Are there other angles to Jose Rizal? This is one of the questions raised by a recent series of exhibits celebrating the sesquicentennial of a national hero, one of the few whose status has yet gone uncontested. Instituted by academic and cultural bodies, we see Rizal as a scholar, an artist, a subversive, a colleague, and a contemporary. We are challenged to see the mortal behind the martyr, the man behind the myth. Here is Rizal as your bro in aviator sunglasses. Here is Rizal in horn-rimmed specs, the unofficial patron of a campaign awash in yellow. These were shows that asked what makes a hero, and if the the picture we are looking at is the image of the hero or the hero in our image.
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I said “you don’t.” And I meant it, but what I meant was you carry it with you, but it doesn’t have to weigh you down. The reality of a relationship lasting 5 years, and then ending, opens up the fact that anything is possible. Mikey and I knew each other for about a month before we practically became an institution. Almost a year after we broke up, people were still asking how “my boyfriend” was. Before Mikey, there was Earl, whom I had known since grade school and lasted on and off with for about 2 years. There are no formulas. Or maybe I’m batshit fucking insane? Either way, rather than get over it, it became more logical to keep the terms flexible.
The details fade, but what remains permanently embedded in my memory are the possibilities. When you say “we’ll work it out,” it’s not about something broken magically fixing itself because “you and me against the world, we are unstoppable!”. Unstoppable is a myth, “work” keeps it together.
The funny thing though about cliches is that you don’t know they’re cliches until someone tells you, which is why it’s so paradoxical that relationships are often imagined in a vacuum, as if they’re the story of no more than two people. That’s rarely ever the case. One cliche I had to figure out for myself though was that work is hard, it’s supposed to be hard, and no matter how much you want to believe that what you love is bound to come easy, there will always be a few patches of turbulence, and it’s all a matter of believing you will get through it. Otherwise, what would all that work be for? This is also why it’s impossible for someone to be married and still claim to be an atheist. Whether or not you admit it, you are in the throes of worship and you are banking not so much on love, but on belief.
“Long haul” is more about hauling, letting things (and yourselves) get ugly, all the while knowing that the prize at the end of the whole ordeal is worth far more. It’s a lot of work. You just have to keep believing that it’s worth it. If there’s anything I haven’t gotten over, it’s the fact that unless you’re functioning in a vacuum, there are no clear trajectories. That’s what I meant.