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I am writing you a letter.

For my thesis, I've chosen to work on creative nonfiction, which I think is deserving of more attention as a serious form of literature, especially in the Philippines. For most people, creative nonficton is either one of only two things: the 1000-word (or less) features we read on magazines and lifestyle sections of the newspaper, or the kind of writing people "do" when they blog and talk about themselves. While CNF on its own is not one to be harsh on labels (as it is battling with some sort of identity crisis itself), it is begging to be defined as something other than those two, or more precisely, beyond them. CNF is not just "expressing yourself" i.e. the kind that writes about what you ate for breakfast or how well that skirt went with those boots. Yes it does involve including an "I" as the narrator of a story, but it does not always have to be completely about it - the "I" is merely just the starting point to a larger narrative, a deeper web of stories and people and places. It can be the entry to a myriad of other perspectives in which the story will establish itself far outside the spheres of the writer's own world.

The gap between the "I" and the "you" is what got me curious about the culture of epistolarity, or letter-writing, in the first place. I grew up writing letters, to myself, to my parents, to objects that can obviously not reply, and I have always been fascinated by the whole art behind it: how it begins with a nervous greeting, like the quivering one feels when making a first impression, then ends with an hopeful valediction, thankful that the reader went through the entire thing. There is a quiet, unpretentious intimacy that happens between the writer and the reader because the letter is exclusive to both of them. Within each letter lies a continuing transfer of influence over the narrative: the sender of the letter asserts his voice to the "you" in the beginning and all throughout, but steps aside and makes way for the reader to respond in the end. It's quite absorbing how the "I" can evolve in the course of a single letter in order to accommodate the "you."

The first semester required us to write a critical paper on our topic; that is, we were to research and come up with a criticism and an exploration of the genre and theme we wanted to dip our toes into. It was particularly hard for me because while there has always been an abundance of letters (yes, even in the age of e-mail), it is precisely this sheer number that makes it hard to decipher a certain criteria. Because epistolarity as a genre has never been fully established (especially in the Philippines), it was difficult to actually find letters that I could try to follow and consider as framework. Whose work do I criticize? Which ones do I want to emulate? What should they be about? I had to go through a lot of anthologies and sift them through to see if the writer by any chance wrote an open letter to anyone. Luckily, I did, and was I surprised at the possibilities each letter provided. It was a daunting task, since like what I said, no one I know has done this before, and so I felt like I was alone in creating a niche for myself. I did use books on epistolary novels as references, and even bought a book from Amazon about epistolary histories. But it paid off. I think I have come up with a good enough explanation of what I wanted to do in my critical paper.

Now comes the more challenging, but also more liberating part. The second sem means it is finally time for us to do our creative work - meaning, to write what it was we were set out to do in the first place. For me this means writing letters, to people, to places, to events. I want to explore the idea of the "you" as something more than just a faceless audience member and into something of a particular reader. I will try to do long-form narratives to echo the kind of writing done before the Internet reduced everything to 160-characters. It will be a challenge, but I am up for it. I just finished my first letter-essay last night (and was proud I didn't break the deadline I made for myself!) and I am hoping it is well-received by my thesis adviser. I think I have nine more to go.

Letters by Bienvenido Santos
One of the books that inspired me to
work on this as my thesis topic
How fascinating it is to have a portrait of your life in letters!

So there, my thesis, in a nutshell. This has been what's occupying my time, my mind, and my sanity lately. It's funny how suddenly my course-mates and I have gone from lax, carefree students who submit papers late to zombie-like creatures that cannot stop talking and worrying about our stories, novels, and thesis proposals. People think that being a Creative Writing major entitles you to just do whatever and charge it to artistic license, but writing, for us at least, requires more than just a selfish purpose. It's about getting your story out there, sure, but it's fleshing out others' too. It's taxing, emotionally, mentally, and physically, to do that because writing is something you can only do yourself - you have no one to help you write. But sometimes just having a single willing ear (or more like a willing eye) to read through your work is enough reassurance. Even if it's just your blockmate whom you asked to spell-check for you.

I have about four months left. Let's see what happens.

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Running to, from, away.

(I know I promised to write about my thesis after someone asked it in my question box, but after this afternoon, this felt like it needed to be written first. It had to. I shall do a post about my thesis over the weekend.)


