A Letter To My Future Self

Trust your Struggle

My dear future self,

This evening, I am writing  in typical fashion a blog of life lessons. I have purposely stopped myself from writing for the last few weeks because I felt that I might end up regretting what I write because at a certain point, you, my future self will look back and say, “Wow, that was really a difficult moment, huh.” But anyway, another voice in my head has won and now I am here, typing away some blah blah blahs to provide self-therapy. The thing is, I have somehow officially graduated from my masters degree. “Hooray, hooray…” True to form, I have done my masters degree some justice and I am graduating with grades that I never thought was possible. If I were doing it in UP, my final graded average will be considered “summa cum laude”. I have also become president of the World Heritage Studies Student Council, leading around 130 people for their social, academic and cultural integration to Cottbus and the World Heritage Studies Programme. I have also been involved in many heritage conferences and activities that my brain is saturated with knowledge, like a sponge almost leaking with mental juices because it can no longer contain any more liquid. My mind is at its saturation point and I believe that I am able to see heritage connections to everything, like Neo in the Matrix.

At some point in the beginning of 2014, I embarked on a journey of looking for the possibilities of the future. It is something that I usually do, as you may know and I currently call it, “The Six-Month Rule.” This rule possesses me to turn psychic and see where I will be six months after, and in a sci-fi kind of sense, I project myself there forcefully, and in the next six months, voila, I am there. There has always been a certain sense of security in my life, a sense of confidence and a sense of understanding where I am and where I should be going. For the last few months, I have tried to find jobs that I believed would be the next logical steps. However, as I now found out, the world is telling me that this ‘Six Month Rule’ needs to be shattered. I have come to a point that I no longer see the future, and that tomorrow is a day that may bring about new changes in my life in which I will be catapulted to places I do not know.

I have undergone so many different permutations of almost solid directions / opportunities but it seems that at the last moment, these options become meaningless words. I have almost gotten three jobs, and have been considered in several more but there always seem to be something that goes off tangent, like those photon torpedoes missing the targets. Piccard will be very disappointed.

Here are some basic concepts I have learned recently:

1. There are global policies that define who should be prioritised in employment. Here in Europe, its the Europeans first, and in specific countries like the UK and Switzerland, its the British / Swiss first, then the Europeans and then others. I have a proper name here, “third-country national”, sounding more like a third class citizen and probably that is how I am perceived. The world that we live in is unjust and it is not just about talents or desires but we are defined by our ethnicities, our nationalities and perhaps our identities and this is written in our faces at every moment of our lives. We think that we live an a just society when in fact, the society discriminates from those who fit the mould and those who are at the outskirts. Hegemonic culture dictates that there are those who will be meant to be minority, because they are not part of the greater definition of society.

2. More choices do not necessarily lead to better life satisfaction. We have often been told that anything is possible and that the world is our oyster. It was engrained to us when we were kids that if we work hard enough, then the things that we wish for will happen. To be honest, when I first had my classes for my masters, I thought that I will carry with me the knowledge that historic places are important, we should appreciate the past that we have and we have to protect it for the future generation. What our younger, 2012 version realised is that this also implied that there are deeper meanings that needs to be discussed about historic places, like the rights of local people and minorities, politics of heritage and identity formation, management realities and so on and this dramatically expounded the knowledge that I wanted to get. Indeed, knowledge itself is good to acquire but this new knowledge has also made me see the world with multiple facets, where there are so much more connections than I ever though possible. For example, the english language that I normally use for the last 8 years away from my country, this has been a tool of oppression for my real language and it has in some way, diminished my own national identity. It has on the one hand allowed me to communicate with my colleagues here, and them thinking  it is my native language,  but on the other hand, I realise that Filipinos are not internationally considered as native speakers. We are treated as second class english speakers. Why is that?

This new knowledge of my self, my identity, and the possibilities of my own career has allowed me to see that there are so much more that I can do. However, it also has disabled me, wherein I no longer  feel satisfied to just do my landscape architecture career. I now believe I am so much more than a landscape architect. There is so much a part of me that is not defined by my profession, my race and my background. I want to believe that I can be the best human being that I can possibly be, just like what Oprah has mentioned but by removing myself from my own niche profession and perhaps plunging myself to the realities of the world, I feel that I could do so much more. I now do not know what kind job will fulfil my own personal longing.

