It wasn’t until last night when I saw the innocent look on my face from January that everything would go down in a matter of months.
Last January, I was naïve and had a fervent energy. Hopeful that I thrive in the face of new challenges, I felt ambitious at the beginning of the year as numerous opportunities presented themselves to me. As thrilling as they were, January was no caveat for me. It was only as sad as Christmas; an extension of grief. There were attempts to wash them by the presence of scrumptious dishes and the festive mood that was well alive in my family. After that, everything was back to the “normal” I used to know.
Earlier this year, I trod onto the different parts of the city with my friends. We go out in our free time whenever our professor is absent or if there are no immediate deadlines. We found ourselves in cafés, smoking alleys, parks, and libraries. These detours were something that kept us going. There was the sight of stacked papers, laptop chargers, beat-up notebooks, and some pens that no longer work. It looked quite messy but it was still a beautiful sight while we allowed the sunlight to graze over our irises to reveal a lighter shade.
It takes so much to squander a hopeful young adult’s energy; in my experience, invitations, conferences, and parties are what I define to be a “thrilling” experience in my life so far. All it took to scratch that is a pandemic.
I was in my campus at the time the City of Manila’s mayor suspended classes for a week. A week-long suspension meant one thing: rest. Consider it a short vacation, a little detour from the ways life usually went by. By the time I reached home, I packed up my suitcase to go to my mom’s hometown, convinced that I won’t be visiting after the suspension because of my hectic schedule.
“I’ll be back in a week,” I told my parents the night before I left.
I intended to stay there for a week. I stayed for four months.
I was well aware that there is a virus on the loose but at that point, it seemed like there was nothing left to lose; that this week-long suspension is a gain for our wellbeing. A month later, it revealed itself that as a black sheep in disguise.
Time wasn’t really of the essence back then. All I knew is that I’d be home in a few months. There were a thousand promises: an anticipated hangout with friends and colleagues, a dinner with my family, and a whole lot more. I was fawning for the things that passed by my newsfeed; tagging my friends and swore that we would do this and that. I’m certain that I wouldn’t be able to do all of them because I knew that I would be whipped with work by the time I go back to my real life. However, there was still an abundance of hope and of excitement.
At dinner, my family and I would watch the news. There would be this wave of angst towering over me knowing what is happening in the country. The events were surprising at first but I learned to be unfazed yet still disappointed with the inconsistencies that the government threw in the bag. I am more than sad to say that this encounter has lasted for more than half a year. After dinner, I would return back to my bedroom or to the balcony, depending wherever solace is begotten to stay away from a child’s cries.
Many of my frustrations bloomed in the pandemic. It taught me what it means to be overwhelmed with college and with my personal life. There were late night calls, terrible drafts, and endless playlists that cater directly to the situation I have now: frustrated, exhausted, yet empowered. I can take a humble swig of confidence when I say that I have grown exponentially in the past couple of months despite the losses this year acquired. Despite the growth, the losses cannot be ignored; all the courageous yet fearful narratives of struggle, injustice, and hope. The latter comes by rarely as the former still is dominant today.
While I imagine myself at a silent café and the city streets, I cannot help but be angered at this problematic system we still endure. Compassion is often seen at the tipping scale; there should be an abundance of it especially when we need it the most. Thankfully, we have reached some heights for what we sought for. However, the fight is still not yet done — it is far from done.
All that I can do now is to apologize to myself who was hopeful that this pandemic would end a week or a month after. I yearn for the city streets and the touch of the people I was with. Most of them are still here, thankfully. For now, I only linger in the hope that I will see myself again in the places I go to with the same fervent youthful energy.
If there is anything else that I know now, it is that I am young, fearful, and apologetic to my past self; the self who promised that this would be over in a month. Or so, that’s what I thought.