Happy Birthday (War is Over)

I’m not a big birthday person. I mean, I don’t know what’s to celebrate about turning a year older. The last subjectively big birthday “party” I’ve had was when I turned ten and as far as I could remember, I didn’t enjoy it that much because I really don’t like having lots of visitors around. Granted that there were lots of food then, it sucks having to cater to visitors. I mean, you’re already taking my food, do I also have to be a good host and be nice to you? Of course there were gifts too, half of which I don’t really like/need. So, yeah, I’m definitely not a birthday person.

Being born on a Christmas eve has more cons than pros. First off, it’s hard to get people to come over should I decide to celebrate. It’s the eve of Christmas, people have enough going ons to deal with. Then the gift. Yes, singular because every gift I have ever received for my birthday also becomes my Christmas gift. It’s ridiculous how my friends’ and relatives’ generosity doesn’t match my neediness and materialism. And probably the biggest bummer of being born on the 24th is how much it made me not like Christmas. It’s bad enough that my birthday is almost always a huge let down, but do I really have to pretend to be joyful on the next day too? As far as I could remember, I never really looked forward to Christmas even as a kid because I always end up tired when the day is over. And I’m never the one to rake in lots of money too because, being the youngest, I’m the least known kid in the family. Growing up, I’m used to seeing surprised faces of relatives because apparently, they didn’t know I exist. Being older, the novelty of Christmas has totally worn off.

I’m turning 21 today. And the past few years have been a blur. I really can’t remember how I did my birthday 2-3 years ago.

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It has been a pretty rough three years for me, with things come crashing down more than they are building up. One failure lead to another and one disappointment gave way to another one. It’s ridiculous, but I would say that I was pretty beaten down. I felt like a lot was taken away from me without a warning. I was taken by surprise, or shock. For three years I felt lost and aimless.

The hardest thing to overcome during the first few months was the fact that I failed at something I was pretty sure I’m good at. It was bitter and ugly. It kept me up for countless of nights, thinking where I went wrong and why did it seem like nobody cared that I did. I was alone after the fall and I was left with no one to hold on to, let alone to blame. I have always felt like I have to suck it up, toughen up and move on as quickly as the people around me did. But the pain lingered. It took over me. It hung around like a dark cloud over my head and I feel like I can’t tell anybody because I felt like nobody wanted to pause and look back and see how I was holding up. I felt useless because I know I was.

Then it came to a point where I isolated myself from people I cared about. Shame was what I felt. I was ashamed that what happened to me actually happened and I was ashamed that I had to pretend to be okay in front of others. I don’t want to be in denial but admitting to it still hits me inside. I just feel drained after having to put up a front when I am with others. I know that it wasn’t asked of me to put on a smile and pretend to have a good time, but at that time I felt like it was the right thing to do. And as time went by I lived for solidarity. I wanted silence. I longed to be left alone. I feared the laughter I shared with people because I knew that there is something else that’s eating me up inside. Having company wasn’t an escape, it was a reminder that I feel better alone. So before I knew it, I became out of touch. I counted months not seeing anybody other than my family and I was actually fine with it. My bubble became a wall and it was only much later on that I realized that I was stuck.

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I’m really trying hard to remember how I “celebrated” my birthday for 2010-2012. Okay, I’m not sure if it was 2009 or 2010 that was the worst, but I would say it was 2009. 2011 was fine, I guess. Last year was a whole new different low, but what I remembered most was I had a birthday cake. So it was pretty good.

It really is a big bummer remembering how birthdays went if it has always been overshadowed by a much bigger birthday holiday (I’m looking at you, Jesus). Of course I remember 2012 the best because a.) it was just last year, b.) it was different all-time low for me, and c.) there was cake involved.

