Rhythms of 2016 (with accompaniment of Joyce & Plath)

29 12 2016

“Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.” —James Joyce

Phone calls from home (the Philippines) are my highly anticipated calls. Hearing my grandmother’s intimidating voice somehow shakes my core and reminds me… of something abstract, something obscure, which I could not quite explain. When she talks to me, I find myself internally nodding, as though a sense of purpose had been just rekindled, although she was only asking how I am doing, or what time it is.

She called me last night. After our phone call, I found myself lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, but not really looking at it. I was in a daze, utterly reflective until I had to move and snatch my cell phone from my desk. I called a friend whom I can confide to in order to untwine some of my gossamer thoughts.

***

2016 had been like this. Constantly snapping out of the blue and coming to a realization. I, however, could not easily untangle my contemplations so easily by myself until I either write or verbalize them. So each time, I turn to something else as though I need (without letting the other know that I need) to be helped. Sometimes the other is philosophy, other times a friend or family; and even sometimes to a stranger bartender in a bar or a new counselor.

Last night, in particular, I realize that this year had been a rollercoaster of changes.
I decided to write some milestones in this year, in order to wrap up 2016 and make way, openly and cleanly, for 2017.

“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past…” —James Joyce

***

January. Early this year I found myself as a go-getter sending applications to various universities in California. I applied to eight, got accepted and got scholarship offers from all eight, and made an easy decision of accepting admission and scholarship offers from University of California, Berkeley.

It was an easy decision, I say, almost too easy that it was intuitive… I mean, look at it. So grand. So huge. So dreamy.

“July 1950 – I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent…”—Sylvia Plath 

***

Late May. Three months after sending in applications (and accepting admissions), I graduated junior college with four associate degrees: Associates in Business Administration, Associates of Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences, Associates of Arts in Letters and Sciences, and Associates of Arts in Organizational Sciences. During graduation day, I walked on the stage humbly, not having all those in mind (oh, and not to mention, I graduated Cum Laude in all those four AA degrees) but only walked the stage to humor my mom’s request. I could have stayed at home, be at ease, and just wait on my certificates to arrive in the mailbox. The walking on the stage part was my gift for my mom. She wanted to “seize the experience”, the “milestone” as she puts it. My dad only nodded as a congratulatory nod—which was more like an “okay”, as he wasn’t particularly convinced that this was an achievement. But anyways, my family and I celebrated at an Italian restaurant and got hammered—a rare event.

***

“She is something vital, an artist’s model, life. She can be rude, undependable, and she is more to me than all the pretty, well-to-do, artificial girls I could ever meet. Maybe it’s my ego. Maybe I crave someone who will never be my rival. But with her I can be honest.” —S. Plath 

Summer. A trip to Sacramento, for the first time. The Capitol. Lunch at a cruise. Improv stand-up comedy. Night club – with my sister and mom. Imagine my mother watching her daughters gulp in shots of patron and quickly sip margaritas and whiskey. To her surprise, her daughters sported not only wine and champagne, but adventurously, various cocktails and scotch on the rocks. A trip to Los Angeles, for the first time in a long time. Disneyland. Various Asian food finds. The unforgettable concert to see The Piano Guys, in VIP seats/parking/food/lounge. Visiting a couple of Air Force bases. A trip to random places all around the Bay. SF. Milpitas. San Jose. Hayward. Stockton? My USAF supervisor’s grand birthday celebration. I am the family’s event planner, contract reviewer, alternate driver, protective daughter… I think five, ten steps ahead. I am awesome. Or so I’d like to think.

Partied by a lot, drank freely, but also ran the distance. Oh yeah, and worked a lot. Drug demand reduction program assistant manager. Working behind the scenes in the medicine squadron.

