thinking

Passing 40

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IMG_4491I didn’t die at age 40, much to my dismay. You know how it is — at age 22, 27, even 30 — you think you know so much, you think the world has become so tiresome. You think that you’ve seen it all, experienced everything life has to offer, and that 40 is a good age at which to end it.

I used to think that at 40, I would have accomplished a lot. I’d be at the top of the career pile, have a couple of grown kids, done some charity work for the conscience, cultivated lifelong friends. As a know-it-all in my 20s I thought, my god 40 is so old, I don’t want to live through that.

How little did I know. I’ve known all along that grown ups do not have all the answers, that was obvious to me even at a young age. You see the adult mouth agape and lacking the words, the eyes tinged with fear of the unknown. So I didn’t really put that much expectation or anticipation to growing older or wiser.

And age proved me right, today at age 40-something I’ve learned that the more you know, the more you realize there is a whole other lot you don’t. I’ve passed the big 40 a few years ago, and I’m seeing there is life beyond it. We’ll see how the rest of it goes.

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All Quiet on the Afghan Front

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Friday is everyone’s day off, and most of the guys here, exhausted from the 10- to 14-hour-day work week, would shut themselves up in their rooms and sleep it off. I’m the only one that takes the day off on Saturdays, so on most Fridays it’s just me out on the camp and the few gurkha guards that rotate and stay on security duty all days of the week. Fridays are time sheet days, that’s when I spend most of the day going over the hours everyone logged flying planes and choppers, repairing them, or doing other support work that is necessary in getting our birds to fly.
As a brief diversion, I like to take my coffee mug and sit outside at the little gazebo where we have our barbeques and gatherings. On Friday afternoons such as this, at 1400, with no missions, no flights coming in or out, no one else is around. I have the entire sweep of the view to myself. The camp looks abandoned, everything seems at a standstill. The gates are closed, the hangar doors are shut, the helicopters are still. Even the dust seems to have stopped its incessant swirling. I sit still and enjoy the quiet. No one will be in sight for hours, if I am lucky.
After a week of being attentive and tending to people’s needs, I feel relief just sitting here, no one to talk to, no one to listen to. Kandahar is home to such contradictions–a frenetic pace all week, and then suddenly you have this pocket of absolute quiet. The sky above is a cloudless blue, so crisp and clear it makes me think of the hidden island beaches of my hometown. Looking out on the flight line, I can almost believe there is a sliver of blue out there on the horizon, a secret beach with waters warm as milk. Almost.
I think about everything and nothing in particular, letting my mind drift and relax for a few minutes. A lot of times, I hear people complain about the bleakness of this place, how there is not much to do or see, how nothing much happens. At times like this, in the stillness of the moment, I don’t mind the bleakness as much. In fact, it is a welcome respite from all the noise of the week that was. I miss the quiet that allows for a little bit of introspection, sometimes I think I crave it.
This is my second year here, and I admit there are times I curse the luck that has brought me to Afghanistan. But for most times, strangely enough, I am grateful–glad even–to be here.

Loving, Leaving

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Lately, I have been re-visiting Vagabonding, the travel site that I have liked for years now. I chanced upon this entry that is about loving and leaving: the perils of falling in love while on the road, or while temporarily ensconced in some place. I can truly relate, and left a comment on the post, something I rarely do.

“For commitment-phobics, this could be a sweet deal, knowing that the relationship already comes with a built-in way out. For me though, while I am not strictly traveling 3-4 months a year, I am a temporary resident in another country and I go home every 3-4 months. It effectively puts relationships in limbo status — you can’t expect to form fully committed relationships where you are currently in country, and yet you can’t keep up a steady one at home because you’re away for most of the year. It does not mean you can’t have any relationships, though, it just means (well for me, at least) that you have to set more realistic expectations. That, and you better be prepared for a lot of goodbyes.”

I wonder if this will be true for me anytime soon.

The Season’s Soft Fade

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It all fits together somehow, the series of little events that have begun to draw this year to a close. Each one signifies an ending, a tying up of loose ends, telling me to gracefully accept the passing of things I used to (or have tried to) hold dear. I had always imagined a different way of growing old, but this, I guess is how it will unfold for me.

It’s my season for forgetting, and it starts slowly.

I kissed an old woman who no longer remembers me. Someone introduces me to his wife, his unblinking stare pleading with me, “Please, for the love of God, don’t be surprised. ” A grown man buys me a beer, assuming that I still drink it. I am asked for the nth time “When did you stop smoking?” in this, my ninth year free of nicotine. In the darkness, inside a speeding car, I am introduced as Somebody’s Ex. A curious crowd intermittently talks to me across the table, but not one is brave enough to ask the question that’s in everyone’s eyes. I’m told that I look like the ghost of the girl in that movie, and I just smile. No, I do not. Or at least, I do not see the resemblance.

