On the writing the chapter called 'me'
Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash / Edited by Caroline Colvin
I am getting off York Street Station at 8:30am. Sweaty. Sleepy. A little hungover. I now start walking to my work building. Stairs. Bridge. Food carts. I walk past a bakery. Bread. Vanilla. Coffee. It is now 8:35 a.m.
I am one block away and this store takes up the whole block. It is covered in reflective glass.
Me. It’s me. C’est moi.
My shoulders in this shirt. Sculpted. 8:40 a.m.
My *ss in these jeans. Exquisite. 8:45 a.m.
My arms. Unflexed, now flexed — sike, unflexed again. Extravagant. 8:50 a.m.
I walk in my office. 9:00 a.m. Right on time.
A couple of years ago, I would’ve walked in at 8:37am. I would’ve speed-walked through that block, trying not to catch even a glimpse of myself. And if I did, I would not have been the nicest person. I never was nice to myself.
I grew up convinced I was ugly. As a Filipino in Dubai, it was hard growing up surrounded by Europeans. Somehow the lie that they were the most beautiful people on this planet was ingrained in my head. And by definition, it meant that my Filipino self was ugly. That mindset stuck with me as I grew into my queer identity. I equated my value as a bisexual man with how much people wanted me. But no one would want me, right? I’m not tall, blond, blue-eyed. I’m not Maarten, or Dylan, or Cameron. Not Dutch, nor English, or German. I’m just me, and I’m pretty ugly.
I really was a Class A liar, because I slept around in high school. I went through a (safe) exploration phase that helped me discover what I do and don’t like. But every time I was with someone, I told myself that they had lowered their standards for me. That I was a fetish for them. That they’re only with me because they couldn’t get Maarten, or Dylan, or Cameron. I wove all these lies in my head when the person I was with had liked me for who I am (for the most part).
And here comes the plot twist: I am now in love with myself. I’ve started to unlearn all the lies I told myself. Maybe it comes with age, maybe it’s the people I surrounded myself with, or maybe it’s Maybelline. Either way, it all started with looking at myself: a task I couldn’t do for most of my life. And I don’t just mean looking at myself in the mirror (though this is a key part of the process). It was also listening to my thoughts, following my body, and engaging with my past.
As I navigated through college, I was surrounded by people who inspired me, ideologies I wanted to embody, and futures I wanted to pursue. I was bombarded with different versions of my identity in my classes and my student orgs, and I ate it all up. Simply put, I was too distracted by my own growth to think otherwise. I was so immersed in myself that I opened a whole new chapter called, “Me.”
I learned that I love photography. That I love the gym. That fashion was fun. I found all the things that made me happy that didn’t require another person. But most importantly, I asked myself why it brought me joy. Photography encourages me to actively engage with my surroundings and ground my senses to the earth. The gym makes me conscious of my progress and holds me accountable for my own health. Fashion is a creative outlet that I automatically communicate to the world.
The more I understood what made me happy, the more I understood what didn’t. I think I unknowingly forgave myself, and I believe that is the most natural form of self love. As I look back, I was never unhappy with myself, but rather I was unhappy with how my world was structured against me, and how I coped with it. By understanding my own joy and challenges, I was able to tackle my past and present.
I am still learning to navigate through my queerness - but it is ten times easier when I understand myself outside of misery. I am able to call out my own internalized homophobia without blaming myself. I am able to fix my own actions lovingly. And most importantly, I am able to look at my body and celebrate it for what it truly is, and not in the context of The Whites.
As I close this piece, I think it is my responsibility to tell you that I am currently looking at my sculpted shoulders, my exquisite *ass, and my extravagant arms.
It is 3:10pm, and I conclude: I am a whole snack, with a 🍒 on top.