Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fearless: Editor Coming Out Stories

7:50 PM

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Everyone’s got a story – about getting braces, crying over something stupid, laughing so hard their insides split. Believe it or not, they’ve also got stories about being brave and coming out (of a shell, a closet, a tin can, a rubbish bin…). These stories in particular belong to the editors of The Thing. 

Gaby Gloria, Editor-in-chief 

I've always seen myself as a flat character with no emotional depth whatsoever: like a plain combination of neutral colors, rice with no ulam, or odorless deodorant. For a long time, the only adjectives I would use to describe myself were “quiet,” “shy”, and “short.” Other people also described me in this way, and it quickly became my only identity. I soon became accustomed to working in the background, as a passive listener who was never really comfortable enough to take the lead. In addition, I was (and still am) a very private individual—there are hardly any selfies (or pictures of myself), rants, or just about anything on my social media accounts (except maybe Twitter). 

At the end of my first year in college, I had this moment where I realized that it doesn't always have to be like that. Somehow, the combination of everything I was exposed to at that time—from the shows I watched, the books and articles I read, and the people I met—was enough to get me inspired. 

My peers were the most influential in that sense. They were all so interesting and dynamic, with all sorts of personalities and interests that expanded far beyond what I knew. These people were leading lives that I found to be much more exciting than my own, and for some reason I wanted to be like them. I eventually discovered the one common (and constant) quality that I'd completely ignored: confidence. They weren't afraid to show others their true personalities. 

That was it! The idea for The Thing was born right out of that realization (plus a bunch of other random thoughts, but I digress). So here I am now, attempting to be brave and putting a little bit of myself out there with this short anecdote (and soon, other articles on this website). It probably won't help me become some spirited pop culture trope, but I'd like to think that it'll at least help me get past my boring stage and make way for a much more colorful (and scented) Gaby. 

Patricia Chong, Managing Editor 

Believe it or not, there was once a subdued, conservative girl of a Catholic upbringing walking dutifully into a confessional, where a priest was waiting. She sat, guilt-ridden, before telling him this: 

“Father, I don’t think I believe in God.” 

She didn’t think she believed in the Church either, or in the goodness and strength of humanity – but she thought she should keep that to herself. This was a time of doubt, after she spent Sundays on the internet and left her rosary tucked away where she couldn’t see it, after she’d been alone (lonely) and failing even after she prayed otherwise. And in her heart of hearts, she did not believe that this man would ever be able to give her an answer that would let her sleep a night in peace ever again. 

She was wrong. 

There was a long silence before the priest hurriedly told her (in too many words) to simply keep believing and to pray every night; to go out and pray ten Hail Mary's and one Act of Contrition as penance. 

The girl was quiet for but a moment before she thanked him, sincerely. She had seen the light (how could it have been so simple?) and she knew now what she would do. 

She walked out of that confessional a new woman: she did not get down on her knees to pray ever again, and stopped poisoning herself by pretending that someone up there or out there would always fix her mistakes and somehow make her better than the empty shell that she was. No longer would she be a victim of circumstance, that girl with only two lines in a movie, a character who had to be given happiness by some sadistic author. The world shifted, and somehow, it began to revolve around her – a new sun in her own sky and in her own universe, ready to warm and illuminate those in her orbit. 

She strode out that door, burning with new life and breathing perhaps for the first time in a year, and she never once looked back. 

Andrea Buenconsejo, Science & History Editor 

It was still dark outside when I had to leave my family in Canada back in January. Before leaving the house they learned to call home, my younger brother’s words shot me through my heart: “You’ll be away for a long time.” The longest time I’ve ever been away from my family was two days. Six months felt like a lifetime back then, when the sound of the radio filled the taxi, replacing my mother’s voice and my own. I almost cried while I was lining up to have my carry-on luggage checked. My mother stood at a distance, away from the line and away from me. 

That moment was particularly painful for me, since I was very dependent on her and attached to her. At that moment, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my entire family behind— my younger sister and brother, my tita, and my mother. 

Fast forward to six months later, and bam, I’m still alive and doing perfectly fine. I really felt myself grow and reach out to different possibilities. New experiences came my way while I kept myself busy with friends, acads and org work, among others. 

These past six months weren’t so bad after all. 

Chili Perez, Lit Editor 

In German, the word for coming-of-age literature is “bildungsroman”. It literally means novel of formation, education or culture—the ritual transition from youth to adulthood through the opening of the mind, through learning. It is not something that happens instantly. You grow over time, and it takes years before you realize that you are transitioning, but ultimately there is an event that triggers it, an event that opens your mind to understanding the world. 