I turn to someone for a little solace, and he turns, unknowingly, away.

At the end of each night out, I go home to a full house, but as always, I go home alone. And I’m sad that all this doesn’t make me feel anything but a vague ache, as though everything that’s recently happened is already nostalgia. It’s a faint kind of sadness, not particularly keen or piercing, just dust falling to dust, just the blue tones of one more evening descending, just the sinking of a dull sun and the soft, silent fade to gray.

Just me in the great big world, growing old.

Wishes on Paper

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I took this picture at a Chinese temple in Cebu. It’s a snapshot of a pile of wishing papers on a bench. The way it works: you take a piece of paper, make a wish, and then roll the paper into a tube, tucking in the ends while leaving the gold paint visible on the outside. Then you take your rolled wishes (make as many wishes as you want, why not), and burn them on the altar along with some incense, petitioning the docile buddhas to grant your heart’s desires. It sounds so easy.

No wonder I didn’t trust it. No paper wishes for me, I remembered thinking. Better to talk directly to the powers that be. I just knelt on the red satin cushions and bowed three times, waving the smoke of the incense around my head.  When I finished, I felt light, even calm, as though my worldly cares were lifted. Even when I turned and walked away, I could still see the benign smile of the buddhas.  The rotund little gods kept smiling the entire time, smiling with the careless abandon of those that promise nothing, but accept all.

I should have known, then. I should have.

Job Stats: Back to Square One

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It’s now 11 days since I’ve been let go from my job. I recovered pretty quickly from the shock of it, and I haven’t been idle. I’ve pounded the keys sending resumes online as well as the pavements of Manila going to that one interview, so far. I’ve even polished a few resumes of my lost team members in an effort to help them land good tech writing posts. I send them prospective job opportunities I see online. I’ve renewed membership in online job search sites, made several versions of my resume (4 at last count), and have begun some subtle networking among my contacts.

These numbers illustrate my attempts to be part of the working masses for the last 11 days. And yes, I am counting the weekends for job hunting. I got no job, ergo, weekends don’t count for much.

And so, willy-nilly here we are:

3 applications in process

3 applications kept for reference

2 applications withdrawn (unsuccessful)

1 interview in person so far – most thrilling, but no call as yet

22 applications sent through JobStreet

6 applications sent through JobsDB

6 applications sent directly to companies through their career sites

3 referrals (helpful souls who forward my resume or try to sell me to employers)

I keep my new shoes on hand, clean and polished, ready to roll. My resumes are proofread to a crisp. Job interview outfits are ready in the closet, wearable at a moment’s notice. I would like to have another interview soon, if only to restore my faith in the recruitment industry—that companies are indeed recruiting.

I’m beginning to master the art of dressing up as though you have an office to go to. I leave as though to go to work in the morning, spend time in net cafes sending out resumes and checking job posts, do some window shopping to while away a few hours, write in my notebook, plan my household budget, take my kid to school, hang out at book stores, think about going into business, try to entertain only positive thoughts. I do this everyday.

Today is Tuesday, practically just the beginning of a work week for those that are lucky enough to still be employed. I am optimistic that the job is out there, waiting to meet me. I hope I can keep the positivity and the energy up, even as the days unwind and my savings are that much closer to dwindling. I am more than just a skilled worker, I am educated, multi-faceted, quick on my feet, and with the proven ability to forward plan. And yet, I am out of a job.

I have so much to offer, I handle people well, and I am loyal to a fault.

For God’s sake, hire me.

Accounting, But Not Adding Up

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And so even with my dread of numbers, I find that the ruminations of the day need to be addressed numerically, if only to shore up with logic that which does not abide by it. Today I am finished with work duties, and my mind meanders to thoughts that I have been avoiding all the long weekend. Numbered for convenience but never sequentially, here’s the state of my being.

3 – glances from strangers last week, as though they know me, and then 3 glances away.

1 – whom I wish were dead remains all too near, and by all appearances, not dying anytime soon.

787 – the number of times I think friends have taken advantage of my kindness/graciousness.

2 – my kid’s teeth that have come out ahead of time while baby teeth are still hanging steady.

2 – cellphones lost and two new ones bought as replacements. One given to me by the universe.

4 – unread books on the shelf, mocking me and my pretense of not having time to read.

2 – men I love/have loved are now oceans away from me, and I do not know if any of this at all matters.

3 – redesigns made on this blog, before I arrived at this one. All excuses to avoid actual posting.

12 – episodes watched of Bones, season 4, all in one sitting.

22 – mini meatballs I made over the weekend and forgot to photograph for the food blog that I do not update.

What does all this add up to, I wonder? Randomness that boings back and forth into the universe?  I maintain that I couldn’t care less whether or not I make an audible ping out there.  It’s just that lately, the universe seems to be applying a vastly different equation to me.