For the few people who still read this blog, the three-year silence here was not without reason or incident. Some already knew what was happening and has happened, some are left to speculation. Here, we finally bring forth the missing chapters in the saga of the sojourner of the past few years of my absence.
Part I: The Phantom Pain
“The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.” – Henry Miller
In 2014, I and over half the team lost our jobs at the children’s hospital in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Tyrant Hippo of Nebraska came in and fired us, including my boss, and the rest quit because she was ruining everything. While we were eventually vindicated when the board of directors fired her eight months after it was discovered she was unqualified and lost several million dollars in addition to jeopardizing relationships with multiple donors, the damage was done: I had no job and no reason to remain in Cambodia.
I ended up back in San Francisco at the mercy of my stepfather and mother, the former who after several weeks was going to kick me out and find a hotel or inconvenience others, while my mom put her foot down and surprised him saying that if he threw me out that she would go with me. He believed that it’s my own problem and if I have to be homeless, it’s my own fault. That summer, I endured humiliation working at a taco shop by customers who would point at me as warnings to their children saying that if they didn’t study or learn how to program computers that they would be just a loser like me, and insulted by my stepfather who always wanted me out of the house as often as possible to have his personal space even if it is a two-bedroom home with enough space to host over 80 people in it for a party.
Temporary reprieve came when I was moved to Thailand and Singapore for a few months, and found myself surrounded by people who proved that emotional maturity goes out the window in certain environments and their definition of professionalism was more about who could tell jokes and screw around and have fun with one another, while I was someone who hated the noise and dancing in front of my work area because it distracted me from getting things done.
By the time I ended up in Manila for a short spell before Tanzania, a woman entered my life and quickly began making her moves on me, which I initially showed some interest, but found something off, especially as I had just come out of a relationship earlier that summer and was seeing my ex that December who came to visit. By January, the Floridian Fatale was talking about a future together and moving to Africa with me. I found her again to be off and even sexually I wasn’t attracted to her, but I was falling head over heels for her without sex and yet she seemed to want me for nothing but sex. She was the first Fil-Am I dated, and possibly may be the last because my identity as a TCK and Chinese-Filipino and Gen-Xer did not go with her Millennial dating norms and her Faux Fil-Am identity.
I take pause now to elaborate on this woman’s contradictory and selfish, manipulative nature, and frankly quite idiotic worldview. She was a wretch who had zero understanding about privilege: she once told me that “I didn’t buy an electric fan for five months and so I suffered in the heat for that long because I didn’t want to be someone with privilege when other’s don’t have it.” If only it were like that, but the mere fact she can choose to buy it or not is privilege, having the choice, not the material, and many without privilege do have electric fans in tropical Third World countries like the Philippines. She constantly compared herself to me and said moronic things like, “Oh, but you’ve been through much more than me, so you know better” which is ridiculous because her trauma and my parallels are not about penis length comparison, they are a means to show that the trauma she endured is not strange or unfamiliar to me because I have endured it as well. That she would talk about how mine was worse only showed how she made it part of her personality and identity, and it just happened to all be part of my experience, but not what defines me.
I could talk about shared dreams of being a writer and said with all our parallels that if the hypothetical future we had together was sincere, when I have a movie red carpet premier of an adaptation of my book, I’d have her at my side, and her response was, “Well what about if it’s my book and you are by my side? Why are you sexist, huh?” which has nothing to do with sexism, it’s about the fact that I like writing and I have those dreams, and I would love to share them with her, and to insist my dream just had her as an accessory was to show her insecurities and her narcissism believing she should have the lead role and any inclusion of her in those dreams were somehow making her feel threatened because it didn’t fit into her vision of things.
The above comic strip best summarizes her completely. She said we “weren’t together, we are just going to flow” and I “could date anyone I wanted as I am not committed to her and she is not committed to me” which then told me that okay, I shouldn’t worry about it, yet when she finds my portfolio, she speaks to me with genuine outrage and says that I have pictures of “all these cute girls” to “try to make [her] jealous!” since I’m “really trying to tell [her] something”. They were just models and it had nothing to do with her. So when she wanted to freedom to not be committed she hated it if there were any other women around–she even e-mailed me once saying she dreamed that I wrote in one of my pieces that her best friend was attractive, more than her, and she was genuinely upset about it as though it were actually something I said and felt.
In spite of all that, I wanted to believe in the best of her. And she burned me badly. While in Africa, she ghosted me and began spreading lies about me. Saying I was “obsessed with her” and “manipulative” to the point that everyone already knew something was strange because for weeks she was saying nothing but sweet things about me, then suddenly, told very obvious lies. And then she started sleeping with a mutual acquaintance.
