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heart rates and gold

My idea of self-worth has often been defined by superficial things. For the most part, life has been a journey of understanding who I want to be and what I want to be a part of–grasping onto things that make me feel bigger and significant. Everything we live through is fragile and empty and I am daring to do something that would make me feel alive.

This is a confession to you. This is part of the footnote, or perhaps the conclusion. This is something intended to be bittersweet, or something like that. This is something you would never read.

I am confident that humanity’s goal is to love and create.

When I was a child, all that I could think of was to write. It was disastrous crayon-on-walls and pen-on-arm, but it was something that I was proud of. Happiness was the tangible stain of ink and the feeling of color flourishing through everything–as if wax would compensate for emptiness and loneliness. It was through the sun with shades on the corner and a rainbow pouring out into a home of bad anatomy that I found gratification: hands holding hands to compensate for the foreign encounters that would feel like nothing, over and over again.

Then, I got older and it became something of an obsession. Code would become a poetic fixation: there was this one summer where every single day, I would wake up, write, nap a bit, and write more. I flooded a Blogspot with over 100 entries, all about different things–diverse topics and drawings and artistry that you would believe that it was written for someone. Half of those posts live with about 30 views, and I am confident that if I hadn’t written that much I might have killed myself instead. Writing is an outlet to which my madness roams free. It is where I judge the grammar and metaphors within someone’s suicide note when all they want to do is scream about death or scavenge for something deep and believable within text messages.

I never had to make anything with you.

It was as if living was substantial. My existence (something that I never asked for, that any of us ever had to ask for) was justified and valid without having to constantly create and turn myself into decay. Late nights spent talking and staring at ceilings instead of constantly turning to blue laptop screens and falling victim to overworking, stress, and third-quarter life crises at the age of seventeen. I told you too that I would kill myself before I turned eighteen. Some days I am so confident of the fact that I’ll prove you right. You told me I wouldn’t do it. If we could talk now, I still think I would.

I am confident that humanity’s goal is to love and create and I am capable of neither of those things. Not in reception, not in understanding–not in the fact that those 100 blog posts are measured for deletion and have grown dead to link rot. Not at all when I have died constantly and felt like nothing, most of those days. There is no beauty in someone who has been rejected all of her life and falls far too fatal.

What I’m saying is: the way you had broken me and made me judge my own body until I had condemned myself into this morbid, perpetual state of trying to figure myself out and nights awake with the cusp of metal–or begging you to turn off a fucking game and breathe for a second the way I let you crumble and fall into my own knees while picking all your pieces up in the morning sun or watch you apologize for falling asleep and tell you over and over that it’s okay and that we are alive and that there is so much to look out for and you are entirely mine and now there’s nothingness and not even hellos and life is so fucking painful not being enough for a single person and not being enough for a single word and not being enough with the sum of my dreams and vocations and ideals and somehow, somewhere, I thought that this could have been some signal or anchor to live. But I have never really lived at all.

And when you give someone your entire life at the frail, impressionable age of seventeen and watch them hit eighteen alone and barely awake and aimlessly well with the same monotonous drone of clicks and bangs while you lie at the same windowsill they had abandoned you and made you whole at, you wonder if you will ever be enough for anything. In terms of academics. In terms of belief. In terms of trying to figure out if human connection is worth the chance of severance or if the threat of severance makes anything more than casual encounters meaningful. Like I can try to navigate touch after touch and empty laughter and joke after another and be some mysterious being that brings herself in and out and then goes home in the dead of the night to send out more 2:00AM emails; disappearing as soon as I came, like touch after touch after touch there would have been something but as I said, I never wanted better I just wanted this kind of pained conflict. I wanted that goodbye at the airport and that part where you woke up early for me exactly thrice in three years and I wanted that pained conversation where you could look someone this colossal in the eye and say that you never wanted this anymore and we both know that wouldn’t happen because you could never fall out with some god.

Humanity is fragile. Humanity doesn’t know what it wants. Humanity is a college degree and alcohol and knowledge picked up from song lyrics and satirical television shows by depressed, narcissistic, and underpaid writers to teach the next generation how to laugh at their own sadness and pick themselves apart before anyone else can.

How unfair is it that you still ring in my head when I listen to certain songs. How commonplace is it that we entrust other people with parts of ourselves–the songs we enjoy, lyrics that we sing and turn into small hymns as exchanges and serenades. We put so much value into arbitrary labels and milestones. First love, first fuck, first fuckup, first regret. There’s not much that I can say, really. I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t relive it. I would try to stay where I am now, no lapse of time phasing me, still reaching out. But you would never reach back. It was never that way, anyway.

It was toxicity since the very beginning. I waited a month back then and four months on five, I am almost confident that I would wait until the end of things. I would wait for your name to show up as a guest and a frequent mention on the eulogy, but you wouldn’t even attend the funeral, I bet. I imagine your eyes as soulless as the day you told me you felt nothing and mine when I was worried and speechless, swearing to make you feel until everything wound back in reverse and life had became puppetry and manipulation and interdependence. I imagine you in your room tasting the black char of a body gone to ash, and for the first time feeling everything. The package comes in a few days later and you either burn it or keep it safe. Nobody is sane.

There was a conversation we had about how fatalistic this all seemed. You told me that was the perfect word to describe me, too. I told you that loving the greatest sinners was the most beautiful virtue that one could possess: that true man does not give up on anyone, not even the worst of them. That this meant that I could sell my soul into forgiving you if you were at the ends of the world. It meant that the idea of you was so volatile, that the tunnel vision-drawl at your face and everything else would mean everything to me.


