Category Archives: Thoughts

Childhood Home

I decided after I graduated from university that I’d move to London and travel around Europe again. Before packing my traveller’s backpack, I remember taking a black permanent marker, and I hesitated for a split second before writing directly on the inside of my backpack my home address and phone number. I figured that will never change, right?

Fast forward to now, 11 years later, and my parents have decided to move and sell this home. I’m currently here in my room, sorting through my childhood, and I feel like I’m on an episode of Storage Hoarders, trying to figure out what’s worth keeping, trashing, selling or giving away.

And I have a lot of stuff. I mean, A LOT. I even went through my stuff 10 years ago and got rid of a lot back then but clearly I seem to have added more stuff to my life.

But unlike the first round, going through my things this time wasn’t overwhelming and a chore but it was actually fun and quite therapeutic. I found concert tickets (kept), my collection Goosebumps books (donated), photos of exes (shredded). I also discovered floppy disks (remember those?), and catalogues from dELiA*s (was sad about the bankruptcy but glad there’s been a relaunch!) and American Girl (Kirsten was officially archived *sniff). I looked through my sporadic academic life – books and notes on psychology and neuroscience to art history and languages. I found all my study abroad stuff such as brochures and notebooks. I remember that’s all I wanted to do in college was to study abroad and even planned out my academic life around it. That moment in my life was just as important as my degrees.

I found my personal statements for both college and graduate school. I went from “I was running away from life…” to “I was reborn…” Hah, so melodramatic!

I found some really out of date things – remember checkbooks and balancing them? My first check I wrote out was to The Sweet Factory. My parents never let me buy candy there so that’s probably the reason it was my first purchase. This proceeded by a payment to my college’s bookstore.

Holy shit I have a lot of stuff.

I also found an enormous amount of letters from my BFF. From 5th to 10th grade we wrote to each other pretty much every day. And during the summer when we didn’t see each other, we continued to write, then gave each other a bag full of letters on our first day back to school (I must admit, there were some summers I procrastinated and wrote a bunch within the week or so before school started). I even found the very last one written to me – we decided not to write to each other anymore because of “summer school, work, and just being too old”. We were 17 years old. I felt like I was holding proof of the end of our innocence. But I also found this fun one:

Letter 3

I found more letters from other people in high school – the days before text messaging, AIM (which is long gone as well), Facebook and other various forms of social media. In the letters to my BFF during elementary school we kept talking about the Contaminators – a term we came up with for a group of boys who always made fun of us. And boy, did we come up with the craziest stories about them! When I came across letters from one of these boys in high school I felt as if I betrayed my 10 year old self, hah. I was also amazed how beautiful everyone’s writing was. After sifting through all these letters, I decided to shred them all. When I was finished, I thought, I could’ve written a story based on all these letters, dammit! But this is about letting go (ugh, did I actually quote that Frozen film?) and moving forward.

With all this stuff I looked at the progression and changes of my interests, my crushes, even my eyeglasses and own handwriting. I found the poem I first recited in front of people – To A Butterfly by William Wordsworth. It was my first taste in spoken word even if it was an assignment for my English class. All I remember was that my performance was utterly horrendous. I still shiver thinking about it.

Yes, I’m a hoarder. But I think it’s good to keep things like these so that I can one day look through them, sort them out, and remind myself how much I’ve progressed which is something that I needed right now. In fact, I’m looking forward to another decade or so of clearing shit out – hopefully at that point there won’t be nearly as much stuff!

I thought the one thing I can rely on was my home. And now that it’s no longer going to be my home, I’m feeling a bit imbalanced. It was the one constant in my ever-changing life. But life’s unpredictable, and I’m going to miss this home. I was really sad when my parents decided to move. I was even sad when they changed their home number so imagine how this is a huge deal for me. But I’m learning to accept it and now that I’ve been to the new house, I’m even excited for them. I can’t be selfish, and I need to let them go on their own adventure and enjoy the next phase of their lives.

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Autumn Leaves

On my way to work this week I noticed the gorgeous colours of the leaves in my local square. I must admit I do miss witnessing the leaves change colour in New York. Autumn always reminds me of two things: New York and my grandmother.

