Okay, So this post is late as usual. I wanted to post something new-yearish early January, But since I procrastinated again, I only finished this blog entry yesterday. In an effort to make this post relevant, I’m officially claiming my Chinese ancestry and posting this in time for Chinese New Year.
Anyway, I normally don’t do years in a nutshell. At the risk of sounding old and well, lack luster, new year was like any other day of the year for me.
In my mind, new year doesn’t necessarily mean new you. Neither does it symbolize new beginnings. You can decide to change ANY TIME, you don’t have to wait for the last day of the year for that.
But last year was different. Because of all the changes I’ve experienced, I feel the need to hold on to memories, and at the same time document the lessons I’ve learned just so it’s out there and I can’t take them back.
Anyway, I digress again. Before my introduction hits one full page, here are the significant things that happened to me in 2014.
LOSING ONE OF THE PEOPLE I LOVE THE MOST AND GETTING UPROOTED
Losing my mom was by far the most painful event that happened to me this year. People who know me know how very close I am to my family. Moving may have physically distanced me from my mom, but it strengthened my emotional attachment to her.
Needless to say, losing her was a big blow. But more than dealing with the grief of her passing, the death of my mom sort of made me feel like I was officially being uprooted.
It’s very hard to explain, but having lost my dad four years ago, my mom, I felt, was the only connection to my core as a person. She knew me even before I was born and had witnessed me go through one transition to the other. And now that she’s gone, it felt like a part of my history has been severed.
Aside from the emotional loss, there was also a more tangible, physical loss. When my mom passed, my brother and I decided to start selling our parents’ properties. And that includes our child hood home. Although we both acknowledged the practicality of the decision, preparing to sell the house we grew up in just highlights the sense of loss even more.
When I was trying to describe how I felt to my husband, he said something that was uncharacteristically poignant (uncharacteristic because although my husband is very logical and even astute, profound and poignant are not really his strong suits), he simply said, “I think Pi, that you now can start living your life. You’ve lost your last excuse.”
Those words hit me hard, because I have been holding back from figuring out what to do with my life. And my go-to excuse was always my family. Whether it was not focusing on my masters/work because my dad was sick, holding back on financial risks because my mom might need the money eventually or even not being totally sold on living somewhere unless my mom was with me permanently, I always used my family as an excuse not to go all-out with living.
But the sad thing about was, my parents never asked me to do these things. Nor would they be happy knowing that I was stopping myself because of them. And although these decisions were made out of love, I can’t claim they’re totally unselfish either. At the end of the day, there was a small part of me that acknowledged that it was just really much simpler to consider other people than to figure out what I really wanted.
So when my husband said what he said, I realized something important. I may have lost my roots, but I’ve also lost the last excuse I had not to fly.
Easier said than done I know. I’m still of the impression that nothing I gain moving forward can compensate for losing my parents. But I owe it to both my mom and dad to make something out of the life they have given me. And I owe it to myself not to be encumbered by grief and lost memories and to make something out of the void that was left behind
I guess that’s the hidden beauty of grief. You may lose something of great importance, but the emptiness also leaves you with a bit of space to grow.
DEVELOPING NEW ROOTS
I’ve talked extensively (and insufferably) about how much we love it here in Subic. And how living here has given us the much-needed break from everything that was Manila.
But truth be told, for a good period of time, that was all Subic was. A break. At the back of our minds, Manila was still home. And I think we held back on getting attached to things here because we knew my husband’s job was temporary and eventually we would have to pack up and leave.
Practically speaking, we never made drastic changes to the house. All improvements that we initiated were temporary. All the furniture we brought in and the ones we had made are detachable (and not built in), so we could easily just dump them in the truck when the time came to move to our “real” house. And even most of our personal stuff have been kept in our respective places in Manila.
As for personal connections, until last year, we pretty much kept to ourselves. Moe had work colleagues, but we never socialized with any of them. Socializing was reserved for family and old friends in Manila (that’s why our trips back were always so hectic) and Subic was our “couple-time”, sort of an extended retreat from other people. We neither had the time nor the inclination to make lasting relationships with anyone here.
