Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Question is My Answer.

My editor hates it when I ask rhetorical questions. They’re a bad writing device. She always tells me to give my opinion instead of just asking questions. The problem is that I always have far more questions than answers and whenever I have figured something out, it just leads me to ask more. But perhaps questions are the best answers.

Answers have an air of certainty and finality. In reality, very few things are either and most are neither. Questions lack such pretension. Not only do they ask where we should go from here, they also question how we arrive at where we are. They’re not as neat or as formal and they do not fit as well into a little check box, but they’re more honest. Questions acknowledge that they don’t know. They acknowledge that they’re not sure.

It makes sense to me that most people prefer answers to questions. Answers fit. They’re what is expected. In theory, answers are good, but in reality, they’re always deficient in some way or another – hence the volumes of critiques to answers offered by anyone from Darwin to Marx. These answers are only accepted as “truth” until a new answer is discovered anyway. Answers may be more fulfilling, but questions are more enduring.

My life has never fit into a check box very well. I used to ask, “why didn’t I fit the answers?” Now I ask why the answers don’t fit me. I still don’t have an answer for either. Maybe I’m a freak, a genetic mistake, a wilful traitor to my being. Maybe it’s the patriarchy imposing so-called “natural” categories that don’t really fit anyone. Maybe it’s society’s problem for being uncomfortable with people in the middle. I don’t know. But I do know that I feel better asking the second question than I did when I asked the first.

For me, at least right now, that question is my answer. It’s not solid and it’s not all-knowing, but it doesn’t pretend to be those things. It acknowledges its weaknesses with the question mark at the end.

No matter what I write, however, I long for an answer to that question. Even if it’s probably wrong, I just want something to hold on to. I want an answer to throw back at all of those hateful people who have made my life miserable. I want to know why these people are so scared of difference. But longing for answers makes me ask myself why I want an answer. This leaves me again with nothing but questions.

Get Your Coffee to Go.

I love my daily coffee breaks. Not just for the temporary caffeine high that helps me get through my day, but also for the half-hour or so I get to catch up with friends and have a good laugh, especially when the school paper season hits and leaves me with little to no free time. Whenever I head down to Starbucks, there are invariably at least five or six tables with over-caffeinated typists plugging away on their laptops. I admit I happen to be one of them, so maybe it’s the caffeine talking, but the truth is coffee shops are really not an ideal work space. If you want to actually get work done, the library is probably your best bet for peace and quiet. But hey, whatever works, right? The problem I have is that the line between the library and the coffee shop is slowly disintegrating.

Just a few weeks ago, I was at Starbucks catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while and, honestly, probably being louder than absolutely necessary. But it was 10 o’clock in the evening on a Friday night, which I deem to be too late for anything to get done anyway. A frazzled-looking girl came up to our table and rudely demanded that we “keep it down” because she was trying to make her deadline and we were disrupting her thought process.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong – but I was under the impression that coffee shops were public spaces. If you really want to get work done, a central meeting place where people tend to socialize with others is most likely not the best place to do it. Such places will inevitably make you run into friends, get distracted by random pop songs playing over the radio or yield to the overwhelming desire to eavesdrop on the juicy gossip going on at the table next to you.

What’s the draw of the coffee shop anyway? Are we so addicted to caffeine that we can’t stand to go five minutes without the sweet smell of dark roast filling our lungs? Is anyone really more productive when sitting where everyone can watch you work? It all seems like an elaborate form of procrastination.

This whole working environment seems a little less than ideal. Of course, one could say the same for the library. No one has qualms about talking about what happened in the party last night or answering phone calls in the middle of the high stacks of books and it’s even worse at the library.

So allow me to clear up the apparent confusion. Libraries are for real studying. Coffee shops are for group meetings or the fake kind of studying when you really feel like you should get something done but just aren’t motivated. Live and let live, as they say. But don’t expect others to accommodate the ridiculous idea that just because you decided to bring your work into my social arena, I should accommodate this notion.

Enough about me!

I have had just about enough! My ever-extending social limits have been passed. A dreadful plague has infected a horrifyingly large majority of my peers, and I suddenly find myself unable to endure their behaviour any longer. It’s almost as if a memo has been handed out, one which I did not receive.

New hot topic to be discussed at all possible opportunities – me.
I genuinely enjoy hearing other people’s stories, even when they tend to slope off on a various far-reaching tangent. Nonetheless, there comes a point when even the most patient can no longer tolerate the unfathomable heights to which this self-absorption has risen. I can still remember that time when some of my oldest and deepest friendships have inadvertently morphed into relationships which I can recall every detail of our conversation until I sleep, while they remain clueless about my current state of affairs. I assure you, this is not my fault. I would have loved to share all my wonderful news. The interest with which it is received, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

Fast forward to the present. I have absolutely no idea when it began or how it even became a “hot topic.” In one fell swoop, I have stumbled upon a war being waged, one of fierce competition and terrible high stakes: he who interrupts the other with more questions in a five minute interval takes home the price. I find myself in these positions more and more often, constantly assuming the weaker, defensive side, nursing an awful headache as my opponent engages in a solitary war, the voice getting progressively louder and the questions becoming more personal as my highly anticipated interruptions fail to surface.

Perhaps this sudden need to tell all can be attributed to the emphasis being placed on the now trendy notion of open communication. My friends always tell me to freely express my innermost thoughts and emotions, with the hopes that once everything has been unfurled, all will be well and nothing will be left to gnaw on my nerves. De-stressing in a nutshell.

Is it possible that this widely adopted method of self-psychoanalysis has begun to backfire, slowly evolving into a me-me-me virus, causing previously rationally-minded people to unload their personal baggage in all its forms onto whomever they happen to meet?

The “disease” is comprised of a set of rather disparate symptoms, one being the newly acquired inability to show any form of interest in the goings-on of others – unless, of course, they affect me. It’s rather distressing how a friend would come up to me, give me a blank look or say “um” while I read a book to myself, more often than not followed by an eager, “Ano bang balita sa iyo? Magkwento ka naman!” Not to be forgotten is the fervent complaining that I don’t give all the details and blind belief that kilig stuff only happens to me.

My fear is that after such prolonged periods of unprotected exposure, I will finally fall victim to the treacherous virus. My present state of benignity is floundering, giving way to a sharply honed exasperation. Such turbulent grounds may be too easy a prey for the all-consuming “me.” And so, this appeal is my last remaining form of combat. A last resort in the truest sense. I pray that the world of my friends will no longer revolve around me. May they rejuvenate that lost sense of social responsibility that lies deep within them and perhaps one day, we may all be saved.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Preparing for Tomorrow.

More than a month has already passed since...that fateful day. Everything is still so clear. Every single detail that happened. Of course, I'm still not happy. Staying here is clouding my mind. It's confusing me more and more rather than making me move on with my life.

So maybe it's just right that I go away for a while. I'm going to Malaysia and Kota Kinabalu. I hope that going there will make me see things more clearly.

So here's to me...

May I be able to go on with my life and be happy...even for a little while as I stay abroad.