My writing mentor Sandra tied the knot two Saturdays ago, and quite typically, it was not your typical wedding. The theme was pre-war times, and the bride and groom looked they were members of the Mafia. I love it! There was no entourage, which, now that I think about it, saves a lot of time, money, fabric, and social tension. The food was vegetarian-friendly, and the wedding cake came in the form of cupcakes that the two of them finished baking at four in the morning.
They were married in a library, with a couple of the great Filipino writers as sponsors, with up-and-coming writers for guests, and with books as souvenirs (They combined their library and wanted to get rid of the books that doubled. I ended up with Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje; I had them pick it out for me.) Whee! I love events with themes! It’s like going to an amusement park with people and interior design as entertainment.
Seeing a mentor get married was quite an experience. You’re close, but in a different way; it was like seeing an older sister I didn’t grow up with get hitched. I’ve known of the groom for a while –teaching literature entails relating one’s personal stories to what your students are studying. His vows “came in the form of cupcakes,” he stated. Ah, my kind of guy. I actually think we’re related – his surname is the same as my mom’s maiden name and they came from the same province.
Years ago, being surrounded by all these writers would have made me giddy with excitement. (I’m calmer now, if you can believe that.) “You want to meet Philippine literature? Here, meet Philippine literature!” Sandra exclaimed, gesturing to her friends. These are the people who, as one of them pointed out in a toast, endeavored to use words like “vicissitudes” in everyday conversation. (I am not kidding. It’s like all the GRE words I studied are finally put to good use.)
Their marriage wasn’t a photograph -- one-shot, short, and immediately gratifying. Instead, it was a painting – multi-layered, textured, with patches that could either be interpreted as imperfections, or attributes that are just part of the art. It was a ceremony that represented years of knowing each other and realizing in the end that a life together made absolute sense.
There is something to be said about marriages that have a lot of history backing up the relationship. Instead of growing with each other when you get hitched young, you marry each other already the person you were meant to become. I guess in some ways, this makes the relationship stronger – each of you has already gone through so much, now you’ve finally figured yourself out and want to share that life you’ve made with someone else.
When I was in college, I looked at writers with a certain sense of awe. When you study in a university that is known for student activism, you see writing as a catalyst for change. You also begin to see writers for their (many) indulgences. I remember being 19 years old and Sandra assigned me to beer duty during one Writer’s Night. I had to do at least six beer runs (Six! Dear God.), which was odd (and exhausting and wasted on me) because I don’t drink. A lot of fiction writers love their booze; I guess that’s why I cannot be one full-time.
Hmm. The fact that I didn’t choose writing immediately after college makes me think that it’s not what I’m meant to do, at least for now. I think that anything original should be organic and come naturally – the struggle must exist, yes, but more so because that thing inside of you is just bursting to come out in the most perfect way possible. I think I didn’t want to pursue it head-on because people just kept telling me to write so that I could get published, or so that I could win something. It was technically feasible, but my mind wouldn’t do it because it felt so false.
Like marriage to the love of your life a bit later in life, I guess it’s the same way with professions. Whenever I talk to people of my generation (the ones who are not in medicine, business and law), I discover that we asked ourselves the very same thing: “Why only now?” (Incidentally, this is the English translation of this awesome Filipino song Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang which seems to be a World Youth Alliance thing – that, and Low by Flo Rida. Yikes. Apple bottom jeans! Boots with the fur! Grr! Enough!) I could have dedicated much more of my time and hard work if I knew that this was what I love to do, instead of slaving away in loneliness and despair with only deadly things to cheer me up. Must I feel that I wasted all those years, getting embittered and angry, for something that I eventually could easily let go of?
Well, I hope not. I think that in addition to finding The One, it’s also equally important to discover it at the right time. It’s why child actors fade away quickly, or give in to pressure so easily. There has to be some level of personal history behind success for it to mean anything in a human way. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself to get through the ordeal. (It has worked so far.)
In a way, it’s great. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there! Whee! I just need to make friends with Photoshop to execute all the things in my head that are clogging up my neural networks. To be honest, I have to remind myself constantly of the joy I feel when I’m immersed in a personal project, because there are so many haunting distractions that call me back into my old life. In the same way as it’s not too late to change careers, it’s also not too late to go back to the old one, especially since I still cough up science every chance I get.
But just like relationships, I guess professions, especially creative ones, have to be fought for. You may not love it to death all the time, but in the end, you know you will lose yourself if you try doing something else. I am not letting The One be The One that Got Away.
I’d like to believe that what you’re meant to do in life (or in my mentor’s case, the person you end up with) is something you can get lost into, forgetting time, distractions, people who may or may not support you, the very air that you breathe. It still makes sense despite such contradictions; you will make all rational arguments not to do it, but you still need to do it anyway. You end up living in your own world with your own rules and sense of time. And you become grateful that for one indescribable moment, you actually lived. I guess that a big part of life is the search for The One, because we need it to understand ourselves better. Especially when encountering life’s vicissitudes.*
Lots of love,
P.S. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I barely knew what this word exactly meant and had to Google it to be enlightened. Here you go:
Vicissitudes [viss-iss-it-yewds] changes in circumstances or fortune, often for the worse
Seriously, who uses this in everyday life? There’s just a lot of hissing.
Then again, I still get ridiculed here for the word “blastocyst,” so who am I to talk.