When writing, I gave you everything I could in words. There are parts of me that can never really be expressed in that way; not in the sum of my poetry or online rants, not in the drabbles or the margins of my physics notes nor in the eighteen iterations of suicide notes that exist somewhere in the middle of my iPhone notes and the Word documents on the desktop of my personal computer.

They say that we are worth more than this: we are our passions and our favorite songs, the places we are going and the people we have loved (how telling would that part be if they truly knew our story?), the loneliness in the middle of the night and the gaping prayers or the feeling of dread when we think something is going to kill us in the morning dawn. This is what hurts, though: I have given you every second, something that you yourself hate, and do not regret it at all. The sum of that was something that you easily discarded, replaced with flash fiction and numbers. In quantitative terms, you think of me less and less and I of you much more exponentially–growing, fading, cascading, an irrational pathway with no clear paradigm or roadmap. And god, is it beautiful to love someone until you yourself break. It is beautiful to lie in the corner of my room against your guitar and the things I truly love–to lie in blissful unawareness of being unable to play and only receiving the first message from you in three weeks because you wanted it back one night and then suddenly you don’t care just like how you never cared about anything in your family or in the future or about anyone that could even remotely love you but without the grace of alcohol and the low tolerance of a newborn’s skin. Your laughter is intoxicating but it is the epitome of a boy who thinks he has lived because he spent time reflecting alone in his room, hating the world, and reading half a Haruki Murakami book. You do not know shit. I want to tell you that. I want to tell you that this could have been so much more. That you are no longer the reason for my words but the reason for all of my regrets and sorrows. That anchorage to you would have been setting my life in that futile fatalism that you told me I embodied–because you are everything that I fear about myself personified and magnified to such extremes; you’re like thunderous death and the rasp of fire and the kick of insanity on the verge of living and of loving.

One day, you will meet someone who will make you feel like you know the world at the back of your hand. Everyone around you is beneath you–lower. This is the drabble and dust of cigarette smoke and intoxication on alleyways and streets where privileged boys with sad songs and empty memories learn how to break bottles before they do the world. You will sit on the edge of buildings and make memories that are better because they are not remembered.

You met someone who could have sworn on loneliness and changing the world. You met someone who is everything because they know how much they do not know and seek a world where life is determined by pauses and tendrils of holding on; where human connection is not raptured by another but instead a wonderful, interconnected chain of shared knowledge and learning and empathy but you are one with the flow of feigned maturity and goodbyes attuned with the rhythm of distance when in the end we’re all going to be in the same fucking death voice–my humanity is not a measure of how often we will see each other and collapse and kiss and which girl is the most interesting three shots in and can regurgitate the most lines out of a dead writer anyway.

I never wanted to live in a bubble, and when you said that I realized how far out this would have gone. How I would have been dragged into a life of complacency.

As futile as the world seems, it is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for. You are worth living to see thrive and succeed and laugh and come back to nothing and the garage door beneath the July rain in every synonym for sorry, and then you will not remember the game you had abandoned me for in those nights where I watched what would have been the pinnacle of knowing one another in a road of so much more.

She is delightful in rose-colored glasses; she is voracious and edgy and everything that seems desirable because she whispers all the right words and all the right thoughts and it makes sense and nobody knows anything, nobody knows anything and I don’t know how long it will take for that to get in your head and I loved someone who would never walk into hell but would stick himself in purgatory and I think I am not getting in anywhere and we’re turning eighteen with no idea of what life is and no idea of what it means to live.

You will meet someone who makes you know the world like the back of your hand. She does not know anything. You do not know anything.

The world has fallen.

Here, you wake up with the only people that can breathe in.




// 2:39AM – March 3rd, i couldn’t if i tried; i gave you everything but i am used to being brushed aside bypeople who have glimpses of my entire humanity anyway

Vagrants (dream schools and whatever)

So, I finished my applications.

I gave in and dropped one, so my Common Application list only reads (19) instead of that sweet, maximum (20). How did this happen? I told myself after clutching January 1 supplements that I am never, ever going to do that again. I’m going to finish my January 15 ones right away.

Did that happen?
Of course not.

It’s a new year and I cannot remember the last time I’ve arbitrarily assigned something to be a form of renewal. Not new numbers, not clockwork, not time or dates or anything that can be quantified, really. My rebirth is in something far less tangible: in moments of realization while staring at the bedroom ceiling, in showers or the procrastination before one, in long drives home when I can’t fall asleep and instead feel the leather of the car seat tugging and marking my skin when normally it should be numb and I should sleep and drift off and feel nothing until that certain pattern of turns that I just memorize and wake up to right before we head home.

I wonder if I’ll remember those patterns a few months from now. The bump of the car ride, walking through the gate, or the nod of the sky down towards my daily grind; I wonder if any of this matters. If I should be taking int

The hardest part about this process, as I’ve told many others, is the uncertainty of it all. It’s either me depositing my enrollment at a local university (of which the only two that I’ve applied to, I got into, first choice and all). My first decision from my international applications comes this February 2, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I have no idea what it could mean, or what to expect; I just know that soon, I’ll be facing a string of rejections–something that is honestly unfamiliar to me, something that I have to learn inevitably.

Before the Ateneo decisions came out, I was afraid. I totally messed up the math portions of the test. I literally forgot how to do basic problems involving averages because my mind was so convoluted and out of it; it came from panic and fear and realization that I hadn’t studied or prepared at all–the most preparation coming from me is taking pictures of someone’s reviewer a week beforehand and not really doing anything with those questions until the night before and panicking a bit because what am I doing am I ready oh god. The last thing I remember from that night was relearning the trigonometric values for common angles, then everything a blur. Dizzy from the test. First post-standardized testing coma. I was convinced that, if anything, I’d just get into my third choice–the only non-honors course from my selection, which was Creative Writing. I would be fine with that.