In looking at heritage, I have come to the chasm that I can see into my own culture, my personal experiences, and the places I have lived and I am left wondering what kind of future I can help shape. It seems like this dilemma is also seen in my own convictions and CV that possible employers no longer know where to place me in their traditional structures. I am a Filipino landscape architect, who practiced primarily in Singapore, was involved in one of the biggest urban development projects in Asia, studied culture and heritage in Germany, lived in different parts of Europe and would like to find a job in a possible field that I can be useful and personally satisfying. There you go. In the pursuit of knowledge, I have broken free of the chains of my own background but  I no longer know where I fit. I have strengthened my voice but I don’t know who will listen.

That is the reason why I write here today. I have gone beyond my own expectations and yet, I have a feeling that the world will be the same place where I left it. I am going to be defined by the same rules as before and I can only laugh or get depressed by it. What is out there dear future self? Because for the moment, I really do no know. Perhaps one day, you can tell me. Let’s exchange notes at some point.

 

Regards,

Gabriel of the present time, as of November 2014

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This is me: in an alternate reality, captured by an artist

I have recently come across a video that fully captures the essence of my paradise, the blog I have written in different forms since 2005.  Its surprising to think about it, almost a decade of thoughts scattered in cyberspace, not really physical in form but still alive, all  the same. You my dear readers, are seeing my thoughts and not merely shadows of memories. They are alive as if they happened just minutes ago and some of these ideas are questions I still ask myself up to this day. These are ideas that I have transmitted through my fingers to a device that forms another language, unknown to most of us but they are converted to binary symbols that you see as letters. Those letters are the specs of black dots in your screen and you understand my thoughts (even unspoken by myself), although most of you do not know me.

I am in world of my own creation, quite separate from the physicality of my own life, but probably mirrors its existence with a certain narrow lens. I am in a universe of emotions and thoughts which may be real or imaginary, yet in this world that I create, they are as real to me, like the breath that I take every second of my existence. I ask myself sometimes, why not discuss things that would gather people to look in my blog? Why not aim to get a bombardment of hits? Why should I? In a world evolving so that blogs are forms of money, I refuse to believe that my thoughts are made of gold, my thoughts are fuelled by likes or ratings. My thoughts, I believe, are simply an expression of my quiet paradise. So dear readers, I hope it brings you comfort that I am just like the man in the video, walking through the magnificent sceneries of my mind and looking at the face of the earth with longing and a certain sense of exploration to uncover the mysteries of life.

Birthdays and the happiness and loneliness attached to it

In a different part of the wold, my birthday has already started. Here in the Netherlands, it’s roughly four hours away. Tick tock, tick tock. Facebook will soon be flooded with greetings from online friends. We all know the drill, those closest to us give us messages in our phones and emails, some of them give messages in facebook personally, some declare it on your wall and others, just like other people’s greetings. At this moment I have received 1 text message, 4 personal facebook messages, 11 posts in my wall and 1 liked another person’s greeting. There are those valuable few who take the time to say, “Let’s go out and celebrate your wonderful day. Just you and me and let’s find somewhere nice.” You don’t get much of those these days. It now usually ends with facebook and real life meaningful talks are now a thing of the past. This blog even reinforces that I also am trapped in this, that me writing this means that I accept that I have a virtual self.

Far from the usual social connections, I am here living in my fifth country of residence away from all that I know and cherish but I am following exactly the course of action I wanted to take. This is the dream – taking a break from work, gaining new knowledge, doing a masters degree, traveling Europe and in the process learning the cultures of the world. Why is it that at this moment when everything seems to be perfect, I realize that the only place I want to be today is either in the waterbed of our house in Singapore or right beside my mom in Manila. I just want to be there, as if I never left, as if this reality is a mere dream and all the wonders of what I am experiencing is just a momentary flash of the subconscious that I will fail to remember tomorrow.

Birthdays for me are like wormholes of emotions. I just feel everything. I’m happy and sad at the same time. I’m apathetic but all so sensitive. The day feels like a never-ending story and facebook provides false hopes of warm smiles and kind faces wishing you good things.

A few weeks ago I was carpooling in France from Angers to Paris. I was in the passenger seat with this wonderful French lady that had an American accent and we were talking away as if we were the best of friends at the same time, wonderful acquaintances. We know for a fact that we won’t be seeing each other again at any point in our lives but we shared personal stories quite casually. She was divorced, had two kids living in different parts of France and one of them is going to Luxembourg with her grandson the month after. At one point in our discussion, she told me that she was attending a wedding of the daughter of a close friend. She then told me something unexpected – that she needed to go on a diet because she thinks she looks horrible in her clothes and that she wants to loose 5kg before the wedding. She also said that she was happy to go only if there were other people who are not couples. She gets too uncomfortable with all the couples who go back to their rooms, mind their own business and don’t really mingle. She had to ask her friend if there were other friends who were also going but not so boring like the other couples. I believe she was fishing if another friend, a single old gentleman was coming. And he was so she would too. After hearing this I suddenly asked her, “It never goes away does it, this social awkwardness we feel when have no other person is interesting enough (or interested with us) to speak to?” She said something like, “Some people are just so boring, I can’t bear being in the same table with them.” I thought this sounded like a discussion  of two teenage girls talking about the senior prom.