For me, it was when I started debating and going on foreign exchanges in high school. As a child I was always confined to the places I was familiar with—my school, my house and my city. Things were simpler then, but debate and travel opened my eyes and broadened my horizons. I was finally exposed to the world as it is-- frighteningly big and complex, but also undeniably beautiful. You come of age when you start living life as not only a child of your parents or your country, but as a citizen of the world. 

Livi Villanueva, Pop Culture Editor 

I have a pretty complicated personality but I know that to some extent, I’m really shy. Yes, I’m an extrovert, yes, I love public speaking, and yes, I’m more than just a little bit out there but I still believe that I am shy and at times, cripplingly so. I’m set in my ways and I’m not very good at approaching people to ask them to do things for me – even people I’m close to! Just as an example, I once cried in a restaurant (on my 16th birthday!!) because my brother made me ask the waiter for my water myself. It wasn’t instantaneous though, I WAS PROVOKED, but I digress. Considering my personality type, it’s not shocking to find out that most of my friends are strong ties, so naturally when we were about to go off to college, I was terrified that I wouldn’t have any friends. 

FAST FORWARD TO ORSEM. Freshman orientation at Ateneo, I met my block for the first time. Yikes. It’s not that they were mean or intimidating, it was that I was small, corny, scared, clueless, and IN PANTS (backstory: I don’t like wearing pants, I have literally enough skirts for a month without repeating). I made it through orientation and the first few weeks without feeling alone at all but it did make me sad to not have a set group of friends just yet. Finally, I did something that violated my personal code: I asked a block mate I was pretty close to (Hi Jello Malonjao!!) if I could have lunch with him and some other people. I kept hanging out with them (trust me I was terrified, I was really scared of looking needy) and wooh fast-forward I’m now super duper close to some weirdos I’ve known for a year now! 

If you’re wondering, this kinda long, kinda insecure(??) and seemingly pointless collection of sentences is my coming-out-of-my-shell story and if there’s anything I want you to learn from what I learned is that IT IS OKAY. It’s okay to be scared, uncomfortable and not okay. It’s perfectly fine to have your heart in your throat when you’re about to do something because guess what? It is so worth it. 

Jan Dabao, Art Editor 

I always felt a little different from most of the girls I met when I was younger. I could never really relate to them, so it’s no surprise most of my friends at the time were boys. I found myself enjoying Gameboys and HotWheels way more than dolls and toy kitchen sets, and some people found this strange but they didn’t mind it for the most part. It’s a completely different story, however, when you find out that another thing that sets you apart from those girls is the fact that you are maybe (definitely) kind of (very) attracted to them. I have certainly encountered people that found me strange for being such a flaming homosexual, but I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay if they don’t understand why I am the way I am. The only thing that matters is whether or not they choose to love and accept me anyway. 

Elaiza Toledo, Music Editor 

I was always asked to sing for all the family reunions and parties despite my constant and obvious contempt for performing in front everyone. A lot of people (mostly relatives) considered that I had this amazing voice and it deserved to be heard – but I didn’t believe so. And this led me to diminish my love for music and singing. I was about 6 or 7 years old then and I only wanted to sing when I felt like it or if I wanted to. Every time someone would ask me to sing, I’d immediately be overcome with fear that I would end up sulking in one corner shaking my head non-stop to reject the offer. 

I had about a total of maybe 5 forced performances when I was kid. Now that I’m in college, I’m enraptured to say that I have performed more than 20 times and counting. Perhaps it isn’t the regret of not having to have performed more but rather it’s the breaking out from the fear that imprisoned my love for music and performing. 

I feel like I just walked over a huge stump in my life that made me want to be sad forever, but now that I’ve stepped over that, I feel different, and it feels good. 

Arielle Acosta, Art Editor 

There are certain places you go to with your mother that changes her disposition completely. She tells you to hang on to your valuables and not to make eye contact with street vendors. She ensnares your hand in a death grip, and though you remind her that you are in fact an adult and handholding is completely unnecessary, she will have none of it. Her eyes are darting around, surveying her surroundings. She is in an enlightened state – the Nirvana of complete alertness. Her maternal instincts haven't been this high since the day she pushed you out of her and you can practically smell it in her sweat. 

In my senior year of high school I found myself in one of those places with no one but myself. 

