A Thank You Note From a Muggle: How J.K. Rowling Saved Me (Published on Candy Mag)

This week’s writing prompt is “favorite superhero.” If we’re talking about Marvel, DC, folklore, local, or mythical, I don’t have any. I could write about the people who saved me, but I’ll save that for later. Right now, I guess I’ll settle for my favorite author.

Let me tell you a story.

My sophomore year in college was revolutionary. Life-changing. Soul-shattering. Heart-wrenching. You name it. I began to see what life really is about, which is far from the fairytale stories that they made me believe when I was younger. Thanks to my depression, I became a drunken bookworm.

I held on to books as if my life depended on them. And by books, I mean To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, The Women’s Room, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Thirteen Reasons Why, and the likes. These books justified the realities of life and existence of all the bullshits—evil, racism, loneliness, aloneness, depression, societal sexism, injustice, failures, and death. These coming-of-age realizations made me want to disappear from the world completely. They knocked down my studies, relationships, and above all, my emotional, physical, and mental health.

All of a sudden, alcohol became my constant companion. My favorite pastime was to drink the night away with my college friends. I wanted to leave the city and disappear forever like Margo in Paper Towns, but I didn’t have money. Even if I did, I didn’t have the courage to leave. One day, I decided I’d be Alaska Young. I thought that perhaps if I smoked and drank too much, I could suffer from a serious disease and die. Still, I didn’t. I was like Marla in Fight Club. My philosophy in life, like her, was that I could die at any moment—the tragedy was that I didn’t.

Then I decided to read everybody’s favorite—the Harry Potter series. For a girl with great disdain for mainstream stuff, I admit that I have fallen head over heels for this series.

I was lucky I became acquainted with these witches and wizards. In the times when the Death Eaters cast unforgivable curses on me, I buried myself between the pages of the books and lived in fantasy. In the moments when the Dementors tried to kiss me, I relived the movie scenes in my head and became happy. At school, my friends and I even formed a friendship as strong as the Dumbledore’s Army. To make the long story short, the Harry Potter series became my ultimate escape from reality.

So thank you, J.K. Rowling, for saving me from real-life Dementors when they kissed my soul and sucked all the happiness out of me. You are the Sirius who inspired me to keep fighting while the Slytherins awaited my downfall. You are the Ron and Hermione who cheered for me when Draco caught the Golden Snitch. You are the Professor McGonagall when Snape closed the door to the Headmaster’s office. Yet you are also Snape who saved me from the worst enemy of all.

You were like me once—the aspiring author who suffered from depression and chose to write her way through life instead. You are the Molly to my Ginny and the Lily to my Harry. You are the Mad-Eye Moody who inspired me to become an Auror. You are also Dumbledore, the greatest Headmaster I’ve ever known.

Thank you for creating all these characters that became my companion during my life’s darkest hours. Thanks for teaching me Defense Against the Dark Arts to prepare for Voldemort’s returns to power.

Thanks to you, I am now on a journey to find the Deathly Hallows and destroy the seven Horcruxes. Thanks to you and your magical spells, I am now ready to battle against the Dark Lord.

This was originally published on Candy Magazine, was featured on Mogul, and was also published on Thought Catalog 

Advertisements

The Art of Dyeing: Realizations of a Filipina Turned Blonde

Going blonde was one of the worst mistakes I’ve made in my entire life–literally and figuratively. If you are a Filipina and you fancy sporting a blonde hair, please read on and learn from my mistakes.

The Bleach Is a Bitch

For a woman who has always considered herself as a strong human being, my reaction when my scalp was exposed to the bleach’s harsh chemicals was pretty lame. The original plan was to dye my hair gray, but I ended up with a blonde hair instead.

Realization#1: I hired the wrong beautician.

The Bleach Beautician Is a Bitch

When the chemicals started to take effect, I began to feel an extreme tingling sensation on my scalp. Perhaps the mixture was three percent too strong or the beautician was just plain dumb, but its effect on me became more intense as the seconds passed by.

I’ve heard tales about the bleach’s effect on the scalp before, but I never imagined it would be this worse. Little did I know, my skin was slowly suffering from a chemical burn. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I asked her to wash my hair. She told me that it was a little too early to do that, but I insisted. Fuck you, I thought.

Realization#2: Thanks to my inefficient, incompetent beautician, my hair was exposed to the chemicals for too long.

For these reasons, allow me to put the blame on the beautician–the original culprit–and not on the poor bleach.