The level of betrayal and describing her actions even after the fact were so abhorrent that I have to pull from several years of unpublished drafts trying to summarize who she is without any of it doing justice. This, for example:
Consumers are so overwhelmed by the volume of information in their lives that they ignore information before they need it, but expect immediate solutions when they need them. Dr. Kit Yarrow identifies this mentality as “IWWIWWIWI (I want what I want when it want it)” in her book, Decoding the New Consumer Mind. IWWIWWIWI demands unsurpassed levels of responsiveness by marketers. Meeting this level of customer service does not earn extra credit for retailers, but rather is a basic requirement for most shoppers in the current economy. Retailers who don’t accommodate these elevated expectations will find themselves uninvited to the purchase party in short order.
Replace “consumer/customer” with “entitled children” and “marketer/retailer” with “friends and lovers”.
The recalibration of those expectations begins with the acknowledgement that there is nothing inherently valuable about travel. The benefits associated with it, like the chance to expand one’s perspective, grow in maturity, and learn how to handle uncertainty, are certainly real, but do not automatically accrue simply by moving from point A to point B. If they did, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, who began her globe-trotting adventure flaky and narcissistic, would have ended her trip a better person, and yet — spoiler alert — she seems no less self-absorbed by the journey’s end.
If a warrior is sad and needs solace, he can pick anyone to whom to voice his pain.”
–don Juan to Carlos Castaneda
• The superior man confronts his (subconscious) problems; therefore he does not experience them (manifested). – I-Ching Hexagram 43, Breakthrough
• On the path of good health and sanity–let alone spiritual growth: “processing pain is like taking a piss: when you gotta go, you gotta go.” – T. Dunn
While I was in Africa and long after Africa, more and more stories came up as she told my friends how horrible I was and then left Manila for her life in America without any worry. Now what did I do to deserve such a tempestuous child like her?
At some point, in her own mind, when I was no longer convenient, she discarded me as though all those promises were empty and meant nothing. And she had the nerve to use Freudian analysis to say that I “was projecting my relationship with my mom onto her” (but she knew absolutely nothing about my relationship with her), or that I “created a narrative that worked for me but isn’t helping me in the long run” (kettle, I would like to introduce you to someone: meet teapot), and then for no reason at all aside from trying to justify in her mind her reasons for ending something, she began telling lies that she genuinely believed.
I am reminded of a quote summarizing one of my favorite books by Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun and its narrator/protagonist, Severian:
“The actual story in the books isn’t simply the story that Severian tells. He’s a liar. You have to pay attention to what he says, but not simply believe it and consider that the story. He contradicts himself, and when you catch the contradictions, you get another piece of the real story. He goes out of his way to avoid things, or goes off on seemingly unrelated tangents, and those are all significant to the actual story – he’s avoiding something he doesn’t want to admit to or implying something he doesn’t want to come right out and say, and so on.”
That was the response many had to the things that the wretched woman said and continued to say about me long after she had left Manila. In one of her most characteristic quotes that appeared in her university when she was interviewed, she said everyone must get rid of parasites and toxic people, but this article summarizes her attitude best:
As advice site Barking Up the Wrong Tree explains, some people are simply too toxic to include in your life. However, if you label everyone who ever wrongs you as “toxic,” you’ll start to lose friends fast. Instead, apply the rule of three to identify when the bad behavior is just part of who they are. If they lie to you or let you down once, it might just be a fluke. If it happens repeatedly, it’s a pattern.
She is indeed a liar, who actually believes what she is saying, when taking in the Severian example. If I were mean, I would post the screen captures of things she has said to prove my point, but I have very little left to say about her to summarize how she ended up getting an entire chapter of a post devoted to her due to the level of penetration that damaged my psyche with her bullshit.
Instead, I will post two of the many things she made for me, these art pieces, which I tore to bits and flushed down the toilet as well as a letter she wrote before I went to Africa that I burnt. Why did I do that? Because on the one hand, all the love she claimed to give me was all lies, on the other hand, the lies she told about me were ones she had to tell to protect herself from the emotional crimes she committed against me. Her story will continue later on, because the phantom pain of this chapter was how out of nowhere, someone came and created a zest for life, which was then proven to be nothing but lies. It not only came at the worst possible time, but also killed my creative muse for years.
