Emptying my box of first love

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This is seven years worth of memories. In this box, I kept notes, letters and scribbles that were once the most important things in my life. Were.

The items in this box are from my first love, like the first Valentine’s Day card he gave to me back in 2003. Back then, First Love was just the nice boy who’d smile at me from afar. I was “kind of” with another boy who treated me like crap. On that day, I saw that boy make a Valentine’s Day card and because I was “kind of” with him, I thought the card was for me. It wasn’t. It was for a girl in another class. Before I left school and had the chance to cry my heart out on my pillow, First Love walked up to me every so shyly and handed me a red envelope. In it was a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card and on it was written a poem about how much he wanted to be my friend. It was the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had.

There are two #1 candles inside as well. Those are from the cake he surprised me with when we celebrated our 11th month together. There’s a reason why that cake was bought from the store and not homemade. When we celebrated the month before for our 10th, he baked a cake. He didn’t know how to bake a cake. He ran out of flour and figured that he could just put double the amount of cocoa to make up for it. The cake tasted like dirt. We spent the whole afternoon in school that day, fooling people into taking a bite and then laughing at how some would unashamedly spit it back out and how others would actually pretend to like it. When we ran out of people to fool, we finished the whole thing with the help of our friends.

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Inside the white plastic bag is the sash that was given to me when I became prom queen. Prom night fell on the same day as our first anniversary so First Love decided to do something big for me. He knew we were going to “win” because everyone knew it was our anniversary but just to be sure, he approached people and asked them to vote for us. After we were crowned, I turned to leave the stage but then he told me to sit on the chair. And then, in front of our 90 or so schoolmates, he sang She by Elvis Costello. I thanked him by punching his arm after he finished the song. I don’t react well to surprises, you see. It was the boldest thing anyone has ever done for me. And when I came home that night, I looked at the sash one last time and put it in that white plastic bag. I never held it since. It had too much glitter and I hated glitter.

The colored rolls of paper were given to me that same night, after he sang to me and after I punched him. In each paper, he wrote down a reason for why he loved me. There are 100 rolls of paper. The first one reads, “I love you because of who you are.” The last one reads, “I love you because of who we are when we’re together.”

Eventually, we stopped loving who we were when we were together. Or rather, we couldn’t love who we had become the longer we stayed together. And so we broke up.

That was three years ago.

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Yesterday, I decided to empty this box. Using my mom’s paper shredder. It wasn’t done out of anger or bitterness. We may have gone our separate ways but I will always, always wish him well the same way I know he wishes me well.

Believe it or not, it was done out of love. Love for the good five years I spent with him. I’ve decided to say goodbye to the memories of First Love this way because it’s the only way to keep what we had always just between the two of us and no one else.

And you know what? Love for myself. I did it out of love for myself. Because maybe, just maybe, the reason why I kept this box around is to remind me that I was once loved the way all girls want to be loved. And I’ve come to realize that that’s such a terrible reminder.

In the future, when love comes around and hopefully chooses to stay, I want to be loved the way I want to be loved. I want to be loved the way I deserve to be loved, the way I’m supposed to be loved… not the way I was loved in the past.

Only sometimes

Sometimes, I feel too small for my liking. I feel I’m not enough, like I lack something everyone else has. I look in the mirror and see someone who’s stuck in mediocrity. I feel like I have the potential to be so much more, but  don’t know how to unlock it. All around me I see people my age who have accomplished so much and who have done things I’ve always wanted to do, and I can’t help but think, “Am I less than them?”

Apparently, my own answer to that question can very well be one big fat NO, because sometimes, I feel like everything around me is too small for me. I’m too good for this life, I think. Like I’m some all-star basketball player who got drafted into a substandard team. Frustration sinks in and then before I know it, I’m suddenly mad at the world for not applauding my greatness and frustrated with life for giving me so little to work with. I say to myself I’d be better off some place else. Where that place is I do not know, but it’s definitely not here.