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All these time that I was constantly hitting rock bottom, I made it sure that I still have myself in check. I made sure I never acted on thoughts that I’m constantly having. I was passively wishing for things to happen, but I wasn’t brave (or coward) enough to act on it. I also made sure that even if I was out of school, I am not getting dumber. I rekindled my passion with reading and writing (hence this blog). And on top of all, I made sure that even though I was lonely and miserable, I wasn’t desperate. And I didn’t want to drag anybody in my misery. I know that I was working on a very thin line separating everything that I became to desperation. But I crossed that line. Crossed it and danced all over it, much to my disadvantage.

I would say that 2012 has been my turning point. It is when I called a spade a spade. I realized that I should be doing something. Just anything but wallow in my failed past. I came into terms with my feelings. I was hollowed out and just ready to fill the hole with anything that would just get rid of the void. It was going well. I found a job and was pretty content with it until it ended. I was empty even before I was even half-full.

My days weren’t as dark as they used to be, but I grew tired of the silence that I brought myself to long and live for. I would like to think that I am a smart guy for the most part, but I’m also capable of doing really stupid things. So, yeah, there I was, basking in the glory of my last few months of my being a teenager being an idiot. I was at my most desperate and I did drag people around while I’m at it. I looked for something to hold on to, a temporary crutch, maybe it was also that I just needed to breathe a different air. You know, try to let go of the things that I lost by holding on to something else. But it all boiled down to the fact that I was making excuses for myself. I filled my emptiness with lies and bullshit I soon started to believe. I get caught up and it was horrible.

I guess I could say that this is the deepest of the rock bottom that somehow kept on spiraling downward for me. It was painful. It was the worst because it was something that I would’ve not done. I was finally in control of my situation and I chose to be stupid about it. It was something that I’m still sorry for, but somehow it turned me around.

So there I was again, back to fucking square one. Miserable, lonely and desperate. I needed to rethink and over think again and giving up, really giving up, became the most reasonable option. Man, I was depressed. I have always been and I started 2013 in my most depressed state. The sleepless nights came back, the ones where I can’t even cry myself into. I was just there, lying, feeling guilty about things I could and couldn’t control. I felt sorry for myself, but I felt more sorry for the people I have affected. I blamed myself, then I blamed the person that I was. My moods were all over the place, and I felt bad about it. I resented the fact that I have no idea how I’m feeling. My sleep came in shorter and I wasn’t too thrilled about waking up. I was scared of my future and how fucked up it may look like. I was mad at myself for doing and not doing the things I have and have not done. I grew to hate the walls I built around me. I lost hope and I gave up on dreaming.

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2013 may have not started well for me, but for some reason I felt like I needed it to be that way. Half the time I thought I was just going through an extra long phase of loneliness. I mean, how can I possibly be depressed if I seem to function well? It took me lots of courage to finally realize that something is wrong and I am possibly paving a way to a really dark future. I am slowly accepting the fact that I needed and still need help. I guess the best I can do is help myself.

I realized that the moment I entered the state that I am in for the past few years, I wouldn’t come out of it as the same person. I may not get the same drive I used to have before and I may not allow myself to be as passionate about certain things, but I think I can deal with that. I realized that happiness isn’t my end-game after all this chase with my demons, I just need to be perfectly fine with how life molded me. I guess we are at our best when we stay unfixed and wounded. Everything doesn’t need to be all right.

I may have lost certain connections along the way, and man did I grieve for my losses. But I needed to regroup my thoughts and re-evaluate the relationships I have for me to be able to move forward. Letting go and realizing that I may have driven certain opportunities away is a big pain in the ass, but maybe some things and some people don’t stick around for the best.

I’m sorry that I didn’t turn out as great as everybody (including myself) thought I would be. I might have shown lots of promise, but shit went down and nobody can control it. I’m still disappointed that I don’t have it all figured out. But at least I can say that I’m not scared to try again anymore. I’m sorry to my 10-year-old self because the light in his eyes have died after a couple of years but I am working on it. I would also tell my 10-year-old self to not judge one of his birthday party guest for assembling his garden salad on top of a heap of rice. People are weird. And you will grow up to be one weird guy yourself. And what’s your business serving garden salads on your 10th birthday? You’re not going to be a healthy eater no matter how hard you try.

