Do you love life more than the meaning of life?
Posting this to remind myself to write about Dostoevskij’s Brothers Karamazov. I am never ever ever getting tired of saying Alyosha’s name. Easily my favorite character of all time in world literature, and I’m not even finished with the book yet. Alyosha, Alyosha. Alyosha, the better self we all strive towards. Alyosha. Alexei. Alyoshka Alyoshenka. Alyoshechka. Alexeichik. Lyosha. Lyoshenka.
700 pages in and 300+ left to go. I am not the same person anymore.
I finished Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov last night after a little over a month of reading it. 1045 pages. Fuck me. As much as I want to write about how much this book means to me, I find that I am still sensitive towards it and find myself overwhelmed and in tears whenever I think about it. I think I need a few days to heal and process everything before I can talk about it openly, but wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. The most breathtaking book I’ve ever read. I am flayed and stripped and completely undone, I am mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted yet at the same time I feel regenerated. I am damaged goods. I am not the same person anymore. I am scarred, I am changed, I feel so empty.
Some books I hoarded in the months of November, December, and January 2018 I’m not proud of this
Putting an end to this year properly by finally putting my focus on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. I can’t wait to meet Alyosha!!!
(Nick Cave in the background giving the stink eye)
I just drank two cups of coffee (with a bit of cinnamon) and am waiting for my garlic heads to finish roasting in the oven. I wont be sleeping tonight; I’m really adamant about getting some writing done. I was able to finish the draft of one short story last night and I know it still needs vicious editing, but I’m now ready to move on to my next one. I just find that I really cannot write in the daytime, no matter how hard I try. I know everyone will say that I should discipline myself and force myself to write; I do do that, it’s just that I do it at odd hours of the night, from 12 midnight to 6 am. Last night (this morning) I got to bed at 4 am, and slept until 10 am. It might bet he same thing again tonight, although I’m starting a bit late because I’m waiting for my garlics to finish. I’d like to have a bite while doing some work done. Not much has been happening lately. I graduated two months ago and last week I got a job offer from the biggest daily paper in the country; I start work on the 28th. I’ll be writing content and news, with a little bit of digital marketing and social media thrown in the side; no, it isn’t lucrative, but I’m more surprised at the fact that they’re willing to pay me a cent for something I’d do for free. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years now, since college started, and I’ve had some of the best (and worst) experiences ever; let’s face it, the writing industry, regardless if it’s journalism or creative writing, doesn’t get enough respect. And it pays peanuts. Until today, I still have withheld checks from the publications I used to contribute to. I’ve since given up on those; most days I feel as if I’m the one accosting them for following up on my checks. It’s nasty and exploitative and clearly unfair, but it’s something I have to accept if I really want to go this way. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m fine with this for now, as my first job, at least I know I’ll be getting a salary and benefits; there’s some kind of security as opposed to freelancing wherein you can be gunned down on the job and nobody would know or care. I know I have to start from the bottom pit of Hell, but I guess what I’m surprised by all this is that I’m not moaning about it. In fact, I am excited to get to writing again. I’d like to believe, like Odysseus, that I am still staying centered to my mast. If I really want to do this, if this is what I really want to pursue and make a career out of, there will be some huge sacrifices to make and I’m ready to accept that. I’ve moonlighted in a lot of jobs, and at the same time, also moonlighted as a writer while being bound by other responsibilities but this time, I don’t want to moonlight anymore. There’s just no point in lying to myself, trying to convince myself that I can work corporate and find time to write because that’s never going to happen. So there. I am actually quite happy with how things are working out. Hopefully in a year or two I can start pursing my masters; I’m still torn whether I want to pursue philosophy, anthropology, or literature—but I’ve always been partial towards anthropology. I don’t want to get ahead of myself; I don’t know, still, how to go on about this life, but at least I have some idea—although vague—about what I want to do. I think I’m gonna be alright. I always remind myself of Szymborska, that there is nothing wrong with not knowing and we, in fact, spend our entire lives in uncertainty. I can live with that, I’m not insecure about it; certitude is beautiful, but uncertainty is more beautiful still. And I don’t know is such a small phrase, but it flies on mighty wings. I will be alright, I think.
