Wednesday, September 06, 2006

[Essay] Clockwork

I’m not a person who’s fond of watches, or rather, of wearing them. It doesn’t matter if it’s leather or plastic or metal. For one thing, me being skinny as I am, watches are seldom a perfect fit. But the real reason why I don’t like wearing watches is because it irritates my skin. I’ve received many watches over the years, but all of them gets lost from disuse. The only watch I remember wearing for any long duration was one of those gimmick watches that would speak out loud and tell you the time at the press of a button. Unfortunately, it got broken quickly, and I’ve never worn a watch ever since grade school.

Yet for someone who isn’t fond of watches, I’m someone who pays close attention to time. I’m the person who arrives at a meeting on the agreed upon time, if not earlier. During a long pictorial in the middle of the evening, someone asked the time and I predicted it within one or two minutes, and I didn’t even bother looking at a clock. Traveling around the metro, I can give an accurate estimate on what time I’ll arrive at the destination, factoring in the weather and traffic. Perhaps one of the stranger habits of mine is that whatever time I’d set my alarm clock on, I’d always (short of being extremely fatigued) wake up one minute before the alarm rings. There was even this weird phenomenon with one friend that whenever I’d sleepover (a sleepover wherein there’s actually some sleep going on) at his house, no matter what time we went to bed, we’d always wake up at 8 am.

It all began with my childhood. School has this uniform rigidness that when you look at it, is strangely militaristic. As anyone who’s been a student will tell you, everyone looks forward to the school bell signaling the end of a class. It could be they’re looking forward to recess, or perhaps right now it’s simply a boring subject, but everyone is unconsciously counting how long it’ll be before the lecture is over. Every subject, however, has the same duration: one hour. As a student, I had to go through one hour of English, one hour of Science, one hour of Math every single day. 60 minutes, no more, no less. In the beginning, keeping track of time was difficult, especially since I didn’t bring a watch. Instead, I mastered a technique which would later hone my stalking skills: I learned how to spy upon other people’s watches. It’s that moment where to others, you’re not looking at anyone in particular. In fact, it seems as if you’re paying attention to the teacher. But what is actually happening is that my gaze is upon a classmate’s wrist where his watch is wrapped around. Normally, it’s in reverse, and I have to flip the image in my mind. Sometimes, the classmate is farther off, either two desks in front of me, or two desks away from my side. But eventually, I would master the technique of telling time accurately with no watch of my own, thanks to my finely-honed spying skills.

Eventually, however, that wouldn’t be needed. Classes being uniform and spaced out evenly, it would soon be easy to tell the time based on feeling alone. Usually, the bell would ring an hour before the class would end, and I could sense when that moment was near. The teacher would see me packing my things early, and then the bell would suddenly ring, signaling the end of the session. Another sad fact is that school always started on the same time, namely seven thirty a.m., that I’d always wake up at six in order to get ready for school. Eventually, waking up at six was an unconscious habit, unless I had slept really really late the day before.

But perhaps what would hone my time-sense to a whole new level was traveling. In truth, I didn’t really go out much, but there were always distanced to be traversed, even if it was as simple as getting home from school. The moment I’d get into the car, I’d pay close attention to the time as minutes trickle away, either from getting stuck in traffic or waiting for my sister to get out of class. I was always in such a hurry because the best cartoons were usually aired just right after school. I’d make a mad dash for home so that I wouldn’t miss my favorite shows. However, various other activities would try to steal this time slot away from me: clubs, dentist appointments, group projects. And so my obsession with time began once more, honing it to a level that seems like clockwork.

These days, I tell time via my mobile phone. However, even then, I keep track of the variations. Time at my alma matter, for example, runs ten minutes faster than the time followed by TV stations. Time at work also runs ten minutes ahead, which makes it a pain to wake up early in the morning, but a joy to get out of work earlier than most people. I don’t travel much, so airport time is still a foreign thing to me, but I can easily estimate how long it’ll take to reach a certain area depending on the traffic and the distance. Perhaps what even disturbs the accountants at work is how I always leave the office at exactly six pm, thanks to the marks in my time card.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

[Essay] The Perfect Job

Ever since I’ve been attending the annual Manila Book Fair when it relocated to the World Trade Center, I’ve been bumping into familiar faces from my alma matter. Two years ago, it was an upperclassman who was working for Scholastica books, trying her best to sell Harry Potter books in bulk. Last year, it was meeting an even higher upperclassman, an officer from the literary org I was involved with, and she was in charge of public relations for the book fair itself. This year, I ran into someone belonging to the same batch as I was. She was working at Powerbooks for barely a week in what seems to me is one of the coolest jobs ever: reading books.