When they announced that results were coming out in a few hours, I started panicking. No way I got into Computer Science with my mind at that state.

I watched a livestream, the blur passing by an abundance of As from Abad, Acuna and beyond. Then, I saw a glimpse of a name a bit too long. I paused and rewinded a bit, waited for the 180p to manifest itself into at least a barely visible 360p, then I saw my name.

I apologized to the people I confessed my fear to earlier, and then I felt nothing. Like another check on the college spreadsheet, except it isn’t even going on it. It’s just a fact. I waited again for DLSU, my name passing and flashing in with a “Congratulations,” and all I could think was that it was just a fact.

It’s literally impossible.

I apply, and pour my soul out into things that will never matter. Stupid things that humans do, right? Acting beyond rationality and logic, 0.0000001%, nothing redeeming, nothing that could potentially…

Yet, I know. So I tell myself to not open it. Because I know what’s behind that decision portal already, and I know no packages are going to make their way here. I know my entire human being is a waste; that even if I were born another way or took some other path–it’s the fact that this one didn’t quite make the cut for basic human decency. I hate myself more than anyone else could, really.

Whenever I think about college acceptances, I fantasize about making everybody around me proud. I think about their cheers when saying, “See? I always told you,” or “of all people, it would be you.” I think about how they would congratulate me in the hallways and recite the names of the colleges I get in during graduation, I think about receiving some sort of recognition for my pursuits in science and technology–sometimes, I dream about the silver MIT tube, the celebratory dance and how I would be the first after someone so godlike last year. That I won’t have to worry about being “average” because I made it into my dream school, one of the only places on the list that I breathe in and long to do countless things towards and how I am going to make up for anyone’s doubts–I will live in those hallways and produce research and laugh and smile because I am driven by creation and engineering and numbers and the world and I know they are too.

Then, reality comes again, and I think about myself on the fourteenth of March (or, a day later for me), in the morning and opening my first rejection and telling my parents only weeks later and apologizing for the money spent and how the interview could have went better and maybe, maybe if I tested better and was a bit more genuine and just understood how statistics and the odds were always against me, were always a bitter war that waged on and on that I could never just step in and save myself from because how I take tests in sittings I cannot begin to understand dictate my future and the boundaries that hold and maybe in my whole life I’ve never really deserved places like this and then:

I have to forget the image of my mom, screenshotting and finally speaking up against all the repeats. Alternatively, the weight placed on my grandmother, the smile in knowing that I was the first in my family to have gone on to a school of this caliber, let alone abroad. I have to forget the picturesque bow upon graduation, them trailing off the list of the 24 schools I’ve applied to with more than half of them as acceptances (hopefully), I have to forget the me that just talks about college applications and the fear of the future because I have no idea what living in the moment means or counts for.

My mind erases the image of me struggling, probably placed in the most basic of introductory math classes to a single step up in science, but shining in every other aspect. I imagine myself, unafraid, unapologetic and laughing in the streets of New England: embracing the cold, away from the mini tundra I create and conquer in my own room for it opens up a whole new world of bliss and understanding–interning at KhanAcademy, doing actual legitimate research for the first time, speaking in a room where everyone else is just as fearful but infinitely bright. I forget about the what-if connections and stare at the 0.05% acceptance rate, how I am not special, how my personality isn’t a precarious ray of light that would stun the admissions committee when I still often remain the ghost of the room when my anxieties bring me down and escort me to a self-made coffin. I think about how they’ll look over the numbers and the words, sigh and vote off an easy rejection: how my numbers alone cannot satisfy, and suffice to say–I am just not enough.

I think about how I would write 50,000 words for MIT. Maybe even more. But then, I’d do that for everyone.

What have I done, really?

I’m going somewhere I deserve, I think.

Even if I dread the place, that means it’s up to me to suffer and make the most out of it or just live through it in the pain and die or something. If I love the place, then”fit” is a word that means something and is of semblance. I think about how I’m desperate to find myself at a place that would also love me the way I love it, so I’m living on the brink of everything and on the notion that it would make sense, I hope. It would be what I deserve, whatever it is.

At times, I wonder what I’ve accomplished in seventeen years of living. After realizing how my answers shit from self-anger, brink of relapse “nothings” to god-complex variants of “everything,” the answer is truly subjective. What matters though, is everything laid out objectively, what they can draw out from the hours per week and the weeks per year and how I cannot possibly contain every night I’ve cried working on something believing that I could do this until I drop dead, or the days where I revel in how far we’ve gone.

Nothing, fuck.

Nothing, I’ve done nothing in the sense that everyone around me does make me feel like it’s nothing. Nothing in the sense that it feels like I’m getting to every deadend; that perhaps if this is what I want to do as well, that my life’s journey is going to take me to this hell. I feel remorse and anger whenever I hear people speaking about their story and journey–thinking “holy shit I do what they do in months in mere days” and how my drive will never really set me apart if I don’t make the connections and whatnot to push things forward.

But, I don’t enjoy talking or pushing myself up for awards. I enjoy making, writing, discovering. I am perfectly content with being undiscovered myself for as long as I can endlessly fashion things and pour my soul into it all that I do.  Every single second not spent doing something I label productive, I call wasted–I feel endlessly lost to a system that drives me for all the reasons, and I call myself nothing and become nothing indeed.

