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Pia Besmonte

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Homecoming Week Ends With a Period

This week is my homecoming week. A week of coming home to poetry and writing online. As Odysseus would tell you, coming home is not a linear plot. Unprocessed emotional baggage was dropped at my doorstep. Old wounds opened, sanitized, and hopefully closed for good.

Great week, all in all. And then this morning, I had my period.

Homecoming week and Dead Stars

Remember that first short story in English by Paz Marquez Benitez titled “Dead Stars”? It was about a guy who was engaged but wanted to meet his first love again, just to make sure there were no sparks left.

As you can assume from the title, of course those sparks have died, decomposed, and became fertilizer for Manic Pixie Dream Girl plots.

I realize now that that guy = total jerk. Which mature person getting ready to marry one person for the rest of his life would seek out an old flame just to make sure he isn’t making a mistake?

I am that jerk, figuratively. This week I tried to go back to my former spaces.

Back to Normal

I went back to my Alma Mater to see if I am still called to teach there. Because even if the culture there along with some people should stay in the 1900s, I feel a deep connection to teaching because of my parents.

My parents were teachers. I am who I am because they loved knowledge. They were devoted to sending their kids to school. I assumed that I could change the world the way my parents raised me to love learning. So I took Education majoring in Literature.

I realized that the academe is an old institution. An old institution that forgot they exist to think deeply about real problems in society and then propose solutions for them. Instead, like GoT’s maesters in Olde Town, they “problematize” the concept of problems, focusing on the methods and formalities and credentials.

When students leave the academe, they are slapped in the face: credentials mean nothing out here. Out here it’s hard work that guarantees no upward mobility. Being smart does not excuse you from hard (physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual) labor. Everybody works to live.

Pay your dues, and then we talk

I realized that in our culture, more established people in any field do not care at all to help and mentor young aspirants. They raise their noses at us and tell us we’re entitled when we ask for advice.

Last week I emailed a female writer whom I have followed since I was in high school, offering to send her a free copy of my book and asking her advice about writing for Filipinas. I didn’t even receive a no, thank you reply.

It made me feel bad that I reached out and offered a copy of my book that I can’t afford to give away to just anyone. I don’t feel entitled to a response, but if I were that person knowing that I encourage some young writer I’d write back no matter how short.

I realized that I can’t expect anybody to inspire me anymore. I’d have to do it myself.

Pia Besmonte Homecoming week Statefields School Cavite

at Statefields School Cavite

 

There’s no guarantee

This is a message to all sexual assault survivors: there’s no guarantee that it will not happen to you again.

You may have gone through the stages of grieving your before self. You may have found a good man who loves you and understands that you lash out when you feel threatened or hurt. You may have rebuilt your life. You may have bid adieu to toxic people who use your story of struggle for their own (financial) agenda. You may have developed defense and comfort mechanisms for your trauma.

There’s no guarantee

Wherever you are in life after surviving sexual assault, it can still happen to you.

And you will be surprised, just like the first time. Maybe even more so than the first time. You will be taken aback by who it would be: men are wising up and donning the clothes of allies.

They will praise your courage. They will use the language of political correctness. They will beat their breasts and apologize for being born male.

But they will also look at you from head to toe, grinning lecherously. When they lead you to the stage, towards the platform you are crafting for yourself book by self-published book, they will touch you in the small of your back. They will hog your time after your “wonderful performance” (translate: your advocacy is a branding stunt), and ask stupid questions like

What are your thoughts on abortion?

To them, abortion is a Rorschach test. They will try to gauge how radical you are. How cruel to fetuses. How selfish.

Worse, it’s that lake/virginity test in high school, where boys will see if you will give them access to your blossoming breasts and other orifices. If you will let them stick their tongues in your mouth. If you will be “open-minded”.

There’s no guarantee

That you will know that you’re being harassed again as it is happening. That you even know how to respond better, defend yourself better, fight back better.

You will review the scene in your mind again and again, wondering where you started lowering your guard.

You will try to remember your words, whether you said something that admitted an opening to your more fragile selves. The way vampires in film can enter the house once the owner invites them in.