In this world, it is of my personal opinion that there’s no such thing as a "perfect job", but there are certain occupations which suit certain people more than others. Unfortunately, the world being fickle and capricious as it is, few people land the jobs they want, much less the jobs they’re actually optimized for. Take me for an example. I’m sure it’s someone’s dream job to be working in a rock magazine, doing everything from attending gigs, meeting local musicians, and getting free CDs. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I hate listening to the radio, and I haven’t really gone out and bought a music CD in years.

My dream job would be something like my friend’s. Her official position is book buyer. She gets to pick what books the bookstore imports. Of course in order to make such an informed decision, you need to actually read the book before ordering it in en masse. Imagine getting paid to read books? (Even if it at times, it’s books you love to hate.) And you don’t even have to pay for your book purchases. (There’s also this aristocratic power to determine what books the public will be forced to read.)

Of course there are also jobs that seem glamorous on the outside, but just as gritty as any other job in reality. Take modeling or acting for example. Most people think these professionals are having the time of their life, posing all the time and getting paid huge sums of money. Well, in all honesty, it’s not that easy. Aside from looking hard to actually land such opportunities, you have to pose in front of the camera over and over again, all the while retaining the same enthusiasm, even if the forced smile is killing you. Not to mention all the time "wasted" wearing make-up and trying out the clothes the stylist has for you. And at the end of the day, there’s the usual hassle of collecting payments and following up on your fees. Did I mention paperwork and filing of taxes is hell for a self-employed citizen?

Of course I’ve also met some people who are more enterprising than most. Rather than wait for opportunity to knock on their door, they seek them out and grab them by the proverbial horns. Granted, there’s a big risk involved in such budding entrepreneurs, but most things in life come at a steep price.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

[Essay] Broken Hearts

It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. A very true statement, although most of us would prefer to have loved and won. Heartbreak, after all, enables us to experience two extremes: happiness and despair. To a person in love, all his or her petty crushes and naive attractions simply pale in comparison. It proves to them that they are capable of so much more, but like most epiphanies, it usually comes at a hefty price. Broken hearts are seldom mended so easily. There aren’t a lot of experiences that can much up to it, and to some, the only comfort is in forgetting…

Perhaps what causes rejected lovers so much grief isn’t losing the chance at love, but losing what they perceive to be as their only chance at it. It’s all to easy to imagine, after all, that such a rare occurrence may never happen again, much like catching a glimpse of a shooting star in your lifetime. What could be more elusive, more ominous? It’s not as if we could predict when we’ll fall in love again… if ever at all.

The only true weapon we have is hope. Hope in either having another opportunity to win the love of that person, or hope in rediscovering love in someone anew. Defeated suitors and admirers despair because they’ve lost hope. We become so concerned about the present and the past that we’ve forgotten there’s still a future ahead of us. Memories of what has been and what could have been, however, haunt and plague us that it becomes too easy to succumb to sorrow.

But another way of looking at things is that a broken heart reveals to us how much more life has to offer. Before we can have our hearts broken, we must have a heart in the first place. It would perhaps be more painful to know that we’re incapable of loving, instead of simply falling in love and having our affections unreciprocated.

Some people, however, don’t feel that way. They think that they would have been better off not knowing the person who evokes such passion in us, or perhaps more importantly, better off not hoping. True, the pain would be less, for in this case, the salvation of hope is also a lover’s damnation. But that’s equivalent to choosing to remain ignorant of what one is truly capable of. It’s like catching a glimpse of paradise, and choosing to forget that such a place could exist in the first place simply because it’s unattainable. We forget that if it was truly unattainable, how did we get there in the first place? And sometimes, we think too little of ourselves that we let our self-doubts assail us with insecurities.

Yes, love is elusive, and there really is no guarantee that we’ll fall in love again, or better yet, someone will fall in love with us. Nothing in life, after all, is truly certain. Yet can we truly blame our predicament? Some people, after all, go through their entire lives never experiencing falling in love. Can we truly say that we’re better off not knowing what it is to dream, to hope, to love, even if such notions are unreciprocated?