On another note, I am not best friends with my best friend anymore. I talked to her a week ago and, well, I ended our friendship. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I’m just not happy anymore. I’d like to believe that our friendships and relationships with people reflect our inner lives, and I hate what I see when I reflect about our friendship. She was my first best friend in college, having met her in freshman year, and now she’s on her first year in Law school without me. I though we could make it, but I guess things just really change. I’m not pointing any fingers and I’d hate to, but I don’t think we’ve been fair to each other, I to her, and her to me, and it’s something we cannot ignore. I don’t want to pretend it’s alright when it’s not. It makes me uncomfortable to label someone a ‘best friend’ when in reality, I cannot trust this person nor be completely open with her about myself. I wish it didn’t end this way, but I’m now at the point in my life wherein I have a strong sense of what I look for and want in a friendship/relationship, and I’m very clear about that. It just cant be called friendship—nor a best friendship— when I dread it every time, when I feel drained and depressed, fail to recognize myself, and hate myself every time I talk or see this person. I wish it didn’t end this way; I am just as devastated about it, but I cannot continue lying to myself anymore. When I told her, she didn’t contest and told me she understood; she even told me that she hopes that one day, we can be friends again, and that she loves me. I told her of course, that I would never close my doors, and that I love her too. It’s just that right now, I cannot do it. I need to put myself first. After we talked, I went to bed and cried the moment I woke up. It was that sense of loss that dawned me, the feeling that I lost this special person in my life, and that we’ll never have the same relationship again, that things would have to be different now and we have to continue living our lives without each other. I am still so heartbroken about it, and there are times when I want to reach out to her and say, I take it back, but I stop myself because I know this is for the best. I don’t think I made a mistake, and I don’t regret my decision.
It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life, making friends. Frankly, I find the term “best friend” problematic and refuse to call anyone that. I know some might say it’s sad, but I don’t find it sad. I just don’t like measuring my friends that way, putting them in a hierarchy like that, and singling out the Good, Better, and Best. I don’t even like thinking of people in superlatives and to begin with, I don’t even have much friends, and so when I do call someone a Friend, I know deep in my heart that they are exceptional and extraordinary people who I deeply trust, respect, admire, and love. I am confident in never having to label a Best friend, because I know that all my Friends, with a capital F, (and they are very very few), have already surpassed the superlative. I know most people won’t understand this, but I think thinking of people in superlatives just cheapens them As a child, sure, because it definitely sounds like that kind of thing you’d say if you’re a kindergartner and you’re in the playground and you tell someone you meet, Let’s be best friends! I just find it so immature and juvenile. That’s just me, though.
It’s now 3:00 am. I just finished eating my roasted garlics. God, they’re so delicious. How come I’ve never done this before? So I roasted four baby garlic heads and one regular sized one until they were soft and creamy; I mashed them in a bowl and ended up with about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons of garlic mush? And I spread them on some butter crackers and holy fuck, they’re so so delicious and silky, like butter! I’ve never tasted anything like this, and the taste is so simple yet so exquisite, and all I did was put olive oil, salt, and pepper. It doesn’t even have the astringent taste of garlic; it’s so creamy and nutty and melts in the tongue. Hay. It really is the simple things in life that matter the most! I’ll most likely eat the same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next day, until I tire of them (or run out of crackers) but I just can’t get enough of them. I’ll try roasting a bigger batch tomorrow.
