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Letter from Today


Enjoying New York during the holidays. Contributed photo

I believe the hardest book to read is your own.  And that is perhaps why I had not read “Surreality” in a long while.  Or perhaps I was just too busy living: meeting people, giving speeches, running events and other life stuff like teaching kids how to write, learning new skills from the best schools, and trying to live where the action was.

Until 2008, that was in New York. In 2009, that was in DC and Boston. And in between, there was going home to Manila to recharge – mostly by conversing with my now 94-year-old Lola. I loved those times, and I loved spending time with her. We always shared a laugh – with every sentence.  Another comediene in the family is my now 5-year-old niece Julia.  She has a great sense of humor and great timing. There was always something to learn from the oldest and the youngest members of our family.

One day in April, my boss suggested that I read my book again. Because, he said, the person he saw that day was not the person he knew from the book. Well, the person he saw in person then was tied to a job that she thought she shouldn’t leave. It wasn’t her passion, but it paid the bills.

Later, with the encouragement of the same boss who told me to never forget what God intended me to be, I decided to be true to myself. I realized it was okay for me to leave the job if it became such drudgery. It helped that my parents were there the day I made the decision. I knew that the me who wrote “Surreality” wouldn’t have approved of keeping a job and living a life that looks forward to vacation. I’ve always said that if you look forward to vacation days, then you have the wrong job. Well, I had the wrong job. I was too busy working that I had no time to wonder and wander – the things that feed my writing.

Five years since releasing “Surreality,” I am still in New York. But only after respites in Manila, DC and Boston to attend to important family events that are not to be missed, and to grow in new environments.

I remember I was in DC when Obama was elected, in Boston when (Ted) Kennedy passed away, and in Manila when Cory Aquino died. Somehow, I was where the action was. But now I realize, wherever I am is where the story goes. Wherever I am in the world, I know I have my family supporting me and my friends rooting for me, the same way that I support them and root for them too.

Now I am back in New York – but not to the same New York. The high-end stores on Fifth Avenue have closed and the most expensive real estate in the world is now littered with boutiques like Forever 21, Guess and Hollister, and even Filene’s Basement where you can buy items, not for $2500, but for $25.

What is happening to NYC? I always talked about the seven-year itch of living in New York. I believe that it only takes seven years to make your dreams come true in the city; then you have to leave to make room for new dreamers.

Maybe the same goes for businesses. They’re always talking about the impending demise of The New York Times. Even Borders has closed all of its 1,200 stores. And so I’ve decided, with a lot of long-standing encouragement from friends, to march to the changing times. Now, you can download “Surreality” on your eReader. (My special thanks to Yayie Esguerra Co.)

Perhaps it is neither the same Carissa that came back to the new New York. I feel that I am still passionate, still driven, still dreaming, still wondering, and still wandering. I guess the same goes for my closest friends. They’re also moving to Europe and Asia, mostly for career advancement, others for love and family.

And after all the hard work I’m putting in this year, I’m travelling to LA to enjoy Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, and London, my favorite spot in the world. I am back to wondering and wandering. I just have to stop working, and start playing again.

Reading the book today, five years later, or at least two years after the second edition, it was difficult to decide whether I should edit the little things that are outdated, so to speak. For example, the words palm pilot and Blockbuster are still mentioned there. Yet I kept them there because I wanted to preserve the authenticity of the moment in which I wrote those thoughts. And I would like to think that even though the minute details in the book change as time passes, the themes from my essays will stand the test of time.

After all the travelling, the airport scenes and the adventures, I realize that every place has its own character: New York is artistic, DC is full of politics and advocacy, and Cambridge, Massachusetts is all academic. And Manila is simply family, where everything starts and ends.

After almost a decade of exploring the world on my own, it may just be time to go back to where the love is unconditional and infinite.

I still miss my Lola Priscilla and little Julia, for whom life is so simple. I think that somewhere along the way of the rounds we take between toddler-age and old-age, we get confused. Life as we knew it as kids – simple – becomes oh so complicated once we get educated. But don’t worry, it will become simple again. Because, as they say, everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. And sometimes, it’s better that way – the story is still unfolding. •

Carissa Villacorta, 31, is a full-time author, feature writer and PR practitioner who has made New York City her home, office and playground for the past decade.  She published “Surreality,” a book of essays about life in the city, in 2006 when she was 26.  Find “Surreality,” Kindle Version on Amazon. Download the free Kindle App on your iPhone, IPad or Android to enjoy “Surreality” on your mobile device.

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Tags: Book , Carissa Villacorta , First Person , holidays , New York , Sunday Inquirer Magazine

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