A quick list of things I did during my three-month sabbatical (October–December 2017).
Strolling the alleyways of Chania, Crete.
After reading “My Family’s Slave,” Alex Tizon’s story in the Atlantic, my mind has been a cauldron.
I publish something on a blog when I have something to say, when a point can be made. I’m quiet otherwise. But real life happens in between status updates, doesn’t it? The mundane and uneventful, the low points, the days I feel ugly and inadequate — I wait until it all passes, until something crystallizes from the buildup.
I know myself. I won’t finish any of them. Instead of letting them rot in unpublished limbo, I’ve lifted each draft — each false start — and pasted them below, one by one. Perhaps together, these fragments might create something.
And now, I can’t write that post here. The words were fluid in my head: a space where nascent ideas are brilliant, where then and now blend, and where everything makes sense. My shower creates a similar space: when I wash my hair, the running water and the mundane task at hand release the flow of thoughts. Yet when I sit and try to put these words down, I can’t slip back into that zone.
Although the book failed as a whole, particular moments ascend above the dry, soulless narrative. They pierce through the pages, as if the wave on my graph rises in the physical space in front of me.
I realized I needed to let go of my 20-year search for this rock—and understand that it was okay to stop chasing the memory, to stop luring it to the surface. Because the memory’s elusiveness makes it precious. And because it was a perfect day for my aunt and me to create a new memory, and to select a new spot—just for us—for the next decades to come.
1. My mother and father, both born in the Philippines, move to the United States and meet one another, or
2. My mother (or father) moves to the United States, but my father (or mother) does not, or
3. Both my mother and father don’t leave the Philippines, but still meet each other, or
4. My mother and father never meet one another.
As a whole, The Garden of Earthly Delights is cohesive: the chaos, ultimately, makes sense. The first time I looked at it, in my art history class in high school, I was perplexed—even uneasy. Since then, this painting has become a metaphor for how I put things together, as a memoirist and thinker.