29 April 2020

Taken sometime in April 2018, a few days after our results came out, when I claimed my bar clearance and set my schedule for Roll Signing.

It's still quite surreal to realize that it's been two years since our bar results came out. Every time it gets mentioned, my muscles tense up and my brain blanks out. (Talk about post-traumatic stress.) Considering the amount of pressure we all had to endure in the years leading up to our own bar exams, the feeling of anxiousness remains. I guess one never fully recovers from the experience of being at the mercy of such a long, arduous exam. Every year, even after your own results, you will find yourself saying, "Wow, lives are going to be changed today."

On the day of our bar's release, my mom, grandparents, and I went to Mass at Baclaran Church, in an attempt to make a final, desperate plea to God, Mama Mary, all the angels and saints. But the Mass finished at 10:00, and the results are coming out at noon, so there was still a long and agonizing two-hour wait. My grandma, as if on cue, decided they needed to buy some groceries, so off to S&R Macapagal we went. For the next hour or so, we all pretended to care about wholesale deals and rotisserie chicken. 

At around 11:30, somewhere along the aisle of bread and pastries, my mom received a call. It was from a family friend affiliated with the Supreme Court. She put it on speaker phone for the entire family (and quite frankly, that entire row of shelves) to hear:

"She passed! Her name is on the list."

And thus began what seemed like the longest, most bizarre, time-warping, continuum-shattering minute of my life, all while jumping, skipping, and hopping - in a dress. I could not believe it. I made it.

Minutes later, my phone got flooded with call, texts, and messages. The rest of the day went by like a blur. (The only other thing I could remember was the Razon's Halo-Halo they treated me to after shopping at S&R. It was the best reward/comfort food I could have asked for.)

Nothing has been the same since.

Life as a lawyer thus far has had its ups and downs. Some days are slow, some days are exciting; no two days are ever alike. I still doubt myself sometimes, and often feel like I'm still much closer to my wide-eyed, anxious bar reviewer self than some version of a confident, aggressive attorney. But I'm quite happy. Since then, I've appeared in court, reviewed contracts, prepared pleadings, attended search warrant enforcements, drafted university IP policies, and even got to teach. So many great things have happened since that day, and much of my families' prayers were answered on that fateful Thursday afternoon.

Two years ago, on April 26, our bar results came out. I took the bar and passed the bar at 26 years old. My birthday is also on the 26th (of October). On the list, I was bar passer 242 too. 24+2 = 26.

And interestingly enough, World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated on April 26.

Synchronicities are peculiar. I've never been one to anchor my fate on numbers, and I'm not sure if there really is a grand design to all this - but I'm inclined to think perhaps life gives us these patterns to remind us to trust in the Universe and its mysterious ways, and to always just believe that maybe, just maybe, some things are really meant to be. We just have to wait and let them unfold.

Happy anniversary, self! ❤


Today, thousands await the results of the 2019 bar exams.

For any #Bar2019 hopeful who might come across this blog: Whatever the outcome, your lives will be changed for good today. I hope this day will constantly remind you to remain humble, to always be of service, and to keep fighting.

Remember that you survived law school, hurdled bar review, and successfully took on all four Sundays of the bar exam. Those were all seemingly insurmountable, but you managed. Today's results are not an affirmation of your capability to overcome hardship. You already did! Trust me, ALL the experiences & lessons you learned in the last four to five years are what will help define the kind of lawyer you will be, not just the bar.

So when you do get admitted to the practice, don't stop reminding yourself that you are worth more than just an exam. Cheering for all of you! Claim it. Life can only get better from here on out.

 There's still so much more to learn, to do, and to achieve. Today is just the beginning. 🌻🌻🌻 



22 April 2020

(Photo credit: Michelle Obama by Jillian Tamaki; Notorious RBG by Adam Johnson)

One of the few silver linings for me during this quarantine is finally getting the time to read. My book list has been growing steadily over the last few weeks, which is probably already more than what I got to read for leisure during law school and bar review. Like I've said, I'm still trying to get my old reading groove back, i.e. easing back into actually enjoying sentences, taking my time, and not feeling like highlighting everything in preparation for a recitation or an exam. 

