A typical day in my life operates under a timetable and a routine. It’s monotonous, vapid. And yet, somewhere in the middle of it, I realize that is exactly what makes it beautiful.
The sun holds out its young hands at 5:30 a.m., and with eyes half-closed and fragments of last night’s dreams still caught in my brain, I get out of bed. I stretch my limbs and wash up. I sip my morning cup of coffee; the way it smells reminds me of the lady behind the counter of the grocery store I often stop at, the one with the big brown eyes and a voice like the wind. She smiles warmly at me whenever she hands me my change, and I smile back, and I feel content for a sliver of a moment before she says, “Next customer, please.” And everything seems lonely again.
At 6:30 I am cramped in an overcrowded train that goes fast enough, only to reach the eventual slowdown. I watch the metropolis come to life as I move across the landscape in a blur. Skyscrapers slash through the heavens, and the streets brim with stories walking in stilettos and slippers, in sneakers and sandals, wearing shawls and cardigans and smiles, writing themselves as they plod along. It’s ironic how everyone is so busy doing everything and the world seems to be spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and yet everything feels so still, stagnant—like a river that occasionally changes direction yet remains the same.
At 8 I take my usual seat in the classroom—the front seat right next to the door. I like sitting up front because it keeps me from sleeping or getting distracted. As I wait for my professor to arrive, I pull out my journal and scribble—little poems anchored in heavy truths that my voice does not have the nerve to express.
At 11:30 I run to my next class, barely keeping myself together through the rush. It’s crazy how difficult it is to even breathe sometimes.
As I move past the roads and bike lanes, I feel the wind on my face and realize that the best weather is the kind I often take for granted. It sits lightly on my skin—so faultless, just right, exactly what I want to feel. But often, I realize this too late. Only when it’s gone—when a thunderstorm begins or a searing heat suddenly takes over—do I appreciate how beautiful it is.
Everything else is much the same for me. I tend to take things for granted because I hold on to the false hope that they won’t ever leave, when, in fact, they do. They do because, well, they have to. Everything succumbs in time. Everything is bound to end, somehow, someday.
It’s 2 p.m. and I’m in the university library, searching for a book to read during my break. If there is one thing I’ll do for the rest of my life and never tire of, it’s reading books. There is something about flipping their pages that feels rewarding, always.
I find the right book and take a seat next to an empty sofa. I find something that catches my attention, and I immediately get my journal out to write it down. I have this incessant need to document and remember everything about life, and all the little beautiful things that comprise it. Perhaps it’s because among other things, I am most afraid of forgetting.
At 5 I am about to go home. I walk to the waiting shed and look around. All of a sudden, I am overwhelmed. There are too many wonderful people in this world, too many books to read, too many songs to listen to, too many adventures to try—and so little time. The exquisiteness of the world’s existence frightens me, because it makes mine so insignificant.
It’s 6 p.m. and the sky is beautiful. There is something so addicting about an orange sky that makes me want to smear it over the pits of my soul. It is tender and silent, stretching in fleeting patterns of thin clouds that are now set for the evening’s takeover. There are almost no stars in this calloused city, though, other than Orion and the moon, flashing, gazing right back at me.
I feel too much about everything. But this will always be better than not feeling anything at all. I know that when I have to choose between the chasm of numbness and the valley of senses, I would plunge head first into the latter, even if it means breaking my bones—and my heart.
At 9 the sky has the night on its sleeve. I cram my schoolwork for tomorrow and the days to come. I almost give up, thinking I will never be good enough for this course, let alone for the university I’m studying in, but then I see the moon outside my window and, I have to admit, it sparks some hope in me. It has always been good at keeping itself together and holding its own even when the world is dressed in its best shade of black.
I continue working on my papers, refusing to feel insecure about my thoughts or to become mediocre. It’s funny how life has its way of turning that last thread of hope into a perfect string that loops itself endlessly through my soul.
At midnight my ghosts start to haunt me. I realize I am not holding the puppeteer’s strings. I am clueless and helpless, watching as my mind gets ruled by all the people, things and feelings that have become my reasons for existence.
I think about my friends and how many of them are now forgotten memories. I think about how much I ate today and how little I ran. I think about the clothes hanging in the closet that I have too little confidence to wear. I think about the lost loves, and the poems I have written for them that they will never get to read. I think about the plans I have made and how I haven’t mustered the guts to cross a single one off the list. I think about my father and how I went from holding his hand to holding a mere photograph, from listening to his voice to trying to revive its sound in my memory. I think about how everything is so lovely, yet lonely at the same time.
It’s 2 a.m. and there is no calming thought to lull me to sleep.
And that is when I feel tired of it all. Everything is just a repetition, happening over and over again. Within hours the sun will rise, I will wake up, things will unfold, and everything will change yet remain the same. I will go to the train station, ride to school, do my best to blend with the crowd. I will go through my daily activities as though it doesn’t take every bit of my self-control to keep from breaking down in the middle of the day.
And I wonder whether those moments are worth living for, worth spending every day waiting for something to occur and give me reason to stay for another day. And I feel. And I breathe. And I laugh at myself for even bothering to wonder. And then I decide to give life another shot. Having decided, I manage to fall asleep.
Sometimes, survival is enough, a talent even.
So this is what I do. I hope. I get on with my life. I struggle. I try again. Every moment of every memory in the making, I do battle, I bleed. But I persist. Because it’s the only way I can learn how to move forward. This is what I do. And this, I know, is how life is done.
It’s a constant battle, a routine I know by heart but do not understand. But again, despite (and because of) it all, life is beautiful. In the way things are beautiful when onlookers don’t realize it.
Maria Nicole Cortez, 18, from Makati City, is a journalism sophomore at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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