"You've always been a writer," an old college friend said to me when we met up for lunch now that we're working-and-earning adults. I wondered why he said that; I don't ever recall letting him read anything I wrote.
For that matter, I don't recall ever writing anything noteworthy back in college except probably class requirement things. And occasionally-angst-ridden journal entries disguised as occasionally-angst-ridden verse. Did he mean that crap? Was that a writer back there? Was I a writer?
As far as I knew, I was never a writer. At least, as far as I recall.
Perhaps he was mistaken.
Or perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I just forgot.
Some time ago, I met up with another old friend, one from around the same time period as the previously mentioned friend but from a completely different circle. He reminded me of a series of paintings I made over a decade ago. I actually forgot about the said paintings, -because I trashed most of my work from those days in a random artist fit sometime 1999 - so at first I didn't even know what he was talking about. He said something about my powerful talent searing indelible imagery on his consciousness; i.e., he thought I was such a great artist that merely seeing those paintings - he said I used no words then, and didn't have to - was an unforgettale experience.
But as far as I knew, I was never a painter; I merely sat in the company of painter friends. At least, as far as I recall.
Funny, I don't even remember painting anything, much less showing him any of my stuff. For that matter, I don't even remember that he and I were that close. I was quite in disbelief until he went on to reminisce details about my family, my room, our old house - including my graffitti and the random footprints on the wall - and he was spot on. As he described the paintings to me again, I recollected a very vague memory of them. I was pretty sure I did make the said paintings; the subject he mentioned had some meaning to me at those times, and he couldn't have been making that up. Apparently he remembered something I didn't - supposing that my so-called talent was as powerful and indelible as he said it was.
I recently got caught up in this little musical theater-ish production for which I am to be the director. I've always wanted to have a go at directing a production; I got extremely pumped about it and wanted to tweak the script as well.
As far as I knew, it was my first time to write a script for a play. At least, as far as I recall.
When I submitted the first draft to the producer, she was absolutely pleased with it and exclaimed "This kid is really a genius!" with wows and suchlike, and mentioned how I exponentially added bulk to to project. I honestly was amazed at myself too actually; ideas and know-how just coruscated out of somewhere inside of me with such speed and ease. I blame it on the manic episode. I attribute it to God's anointing - which can make anyone seem like a genius by the way, and I'm sure that's partially it -but I'm pretty sure there's also something else. If I believed in reincarnation (but i don't) I would have concluded I was a playwright in a previous life.
I've written some scripts for shorts in film class, but playwrighting is a different game and I was pretty sure I haven't played it before. As far as I knew. Seeing that I've been repeatedly forgetting what I could do in the past, I kept my mind open to the possibility of some other forgotten skill.
While my conscious mind was juggling left-brain writing for Bible lessons and right-brain activity for the play (ehem, musical), I let my subconscious mind do some tapping around. My conscious mind sent questions to my subconscious, and while Conscious was distracted with the other stuff, Subconscious seemed to have kicked up some dust over old files and submitted a reply to the query. Then I began to remember.
I began to remember.
Indeed, I've always been a writer.
Not just the left-brain-wired kind as people think of me today. I've been both the technical and the creative sort.
I remember that I wrote short stories as early as age six or seven - maybe even earlier, but my earliest solid memory is from six or seven. I had this pink steno notebook I filled with chicken-scratch paragraphs before I even knew the rules of formal writing. Some stories I wrote were retellings of cartoons I watched on Betamax. But a lot of of my early works (naks) just bubbled out from my active imagination. Like this many-chaptered story I wrote about this group of kids who went on a Goonies-type underground adventure.
I threw that notebook away after my uncle peeked into it chuckled at the thought of a Lemonade Sea.
But I couldn't get writing out of my system; I employed another notebook some time after. That notebook was ditched for some reason, then a new one was christened for the same purpose, which was also later given up, then replaced - and thus was the samsara (i.e., cycle of birth and rebirth) of my creative writing hobby.
I wrote songs in my head in childhood as well. I didn't know how to put them into notes so I lost most of them. When I heard a nice-sounding phrase or name, I'd give it a tune and start singing it over and over in my head until it balloons into something like a silly commercial jingle that pretends to be a pop song.
I recall writing free verse and rhyming poetry at ten. Maybe even as early as eight. I remember my seatmate Olivia (who wanted to be called Ami two years later) telling me I should join the Literary Club (or whatever it was called) because she found my litany of childhood wonderments quite impressive.
And I've always been an artist.
I did use to paint. Not with large canvasses and oils that painters are known to use, but with whatever materials I got my hands on (because I was too poor and cheap to buy any real stuff) - chipboard, broken-up pieces of crayon, cheesecloth, ink, coffee, blood.
