I guess the only way to move forward is to go back to where I was at this point last year: a grief-ridden short trip in Taiwan that served as an attempt to bring a little bit of myself back to me. I was running away for awhile, filling myself with food and ticking off sights to see, but if I look back at it now, it felt like a stranger going through the motions of traveling. It was just another city, in another time, a balm to soothe a gaping wound that would stay gaping for awhile. Maybe even forever.
And so the trip ended, and I went back to Manila. I was on a timeout from adulting, to properly sort my emotional and mental headspace, until June. If you ask me now what I was doing then, I wouldn’t be able to give you a concrete answer because I literally don’t remember anything. It’s like I blocked the first half of 2018, clawing through the dark, trying to deal with the suffocating grief, anger and anxiety. I was barely hanging on, repeatedly breaking down in public (but mostly in private) and by the end of that adulting timeout, I knew I needed help or I will never get out of my personal hell.
I considered visiting a psychologist, even asking close friends for recommendations, but it felt such a harsh way to go through my inner demons. I didn’t like how clinical it was going to be, like my emotions were just something to analyze and take apart. That it would just all go away because a medical practitioner sat down with me and gave me prescriptions so I can deal with it. I wanted to find a way out, but I also wanted to it to be gentle and kind. Why put pressure into my frayed, almost breaking edges when what I needed was something warm and soothing?
One of my best friends recommended a visit to a reiki healer and lightworker, something I didn’t even consider before. And so in mid-July, after flailing in the darkness, I met up with Micah, who was kind and generous with her time.
Reiki, for the uninitiated, is a form of alternative medicine that encourages healing. I’m lifting this from a website, since they’ve put it better than I can:
To administer Reiki, a practitioner channels life force energy through his or her hands unto another. It’s said that the aforementioned spiritual guidance enables the Reiki to flow through the affected parts of the subject’s energy field and charges them with positive energy. It raises awareness in and around the physical body where negative thoughts and feelings are contained. This causes the negative energy—such as stress, anxiety, physical pain, sadness, confusion, etc.—to loosen its grip, allowing the touch of the Reiki healer to swoop in and clarify the energy pathways.
I’m not going to share what I discovered in those two hours (or was it three?) as it feels too personal for me to write in public. What I’m going to say though is that that short session truly helped lift my mental and emotional fog, slowly pushing me further away from the blackhole.
Of course it didn’t happen like magic overnight; it’s an ongoing process until today. I still have days when I can’t find the motivation to do anything, when I have to dig deeper so I can power through like a normal, functioning adult. When everything feels like a burden and I would rather let the day dissolve into nothing. It will always be there: the gray cloud of sadness. But now it has the moon peeking through.
I started working again. My writing is rusty, and it takes me longer than usual to find the right words. I eventually get there, and really, that’s all I can ask for now.
Before I got here though, I intended to somewhat follow along my late mother’s footsteps in her former office. But months after I earned my civil service license (surprise!) and several hours before the job interview, I was having a panic attack in my dining room.
Do I really want this future or am I just following what seemed sensible?, I asked myself.
It was a coveted opportunity. My future would be solid and it would be a guaranteed lifetime of security – my family is a living, breathing proof of that. My mom, the breadwinner of our family for almost two decades, managed to take care of all our needs and wants, even when she was sick and had to take an indefinite leave of absence. And we were (are) privileged to live comfortably, even after my mom passed away. I fell into the desire of wanting to continue her legacy, of making her proud, of wanting to extend gratitude to the institution that somehow had a hand in shaping my life.
But I wasn’t ready for it. If I was going to that interview, I wanted to go there all in and if I was going all in, my end goal should be me securing the position. But doing all of that, I’ll have to trade in what I initially thought the tail-end of my 20s will look like. I’ll have to cut ties with the projects I was just starting, let go of the trips I planned for the end of the year, say adieu to the time I needed to grow and nourish this new person I am becoming.
I ended up turning down the interview. I don’t know if the opportunity will come again – maybe it was a stupid decision to let go of something so big. But I’m a firm believer in what’s yours is yours and things happen at the right time. Maybe this no is just a no for now.
In the interest of my overall well-being, I took the leap six months ago and moved out of my childhood home. It wasn’t in my plan last year, but it was always at the back of my head, something I knew I would do eventually. It got fasttracked when I randomly saw an ad for a fully furnished two bedroom unit in the middle of the metro – it was such a good deal that my sister and I grabbed the opportunity. In the span of two weeks, we went from meeting the landlady and visiting the unit to signing the one year lease and moving in.
It’s expensive, yes. Probably even a tad selfish, if I’m being honest. But I needed the change and had to be in a new environment for me to thrive. I won’t feel sorry for wanting to look after myself, for knowing what needs to be done and actually doing something about it.
Last October, I traveled to Seoul and finally got to experience the autumn season. It was a spur of the moment trip: I applied for a Korean visa, managed to get approved and was given a multiple entry visa(!) then proceeded to book the flights + hotel, within three to four weeks before my intended departure.
Pardon the pun, but my soul needed that trip to Seoul. I’ll have to write about this trip soon, but tbh, I’m still not over processing the time I spent there!
I was there for almost two weeks and I had this long, long list of activities I wanted to do, food that I wanted to try and spots that I wanted to visit – most of which I didn’t get to accomplish, because I spent half the time wandering and just being amazed that I was experiencing Seoul during a beautiful season.
The other half of the time, I was living my fangirl dreams. 🙈
Which brings me to this part. So you all know by now how much of a BTS fan I am – I have their songs on Spotify, I follow them on social media, watch their reality shows religiously, etc. When I was in Korea, I bought physical copies of their albums, hunted down rare merchandise and even went to their fave restaurant when they were trainees. I was also there for the last week of their special exhibition, where I went multiple times to view the exhibit and buy limited edition items. You’d think I’d stop there but…
I actually went ahead and had their Love Yourself album cover designs tattooed on my left wrist. It’s more than just beautiful album art for me – I got it because I wanted a permanent reminder that I survived. That there’s still a part of me in the process of blooming. While I will still have my days of unraveling, I’m capable of moving beyond that, of living and loving. That I can and I should, in the words of BTS, embrace myself as hard as I can. To love myself, through the good days and the bad.
I know most people won’t get it and won’t bother with trying to understand it (trust me, I used to be really judgmental against K-Pop) because of the language barrier, but BTS’ music constantly comforted me the past year, telling me that I never walk alone, that there’s still magic in me, that I have to love myself and that I should speak myself.
A few weeks after my Seoul trip and getting inked, I managed to snag a VIP ticket to BTS’ Love Yourself World Tour in Taiwan. It was, perhaps, one of the craziest things I did: flying to another country for a 48 hour stay, on short notice, to see my favorite artists.
It was surreal seeing them live after a year of discovering them – their talent, energy and showmanship onstage is out of this world. They haven’t announced a stop in Manila so far so I also tried getting tickets to Singapore and HK but they were both a bloodbath. 😭 I still got blessed with a pair of tickets for the last stop in Bangkok, so I’m super excited to watch them live again on April!
My mental and emotional headspace is left somewhere in between autumn and winter – cold and solitary, beautiful in a melancholic, sometimes painful, way. I’m working on getting past it because I don’t want to be sad anymore… but let’s be honest, grief doesn’t work that way. The best I can do is accept this vulnerability, learn how to live with it and live through it.
It’s not a bad thing though. I have long realized that I’ll get where I’m supposed to be, at the time I’m supposed to get there. I’ll slow down and unfold, soften my edges. And maybe, one day, the autumn and winter will turn into spring and flowers will bloom again.