I know I’ve said there is nothing wrong with uncertainty in life, but I’ve been talking about certainty in what I look for in relationships and friendships, with how I look at friends, how I go about my (budding) career as a writer, pursuing graduate school in the near future, and all that. Well, there are just some things I cannot compromise anymore, and these are those. And to add to that small list of certainties, I would also like to confess (to myself! listeners, are there even listeners out here in the void of cyberspace??? lol) that I am certain about my feelings for this person. I don’t want to dwell on this too, but I’ve reached a point where I’m not even denying myself of these feelings. These are all normal and I know I’m very late to this whole thing (being 21 and being single since birth), but I mean, my emotions are valid. I really like this guy. The word “like” is something I find banal and “attraction” sounds too robotic so I guess the word I want to use is tenderness? I feel tenderness towards this person. He is very special to me; I’ve known him for a few years now and he’s actually a friend of mine, so that’s sort of a problem here, but I enjoy his company, I love hearing what he has to say, I love talking to him, and well, like what I said, he has a tender and sentimental effect on me. That’s all, HAHA. I don’t plan on telling him; I guess I’m more afraid of ruining our friendship and losing him. I hope someday when I’m not bound by my own frailties I’d have the strength to tell him, but even now, I am more than grateful and indebted to the friendship he has given me. I cannot ask for more (I guess, unless, my emotions get too strong and it starts affecting me in a negative way, then perhaps I would have to tell him at some point).
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I don’t have else to say. I have to write. Goodnight. I’ll attach some pictures below just for the sake of it.
It’s 9 pm. I am wondering how long I can keep ranting until I start to doze off, having swilled down some sleeping pills with cherry Nyquil. I’ve never had a peaceful night of sleep, always waking up twice or thrice in the middle of the night and staying awake for two to three hours. I’ve done everything, and the only thing that seems to help are the pills. What do I say. Well, I just got back from a little shopping and got three new trousers and a pair of shoes. For breakfast, I had a hawaiian roll. For lunch, I had a cup of squash soup and half a turkey and fuji apple sandwich. At 3pm, my aunt gave me a small cup of grass jelly and lychee sugar water. At half past three, I had my cold pressed beet juice. In the car, at 5:30 pm, I drank my cold pressed spinach juice. I had some crab legs, wanton soup, turkey neck, steamed bokchoy with XO sauce, and sticky apple pie for dinner. It seems I’ve been eating with no regard to ethics–and my waistline–whatsoever, but I also lost a pant size, apparently. I’m now a size 8–if half-starving/on good days. Most days, I feel like a 10. Or a 12. Most days I just feel like a whale and refuse to go out because I don’t have enough esteem and I slouch too much.
Eh, enough self deprecation. I am almost/halfway into Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish. I’m loving it so much; if you could see the pages, there won’t be any without stripes of underlines. Today I read a bit about Yvonne Rainer. And Godard. And Barthes’ obtuse meaning and Susan Sontag’s radical juxtaposition. Today I looked at the trees and saw the leaves were a full green, tapering to a yellow and finally a soft red at the top, and I wonder why I never found decay so interesting. (Interesting, because Sontag said Beautiful has become too banal). The fallen leaves on the pavement are brown and crunchy. I bought three new books from the secondhand bookshop in San Mateo a week ago: Bukowski’s Women, Roy’s The God of Small Things, and Lahiri’s The Namesake. Two days ago, I finally convinced myself to splurge on some books–a personal graduation gift to myself–so I got on Amazon and got used ones available for Amazon Prime. Let’s see if I remember them all: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, 100 Tales of Ray Bradbury, Adrian Tomine’s complete Optic Nerve comics, Black Hole (can’t remember the author), Robert Hass’ Human Wishes, short stories of Alice Munro, and Jack Kerouac’s journals. I don’t regret anything. I am also getting some books from my cousin; she told me to get whatever I want from her shelf before she disposes of them, so being self-indulgent, I grabbed all that I wanted. But I cannot remember all of them now, though there is a beautiful illustrated copy of Jane Eyre, David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, The Godfather, a hardcover of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Birth of Venus, Flowers for Algernon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Richard Wright’s The Native Son, Sophocles’ plays, and many many more. I’m so excited. My book haul deserves a separate post, obviously, so I’ll stfu and save it for that!
Elizabeth Fraser croons in the background; she is singing Cherry-Coloured Funk from her Heaven or Las Vegas album. I love her so much, but I love her Treasure album more, and her duet with Jeff Buckley in All Flowers in Time, perhaps one of my most favorite songs in this world. Next to Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley’s and Imogen Heap’s versions duhhh). And Eva Cassidy’s Wade in the Water. And Gabor Szabo’s Galatea’s Guitar. And Ryo Fukui’s Mellow Dream.