I've been drawing and writing on walls as soon as I can hold a crayon. The walls of our house were one big messy kindergarten mural scrawled with my (and my brother's) creative output: doll drawings, detailed dinosaur fights, schematics of a battleship, blueprints to a dream house, vocabulary words, sentences teacher said, portals to other dimensions. Every square inch of the wall (at least, the part we could reach), including the itty-bitty spaces between old drawings.
My mind has been hotwired for creativity from birth. In my little childhood head, words, smells and people's names had colors and definite shapes and movements as if they were tangible, animated matter. Even before going to kindergarten, II instinctively knew perspective, shading, balance and proportion without ever being taught. I knew how to make little projects with my hands, even without any training or any real art materials.
And I've always been the other kind of artist.
Every little girl probably has a memory of herself standing on a table (or any similar platform) singing before an audience of awed family members. I've got one of myself in a yellow dress, age three or four or five, holding a hairbrush for a makeshift microphone.
I used to love singing. I used to sing a lot. I remember telling people that when I grew up, I'd be famous and appear on T.V. I was going to be an actress.
In second grade I saw this play in Ateneo entitled Kwentong Baboy. There were kids acting as biiks dressed in various shades of pink. I saw that the biiks were just around my age, maybe even younger, and I said this was something I could do.
It all swelled to a large proportion when I was ten. I heard about how Lea Salonga made it big in London at age eighteen. I then started joking about how I was going to be there in a few years as well.
I don't quite remember why I stopped dreaming about that.
I remembered being in a school play only twice - once when I was five, another when I was in seventh grade. School plays usually seem like jokes when you look back at them, but I kind of feel like I left part of my heart in there somewhere.
Another thing I forgot but then started to remember just now is that I was in a Trumpets workshop when i was a teenager. Playshop, I think they called it (It's funny because just recently while we were working on the script for The Dreamer, someone asked me if I was ever involved wth Trumpets; i disgustedly said i never was. I obviously forgot about that). My instructors were these not-so-identical twins and this cute-but-no-nonsense lady who kept applauding my partner and ignoring me. The workshop I think was supposed to culminate in a theater production but I never got to that part. I bailed prematurely, out of frustration.
And speaking of working on scripts ...
I enjoyed reading scripts for plays as early as age ten, no matter that they weren't that easy for a kid to read. I loved envisioning things in my head - lights, music and all - and imagining how they'd play out. I remember falling in love with my brother's copy of Tricycle Kings, a play by Tony Perez (Directed by Mariano Singson ... Set Designed by Edmund Ty ... oh crap, why am i remembering so many details right now?). It made me kinda sad that I wasn't in it and even sadder that I never got to watch it.
I think I even tried writing a play. I vaguely recall typing pages with those wide indents, getting frustrated why they had to be in the middle of the page - tab, tab, tab, tab, tab, shift.
Maybe that's why I know how to write a play today with such seemingly second-natured ease, even if I think I've never done if before.
I'm pretty sure I'm hotwired for genius.
Geez, I know that sounds so arrogant. But anyhow..
I mean the creative kind, not the Einstein kind (Not really like Shakespeare either; slightly more disturbed like Byron probably). My mom said that I was talking before age one and kinda skipped the baby-talk stage. I can't quite imagine how that looked like but that's a clue right there. But I've got a lot of forgotten, frustrated genius at this time of my life.
More than a source of pride, it as well of frustration knowing that I'm that, er, gifted. I'm quite convinced that despite all this supposed potential, my current accomplishments don't quite measure up to what I think I should have accomplished.
But playing the should've could've would've game always ends in failure, so I'm not going there.
There's this milk brand that credits itself with producing child prodigies (it's a funny claim, don't you think?). According to the commercials, genius is the result of I.Q. + Good Nourishment and + Proper Parenting. Hahaha. If you know me well, you know what I think about that.
I can't quite put my finger on what caused me to forget myself in the first place. I feel like I've been a coma and I am now only just waking up and I haven't yet relearned the full use of my limbs. Maybe it's because I grew up sometime back and decided I needed to earn a living. Maybe I cleaned up and put away some of the things I shouldn't have.
Maybe I am actually finding myself for the first time. That's supposed to be a great thing.
And I find I've always been an artist. I just forgot. I'm not just smart chick who can speak good english. I'm the multitalented kind of sheila who for some reason forgot about most of the talents and left them to rot underground for a while.
I was born to be a creative genius. The kind that draws and paints, acts and sings. The kind that can write technically and creatively, or orate formally and theatrically. The kind that witres and directs and produces and designs. A deviant of many talents. Like William Blake or Tim Burton or JRR Tolkien. The potentially-world-inspiring kind.