You will be angry. You will regress, go back to the time of darkness and rage. You will dissociate. You will want to shut down.

But when you do, you let them win. All without them even knowing the gravity of their action to your psyche. You let them defeat your spirit.

Then truly, there is no guarantee.

That there will be continuity. Of storytelling and coming out and being brave and creating a safe space for yourself and for others.

If you stop, there is no guarantee that they will stop abusing their gatekeeper status.

If you stop writing, there is no guarantee that the next generation of writers will not inherit that male hubris of getting away with things because they are men and good writers.

If you let them win, your message won’t reach other girls who are hiding secret stories of shame inside armors of romanticism and self-hate and aggression.

So breathe.

Make peace that it happened again, even when you think you have reached a place of strength. Especially when you think you have reached a place of strength. There is nothing you did, or could ever do, that would make you deserve to be hurt by men. It is still not your fault.

Be done with carrying the guilt meant for the harasser.

Don’t stop, and keep spreading this message.

Start When You’re Not Ready

This is my message to all of my former selves: start when you’re not ready. You’ll thank me sooner.

It was a whirlwind of emotions going back to the Alma Mater and former workplace today. At one point, I felt that I was sort of coming home, if by home one means a battlefield. It is where I was formed as a person. Where I found my voice. Where I learned how to fight.

Some links I shared with the Book Talk crowd earlier today:

Start when you’re not ready

I have been working on this author website and The Pinayist for ten months now, tweaking and improving and binge-learning how to blog. If I keep this up, I will never be ready to publish. Now I think I’m ready for a soft launch.

Taking both websites out of Coming Soon Mode in three, two, one…

Marginal Improvement, by a Yarnbomber

I watched Stephen Duneier’s TEDx talk, “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals”. His idea of marginal improvement is inspiring me to try (learning) new things intensively again.

Marginal Improvement and Creatives

He also wrote this:

I believe it is possible to stay true to your vision, to maintain pure, beautiful goals while making money, yes, even a lot of money. Why should a fiber artist be ashamed to make millions, but someone who hasn’t contributed an original thought in his life isn’t? Why should a painter or a writer work for free, while the new CEO of a company that has existed for 100 years doesn’t?

-Stephen Duneier

A guy who says he couldn’t concentrate for more than 5-10 minutes has achieved great success in academics, business, and life with small, doable optimization. And he knits pussy hats.

Some more inspiration for this week’s talks

I’m reading and (probably) including the following in my speaking engagements:

My schedule this week

I have a full week ahead:

janina gif marginal improvement

The last talk I gave was for the PAEF-Fulbright scholars’ Pre-departure Orientation in May. My research skills have become rusty, but I am excited to share my insights with my fellow literature majors on Wednesday.

Once again: mike check.

My Life in Sims Loading Messages

When I was much younger, I enjoyed playing The Sims. The loading messages were entertaining in and of itself. Now that I am all grown, I can’t help but feel as if my life is a series of Sims loading messages.

  • Implementing Impeachment Routine
  • Realigning Alternate Time Frames
  • Searching for Llamas

Gathering Internet Inspiration

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

– Anais Nin

I have been spending this week preparing for 2 speaking opportunities next week, planning our wedding, and preparing to launch both my author website and my Pinay mental health blog on October 18.

Here are some interesting things I found on the internet:

Also this Bad Lip Reading of High School Musical gave me back painful yet awesome memories of high school.

Changing Winds a Call to Arms

“When you’re harassed too many times, you start thinking everybody is out to get you.”

– Danica Guinid

There are moments in our lives that encourage us to confront our past and to tell our stories courageously. The word courage roots from ‘heart’: to tell our stories with our broken but brave hearts. For a former student, reading about celebrities coming out against Harvey Weinstein made her shake in anger, at her own experiences of sexual assault and those of other women.

Danica’s story reverberated with my own. Her purpose for writing, the reclaiming of her body, is familiar to all survivors.

Her writing reminded me why I decided to pursue a writing career in the first place.

And now I return to the front line.