Part II Crawling from the Wreckage
“Underneath it all
We feel so small
The heavens fall
But still we crawl
All I’ve undergone
I will keep on
All I’ve undergone
I will keep on
All I’ve undergone
I will keep on.” – Nine Inch Nails, The Way Out is Through
“Sorrow is a fruit. God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it.” – Victor Hugo
As we saw with the saga of the Floridian Fatale, otherwise known as Leah the Liar, it affected my months in the Peace Corps. When the betrayal came, I was alone surrounded by people ten years younger than me with no life experience or travel experience, let alone experience working in development. I was called the Ugly American by know-it-all trainees, but the veterans who were living there for at least a year already told me that everything I knew and said was absolutely true and unfortunately because I already know it, the neophytes would either benefit from listening to me or hate me. When I think of people whom I would love to watch suffer and die, I think of Genna, a hipster from Kansas who was nothing but bitchy to me and whenever I tried to be friendly, I received nothing but insults from her and dismissiveness because in her mind, I was nothing but immature, yet she gave me zero chance to engage and already pegged me for what she thought was ignorant and insensitive and inconsiderate. Easy to demonize someone whom you don’t know especially when you don’t even give them a chance, and that sounded like Leah the Liar, the Floridian Fatale, the Tempestuous Child, and The Wretch.
Imagine I was surrounded by all this as the betrayal happened without any of my ways of supporting myself, none of my friends, no comfort foods, and with no personal space. I didn’t mind shitting in the dirt or fighting cockroaches the size of my sneakers, but I sure as hell fucking can’t stand being around Ugly Americans and Ugly Europeans who called me Jackie Chan or Jet Li among other things.
I eventually threw in the towel and went back to Manila. A city I hate because I had nowhere else to go, and wasn’t welcome to stay in America, nor did I want to be there because my place was in the Third World since I have the resilience to handle wars and weirdness, something that the First World doesn’t appreciate or care about, as my time in San Francisco proved to me. It is a pissing contest about who suffers the most and who has more travel experience or who does more for the world. I am not out to prove that, I am doing what is right to me.
For months, I survived on damn good luck out of nowhere alone amidst dealing with people who seemed to want to go for more suffer fights to see who was a bigger victim. I met a boy who had the audacity to claim he was “homeless” and that he found “being poor overrated” as he went up to everyone talking about how much he suffered and how much experience he had for a 20 year-old. Little did he know I was homeless on the streets and had been broke, but surviving as a determinator not out to prove anything, because no one will ever believe me and no one will ever support me unless there is something truly of value for the world I can offer. This boy was not homeless: he was leeching off of other people staying in their homes as a friend, and he was not poor, for he had plenty of money given to him by his parents, and then when a TV special was run on him, he had thousands upon thousands of dollars he used not on education but on sleeping with women and dating them. I verbally beat him down for all the bullshit that came out of his mouth and showed him what a louse he was, and left him seething with anger and defeat in the garden where he approached me and attempted to con me.
I encountered musicians and Millennials who tried to compare themselves watching Mean Girls to my life in Africa, as though it were the same thing. Trivializing things and thinking it was funny. I ran into this in America when I went for a month after Tanzania, and it was more of the same. Who traveled more, had better pictures, and had funnier stories to tell? That was all they cared about. So I had nothing to do but train in the martial arts and the respective meditations, because no one gave a shit about me. I did not become titanium, I did not find love and redeem myself: I only became a hardened soldier in civilian life where apathy and self-indulgent, self-important narcissism were on the rise.
By the time I got a new job, I lasted several months in it because my American side was what they wanted when it came to “taking over and taking charge” but the Filipino side of me was what they used to justify passive-aggression, making fun of my accent and my face, and paying me below my worth while bossing me around and giving me no clear guidelines, let alone training, for my work, yet expecting me to know what to do. I had not even a day and a half of training–I was given very vague descriptions and a lot of expectations. I was expected to be a mind reader and when I couldn’t read minds, they acted as though I wasn’t willing to work–no, I was willing to work, I just didn’t know what the hell they wanted. I eventually left and since then have been skating by just on the goodwill of the universe.
At this point, I began to do more work exclusively in teaching martial arts and Taoist meditation, writing, and recording voiceover, and conducting esoteric workshops that attracted a very small niche, but to this day, it pays my bills and I earn more from this than looking for little gigs here and there.
Crawling from the wreckage was not a sudden heroic resurrection: it was a slow crawl and closer to the drudgery seen in a movie like The Revenant. To this day, I don’t know where I could say I had walked away from it, but I don’t believe I am totally out of it–I am only able to work in the junkyard I live in better because it’s more familiar.
During this time as I struggled in the professional world, the emotional world was also thrown in for a loop when I got into another relationship for a couple years, and in a karmic twist, I dated the Tempestuous Child’s best friend.
It started with us just hanging out, and whenever the two of them would talk online, The Queen of Lies would ask if I was interested and then say there was nothing wrong with dating me if she were interested. Later on, she would try to act indifferent and other times ask questions, such as asking about a woman I messed around with a couple of times in one question that revealed everything everyone can learn about her own insecurities: “Is she pretty?” Right, as though someone being “pretty” is an important factor for an ex to know about, especially when I was discarded. Later on, when I went into the relationship, Tempestuous Child said what nobody in the world will ever believe to be true: “To be honest, I really don’t care.”