I don’t think I will be having a big birthday this year. it’s just too tiring to get people together this day. But I’m glad that I have a few things to be thankful for. I am lucky to still be alive, and I’m glad I didn’t wish hard enough for some things to happen. I’m also happy to have friends that stood by me. You guys don’t know how much a single text, call, like or tweet mean to me. And of course my family. I may have not openly tell them what I’m going through but I know that somehow they knew, and they try their best to make things ok. And I thank myself for screwing up and still trying to stay strong. I’m giving myself a pat on the back because I fucking deserve it and all the love I can give myself. Here’s to conquering my twenties still working on lots of things and still embracing my mistakes.

Happy birthday, war is over.

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Now, where my cake at?

Notes on Music: Shut Up, Listen, Then Talk (to me)

 Everybody thinks that they are somehow better at something, just one thing, than everybody else. And if that being-better-than-everybody-else didn’t come off as obviously as it should, people brag. They jibber-jabber about it like crazy.

If there is one thing in life that bothers me (problem is, there is not just one thing in life that bothers me) is my lack of opportunity to talk to friends about music. I think it would be fun to have a breezy conversation with friends, perhaps over a couple of drinks, about which new songs are good or what new bands have great sound or how OneDirection sucks and how black Justin Bieber tries to be. You know, we can share links or exchange tracks or have a track-by-track analysis of new albums. But, no, things like that don’t happen in my world.

I am no expert and definitely not as knowledgeable as I hope I am with music, but, truth be told, I am kind of snob. I’m in no way saying that I am in a much superior musical high ground than most of the people I know. I am guilty of listening to trash pop and old love songs. I like Ke$ha and Air Supply (definitely not in the same level, but I like them just the same). But at least I try to improve my taste. And just because I don’t listen to the hit songs that much and I listen to songs that aren’t too overplayed doesn’t mean that I’m not in the know. (A “friend” once laughed at me for playing Mumford & Sons aloud. Bastard.)

So, here I am blogging my old blog just to put things out there. You know, some points I want to raise if ever I get to a music conversation with someone ever. (If you happen to even read this, feel free to think what you want but save your judgments to yourselves. I do a whole lot of judging myself, I don’t need help.)

*Sara Bareilles has a New Record

Sara Bareilles just released her new record entitled “The Blessed Unrest”. And just like her previous ones, her lyrics are impeccable (with the right mixture of poetic and sometimes cheesy writing). The sound of her new album is still very her, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t changed anything. Still bubbly and heart-breaking and quirky, with a nice kick.

Just like with her previous records, there’s always a bunch of tracks that really stand-out for me. And by that, I mean that only a majority of songs that make it to my mobile playlist. Among the songs from “The Blessed Unrest” that do it for me are “1000 Times”, “I Choose You” and “Manhattan”. The carrier single “Brave” and the bonus track “Parking Lot” aren’t bad, too.

*OneRepubic > 1D, M5

The reason why OneRepublic is not the more famous band with their name starting with one is beyond me. Well, I think that OneRepublic is a bit underrated as a band. If I were to listen to falsettos, I would rather listen to Ryan Tedder’s than to Adam Levine’s. But more people prefer the latter. I guess good lyrics and sound don’t guarantee off the charts, over the top success.

Anyway, I’m really digging OneRepublic’s latest album, “Native”. It’s diverse but it doesn’t stray too far from their previous hits like “Stop and Stare” and “Secrets”. The singles off Native, “If I Lose Myself” and “Counting Stars”, are both promising and very catchy. But my favorite track is “Burning Bridges”. It must be the melody, or the guitar, or the lyrics that really sell the song. Perhaps even the falsetto on the chorus, but no complaining.

*I Think I Know a Lot About Damien Rice

I have only tried listening to Damien Rice very recently. And I’m really glad that I did. There’s something very organic about his songs. He sounds like Jason Mraz but less poppy. Maybe even like James Morrison but less dramatic. His songs, lyrically and melodically, are very raw and on point without being in your face. Gritty but not abrasive.