Two days ago, I hung out with my girl cousins with their boyfriends… It wasn’t as bad as I thought. We had Chinese food, and then went to a beer garden after. I had a strawberry bellini; it was gross. Or maybe because I find liquor gross in general. I liked the guacamole and fries a lot though. We might go out again next weekend…
I deleted my Facebook because my best friend is too toxic, I have realized. Sometimes she is shallow and conceited and it ruins my state of mind and most times I wonder if I’m more peaceful without one, if people are just lying to themselves when they compromise and accept a person’s “uglies” because apparently nobody is perfect (but if i may, let me say, we should never enable someone in manifesting their terrible qualities), if I really need a best friend, and if our search for a “best friend” in this life is really just our sorry, pathetic, and futile attempt to either reach for some kind of perfection in self actualization or a sad excuse of a bandaid to cover the gaping hole that is our personal inadequacies. Sorry, but I am neither.
It’s 9:39 pm. I’m yawning. I think the pills and Nyquil concoction worked. My mom is bringing my grandma to the hospital tomorrow for check up, so I will be alone with the dogs, Dimitri ad Benjie. Perhaps I’ll go to the library when my mom gets back and walk the entire 10 kilometers. Goodnight.
My eggplant and tomatoes are baking in the toaster oven and I sit here, my stomach grumbling in wait. Remember when I said I would stop buying books for a while and get to reading? When I said I wont buy another warm book until I’ve read all my pending books in my book list? Well, I lied. I think it’s better to just come clean to myself right here and right now: I can’t stop buying books. That’s the problem. But the bigger problem is, I don’t want to. Perhaps I am unconsciously building my own library and I just don’t know it yet… Last Saturday after my philosophy class, I took my route home and stopped by the secondhand bookshop that my daily commute passes by. I got down and told myself, I will just look around. But I ended up with a copy of The New Yorker, a collection of Henry James’ short stories, and, finally, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. By then, I was already thinking, There is just no point. I will always love books. I cannot put a stop to acquiring them, because I know deep inside that I don’t want to.
So there. And yesterday I went grocery shopping with my dad. I had no list in mind; a first in many many months, because I never set out and go on about my day without a list, so I didn’t really know what I was going to buy. Or at least, I havent had the time to sit down and thinking about what I needed to buy. So I went around and just grabbed whatever I thought I needed: a fat Korean radish, two eggplants, three bundles of spinach, three bundles of basil, two blocks of white cheese, chili bean paste, a jar of kimchi, and… four-ply tissue paper. While my dad was paying I told him I’ll head on over to the bookshop and just have a look; of course I ended up buying some books again. I got a special issue of Granta magazine and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; while I was paying, I spotted a Salman Rushdie by the counter and asked the cashier if they had any other Rushdies around. He told me it was the only one. I felt my insides wince; I saw a battered copy of Midnight’s Children in that same bookshop two months ago and hid it in the very back of the highest shelf, and now it’s gone. I was naively hoping it would still be there, but any wise man would never pass up Midnight’s Children upon seeing it. Especially when it’s for two fucking bucks. My dad, seeing my disappointed face, pointed at the Rushdie book and asked me, “Do you want this?” I thought about it for one second; “Sure!” I said, even though I’ve never heard of that Rushdie book. It’s called The Ground Beneath Her Feet; it’s not really my priority Rushdies in terms of having; I wanted to get a copy of Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses before anything, but still, The Ground Beneath Her Feet’s had stellar reviews, and I’m excited to read it. And who knows, perhaps I would love it.
