By Rachel Arandilla
PEOPLE don’t want comfort. They want purpose. That was lacking in my life in Cebu, three years ago. I wanted to stir myself from my calm slumber, as I had been comfortably sleepwalking in the rudiments of life; day in, and day out.
And so I became footloose, going to places as I explore realities and made them my dreams; and validated my dreams into realities. I traveled not to move, but to be moved.
But now that I’m back in my hometown, I felt like other people had more fantastical dreams about me.
No, I did not get divorced (nor did I get married to anyone in the first place).
No, I did not moonlight as a stripper to pay off my studies.
No, I did not run off with a cult and become the fourth wife of the cult leader.
I have heard enough legendary tales of myself I never even heard about; and each tale I hear being more absurd than the last one.
I chuckle because I honestly sound more interesting in these fantastical tales. Inasmuch as I have encountered a cast of interesting people, I’m a vanilla character when juxtaposed against them.
I wasn’t Barney Stinson, I was Ted.
I wasn’t Sheldon, I was Leonard.
I wasn’t a hot Bond girl, I was the bland bore named James Bond.
As I uncover different characters in my travels, I learned from them, even mimicked them according to their habits, accents and interests. But I was just an empty, reflective shell mirroring off the vividness of everyone around me.
I traveled, first of all, to gain new identities. This was all very exciting coming from a small-town girl from Mindanao, who once didn’t stand a chance at the lottery called life. Because of the terrorist conflict in her town, the little girl spent most of her days indoors dreaming of adventure and exploration and whirlwind romances.
Travel has finally given her that limitless potential.
Isn’t it liberating, that we no longer need to inherit from our parents our identity, status, geography or religion? That we can discover uncharted ground and claim new roles for ourselves?
That we can become heretics, or monks, or mermaids, or prodigal daughters? However, the real allure of travel was not in gaining new identities but in losing them.
When that old woman across the street smiles at you because she trusts you. I felt warmth in my heart because she sees me at my most basic — a fellow human being — and that was all that mattered.
I found myself happiest when I incapacitate the definition of self — as I severed the ties defined by family, or career, or educational pedigree. In a faraway land, none of that bullshit matters.
Faraway, I was invisible; and it feels fucking amazing.
I can make mistakes.
I can ask that person out.
I can try.
I made the world my open-ended laboratory-testing the tolerance of my moral compass; experimenting the limits of my self-recovery and redemption; finding the things that set my soul on fire.
Making mistakes was safe, but life isn’t all about fun and games and it was time to wake up. Yes, I had ventured out there, but that did not make me brave — rather, it was coming back and finally facing my reality.