The year was 2008 and I had just gotten accepted to participate in the internship program of an advertising agency called Bates 141.
There were ten of us on the team: Aeya, the cool rocker chick who could do a mean impersonation of a girl from the ghetto; Jorron, who was quiet but whose wit was quick and sardonic; Bea, who won the ad men’s hearts because she could do an actual heavy metal growl; Chow, who was a sweetheart; Arven, fabulous and gay; Paula, whose wild side came out after a few shots of tequila; Pam, the devout Christian who refused to be corrupted by the boys’ lewd jokes; Jenice, who was pretty and shy and easily the group heartthrob; Chi, the adorable dork who quickly became my homegirl; and, of course, me.
Also happening at this point in time: I was in love with a boy I had met when I was 13 and I refused to fall out of it.
“Give me love songs, Chi,” I told her one morning in the office. I wanted something my heart could dance to all day while I painted daydreams of this boy in my head. And Chi, my cool, smart and fun-loving office-partner-in-crime, came up with a playlist that did just the trick.
One of those songs, the one I loved the most, was titled Built To Last by a band called Meleè. The chorus: This is real/ this is good/ warms the inside just like it should/ but most of all, most of all/ it’s built to last.
That’s the question my mid-twenties are all about these days.
When I was younger it used to be all about: “How can I find love?” or, better yet: “How do I become someone worth loving?” The answers varied each year that I got older. When I was 16, I probably believed that worthiness was tied closely to beauty. That a man could only really love me if I was attractive (and smart and funny and sexy and knew how to cook and so on). But at 21 I believed, instead, that there were no fixed standards — everybody was worthy.
My thoughts now, at 26:
How can I find love? By looking very closely. Love is bigger than romance and in every single moment, I am loved. Even when I don’t feel like it.
How do I become someone worth loving? By finding the courage to be myself. I don’t need to qualify to be loved. (In the words of one of my mentors, Carisse: “You’re a 10. You have always been a 10.”)
Back to the question that I seem to struggle with the most these days. Here it is:
How do I make things last?
My grandmother started a restaurant in the 70’s and it has been operating for close to 41 years already. That’s almost mythical in this day and age, in a city of fickle-minded, easily dissatisfied customers and an ever-changing culinary landscape. Yet, somehow, she managed to. And I can’t fathom how.
How do marriages last, untarnished by infidelity or boredom, for 20, 30, 50 years? How do friendships persist in a culture of complacency? How can you grow anything enough for it to be strong enough to outlast the conspiracy of time?
I wonder if I have the grit, the tenacity, the iron will, to build something that won’t be washed away by the threat of tomorrow. It seems like a vague impossibility. So many things in my life have crumbled and died: the love I felt for that boy is nothing but a fond memory. Our group of 10, the batch of interns that came in during the summer of 2008, no longer speak, are scattered around the metro, tied only by a fleeting moment. My friends 10 years ago are no longer the same people I share dinners and secrets with, even though I was convinced back then, without a shadow of a doubt, that they would be.
Forever seems like a cruel lie, especially in the wake of that ever-constant thing we call change.
I played Built to Last just now, in memory of a time that was. I haven’t heard this song in years. The chorus still makes my heart dance, slow and quietly, as if dusk is setting in the background. So many things have changed since the summer of 2008 but as Meleè croons sweetly and my feelings swirl with each note and crescendo, my heart rests in this strange familiarity.
I’m scared to believe it but I want to. Maybe, just maybe, some things last. And maybe they do when we don’t allow time, or the forces that be, to rob us of the courage — the almost crazy courage — to seek permanence and never stop.