Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I was first formally introduced to Maya Angelou’s work in middle school, through typical fashion of many school curriculums.  This was also when I decided that English was my favorite subject.  I began to develop a fascination with literature, and vocabulary, and grammar, and the language arts in general.  I started to learn that my own voice—which, as with many people at such an age, was hard to find and convey to the world around me— was best brought to life by putting my words on paper.

Her passing struck a chord with me of unexpected intensity, and I admit that only in retrospect have I realized my true admiration for Dr. Angelou.  Seeing and hearing the greatest of her great words reverberate from every outlet helped me recognize not only her impact on the world, but how she, and many others like her, so discreetly yet intensely played a role in helping me find myself in a time when I was so lost.

While writing is not my livelihood, nor can I claim an expertise, it was the one thing I was able to gravitate toward at the age when many seek and find their “thing” in life.  Growing up, I never had a truly displayable talent.  I didn’t bring home trophies for sports, or show signs of musical prodigy, but I did find an affection for words, and the beautiful, elegant complexity of the English language.

It was through my love of word-craft that, as an awkward child, troubled teen, and still today as a young professional struggling to exist in a world full of people far beyond my age, I was able to find my place and prove my stature in ways beyond my physical presence.  I found that I don’t have to be the biggest man in the room to sometimes have the biggest word.

Maya Angelou is proof that a legacy is not really what you did, what you wore, how you looked, or what you were worth, but rather the words you leave behind that will continue to make a difference for generations beyond your own.  Words that will forever make people feel beautiful, or powerful, or free, or inspire someone like me to write in a blog I haven’t logged into for years.  I think one of the greatest achievements you can make in a lifetime is to leave behind words worth permanence.  In a way, if your words live on, you live forever.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I like myself, I'm worth a lot.

At some point over the weekend I experienced a quiet, personal manifestation of positive emotion that I’ve slowly been accumulating for the past couple of months. I had unconsciously been storing these hits of good mojo deep in the recycling bin of my mind thinking they were merely just fleeting teases at self-contentment. Like a pop-up telling me I’ve won a free ipod nano- sounds cool, but you ain’t foolin me, buddy! But over the past couple of days I apparently threw my inhibitions to the wayside and decided to take the good feeling for what it’s worth.

Probably since middle school I was in such a dark place (in my own personal sense- not to sound whiny or emo). Something seemed to always be going wrong; constantly fighting with my parents, slipping up in school, fucking up cars, ruining friendships, struggling with money- misery loves company and that bitch was hittin me up every goddamn day. I was always keeping up some sort of lie with someone at any given time- my parents, my friends, my lien-holders, even myself. My closet was bursting at the hinges with skeletons. Even if nothing I went through was necessarily the worst thing that could happen to a person, your personal battles can really take an emotional toll on you no matter how small they are to scale- especially when new ones start before any of the old ones end. It gets exhausting. Even as recently as last year I was still questioning the quality of my life and character. I felt like no one trusted me to make responsible decisions. I probably doubted me the most.

But after a few recent turns of events, and a gradual, sub-conscious change of heart, I feel like I’m on a good path for myself. I’m building a reasonably pleasant relationship with my parents, I feel like a good role model to my siblings, and after three years at my company I finally have a job that I genuinely enjoy that’s giving me legitimate experience that could possibly help me do great things. I’ve reached the point that I know I’ve chosen wisely those I call my friends, and I can easily determine who I want in my life forever and whom I can live without. My car’s still messed up but my record’s clean, my pockets are never empty, and I have never breathed easier now that I have no lies to maintain and no skeletons in my closet. The only thing I’ve been uneasy about is that fact that I have nothing to be uneasy about, and even my skepticism is at an all-time-low. I’m confident in my decisions and I think I can safely say I’m becoming a mature, responsible person. It’s like I’ve gotten to know myself better than ever before and I’m actually content with who I am and how I live my life. Maybe that’s what happens when we finally put a halt to our teenage battles- we’re able to begin putting our lives together instead of walking ahead while everything is falling apart behind us.

Don’t get me wrong- I can still get crazy and make some questionable choices. There is always room for improvement and definitely some missing puzzle pieces, and I've got a few priorities I need to take off the backburner. But I’ve realized that you don’t expect anyone to laugh at a joke unless you find it funny too. You can’t make someone smile if you’re not smiling with them. And no one is going to be satisfied with you until you’re satisfied with yourself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Greetings, from nowhere.