So far, it's been going along smoothly. One big factor is that I've fully transitioned to reading e-books on my Surface Go. It's especially great during this time, because I can't physically go out and buy the books I want to read. So the Internet saves the day. 

These two books on US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Former US First Lady Michelle Obama have long been in my to-read list. They were marked "priority" for me as soon as quarantine started, and immediately finished them both in about a week. (Yeah, this book review is delayed, obviously.) I suppose you could chalk it up to the fact that they've led such colorful and inspiring lives, especially in the legal profession, so I was truly interested in their stories. But more than that, the reason why I devoured these books so quickly was because subconsciously, I wanted to have someone to cling on to - a leader, a symbol of hope, an idol - someone to look up to. We are living in extremely difficult times - and not just because of the virus. All over the world, leaders with no regard for equity and compassion are becoming more and more emboldened. It's frightening and disheartening. But hearing the stories of these two women and their rallying cry to always remain steadfast in their commitment to justice is truly inspiring. It's exactly what we need right now. 

1. "Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

I was actually torn between this and Justice RBG's own book, My Own Words. But that comprises a collection of RBG's speeches and writings dating back to the eighth grade. It wasn't exactly her autobiography. So I chose this one instead, which was, significantly, written by one of the creators of the "Notorious RBG" Tumblr page that started her newfound popularity in the 2010s in the first place. (If Shana Knizhnik ever evaluates her life, she should give herself a thousand good points for having created this in the first place, because it made one of the most intelligent and significant figures in US legal history more accessible to the general public, especially the youth. )

RBG led an ideal, happy childhood, with parents who recognized her intelligence and always pushed her towards excellence. However, her life was marred at an early age by the untimely demise of a younger sister when she was an infant, and her mother (who lovingly encouraged her to pursue greater things and apply at Cornell) passing away just right before her high school graduation. This only propelled her to seek greater heights. Soon after graduating from Cornell, she went to Harvard Law School. She eventually transferred to Columbia, as she needed to be with her husband, Marty, who was invited to teach in New York (also a Harvard alum) but was also just recovering from cancer. It was unbelievable how she had to balance being a wife to a sick husband, a mother to a young baby, and a law student all at once - but she did it all with panache, allowing herself to be the first woman editor in both the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review because of her transfer, and graduating first of her class in Columbia. I mean, WOW. (I couldn't even finish a recit for Credit class without wanting to throw up.)

Most striking for me was the amount of misogyny that she had to encounter in the legal profession, from law school up to the practice. Being a "pioneer" in the field meant the glass ceiling was still very much in place during her time, and she had to do everything ten, twenty, fifty times better than her peers just to hammer down the point that she deserved her spot. During her time at Harvard, she was only one in nine women in a class of about five hundred men. Professors assumed that the ladies were there merely to secure themselves a good husband. Wow. (In fact, the Dean of Harvard Law reportedly invited all of the female law students to dinner at his family home and asked them: "Why are you at Harvard Law School, taking the place of a man?" UGH, THE AUDACITY.) Even RBG herself was forced to say, "I'm here so that my husband and I will have something to talk about," during their Freshman welcome dinner, because she feared being labelled as arrogant or too confident. 

Columbia turned out to be a much more liberal and accepting space. However, she was still met with varying degrees of sexism after graduation. She was declined clerkships based solely on her gender (and the fact that she was also a married family woman at the time). This only fueled her desire to fight for a cause: women's rights.