Then there are times when I just want to spend the entire day in bed, just staring at the ceiling, waiting for it to crack or fall on me. My pathetic excuse of a willpower tells me I need a break, that working more than 40 hours a week will drain anyone’s energy. All the while my brain scolds me. You lazy, lazy girl, it says. Your own father works longer hours than you but you don’t hear him complaining, do you? But like a true couch potato, I put my brain on mute and turn up the music until it drowns all the feeling of responsibility out. And then I go about doing absolutely nothing…

Only to feel absolutely guilty about it when a bolt of motivation suddenly strikes me. I’m left with this itch that gets worse with every idle moment that passes by and that can only be soothed with any kind of action deemed productive. The checklist comes out and, so help me God, I will cross each and every trivial item on it. Sleep becomes a reward for accomplishing anything and everything that can be done in one day. Feeling less of a human being and more of a waste of oxygen becomes a punishment for accomplishing only 99 out of the 100 things on the to-do list.

And then there are moments when I suddenly feel that the idea of being in a relationship is more disconcerting than appealing, that being single and choosing to remain that way prove how much of a strong and independent individual I am. Around me, I see people who look for love the way they look for a misplaced wallet or something. I know it’s around here somewhere, they seem to say. I look at them and roll my eyes a thousand times. You don’t have any idea how good we have it, I imagine myself telling them.

And yet sometimes, I feel lonely. Just, incredibly lonely. More than anything, I wish I have someone who will hold my hand, someone who will pull me into the warmest of embraces. These are what I miss about being in a relationship – holding someone’s hand, being hugged. I look at my hand, close my eyes and picture my fingers being intertwined with his, and I swear my heart breaks a little when I open my eyes and find an open palm with outstretched fingers. But the one thing I miss most is loving someone. I miss loving someone. I don’t feel lonely because I want to be loved… I feel lonely because I don’t have anyone to love – not the kind of love you can only give to someone who has your heart and who has given you his.

Sometimes, I either put myself on a pedestal or bury myself in the dirt. Sometimes, I either ignore the responsibilities only I can best do or I put the weight of the whole world on my shoulders. Sometimes, I love myself too much that I completely disregard everyone else. And sometimes, I love myself too little that I completely disregard myself.

Only sometimes though.

Most of the time, I feel enough. I feel alright. I feel content. And at peace.

I’ve fallen in love with words on paper: Louise Murphy’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

Louise Murphy’s The True Story of Hansel and Gretel is one of those books that, upon reading the last page, you go, “Huh.” It’s a story about a brother and sister who are on the run from Nazi soldiers and who find themselves under the care of an old woman in the middle of the forest. I finished reading this book months ago, but as I was skimming through my notebook wherein I write down my favorite lines from books and films, a couple of the lines I got from this one in particular struck me so I’ve decided to share them with you.

Now, I have no idea what Louise Murphy’s beliefs are or how she wanted God and religion to be represented in her novel. But I know that many people, when in the midst of unspeakable pain and tragedy, often ask how God – if He does exist, and I believe He does – could allow such terrible things to happen, and I found the most beautiful response to that in one of the pages of this book.

“It didn’t happen fast enough. Half of Poland died before God helped us.”
“God’s time isn’t our time.” Starzec sighed.
“God shouldn’t have let this killing happen. God should have stopped it.”
Starzec gestured at the trees and the forest around them. “Do you see God? Where is he, you fool?”
Doby flushed and shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“God didn’t come down and kill us. I don’t see God shooting children and priests. None of us met God beating up Jews and shoving them into railroad cars. This is men doing the murdering. Talk to men about their evil, kill the evil men, but pray to God. You can’t expect God to come down and do our living for us. We have to do that ourselves.” (p.207)

There are a couple of other lines too that are just as beautiful.

Wasting a little shows you believe in tomorrow. (p.17)

They had leaped into love, and the whole world, the dark trees and the fields, shimmered with bright light. (p.149)

God cannot see the darkness man has created and not throw out light to combat it. (p.175)

Life is sometimes a great waiting. (p.178)

We can never let the world take our memories of love away, and if there are no memories, we must invent love all over again. (p.297)

I’ve always had this unquenchable interest in stories of war and of the Holocaust. For the life of me I can never comprehend how something so evil and inhuman found its way in the history of mankind and be caused by mankind itself. But I find so much hope in the fact that no matter how powerful and destructive such evil was, it still lost in the end. It’s true that there is darkness in this world, but there is also and always light.