The relationship with the Queen of Lies’ best friend R had its own challenges, but it brought a lot of color to life. For better or for worse, even as I still talk with R regularly long after we have broken up, I had a relationship that made Manila in some cases easier, in other ways more agonizing. Ultimately, I was vindicated after three years though as the lies of the Wretch came to surface and eventually, everyone else realized all that she said were of her own making, and any doubts about me were disproven as I stayed, and because of my idiosyncrasies people found my sincerity rather than in spite of them. Funny enough and to the surprise of no one, how the Tempestuous Child treated me was how she treated many other people: to be used and abused. What is not funny is that she is not unique in the way she acts because it appears people of her ilk act very similarly, and is probably the reason why none of my characteristics are very American if we look at the Americans of today in 2018 (I’m a 1994 American culturally because alternative rock music shaped me more than technology), and decidedly very Gen-X rather than Millennial.
Those differences as an anachronism in time and generations, and in culture as a TCK, and a traveler make me weary, and it’s no surprise I just went deeper into introversion and solitary life.
Part 3: Hermit Life and Hidden Depths
“And shepherds we shall be,
For Thee, my Lord, for Thee.
Power hath descended forth from Thy hand,
that our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command,
So we shall flow a river forth to Thee,
And teeming with souls shall it be.
In Nomine Patris, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti.” – The Boondock Saints
“Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death comes sooner or later.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?” – Thomas Babbington Macaulay, Roman Lays: Horatius
“Tiberinus, holy father, I pray thee to receive into thy propitious stream these arms and this thy warrior.” – Titus Livy, on Horatius after the Battle of the Bridge
My days became nothing but meditation, reading, gaming, taking care of my dogs, and training in martial arts and European strongman exercises. My interactions with others were very limited unless it was for class with my teachers or my students, and very few friends. I lost all interest in Third Culture Kids as much as I had no love for Asian Americans. Very few life events happened as from 2016 to 2018, I didn’t leave the country until this year, and even then it was for short jaunts to Japan and Korea for work.
The most interesting things I can write about won’t make sense to most people, as the rich inner life of a Taoist with a library of books about DMT to Carlos Castaneda and Eastern Philosophy or Western Occultism and old 1960s-1970s acid trips are an amalgamation of the things I see when I dream or when I do the meditations of the schools I belong to, something that even freaked out some yoga girls who came to train under me.
Up to now, people call me a weirdo, and I don’t care. I still wonder why I am weird in their eyes when I do nothing but keep to myself, and if I have a conversation, it’s about music that sounds good, books I read, philosophy, and life in development or martial arts, and life without social media. What’s weird about that when people are constantly sharing about what they ate or the color of their turds in the toilet bowl, or bitching about who’s fucking who on social media? I don’t find myself weird at all if the standard itself is questionable, but I do embrace myself as a weirdo for being iconoclastic.
So far, I’ve been paid to be me, and whether it’s because people want to know how to fight or because they are sick of the shit that’s the norm today, from yoga studios and their platitudes about living to social media and its bickering and bitching, what I have been offering is very different. It appears I’m being paid to teach people how to live differently, which is funny considering I have been the one who has been scrutinized for being different.
How appropriate then is Hunter S. Thompson’s famous saying: “When the going gets weird, the weird goes pro.” If you’re good at something, might as well get paid to do it. Diogenes the Dog, a philosopher of the Stoic school, was one fine example of someone who could walk naked and masturbate in public and yet was widely respected. Terence McKenna got paid to give talks about his views on consciousness, drugs, the divine feminine, and anarchy with technology. I am in good company it seems, so there’s a bright spot ahead of me.
In the meanwhile, I’m biding my time and perfecting my art in the martial and written worlds. The empire will be built, and I’ll walk fearlessly into the unknown future, fighting even if I’m a pariah. And if but one person is better off with what I teach, then I’ve done my job.
Maybe I’m going to follow the Blues Brothers and say I’m on a mission from God. Or I’m going to follow the likes of all good old road trip films and just enjoy the ride with the right music on the radio and the tape deck.
The lost years were not worth writing about because of bitterness and I settle this account out of obligation rather than out of love, because for the few friends who want to know what happened, here it is. Hatred and bitterness, apathy and disenchantment. The muse is no longer dead, but she is not vibrant anymore. I am instead battle-hardened and embracing my primal nature as a menace to the world and the many illusions that imprison everyone’s psyche. And moving forward, the world has to put up with me until I’m dead or until it changes for the better, whichever comes first. The writing shall continue, and more art shall appear. In the meanwhile, the lost years have been chronicled, and I’d rather never have to look at this or revise this again since it’s all said and done.