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So, my grandmother passed away earlier this year.

The ceremony was epic to Western society standards but the norm to Filipinos. Even before the funeral, her body was on display in a coffin at her house for three weeks. (According to my mother, that’s a short period of time. Others choose to the viewing period for months). Visitors came every evening for a praying and singing session. On the day of the funeral, we were led by a marching band, as we walked behind the hearse from the house to the church. The whole town came by to show their respect. Apparently she was quite popular – for example, she’d go to the local market and wouldn’t come back for hours as she’d speak to every single person there.

And although I was surrounded by my family, it was all so foreign to me. I was born and raised in the US and my parents never taught me Tagalog (or their respective dialects. Did you know there are over 100 different dialects spoken in The Philippines and not one are related to one another?) The few times I did see Lola, cuddles from her was just enough. But as I got older, I must admit, I was envious of my cousins who shared their memories with her and the stories she told them as they were able to converse and understand with her. I didn’t even know she was called Lola Tang – my mother confirmed that “Tang” was her nickname. She was always just Lola to me.**

But something like that made me feel so far removed from them. Language and cultural barriers are quite the roadblock.

But the one thing I will treasure is the song, Autumn Leaves. When I was little, my mother was listening to the song, and she told me that it was Lola’s favourite song. I always wondered if it reminded her of Lolo. My grandfather passed away in his early 40’s. My mother was around 14 at the time. And Lola didn’t marry again. But I did (and still do) imagine them dancing to this song. Or her singing along to the song throughout the day while while cooking or weaving baskets with her children.

Even though I don’t really believe in Heaven, I’d like to think that Lolo and Lola are dancing to Autumn Leaves once again. It’s a lovely reminder every time the leaves change.

 

* Lola means grandma in Tagalog. That’s why I always find it a bit funny whenever I meet someone named Lola (who clearly isn’t a grandmother).

** Great aunts and great uncles are referred to my grandmothers and grandfathers as well. So my other lolas are Lola Inday, Lola Pining, etc. I’ve a huge family back in the Motherland.

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Happy Father’s Day…Two Weeks Later

I’ve never said “I love you” to my dad. And I can’t recall if he’s said it to me. Stating nor showing affection isn’t really our thang in our family. We recently attended my grandmother’s funeral, and as we walked behind the hearse to the church, I saw my parents holding hands. I can’t recall whether or not I’ve seen them do this before. It was adorable.

My dad and I only started awkwardly hugging but only when saying hello and goodbye – I now live on the opposite side of the world from him, and the last time I saw him was two years ago. So although it’s awkward, it’s genuine.

When I was a child I adored my dad – I always tried to make him proud. But probably not so much when I smeared peanut butter all over his guitar or when I scribbled all over his textbooks when he was studying for his 2nd Bachelor’s degree. I wanted him to wake me up every day at sunrise so that I can say goodbye to him as he drove to work.

Then the terrible teens hit and we were at war. And they were epic battles.

Funny thing is, my mother always said that we were so much alike. At the time, I loathed that statement, but recalling those times, it’s completely true. Unlike my mom (and brother), who would walk away from confrontation, my dad and I were there at the front lines, ready to attack and defend ourselves. And our temperamental mood swings, oh dear. Stay clear from us when the wrath awakens from its slumber.

And when I rebelled against my parents and ran away from home, I learned he did the exact same thing. Our lives were in parallel, and it must’ve been difficult for my dad to see life repeat itself. We clashed and repelled like negative ions but eventually it was an eye-opener for us.

My dad was 26 when he had me, and now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve grown to appreciate his hard work and the struggles he went through (as well as my mom’s). I found a picture of him with his friends and family on the day he immigrated to the US. Was he anticipating his first job washing dishes even though he had a college degree? Or joining the US Air Force? Or experiencing snowy winter for the first time? Or having an obnoxious daughter? Life indeed throws curves balls but I think after nearly 30 years as an engineer, 34 years of marriage, and raising two awesome children, it’s been a successful life so far.

And our lives are in parallel once again now that I myself immigrated to the UK, still trying to carve my way into this hard world.