Result:

I’m not a fan of taking selfies (and I didn’t have a smartphone at that time), so my blonde hair moments were only documented when I took pictures with my boyfriend. The only selfie that I found on my boyfriend’s profile was this:

16427722_1444306452255811_1713356327797890827_n
Pak

A Filipina’s Struggle

Let’s face it: a blonde hair does not suit all skin tones. I believe we’re free to express ourselves however we want to, but not everybody can rock a spot-on blonde hair. This holds true for Filipinas, especially for morenas. I had to make sure that the hair color goes well with my skin tone or else I would have to dye my hair black once again to avoid looking like a pokpok.

Sadly, as much as I want to change my hair color depending on my mood like Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I simply can’t because 1) can’t afford salon treatments, 2) don’t want to damage my hair further, and 3) ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.

Realization#3: I am a fucked up girl looking for my own peace of mind like Clementine, but I am not Clementine.

The Unsolicited “Compliments”

For over two months, I endured the additional catcalls that I received from random guys on the streets. These fuckfaces think that seeing a blonde is a free pass to a steamy, dirty sex. Yuck. When a woman walks the streets, perverts automatically see a walking vagina. It doesn’t even matter what she’s wearing. Worse, when a blonde dares to step out, it instantly translates as a “fuck me” sign in these assholes’ eyes.

On one occasion, I told my boyfriend about my unfortunate encounters with these perverts. We ended up fighting.

Him: What did you expect? You gave them a reason to insult you.

Me: Fuck you. How can you possibly blame me for dyeing my hair? *mansplains societal sexism, feminism, morality, religion, the essence of our relationship etc.*

Him: Well, that’s how society works. If you want people to respect you, don’t dye your hair.

Me: Fuck you fuck you fuck you… (repeat 13,000x)

I was so angry at him that I posted a Facebook rant, which I also deleted after some time. I realized that he only meant well. He said it pains him to know that I was constantly receiving those “compliments” just because I was blonde and that he didn’t mean it’s my fault. He just wanted me to realize that it’s useless to battle with societal sexism. After all, it’s just me and him against the world.

After eight long weeks, I decided he was right.

Realization#4:  I wanted to make myself believe that I could handle all those unsolicited “compliments,” but I’d rather not risk it. It’s not worth it.

The Moment I Knew

Last February, I took the plunge. Due to lack of funds (LOL), I asked my boyfriend if he could do the honors and dye my hair at home. He agreed without hesitation because he’s cool like that. We braved the afternoon heat and went to Hortaleza to buy the materials.

My medium-length hair is naturally thick, so the poor boy had a hard time applying the mixture. It took us over five hours to finish the process. We started at around 6PM and ended before 12midnight. By 10PM, our stomachs started to rumble. We took yosi breaks every once in a while, but we couldn’t take a really long break because half of my hair had been exposed to the chemicals for too long already.

Realization#5: Eat your dinner before starting the dyeing rights.

The only thing I could do to cheer him up was to play The Beatles and Franco songs on my laptop. And because we forgot to buy gloves, we used plastic bags as a substitute, which resulted in 1) a stained favorite shirt and 2) hands tattooed with ugly, massive forms of black dye.

Realization#6: He’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Ha! Fooled you! So, this blog post is really my somewhat late attempt at greeting you a happy, happy 8th anniversary. I know I’m two days too late, but let me tell you the things that I wanted to tell you but couldn’t last Monday. But first, let me set things straight.

On the day you dyed my hair, I realized I have always been the lucky one. If I were in your shoes, I would complain every now and then about how thick your hair was and how the dyeing process was taking up too much of our time. I’d complain about my hunger, my lack of sleep, and above all, my tired legs. But you didn’t. You were always the patient one. You always believed in us even when I kept pushing you away. You always stayed, even though the only things worth staying for are the memories we shared. And for all of these reasons, I am grateful.

When I realized that last week’s writing prompt was about hair color, I couldn’t contain my giddiness because I already knew what to write. A blog post about my realization when you dyed my hair to be published the day before our 8th anniversary? The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Sadly, I’ve been pressed for time lately so I wasn’t able to finish the rough draft, much more hit the publish button.

But now that I’m ready to show it to you, I love you! I love you! I love you! I promise to be more patient and understanding with you. I love you and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you.

 

17264631_1493765107309945_1577920788231179560_n
A photo of us taken on the day of our 8th anniversary

***

This is my entry to my college friends and I’s weekly blog challenge.

The Art of Dying as Told by a Not-So-Self-Destructive Millennial (Featured on Mogul)

There are times when death feels so close yet so far.

Those were the nights.

I would toss and turn in bed, willing my brain to veer away from unwanted thoughts, only to be haunted by dreadful illusions the next moment. I would pick up a book and try my best to absorb each word, only to leave the bookmark untouched and give up pretending in the end.

And then I would fall asleep, the kind of sleep that is heavy, the type that drags my heart to the bottom of the ocean until I fall into the abyss of the unknown. One moment I was fighting my way to sleep and the next thing I knew, I was having the worst dream of my life.

