by Geraldine Touer
I still remember my first notion of death. I was not of schooling age yet, and was under the care of a yaya who had a huge mole on her forehead like a living and growing Indian bindi. I was watching Katok Mga Misis, the defunct talk show hosted by Arnel Ignacio and Ali Sotto, when I had this alien thought of my heart suddenly stopping. Without anyone telling me what would happen afterwards, I knew it to be the so called death. I ran to my yaya, I found her inside the bathroom washing clothes, and it was only then that I realized I had been crying. Not having experienced life that much yet, I was already afraid to die. I was scared of the ceasing of my existence, the infinite nothing that would come. True enough, my yaya told me the easiest thing to say to appease a three-year old grieving for her own death: she told me that I would not die. I believed her right away. Since then, I always thought that death was inevitable, yet it was something remote. Dying was something that could happen to anyone, yet in my mind, I was exempted. I have never left my house before, thinking that I might not come back. Death will come knocking on my door, but only when I’m a hundred years old, on my deathbed, surrounded by my loved ones, not when I was barely of schooling age; certainly not when I have not yet achieved my dreams.
My dreams gave me an imaginary immunity from death for so many years. I am an ambitious girl, and not without reason. False modesty aside, I know that I can imagine big things, and such things I can put into words that form unforgettable plots and believable characters. I had big plans, of several Hollywood blockbusters I would be penning, of Emmy-award winning shows I would be creating. For many years I believed that I was destined for it. I trusted in that birth right so much that I hardly put words into paper. I thought the stories would eventually happen anyway, and I could put them off since the universe would pave a way for me to write them in the end. It was because of this romanticism too, that I believed I was to live until all my dreams have been fulfilled. The universe had the obligation to spare my life until its purpose has been achieved. That was all when I believed in a god that had a plan for me.
You might have noticed the use of the past tense. Yes, that god was from a not so distant past, barely a year behind, and at first, I wasn’t too willing and happy to let him/her/it go. How could I, when I had been indoctrinated as a child, when I live in a predominantly Roman Catholic country, when I had talked to him every night for as long as I learned my first prayer? It was hard, yet inevitable, and I used to fear the day that I would brand myself, the former sarado katoliko, an atheist.
I shall describe my journey towards atheism another time, when I feel it relevant to this blog. It took me, however, months to finally convince myself that I no longer believed. It was not the promise of hell that I feared, nor the dismemberment from the society that raised me. It was the acceptance that life was purposeless and random. If there was no god who had plans for my life, my egoistic, anthropo-centered world would be shattered. There would be no universe to guide me, no destiny to assure me, and I am entirely on my own. After I let go of god, I was like an animal bred in captivity, suddenly released into my natural habitat. I just cannot walk on my own. In the eleven years that I dreamed of becoming a writer, I hardly put five pages worth of words for all of my stories together (not counting my fanfiction and the works required for school). I was a dreamer who chose, for so long, not to walk my talk. I was a writer who did not write because I always waited for the “perfect” moment. Seeing myself in that light for the first time broke my self-esteem. I began to doubt if my talents were really existent, or had they been, like my stories, all in my head. I did what for me then was the humble thing to do, I gave up my dreams altogether. I accepted that I was going to be an engineer, the course I’m currently (and regrettably) enrolled in.
But ceasing to believe I was the center of the universe brought forth a brand new knowledge of the world. I was able to see the other people around me. I saw that we are not the same, and I began to celebrate our differences. The belief I lost in god was regained in my belief in humanity. I know that we humans are capable of good, just as we are capable of evil. Our morals need not stem from and omnipotent source. It does not have to be triggered by our fear of the wrath of god, nor the promise of an everlasting life. The randomness and improbability of life makes our achievements as people that more remarkable. I began to accept that this is the only life we have, and that after we die, the only thing that lives on are the memories others have of us. That was when I realized that I do not want to be forgotten after I die. Even though I was not born for anything, I know that I can still die for something. I wanted it to be something worth my only life on earth, and the only thing I could think of are my stories.
In the end, nothing has changed. I might have lost a god, but I gained a trust for humanity. I might have lost my birth right, but I gained self accountability. I might die when I’m a hundred years old, or I might die tomorrow, but what’s important is that I have put these words down, and that you are reading them, and that they somehow make your memory of me more vivid, one sentence at a time.
That is why I am reopening this blog, because nothing in life is sure, because a true writer does not need to wait for the perfect time to write. The only time I have is now, a mere speck in the geologic clock. I’m overwhelmed to think that I might have helped people with what I was writing before, especially young girls questioning their sexual identity. I would like to help more people love and embrace who they are for the rest of my, hopefully, long life.
It’s no one else’s job but mine to make true what my yaya told me just to appease me. I won’t die, because I am not just composed of DNA and molecules and proteins. I am thoughts and ideas and dreams and words. These are the things that I would die for. Destiny or not, these are the things that would give me an everlasting life.