Losing my Art

Whenever I read old literature that I wrote, poetry and prose–unfinished essays, first chapter of unfinished novels, fan fictions–I start to feel queasy. It is like going back to a room to get something important, but you forget what it is. It feels like losing a parcel, sent by your dearest person, without knowing what it contains. Oftentimes, it is but a fleeting feeling. But they collect like silt on the bottom of a shallow river.

From time to time, I get this desire to write something, anything, but the thought of being no good stops me. It seems, however, that my problem is not simply my lack of ability. I lost my art.

With regards to writing, I thought it was because I became more aware of grammar mistakes, redundancy, accuracy, and even plagiarism. I read an advice that said I should focus on the content and avoid repeatedly reviewing, and editing, my sentences. I tried, but I kept on failing to follow. I thought I should, instead, improve on my choice of medium first (the English language) before attempting to write.

I always tell me that I lost my art, but I do not know how exactly…

Until I read this essay written by Christian Mihai about “selling your heart”, including the cited letter of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald to an aspiring young author, I finally realized the reason.

I lost my art when I stopped becoming vulnerable. During a certain period in my past, I had to protect my heart in order to live on. I was a very unstable person.

I still am–I get my high from the night breeze, and plummet to my deepest from hearing throaty laughter. Emotions scare me. I do not know what to do with them. My best option is to write, but even then I cannot revel in my emotions. It is too troublesome to explain myself to people who can see me. To explain why I am suddenly a different person.

So I play it safe.

Lately, however, I try to be more honest. I am slowly ridding my bad habit: lying to myself. I want to reconnect with the person that I was. If it is impossible, at least I want to acknowledge the person that I want to be. It will take a lot of effort, and a lot more sacrifices, but I feel now, more than ever, how important this is to me.

Looking for an intersection

I have a dream that I do not dare to share because I believe that making it known, even to just one person, means owning it. And then I will have to work hard for it, else its value will dwindle to a merely childish dream.

Why is it scary to work hard for something you desire? In my case, it is because I am afraid of giving my all without the assurance that it is for me. It is ironic because I unconditionally give my all when doing tasks that I am accountable for. And I am not even workaholic.

Aside from bonding time with my family, the things that matter to me are gradually shoved deeper and deeper into obscurity. I fear that when I recognize their importance and embrace them, everything I have done so far will have been a waste. I am torn between chasing after a dream that has gone too far off the road, and resigning myself to this comfortable one-way street. It does not help that my brain is trained to factor in safety, look out for miscalculation, anticipate possible risks, and plan for alternatives. When it comes to our existence, how much can we actually rely on fate to lead us where we belong?

Me and the Japanese Language

It was during first year high school that I got interested in Japanese songs–particularly, anime opening and endings songs. Back then, I recorded the Japanese songs in cassette tapes and patiently transcribed them. Inaccurately, of course.

But one of my first high school friends was impressed. She liked anime songs, but there were no means known to her to get the Japanese lyrics.

As time passed by, we got access to the internet and searched those lyrics online. By then my erroneous transcription became more obvious, but it didn’t matter. Later, I bought myself a Japanese dictionary, learned hiragana and katakana, and got crazy translating the Japanese characters to romaji.

That was more than a decade ago. By now, one would have presumed, that I am able to speak and write Japanese.

Second year college, aforementioned friend and I enrolled in a basic Japanese class. I stopped after the first semester because my self-diagnosed depression worsen. My exposure to the Japanese language, however, never decreased. In fact, with the consistent development of technology and social media, I was bombarded with more animes, more Japanese songs (J-rock and J-pop), more music CDs, more books and more educational videos.

My interest did not dull, but my enthusiasm was not the same anymore (maybe because of my poor mental state, but I won’t know).

After graduation, I enrolled myself in a formal Japanese language school starting at the basic level even though I knew I was capable enough to enroll one level higher. (I am the kind of person who is adamant of repeatedly reviewing the basic whenever I can because I am never confident. Even with mathematics and language. Even with game mechanics.) It was a breeze. But my enthusiasm kept on fading.

I reached the third level of elementary Japanese and passed JLPT4 (old system). If I pushed myself a little, I could have tried for JLPT3, but I thought, “I just want to experience the exam.”

After that, I stopped the formal education simply because it was getting expensive and… I thought I never took the lessons seriously anyway.

Like how I was in high school and college. And, if I am to remember the feeling, like how I am in graduate school now.

I find it hard to describe my mindset about “formal” education. I seek it, but I take it in stride. I feel it is important, but I face it in an annoyingly carefree manner (which oftentimes fool my colleagues into thinking that I am hard working but…)

Now, my friend who was with me in a journey to learn the Japanese language had passed N2, while the most I do is count ichi kara juu made (from one to ten) when switching the aircon from “fan mode” to “cool”. My sister found it funny.

ME: “Ichi, ni, san, yon, go, rokrok–“

And well, also mechanically blurt out random Japanese words and phrases because I still find the language endearing.

UP diliman campus

because I have no pictures to add but pictures are always nice

My interest remains the same however. From time to time, I’d seek some online self-study materials like this pretty neat Japanese Audio Lessons (free) and immerse myself in Japanese language for a few minutes before I pat myself on the back and call it a day.