Dear Barby at twenty,

Hello, from twenty-six year old you.

We’re in a sunlit living room, sipping tea, a breeze flowing through your balcony on a lazy Saturday afternoon. This isn’t your parents’ home. There’s a man reading on the couch, and the sound of kids playing in the background. You’re married, with one mini me! :D AND YOU’RE PREGNANT WITH THE SECOND. Congratulations, momma!

This is you, by the way. We still look the same, except for the hair. Yay?

JUST KIDDING.

Before your imagination goes crazier, you can sigh with relief that you’re as single as the day you were born, except for some dates you’ve gone on (and had a good time). Kids are like short aliens, and you don’t have any of them. That nightmare with the royal blue wedding dress and Asian Keanu Reeves never happened, but you will meet some pretty fantastic people. Two of your mother’s side cousins have boyfriends btw! Anyway.

This is the first of three letters to us at different points in life. I chose to write you, because this is one of our darkest years. You’re anxious about the future, going crazy at home, trying to study abroad because you feel like it’s the perfect solution, angry, and self-destructive. You believe that studying elsewhere will guarantee you a path to creative success, maturity, and happiness. But you feel hopeless, ugly, and trapped, because of paperwork, insecurities, and the general unlikelihood of it all. You compare yourself to the people you read about in all your design research, and even to your close friends. You feel like you’ll always be at a disadvantage because everyone is moving ahead, whether getting a more well-rounded education abroad, or establishing connections online, while you’re stuck. There are days you feel like a waste of air, and might as well be swallowed up by the earth. You feel like once people know you, they’ll go away, because you secretly fear that you’re broken, unlovable, and unfixable.

I remember.

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We who have been ahead in STYLE have usually been also ahead in our thinking.

- Charles James

 

The Met has something for nearly every region of my brain, easily making it one of my favorite museums. No pretty rocks or beetles, but that can be found just across a park. Besides, there are weapons here. And flutes disguised as walking sticks. And medieval drinking cups (with naughty but sexist connotations). And intrigues, if you take the time to dig deeper.

The Charles James exhibition is now over, but I’m happy to say that I was able to visit it with two dear friends. One of them is Sandino, a fashion designer from Manila, who planned his arrival to NY partly around this exhibition. Months prior, I was only too excited when I found out that he’s returning for further studies, because he’s one of the people I strongly believe to be cut out for this city.

I found out about Charles James through friends in the fashion industry who told me about his architectural approach to design, and that I’d probably love his work. Process-oriented, no frou-frou, but expressing creativity in the very construction.

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No brunch out for me today, because I didn’t get my butt out running this morning. So I’m imposing it upon myself to eat whatever is at home. Which didn’t turn out very well either, because I has instant pancit canton noodles, chocolate, cookies, nuts, and bottled sardines. Eating healthy is the furthest thing from my inclinations.

Anyway, I’m finally clearing up my desktop, littered with a bajillion mini icons, after a year and two months of living in New York. I haven’t touched it since I arrived, but just piled on new files on the old, like when I was applying for jobs. And now, I’m taking out the old, useless things, to make more space, and to have order. This is my way of saying that yes, I’m here. It’s a realization that’s been slow in the coming.

It shouldn’t surprise me anymore that I’m here, but I can’t help feeling like being here for just three months, and still a stranger. For the larger part, I feel right at home with the rest of the foreigners that have found themselves a little corner in this city of many pockets. I enjoy discovering who I am on my own, coming into myself as an adult. Not because I disliked being at home, but because this is what home prepared me for. This is the way it should go. I love the space to breathe, to meet new people, to think, and to be vulnerable. It’s similar to the feeling of going to the University of the Philippines back in Manila, where I felt so much more at home than I ever felt back in high school, but a level up. Smaller communities present a unique intimacy and comfort, but it can also be stifling and suffocating. Everyone had their nose in everybody else’s business, and even in the little things, like innocently having coffee with someone of the opposite sex, would be escalated into something more, in gossip that spreads quicker than wildfire. I don’t miss that at all.

What makes me feel like a stranger are things like the dating culture, the different dynamic in friendships, and how I pronounce some words in english. I’ve still only ever held hands with a guy, contrary to the exciting sex lives of people my age, and younger. People here are good at acting amiable and friendly, but it’s hard to tell if they really want to be friends, or if they’re just being polite. In social and work settings, I feel the need to put on an extroverted Americanized persona of myself sometimes, which I’m merging (?) with the side of myself that’s always been more assertive, generally friendly, and just needs practice in articulation. Thankfully, New York is full of foreigners, so I’m not alone in this feeling of belonging, but not quite.

Recently, friends and family in Manila have been hitting up the other southeast Asian countries, and I wish I could be with them. Should’ve travelled more while I was there! In any case, a good friend recently asked the question I’ve failed to answer since last year: Barby, when are you coming home? Are you there for good?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. To answer the question: I don’t know how long I’ll be here in New York, but I don’t see myself going back to Manila.

I hope to visit by the end of the year, but I don’t see myself moving back to Manila. Manila will always be where I’m from, but truthfully, I hardly felt like I belonged. My restlessness back then was partly because of feeling stagnant/suffocated/this song, and it drove me crazy when I couldn’t push it to the back of my mind. New York doesn’t feel like home home either. I didn’t even want to live here, and I don’t see myself here for the long haul. But for now, New York is where I live. Life may surprise me, but right now, this is the setting to my story.

It’s that time of the year again, when people strip down to almost nakedness in a public park to tan and display their Crossfit/Running/Zumba/Barre Method/Insanity/P90X bodies. Then there’s the people like me, who arrive with a blanket and picnic basket, and stay the hell away from the sun. We all have a good time.

Oh, summer.

This was taken while relaxing in the park with Ate Jaye, Jill, and Aristeo. In the background, there was a man playing the saxophone. A perfect day to be in the park.

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This is a fast-forward version of May 2014, which I’m happy to say I was too busy living to write about. Over the course of two months, I’ve been surrounded by people constantly, which makes me happy, because people are awesome and I love (most of) them, but it puts me in dire need to recharge. One week into June, and I basically said NO HUMANS and crawled into my happy little hole marathoning Game of Thrones, The Mindy Project, and The New Girl. Back off humans, it’s sanity time.

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Like a long time lover and boyfriend, my best friend Isa flew over for my birthday. If there’s anybody in the entire world who knows me, Isa is one of the top people on the list. And if anyone could ever be mistaken as my girlfriend, it would be her. The last time we saw each other, we didn’t know that we wouldn’t see each other for a year, so this was such a sweet gift, to say the least.

From the moment she landed, it’s almost like we continued from where we left off last year, after we hauled her huge-ass luggage then braved the rain for a midnight pizza run. In spite of the year that’s passed, we’re still the same old pair that’s only too easy to talk into eating, too much obligatory selfies (mostly Isa), and just, I don’t know. The Isa and Barby dynamic where anything can happen, and we’ll probably be laughing or amused.

Chillin’ at Bryant Park.

A ton of photos after the jump!
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