Third-Wheeling: Dinner with the significant others

Of others obviously, not mine. I don’t have any – all my friends do though. I was having dinner last night with a good friend from college and her boyfriend when I realized something. Most of my nights out with friends consists of a friend, the friend’s significant other and me. Her, him and me makes three.

Two nights ago, I had dinner with my childhood friend and her new boyfriend (our dinners almost always includes a boyfriend and the boyfriend is always hers). A few weeks ago, my best friend celebrated her birthday with her boyfriend and me. In February, I went out with a close friend of mine from high school and his girlfriend.

Basically, I get invited to a lot of dates. Either that or I invite myself to meet the significant others.

And you know what? I love it. Not kidding. I feel like it’s a super power of mine – to feel naturally comfortable sitting alone on one side of the table across two people who, I like to think, are in love with each other, while not making either of them feel that they have to treat me like I’m a lost puppy or a super spy watchdog.

Over the years, I’ve found that being in the presence of two people who are connected to each other is wonderfully fascinating. There’s always a story there. I like watching how they treat each other, how they talk to each other or how they act around each other. I know my being there changes things a bit but that’s the whole point. I get to understand my relationship with my friends more when I understand how their relationships are with their partners.

There’s something about being able to witness real relationships – old, new, short and true – even if I’m not actually a part of it, that captivates me. I see two people and so much more. I’ve seen the awkwardness of a friend who’s trying to get me to like her date without making it seem like she’s trying too hard. I’ve seen the anxiety in the eyes of a friend’s new boyfriend who’s internally figuring out whether I approve of him or not. I’ve seen affection, companionship, friendship, lust and infatuation. Sometimes, I see love, and if I’m lucky, I can even feel it.

I’ve been told once, quite publicly too, that I am the ultimate third wheel. It’s true, I realize that now. But I don’t see it as something to be embarrassed about, nor do I see it as a constant, blaring reminder of me not being in a relationship. I like being single and being with people who are in a relationship. Truth be told, I actually enjoy being part of these dates more than being with a big group.

Take note, I’m talking to you, guy who labeled me as the third wheel, I used the phrase being part of instead of tagging along, because I may be a third wheel but I’m the wheel in the front. Unlike you, I don’t need a boyfriend to spend time with my best friend and his girlfriend. I don’t force my friend to invite another single friend before I agree to meet with her and her boyfriend. And unlike you, I know how to have fun in all my singleness with people in all their ‘couple-ness’ and, you know what, they also have fun with me.

I may be a third wheel but, damnit, I third wheel like a boss. That, my single and most probably insecure friend, is how I roll.

What shall I write tonight

Shall I write about my hopes for tomorrow

Or my accomplishments for today?

Or maybe the regrets that continue to haunt me,

Or the secrets I can’t say

Out loud because when the sun is up

We’re all critics passing judgment,

But when the light gives way to darkness

We all cower in our blankets.

There’s something about the absence of light

That, in me, ignites a spark

To divulge every lie, every sin, every pitiful thought

Because we’re all the same in the dark.

But when the sun rises

And the birds sing their tune,

When you see what I’ve written

Underneath the full moon,

When you wake up tomorrow

To welcome another new day,

If you read the things I write tonight

I wonder what you’ll say.

Will you judge me for being honest

At a time when we find comfort in our shame

When the ugly and the truth are identical

Or will you point to me and say,

This girl of contradictions

Of anxiety, doubt and spite

This girl reminds me so much of me

Before I sleep every night?

 

So what shall I write tonight

Shall I write the words you wish to see?

Or shall I write the ugly truth

Whose words may set me free?

Tell me a secret. And I’ll tell you one of mine.

I’m testing this idea I thought of earlier today – that we sometimes find it easier to tell our secrets to people who we’ve never actually met and/or seen in person.

I’ve never met you so there’s no reputation for you to uphold or protect. I’ve never seen you so I can’t possibly come up with preconceived notions based on your appearance.

