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An open letter to any new potential friends.

Dear new friend(s),

I am writing this warning label because I think I should have ages ago. At least, I should have in college; maybe then my entire freshman block and 65% of the entire batch wouldn’t have ended up hating me (no lie).

So here goes.

New friend(s), I am…a strange animal. I mean, I know I’m a cat, but sometimes I also act like the abandoned street puppy that follows you home. I will slobber on you. I will howl at inappropriate hours. I will jump up on you and demand we play fetch. Sometimes, I bite (well, I guess that’s when my cat side shows up.). 

I realize that this exuberance can be too much, and trust me when I say in hindsight I get very embarrassed by it. I try to control myself, I do, but most of the time I can’t help it. I am so happy to see you. I am so happy to know you because, before you, I hadn’t really “belonged” anywhere before. I was a misfit in gradeschool. A desperate and sad little loner in highschool (I remember leaving a class outing in tears because someone told me to go away as I’d just be ‘OP’ in the discussion). And, well, I mentioned above what college was like.

I have longed to belong so much that sometimes my excitement at someone being nice to me can be…too much.

I’m older now. More distant. A little colder. I’ve learned not to trust first impressions, initial appearances of “acceptance.” I have been left behind by too many, that my first instinct has become coldness. I might have been an introvert all my life (though having misguidedly pretended to be extroverted during the first 3/4ths of it), but my antisocial nature has been conditioned: I am scared that people will get upset, frustrated with me, and leave, so I wall myself away from anyone new. But if you manage to break through, do not fear the initial heat and warmth. That has only been held in, held back all this time, and it rushes out like heat from an oven door. Eventually the temperature normalizes, the room returns to homeostasis. 

So will our friendship, if you stick around, eventually find its normal.

Until then, though, please bear with me if I’m excited to see you. If my voice is too loud and I constantly try to catch your attention. If I look a little in love with you, but in the most platonic way. It’s because I am. I’m in love with the feeling of being treated like I’m worth liking. I’m in love with the security of knowing that, to you, I belong.

Finally, thank you so much for taking a chance on me. As I’ve said to every employer I’ve interviewed for: I don’t promise to be easy, but I promise to be worth it.

Your friend and cactus,

A roaming Tsinay.

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[travelogue] Coming Out of My Cage (And It Feels Just Fine)

A/N: Submitted this as an entry to World Nomads’ travel scholarship competition. I didn’t win, but it felt like a piece of travel writing worth sharing.

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It’s June.  The night is humid, glowing amber in the lights of Armenian Street.  I’m twenty-three, and girls much younger than me have done this before—wandered off at night in search of adventure—but I’d always been the “tame” one.  At home, they call me tita (aunty), lola (grandma). The girl whose idea of partying is having tea in bed after work.

Certainly not the girl who’d be rounding the corner of a graffiti-covered alley at half-ten at night, the remnants of a sangria buzzing in her blood.  But it was my last day in Singapore, and I’d found myself wanting to live a little.

Emphasis on a little.  There would be no shared drinks with strangers.  Instead, I was looking for new music, and Timbre at The Substation was supposedly the best place to find it.

Back home in Manila, I balanced a responsible, serious job as an agency strat planner with a self-proclaimed “career”—profitability be hanged—as a singer/songwriter for a rock band.  When my bandmates heard I was traveling to Singapore, they’d filled my head with stories of underground gigs with inspiring acts.  It was this promise that got me to wander a foreign city at the oddest hours of night.  I’d tried to find it in Clarke Quay, but the bands there sounded professional when I was looking for raw.  A quick Google search for “indie music gigs Singapore” pointed me in the direction of Timbre.  

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Several attempts at a cab ride later, I’m elbowing my way into the dark, open-air club, dodging a bunch of finance-looking bros nursing beers.  I grab a stool near the bar and, just as I catch my balance, there’s that familiar screech of an electric guitar being sound-checked.  Then, the mics crackle to life as a raspy mezzo-soprano (just like me) launches into the familiar first line of The Killers’ hit, Mr. Brightside.

Soon, it’s midnight. Though the sangria’s worn off, I might as well be drunk. I’m dancing in my seat, shout-singing along with those finance bros through a series of pop-rock hits. Later, I’ll notice my phone battery is dead.  Later, I’ll catch my first ever bus.  Later, I’ll huddle, scared, at a deserted taxi stand in a different part of town (How did I get here?!) until an off-duty cab takes pity on me and brings me back to my hotel.  

Later, I’ll wonder what possessed me to wander around at night, in an unfamiliar city. But, with rock music blasting from crackling amplifiers, later hardly matters.

For the first time, I’m coming out of my cage, and right now, it feels fine.

~aRT~

 

#LoveLettersToLiteraryCharacters: Henry Tilney

I was supposed to send this in to a Fully Booked contest, but I forgot. The Little Prince won, which hurts a bit because of…reasons and boys and boy-reasons.

But I still have this letter. And I hope you guys might like to hear a bit about why I love Henry Tilney.

~*~

#LoveLettersToLiteraryCharacters

My dearest, Henry,

Everyone chooses Darcy. Everyone swoons over brooding, stately, and passionate. And why shouldn’t they? Who doesn’t want to be the woman who unlocks that heart, that teaches that serious face to smile?

I don’t. I never did, Henry, not since you.

 When I first picked up Northanger Abbey, as a teenager in high school discovering Austen post-Pride and Prejudice required reading, I knew I was a goner. I was–still am, though perhaps I might be a bit of Emma Woodhouse too–Catherine: nervous, a little socially-shy, looking for a friendly face, if not a friend. And there you were, laughing and smiling and cracking jokes and making silly comments, willing to make yourself look like a half-wit if only to put a girl at ease.

From the first dance in the pump room, I knew you were special. No, you have neither the austere, irresistible arrogance of Darcy nor the constancy and charming good-sense of Knightley (another favorite), but how many men really do? No, instead you were everything a girl needs in a literary hero: kind, charming, and real. You are far from ideal–you were hurt when Catherine seemed to ditch you for that prat Thorpe, and snubbed poor Miss Morland the next time you saw her–but that’s part of why you are so charming. You act like a real person would be expected to act, and thus, is it not too far-fetched to believe that a real Henry Tilney might exist?

Perhaps it is. The truth, after all, was never meant to be as strange as fiction. But Henry, I hope it isn’t. I hope there is someone willing to be patient with me when my imagination runs away. I hope there is someone willing to laugh instead of scold when I’m being ridiculous. Not that I would mind the scoldings, Henry, really! Because when you do tell Catherine she’s being foolish, your words are gentle. You are, first and foremost, a friend teaching a friend.

I think that’s something the world has lost in the mad shuffle for finding love, Henry. Too often we look for brooding passion or the grand gesture, but yours and Catherine’s story, as dramatic as the ending is, had a workaday beginning: a boy meets a girl, doesn’t like her (at first), but through conversation and shared interests and, above all, friendship…feelings take root and grow. Real feelings, founded on a real knowledge of the person, instead of an Udolpho (or, in modern terms, Fifty Shades) fantasy.

Henry, more than anything, you are an amazing friend. You’d be someone I’d trust to have in my corner, and I’d be so honored to be in yours. Good sense, intelligent conversation, friendship, and a few fun flights of fancy…what more might anyone ask for? What more might anyone need?

Thank you for being an unconventional hero in the way that Catherine is supposedly an unconventional heroine. Thank you for that workaday love, that friendship set on fire. Darcy, for all his wealth and pomp and splendor, could never hold a candle to your laugh.

With love,

A Roaming Tsinay