What have I accomplished? Nothing, really. Nothing at all.

Everyone else is so fucking fantastic, but there’s a point where this no longer drives me to do better and, with zero affirmation, makes me wonder why I am here at all, in this place. Why I walk through these halls and see how depressing it is that our lessons are behind and that potential and future is dead and lost in redirections and waitlists and should I not be more than this, part of some bigger picture?

He is so fucking condescending, but it’s for the best–reaffirming all my fears. I will never be happy with who I am, and I will never go anywhere.

I honestly don’t think my “fit” is here. There’s something and a longing for more, there’s this dreaded unfamiliarity and the way institutions here look at their students–different and snide and condescending in contrast to the value and worth I feel, even for a moment, in places beyond. I think about how I feel absolutely nothing: pity, remorse, a wish that perhaps, someone else more deserving and more fitting would take this slot–determined only by useless numbers and a transcript and a score from a poorly-made test.

Then, I think about self-worth and belief and that maybe I am also what I want: I am the passion I have and the person I portrayed in my writing, I am the ambition in cluttered additional informations and the fear in the common application essay. I am the drive in endless hours and the soft voice with nervous laughter trembling in the interviewer’s notes, the standout standin in the recommendations. I am vulnerability in the short answers and strange, awkward quips in lapses of verse: the rushed submissions and the fourth read that still doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps, I deserve to feel something. Perhaps it is universal that we do not always get what we deserve; in its most theistic sense, this is all a chaotic dance. No fate, no bigger things. All that is left is to pull it out, a lock or clasp that puts us out of our misery.

Sorry in advance to everyone that believed in me.

specter .1

Over the weekend, after sulking into an existential abyss of holiday depression (my regularly scheduled Christmas one that just kind of happens because of traumatic incidents that happened in my adolescent, formative years) I got an idea for a game.

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Greetings. It is 11PM on a Sunday night and I am dying. Normally this doesn’t happen until about 4AM, which is why it’s quite strange. Here are my top emo songs of the year, not necessarily from the year, but of the year. Get ready to go down and get wild. Your local emo (TRUE EMO NOT FAKE EMO LIKE MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE AND AMERICAN FOOTBALL REAL EMO IS PAGENINETYNINE AND BLABLABLA… kidding) is about to show you what true torment in the form of soundwaves and lyrically-induced existential crisis is all about.

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Outside Gate 2.5

Outside Gate 2.5
Here, I am the rich. I, ilk of captive
grasslands; interim of conversation and
strangers of shared descent. This discomfort

will follow – as oxide stains the validity of
tonsils, leaked of coarse throat, straining,
frugal with desire to be heard. I abuse the

story I come from. Here, a gun asks for a
namesake. His crippled hips grin of a lawless
history, scorned of the 70s. Hands shuffle us

inside. Tell us for a moment, we must finally
scream for our own selves. I, voiceless for
a future, has entanglement clock our sameness,

our waning fear of living. Inside, they pick up
all our mangled selves, sputtered of wax; and so
we become ember, holding onto life again. We

become your voice, ascent to fueling the ends
of times, like gunshots splayed of freefall towards
streets. Here, I am the rich, burdened of word –

further, they tell us not to fight again. Further, they
say we do not seek them. To this I wonder the
requirement of boiling my skin, or piecing apart

the words we give in pursuit of breathing human.
Or, so begins the collection of cardboard. Corrugated
certainty – and we never give the name. Here, wither life

failed of repetitions. History lessons: Hilao, Quimpo,
to which the voice is of wax or prestige – here,
never again.

(Never again.)


I like complaining about this arduous process that I don’t even supposedly have to subject myself to; it’s 1:17 AM and I’m anxiously waiting for it to hit 4:00AM (or 3PM EST) so I can receive my subject test scores. I realize here, that I am consumed by the process in one way or another. The worst part of it all is that I am letting myself be subject to it, and doing nothing but falling deeper and deeper into an endless, self-deprecating mess of numbers, words, and rankings. Here lies a coalesced ramble of feelings about being jammed into numbers, figures — and wondering if there ever really was anything more.

Thinking back to the roots of it all, I try to remember why I fight. Like everyone else was, at the age of seven or so — I was meticulously crafted to live for the only guise of praise from only my parents. Their words were the highest honor – and still now, countless people live in the shadow of not receiving that pride and affection beyond a Facebook post – flatlining for words from people once so formative.

I think about the complacency held and the endless, regurgitating suburban nightmare. This descent into crisis. Middle-aged complexity of the week: drilling into my son the unwoven alphabet over the dinner table, which brand of orange juice is better, and the optimal drive to work with minimal humps. Then it boils down to me how every story they had ever told was not of what to come, or what they hold; rather, it’s reminiscence at a past long gone, an uncomfortable breakdown of narcissism or glory years. My eyes are so settled on these next few months that I can’t picture myself the same way. Over a table, quivering from the dose of coffee and confiding in my children the stories that I went through — these were the shittiest years of my life, and if anything — I would swear myself off if I live a life where the peak is anything but the end.

Perhaps, of all things — what I have learned most from them is a life deprived of passion, of greater things, or of general open-mindedness is a life rooted in peaking at high school and never believing in the mysteries and ardor of life save for false pews and derelict pamphlets. God save myself being the one handed the brochures. I want to be something more than this. I want to face a world where I am constantly challenged, but also not constrained due to quantities and percentiles. I fight for the idea that my passion will carry me through, and that my belief in myself and what I do will hold a far greater testament as to who I am than numbers and figures.

