I wake up in the belly of a big fish. Pretty odd for a girl who cannot swim but here we are. I look at the clock and become so grateful I have five, six minutes to lay perfectly still, summon cheerleaders, create a pep talk for myself.
By some miracle or magic I make it to school. I stand beside my teacher who’s showing me my grades. “As you can see, because of this activity and this quiz and your absence last….” I didn’t catch most of it. All I needed was the digits that will dictate how good I’ve been, whatever that means, and I stare at the lines and curves of the numbers and wonder when I stopped caring about excellence. Because I want to start caring again. The rest of the class is a lull. Turns out most of my classmates wanted to know the stories behind their numbers. I sit there. My phone beeps.
A professor who used to mentor me somehow reached me despite me being mostly off the grid. She asked me if I was already working, because she needed a photographer, and we’ve worked together before, I wrote a documentary script for her before, for Assignment Asia —
Hey, this was my life before. Saying yes to everything. Carrying a camera and a recorder and a notebook everywhere. I used to be… good at it. And I knew. I was sure. Today, not so much. My camera feels like a ton of bricks in my hand.
Later in the day, I talked to an old friend. Asked me how I’ve been. He hadn’t been in town for months so he had no clue. It was refreshing to talk to a human with no preconceived speech to “cure” me. I told him many things, the obvious emptiness of my life, the digits I got in school, the job offers I get and refuse and my dream that’s perpetually on hold. I told him I’ve been waking up in the belly of a whale. He nodded. Took out a notebook and a pen.
We talked about commitment. Anger. Contentment. Life priorities. About doors that open and doors that close. By the end of it I was trying hard to not cry. My life was in lines and squares on his paper.
But somehow, it felt like somebody poked a hole to let light in. Or maybe the fish opened its mouth. Ready to spit me out. I don’t know. But the winds are changing and I’m not drowning on sunny days anymore, and if it amounts to anything – I’ve been, writing. I always have been but the words cooperate now.
I stopped putting on a show for people a long time ago. What you see is what you get. I hope tomorrow I get to be a ray of sunshine for all my friends but that’s far-fetched. But hey, I can be a dilapidated shack and light can still pass through the cracks in the walls – particles of dust dancing around even when there’s absolutely no sound.