I ran four kilometers today after a year of not jogging at all, and after two years of not jogging at the Oval. Long story short, it has been (more than) a while, but I surprised myself with how well my body responded to all the pushing my mind did. It's always nice to know I can do things that are far beyond my own expectations, especially when it comes to this.

Running around today brought me back to where I was the first time I did it two years ago. I was still at that point where I felt like I had lost myself tremendously amidst the insecurities and fears that suddenly came my way that year. I was on the receiving end of a lot of bruises to my ego - not being fought for, not being chosen, not being good enough - little things, really, but they all piled up and made such a mess of me. Then the idea of jogging came up. I was in a horrible state emotionally and mentally that I just said to myself, Why the hell not? What further harm can tiring my body do anyway when so far all I've been feeling on the inside is exhaustion anyway?

But things happened and fell into place: people came into the picture and made things okay. Suddenly jogging became fun, it became something to look forward to. It was no longer about me comparing myself to someone else or proving someone wrong - it suddenly became an intimate affair with just myself. Sure, my body still ached every time I got home, but it stopped being a chore, and actually became something that allowed me to be other than what I really was at that time: a mess. Because jogging was so uncharacteristic of me, jogging made me feel like I wasn't Karla - I was just... a runner. Running. To someone, from it all, away - it didn't matter. I was moving.

The second semester of 2009 brought unexpected but welcome changes to my life. I can, of course, ascribe that mostly to one person, who started seeing me beyond the standards everyone (myself included) was so keen on putting on myself. But this person notwithstanding, looking back, things started to change only after I made the conscious decision to let the baggage go. It was stupid, all of it, all of them, I finally realized. The first move I did after that was the running. Saying yes to jogging suddenly meant saying yes to letting myself open up to possibilities.

It was cathartic, running again today after two years. So much has changed, from my pace to even my disposition. Yet it's comforting knowing that even after all this time, there are things that stay the same. Jogging still and will always remind me of that time I finally let go of all the resentment. Of being loved, of being appreciated, of being thought of as worth it - each step just reiterated these feelings all over again. To run under those same trees, being reminded that it didn't matter how quick, just how far, was liberating. I was running by myself, but it was during those moments that I felt most cherished; there was togetherness despite being alone. No one was beside me but it didn't feel lonely.

It still doesn't. And it was wonderful to feel that again, truly wonderful.


Of lines you wish you wrote yourself.

<br /> <blockquote>24<br /> You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won't tell you that he loves you, but he loves you. And you feel like you've done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you're tired. You're in a car with a beautiful boy, and you're trying not to tell him that you love him, and you're trying to choke down the feeling, and you're trembling, but he reaches over and he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your heart taking root in your body, like you've discovered something you don't even have a name for.</blockquote><br /> An excerpt from Richard Siken's poem "You Are Jeff" published in the Yale University Press Books Unbound website. So beautiful.<br /> <br /> <i>Like you've discovered something you don't even have a name for.</i>


Why, hello there.

While I am guilty of not completely updating this blog as often as I used to, I shall not waste any more time apologizing and share with you a random moment of vulnerability instead.

One of the few things I call my own and (sometimes) refuse to share with anyone else is my walk. Every afternoon after my last class, instead of waiting for the jeep in the Faculty Center waiting shed where everyone else is, I choose to walk through the Freshie Walk aka Roces St., the road that cuts through the Acad Oval and leads me to the two waiting sheds by the Engineering building. There is this overwhelming sense of control I get when I see people scrambling like mad to ride the always-full Katipunan jeeps at the FC while I make my way nonchalantly to the Freshie Walk. Why are they all still waiting there when you can just go to the other side? I feel like I'm carrying this wonderful new secret every time I cross the street to Roces while everyone else is waiting, anxious and not moving a single step.

It's not a very long walk, probably five-minutes at best, but I prefer to take it slow especially when it's around 5:30 and has just rained, the streets glowing with car lights and the reflection of a gray, dusky sky. It's my favorite part of the day actually, more than eating toasted raisin bread for breakfast or finally putting on my eye mask before bed. It's when I truly am by myself, only my thoughts and the songs on my iPod as my companions, but I don't mind.