To hell with the safe route.

People ask me why I want to “go abroad” for an education. Every single time I answer, I still have that fearful glimpse of myself playing safe and doing everything from here, learning some new things and mixing with people from up north and all around the country. Not demeaning the educational system we have in any way, though — I just can’t seem to stand the idea of playing safe. I actually, in all honesty, can’t picture myself sitting here. It’s strange that I can’t envision myself stuck here when it’s all I’ve ever known for the past seventeen years, moreso when I never really took this desire to apply abroad seriously until a few months back. Though there’s something so enthralling about what I’ve realized, too. I want to get into research, fit myself into new opportunities, be a more global person. I have grown to be a bit selfish in the sense of putting the needs of the world above myself — though that would oppose what that means. As if it’s only the feigned “bigger picture” that matters to me over personal concerns or worries, and that my absolution is earned

When I think about it, it isn’t the subjectivity of what education is more rewarding or “better” in the long-term, but it’s what feels right. At the moment, I can’t fit myself into anything but this meticulously crafted foreign student plunged into a new world and culture trying to juggle a newfound competitive course load while maximizing everything around her. Picturing me, struggling in terms of academics, never relaxed but ultimately overwhelmingly satisfied and fulfilled is endearing. Falling in love with the work I do, the people I meet, and everything that I get to learn about the world in a fantastic new blend of culture and innovation that spurs a neverending bout of inspiration, furthered by the opportunities and resources offered at a place I have so much to learn about. Redefining the perspective of what we qualify as a “whole” or “fulfilling” education.

Or, you know. I also have every right to believe that my fulfillment — which everyone measures or finds in different ways — is simply not found here. I can’t picture myself happy, no matter how strained my vitality could be, or how much opportunities suddenly begin to pop up with the blessing of connections. I have every right to pick a fit, and I’m finding a hard time trying to love the very places that the past seventeen years has said that I, along with everyone else I had grown up with, would love and be destined to end up in and leave once more.

I also question the education left here for different reasons.

Not just because the Philippines is assumed to be “subpar” at immediate glance — but it indeed, is shady as hell. I am tired of expectancy to fall into one of the “big four” schools. In truth, what is so good about them other than the prestige that they hold? All my life it’s either La Salle, Ateneo, or UP and I have people around me raised with the same notions that don’t even know where their campuses are located or if Ateneo or ADMU are different things. It’s ridiculous. This is another aspect of life here that is in itself, standardized.

First, I am expected to sit through ridiculous, inconsistent entrance exams that these schools offer no prior knowledge about. Not a single notice of what the test contents are, the timing of the exam sections, or anything beyond “oh, you shouldn’t even have to study; it’s a culmination of everything you’ve learned throughout high school.” To have a single idea of what the contents of these test questionnaires are like, I have to humbly beg my friends who shell out thousands of pesos for books to be thrown at them in month-long tutoring services since, gaming the national college admission system and creating a monopoly out of being the only reliable source of questions that have any sort of semblance to the insanity that is these standardized tests are is a recipe for richness. Is it not the very least concerning that admissions offices are giving crucial announcements over social media, are on the borderline of unreachable, treat college tours like a joke in answering the questions of their applicants, and genuinely give very, very poor information are overruled by the power of “word of mouth” on what is actually on the tests? Since I didn’t particularly latch on to a token degree and path here, I never had the opportunity to have peers or elders dig into me about how amazing their college was or what I should be knowing for a test that should perhaps, take a step forward in having it distinctly laid out.

In defense of the Common App-ruled admissions game, I have gained a lot more respect for essays and writing supplements beyond deciding which students are worthy of an education through mere systematic beatings from numbers. Not that there are a lot of problems latent with plagiarism, fraud, or the disparity and step backwards for poor writers with better numbers — but a holistic process is so much more appealing and makes rejection a little more cruel (seeing that they see words that you poured your heart out on, spent the past three months editing and then the last two weeks rewriting constantly before reverting to the third draft from two months back) and acceptance a lot more rewarding. There are certain educational systems here that don’t even bother asking you for your activities. It’s just… your score on their standardized test (poorly constructed and is quite a terrible indicator for success in college), percentile rank, high school transcript (not even one that is viewed in terms of rigor — hello grade inflation and easy classes). In defense of such a ridiculous system that seems so overtly and complex and arduous, at least this gives people a fighting chance and makes us seem more like numbers rather than a spreadsheet of scores to decide upon. After spending countless hours writing these essays, waking up in cold sweat in the dead of the night and deciding to rewrite them after sparking of an idea, or still trembling to write a complete and coherent Common Application essay even until now — it feels dehumanizing and empty to only have to report a 1×1 ID picture and some numbers for the biggest and best colleges that are here. Although it’s an admission officer’s game, who is to say that I don’t have the right to bear some hesitations and concerns when the decision is made as easily as that — without consideration as to who the person behind the numbers is, or what one with the lack thereof can do when words can tell so much more than figures?

Not now.