My eggplant and tomato bake is finished and I am eating it. It’s 10:36 am. The reason why I am eating breakfast so late is because I made my own pesto this morning and it took far longer than I wanted it to take. I washed the basil and spinach until no mote of dirt was present in the water and I blended and blended until it resembled a very creamy mousse. Yes, not ideal pesto texture, but whatever. I guess I can call this a brunch instead. I am loving it thus far, creating my own food. It’s why I rarely eat out nowadays; there’s something so intimate in knowing and touching and slicing and washing every ingredient I will use in my dish, and being aware of everything that goes in it gives me conciliation. I love cooking so much; I’m not very good at it, but it’s so meditative for me. I am eating my eggplant with a slice of coconut pie; it’s nothing special, I think our helper got it from one of those tourist souvenir shops and she got a box. It will do; I warmed it a bit and drowned it in four tablespoons of sweetened cream—with no regard to my waistline whatsoever.
Yes, I am indulging myself. No, this isn’t vegan. The egg and white cheese on my eggplant bake is not vegan as well. I’d like to air this out because it’s something that’s been nagging me for the longest time. My foray into veganism has never been easy, and never linear. My attempt at veganism has been going on for about a year and 5 months now, but I’d be lying if I said I did it perfectly. There were a lot of slip-ups, some accidentally, and most were deliberate. I wouldn’t call myself a vegan spokesperson, nor would I go around preaching to my friends and people on why they should go vegan. I try to share what I know when they ask, but that is all. I try to stick to a strict vegan diet, but I will be honest: Sometimes, I just hate it. Not veganism in itself, but I hate it when I put a leash on something, whether it’s myself or something else, as an act of controlling or curbing it. I know there are alternatives, but sometimes I just want the taste of cheese and egg in my mouth, even though I know where it comes from and is not ethical at all. Sometimes I want to eat dessert and it has cream and I’d still want it. And eat it. Do I still say I’m vegan when people ask? Yes, I do. But perhaps I should say, Struggling Vegan instead. Most would say I am vegetarian, with what I am doing and eating. Perhaps, but I’d prefer to call it Hypocrisy. The animal activists from PETA do not have to call me a hypocrite; I’d be the first to call myself one. And that is what I am. A Hypocrite. Someday, I hope, when I’m not ensnared anymore by my endless frailties and fallibilities and hypocrisies, when I am not enshrouded by social pressure, perhaps then it would be easier. But right now, it is a struggle, a constant struggle, and I’m starting to think that perhaps in this journey, and any other journey, of mine and of others, struggle is always a constant thing. I’ve finished my eggplant and tomato bake and my coconut pie, by the way. I ate it all. I loved it all.
Moving on. Yesterday was my last day at the MET museum. I do not want to linger on this; it was a good ending, and we parted ways with “See you soons” and none of “Goodbyes”. And I will see them soon, mind you, especially since I now have free access to the MET at all times, lectures and workshops included… I cant wait! Last week was also the opening of our new exhibit from the Venice Biennale; I do not wish to linger on this as well, but it was a long long night of hors d’oeuvres and many glasses of wine. Being part of the curatorial team was a fulfilling experience for me. I’ve learned so so much, that I can say. On my last day yesterday, my friend and I had our last lunch together and we indulged ourselves in cups of ice cream. I do not regret it. He’s been a great companion thus far, and I will not miss him; we promised we’ll see each other again, and I’ll see him soon, this December, and we’ll visit the MET together. I’m looking forward to that.