One very, very compelling part of her career for me was the manner by which she led the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Her strategy? Because she knew judges would not "listen" to or understand the concerns of a woman plaintiff, she selected cases where it was a man who suffered gender discrimination under the law. For instance, in Weinberger v. Wiesenfield, a widower, Paul Wiesenfield, lost his wife during childbirth and was forced to raise his son on his own. When seeking for a survivor's benefits, he was deemed ineligible by the Social Security since such benefits under the law were made available only to widows, not widowers. This illustrated that gender discrimination in all instances did not only harm men, but also women. It was harmful for everyone in society, as it placed individuals at a disadvantage simply because of a factor beyond their control. Such a brilliant strategy. It's unfortunate that it had to take male plaintiffs to make justices listen and strike down gender-biased laws one at a time, but it worked. As the director of the Women's Rights Project, she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five.

She eventually went on to become the second female Supreme Court Justice in 1993. And until now, even at 87, she shows no signs of slowing down. Colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, broken ribs, lung nodules - none of these seem to stop her from showing up to work each day and bringing her much needed brilliance in court. She knows that despite the strides made in the last few decades, the job is never over (especially now that more conservatives are being appointed back in Court, thanks to Trump. Hello, dark ages.) The movement towards equality and fairness is not finished. The key is to always be reminded that tomorrow is another day to fight, to do good, and to be kind. “Anyway, hope springs eternal. If I lose today, there’s hope that tomorrow will be better.”

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” she said. But then she added her own words: “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” 

2. "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

How good was this book? I finished it in a day. Less than twenty-four hours, even. I started before dinner and by 4:00 pm the next day, I was binge-watching Michelle Obama videos on YouTube. 

I've always known that Michelle was a fantastic individual, but I never really knew how inspiring she was outside of being the First Lady. She carried herself well, she represented the White House with class, and she looked like a very doting, affectionate wife and mother. But I did not realize how cool she was outside her relationship with Barack. 

That she grew up in the south side of Chicago meant that she experienced what living in a struggling community and being surrounded by people (and family) whose big dreams took a back seat because of institutional barriers. Poverty and race played a crucial factor in shaping Michelle's views. She was fortunate to have had parents who pushed her (and her equally intelligent and talented older brother, Craig) to excel in school so that they can reach greater heights. This led her to Princeton, and eventually, Harvard Law. 

Michelle writes with refreshing honesty and sincerity. She paints a colorful, compelling picture of her youth, but does not sugarcoat the realities of needing to overcome many obstacles before actually getting a decent education. The same goes for her candid depiction of her relationship and marriage with Barack, who has always been a visionary and an idealist - almost always to a fault. It really takes a strong, courageous woman to be able to admit the challenges that come with being married to a senator and eventually, the President. But through it all, not once did she ever succumb to being merely just "Barack's wife." She didn't quite outgrow her "southside mentality" of knowing what she's worth and always striving hard to do some good on her own.

Particularly, her relationship with Barack never made her put her own ambitions aside. If anything, it only fueled her to find her own causes. When they met, she was an associate at a big law firm, who lacked the passion for her job but felt she was good at it anyway and decided to just stick with it. After all, she had always been a "abide by the rules and follow the plan" kind of girl. But the detours in her life made her realize that sometimes it's okay to let certain goals go, if only to allow ourselves to find a greater purpose. After her resignation, she found herself in different positions that enabled her to actually help others and make a difference, especially for people like her. 

She worked in the Chicago city government as an assistant to the mayor and later on became the city assistant commissioner of Planning and Development. Then she became the executive director for the non-profit organization, Public Allies, which encouraged young people to see value in doing non-profit and public sector work. She later on served as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, where she developed the University's Community Service Center, before becoming the Vice President for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Hospitals. All this, Michelle accomplished by having one purpose in mind: to bring services to those who need it the most.

She also openly admitted suffering a miscarriage, and having difficulty with conceiving during the early part of her marriage. These are stories that need to be heard by women, especially those who are crippled by society's expectations. This part of the book was very moving for me personally, and I loved that she was candid about her own fears. 

This is what really inspired me the most about her: an unapologetic belief in her own value. And this is precisely what she wants to impart to her readers, particularly to young, ambitious women. Yes, there exists systemic barriers that are working against us; but when we are able to overcome them, we should work our hardest to help others overcome them too. She used her influence as a first lady to educate; to produce meaningful work for sectors that are largely ignored and underserved by the structures of government. She led by example. And she delivered.