I was losing all of my teeth. I was falling endlessly into God knows where. I was being stabbed to death by a monster whose face I’ve become acquainted with in the past years. And then I would wake up from those nightmares, only to find out in the morning that reality is more terrifying than these dreams.

“It was a meditation on life, love, old age, death: ideas that had often fluttered around her head like nocturnal birds but dissolved into a trickle of feathers when she tried to catch hold of them.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

I tried to convince myself that I had always been prepared for this.

Those were the days.

My alarm would go off three hours before my shift at work. I would force myself to get out of bed because I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to make it on time. Still, I would hit the ‘snooze’ button and fall back to sleep, only to wake up two hours later. I would go to work hoping that the day would end sooner, killing the time by pretending to be interested in my work and faking a smile whenever a co-worker tried to spark a conversation. I would keep my head high for eight hours when in reality, I was constantly willing the weekend to come faster than usual. It was a routine that I would never get used to. What a fucking boring, useless, shameful life it was.

And then I would go home, not to rest but to fix myself a drink. That was my favorite time of day: the moment when I could finally start to drink the night away. Optimism was not in my dictionary. Happiness was a strange sensation I’ve long forgotten. Life was but a dream, but melancholy was forever. Death was an old enemy that wanted to befriend me. Still, I stood there–breathing, laughing, talking, working, crying, living. Truth was, inside, I was dying.

“Marla’s philosophy of life is that she might die at any moment. The tragedy, she said, was that she didn’t.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Three years ago, my neighbor committed suicide.

I was browsing my Facebook feed at work when I saw the news: a college student committed suicide in a church after confessing to the priest that he was gay. I’ve read different forms of suicide, but this one shook me to the core. I never met the kid personally–he was a wallflower who became an instant celebrity when he died. I wish I had the nerve to do what he did. What a courageous act, I thought.

Since then, I had always forced my creative juices to cooperate and help me come up with a unique way to die. I wanted to be like that kid. If I couldn’t make my life worthwhile, I could at least make my death worth remembering. But I couldn’t think of anything.

I could try to jump off a high-rise building, swallow cyanide, jump on train tracks, hang myself, die from an overdose, cut my wrists, cut my throat, or stab myself, but these physically painful suicide methods were clichés. I didn’t want to be a cliché.

“Nothing resembles a person as much as the way he dies.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

After months of wallowing in self-pity, drowning myself in the pool of my own misery, smoking thousands of cigarettes, and gulping down millions of glasses of alcohol, I was finally able to make up my mind.

I settled for the less physically painful, but it is the kind of pain that I would have to endure for the rest of my life. This is the kind of suffering preferred by the brave souls. I chose to live, and that’s more savage than any form of suicide. To live is to suffer eternally from the pain that is life. Slowly, but surely. After all, no person is braver than the one who chooses to live.

***

This is my entry to my college friends and I’s weekly blog challenge.

This post was featured on Mogul.

This Is What It Feels Like to Finally Know Your Worth

Have you ever been taken for granted by someone you hold dear? Did you cry yourself to sleep thinking that you deserve better? Did you blame yourself for loving a person who can’t love you back?

Well, I’ve got news for you. I’ve been there, too, except that it’s nothing romantic. Sure, it was a relationship. Yes, it involved love. And yes, it shattered my heart and soul to pieces when I finally called it off, but it’s not what you think it is.

Have you ever been cheated on by someone? You loved her beyond words, like Tom loved Summer. You thought she loved you. She made you feel as if you were her universe, her life, her everything. You even convinced yourself that it’s okay that she didn’t love you as much, because nothing compared to the amount of love that you had for her. But then one day, everything turned to dust. She did not appreciate your efforts, much more recognize your actions. Her friend told you that she was seeing someone else. For her, you will never be enough, and this left you in fragments.

That’s what I felt.

To be honest, quitting my first job did not cross my mind until Company Y came in the picture. Company X was far from perfect, but I stayed and gave them the benefit of the doubt. When Company Y came, I realized I’d been turning a blind eye for so long.

Although I will always be grateful for the opportunities that Company X has given me, I knew that it was only about time that I would try to explore the opportunities that others have in store for me. I stuck around Company X for almost two years, and as a millennial, that’s saying something. Most of my friends are already on their second, third company right now.

When I signed the contract with Company Y, I began to appreciate myself again. That was the glorifying moment when I finally realized that I deserve this. On that day, I became reacquainted with an old flame that I haven’t seen since high school–confidence. It just feels so good to have people who know your worth, who recognize your skills and talent, and believe in all that you can offer.

The next time the world drops doubt-bombs all over me, I’d look back to this memory and believe that I can do all the right things with the right mindset, in the right timing.

***

This is my entry to my college friends and I’s weekly blog challenge.