I also switched emails by the way. I am having problems with my AOL email, which is my default email, and I’m afraid I will be locked out soon because I cannot access my recovery email anymore because apparently my recovery email has been breached due to hacking and security reasons (or lack thereof! I’m looking at you, Yahoo and Google Mail!) and now I cannot log into any of them, so if my AOL gets locked out, I have no way of accessing it again. So to put an end to all of this—and the nagging worries in my head post-Snowden—I finally made a ProtonMail account and plan on using it as my default email from now on. I spent an entire day researching about ProtonMail and I think it is the best choice for me. I am loving it thus far and I am ready to make this change. If you wish to know more about Proton, you should check out their site. I wouldn’t trust myself; I am not very good in articulation, but their servers are based in Switzerland, which have very strict security laws, you have the choice to use a domain that isn’t .com (which is under the US, so if the USA filed a case and brought ProtonMail, they can seize all their data), the creators themselves do not have a copy of your emails nor of your password; everything is encrypted, so they only have encrypted data, so should the US bring them to court and seize their data, all they can give is encrypted data. The creators themselves cannot access your email, so if you get locked out, you are locked out forever and since everything is encrypted, your emails are sent with a password for the receiver to access and you must find a way to give them the password, through phone or text, so they can read your email. Lastly, all e-mails are destroyed within 28 days, if I remember correctly, or earlier, depending on your Settings. These are enough reasons for me to switch, knowing how paranoid I am. Yes, I will probably still use Google and its many features, such as Google Drive and Google Docs, but I’ll make a throwaway email just for that. I am not comfortable with Google spying on my emails and even though you can encrypt your emails in Google, they can still access your message because they have the decryption key; that’s why they can plug those stupid ads on your emails! They totally do not care for privacy, at all, and when it comes to privacy, you can never be too safe. Financial and banking wise, ProtonMail is the way to go, but I’d use it for everything. Mind you, I am not paid to advertise them ha-ha, I am just very paranoid with security so suddenly and made the impulse change last night. I know it’s such a mundane thing, switching emails, but this is so momentous for me. Sorry hahaha
I sent pitches a couple of weeks ago to this new local arts and culture magazine and the editor in chief replied to me after a week and told me to see her today. So I’m meeting her after lunch and I don’t know if I should feel nervous or not. Either way, I am excited. I want to write again, and it’s been a few weeks of dormancy. I hope it goes well.
My flight is also in three days and I have not packed my bags, nor do I have any plans to do so until the very last minute.
What else? I finally convinced my brother to help me with my little project. He’s a Fine Arts student and between the both of us, I have to agree—painfully—that he is the more talented one when it comes to visual arts. My special friend who is in the process of grieving his younger brother’s suicide is in despair. He wants to die and sees no point in life anymore. I want to do something for him in hopes of making things a little lighter for him, even though I know there’s no certainty that it would. There is so much to live for, and it breaks my heart seeing my friend hurt so silently. I was planning on giving him a book, but it would be too banal. I thought of something the other night and was adamant about it. I’m going to give him an art piece. I don’t want to give it away, but I’m going to make a sculpture. I wont reveal anymore because I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I am writing it here to remind me that I must finish this project and give it to him come Christmastime. With the help of my brother, I think we can do it. I am confident. I’m so excited. I hope my friend likes it.
I am not the best in words, can never articulate myself well enough, but I hope in this little attempt he would know that I thought so much about this and put everything I wanted to say but couldn’t in this project. My only problem: I cannot use my stoneware clay. I do not have a kiln and some glazes. It would be so nice to use ceramic clay, but I’d have to resort to polymer clay for this one. My other problem: I don’t think I can make a life sized bust sculpture, because I’m not sure if it would fit in the gas oven. We’ll have to see, but I am really adamant about this. I don’t want to be ambitious, but I am more pigheaded than I care to admit, and I will make sure this project is successful. For my friend. As a visual letter to tell him, There is so much to live for. There is still laughter and beauty in this life, there’s still dance and song and love. And I will beat myself so hard to make this right and beautiful because I do not ever want my friend to wish to die again. And I want him to know that I am so worried about him and I hate seeing him hurt so silently, that he doesn’t have to suffer alone because we can share the burden, we can share his personal hell, that he can trust me, and I can only hope my sentiment and intention will show because there is no point, no point in all of this, if my friend still doesn’t feel any different. To hear someone say they wish to die because nothing matters in this life anymore—that is something I never take lightly. I have so much reverence for life, but I’d be lying if I said there aren’t any days I don’t wish to die. Life is so cruel and unsparing, with all this clubfooted morality and random injustices, but I do not draw breath everyday only to scream myself hoarse for death to come take me because that’s not what living is about. So I will do my best for my friend. Any real friend would do the same.
It’s 11:24. I have to read a bit of Man and His Symbols for our exam tomorrow, and get ready for my meeting with the editor in chief. I shall be fine.