As someone who has her own secrets, I think the nicest thing about keeping a secret is that moment when you finally share it with someone who you know will never tell it to anyone else. On the flip side, the worst thing about keeping a secret is not having anyone you feel you can tell it to without being judged or criticized.

So stranger, are you game? It doesn’t even have to be dark or profound, it could be that you pick your nose when no one’s watching or whatever: something you’re embarrassed about, a something you’re afraid someone you know will find out (hopefully, it’s not something illegal) or maybe something you’ve never felt like sharing with the people around you.

If you’re feeling generous with your secret or alone because of your secret, I’m all ears. If you tell me one of yours, I’ll gladly tell you one of mine. Of course, what I’m going to tell you depends on what you’re going to tell me. It doesn’t seem fair if your secret is about nose-picking and mine is about, I don’t know, classified government information.

For some secret sharing, email scribblesforthesoul@yahoo.com

A list of promises to my future kid

Hello, you.

I’m writing this now as a 23-year-old single woman. You might be wondering why I’m doing this given that I am only 23 and very much single. I’m in no hurry to get married and have you either (no offense, I’m sure you’re awesome and that your dad is too). I am, however, a preschool teacher and when you’re a preschool teacher, you witness the fruits of parenting every single day which is basically what I’ve been up to this past year. Let me tell you, I’ve seen good fruits and I’ve seen bad fruits. And honey, I do not want you to become a bad fruit.

So I’ve decided to write down a list of promises I intend to fulfill the moment you come into this world. Some of the things here are based on what I’ve seen in my profession. Then there are other things here that are just, I don’t know, my thing I guess.

1. I promise you’ll grow up knowing how to read books, if not loving to read them. This might seem like a trivial thing but trust me, I’ve had little kids in my classroom who would try to “swipe” the pages of their books. You will not be one of them. I won’t allow it. You will grow up holding a book first before holding high-tech gadgets that are likely to drastically shorten your attention span. I can’t promise that I won’t force you to read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game because I firmly believe that these books must be read by my child.

2. I promise you’ll know what it’s like to play under the sun and not just in front of the computer or TV screen. I will show you that playing hide-and-seek and tag with your athletic dad and competitive mom is in fact more fun that sitting on the couch with your eyes glued to a screen. I also promise to give you all the board games and puzzles you want. Monopoly? Scrabble? Snakes and Ladders? Battleship? You name it, I am willing to get it… but not all at once, okay? You can play PS5,6 or 7 after the real games are done and even then, fun dad and hip mom are still game for some FIFA/NBA 2k18,19 or 20 and Need for Speed. No GTA though, that’s a bit over the top for me.

3. I promise I won’t hand you an iPad or iPhone just so you’d stop crying. I’ve seen this happen quite often. I can’t deny that it is pretty effective, but it just gets worse in the long run. Sooner or later, you’ll be throwing a fit and I’d have to give you my car to be able to appease you. So no. You’re going to cry and you’re going to stop crying because mom is a lean mean humming machine that can calm you down with James Ingram’s Somewhere Out There or because dad can give an epic death stare that will give you second thoughts about throwing a tantrum or vice versa.

4. I promise I won’t bring you to the movie theaters while you’re at a really young age so that people won’t hate you if you start crying. You’re my baby, of course I don’t want people glaring at you when you’re doing something that is perfectly normal and expected for you to do at your age. So instead of bringing you to grown-up places, we’ll bring our party to little kids’ places instead – they’re more fun than fancy restaurants and movie theaters anyway.

5. I promise to introduce you to the movies I watched when I was a kid because I can’t promise you that the movies that’ll be showing in your time will be appropriate for you. Don’t get mad at me if I do not let you watch Iron Man or Spiderman or any other “Man” that’s trending. You will watch them eventually, but not when you’re five. And before you ask, no, not when you’re six either. They’re not bad movies; I find them to be really good actually. But I don’t want you to think that the boy who grabbed your toy without asking permission is a villain who needs to have his head zapped off “like what Iron Man does to the bad guy”. It’s also highly likely that there will be very limited Disney princess movies because you shouldn’t concern yourself with true love at a young age. If I’m raising you the way I plan to, you’ll only be watching the really really good movies. Like The Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book and The Rescuers. And Toy Story. And Homeward Bound. And Fox and the Hound. Are you seeing the pattern here?