***

“Today is the first of August. It is hot, steamy and wet. It is raining. I am tempted to write a poem.” —Sylvia Plath 

my feet dangles when I sit on a chair
ungrounded, chair’s too big
to fill. Branches dangling on a tree
it was meant to be there.
My feet dangles
as I sit
on top of this building, rightly

August. I woke up in a strange, freshly furnished room on the campus of UC Berkeley. Sun rays were creeping in from the window blinds. From the gaps, I can see the Sather Tower “Campanile” far out, and a research institution right outside on the immediate street across my room. I feel as though I won the jackpot: I now live in the campus dormitory in Berkeley—paid for by the scholarships, that I acknowledge, without which I could not afford waking up calmly this way.

From my room, I walk to the bathroom; I find other regent’s scholars on the same floor (ours was the top floor; informally called by residents as “the penthouse”). I brush my teeth and wash my face beside other scholars. I shower in a single stall beside further stalls with other students. My meals, from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between, are all paid for by the scholarship as well. Something I could not have imagined or included in my wish for the bizarreness of it.

***

There are no curfews. I can stay in the library or the café—or wherever—as long or as late as I want without having the need to apologize to anybody.

Once, I came home at 2 am, swiped my keycard to get in the building, and saw a bunch of other students eating pizza and all saying “hey!” energetically like time did not matter.

***

Every morning, I cycle on my bike with music plugged in my ears, convinced that I have my own background music as if my life is movie-worthy. Imagine me smiling peacefully while cruising through the on rush of hustling and bustling on the huge campus. The freedom and privilege are both too real but I am constantly in awe; even by the end of the semester, I just don’t seem to get accustomed to all of it. The weather is always pleasant and it always puts me in a good mood. People here aren’t judgmental. I love the laissez-faire ambiance. I love, love, love the independence I have and the distance from the temptation to be dependent. The classrooms are daunting in size, has a great ambiance, and are different from the classrooms I have had in my approximately 15 years of schooling. No matter how difficult the tasked readings or how bombarded with work I am, I still feel light and grateful and lucky for the wonderful privilege of being here. Even when other students are crying because of the difficulty of our academic hurdles–even when that one day occurred when I used the philosophy conference room as a safe refuge for crying–I still feel blessed because, even the difficulties, I think, are a privilege to have.

***

“I love people. Everybody. I love them… Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone… But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time…” —S. Plath 

I’m not a big fan of privilege. Or maybe I just say that. My mother, by the way, is a phenomenal caregiver. Her work ethic is very impressive, and the word “impressive” is an understatement for it.

Her job includes (but is not limited to) driving her aged patients around their required places such as crowded malls, weekly salon visits, playful parks, sickly hospitals and intoxicating clinics, relative’s house, etcetera. But also, she cooks for them like they are her own parents, feeding them too, bathing them, medicating, cleaning for them, doing laundry for them, and many other things that boils to: “caring for” them older folks. Her patience is extremely outstanding. I admire it so much it makes me feel wanting of it. We’re not rich, by the way. My mom did not have health insurance for the longest time until my urging of her to get one. She could not put me to school. Had I relied on our sole financial means, I might not have been in the #1 public university in the world (hint hint: UC Berk).

But I guess it is not about what we have, but how hard we are willing to work and how open we are to hurdle the challenges, accept the opportunities, and embrace the blessings as they come. So, when I look at my mother’s wrinkles… when I look at the dryness of her hands… when I see her feeling tired and fighting through the feeling of weariness, and see her efforts to break out a smile… I realize that this is part of that vague, abstract feeling; I realize that I am so blessed and privileged simply because I have a mother who deserves so much care and more, which my empty pockets and limited abilities cannot be adequately sufficient as a consolation to give in return.

img_0419

So, I am a strong woman, in part, because a strong woman inspires me.

***

“With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can’t start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead. It’s like quicksand… hopeless from the start. A story, a picture, can renew sensation a little, but not enough, not enough. Nothing is real except the present, and already, I feel the weight of centuries smothering me. Some girl a hundred years ago once lived as I do. And she is dead. I am the present, but I know I, too, will pass. The high moment, the burning flash, come and are gone, continuous quicksand.” —Sylvia Plath 

November. A tremendously exciting gift came up: my brothers are coming in the picture; they are immigrating here in California to reunite with us after a long long time. My two little brothers are some of my step siblings, technically speaking. But we have treated each other as though we are full-blood, biologically connected by the same Parents. They were really small boys when I was last with them, that in fact, I can remember carrying them and tugging them along like charming kids. I feel so much excitement seeing them again after a long time (about 15 years, mind you). I can’t wait to show them around and help them get acquainted in this wonderful country.