Life owes me some sort of pause in how quick everything is paced. Yet, beyond every struggle and trial, every doubt and mishap, I go through every single day just thinking a bit more that I really am not fit for life here, not quite yet. I want to spend my education basking in how much harder everything is going to be, and how I should probably be a little less social awkward to get a campus job to help sustain my financial needs and how I really have to be working on my paper and oh gosh how do I get to office hours and ask questions without looking too dumb and being shy as hell in everything — sort of masochistic how I want to suffer and strain myself both psychologically, emotionally, and mentally. I can name universities that I believe I could offer something new in and would love to beg for financial aid to have a chance to show that, if I could. I can name places and why I have began to love them and converse with strangers from around the world. They talk about what small little things make their place… theirs, and I feel some longing to call it mine one day, too. I think about the diversity of people, the endless opportunities, and everything I could bring back here once changing again. Maybe it’s my love for research and how I want to experience the glory of a well-endowed (?) place with people who truly love what they do and do so beyond the need for requirements. Maybe it’s wanting to be with the brightest from all-around and fuel my overachieving hollow shell. Maybe it’s because I have stupid daydreams about being there, and having a hard time, but still — no matter how hard I feel I’ll fall academically, or how quiet and fearful I would be, I can picture myself rising, believing, and having no one but an unyielding mind and spirit to push me forward. In the end, no matter how terrifying I feel it will be, I still believe in the decision of someone who had passed by countless seventeen-year olds and decided that there was enough spark in me to give me a chance. Beyond that, damn — it makes me smile when I think of what I could become, and how I could see the world, and how it would never, in a four-year or so journey be easy, which is exactly the way I want it to be.

Earlier, I was considering starting a college admissions process blog for international applicants. Then, I came to my senses and realized that was probably not the best idea when I am still struggling myself and the fact that it’s also November and deep into the process and I only have a slightly larger idea of what I am doing at all.

I signed up for three subject tests, Literature, Math 2, and Physics on the fourth of November but ended up only taking the first two since I was pretty fearful for Physics. It’s two minutes til score release and I am afraid. I took the ACT the Saturday before that and felt pretty decently about it, which almost always amounts to something bad — and still haven’t received my score on the Friday after the first score release; this either means that something went terribly wrong, or ACT just decided to bless me with a dose of anxiety and uncertainty after already initially delaying the scores.

Studying is a mess, or rather, I am. It’s fun to me, actually. But not when I attempt to cram formulas into a graphing calculator I just bought that ends up getting its memory wiped. Or when I deplete three yellow pads in quick succession. Or when I attempt to cram everything in the Physics subject test in two days because of how impossible it is to study in such a deluded environment.

I am not, at all, deserving of scores with how lightly I have been treating test prep. It’s bordering on miraculous how I’m still persevering for an abundance of reaches with how little I seem to have been doing. I waltz in to tests only having prepared the week beforehand and lightly so on the weekends, but neglecting everything else. My life is a complete and utter haze, and I have no idea what has been going on between these standardized tests. They’re marks of months and time for me, wake up calls. The next one is in exactly two weeks, where I take Physics and… Math II again? Literature? Depending on how I do with the scores I was supposed to see sixteen minutes ago. Physics is for the sole purpose of being able to apply to those insane dream schools that need a science score, which means MIT and only MIT, of course.

Holistic, right? This piece of me isn’t that attractive. One of the things I wish I could have told myself sooner, or have been forced to do beforehand is to begin taking subject tests and standardized tests early so that the cost could be spread out over time and that I wouldn’t be burning myself out in the blaze of college admissions through simultaneously mashing optics and harmonics formulas in my head while thinking about why Babson would want me in a wonderful, unequivocal assertion of my love for them through lyric and short supplements. Though I can spout everything I want about passion and what I have done in the past, something that I never realized would be the inadequacy of certain scores holding me back. Physics holding me back from the dreamy stupor of a school that I know I would be ripping myself apart (in all the good ways) in, or the disappointment and shame in sending my initial SAT take (rest in peace) to places that require all their scores.

Not that it’s a complete dealbreaker, but it sure close is to. The process isn’t pretty. Falling asleep for a total of twenty minutes and feeling like you’re on the brink of collapse right after the sixth math question with fifty-four to go isn’t the way to do it. Feeling lost and fear and anxiety refreshing and refreshing over and over again, tossing away and trading away the words that I could have offered these places because scores are barring me is one thing. I should have tried sooner, I should have tried harder — even months back. It pains me, but I have two weeks to go before the last tests that determine if I have a shot or not. You can bet that I’m making the most out of them, and that even if that admissions officer is going to just stand perplexed at that transcript; the only action that I can do after all the regret and mourning of a future (hypothetically) would be to not have tried. I am beyond a game of luck and the hours of sleep that could have changed everything — but at the same time, you can be assured that the same mistakes won’t be repeated once more in two weeks time.

It’s often kind of ridiculous how torn I am by the standards a seventeen-year old can abide by. Not that I’m using my age as a pass for anything, as I turned it around half a year ago, but it just hit me. Coming to me is that boundary where the things I do are no longer particularly impressive (past sixteen, it doesn’t really seem to matter, doesn’t it?) and where I’m expected to act like an adult. There are people out there driving metal machines of death that can’t pass a calculus test — and you could argue that there’s no correlation or requirement for one to be successful at one without having the other, but it’s insane to think about.

Expediting it all is probably the college admissions process. I stumble upon articles where residents in the United States dish out tens of thousands of dollars to turn themselves into a perfectly crafted machine — a mess of research, sports, music, activities, and connections to culminate in a two-minute reading that decides the rest of their future. It is terrifying enough to be consolidated in a sheet of paper, words that you give out highlighted and ranked, your scores over the past four years scoffed at, and to await judgement and see if you’re even worth receiving an education. Here, a stupid ass high school student from the third-world expects that her life could mean anything more than a rejection when standing next to people who have either orchestrated their lives for it, or are just so naturally brilliant and genius, slathered with the blend of perfect opportunity and chance to make it.

