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Year in review: 2015

This is an extremely belated, unfinished “year in review” of 2015. I stopped writing this when I didn’t know how to talk about the latter part of the year anymore—in some ways, because I know that journey continues for me. That said, I don’t want this to be stowed away in my archives as a draft. These were a form of closure, just up to that point where other questions have yet to conclude.

January. Recovery, maybe. It’s hard to think of January at the beginning of 2015 as any fresh start—it was the continuation of all my thesis writing, the last few university units, and trying my best to make sure I was bound to graduate. I really wasn’t sure, at one point; I made a lot of dumb decisions (also non-decisions) in college that the fact I’m here now may genuinely be attributable to some sheer luck. I guess there just seemed to be a shared understanding among the community, whether professor or fellow student, that everyone had their own difficulties to harbor. We were all going through so much. I find myself tearing up remembering those kindnesses from others—whether it was the janitor you’d chat with every 7 pm to lock the organization room for four years, or the friends who just happened to be there at the moment you needed them; it was admittedly embarrassing, but you always breathed better after a long conversation or good cry. Those were good moments, I still remember them.

February. Receiving the Loyola Schools Award for the Arts was one thing that made this month special. They announced it mid-February, and not feeling the anxiety of announcement day until my FA 104 class mid-afternoon, I was refreshing Facebook pages and my Twitter feed repeatedly from the back row. I knew well, I think, the feeling of not getting what I wanted especially when you least expect it. That’s exactly what I thought to myself then: just this one thing, universe. Don’t let me end my college life not having this one thing that signified so much more to me than an award. Rather it was the confirmation, the belief that I could tell myself it was worth it, in the end. I saw my name on the recipients list—I texted my thesis adviser just to say I wouldn’t be the writer I am now because of him. I texted my parents and, indeed, they were proud of me—in my mind, LSAA was always for them.

March. Graduation. At certain points—for the short moments that the 2015 valedictorian delivered his classically cheesy lines about school, and when the university president said, “When it gets too hard out there, you can always come back”—I cried like a baby, attempting to hide behind my unkempt hair and exude total indifference, but I’m not cool enough not to care. It was possible to achieve that much. Only a few weeks ago, within the first days of March, I defended my thesis in front of my reader and adviser and a friend who I asked to come for moral support. My reader then quoted that great line from the German sociocultural critic Theodor Adorno: “Music is at once completely enigmatic and totally evident.” What makes you cry—in the middle of a speech you’ve already heard, in endless permutations of “follow your dream,” “change the world,” “soar high, Ateneans”—as you have, many times before?

April. We all have plans for ourselves. But they don’t always happen. At the tail-end of April, I clung to this story like I needed to hold someone’s hand: “I was recently denied a writing prize because, they said, I was lazy. What they meant by lazy was that I used too many contractions: for instance, I would not write out in full the words cannot and will not, but instead contracted them to can’t and won’t.” (Lydia Davis, “Can’t and Won’t,” 2014) Springtime. My mother and I revisited Tokyo (a graduation gift) and spent a week there in this month: bustling through Ginza, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Roppongi; viewing the cherry blossom sites as we walked through Ueno Park, Chidorigafuchi, and Yasukuni Shrine; discovering Odaiba and its simultaneous beauty (say, the vibrant stretch of tulips a camera couldn’t at all capture) and thrill (the life-size Gundam! the mock Statue of Liberty! the high-tech architecture!); taking side trips to Kamakura and Fuji Five Lakes. Then on the 28th, its odd number, I entered my first job.

May, June, July. When I decided to shift to creative writing two years ago and mapped out myself an entire literary career path, it was never my plan to go corporate and stay there. But I think Conan O’Brien hit the nail on the head perfectly when he said, “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.” Turns out the learning process is rich and (contrary to what you might think) neck-deep in the real world. Obviously it doesn’t make me happy not to take poetry as seriously anymore—I failed, in that respect. But I am happy to go forward in this industry and this life chapter, even if it means that the idea I had of myself—not too long ago—is contradicted and challenged, even if it discomforts me when I attempt to reconcile this with what I do now. Politically, things have also changed. Maybe it’s not so much a matter of figuring out what to give up, but knowing what to keep. I still try my best to find my center now.

August, September. Getting lost. Going to America fell into my year at the exact moment I needed to breathe.

October, November. Turned 23 years old. These two months were a lot of hard work.

December. “Are you still writing?” he asked. I answered “Yes” only because I didn’t know what the consequences were if I said otherwise, or even “I don’t know.” This is likely the honest answer.

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