Of course, I really like his song “Volcano” (who wouldn’t?) There’s also “Cannonball”, “The Blower’s Daughter” and the very brilliant “Unplayed Piano”.

*”The Civil Wars” Have Internal Discord, New Self-Titled Album

Internal discord. That’s the reason given by Joy Williams and John Paul White, collectively known as The (Awesome) Civil Wars, when they announced their hiatus. It’s not that I’m affected by any of their several cancelled shows, but it’s just that the two of them do break-ups and chaos so well in their songs and it just seems like an overkill to really take that personally and take a break from one another. Needless to say, they really are good together. Winning Grammys and all.

But hiatus or not, they are set to release their self-titled sophomore album early next month. If we are to believe their press statements, they are saying that the new record tackles whatever went on that brought about the break the band’s taking. And if we will base it on the whole feel of the carrier single “The One That Got Away”, seems like some serious shit is going on. The song is big, bold and heart-breaking. On a lighter note, though, their other song off the record called “From This Valley” is a bit subdued and a whole lot catchy.

*I Don’t Have to Try Hard to Like Daft Punk

It turns out that Daft Punk has been around since forever. Forgive my ignorance but I must’ve spent a lot of time on the pop rock I live under. But it’s not really hard to figure Daft Punk out. They made the soundtrack for “Tron: Legacy”, they wear helmets when they play, they do EDM, which means that they are pretty cool; ergo, I’m jumping into this whole Daft Punk bandwagon.

But all jokes and being a push-over aside, their latest album “Random Access Memories” is not hard to enjoy. With its mixture of disco beats, collaborations with other artists (yay actual lyrics!) and same robot feels, RAM rightly deserves all the hype. There’s the highly successful collaboration with Pharell Williams, “Get Lucky” and a bunch of other dance-able in the club and/or the shower tracks like “Lose Yourself to Dance”, “Instant Crush” and “Fragments of Time”.

*I Have to Try Hard to Like Francis and the Lights

There is also this guy, by the way, Francis and the Lights, who has some good stuff to offer too. According to this guy’s Wikipedia page, his genre is piano rock and R&B and his last name is Starlite. Whatever, especially on the genres he choose to associate himself with. As far as I’m concerned, he’s sleepy slippity bop. And I mean that he’s quite good.

He has some sick (ugh) beats on his songs, which don’t sound as raw as piano rocks go but not half bad, too. I personally like “ETC” and “It’ll Be Better”.

*”Frightened Rabbit” has a Good Case of Potty Mouth

There’s something so different about bands from the United States and those from the United Kingdom, and I am not just talking about the way both sides say can and can’t. I mean, with their sounds. But you don’t have to take my word for it. To underscore that, there’s Mumford and Sons from London, which has become the poster boys of folk rock. Those guys are good. Then there’s The Script from Ireland, which is mostly “pogi rock” with some good songs and a sloppy third album. Then there’s The Fray from Colorado, which is mostly piano rock and criminally underrated. (Truth be told, I just wanted to namedrop those bands. Just because, eh.)

Anyway, there’s this Scottish indie band calling themselves “Frightened Rabbit”. They are really an indie rock band, not quite as quirky sounding as The Fratellis, but very distinct just the same. Some good songs from them are “The Woodpile”, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and “If You Were Me”. And, oh, their song “Keep Yourself Warm” is really awesome. They sing: “You can’t find love in a hole… it takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.”

Fuck Everything And Run

FEAR. Face Everything And Recover
FEAR. Fuck Everything And Run

That’s how Stephen King puts it in his 1998 novel “Bag of Bones”.

Face everything and recover, he said. Fuck everything and run, he said. What he didn’t say, though, if either of the options would be easy. Nor did he say how hard would taking fear be.

