29



Joan Didion, writer and my own personal hero, echoes in "Goodbye to All That" about 28:

That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it has counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it?

Nothing about this year (2020) was normal. And certainly a lot of the things I expected to happen this year (my 28th) did not quite pan out. It still did, however, highlight a lot of things about myself - perhaps to an even more illuminating degree, since we were all forced to stay at home and come to terms with ourselves, flaws and all. 

I realized that much of who I am now didn't happen over the course of the last six months, not even in the last year. Who we are each day is really a culmination of all our past heartaches and triumphs. Each choice, big or small, is a reflection of the value system we've tinkered with, refined, and stood by in years past.

I turned 29 last Monday. Much like everyone else this year, I celebrated simply and quietly with loved ones. No parties, only lots of cake. Lots of wine. And a profound sense of gratefulness. Everything's on fire, but my head's still above water for the most part. It's buoyed by the many things I allowed myself to take pleasure in this year, guiltlessly and without abandon. 

In Joan Didion's essay, she talked about moving from New York while reminiscing about the time she moved to New York. No similar significant shifts occurred in my life this year, however much of the last two years of my life did have similar departures. Leaving Quezon City to move back to Paranaque, finding comfort in Makati only to make a sudden shift to BGC. But these aren't necessarily permanent decampments so much as just minor detours.

What this year felt like though was actually moving permanently back home. I've been living in our house since 2017, after graduation and during bar review, but it never really felt like I was fully present. My mind was always elsewhere, focused on other far more important things outside. I was always leaving the house (for bar review, for dates, for work) and going back to the house (to sleep, to eat, to prepare for the next day), but I really was not in it. It was very rare for me to be  physically, mentally, and emotionally at home. I was always planning ahead or looking forward to a place outside our gates.

And then this year happened. And suddenly, I was noticing how uncomfortable my chair was. How much sorting my dresser needs. How much unnecessary clutter I had to give away. How our couch feels like the best encapsulation of what a cloud is like. How we never run out of Yakult. How much bread we consume as a family. How ideal my room is for sit-ups and planks but not much else that involves a bigger radius. How generous our entire house's lighting was for zoom meetings. How tall our gumamela trees (they really are literal trees now; they're taller than my grandma's house) were. How my ceiling is the perfect blank slate to wake up to.

It really did feel like stumbling into a new place again. To borrow from Didion, nothing was irrevocable; everything was within reach. Just around every corner lay something curious and interesting, something I had never before seen or done or known about. An old photo album, an unseen book, an unnoticed piece of painting under the staircase. Each piece a part of history that was yet to be discovered again. While the last seven months have been emotionally suffocating, it has also been pleasant. It was nice to really know every nook and cranny of the structure again. And more importantly, I'm quite appreciative of the time I get to spend with my family.

I don't know when I started feeling like our house was something I should depart from. It has always been comforting and warm and nice (my mom decorates really well). But it was also very restricting. To put it in very simple terms: my favorite Disney princesses were Rapunzel and Jasmine. Take with that what you will. There was always an "out there" that I had to go to, or be in, or take part of. For many reasons, home felt like an anchor that held me back.

But it isn't and it shouldn't be. I know now how much that rings true, and how lucky I am that I have a safe place to hide in and to take comfort in, especially when the outside is no longer the great escape it used to be. 

If not for the quarantine, who knows if I would've ever gotten the chance to really live here again? Before all this, my mind was made up about leaving for studies abroad, or leaving to settle down. While those are still definitely happening, the certainty seems to have dissipated thanks to the pandemic. But surprisingly, I don't feel so bad about it. 

Maybe I should just stay put.

I know I should be looking forward to 29. For a lot people, 29 is "clutch." It's the last year before 30, a chance to set big goals and take higher leaps. Although - *looks around* - considering everything that's been going on, I'm not about to make unrealistic expectations about what lies ahead. The truth is, on any other year, I would have chosen to ignore the pressure that comes with 29 just the same. More so now, when everything is this chaotic. 

So here goes my prediction for 29, and my farewell to 28: for sure I'll be elsewhere in a few years' time. Definitely. But while there's no certainty about when yet, or even the how, I'll just concern myself with the what: the reality is I'm going to be here for a little while. Time is collapsing into one permanent place, feeling endless and immoveable but also indubitably fading away. Still and all the same, I should be fine. 

It's easy to see beginnings and harder to see the ends.

This is what it was all about, wasn't it?

1 comment

  1. This is going to be super late but: belated happy birthday, Karla! I've been visiting your old blog for ages and felt sad that you seemed to have stopped writing. So glad to have found this again! It's weird, the first time I stumbled upon Bombastarr I was just about to start college just like you, and now here we are. Time flies, indeed! So happy to see old friends from the good ol' days of blogging still thriving.

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