“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be? For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in."

(Photo credit: RBG by Anthony Savage; Michelle by Monica Ahanonu

I'd be lying if I didn't say that I looked forward to reading about their relationships with their husbands, Martin and Barack. The truth was, their marriages weren't at all the highlight of their lives, but the strong partnerships certainly helped lead them to greater, higher pursuits.

Marty always acknowledged Ruth's brilliance. One of the things Ruth initially liked about him was that he saw her as an equal. When they first met, they had other partners, so they just started out as friends - which was crucial for Ruth, because she found out that Marty had always respected her brains, and not just trying to get in her pants. Throughout their marriage (and RBG's flourishing career), he never felt threatened by her and saw value in her capabilities. He enjoyed being the doting husband and family man; likewise, RBG willingly steps aside when Marty's career takes interesting turns. "He always made me feel like I was better than I thought I was. He was so confident in his own ability that he never regarded me as any kind of threat," RBG said of her late husband. And, most importantly, he cooked for her and always made her laugh. Ah, the dream.

Same goes for Barack, who slowly but surely swept Michelle off her feet, even though she was initially dismissive and reluctant (since he was a law student intern at the firm where she was an associate). He knew it had to take much more than just plain old charm to impress her. He acknowledged that she was an intelligent, hyper-critical woman with a background different from his own. He was open and curious and affectionate. He listened. And he never dismissed her aspirations; he kept encouraging her and never expected her to just remain in his shadow. 

(Side-note that the part in the book about how she and Barack started dating was such a kilig-fest!!!! YA novels have nothing on that entire chapter!!! It was so incredibly adorable! The movie "Southside With You," a fictionalized adaptation of their first date was one of my favorite flicks in 2018 because of how compelling their chemistry was. But MAN, the nonfiction version of their first few dates?! Even more kilig! 

Here's an excerpt I bookmarked about the night they snuck out of a performance of Les Misérables, and tried to avoid the suspicious looks of the other partners working in their firm. Tell me this scene isn't a short film script waiting to happen!)


Okay, so this book review turned out to be quite a lot. But the exponential increase of my admiration for these two women cannot simply be explained in a few paragraphs. True, these women are not like the rest of us: they're Ivy League-educated, in great positions of power and influence, and live their life under the gaze of public scrutiny. But in many other ways, they understand us intrinsically. They know what it's like to be discriminated against, to be treated unfairly, to be vulnerable, to feel deprived, to have to work twice as hard, to be defeated. 

And both of them came out of it with an important lesson: we have to keep pushing. Have a radical aim, but proceed with caution. Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

Life was teaching us that progress and change happen slowly. Not in two years, four years, or even a lifetime. We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient. 

We still have a lot of work to do. It will take time, but we'll get there. We have to believe we will.

20 April 2020

The uncertainty of this pandemic is crippling, but the realization of so many things - about ourselves, our work, our friendships, our identities, our government - is just as paralyzing. 

Expect me, then, to dive even deeper into what is already very familiar, if only because my brain is wired to seek comfort when all external factors are different, and frightening, and unstable. (Okay, yes, this concerns my current listening habits.)

(Photo credit: Carly Rae Jepsen's Instagram)

To no one's surprise, I slid down the Carly Rae rabbit hole again today. Unlike most people I know, Carly isn't my go-to background pop music (that recognition goes to Ariana). Rather, I find myself diving into her music sporadically, albeit intensely and deeply each time. Sometimes I can go weeks without playing her music on Spotify, but when I do, expect that entire day and the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours to be non-stop CRJ.

In many ways, like a devotee paying homage to its goddess. I busy myself with other things, but when my soul needs replenishing, I come crawling back.