It was a hybrid friendship bracelet and watch that thrust me into the deep end of Divisoria. We needed to sell these things for a project and the only place to get watches cheap was in 168 (a mall in Divisoria). Everyone in my group had bailed and I had no choice but to make the journey by myself (and I had never ridden the LRT/MRT alone in my life). And what were the necessary tools in order to make this journey? Nothing. Literally. The rule was not to bring anything of considerable value and not to look like you had much to lose. The only thing you needed more than money was wit and common sense. So I set off to Divisoria – bills stuffed in my bra and my phone in the waistband of my underwear. 

I could go on to tell you how I got lost in Divisoria and later found myself in Recto moving in the completely opposite direction of the LRT station. I could also tell you how we got an A+ for the project or how my mother still does not know I ever stepped foot in Divisoria to this day. I'm not telling you to go behind your parent's backs and “YOLO it” (ugh) either. I want to tell you that you'll be fine. Sooner or later you will have to let go of your anxious mother's hand and set out on your own. And when you're tired or out of luck or just darned scared, remember that the only reason you got this far is because you are fully equipped with the necessary tools to go on. 

So make that pilgrimage. Don't be afraid to set out with nothing but wit, common sense and ambition. You will be fine. 

Mikee Manahan, Food Editor 

Seven months into college, I still spent most of my breaks alone. One might think that I would be lonely by the time, but I was far from it. “Alone” and “lonely” are two different things, and I never considered myself the latter. I simply enjoyed my time by myself, and I would occasionally catch up with old friends and new friends when I had the time. 

Even though I did not belong to a singular social component, I still carried on like I would normally would – no tall tales of bullying, no coming-of-age movie drama to be discussed at length. Being alone was a choice I chose to make, and a more convenient one at that; being a nomad, I had no obligation towards any group, which gave me the freedom to explore many other things. But freedom always came with some exceptions, and with these exceptions did I learn and carve my way into the person that I am today. 

By being alone, I learned to depend on my capabilities and myself. From writing down all the reminders to working my way through organization requirements, right down to the midterm project details that I need to improve or finish. I learned that the need to deal with groups objectively, removing myself from subjective obligations to make room for progress and less drama. I learned how much high school had influenced me and how pushing yourself will reward you in the end. I learned how to commute and slip my way through Taft like a boss. I learned to care when no one else would. I learned that perseverance does have its prize in the end, and that Tumblr quotes and clichés do have a place in real life. I learned the majesty of being the only one reciting in class and the one that gives a voice to those who do not seem to have one. 

By being alone, I did not discover King Tutankhamen’s tomb or the lost ark, but I found things that now define who I am. Simply put, being alone gives you time to get lost and rediscover what you can do. 

“Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R Tolkien 

Arianna Mercado, Multimedia Editor 

In a family of doctors, it's easy for my parents' friends to think that I plan to tread the medicine path as well. For the record, I'm not, but it's not like I really have a plan on what I want to do, either. I won’t deny that I get insecure when I see people who already have a plan, though. Sometimes, it makes me feel like maybe I should go to medicine just so I could have a plan, too. Though I do feel that maybe that’s not a good enough reason to pursue eight more years of intense studying. 

In short, I don't know what I'm doing and where I'm going, but sometimes, I'm okay with that. 

So I’m trying to get myself out there and come to terms with uncertainty (for now)—try different interests, explore different fields (like buying a bunch of single serving cereal boxes). Life is short, but I’ve been told that if you spend too much of it worrying about the future, you miss out. 

Sammi Catolico, Style Editor 

I didn’t have a debut and I’ve only ever attended one myself (alright two, but I was young and vaguely recall being dressed by my lola in a horrifyingly gaudy, frilly outfit she found apt for the Moroccan theme). I’ve also attended a friend’s Bat Mitzvah (a thirteen-year-old girl’s coming of age celebration under the Jewish tradition) long ago and you can sure as hell bet we had a Cha Cha Slide line dance with super cool glow sticks adorning our awkwardly moving limbs. Part of my current 19-year-old self wonders what it would have been like to have my own slice of the coming-of-age-party cake. 

I’ll think about it this way, as cheesy as it may be: each morning you wake up is an opportunity for a new debut to the world. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive, but little things like… deciding to put on sunscreen will result in a less burnt-toast looking you. Or deciding to approach someone you’ve always wanted to get to know, but have been too scared to. And ending up with a new friend, someone you would totally include in a hypothetical 18 roses ceremony. In debut celebratory fashion, I say dress however you want and celebrate life with the people around you – everyday.

Artwork by Mich
Mich Cervantes is a 19-year-old Animation student (who doesn't actually want to animate anything). She draws a lot of comics. Her two favorite things are sleep and pizza.