Hating to admit it, I do stand with that bit of pretentious “better than you” mentality. Beneath it all, I think about the underlying fact that we’re all something more. I wish for my story to make a difference. I wish for the world around me to succumb to my wishes at times, too, and believe in me; the me that I can present on paper and have strived to perfect over the last few months.

Whatever is happening, I think that I’m going somewhere, though. I emailed my MIT interviewer on a whim at 2AM. I’m writing essays, rethinking myself, and still wanting to do more beyond requirements and beyond dousing things over my CV. I do things because I believe in them, and perhaps they’ll see that too — beyond test scores, lack of rigor, and strange inflation, there is a light that never goes out. Left in me to lie beneath “you have to show, don’t just tell” and “ditch the generic topics” is everything that I am. There’s not much I can do but hope they see that I have some vigor and unyielding fight, but so do so many other talented, hopeful seventeen-year olds out there. Let the game of luck and thousands of dollars go to something for a reason, hoping that one of those two-minute readers out of dozens sees that glint that I’ve been igniting for the past, hazy and insignificant seventeen years.

Tales from Uzushiogakure

I used to scoff a lot at the fact that I had no binding attachment to some oversaturated series on the market. The engorged entitlement in estranged mothers and fathers bringing home Harry Potter box sets or superhero pop figurines to fulfill their childrens’ temporary obsessions didn’t really compare to my interest in just making things on my own, or my faint interest that lacked that touch of physical satiation — the kind that would let me bring the toys to school and gain some self-confidence with that sweet, unrivaled fifteen minutes of classroom fame. After all, when Lisa Frank and sticker-ridden clearbooks lost their marvel, the only thing that could account for such was that market validation.

Then, I remember that I did have something in my youth, actually. Except it falls on the entire premise of being a complete and utter weeaboo. I then remember that at age seventeen, I am literally as captive to it as I was at the age of ten. I can’t help but to bring it up due to the influx of joke Facebook event pages that just scream out “Run like Boruto’s Dad!” with the unwavering support of both passerby and people who had grown up with this strange and utter mess of a show. I remember being around the age of eight — the High School Musical phase dying down and paving way to my onslaught towards that “liking boy-stuff is cool” mindset that my unmonitored usage of the internet had imposed on me. I’d turn on 9PM runs of Cartoon Network despite my complete lack of interest in Ben 10 — waiting for about 10 or 11PM where I would begin my nightly beg for my parents to let me watch Naruto. In utter defense for the long wait I would proclaim that I was done with all my homework or that I hadn’t actually been watching the past five or so shows anyway. It is Naruto, after all. Thus began its intertwine in my life, and how it had passively molded me throughout all these years; with the growth of the series came mine as well.

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on college admissions and capability

The beginning of August sought an issue that I would never have dreamed of going through — or understood the rigor of. Journeying into the US college admissions journey as an international student that only knew of universities like Harvard and Stanford from western TV shows, Legally Blonde, and obscure chick flicks (Sydney White, etc.) is definitely, without a doubt, one of the most stimulating challenges I’ve faced thus far. As shallow as that may sound, being thrusted into a season with the potential for the entire course of your life to change is exhilerating, frightening, and quite frankly, nerve-wracking. Last week kind of marked the beginning of literally nightly existential crises — of which I deeply apologize to all my friends for having to witness, as well as my organization mates, and slowly but surely, everyone around me as well — like the dawn of the end.

I still have dreams; the kind where I picture myself in full-fledged comfort, where ambition is synonymous to reality and all the ideas I have can be made in a reality. These are the usual daydreams and all — but as for any outright grasp on what the future holds — I remain at a loss.

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overachiever fever

I am sinking my guts as fervently as I feel the pen sliding across my throat, twisting my organs, slithering across a paper of items I do not understand. My mind flashes back to every single failure that we have ever sung. Every lapse of ungreatness and unfulfilled fervor is a crime to humanity. An unabiding dishonor of traipse for the ones who carry my name to lament. This is a foul cry for the ones who do not deserve to do so — whittled down to self-depreciation at the instant.

Wherever it started, whatever had happened — they’ve all clung to this despondent nothingness. A melancholia for the person that I had never been, not once a sign of forgiveness for the person that I could be. We are destined, intertwined, by faith and numbers and chance and cash and time and lovers and passion and spirit and uncountable things that remain out of our control; as we are destined by faith to crash and die. My fondest memories from my childhood were not of my victories; never the dances for participation medals on stage or the old photobook memories that I never knew were captured for visiting passersby to giggle at and condemn their own children for. I vividly recall my mind turmoiling, twisting, turning, attempting to unravel the way numbers and foreign symbols were put together. Sort of the same kind that happens when I try to speak – English, my fond darling, a lost trickster descending on the tips of my tongue and stealing away the full voracity of what once was. It boils down to sitting down, the breeze of an air conditioner in a once familial home and listening to an estranged cousin laughing at numbers and formulas and things that I do not understand. Running it again in an old machine and collapsing over combinations of letters and formulas and unknown meanings — I’ve torn down cities but the inability to grasp because I do not know is what crumbles everything that I had ever built up.

Devout non-believer in my ability to succeed; I swear to god that all my problems are the riddled inconsequential. It is like every manifestation of my fear is churned down, it is like I am a master of deceit to the outside when I have trouble explaining my own head to myself. It is like I do more than just sit in front of a laptop, one single meal a day, and pretend that I have anything in common with names that never come across my mind. It is like I have to confine myself into a single .pdf, accosted for every part of myself that doesn’t fit into a picturesque dreamscape laid out in 12 pt sans-serif. It is like I am blamed for every part of myself that isn’t given up for someone or something else — and when I fit, intrepid and dauntless in the gaze of fools, I am an impostor. I am nothingness. I am a false-pretense preacher when I cannot save myself. I am a hypocrite. I am a fraud. I am nothing that I had ever wanted to be.