With these memory in mind, it dawned on me that even though life becomes richer, we add more years to our age, we get white hair (just like what I had for the first time last week) and lines are formed in our faces, our fundamental issues are the same as always. I’ve contemplated about my birthday since I was in my teens and I am again back to square one. My thoughts are probably different from a few years back, the issues become more complex but the same dilemma occurs – why is it that birthdays are such wormholes of emotions. I am basically going through a seemingly annual menstrual cycle wherein I am full of uncalled for mood swings that just doesn’t go away. Maybe it is good (this is optimism coming in). It is good because I know that this is not just an ordinary day, that my mind is telling that me that this is a Eureka Moment. I am growing up again and all these thinking keeps me sane and alive for the rest of the year. What is life without introspection? What is life without the passing of time? What is life without these impossible-to-deal-with emotions?

If I get to the point in my life when I will forget my birthday was coming, to forget that the day has a meaning and that this day I will see the usual signs of joy, if I forget that, will that be living? These honest moments of confused emotions is the indicator that I have a mind that wants to understand this. I have the heart that feels this. I have the fingers that type this and I have the eyes that sees everything that will happen in this day. I am alive and every birthday I celebrate this by flushing my thoughts and emotions out in the open. I am allowing myself to be vulnerable, accepting I am not a stone because I feel. This, I believe is the miracle of my birthday posts. I say this because I believe it has meaning. I don’t know if it will mean anything to someone else but me blogging reaches to out to everyone, “Hey I am here and today, allow me to contemplate my life and my existence, because I am alive.”

Here is the link of my previous birthday post: Opening the Gates on Oneself

Here is the link with my thoughts on Facebook: Breaking Free from the Digital World

Check out this video too and the effects of social media to society 

A Question of Choices

For the last few days I have been spending time with Jose in London and days before that we were in Greece to celebrate Chinese New Year.   It has been a couple of months since we last saw each other and I am very happy that we had the time to relax and see a new city which we both haven’t been before. It has been a wonderful 10 days but of course, if I could make it longer, I would like to do so. When you have shared your life with a person for a couple of years, it seems alien if they are not there with you.  Right now I am in London in his family home and I will spend a month here. I am waiting for Jose to come back from a visit to a family friend and after that, me and his sister will send him off to the airport for his travel back to Singapore.

Now that I have a bit of time to think, I thought of doing a blog to clear my head. For the last few months I have been contemplating on my life as a student, as a professional and as a person who has somehow taken the big plunge of rebooting his life. I now know that this masters degree will change my life – that I will be doing something I have never imagined I will do and that it is providing me with skills I never thought I would acquire. I am in that period of uncertainty, some sort of an intellectual crisis. Where will my life lead me?

Before coming to Germany, I had a clear vision in my mind of what my skill sets were and what I am happy doing. From my previous blog I had a certainty in my writing, a certain stance but now that stance is wobbly. I am somehow unclear with my vision of the future for the first time in my life. With new knowledge comes new avenues of growth, new possibilities, new means of working and my own definitions of how my life is be suddenly opening up. It is as if I was looking at  a certain tunnel where there was a clear but unchanging view and now, I have come to the end of that tunnel and I realized that the scenery is much richer and the roads diverge in different locations. Life choices and career choices are not linearly constructed and I have to sort out which one I will need to take. Life isn’t as simple as I thought it was.

However, after traveling in Athens and meeting people from different backgrounds in Germany and here in London, I also realized that this thinking process is a privilege. Many people have no luxury of choice and that the world sweeps them in its mighty current. For example, Greece is a beautiful country but so much of its people are in poverty now and many people of my age do not have jobs. I don’t have a job now but I can live because I chose this path to become a student and saved my money to achieve it.  I am opening my options and of course that means that I will have a choice. I have put myself in this position of limitless choices but it scares me too.

The real question now is that is it better to have limited choices or having more choices in life? Is a straight path better than a convoluted path in life? I’m not really sure. I am now here in this point and I am trying to create a straight path but I do know in my heart that it won’t be that simple anymore.