from Maxine Hong Kingston’s “No Name Woman.”

“But perhaps [she],… caught in a slow life, let dreams grow and fade and after some months or years went toward what persisted… She looked at a man because she liked the way the hair was tucked behind his ears, or she liked the question-mark line of a torso curving at the shoulder and straight at the hip. For warm eyes or a soft voice of a slow walk – that’s all – a few hairs, a line, a brightness, a sound, a pace, she gave up family… Why, the wrong lighting could erase the dearest thing about him.”

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Free to Fly

(This is just a copy of the autobiography I talked about in my last blog, if you were interested.)

Pigeons and crows: two birds that possess the inexplicably amazing ability to remember people who have mistreated them. Crows, capable of holding grudges for 5 years, are known to sometimes attack their abusers, while pigeons, on the other hand, simply choose to flee. As such, humans might react similarly to a person, thing, or situation that caused them a sense of doubt and a loss of trustworthiness.

Of course, the statistics aren’t perfect; one does not normally find a plethora of people choosing to fight someone that harassed them, nor does one find a good amount that would sprint away from such trying circumstances at first glance. Depending on the character, certain people may choose to act either aggressively or passively and, in some cases, even express both attitudes, when they encounter difficult situations throughout their lives. However, it is not in the nature of the individual to forget. Ultimately, once trust has been broken, once that bond of a relationship has been shattered, the one who has been most affected by the event, will walk away, holding onto the bittersweet memories of the past.

Not so long ago, I too experienced these pangs. Over time, I discovered that I could look back on certain occasions with ease, and quite a few of them I could recollect with intricate details. I can still recall a time in the 6th grade where I attended an orientation for my middle school and I met a boy who I later developed a crush on. The day was March 28, 2007, and that boy asked me if I was Indonesian, which I found a bit offensive because of my pride in my Filipino heritage, so I distinctly remember telling him to “shut up” because I didn’t know what else to say. So, I guess one could say I have a remarkable memory. But I’m not going to talk about that trivial Wednesday morning from 6 years ago. Rather, my story dates back to only a couple of years ago, when I entered into a relationship with someone who I considered to be a close friend. While this person and I had “history” in middle school, we drifted into acquaintanceship for 2 years, until our 3rd year in high school, when we discovered that we belonged to the small population that had the last lunch period. We spent approximately 9 weeks together in our school’s band room and, on top of that, we sat next to each other in class, providing a lot of leeway to get to know each other again after being distant for some time. And it worked; we started to text and talk often and crack ridiculous jokes and celebrate with each other as if no 2-year gap in our friendship ever existed, and in those moments I felt complete, even in such simple esteem. Then, feelings arose in the midst of January 2012, when my friend and I fell into the bustle of our school’s spring musical, Fiddler on the Roof. With even more time together, playfulness was not uncommon, and we sprung into the whimsy of sweet talk and cuddling and all the wonderful things that come with relationships. In those moments, I was filled with happiness; yet, I wanted more.

I enjoyed “the rush” and the pleasure and I found myself asking and taking, and when my friend made a small mistake in his attempts to bring me joy, I would bash on him, resulting in constant arguments over frivolous things. Surprisingly, no matter how unhealthy this connection was, I wanted to keep it, so we were always quick to forgive and forget, or, at least try to do so. But on Sunday, March 25, 2012, I received a text around 5am saying, “Hey, what exactly are we?” This troubled me deeply, especially since just the night before, on closing night of musical, things seemed content as we shared a passionate “goodnight kiss” in each other’s arms. I guess my beau couldn’t handle my antics anymore, saying that acting like friends with benefits wouldn’t work out, and that it’d be for the better to return to being “just close friends.”

Following the breakup was a rollercoaster of emotions and for at least 2 weeks, we tried to disregard whatever happened. We attempted to create closure and continued to text and flirt over spring break, but what disconcerted me most was the amount of care we still had for each other. It puzzled me: What was the point of breaking up if we were still going to act this way? Was this the aftermath that my friends talked about when they went through splits? Did this mean we would get back together? I would reminisce on our experiences and was driven to even more confusion and insecurity with each waking day, until I decided to confront this person I called my best friend.
“Do you still have feelings for me?”
“No… Why? Do you? Because… If you do, we can’t be best friends, not even friends. I don’t want to go through something like that again.”

Those harsh words struck me dumb and struck me down. How could anyone say that? What kind of best friend would do this and generalize another friend because of a past experience? It was unfair, it was so shallow, and it infuriated me. These resentful feelings lasted for the remainder of the school year and, for me at least, throughout that summer. As hard as I struggled, I could not rid myself of flashbacks, of broken promises, of being called childish when the immaturity was double-sided. And as much as I told myself I was “over it,” I knew I was scarred, and I constantly wore myself out with thoughts about how much this person hurt me. But there was a turn of events when we hit senior year; we reconnected and, in short, the same cycle we withstood just a few months before, became reincarnated in our last year in high school. Only this time, the symptoms of our relationship worsened. We may have communicated more, but we also bickered more frequently. He would always bring up things from the past, which made me uncomfortable since I thought I was supposed to be the one with a freakishly detailed memory. He would support me at my choir concerts and text me “good morning” and “goodnight” and call me “love,” “baby and “dear,” which perplexed me. Even when I tried to avoid him, he was always there, and my desire and interest always managed to pull me back into this poisonous loop of the idea of “fight and breakup, kiss, and makeup” that comes with liaisons. Just as I had done before, I clung to this comfort zone despite all the mixed signals and exasperation, not wanting it to take a turn for a worse but, in the end, history managed to repeat itself. After a long year of trying to repair what had been broken, it all seemed to be waste.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t waste. But first let me return to the subject of birds; I was a crow, begrudging of the agony I experienced, I would not release my burdens and I would constantly peck at every detail of suffering I could remember. And as a crow can hold a grudge for a decent period of time, I too felt encompassed by my situation, watching for what was going on around me, looking for the right time to avenge myself. Then I realized something about holding on to the past: You can hold the days of yore with you, but you must take them as lessons to better yourself as a person, or else you will lead to your own demise. This thought came to me on Friday, May 17, 2013, when I decided to eliminate the emotions that had been bothering me; I decided to write him a letter. In that letter, I told my friend that I was sorry for all the times I hurt him, that I forgave him for the times he hurt me as well, and, with graduation approaching, I felt it was time for me to start on a clean slate and to take the lessons we learned from each other with us as we went our separate ways. I resolved that, even if he didn’t share the same feelings I had, I would choose to live that way regardless.

