Halfway There

October 31, 2018 | 3:48PM | E train to Port Authority Bus Terminal (uptown) | New York City

This week marks my two month stay in New York. It’s been surreal. I realize the person I was in September 1st is no longer the person I am now.

Last week I was in Germany on a work trip (and vacation), and it took that trip to make me appreciate New York a bit more. I always take it for granted that I’m studying here, because if you peel off the layers, the daily anxiety I have to get by with here has really put me to my maximum.

 

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The past few days have been exhausting. I haven’t gotten around to rest from my trip as my family is here to visit (I picked them up from the airport hours after I arrived from Berlin). I’ve been lucky to have been seeing some people that remind me of home in recent weeks—from the first week of October (my kabarkada, Alyssa, visited New York) to my quick trip to Texas (where I met my godmother’s family), to Germany (one of my good friends lives in Berlin) to now, as I took my mom and brother around the city.

Growing up, I have remained distant with my family. Ever since my father passed when I was nine, I have become independent and more self-reliant. Which, of course, is a good thing—but also, it isn’t. I grew apart from my mother and siblings. I preferred spending my weekends with friends because they seemed to care more about me. It went on for maybe three years (ever since I started my career, basically). It wasn’t until I had to face the fact that I had to tell my family I had no more plans to settle in Manila, and maybe New York would be where I was meant to be (spoiler alert: nope, I am not living here, no doubt) that we became more open to communicate as a family.

So getting to take them around the city this week was really fun. I found out my mom liked museums (we went to Guggenheim and she spent more time looking at artworks than I did), and my brother is pretty cultured for a 17-year-old (he picked up a book at Strand which is an anthology of stories in North Korea, and reads George Orwell’s 1984 during downtime) who happens to take good pictures (hahaha). I found out my brother and I are stingy AF and are quick decision makers when it comes to shopping (finally, I have someone exactly like me!). These are things I never really took time to discover about them since I mostly work when I’m in Manila.

I seem to be fumbling here and there about how things are because honestly, I have not had enough time to digest everything and be in a state of calm for the longest time. Being here just makes your thinking even more fuzzy with all the distractions and overwhelming things you encounter on a regular basis.

***

4:36PM | 42nd St, Bryant Park

For a time, I have always asked myself the same question: why suffer when you can just live comfortably and settle in Manila? Why keep going? Trust me, I can’t find the answers either. I just keep pushing myself to my limits despite the fear, because I honestly have nothing to lose—maybe time, but that I have already factored in.

I look back early this year as I started plotting out this “New York adventure”. I had planned on living here. I had planned on “making it” here, but after awhile those dreams slowly faded away into the distance. Did I really want to make it? What does success look like now, for me? I can’t quite figure it out either. So I think in hindsight (also because I’m a Capricorn who likes planning waaaay ahead), knowing these are out of the picture both scares and relieves me.

Back then I have always wanted to keep writing books, to keep making art for the rest of my life. But how can I keep going when I am in a crossroads? I felt like the Abbey Sy persona I have become online has evolved into someone new. Someone I am not quite sure I know, either. I’m scared of this new thing unfolding. I always have been generally scared about so many things—crippling with fear as I consciously make decisions that could make or break my own journey. It’s always been that way.

***

October in New York was hazy. I flew to Texas on the first weekend, finally getting to see Taylor Swift do her thing on stage. I was amazed. I was inspired. Also, for a twenty five year old, wow I was tired after the show. LOL. Then, I had idle time on most days wandering around the city, and I managed to break in a pair of heeled boots I got (#priorities). I also toured a few friends around Chelsea and SoHo.

Sometimes it’s nice to be able to speak in Filipino or Mandarin and feel so comfortable, right? That’s how it’s been seeing friends tbh.

I went to Brooklyn with Carly on a Sunday—the week before I left for Germany. The temperature suddenly dropped and I wasn’t ready. Three layers of sleepwear? The sudden gush of wind breezing through my hair as I walk out the door? Those were uncalled for. Fall is finally here, I realized.

I wasn’t in my best state, leaving for Germany. I knew I had a lot of issues to sort out before flying to another country. So I addressed them one by one because who else will? And if I don’t, who will suffer the consequences?

Case in point: I dropped one of my classes because I couldn’t help it. My professor was so judgmental. Initially I assumed I could be wrong, but I wasn’t. She shamed the brands of watercolors I used. When I’d call her attention for instructions, she’d do her best to speak less to me and move to the next student. It’s been 5 classes and I have not finished a single painting. 5 classes! That’s fifteen hours!

I impulsively e-mailed the school and asked to drop courses (they issued a refund, fortunately). I can’t believe that I’m still being treated this way—she reminded me so much of my 5 year old self, who was told that she wasn’t equipped to paint acrylic because she wasn’t good enough. I realized I’m not defenseless—I will always, ALWAYS fight for myself, if that is the least I could do. I can’t bear to endure things that no longer serve me.

I keep saying I’ve been negatively going through life because that’s how I’ve always seen life through my own eyes. Fighting little battles and facing my demons bit by bit as my own story unfolds. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I wish I looked at life from a brighter scale. I’m trying, I really am.

But it’s not like I dislike New York a lot. I love and hate it at the same time. This week I got to explore the city like a tourist, but with a bit of judgment because I feel more like a local now (choosing to walk instead of taking the subway, skipping the overpriced coffee and leeching internet everywhere).

The Upper East Side was nice. So was Central Park. But I realize it’s too posh for me. Today we went to East Village and explored downtown Manhattan—my favorite part of Manhattan, tbh. Lowkey and just the right amount of people.

I’m currently in Bryant Park (my favorite park for many reasons, Project Runway included) with a few minutes to spare before I head to class. They started to open the skating rink here, and there are an array of shops surrounding the lawn, making it festive in time for the holidays. Oh, right, the holidays are coming up. I’ll be home in a few weeks. I’m actually looking forward to it.

I still don’t know where home is, but I know it will not be in New York. Manila is a default, but where else could I be? I have another year to figure it out ‘til then.

And this time, maybe it’s best to not plan everything out and let nature take its course. Sounds exciting. And scary. Two things I always feel, anyway.