, especially as someone of that status. Privilege had everything to do with my ability to work hard, be smart, and pursue things that admissions officers ended up loving too, but it’s not all that I am and that’s the view that should be held. In the same sense, being of that capacity because of the privilege you have does not make someone that gets into those schools immediately. Perhaps most people may not understand the process, let alone the actual difficulty of it, but inherently the ability of only having surface-level issues such as this is privilege in itself and renders that worry as something that should be pretty… negligible in the grand scheme of things. Does it really matter now that we’re in the schools? It should challenge us to do better, to give back. To put pressure onto a system that shaped us that we have more capacity to change for the common man than what the common man holds.

Angles and celebration

I took the first Town & Country article as inspiring and pressuring at the same time. Overall, it was a pretty positive (yet quite strange and elitist) fuel for determination and work. I know no one who had ever gone to study abroad from the country, so the premise of a list oriented on that was new, exciting, and hope-inducing. At that time and until now, knowledge about international admissions is sorted in online cliques and circles, especially Filipino-centric ones. Firsthand advice is limited to knowing students from international schools, or knowing someone who knows someone; being someone from a pretty well-off private Catholic school in urban Metro Manila, odds aren’t great of this being accessible if even I and the people around me didn’t know it.

The annual article obviously continues to be a celebration and mother-bragging material for international students. It gets attention, and you can bet that they’ll continue doing it next year, moreso that more and more students are being exposed and learning about the possibility of studying abroad. It’s unfair to frame it and be disappointed at it in its entirety when it’s really something about… people headed internationally. That’s the point. It’s inherently constrained to those who managed to go abroad, and though it needs a lot more representation especially from students outside the NCR area, considering the privileged nature of having the educational and financial capacity to even attempt international education, the article stands as it is. Education and the barriers surrounding it, are another issue that can’t be blamed on an article framed for a very specific topic on a very random publication that isn’t even oriented for the mainstream.

As a change, it’s nice to see articles celebrating excellence and education (though in a very exclusive matter due to the nature of the piece) rather than listing off children of celebrities and musicians and actors that look good in their latest Instagram post that local publications are already drowning in. It could have existed in worse forms. Instead of framing disappointment at an article that wouldn’t actually do much than circle local Twitter, I’d love to see local publications filling in other markets playing copycat and finding students excelling in fields despite hardships and circumstances to spotlight. If the Town & Country article appealed to me, I can’t imagine how wholesome one that spoke of a story targeted towards the masses would be in inspiring other learners and students from all backgrounds to continue, strive, and share dreams.

We may not be able to expect the same publication launching more lists to cater to students, especially since it doesn’t fit their demographic. It’s also incredibly silly to expect it from them, or to think that a niche article on only students who study abroad is the sole dictator for success published by a luxury magazine. It’s more of an encouraging thing marketed to families with the capacity to raise children like that to be excellent like those who went for it in the contrary to all those who did not or wasted the potential they had with it.

It’s time to hope that the investment banking nightmare, post-graduation settlement in New York City and all doesn’t become a reality. Instead, hope that every student praised in these luxury lists soon come back to incite change with the added knowledge and formation from their time in some of the world’s best educational institutions.

The article celebrates a very small angle that I’m grateful to be part of and was lucky to have seen the year prior; though I know that what the list presents is a very poor indicator of true excellence in the perspective of the country at large. It’s a small step that needs a lot of work, but know that the true narrative for the hardworking, leader of tomorrow exists in places outside of this and may we be pursuant to creating those. Moreover, one day, a world where it wouldn’t be a place in just a luxury magazine or something “exclusive” for the majority of Filipino students going for international education dreams. For now, the series is nice to have as an inspiration, especially with more diversification and depth on the background each student had.

Sharing the American Dream

Getting into Yale was hard. I’ve made a bunch of whiny posts and unwanted rants to friends about it through the process. Yes, I went through a self-imposed, surface level personal hell with the work I had done, but never faced the objective, harsher reality that most people my age in this country face. Getting into Yale is even more hard–impossible–without the privilege and position I had in life, but most people don’t even know what Yale is. Getting into Yale isn’t impossible for people with the similar resources to me (near full-need international, got through with a ton of waivers, from a non-global foreign-confused school), and shouldn’t be thought of as such. As much as holistic admissions tries to level the playing field for the middle-class international student, there are countless students that still would never have the opportunity to even step out and try. Getting into Yale shouldn’t be possible solely for students on academic scholarships, or with all the extra hours to seek resources, but should be something that should one day, be an education that Filipinos should have the capacity to attain and know of.