I remember an alienated, homesick, startled, lonely young Anna who barely spoke English back in 2012. She was small in height, simple in taste, a female Don Quixote whose favorite past time is dreaming and contemplating inwardly. Her hobbies includes reading a book in her mother’s walk-in closet, only coming out of it to get a snack and bringing it back in the closet; funny, you can call her a “recluse” because she often stays there all day until she finishes whatever she’s reading. She also fancied trains–train tracks, train rides, and all that imagination can fancy about wandering about doing all sorts of adventures. She watched movies, TV shows sometimes, walked to the neighboring Barnes and Nobles bookshop and read poetries in there while wearing pajamas because she has just woken up and that is what she would prefer for breakfast: a cup of coffee she’d bring in and a manuscript of Neruda’s poetry from the store. But she was, like I said, homesick. She logs on social media and misses her friends… feared the uncertainty of what is to become of her, if she continues spending her day willy-nilly like this months after months; she worried: where would life bring her, how well or badly would time pass her by?

She wanted to continue school but could not afford it here. She was 18-year old, naive, inexperienced, and have not had a job ever aside from being her grandmother’s payroll assistant to the family business’ employees or being a student council VP or taking up leadership roles in the university; aside from these, she did not have any honed marketable skills, so how, she wondered, could she afford the intimidating expense of attending the university here in a country, where people, systems, and currencies are so foreign to her? As I remember my younger self, I look at my brothers and I feel so protective of them.

I just want to relieve them of the loneliness and alienation I experienced if and as long as I can.

fam-img_0435

My “little” brothers (who deemed the utility of my high heels futile because they are still taller regardless)

“Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to. I’ve just got to put down what happened to me this afternoon.”—Sylvia Plath 

December. How should one end a year? I know. By writing, and reuniting with loved ones. And perhaps doing something new out of the blue.

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.
Longest way round is the shortest way home.” 
—James Joyce

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Thanksgiving’16

26 11 2016

I’m thankful for my friends & my family (which, if modal logic is to have its word on this: I have just blithely stated redundant terms, since, after all, friends are family).

 

 





A Kiss of Fate: A Career Update

24 07 2016

24 July 2016 – a day I may or may not forget – is the day when I was interviewed by the paralegal MSgt L. Jack for a retraining opportunity. (Note: MSgt. Jack was a former physical therapist-medic who also came from the medicine squadron and cross trained to paralegal).

So what happened?

I slid my blue binder containing the retraining package I arduously worked on across the table. MSgt Jack flipped it open when it reached her. While she was glossing through it, I sensed that she was feeling uneasy about having me wait for her as she read. It seemed as though she wanted me to be entertained and not let an awkward silence in the room. I assured her that I appreciate the fact that she’s actually reading my package.

In a short but detailed nutshell:

  • I may not be assigned to Travis anymore once the retraining package is approved.
    • MSgt Jack made it clear that they are fully staffed in Travis. Even if she creates a position for me, I may not have the office to be assigned to in the office, especially because of the upcoming merging of both A and B flights.
  • I’m most likely going to be assigned to Beale AFB. They are critically in need of manning
    • Which is great because the legal office in Beale are enthusiastic in reaching out to welcome me.
    • They prefer female (due to sexual assault cases, currently the office is staffed with only two males, and women victims of sexual assault are hesitant to speak with male representatives).
    • The only drawback really is the driving distance and time it would take to get there. The remedy: time management.
  • Retraining school might not be this year (yay!) since August is the only one available this year.
    • Training dates for next fiscal year are not out yet. But once its released, she said she hopes and recommend that I should be flexible about school dates.
    • They are likely to send me to tech school at Maxwell AFB, then seasoning training (on-the-job) with active duty right after the tech school.
    • With regards to doing ALS, she urged me to do in-residence because she is faithful that I would do great and bag the awards in the ALS.
    • She mentioned that paralegals are the cream of the crop: highly organized, meticulous, well-put, highly intelligent, and superbly professional.
  • They are, however, most likely willing to train me on the job as we wait for a retraining school date.
    • There are really good pros on this. For one, it will highly prepare me for tech school, making my chances of graduating on top of the class more likely.
    • It will afford me time to focus on the school by delaying the tech school date.
  • We ended the interview on a good note. MSgt Jack thanked me for being professional, which I found funny. She commented that I am more than qualified for the job. She also mentions that my package is very strong and competitive and she has no doubts that I will do very well in the job.
    • She will be writing a narrative of our interview session, make a copy of my entire package, and she will forward them to the JAG corps HQ.
    • She said it may take 3-6 months, but that I should feel free to ask and follow-up starting next month.

