Still life with skies and hope

(as published on The Philippine Daily Inquirer Young Blood column last July 16, 2019)

“Why is the sky blue?”

When I was a little kid and no one would answer when I asked this question, I simply imagined angels playing in heaven, with one clumsy cherub accidentally spilling a can of blue paint right between the clouds. This was enough of an explanation for me back then.

Today, witnessing sunsets that douse the skies with an array of color, both warm and cool, makes me want to curl back into those innocent thoughts.

Science may have taught me Rayleigh scattering and atmospheric optics, but in a world that has unfolded to be so complex before my growing eyes, I would sometimes like to revisit the vision of little me: that girl whose tickled mind made her so curious that she poured all contents of a paint box onto paper to imitate the skies. That girl who then wrote about them with all the words she knew, which eventually made her decide that her heart was for the arts.

Reaching back to that kid inside is not without effort, of course. Living in today’s world tends to add years to your soul and takes a toll on your heart, if you let it beat down on you enough.

It is extremely easy to get trapped in this Groundhog Day loop: You drag yourself out of bed, gulp down a bite of breakfast for some semblance of fuel, get stuck in the traffic-choked streets of the Metro (or get honorary battle scars for joining the jostling crowds in the MRT — if you’re fortunate enough to try it on a day the trains are functioning properly).

By the time you get to work, you have exhausted yourself enough to daydream about jumping back into the warm hug of the bed you left this very morning.

And yet, the real battle is only about to start.

There is a meme that comes to mind, one I have seen countless times on my millennial friends’ Facebook walls and shared with a mess of laughing and crying emojis on the caption section. I cannot remember the exact words, but it said something about yearning to be a kid again, to a time when a simple wounded knee could make children cry, and which could then be soothed with a Band-Aid and a kiss from Mama.

Today, most of our wounds are not visible, and no Band-Aid or kiss can make them magically heal.

At this very second, chances are there is someone out there who is having a mental breakdown in an office restroom, breathing heavily but readying to dab makeup on her face to cover up the tear stains, so she could be ready to go back to her cubicle.

There is someone out there who is beating himself up for not making the younger version of himself from a few years back proud.

There is someone out there feeling like her office is a prison, but one she chooses not to escape so she can feed the children she is going home to after 5 p.m.

In one way or another, most of us are crumbling at the sound of the marauding hooves of a deadline we set for ourselves. Even without wanting to, some of us die a little bit inside with the silent comparison of successes among our peers popping up in an endless scroll on our computer screens. Baleful echoes from the voices in our heads go: We are getting old, and getting nowhere.

In the midst of this chaos, I find that reconnecting to my inner child helps. Having a support system of friends and family is important, but so is being your own hero when you need to be. And what better hero to turn to than the one who can help you figure out what version of Band-Aid your soul needs right now?

On my bad days, Little Airiz would roll her eyes at me and say, “How many years do we add to ourselves every time we hear the ticking of an imagined time bomb? Who is counting failed years? And who says we have already failed, anyway?”

So much hope. This may not fix the life compass that I sometimes believe have gone awry, but it helps refuel my hope tanks.

Little me would turn her attention to the painting she was finishing, and she would remind me to look up at the skies. She would remind me that the Big Guy Upstairs is laying out a plan for me, a timeline I would not know but would have to trust. There would be klutzy cherubs to mess up the scene, of course—that cannot be helped—but everything would work out in the end. I should never lose hope.

So much hope.

This is hard for someone whose hobby is to overthink, to be honest. But as long as I can look up, as long as the skies tie me to my inner child, I believe I’ll never truly die inside, no matter how hard the cruel world tries.

* * *

This article has been published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Young Blood column last July 16, 2019.


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