As time elapsed, I was able to push away most of the hostility I held against my ex-friend, and I can say I’ve reached a pretty stable state of contentment. I will admit that it has been difficult to keep all my snide remarks and subtweets on Twitter to a minimum, but for the most part, I constantly strive to use my experiences from the past couple of years to grow as a person.

It is in the nature of the individual to hold on to what he or she believes in, but it is equally important for that person to be able to grasp new opportunities to learn and discover when they appear, no matter how painful. In doing so, it becomes possible for one to gain wing strength and wing span through his or her trials, and achieve flight. Now by flight I don’t mean the timid running away that pigeons partake in, but the capacity for one to live with herself and continue to inch toward inner peace.

Recollection.

I don’t enjoy remembering things that I shouldn’t be reminiscing on, that I should have left behind.

But, then again, who does?

It is especially painful to try to wring out the old events and old emotions of the past, so if it so agonizing, why do I bring this subject up?

Two words: general education.

One of the GEs I am required to take as a college student is a class called Expository Writing. Sad to say, despite my love of English literature and expressive writing, this is NOT one of my favorite classes. My professor, an older woman with a monotonous voice, blabs on and on for an hour and 15 minutes about topics I learned my senior year in AP Lit & Comp and, in all honesty, a lot of things she says flow into one ear and out the other. Since this is an English class, it’s a given that there will be a lot of writing (hence, the name of the course) and my teacher informed us that we would write a series of essays throughout the semester.

Well isn’t that something new?

I scoffed at this. Obviously, we would be writing a multitude of works over the next few months and I thought to myself, “Damn, this is going to be nothing.” I seriously believed that, at this point, I would be able to float through the class with the knowledge that I already had and that nothing could possibly interest me, but I was taken by surprise when my professor announced the topic of the first essay: an autobiographical narrative.

So basically, we had to address the nature of an individual (although I’d rather think of it as human nature in general), present a situation from our lives that related to the topic, and tie it altogether into a philosophical standpoint about the meaning of life.

An autobiographical narrative. A life lesson.

SERIOUSLY?

There’s something about having to write about yourself for a grade that sounds unpleasant. For one, you can’t rant endlessly about your whole life. Two, you can’t be as vulgar as you please. Not that there’s a lot of dirty words here. And three, you have to follow a certain structure in trying to complete your essay, so there’s a lot of limitations there.

But I don’t think I had too many problems with those hurdles.

I think my main reason for struggling with this assignment was the fact that I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to write about, which is contradictory because, why would I have trouble writing about a subject that I know so well? That just sounds bizarre. But if you’ve read the rest of my blog, you’d know why. The first thing that popped into my head was my rollercoaster of a relationship from the past 2 years and how much I’ve grown from it all. In my essay, I wrote about how it is not in the nature of humans to forget and how we tend to hold on to the past, whether we show it or not. Ironically enough, I COULD NOT REMEMBER MY STORY. My first draft was due on Thursday morning, and I burdened myself by starting it on Tuesday night because initially, it didn’t seem like a hard task. But in order for me to fully grasp the history and meaning and to thoroughly do it justice, I had a friend take notes as I spoke while I played Elvis Presley and Taylor Swift songs and looked back on old pictures, text messages, and diary entries. It was only then that I was able to get on track with myself. But I HATED remembering; I cringed when I saw the messages and wondered to myself, “What the hell was I doing?” I was disgusted by the way we communicated, by the way I acted, by the way I spent my nights going insane, and it was just uncomfortable trying to revisit all the things I tried to put past me. I can’t emphasize how much tension was running through my body as I shoved memories back into my brain.

But something funny happened.

As I started on the last couple of paragraphs of my essay, I started to feel more relieved. It was almost over, I was almost done writing about all the pain and hurt and awkwardness and it was the most exhilarating feeling ever. Because at this point, I was talking about becoming stronger and being able to free yourself from the trials of life and it was so wonderful. I made a reference to birds in my writing, and here I felt like a bird taking flight. When I printed my paper in my friend’s room, I felt proud of how I condensed my emotions into a 4 & 1/2-page paper. And after having a few classmates peer-edit in class, turning in my draft was one of the most lifting feelings.

So “recollecting” is funny.

I talk about forgetting and how I don’t ever want to think about this relationship and how I never want to go through something like this but I am thankful for the occasions when I turn around and look at my life and how it was before. When I reestablish the strain and the stress, I gain another opportunity to release those feelings and I feel more fresh and alive than I did a few days, hours, minutes, seconds ago.

And that’s why I’m writing this blog.

And that’s why I wrote those other blogs.

And that’s why I’ll continue these blogs.