I understand now that everything my parents did for my brother and me came from a good place. I may not agree with some of the decisions made but I respect them. Most recently, my parents and I were in the Philippines, and on our last stop in Manila, I wanted to explore the city as I was getting bored of taking taxis to shopping malls. However, my dad refused to let me wander on my own. (As my mom reiterated numerous times, people will drug and kidnap you. Eye roll.) Believing it was irrational paranoia, I felt my rebellious 16 year old self trying its damnedest to burst its way out into the open, but I suppressed it, remained calm then chuckled to myself. (But not without revealing that as a proud world traveller, I’ve been to pretty dangerous places around the world, much to my terrified mother’s surprise. So nyah!) Even though my dad’s mood was on high alert status, as a compromise, he came along with me. And as he was showing me around the city, I thought, “we’ve come a long way”. I don’t need him to say those three words – his actions prove it.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

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Motivation

Clearly I need motivation. Getting a nifty keyboard for my mini iPad has helped, and as I was heading back to work (after writing in a cafe during my lunch break), I came across this man:

Picadilly Circus Painter
I thought, even the rain hasn’t stopped him from painting. I didn’t get a good look at him but I pondered about his identity. Could he be a famous artist? Or just an ordinary guy who took the day off to paint? Maybe he’s a tourist who brought his painting supplies instead of a camera? Or… a scammer! A scam artist who pretends to paint ready made ones that he hides in his handy briefcase and takes another one out whenever someone buys one (I miss watching I Love Lucy).

Or he’s a commuter, just waiting for the bus to arrive. After all, he is standing next to a bus stop in Central London. Just look at the traffic. Clever guy.

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To the Moon and Back

Hello world.  Again. Nevermind a winter hibernation.  I needed a long sabbatical.  But I’m back.  That is, until my next hibernation/sabbatical.

I started volunteering at the V&A Museum of Childhood.  When my fellow volunteers started talking about the current exhibition, Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson, I asked who she was.  “YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF JACQUELINE WILSON?” they both said in unison.  Reminding them I was born and raised in the US, they immediately removed the shock from their faces and proceeded to explain who she was.  Wilson is a children’s writer, and millions of children grew up reading her books, including my fellow volunteers.  She’s still writing and will soon release her 100th book so girls today are still reading her books.  I thought back to books I read as a child – Nancy Drew, Goosebumps (just found out a Goosebumps film will be made and will be released 2016!), and Babysitters Little Sister (a spin-off from The Babysitter’s Club).  I remember with the latter series, one book in particular I read was about the main character, Karen, having to get glasses.  It was that moment I wanted to get glasses too.  I even made glasses out of construction paper to wear.  Although I still like wearing glasses in a fashionable since, I do wish I could tell my 8 year old self how much it is a nuisance not being able to see. However, I do look pretty cool in them.

Back to Wilson, I watched a BBC Breakfast interview with Wilson (at the Museum of Childhood) and I’m always amazed when writers are motivated to write every day.  It’s taken me weeks to write this blog post!

I saw the exhibition for the first time the other week – starting off with her childhood including a replica of her room, then describing her move from the south of England to Scotland at just 17 to become a writer for a teen magazine called Jackie.   Which reminds me – I had drinks with my colleagues and one of them revealed that Flash Art (a magazine that focuses on contemporary art) agreed to feature his first article – they didn’t realise he was only 17 year old and found out when he asked them to write out a cheque to one of his parents as he didn’t have a bank account.

Back to the exhibition, it also focused on some of Wilson’s characters such as Tracy Beaker, Hetty Feather, and The Illustrated Mum.  In conjunction with the latter character, I thought it was so cool and almost daring to have an activity encouraging children to draw their own tattoos.  Although the exhibition was about this well-known children’s writer, it also featured Nick Sharatt, the illustrator of Wilson’s books, and visitors were given the opportunity to trace some of Sharatt’s illustrated characters including one of Wilson herself (complete with her fingers full of large rings – her trademark look). Visitors ranged from babies throwing around plush toys and children who were obviously fans to even adults who came to visit for pure nostalgia.  One child in particular told me she didn’t read her books but wanted to start reading them after visiting the exhibition.