The second greeting to a loved one in France within a matter of months and it has driven me to madness and up way passed my bedtime. I’ve sent my regards to friends all around the world and all it’s done is remind me that I’m stuck in the same place I’ve been my entire life. The same commute, the same traffic, the same office. When do I get to be the one being greeted from America and told ‘I hope you’re having a great time!’ and ‘come home soon!’? And at what point in life did I get bolted to the ground? Sometimes you just want to chuck life the deuces and go all eat-pray-love on that bitch but then reality kicks in. Whoever said “you write your own destiny” obviously never bought a car and was definitely an only child. Right now the only person writing my destiny goes by the name of Robert Qureshi and he writes it twice a month on a piece of paper that gets deposited into my perpetually low bank account. You'd think if you had nothing then you'd have nothing to lose, but who knew the most miniscule responsibilities could pretty much dictate your entire existence? You make all these little investments in yourself as you grow up, thinking you’re building a life of your own, then sometimes they become the entire reason your life is going nowhere. Are these dues that some of us just have to pay? Or did I make a lot of bad investments?

I want to be the brooding, tormented writer- shacked up in my dingy apartment littered with discarded drafts and cigarette butts, rocking a mean 5 o’clock shadow and matted hair, slaving away at my typewriter (totally old school but way more fitting of the aesthetic I’m going for). Or the trendy, free-spirited artist taking pictures around the city or traveling the world in search of a muse. Yet the responsible adult in me still wants to make sure I can watch over my siblings and pay my car note and receive decent benefits. Can those personas ever co-exist? Probably not because the brooding writer never has a car…

It makes me wonder if I’ve forever “written my destiny” as a working stiff stuck at a crummy job. Am I destined to have the highlight of my month be a new stack of post-its? Will my only recurring feat be cleaning out my inbox? And will this stupid blog be the only source I ever write for? Or is there still a chance and a way I can trade a life of time clocks and conference calls for one a bit more passionate? Will I always be the one receiving the postcards? Or will I ever get to write them?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

fill in the blanks.

You ever go through periods of time when you seem to have lost all emotion and reaction to everything? I’ve been feeling like the entire world is moving around me and I’m sort’ve just functioning in my own space and time. I can’t recollect a single significant thing that has happened to me this week. I can’t recall the last momentous spike of any given emotion. No trace of reminiscence or outlook to the future. It’s like every second is passing and I’m merely just.. existing through them. Simple phase of intense apathy? Or a testament to something missing in my life? When my emotions come riding back on my train of thought I’ll let you know what I find out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I really miss being a student. Anyone who remembers me from high school may call bullshit, but contrary to popular belief I actually really enjoy learning. The truth is I was just completely over the high school scene from day one. There was just so much I hated about it. Picturing the physical appearance of my high school- something I don’t enjoy doing- leads me to realize how strongly it resembles a correctional facility. Just add a barbed-wire fence and a watchtower and there you have it. And the people.. Don’t get me started on the people. The obnoxious teenagers and equally obnoxious teachers who treated you like.. teenagers. Not to sound pretentious; it just obviously wasn’t my crowd. So being the person I was (still am?), I didn’t like it so I stayed away. But if I could have rounded up the group of people whose company I did enjoy- who were possibly the only great things that came out of high school- and the very few teachers I could tolerate (and vice versa), ventured off deep into the woods and held private lessons ‘Once Upon a Forest’ style, I probably would have enjoyed the whole experience considerably more.

I’ve had only one brief encounter with college life, and I really loved it. Granted it was an English class- a subject which I’d enjoy regardless- and the professor was easily likeable. But, I enjoyed everything about that one semester. Walking campus was such a breath of fresh air compared to high school. I was surrounded mostly by quiet, well dressed adults who were willingly paying money to be there, seeking an education rather than head in the stairwell. I know- look at this college noob conjuring up this image of some higher-education-utopia. I’m sure it has its generous share of grievances; I just feel it’s way more my style. Many people my age are beginning to outline their careers and map out their game plan for the working world, but I decided to be stubborn and now I’m working in reverse. Hopefully the cards start playing in my favor soon, because Lord knows I am WAY overdue for a decent hand. Until then, this working stiff will keep on dreaming: Erine Canlas, ___________, Class of ____.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I was browsing amazon for a new leisure-read when, mostly due to the immediate effect of good marketing, I thought for a quick second that I possibly wanted to invest in a Kindle. Then I immediately came to my senses realizing that a) I don’t read nearly enough to justify the purchase of such a product, and b) I suddenly, as in, within a matter of 30 seconds, formulated an entirely new schpeal which has led to the making of this blog entry. I’ve realized, or realized further than I already did, that the imaginings of the past are now surfacing into reality. EVERYTHING is adopting a digital version, most of which are becoming the norm rather than the alternative. Cameras, books, sex, CIGARETTES! What previously-timeless novelty is still available in organic form these days? It’s not that I don’t recognize or benefit from the spectacular world of technology. I think it’s just the angsty, wannabe-artist in me that wants to argue in defense of the once tangible pastimes of the world.

