Turning point

Five years ago, around this time (my birthday weekend), I made the decision to step down from the arts organization I co-founded. At the time it might have seemed like a rash decision—made shortly after an email exchange/meeting when I realized that I was basically fighting with my own team. But behind closed doors, I was already building up to the decision, and that moment made it clearer that I needed to let go. And so I did. As much as I wanted the organization to move towards my vision, it already had a life of its own and I didn’t want to be in its way.

For better or for worse, I will always carry the memories, the challenges, and the lessons I learned from that experience. During this period in my life I like to think I had mettle. That I was brave and bold and fair when facing tough situations and decisions. Even though I had plenty of doubts which often kept me up at night, I still continued to believe in myself, my instincts, and my leadership. I feel like I lost that somewhere along the way.

So now here I am, the weekend before my birthday, at a similar moment after a turbulent month at work. Do I stay or do I go?

I already know the answer. I’ve been saying for a few years now that I need to move on and find employment elsewhere because I was stunting my own growth. But that was just my brain talking; my heart was in it still, if I want to be honest with myself. But not now. Not anymore. I’ve lost faith. Even my body knows it.

I want to be that Jenny who five years ago was brave and bold and believed in herself and made a decision even if it hurt to let go.

It’s August which means it’s the start of the school year and the time for new beginnings?

I was supposed to write a post about the story behind my family’s objects on display as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s newest exhibit, Many Voices, One Nation (will write it up, I promise), but instead I felt compelled to write about my job. I used to refer to it as my “day job” (now it’s the only job). Without giving too many specifics, I work at a college and review international student applications. I fell into the work and it kind of stuck. Well, I got stuck.

But there are days that are brighter than most.

All summer I’ve been feeling pretty low. It was a daily struggle to get up in the morning, respond to that email, review that application. I started to not care. Not care about the students. Not care if I did well or not. I don’t like not caring. Feels like you lose a bit of yourself every time it happens.

Today I met a new student from Australia and his family. I walked them around campus a bit. We talked about the county, the museums they visited in Washington, DC, America and its refusal to use the metric system (really, we should convert to metric—it makes so much more sense). Maybe it was because they asked questions about me (this rarely happens, international students and their parents being genuinely interested in me as a person). Or maybe it was their family dynamic–how they trusted their child and the school, how they believed he would have a good experience. I suddenly found myself, without realizing it, hoping the same for him.

I’m not saying this student renewed my faith in my job. There’s a lot more there I have to unpack and work through. But it was a nice reminder that I wasn’t as cold and unfeeling as I thought I had become.

Camp Artscape

On Saturday I dragged my sister to Artscape in Baltimore. This is the third year in a row I’ve gone to Artscape. The first was in 2015 when I volunteered for a few shifts. Now it’s slowly becoming a summer tradition.

Like last year, I was looking forward to the artist market. I love walking from booth to booth, admiring the art, and buying artwork when I come across something I love (and within my budget, of course). Last year I bought a screen print of the English alphabet and numbers in highlighter pink from Baltimore Print Studios. It’s on display at my work desk and served as the inspiration for the rest of that particular wall of my cubicle.

I didn’t walk away with artwork this time, but I did buy a ring made from traditional Japanese textiles by Tigerlilly Shop. It’s so pretty I want to wear it every day! (no pic, unfortunately).

Shortly after I bought the ring, it started to drizzle. Neither of us checked the weather before we left the house. (I swear it was only supposed to rain on Sunday!) But we continued to walk through the streets keeping our fingers crossed that the summer storm would hold back, even just a little.

No such luck.

At least we were able to get food right when the wind picked up. We walked through the rain, clutching our bowls of bibimbap until we found a building with an overhang.

IMG_7522
Our view as we ate with our backs to the wall of some building.

I actually love summer rain storms. (Don’t let this post fool you). Running through the rain, not caring about my clothes getting drenched. There’s a sense of freedom somehow in letting the rain wash over you while others hide from it like it’s the proper thing, or the only thing to do. But I digress. This post is about Artscape, not rain storms.

After eating lunch we went in search of ice cream and caught a few musical acts along the way. On the way back to the car I spotted the cutest little sunglasses. There it was, just chillin on the bricks.

IMG_7534

And that, my friends, was our time at Artscape 2017. Seriously, aren’t the sunglasses just the cutest thing?

(I’m still getting used to writing recaps so forgive the lack of focus of this post).

grandfather

Earlier this week I went to the funeral of a dear family friend. Growing up in a tight Filipino American community, my generation called him “Lolo” (as we do with all elders of a certain generation). It means “grandfather.”

I was holding back tears throughout the day and I couldn’t help but think back to six years ago, July, when my own maternal grandfather died weeks before my parents were set to travel to the Philippines to see him. He was the only grandfather I knew. My dad’s father died decades before I was born. Yet I probably spent more time with Lolo than I did with my actual grandfather (whom I called Itay which means “father”). It’s not his fault–or anybody’s, really. That’s the nature of a transnational family. People get left behind. Decades pass until you see each other in person. Technology may advance and be readily available but not in every corner of the world.

My fondest memory of my grandfather was in 2006. I had just graduated from college and the family went on a long-awaited trip to the homeland before I had to start my first professional job. By this time, his health had already deteriorated and he was mostly blind. We really couldn’t understand each other. He was a Waray speaker through and through. Me: English. Maybe a little Tagalog.

I was sitting on a bench outside of his house when a stray cat jumped on the table and I screamed in fright. He was sitting across the table and immediately turned towards me and began to ask where the cat was, waving his arm from side to side to dissuade it from returning. This gesture of protection was one of the rare times I felt so loved by a grandparent. Here was this person who didn’t know me that well and could barely see but none of that mattered. I was scared and he was by my side.

Thanks, Itay. 

Found Poem: Declaration of Independence

armed with truths, we are the new guards of our future
friends and brethren, we govern with a purpose
in this world, we are formidable, independent populations
our towns, though distant, have no boundaries
we are free
present and divine
connected by common trials, rights, and laws
a people invested in justice and consent
a people absolute in their pursuit of happiness
but the powers of the earth and oppression
cause dangers of unparalleled allegiance and invasion
reducing liberty to swarms of bodies without life
a long train of repeated injuries

we are instruments of opinion
of tyranny
of honor and obstruction
may we not be deaf to the voice of justice
and protect and pledge
that we are
a free people

*Found poem: when you take words that resonate with you from another piece of literature and create a poem from those words. This is the poem I “found” in the Declaration of Independence.

Here we go again

Blogging Round 2.

In May I finally let my jennylares.com domain expire. It was about time too since I hadn’t updated the blog in years (that, and I somehow lost access to the blog so I actually couldn’t update it). This time around I’m committed to writing more, sharing more, being more courageous.

The title of the blog is the same as the title of my latest chapbook, first published in 2010. Three Generations is a collection of poems grounded in movement and migration, change and understanding, and in conviction and appreciation. It is an experiment in finding peace with my own history forever intertwined with my family’s and the fates of nations I call “home.” It’s more than an exploration of “generational gaps.” It’s a statement. An assertion of where I’ve come from and a reminder that with everything I do, “I am the one who is fortunate / to even write these words without punishment.”

This blog is, in many ways, an extension of that chapbook and greater than it. It’s also going to be filled with some silly, fun, and hopefully funny things.