Really, my only hesitation for pursuing this job leap to paralegal from the medicine squadron is that I may be old already and that perhaps I should hurry up and graduate already. In essence, that is cultural norms imposed on my standards. It’s the same hesitation I had when three years ago I was joining the Air Force and I stopped schooling for some time. I’ve got to face the fact that I’m young. I’m flexible. I’m following what God has in store for me. I shouldn’t fret. I should be still and calm and let God make wonders. Anyways…

MSgt Jack further shared her experiences about being a paralegal, and insights about the career. She made sure to mention some cases that they work on — including but not limited to sexual assault, witness protection, environmental issues and policies, aircraft inspections, MICT, article 15s, court marshals, briefings, etc. She mostly shared about the overview of the job.

What I got from it was that paralegal as a career field offers a lot of cushion and opportunities for professional development. She mentioned that paralegal staff across Air Force are mostly, if not all, law students or related to the legal profession. It is definitely a good opportunity to partake in. Overall, I’m enthralled! Apparently I should exclaim, “Beale, here I come!” I should face the fear of driving on the freeway because clearly, I will need to double my miles in driving, and accept the fact that I will need to put on extra mileage on my car than I wished. Get ready for a new strange and different environment which looks like an environment needing to be dug from a pile of work and commitment.

Challenge accepted.

 





The Sassy Rapper

22 02 2016

Monica approached me before she exited the classroom. “I have a question for you since the Professor is busy with a crowd of students. Are the Forms related to the Cave, or is that just outside of it?” she asked. I tried to explain the matter to her as best as I could, hoping not to add to her confusion. Since we both needed to attend to our next classes, we proceeded to the halls to the campus grounds and we continued our discussion on Plato’s ideas of the Forms and the myth of the cave. Succinctly, Monica informed me that she understands it now. I went on to ask her what her major is, out of curiosity.

She does not have a major yet, she says. She’s completing her general education since she hasn’t come up with a decision. Upon knowing what my major is, she said she’s thought about it and considers taking up Philosophy as well. I loved that idea when she mentioned it to me.

Don’t get her wrong though: Monica knows what she wants. And I’ll tell you in a second what it is. Right now though, she’s undecided on what to specialize in. She wants to be a Rapper.

I tell her I’m happy you want to study philosophy, or psychology, really, any liberal arts is worth pursuit especially if you’re gonna be a Rapper. Most rappers nowadays rise to fame with their shallow lyrics and empty verses. I’m excited to see you and hear you. When did your interest start?

Well, it started when she was in a relationship with her then-boyfriend-now-ex, who was a Rapper. He was a rapper but his rap was trash, she tells me. “And you’re better than him?” I asked. Well, it’s quite inappropriate for me to ask that question but my realization of witholding that inquiry came late. We both know she’s better than him. Heck, his rap is garbage probably because he was shallow. Most men who cheats on women are, anyways. They cheat on women because of shallow reasons. Either they were feeling lonely at that time, or they thought their girlfriends wouldn’t find out, or they were instantly swoon by artificial physical appearances and unstable hormones.

I think I found a soulsister in Monica.