I fear the possibly imminent extinction of that beautiful, ghostly sensation that comes from paper and ink. The way the pages of a book yellow and wither at the edges, and how they stack haphazardly on desks, collecting dust and history; a book can sometimes tell a story of its own before you even get into its pages- inscriptions inside covers, rips, stains, wiggly spines and fraying fibers. There’s something magical in a collection of books. What would ‘Beauty and the Beast’ be if instead of the Beast revealing to Belle the magnificent library he pulled a Sony e-reader from his back pocket? My grandmother used to have a bookcase filled from end to end with every issue of National Geographic spanning the duration of probably ten years. I was mesmerized just at their existence alone. I would sit in front of the shelf and read the ascending dates filed one after another. I would run my hands across the bumpy scale of glossy yellow spines, some yellows a little darker, some a little brighter. The collection alone was just beautiful. As convenient as it is to have your subscription of Nat Geo delivered automatically to your ipad, I just don’t think that accessibility could ever trump the brilliance of my grandmother’s collection.

I guess I’m just trying to remind people of the wonderment in things you can hold and touch; pages you can flip and things that can age along with you instead of preserving in megabytes and pixels. When’s the last time you made a photo album? And I don’t mean a geo-tagged, facebook album.. I mean those things piled high in your parents’ basement filled with timelines of your childhood pressed between sticky pages. When’s the last time you sent a postcard? I recently received one from a dear friend while she was studying in France, and it’s amazing how this little piece of cardstock can go such a long way- geographically and metaphorically. I mean, think about it- this traveled from some quaint gift shop in Nantes, through postal services, on planes, and now I have a piece of France laying on my beside table. An email just doesn’t seem as significant, does it?

I know technology is the way of the world. It’s the grounds of modern-day society, and I’m pretty sure we would all crumble to pieces without it. But let this be just a small reminder of all things tangible. It’s silly of me to think these novelties will ever truly die, but I’d like to raise some awareness anyway. I just hope that 40 years from now, in the backseat of my grandchildren’s flying cars, there are still a few magazines and a good book to be found.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

lesson learned.

The greatest lessons are the kinds that are taught to us once, but we continue to learn from for the rest of our lives. My Grandfather had so many lessons to teach- so many words of wisdom and insightful parables, humbling stories and mantras to live by. But it wasn’t while I was growing up, as he taught me all he had to teach, that I really took from his knowledge. The years he was alive, though some of the greatest of my own, were not the ones during which I really learned what it was he was always trying to teach me. It’s been the past three years, since he’s been gone, that everything he’s instilled in my mind has started to come to light. I always feel like he wrote the book on everything- the value of a dollar, the benefits of hard work, and the ability to determine what you want, what you need, and what you should be doing in life. Determination, courage, compassion, humility. The ability to make something- sometimes everything- out of nothing. To take a past so dark or discouraging, and use it to mold the best future you can possibly dream of for yourself. All the lessons he used to teach me I’m finally truly understanding.

If you’ve ever lost someone monumental in your life,you tend to ask yourself “Am I living up to their expectations?” “Would they be proud of who I am today?” “Is this the life they’d have wanted me to live?” I’m beginning to realize that I am, in fact, living the life my grandfather wanted me to live- my own. He wanted me to make mistakes, so long as I learned from them. He wanted me to fall into ruts every now and then, and know what it feels like to have nothing at all, only so I can practice pulling myself out and gunning for everything I want. He wanted me to find myself, and take as much time as I need, so as to be sure I find my right self and not rush into something I’m not. These are all lessons he was able to teach while he was alive, but nothing I was able to start learning until he was gone. When he used to teach me math he would go over a few problems again and again, showing me over and over how he got the answer, then he would walk away and make me finish the rest on my own. He knew I would never truly learn if he was there telling me what to do the entire time.

I think the people who touch your life the most are the ones that leave you. You can never really tell the impact someone has made on your life until they’re no longer in it. I’ve lost a couple great people, neither of which lived to see me become an adult. Yet, somehow, they make up most of who I am today. Nothing will ever erase the love and compassion I was shown while they were alive, but it’s the years I’ve spent, and am going to spend, without them that are the true testament to their magnitude.

Three years ago, today- almost exactly to the hour- my Lolo left this world. Though the day commemorates a moment of my life where my heart was at its heaviest, I can’t help but feel an odd sense of cheerfulness amidst the solemnity. Putting his lessons into practice as I grow into a man is like figuring out the clues to a treasure hunt. Everything that I’ve carried with me for so many years is finally starting to make sense, and I feel like I’m finally headed to where I want to be in life. I have a long way to go, but I’ve had the best of teachers, and because of him I’m confident that I’m smart enough, or becoming smart enough, to find the right paths. Even if I take the wrong ones from time to time, my Lolo always had a knack for making his own shortcuts.

I know you can't read this, Lolo, but I love you, I miss you, and I thank you. For everything.