A lesson on revisionism isn’t the solution. My anger manifests itself in what I could have done better. I don’t regret showing up for a scholarship competition and miraculously making it to the top 6 in the entirety of a region — I regret the feigned apathy as I stared down a paper of problems that I didn’t know how to tackle. I regret sitting in that hall two years ago, giving up and calling forfeit to a future with the sound of lead and paper rampaging my head. For every moment that I had sunk and drowned with the weight of not knowing, I live in disbelief with the position and titles and names that I have strung. God, I am sorry for not believing. And god, am I sorry that I want to do everything that I love but have not spared enough time for so; forgive me for the mass of the world that I could have been a part of. Forgive the selfish disavowment.

Can you destroy a world when you live in a machine where everything is self-run? Every cog, every toil, it’s something forlorn and empty down the surface. Can I become the greatest act, the unretractable finale of a disappearance mesmerized down blank sheets of newspaper and sad signs? I’m combing my sadness into something like anger, and that anger into self-deprecating disappointment that shatters skulls and breaks down worlds. I am a self-proclaimed god of anger and irritability. I am the greatest liar I’ll ever have the privilege of being.

I am still staring down papers and skinning myself alive for things that no human is expected to know. I am still comparing my past ghosts and begging to twist their minds into believing in something earlier on. I am still writing a tab away from the thing I preach and forever away of sending off for four years on something on it. I live as an empty widow in the corner, an armada scorched of burnout dreams and inflated egos.

The last stretch of this megalomanic dream is to fall for the impossible.

Maybe, I’ll begin writing again — the only thing that I have ever been good at in terms of scores and numbers. I will waste a slot, throw it all away in fear of numbers and formulas; just like how I sat in my bedroom searching for what those meant put together, six or seven years ago. On a good day, my fingertips won’t dance on muck, flakes, and blood. I will be okay with where I stand. I will finish that book. I will feel a little bit more alive again. Under dim lights and fervent erasures and begs for forgiveness, everything will make sense in my head. I can ask for forgiveness for everyone that I had ever asked, that had to bend over backwards and stoop down for me. I will learn how to refurbish the machine; tame myself and become something boiled down to numbers in the best way possible.

Because perhaps I am not needed with the way of lines and counts, and not everyone who lives is meant to do something of meaning. What a gift it is, and what a glorious moment it would be when at the very least, we could understand and be content with ourselves — of every fleeting moment, every failed device. It’s a theory that I’ve made of myself. No idea what I wanted to be, except that what I was doing was useless. A self-engrossed, narcissistic girl who stared down at mirrors and wondered why I was. Maybe if I had some semblance of who I was, I wouldn’t have to reach so unbearably, murderously high. And for now — maybe, I like the thrill of being in control of so many things; a fleeting whirl of blankness because I swore that I would discover myself if I just kept getting out there. Few things that ground me are left in shattered pieces, the forever-repeated songs that revel in sadness and blind misery. What were once conversations were distant vows as I could no longer relate, as I grew angry at everyone who had ever held contempt for being something and making a meaning of themselves. The only things that mattered were making a difference and doing things and how could you all be spending your time on this and all the while, I was walking stomach-empty in the halls of places I should have known, lurking in the crevices of familiar names and wondering to what god do I have to compare myself to – to have some mark of where I am, where I was, where I am going.

Likely, I actually don’t know where all this is coming from other than an attempt to be better.

I am competing against myself, looking at others and wondering why I can’t catch up and be that good, fighting against my past mistakes, criticizing the click of my mind and the inability to grasp and speak and be.

I want to change the world; it’s a solemn vow that not many ever meet. The same thing as how we all swear to write a book someday. Or to find our passion and excel in it like it’s all there is. Or how we swear to people we will never meet again.

And what a godly liar I am, swearing that I would make it somewhere or be someone.

I still crumble at the foot of my desk, wondering what went so wrong with me as to make me incapable of comprehending a test item. Or wondering why I wasn’t born the prodigy that everyone ought to be (when I drown myself in comparisons and what-ifs). I seize moments where an ounce of belief comes, and I let it fall and pass in restless reassurance that I am not worthy of it.

To start doing things that mean something — not to the world, but to my own self — that is when I realize that there’s something out there. I will live for what’s in between the lines of the paper that summarizes my being. I will write books for the sake of writing them. I will find myself, unreliant on things outside of my will. I will breathe in the world that I had made for myself, and mold the world that I wish to make of others. Drill titans into the atmosphere and extinguish myself in the bedroom, where everything comes to rest — where I had thought about dying, and if I believed in god, whether I loved countless people, where I stood shivering in the night listening to the footsteps that did not belong under this roof. Everything succumbs and ends here; the overachiever that has it all is a lone vagabond in the confines of a room that never leaves, in a world that she knows she will never be a part of.

Perhaps here, in the stillness of forgotten evenings, I will unravel every formulaic throw at the person I am attempting to be. I will see the sun, and I will not beg it to die.

—is it not the death of a firefly

A story about a funeral in the dead of the summer.

With the relapse of summer on its idyllic deathbed, I once again draw nothing with the close. It is the same feeling that follows me with every untimely visit to living mortuaries in the outskirts of city, bordered by red district lights and the wick of laden candles. Where concrete becomes an overture to a short-lived piece that we drag on and on.

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