But something she said surprised me. “It’s amazing how smart you are I sometimes wish your words came from me. When you speak in class I often wish I thought of those thoughts.”

I could’ve replied any other way than this but this was what I said, “lol. you think so?” I laughed childishly, humbly or proudly I couldn’t quite make how I expressed my heart but my intention was to be humble. “I try to refrain from speaking in class recently because I feel like my points are a little too out of tangent and might just confuse anyone” I added. She shrugged, and said, “no I think you should speak more often. In fact you should teach the class because you’re so good at it.”

I’m not sure, Monica. It may be that I sound smart because I speak with conviction and try to be sassy and don’t take or give shit from and to anyone, or perhaps I really am smart like you think. But I couldn’t dwell on that compliment. Thank you. But I think I’m fine without it. I’ll rest my case with a Socratic humility, that I know nothing, and hence I am the smartest woman alive.





To do list

29 01 2016

Someone lost this sheet of paper wherein his to-do list is written, and which I came across by the train station. I picked it up, shoved it in my coat pocket, and read it upon boarding.

__
Freddy, 30, New York.
To do.
March 4 (1988? the handwriting here is not quite legible).

  1. Buy Groceries.

Fresh Fruits:

Oranges. those small cute things
Strawberries. must be sweet
Bananas. must be ripe
Flowers x6 Bouquets. must be roses: red and yellow, her favorite
Beer/or Wine. preferably ale, or merlot if wine
Candles. must be purple, purple smells like lavender, I loved lavender
Milk. not like the rotten ones in my house

2. Drive up to the cemetery.

Say a prayer for her.
Grieve. I should grieve daily for losing her
Spend the whole afternoon. with my wife by her tomb.

3. Visit home. Not my home, my parent’s home

See what everyone’s up to.
If no one’s home or no one has time to spend with me — same thing
drink beer. or wine, whichever impulse won me at the grocery store.

4. Visit the doctor

Allergies kicking in. I’m allergic to beer

__





Re-post. Humbling Poem of the Week.

3 11 2015

More in relation to the Radium Girls: direct here.

Radium Girls by Eleanor Swanson

We sat at long tables side by side in a big
dusty room where we laughed and carried
on until they told us to pipe down and paint.
The running joke was how we glowed,
the handkerchiefs we sneezed into lighting
up our purses when we opened them at night,
our lips and nails, painted for our boyfriends
as a lark, simmering white as ash in a dark room.
“Would you die for science?” the reporter asked us,
Edna and me, the main ones in the papers.
Science? We mixed up glue, water and radium
powder into a glowing greenish white paint
and painted watch dials with a little
brush, one number after another, taking
one dial after another, all day long,
from the racks sitting next to our chairs.
After a few strokes, the brush lost its shape,
and our bosses told us to point it with
our lips. Was that science?
I quit the watch factory to work in a bank
and thought I’d gotten class, more money,
a better life, until I lost a tooth in back
and two in front and my jaw filled up with sores.
We sued: Edna, Katherine, Quinta, Larice and me,
but when we got to court, not one of us
could raise our arms to take the oath.
My teeth were gone by then. “Pretty Grace
Fryer,” they called me in the papers.
All of us were dying.
We heard the scientist in France, Marie
Curie, could not believe “the manner
in which we worked” and how we tasted
that pretty paint a hundred times a day.
Now, even our crumbling bones
will glow forever in the black earth.”





There He Lies

24 10 2015

There he lies
As warm tears wets and well up his eyes.
He shrugs, and bends his body, like Asian obeisance,
he fixes his eyes seizing the ground

Halfway suspended, he let his body drop
to his whaling bean bag. Falling prostrate
he felt his lily-liver do all the talking.

“What can we do to make things better?” is one question
he never cared to utter, well, simply
because he never thought of it. But instead,

“I’m old,”
“people hates me,”
“it’s too late now” were like mantras
that fills the interspaces of his thoughts.

His normally unkempt hair made him realize
that this is the way he prefers to live—that he
has been defeated, and he cannot dispel his beasts,
the self-imposed darkness that empties him.








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