6. You’re not going to like this but I promise I will not give you your own cellphone until you actually, definitely and genuinely need it. Take not, I said your own cellphone. I’ll gladly share mine with you if you need one for school; I rarely use it anyway. That means you can call and text your friends and all that, but that also means I can get it back whenever I want to and that you can’t be upset when I do. And your own phone? That might take a while, not unless you’re willing to spend your own money to buy your own phone and pay your own phone bill. But seriously, I want you to experience writing to people, sending a snail mail, or even just using a telephone.

7. I promise I won’t force you to learn how to play a musical instrument or take dance lessons or join sports teams if you don’t want to. My parents forced me to take piano lessons for a couple of years when I was a kid, so I know it’ll do no good if I do the same thing to you. I am not going to force you to do something you don’t want, but I am going to encourage you to do something that you want to do.

8. And if you do, I promise to attend all your games, plays and recitals. I promise I’ll have front row seats to every program you’re in. I’ll take pictures and your dad will take videos, and we’ll show it to the rest of the family when you’re still too young to care and too old to be embarrassed. I also know there’s a chance that, when you reach a certain age, you won’t be thrilled to have your parents watch you play or perform anymore. So I also promise that I’ll be hiding somewhere among the crowd to every event you tell me not to attend. Because I know that’s just a phase, that you’ll get over it soon enough and that eventually you’ll be glad that I went.

9. I promise you will be raised in a family that does sing-alongs even if no one can sing and that dances even when cool dad can’t dance (because groovy mom definitely can). We are going to sing at the top of our lungs and we are going to dance like there’s no tomorrow because we, dear one, will be a family who knows how to have fun.

10. I promise I won’t judge you by your test scores but I also promise I’ll be asking you to show them to me. I don’t need you to be on the honor roll. I don’t need a child who has perfect grades. But I do need you to learn. I need you to learn because you need to learn. And I promise to help you with every lesson that I know and I promise to relearn the lessons I forgot so that I can help you with them.

11. I promise to be nice to your friends, I can’t promise to be the same for the ones who only pretend to be your friends, and I promise you I can tell the difference. Trust me on this one. I know.

12. You won’t be happy about this but I promise I will not allow you to have a Facebook account until you promise to accept my friend request without putting me on that privacy setting list (I will find out); no Twitter account either until you know the difference between there, their and they’re; and if you’re just going to post “selfies”, you can forget about Instagram as well. You might think these conditions are stupid and insignificant so let me explain. Having me on your friend’s list means we have the kind of relationship where you don’t feel like you should hide anything from me. Knowing the difference between there, their and they’re is important because grammar and spelling are important, so if you’re going to tweet about your life, I want to make sure you do it in the proper grammar and correct spelling. Lastly, I know you are extremely good-looking and beautiful. Please don’t brag about it on social media. I want you to be confident with the way you look, not narcissistic about it.

13. I promise I won’t freak out when you start dating… only if you introduce the person you’re dating to your intimidating dad and your diplomatic mom. Only if come home on time (plus points for coming home earlier than curfew). And only if we truly feel that you’re dating a good human being. Again, trust me, we know.

14. And lastly, I promise I will try to be the coolest and most awesome mom ever. I can’t promise that I will succeed…in your eyes. I promise you that I won’t embarrass you in front of your friends, but I can’t promise that you won’t feel embarrassed by something I did. In my eyes, I’m just doing you a favor. I get that it might seem the opposite for you. But hey, like me with my mom, eventually you’ll understand my reasons and I’ll understand yours, and we’ll love each other even more.

That’s it for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more to be added as I get older and closer to having you. But I wanted to list all these down right now so that I will remember. I realize that it’s possible to forget promises like these along the way. I see parents who raise their children the way they do based on convenience or casual routine and even indifference, I don’t want to fall under those categories.

So you see, this list is for me as much as it is for you, so that I won’t forget how I wanted to raise when I was still 23. Because maybe I know better now than I will in the future. That happens sometimes.