It occurred to me today that I never got to write about the Manila concert last October 23. And I know exactly why: it was so good. So, so good. There was this overwhelming fear of not being able to encapsulate the entire experience; that somehow writing about it dilutes every bit of magic I felt while dancing along with a thousand other entranced bodies.

But this particular Monday, as I dealt with spotty Internet and limited downloaded music on my phone, I couldn't help but relive that entire night. As I pressed "play" on the Carly Rae Manila Setlist, I remembered what it meant to be on the precipice of what it means to truly, fearlessly, and willingly let go. To be in the moment and revel in it

Three nights away from turning twenty-eight, I went into that concert filled with excitement, but also, a lot of uncertainty. I was turning yet another year old, but, in the accounting of moral equations I made in my head, what have I to show for it? No new pursuits, no new hobbies; dreams still significantly a thousand miles away. Nothing that would make a tiny chorus of damned souls from The Bad Place scream, "Darn it!"

All I had at twenty-seven - much like at seventeen - were lots and lots and lots of feelings.

Feelings of inadequacy, of uncertainty, of misguided passions; of righteous anger at the world for its unkindness, of indignant anger at myself for my apathy; of the many shades of sadness that I carry with me as I trudge on through. But also, insane amounts of excitement over the littlest things, like finding old songs to sing along to while driving, or a fresh cup of coffee to start off the week, or a few bottles of beer to cap off a busy day. Feelings of gratefulness, and contentment, over the ease of certain detours and the net effect of all that life has to bring falling on the good side.

I was never one to shy away from expressing my feelings, whether grief or joy, but I always make the conscious effort to hold them in. To process them first. But something about Carly Rae's music defies restraint. Rolling Stone rightfully called her the Queen of Hearts, and it perfectly identifies what it is about her songs that speak to millions of flawed, complex, lost souls:

"I try to create that with the music that I make - a feeling of a moment being so intense that you’re present in it and you’re nowhere else."

It is in encapsulating the simplest of feelings into electrically charged pop hooks that her magic lies. Everyone finds a space in her music; "There I am, and there it is, that's exactly how I feel," we hear ourselves say. She sings the words, and it finds us, knows us, so much so that it would be impossible to not acknowledge how much it sees us.

In "Run Away With Me," for instance, she revels in the privacy of her feelings: “Baby, take me to the feeling / I’ll be your sinner in secret / When the lights go out.” She’s letting you in on a secret, a feeling so big she can’t contain it. In "Julien," she directly acknowledges the reason behind her gloom: "Woke up this mornin', it feels like everyday / I got the blues, babe, not going away / Another bad dream when you were running away / I'm forever haunted by our time." In identifying the reasons behind her feelings, instead of being overwhelmed, she holds power over them.

Her set list was a rollercoaster ride of highs, and even higher highs. She steals a bike and rides all night in "Fever." She heeds her friend's advice in "Boy Problems." She tosses and turns and can't fall asleep in "Gimmie Love." She goes out and never comes back in "Store." She touches herself in "Party for One." She wants to do bad things (to you) in "Want You In My Room." She knows that there is nothing like the feeling of being in love in "Now That I Found You." She cuts through the clouds and breaks through the ceiling in "Cut to the Feeling." She attempts to comfort oneself while openly longing for both the chaos and certainty of love in "Real Love."

She feels it all and she lets us feel it all too.

The axis around which her songs revolve is the vulnerability that comes with longing. So much about life requires things to be in black-and-white: yes or no? Here or there? Stay or go? But Carly exists in the space in between. She acknowledges the small moments before that "yes," the hesitation before that jump, the wanting before the satisfaction. And she legitimizes this space: to feel these things is just as legitimate as our biggest fears and desires.

In one of her songs, she asks:

"Is this too, is this too, is this too much?"

And like devotees witnessing an apparition, we waved our hands in the air in reckless abandon to affirm what our hearts have always known: no, in the midst of music and love and euphoria, nothing is ever too much.


