adapting to unusual circumstances.


at this point in life, i am again faced with horrible, stupid questions in order to apply for things that i'm ambivalent about. but i have to do it. i must answer them. it is required. i've tried doing nothing for the past eight months, and it didn't suit me well. the question this time is to describe a time i've had to adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

i don't really know how to answer. so i'm blogging about it. this is a brainstorming session because it's all i know how to do: ramble and ramble and hope that at least part of what i've written makes some sense. my first instinct is to talk about how, as a minority, i've always had to adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

i've gone to private schools my whole life. now that i'm struggling in the "real world" to find some sort of meaning, i feel like i'm continually confronted with the condescending sonny, who calls his brother, michael, "college boy" in the godfather (yes, a&e has been playing both the godfather and the godfather II nonstop for some reason). in private schools, kindergarten through college, i was always one of the few non-white boys. i don't really know how i "adjusted" though, since i've not really known any other way.

i dealt with stereotypes, obviously. i actually fell into them, since i was good in math at one point. then, when the numbers turned into letters, i couldn't follow anymore. mostly, i knew to behave in school. i was terrified of having ugly, old white women (namely, our grade school principal) scream at me. i knew that technically, they couldn't physically harm us, but i think that in some cases, a certain tone or one's diction is far worse than any corporal punishment. for instance, when i accidentally mumbled "fucker" right in front of my p.e. teacher, ms. goss, i think that a firm slap to the face would've been much comforting than her glare followed by her all too inhumane command: "don't ever say that word again." she didn't talk to me again for the rest of the year. i had been her favorite, i think, up until that point.

i felt that we filipinos were a strange lot. our parents all knew each other, but that didn't necessarily make us a close-knit community. there was noel and edgar, my academic competitors, and they were what filipinos would call, yabang (show-offs). edgar had a little too much filipino pride; he drew philippine flags constantly and mano'd to elders, including my parents (mano is when you take someone's hand and put it to your forehead, as a sign of respect). noel, on the other hand, mostly hung out with the white boys and lived in a super clean house. his brother had a massive collection of pornography stored in his bedroom closet and a suspicious body massager underneath his bed.

and then there was joseph, my smallish, bespectacled friend who liked to draw and who hated school as much as i did. we were friends, i think, because we both liked reading comic books and tormenting my younger cousin, byron. then, in fourth grade, dong came along. as soon as he got there, a rumor spread that he had been kicked out of every public school in the sacramento area, and that he was a terrible troublemaker. later, he would confirm this, as well as reflect on the experience of joining our class: "i was like, 'what the fuck is this?' i'd never seen so many white kids in my life!"

in high school, the asian kids drank a lot and smoked a lot of dope. in retrospect, i like to think that this had something to do with their oppression, their collective feelings of inferiority, but then again, the white kids most likely drank more and snorted harder drugs. i didn't really want to be a part of any of it. i didn't really want to do anything. i didn't want to play sports or party or smoke dope or go to class. none of it felt right. all i wanted to do was wake up.

naturally, there were general feelings of inferiority and great despair. most of us hung out by a red picnic table, and when the cafeteria was built our senior year, we hung out at the table closest to the exit. some boys played cards (pisoy-dos was the most common game), while others did homework. dong and joseph and some others would talk about the grouch, hieroglyphics, and other local hip-hop artsts i knew nothing about. at the time, i was already aware that i was a minority within a minority group, but i didn't know how to branch out. after freshman year, i assumed it was too late. i couldn't have just gone up to a group of white boys and try to fit in. could i? sometimes i saw the nerdy group sitting underneath a giant tree on the east side of campus. i thought about joining them, but i worried that they would talk about cosines and magic the gathering.

in my mind, i didn't belong to any group. i didn't belong in that school, in that city. i belonged somewhere rainy and depressing, full of angst and rock 'n roll.

so that's where i ended up going to college. the documentary hype, which i had seen five or six years prior, was also a deciding factor, specifically a live performance of the fastbacks performing the song "k street." i don't know what i was thinking. when i seriously and thoughtfully reflect on my previous twenty-five years of existence, everything i've done seems like a harebrained scheme based on compulsion and poor logic. i don't know what i'm doing now, and i don't think i ever did.

there are many things i should've done. i should've stuck up for daniel. i should've danced with jenny right away. i should've eaten lunch with the nerdy kids. during that car ride in the philippines, i should've made my uncle stop the car, and i should have refused to leave until the poor and sick and dying were taken care of. how can we go on changing doorknobs on cabinets and watering our lawns when the global rape continues? sometimes i think that i want to fight for social justice not because of selflessness and helping others out of the goodness of my own heart, but because of my tangible hatred for those on top (yes, spike tv is playing the entire star wars series nonstop).

what is the root of my paralysis? that, i think, should be the real question, since all of my life has been a series of adapting to unusual circumstances.

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