It's moving week for our family this week, and without really planning it, our books were the first to be transferred. While dusting off book jackets and figuring out how to divide the shelves amongst the four of us, I started thinking about how my books can easily tell the story of my life, or perhaps more specifically, the story of me figuring out my life (i.e., what I want to pursue, what I want to be, who I am becoming). And I wonder if this is the case for most people? Or if books are the landmarks of my journey, while for others, it may be other objects -- Certificates? Letters? Photographs?
If you look at my collection of books, they could easily belong to three different people. There are books on the Philippines and its history and social issues, there are books on economics and social capital, and then there are books on art and creativity. I've consciously held onto books from different periods of my life -- even purchased the main reference I used for my undergraduate thesis in Rhetoric because I used my professor's copy back then. Why do I do this? I've never really thought about it, but perhaps I like having tangible reminders of what I've gone through and how I've changed over the years. Perhaps this is why I feel so torn between paper books and digital books. The convenience and environmental benefits of the latter cannot completely match the tactile magic and presence of the former. Books have become the markers of my life. The books from this painting are far from a complete representation, but they are the more telling ones of the lot. The bottom book is something that I've kept from grade school, mainly because I found the illustrations exquisite. The topmost is one I still haven't read, but I included it to represent what the future could hold. But I do think it's inaccurate to make sense of them chronologically, because while I am focusing on certain topics and fields at the present time, past interests -- and future ones for that matter -- still inform who I am at this very moment. We are, after all, aggregates of our pasts, presents, and futures. Including the known and the unknown aspects of those three stages. Isn't that so wonderfully complex? Aren't humans so amazing? Each life endlessly fascinating? And isn't it so enlightening to be cognizant of this truth: that each one of us carries within us so many worlds? That, if you think about it, each of us is our very own time machine?
That we are all our different selves all at once makes the contradictions and seemingly conflicting parts of our lives and other people's lives more easily graspable. I am this, I was that, I want to be that --- all of these conjugations of our being exist right now, all at the very same moment. All of our hopes, fears, and desires make us who we are. So much wonder there is in that which cannot be easily explained. I suppose I've gone on this line of thinking because I've been at a crossroads lately on what to focus on with regards my art. And perhaps I won't be able to put a label on what that one thing is, because it's ALL the things i've learned so far -- plus the ones I have yet to experience. I should just trust where my words take me, where my attention lands, what my hands choose to paint. There is no prefabricated label for each one of us -- we make our own unique one through our mistakes, our triumphs, our dreams. And it may help to look at the markers we've accumulated over the years --- my books for me --- and have the milestones they represent remind us that we are forging our own paths. The same goes for people around us --- those we love and those who are strangers; they may seem to be walking contradictions or it may be difficult to comprehend them sometimes, but such is being human. We are all our different selves all at once. We cannot box people in, and knowing and accepting this, it'll be easier to connect with and understand one another.