P.S. The truth was, another highlight of the concert was knowing that you are surrounded with like-minded fans, also knowing every word, also feeling every beat. I saw literally almost a hundred friends that day - and the number of selfies I took is proof of that - from the lines, to the lobby, to the seats. It was, as my blockmates accurately put it, the grand UP Law alumni homecoming. It was such a delight seeing all of them, in all their unabashed fangirl/fanboy glory! Friends working in firms, in the government, in private corporations, studying for the bar, waiting for bar results - name it. Not even our own school could bring us all together for one event; but trust in the power of Carly Rae to convene all the millennial Iskos and Ateneans in one venue.

12 April 2020

It has been a rough last few days.

I kind of always knew that the people I share this home with do not like each other. Unlike many other families (or perhaps a lot like others?), there was this quiet understanding that they were only staying together because of me. This is a fact I found out for myself slowly, but surely, in the last fifteen years or so. I think we were all fine with that understanding pervading our everyday lives. We provide for each other regardless, and have love for each other that fills us enough - I believe - to go on about our days without much suffering. I have no illusions that my parents' love is grand and great and marvelous. That they treat each other decently most of the time, and continuously give me all the comfort they possibly could, is something I am always very grateful for. I see no reason for me to complain.

But being stuck together because of the quarantine, misery was bound to rear its ugly head at some point.

I am tired. The way things are (and have always been) is exhausting. But this is the reality that some of us have to face, the cross that we have to carry: this is just how it is. Families are difficult. Dealing with people you do not inherently like is exhausting. But we cannot complain. More people have less in life, more people are in so much more pain, more people are hungrier for a real kind of love.

Today, I tuned in to an online celebration of the Mass for Easter. The bishop said, "The heart is the tomb. Our heart is the empty dwelling where we keep our fears, our anger, our anxiety." I think this much is true, especially in the last couple of weeks. And the truth was, I no longer know how to pray this kind of pain away. It's so difficult to lift this all above, when the very people who taught me how, are the ones who are treating each other horribly. It is very easy to lose sight of what it means to know the divine, when what often gets thrown around is irreverence.

I am tired, and I am angry, and I feel alone. But I have to remind myself - again, and again, and again - that Jesus died because he understood what it means to be in pain. The heart is the tomb. Jesus died, entered that tomb, and forever left it empty. His resurrection left us satiated. May this Easter carry us out of our own loneliness, our own tombs, and leave us all free from fear, darkness, and sadness.

01 April 2020

It's supposed to be April Fool's but to most of us, it's still just Day 16. Another day to try to work from home, respond to e-mails, rant against the government, get riled up because of the lack of action, foresight, urgency, and transparency, and feel helpless about it all. You know, the new normal.

But I suppose the Universe simply cannot let this day pass without a little side-serving of another plot twist.

I have just been admitted to the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, with a Presidential Scholarship! This is beyond unbelievable! UNH Franklin Pierce has a very competitive IP law program. It is currently ranked as Top 5 for IP and Technology Law by the US News and World Report. It is also consistently ranked as one of the best universities for IP all over the world. The fact that I was accepted at all - and granted a scholarship - is still something I cannot wrap my head around. Similar to LMU Loyola Law School, the financial aid was granted based on their evaluation of my personal essay and application. I feel so thrilled and overwhelmed!

I applied to this university because one of the partners in our office was a graduate of Franklin Pierce as well. When I looked into the credentials of the school, I was truly impressed and in awe. Add to the fact the tiny feeling of glee that the campus looked majestic and was what my teenage WASP-y New England dreams were made of.

Then, of course, it only took a few minutes of elation for reality to sink in. The coronavirus is still here. Worse, our government's incompetence and inaction revealed itself in the most damning of ways (well that's always been the case, but now was the worst possible time), and at the expense of many people's lives. The President continues to see violence as the solution to a virus. Government officials still perpetuate bureaucracy, red tape, and politics. Meanwhile, people are sick, people are hungry, people are dying. And the rest of us who want to help are limited by the quarantine. The frustration, the rage, the inability to actually do something - it's paralyzing.

