A Colossal Failure

An old photo, taken on March 26, 2010

An old photo, taken on March 26, 2010

4 June 2013
10:44 AM
Manila

M.–

Over breakfast, my sister told me about a conversation she had with my mother last night. They were talking about me. My mother, for the nth time, expressed her disappointment over my choices in life. She is dismayed that I chose to work for myself, that I am ‘dabbling’ in creative projects. She had expected so much, having sent me to study at one of the best universities here. In terms of a return on investment, I am a colossal failure.

She says that at 27, I could’ve been working for one of the big corporations by now, have a position I can brag about, have more money, maybe even have my own car. She resents seeing me every day in my plain clothes, tapping away at my computer, instead of wearing blazers and pantsuits and commuting to the financial capital of the city. She hates everything that I have done with my life so far, and wonders if I’ll ever amount to anything. My father keeps quiet, but I know he’s thinking of the same thing.

I stare at my coffee, listening to all of this. I try to resist the anxiety, but it almost overwhelms me.

Have I really fucked it all up? Is it really such a crime–such a mistake–to choose to do this? Have I got it all wrong?

What Is There Beyond Knowing?
Mary Oliver

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t

turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean

the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same — what shall I say —
moment.

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

I think the rest of the day is going to be a bust now. If I had known I would eat existential despair for breakfast I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed, to be honest.

T.

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