Resilient - Weekend


Feature Story: Brian Rey Castañeda


LAST year, after breaking up with my ex, I met a guy online. He was tall, dark, and… kind. I remember one time, we were talking about our awful experiences in life and he said “Whether we like it or not, we all need to undergo some change curve in our lives.” And I told him, “You know what? The only curve that I want in my life is 24 inches in circumference.”

But what he said made me ponder some things in life, and having gone out fresh from a short-lived relationship back then, it motivated me to create a poetry book about love and the five stages of grief.

It was basically all good in the beginning. I have a close friend whose boyfriend apparently works as a supervisor in a publishing firm based in the US, and they helped me get the book published. I finished writing the book in three months and soon after, it was already out to the world. The book was retailed and marketed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I received a lot of messages and comments from friends congratulating me for my work. I also received a handful of orders from them, and from their respective friends too. Different cafes had messaged me asking if I can hold my book signing event at their venue at no cost. It was very overwhelming at first, but the only challenge was: Where do I get the funds to bring the book here?

The price of the book was around $14, and you would need to have a credit card to order one. I don’t see pre-ordering as an option for me to get the money because I want my friends to get the book then and there, on the spot, after paying me. Seeing the price of the book as somewhat expensive for a beginner, I decided to make use of an author’s discount, which cuts the price of the book to half, but this means I will not get any royalties (which I don’t care so much about). Plus, I have to take care of the shipping fees.

I thought about filing for a loan, or selling my kidney. But I got supportive friends who promised they will take care of the bill, in dollars, for me. I was of course, happy. I told them they will get whatever profit my book will earn. I didn’t mind not gaining anything monetary from it at all. I just want the book to be available here and share my words to my friends.

Fast forward, the unexpected happened. My dear sponsors’ application for visa got rejected and they have invested so much money for it. Their personal circumstances prevented them from helping me get the book here. I know it was nobody’s fault. Nobody wished for it to happen. But still, what transpired wrecked and frustrated me. How am I supposed to explain this to my friends? To the cafe I booked? To the people who expressed interest in my work?

I felt the need to be honest to people who expected to get a copy of my work so I posted an apology letter on Facebook saying I can’t give them a copy of it as promised, and I deactivated my account after to sort things out.

I went to the beach with a dear friend of mine. We talked about what happened over bottles of beer. Out of the blue, he said “Love, maybe it is not yet the finished product.” And it was an eye opener for me. Maybe the book needs more polishing, I thought, and it does need one. Since then, I made revisions on the book to make it a better version of what it was before. I added and removed parts of it, even changed the layout and the title. And now, I can proudly say I already have the finished version of it.

Last June, our company joined the Cebu Literary Festival, where we were given a booth to showcase whatever artsy and literary items we have. I’ve had cut out pieces of my poetry displayed and my heart screams in utmost joy every time people from different walks of life take my poems with them. I receive comments like “You should get these published.” or “Create a page” or “I can relate to your poetry” or “How are these for free?” Some of them even had the cut out papers signed, and it was very overwhelming.

Today, I am on the process of finishing a second book. I am still looking for local publishers to represent my work, and one way to do it is to put myself out there. I need to get out of my comfort zone and expose myself to events like this. I am glad Stellar let me do these things, joining events and following my passion while working as a Sourcing Associate with them. It’s always good and refreshing for me to go out and be surrounded by people who live for literature and arts, and not just do a desk job and rot. In fact, Stellar supports employees or individuals who want to pursue their passion. We offer part time jobs for those who have dreams in other fields to fund, and chase.

I remember last month I was here on the same spot, doing Pecha Kucha, my first public speaking experience. Pecha Kucha is a speaking engagemeent where you have 20 slides about your life, career, your dog, potatoes or whatever you want to talk about and you have twenty seconds to tell a story per slide. I must say I struggled because of the time pressure, but I was able to get thru it. People were laughing at my jokes, but there was this one person who looked at me with so much disgust and hate on his face from the moment I started speaking until I finished. I don’t want to call it homophobia (but you know one when you see one) and my heart breaks every time I think about it.

When I got home, I had a hard time sleeping remembering his face and I messaged Chardi, my colleague, about it. I told him how bad I felt and that I might not present myself on stage again because of that. I felt convinced that time talking in public is not for me, and that it wasn’t my calling. He said “You could’ve looked at the people who were laughing at your jokes.” And I thought, yeah. He was right. Why do we seek validation from people who can’t appreciate us? Why do I not feel good enough just because of that one person in this room who didn’t like what I was doing?

I realized what we are is not defined by the circumstances served on the table, but how we respond to them. I mean, I could have chosen not to do public speaking again because of that traumatic experience, but here I am: I chose not to be a victim. I know my worth and purpose in life is for the people who believe in me, and just because someone didn’t like your voice it doesn’t mean you should shut up at the expense of others who need to hear it. This is my second public speaking event, and I chose to be here to become better.

Think of yourself as a wire. People or circumstances are meant to bend you or twist you, because you are resilient.

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