After a successful LASIK surgery in 2009, my ophthalmologist prescribed the usual: eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, do not marry the computer screen. And then the unusual: wear polarized lenses.
My idea was to (technically) go under the knife, so I could once and for all do away with glasses, which are a hindrance to an active lifestyle, not to mention expensive in the long-run. But before I could object, the good doctor reasoned: they (1) reduce glare and eyestrain; (2) improve eyesight; and (3) protect the eyes from the sun, dust, and other harmful elements, natural or otherwise.
Paranoid and obsessive about my brand-new vision, I bought the best sunnies my money could afford. Since then I couldn’t leave the house without sunglasses. They’ve become apparatuses of extreme importance (along with my watch and cellphone, and former prescription glasses) that I couldn’t be bothered to take them off even upon entering a mall or when the weather turns gloomy.
The other morning, on my way to work, someone shouted, “Lakas ni ate, nakasalamin,” declaring the absurdity of wearing shades while the rain is pouring. To be fair, ten years ago, if I ran across a lady sporting Ray-Ban aviators in the middle of a windstorm, I’d be equally perplexed. But how I wanted to shout back at the rude passer-by: “Wala kang pakialam!”
2. Throwing ‘dialectic’ in casual conversation.
It doesn’t get any easier in your thirties. You’d think at this age, you’d stop feeling the need to explain yourself and conform. You’re wrong. The teenage confusion, the doubt, they don’t go away; they evolve into a new, adult form called over-thinking.
At a friend’s party, the conversation over sushi rolls took a socio-political swerve and one of the more sober participants was arguing her case. She was about to drop the term “dialectic” but instead opted for an easier-to-digest alternative that I don’t remember now.
I can smell fear of sounding too intelligent from a mile because I harbor it, too. Being told, “Wow, lalim!” after every statement you make will make you want to shut up for life — which is impossible. And this is one root of over-thinking. I can’t do that, it’s offensive… but I have to stand my ground. I can’t say that, they won’t understand… but that’s condescension. I must own my eccentricities, but I don’t want to drive people away. I hate people.
3. Approaching the cool girl.
Why was it easier to make friends in grade school? Back then my seat mate instantly became my best friend. Was it because we were stuck beside each other in the same room every day for months that we learned to bond for survival? Or was it just pure childhood innocence?
What I know so far is that my days of innocence are gone and taking its place is a crippling self-awareness. Even if I — by the grace of universe — were seated beside an interesting lady (I know because I follow her on Twitter), I couldn’t bring myself to say hi. Because other than the possibility of her being a total snob, I might say something embarrassing, or worse, bore her.
And not in a grand, romantic way. Not in a way that makes for a classic graduation speech or a plot point of a blockbuster sports film; but in an everyday, “Damn another red light” kind of way.
In school they ask us, “What do you want to contribute to the world?” The question presupposes that whatever we are (and are not) doing now has no impact on our immediate environment. This framework endorses the notion that to do good (“to have succeeded”), we have to do something measurable — huge, to be precise: support a charity, write a patriotic novel, become president.
But it’s the little things, yeah? What defines us are the small, daily decisions we make when no one’s looking — sorry, documenting. I personally don’t fear failure as much as I fear the label “failure.” If we stop beating ourselves (and each other) up when things don’t work out despite all our efforts, then maybe we could do more and be more — or simply be.
—Originally published on GIST.PH