These days I've been feeling more alone - not the suicidal kind, not the Oh I am so unloved kill me now kind. Just the I literally don't have anyone with me kind. I spend six days at the dorm, my classes are at odd hours, and I've been seeing people less and less each day. Sure, I have several other friends, but the circumstances of being seniors/graduating students allow us the convenience of seeing each other only by chance and surprise, not predetermined lunch and dinner dates.

More than that, however, there has been this looming sense of isolation that dawned on me a while back. My friends (and even I, myself) see me as this optimistic, cheery girl; the kind that will pull a sunshine out of my ass even when it's all cumulonimbus and rain showers. But certain realizations just made me doubt my faith in myself a little - how capable I really am of being alone, how worthy I am of the things I've been getting, how far I can go without having to break. Little nagging thoughts, really, but frustrating all the same.

It's obviously a lot more complicated than that. The funny thing is I haven't shared this with anyone, at least not completely; mostly because I'm a believer of making things go away when left unmentioned (which hardly ever works, but, well...) and partly because I just don't want anyone worrying about me. I mean, this is me obviously just over-thinking things, and at best I'll just be diagnosed PMS-ing, and at worst, as a whiny, selfish brat.

But really, I think, I'm just afraid of putting myself out there and letting anyone tell me what I'm afraid to hear: that yes, I am alone, and that yes, there is nothing else to do about it. I just have to deal with it. Which is, of course, the only possible recourse. I've said it to myself a million times before, I've had the "Yes, I can do it!" pep talk. However these days, it's just not cutting it. Because no matter how positive I try to make myself feel, it is still just myself cheering me on, and no one else. That's how it feels.

And so I take these walks, to remind myself why it's good to be alone and why having company doesn't always translate to getting somewhere. The relief I receive from the majestic green arch the trees form above me, the comfort I find in Stars or Metric or John Mayer or Sugarfree (especially Burnout, which I have officially declared my UP/senioritis song) - those are things not being alone cannot provide. I take these walks, if only to convince myself that at least even for a while, even for just the few precious minutes it takes to traverse Roces Street, I don't need anyone. I don't. I really don't.

But convincing always requires some level of delusion, doesn't it?




Lost and finding.

First year, first sem. I entered the wrong classroom on the first day of class.

Fourth year, second sem. I entered the wrong classroom on the first day of class.

I'd like to think this is probably the universe's way of giving me closure, or making me come full circle - coming together with how I commenced, closing with how it opened, ending where I began - the whole shebang.

I could always wax metaphoric and say that if my life were a short story, that little running motif of getting lost in class would have been an effective literary device. It could be symbolic of how the character, despite having been in the university for four years, is still only under the illusion that she has found her way - that the people she had met, the things she had learned, the words she had said do not mean anything in the grander scheme of things, for she is still but a lost little girl looking for the right direction. That the idea of graduating only means getting a piece of paper, not discovering one's true purpose. The meaning of everything is still somewhere, possibly written in your Form 5 or somewhere in your head, hidden by the trees or masquerading in the sky, but it's not entirely visible and still remains to be found. Getting lost in the beginning and getting lost even in the end is indicative of how uncertain everything still is - even when your status says graduating, even when your affections have been affirmed, even when your dreams have been set on stone.

Of course, this isn't a short story, and reading a little bit too much into things is just one of the side effects of being a literature major. For all I know it could only be indicative of my lack of sleep or Oreos, or both.

But then again, that's why I am where I am. The thing with writing is that it gives you the illusion of control over a certain kind of reality, and often that spills out of the page and into your own. And if that means believing in a greater recurring narrative just to make myself feel better (and less ashamed - because dear God, this happened to me and I'm already a senior!) then why the hell not?

Second sem, let's see what you got.



The last week or so.

The week of October 26th (and the few days after) had been quite exceptional.

I went out with my family on the 26th. Had an extremely funny mall-hopping date with The Boyfriend on the 27th. Held a Rockband/Just Dance/Karaoke party at my house with my college friends on the 28th. Went out for drinks at BF with my high school friends on the 29th. Ate dinner out with my parents on the 30th. Scoured the stalls of 168 with my mom, aunt, and lola on the 31st.

Then I got sick on November 1st and skipped going to the cemetery. Stuffed my face with pizza and liempo instead. Lounged around mostly in bed on the 2nd. And got myself in full battle mode for enrollment on the 3rd.

I am now officially a twenty-year-old enrolled for what would (hopefully!) be my last semester in college.

Oh, what change a week can bring.