As someone on the list and in the state I am in now, I sincerely hope we can create more dialogues that are inclusive of what most Filipinos face, especially to the masses that need it most. Getting into Yale in itself is a surreal, hazy dream that should stir me awake to combat the inequality in the world I come from, especially in a country rife of it with huge socioeconomic gaps. There’s no dismissal, there’s no attack, there is solely a waking reality that should be acknowledged by the presence of my name on the list, having benefited from an unjust system that I then should spend my advanced position towards dismantling. In the meantime, these steps and stories should be advanced and shared with everyone bearing capacity to work towards shifting a system that robs so many of the nation’s true leaders of tomorrow of these opportunities. The only pedestal I am placed on as a “leader” or “young achiever” is one that necessitates and obliges me to make change and time to give back after the gift of a higher education that most can only dream of.

Beyond that, I swear that with all that I was given in life, I’ll raise hell at college and make the most out of where I’m going, do some self-indulgent learning on the way, come and do more than just give back, and reinvent a world I swore to.* With what I was given in life, it’s what I’m meant to die trying to do.

 

 


 

To high school students interested in pursuing undergraduate studies in the United States or if you have any questions in general, please feel free to talk to me at chiamisola@gmail.com. I went to a high school that had no experience with international admissions, studied with pen-and-paper and online resources (sort of, didn’t have time to study but I have resources!) for standardized tests, got payment waivers for most things, and didn’t start writing anything til a month before the deadline. Basically, I didn’t know what I was doing. The process is convoluted and I’d love to clear it up and introduce you to resources/help if you need. If you are interested, don’t be discouraged.

*My answers on the article were cut, so I’d like to share what I actually said especially on the questions about what I’d like to do when I return + why I’d like to study computer science!

a poem for the evening sun

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
in false things and delusions; the tap
water running to drown out the sound
of the shivers at seven. In the quiet
moments and the bare body on the
camera or the lost prophet in the home
and altar. Reciting His name again and
again will absolve this household of
sin, we believed.

 

I believe in emptiness, in ajar mouth
and rewired brains. Tap dancing on
the throe of loneliness and kicking bags
over fences; the presence of smokescreen
or radiation in June evenings–the same
infallible empty. Like buckled belts
and car crash memoir, weighing life
for small games and chances and the
redundancy of trying.

 

I believe in belief, in healing towards
the dead. The picket fence and the
turn towards atheism, boys equating
running and late nights to freedom for
the drone of the system to repeat itself
again. Where momentarily my verse
becomes a soldier, the escape or done
vow to something again–the summer
solstice and the painted moon towards
revival of mankind and him alone.

 

I believe in myself, in my body cleansed
with the stomach pumped and the ebbing
of a thousand ancestors before me as
my mouth seeps in the alcohol with the
bowels emptied in a continuous war waged
with the self. Remember killing the crevice
so as not to harm the others, pre-desecrating
my funeral for twig, bark, and journals–
decapitating man with the sleight of hand.

 

I believe in the hold of wrist, the flicker of
light for prejudice to uphold warmth beyond
the bruises. Repentance amidst the four
time bathroom mirror, the seat the only
altar I bow towards at eighteen. In accordance
with middle school, the repetition of my
life and the blood coursing through your
eyes the lock and sole measure of all
my mortality left. I hear the whisper of a
voice and realize it was never mine.

 

I believe in your sound, in renewal and
rejuvenation. In cleansing and false Bible
stories and reinvention of all prophets
and ring bearers–in apocalyptic nows
and self-fulfilling suicides. In the tomorrow
or midnight sun, in the remnants of
what is good and what is left in a world
doomed before we had even been born
in it–in time we never asked for. In search
of the gaps, where I mind memory and
equivocate belief with a prayer.