The last part of the exhibition featured some of the letters and gifts Wilson received throughout the years.  As a 30-something year old being introduced to this author for the first time, I wondered if I missed out as a child.  But would I have enjoyed her books?  Some of the topics Wilson has also written about are quite difficult but important – divorce, death, abuse, and mental illness.  I’m glad there are children books that address these topics.

A fun and inspiring retrospective exhibition – Wilson must be proud of her career.  This is a lighthearted break from the at times self-absorbed and convoluted contemporary art scene I’m used to.

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Winter and Spring Updates

In high school I always hoped for “June Gloom” weather.  Growing up in California, “June Gloom” referred to the cloudy and often times rainy weather during the month of June.  Considering how hot it can get in California, it was a nice break for me especially since I had P.E. as my last class which was particular horrendous when forced to run in 100+ degrees F weather.

Whowudda thought many years later I’d now be living in a country where the “gloom” would extend to most parts of the year.  (Ironically, this week has been quite sunny – isn’t that a record?)

That said, it’s now June, and I haven’t posted a blog since December.  I’ve quite a few blog drafts but just never got around to finishing them.  So I figured I’d write a recap of the last few months.

In January I pretty much hibernated.  Nothing exciting to report.

In February I somehow came out of early hibernation and went to my first poetry workshop.  From the very first confirmation email the organizer was very welcoming and supportive.  The theme was “snow,” and for the first couple of hours we worked on a number of exercises which included jotting down words and phrases from memory as well as from the images that were passed around.  Once the exercises were done, we had an hour to work on our poems before sharing with everyone.

I have to admit, I already had an idea and used that as a starting point.  I was pretty impressed with some of the phrases I came up yet struggled trying to fit them into my poem.  I kept going back and forth with sticking with my initial idea or starting from scratch.  I ended up doing the former but wasn’t completely satisfied with my poem.  One hour was not enough!

I enjoyed listening to everyone’s poems.  There was one I really liked – I can’t recall the poem now but it was very simple yet clever.  I thought that I’d hear a few self-confessional poems, however mine was the only one.  And I decided not to share my poem mainly because it wasn’t finished.  But also because the poem itself was quite personal and it would be like reading out loud a diary entry.  In fact, I actually did bring my journal to use for the workshop.

I definitely want to attend another workshop and hopefully do this regularly.  I need to practice other styles apart from self-confessional poetry.  And I definitely need to share my work in order to get feedback.  I just need to suck it up and do it!

Also in February I started taking yoga classes again.  I figured I’d start off with Hatha Yoga and ease my way back into it again.  Just a minute into class I realized I was in the wrong class, Ashtanga Yoga.  At first I panicked then decided to stick with it and somehow I did alright for my first time.

In March I somehow managed to finish (and survive, unscathed) this monster of a 10k run (and when they mean 10k they mean 15k) at night, in 0°C with snow, mud, streams, and up/down two fairly large hills in Scotland.  In a t-shirt and shorts.  Yep, never doing that again.

I attended Poets After Dark in April, an event at the Hayward Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition, The Light Show.  Ten poets (Mimi Khavlati, Sam Riviere, Kate Tempest, Simon Barraclough, Tamar Yoseloff, Julia Bird, Chris McCabe, Amjad Nasser, Sabrina Mahfouz and Vahni Capildeo) were commissioned to write and perform a poem about one of the works in the show.  It was actually nice to see both the performance and the inspiration simultaneously together.  A more thorough synopsis to be blogged soon!

I accomplished something quite significant in May –  I managed to do a back bend with ease for the first time ever!  Thanks, Ashtanga Yoga!  Next goal – head stand.

That’s it for now.  I’m off to see the new Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by Sou Fujimoto, that is, weather permitting.  So much for the sunny weather!

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50,059 Words

Winner-180x180

 

Woohoo!  I did it, and I can’t believe it!  With birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, zombie runs, and simply just running out of ideas to write about, 50,000 words seemed like an unattainable entity.  However, during the last week, I plopped myself at my local library and somehow managed to churn out the last 10,000 words in 4 days.

And now I have a novel that is in dire need of revising and editing.  But I’ll save that at the start of the new year.  I’m now working on the book proposal simply to help organize my brain in the hopes that I can make sense out of my story.

Eeek!  I wrote a novel!

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