Even after receiving my acceptance from LMU and up until today with this one from UNH, I still can't feel completely elated. This whole pandemic is unprecedented, at least in our time. It's impossible to isolate yourself from what is happening beyond the comforts of your home, in fact, it has made every conflict outside seem personal. It's so difficult to celebrate personal victories at a time like this. It's like in the bigger scheme of things, your wins don't matter. All these acceptance letters are of course great news, but all the uncertainty about the state of affairs in the country (and in other parts of the world) is making me feel like... this isn't deserved? Especially during a crisis. How do we convince ourselves to embrace these joys when other people are suffering?

It's so hard to see things from a big picture kind of perspective when the present is in such chaos. We feel helpless, powerless; all our work is rendered meaningless.

Incidentally, the other day, I came across an honest, moving essay by Sarah Miller on Longreads about dealing with our feelings in a world saddled with pandemic, climate change, divisiveness and other modern horrors. The reality we live in now seems too bleak, that it seems like our own personal feelings and aspirations have to be pushed aside:

You may have been told all your life that there were certain things you needed and certain things you needed to do, but it turns out that you don’t need most of those things and you don’t really need to do anything. In fact, nothing would be better for the world right now than if we all stopped trying to achieve things and said, “We no longer believe work will set us free, it is the opposite, in fact,” and behaved accordingly. There is nothing to achieve right now except to insist that the only achievement is caring for others, and not caring specially for family or friends, but in caring for every person as our family or friend.

To feel empathy for others is what's most crucial right now. It is primarily the lack of compassion that has brought our country to where it is right now, a sinking ship led by a drunk captain who drove right into an iceberg. It is the inability to see every single person as human, and therefore deserving of basic human rights and needs, that makes the rhetoric of violence resonate to so many. And it's infuriating.

But then, I also see the collective efforts of many others - health workers, front liners, universities, private corporations, regular citizens - who are all stepping up and making up for the government's indifference. Ordinary people are doing all that they can to help and loudly voicing out their dissent. And it's slowly working. It's nothing short of empowering. Despite the despair we all feel given the undeserved idolatry of some people towards the President, there's also consolation in the fact that there are more people becoming more dissatisfied and angry. Our righteous anger has now become loud enough to cause some changes. When rage fuels action, and action results in goodness, it becomes a little easier to still feel hopeful.

Susan Krawitz, attempts to find that flicker of hope amidst a pandemic, and stumbles upon it in nature. In what she believed was marshy soil on familiar land appeared something surprising: a sugar maple. Nature was thriving in mysterious ways.

There are no answers right now to anything, only questions on questions. But the forsythia is beginning to bloom, and house wrens are singing. It’s time for woodcocks to start mating in the marshy meadows, and comfortingly, they are. And I just found two [sugar maple] trees that live in my woodlot in defiance of all experts and odds.

Maybe these wins are my sugar maples. To borrow from Krawitz, I have lived on this land for 28 years and thought I knew every cranny of it.  I have survived on this country 28 years and when someone tells me "This is all you are, this is all you will be," I believed them. But I have lived on this earth for 28 years, and in that time, life has always made clear to me that nothing is ever permanent. Things can get really bad, but they can get really good too. We just have to hold on to that tiny bit of humanity left in us and try to do as much as we can, in order to keep on going.

I listen to the news, but I also listen to nature, and what it’s telling me right now is this: we can’t see everything there is to see. We don’t always know all we think we know. And the very last thing we should ever give up is the possibility of miracles.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. I just have to keep telling myself that. Today, I can be grateful for what lies ahead. But until then, I have to do my part in keeping whatever sanity left in me intact, and do as much good as I can, so everyone else - not just myself - can claim more victories n the future.

What choice do we have other than hope for the best? Hope that our personal triumphs anchor us and keep us afloat. These things, they are an affirmation of what we are capable of. They matter. They do, and they should, if only because they let us carry on, with hopefully the belief that we can bring more good into the world. Not just one day, but soon.


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