This is Cornell’s counterpart of the college I currently teach at. Pretty awesome. We have a lot of catching up to do, once we get our heads out of our asses.
It should come as no surprise that the most miserable people I know are also the most codependent; the ones who seek validation in the opinions of others and tie their worth to numerous associations and relations. Bloodlines in so many ways.
It should come then as no surprise that the failure of an institution to remain relevant can be traced to its failure to adapt in the midst of an undeniable shift; by stubbornly clinging to archaic definitions of words that are as ambiguous as “home” and “family”; by stubbornly insisting on these terms as absolute, infallible, and forcing standards where only discussion should suffice.
On paper, I come from a pretty standard setup: mom, dad, one older brother, one older sister. I am the youngest. It’s everything off the record that makes the story interesting (to say the least). Throw in separation, bizarre divisions of both space and finances, and the growing rift between my eldest brother and the rest of the family.
“You seem really happy to tell such a sad story,” said a guy I met in Vietnam. I wasn’t happy to tell it, but I saw no reason to feel sad about it either. It happened, it was done, and it was up to me to allow that weight to bear itself on my shoulders. It could be a burden, or it could be just that, a story.
If I learned anything from traveling, it’s this: it’s not who you know, it’s who you meet. That may sound like the kind of ethos that drives people to climb the social ladder by rubbing elbows and shedding every ounce of dignity they have left in favor of being seen, but my bottom line is that people are not inherently evil. Sure, they may be a little inept and dull at times, but no matter where you are, someone is bound to help you out with whatever it is you need. It’s up to you who to trust, but you’ll never develop a nose for this until you get out there and stop living in someone else’s shadow.
You could argue that people are only nice to me because I’m a girl (I’ve heard it), but that’s beside the point.
The point is there is always more. More people, more places, more ways to live a life from moment to moment and tragedy to tragedy and dream to dream, and by reserving a non-negotiable spot in your heart for a person or a goal by virtue of blood relations, you may be limiting yourself to whatever it is everyone else has to offer—Filipino or not, family or not. You may actually be cheating yourself, digging a deeper hole in which to fit the reality of a diaspora, poverty, and all the other social injustices I won’t name here that are present in our society.
This is why I’ve always found it so bizarre that Filipinos get all righteous about being open and hospitable, when we just keep hitting a brick wall in terms of this “family first” crap.
It’s ridiculous to think that someone will never fail you just because they’re your friends, why should it not be just as ridiculous to expect the same of family members? It’s in this acceptance of shortcomings and failures that I’ve learned to accept that my parents are human and will betray and disappoint just as much as anyone else. It’s through this that I’ve learned to feel secure knowing that the world has more to offer than the lessons learned in the confines of a house that may not have always felt like home. Because there are no healthy, “functional” homes, just good people.