I used to love writing. Ten years ago, the highlight of my day consists of walking under the fire trees from KAL to my dorm and write on my journal; a year later I started maintaining a blog. Stepping out to this new environment as a disillusioned high school editor, I thought I was smart, articulate and pretty good at things.
Mentors had been encouraging and optimistic: they told me to write for the school paper, write more to get published, shift into creative writing, join that hellish exercise called the UP Writing Workshop (thanks Tito Del, but no), write poems and practice art on the sides. I actually got into writing programs, and if I wasn’t accepted in fine arts I would be writing about and curating art today.
And in 2009, I stopped, because I was a coward.
Attending UP and fine arts taught me how to speak for myself and the whole college experience boosted my self-esteem to a great degree. I was deeply influenced by Jessica Zafra at the time and realized that I could achieve as much if I tried, even if I were
a bitchfull of angst. But I was still easily intimidated by people who were actually taking up writing, and people who wrote about a culture that I really wanted to be in. My contemporaries from the Arts and Lit courses and these prolific bloggers from Ateneo would write about nightly drinking exploits, existential and literary discussions with intimidating, hifalutin sentences over coffee in Katipunan, and basically being the rebellious, cool people I desperately wanted to be… while I was stuck doing homework in the library or bonding with my roommates.
Don’t get me wrong: my roommates were brilliant, briliant people, and I will love them forever and will donate body parts if one of them needs some. I loved being the library nerd, and I don’t regret anything about being this quasi-goody-two-shoes from the province. I just found myself very boring for someone writing about college. But I was trapped in a heap of plates, reports, and expenses, and I was scared to explore the world away from it. I was afraid of adventures, of drinking out and socializing, mainly because I was broke, and people might judge me for that.
So when the blogs I follow began with entries like, “Coffee at 2am with so-and-so after a night out drinking made me realize what Jim Morrisson was actually talking about,” I slowly crawled away. I don’t listen to The Doors, or read or listen to all these cool things, and coffee at 2am is way past my curfew, so I slowly folded in - who would want to read about the things I discovered in the library anyway (they changed my life, but still boring). I stopped exploring themes and reading beyond my comfort zone (I would not touch modern philosophy because it’s a pain to read, but I should’ve tried) just because there were a lot of people who are doing it already. I was afraid that if I tried, I would sound like a wannabe. Bakit pa ‘ko makikibagay, kung magmumukha lang akong tanga? True, my laughably short stint hanging out in Saguijo and Cubao X didn’t make me feel that way, but how about the next time?
And let’s not talk about those blogs that tried to be kolehiyala Anais Nin - I was very confident about everything but my looks, and the thought of actually being with a boy was laughable. Sex was an alien and hilarious thing to talk about, if not a private one. And when I actually was with a boy, I didn’t know how to deal with it, much less how to write about it.
I got over wanting to be cool when I was doing my thesis. I found things where I am recognized and am actually good at. But I never got back that confidence in writing again.
I conveniently skipped that bothersome but highly important thing I needed to write: to miss even trying to live a life worth writing while growing up. Or maybe dismissing my experiences as boring and uneventful just because some bloggers read more books and stayed out later than I did. And to miss that opportunity when everything was more open, possible, and forgiving is kind of disappointing.
I graduated, had various jobs I didn’t like, and things got busy and more depressing. Every night when I got home from work, I was too tired to write, to check out new authors to emulate, to catch up with things. I was ranting because life sucked, and it was tiring. I stopped writing altogether.
Today, more than a decade later, I finally had the courage to think about why I failed at writing. Which doesn’t bother me anymore - I know I am really good at other things and am confident about a different kind of skill set. But there would always be nagging thoughts - I read columns and publications of young people and think, hey I could have written that. I still feel guilty about empty journal pages and stories I tried to write but eventually end up chasing their own tails. What if, in the past, I had some balls?
I met some writers this weekend, and I felt hugely inadequate. I forgot how it felt to sit down anywhere and just write. I shared this discovery to one writer, and he told me that I should’ve continued anyway. Oh well. Sometimes, you have to give up on some things (or is that just me heading in my 30’s).