We all have fears, don’t we? Especially when we were younger. Irrational fears. We were afraid of the dark, because we don’t know what’s hiding in there. We were afraid of being alone because we feel like there’s always something watching us. We were afraid of blood because we feel like the tiniest drop would lead us to bleeding dry. We were afraid of spicy food because it will burn our tongue. And we were afraid of healthy food because they taste icky.

Over time, we start to identify with our fears. As irrational as they were, we seem to get attached to them. Sometimes it clouds our judgment. Like how a tiny spider scares the living shit out of some as if the spider will murder them while staring them down straight in the eye. Anyway, I was saying how some of us identify with our irrational fears while some of us outgrows the fear and we unconsciously start to get along pretty well with it.

Growing up, I am a such a ninny for scary stuff on TV and movies. Growing up in the 90’s when all the crazy shit about supernatural beings are all over the television and movies, I am quite sure that I have a really low tolerance on stuff like that. Also, my older siblings love watching those B-type horror/slasher movies with lots of unnecessary nudity and sex and blood (in retrospect, why were we even allowed to see those films is beyond me). We usually watch those during the Holy Week when TV is down, pretty cool. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Chuckie, stuff like that. Then there are the Asian horror films. Man, those were really scary. So, I was one of those who go through a whole movie with either a throw pillow or a hand on my face, or both. Well, I used to be like that.

I don’t know when it started but I outgrew my ninny-ness for horror stuff. Well, I’m no toughie but I can’t help but feel being joked when watching horror shit on TV and movies. Well, it doesn’t help that the quality and substance on the said genre are suffering. I still love watching those stuff though, and sometimes I can feel a hand patting my back perhaps for outgrowing my fear and growing a pair along the way. Maybe I am a toughie, after all.

I also used to have a big fear of the dark and being left alone, especially when those two co-exist in a single moment. I was raised to sleep with the lights off, and I remember wishing that that wasn’t a thing. I freak out more than I usually do when I sleep with all the windows open. I have this feeling that there is something watching me, perhaps someone from the movies I talked about a couple of paragraphs ago. I usually feel uncomfortable being left home alone. It doesn’t help that I am a big worrier and a bigger paranoid sometimes.

Although I am still a bit of a worrier, I am not as freaked out as I usually am when I was younger whenever I am left alone. Actually, I like it better when I am all alone. I can do or not do whatever I want, like one time I made myself a glass of cognac and drank alone while watching TV. I felt like a thirty year old man going through a bad divorce on a Friday night. And the silence that being alone brings is just wonderful. Before I start sounding like a sad sack of shit, which I may or may not be, it’s just that being alone makes me feel like my personal space becomes bigger. I still love having conversations and all that socializing stuff, especially with the voices in my head. And with the dark, I’m dealing well with it. My imagination runs free in the dark, without being creepy or anything. And living with a shadow overhead will make you familiar with darkness. I’m just kidding, it won’t.

*insert witty caption here*

We outgrow fears. We deal with them and we overcome them. Perhaps we try hard sometimes and other times it just disappears. They say that fear is only in the head, or that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Those are 100% bullshit. Apart from being cliché, those are big fat lies. We feel fear for a reason, and we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t no matter how irrational our fears may be. There is nothing to fear than fear itself, well tell that guy aiming a gun on you that shit and perhaps he won’t shoot you in the head.

Sometimes we try so hard to not associate ourselves with negativity in such a way that isn’t organic anymore. Yeah, it’s one thing to be an optimist or a pessimist but we don’t always have to deal with absolutes. Being afraid isn’t that bad. Having fears, not that bad either. It’s like dreading death. Feeling like dying is scarier than death itself. Not that I am an expert with dying or anything, haven’t tried that but I try to keep my eyes dead for added effect.

There’s no one good way of dealing with fears. Going all the way then detaching might work, but that doesn’t mean that living with the fear is a bad idea. Like I said, we don’t always deal with absolutes in life. Lots of things nowadays are non sequitur. Sometimes you have to fuck fear in the face then recover and run, or some other way around. Fear is freaky like that, I tell you.