But that started changing last year. All of a sudden, moving to Subic permanently became more and more attractive. And we started taking steps towards this goal .
We started thinking of buying (or long-term renting) the house that we live in and making more (expensive) lasting improvements.
Even more importantly, we started opening ourselves up to new people and forming deeper friendships. We now have a handful of friends that we sort of consider our family in Subic and over the last few months, have started developing more meaningful bonds.
I guess the biggest lesson I learned from living in Subic is to just be open and to just go with the flow. My life pretty much revolved around the same radius for 30++ years. I lived in the same house for 3 decades without feeling any inclination to leave, my best friends were the same friends I had in highschool and college and the new friends that I ended up making all pretty much came from the same background. (Filipino, Catholic school, had the same circle of acquaintances, the same upbringing).
But ever since I started thinking of our stay Subic as Book 2 in my life chronicles (instead of just a short chapter from the same old story), I was rewarded with so many new possibilities. All of a sudden, I started noticing career opportunities in a field I had never considered and making great friends whom I would have never even met had we not moved.
It sounds pretty cliché, but I realized that the only way you could grow is when you embrace the unfamiliar. If you just tentatively venture out on your own terms when you feel like it, then you’re missing out on relationships, experiences and possibilities that you could not have imagined because you were holding on to your comfort zone.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE CHANGES IN ME AS A PERSON
The last five years was a roller coaster for me. In that short span of time, I’ve experienced the most humbling failures, the most intense losses and the most devastating heartbreaks. But at the same time, I’ve also experienced the most intense happiness and the most profound contentment. I was also able to test my strength and ability to bounce back and had the privilege of feeling the immense love and fierce loyalty of the people around me.
Because of all these, I found myself changing drastically. All of a sudden, the values and traits that pretty much made the core of me started shifting. I realized I wasn’t as feisty and opinionated as I used to be. I seem to have lost the pure fearlessness that I had when I was younger. I’m also not as empathetic and “accessible” (for a lack of a better term) to other people.
Even my physical appearance has changed. From a fashion-conscious waif, I have officially retired my extensive collection of stilettos and am now a (pleasantly) plump thirty something who goes around in pajama shorts and beach slippers.
I have noticed these changes almost as soon as they started happening (well, that was one thing that never changed, I’m still uncomfortably introspective), but I always thought they were temporary. I thought they were just after-effects of all the life-changing events that have been happening to me.
But after a couple of years of having different instinctive inclinations, I started to realize that, hey, maybe this is permanent. Maybe I’ve really changed and I will never revert back to the old me.
It’s sounds quirkily surreal, but now that I’ve acknowledged the changes in me, it feels like I’m starting to get to know myself again. And just like every new person that I meet, I feel a little bit hopeful that I’ll form a good relationship with her, but there’s still an acknowledgment that I might not like her at all.
It’s a bit tough, because old me and I actually got along. And it’s not that I think old me is better than new me. (I’ve always been of this belief that traits are neutral and each value has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation and how it’s utilized. For example being a aggressive gets the job done but people can find you offputting. So there are always two sides of the coin). But I’ve gotten used to old me. Like I said, I’m a pretty introspective person. And after living with the same me for years, I’ve become really predictable to myself. I knew instinctively how I would react to a given situation and have learned over time, to appreciate myself.
But I guess the theme for last year really was embracing changes and embracing the unknown. And this applies not just to external things but to intrinsic stuff as well. Who knows, this new me may be better suited to the new environment I find myself in. It may overcome the grief and old hurdles that old me couldn’t overcome.
So that’s my 2014 in a nutshell. Normally I would say that I hope 2015 would be calmer and less unstable, but truth be told I’m not really sure if that’s exactly what I’m hoping for anymore. Because last year may have been difficult, but it also forced me to grow up. So universe, whatever you have in store for me this year, just bring it on. I’ll try my very best to trust and learn from the process.