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The Year I Learned the World Didn’t Revolve Around Me

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Ignorance is privilege

 

 

At some point in your 20s, you start believing that the world revolves around you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not fueled by arrogance reserved for the *unfeeling* Karens of the world, but by that crippling need for constant validation in many aspects of one’s life, most of which are splayed out for the public to see (and judge). Am I putting myself out there? Am I making enough money? Am I challenging myself at work? We’re ticking imaginary boxes in the hopes of finding some sense of purpose and fulfillment—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

 

I’d like to think that regardless of the long stretch of infuriating headlines (see doomscrolling) 2020 supplied, it gave many of us a much-needed reprieve from thinking—nay, overanalyzing about the future. It was a year of introspection, among other things, acknowledging our privilege and seeing where this deliberate awareness can dutifully take us. It was a year of going beyond the self, because when you see the whole world engulfed in (literal) flames, you can’t help but offer a hand, albeit from a distance. 

 

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In my youth, I was completely apathetic about politics; it was a running joke in my family, until I no longer felt like laughing. You see, I’ve never felt oppressed, safe in my middle-class stature and my gated, elite university in the sprawling avenue of Katipunan. I minded my own business, and I made excuses: it’s too toxic, maybe when I get older and my favorite, this doesn’t affect me. When I turned 18, I refused to register to vote because “wala lang, nakakatamad (no reason, it’s time-consuming).” It was only in my mid-to-late 20s when I realized this sense of apathy is a manifestation of one’s privilege.

 

 

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I’ve been in media for as long as I can remember. In my early 20s, I worked in a television network for four years, which helped me shatter those irresponsible and self-serving beliefs. There was a lot of unlearning I had to do. I finally registered to vote; I went to my first protest; I cried when tyrannical leaders got elected to lead the nation.

 

I remember being in a meeting when Donald Trump got elected as commander-in-chief of a Superpower—days after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. I teared up and our (male, of course) department head scoffed and made fun of me for the entire team to hear. He blurted out, “Bakit ka affected? (Why are you affected?)” And then I realized: Ganito pala magmahal ng bayan—napakabigat (This is how to love your country—it’s heavy.) 

 

 

In Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love, she writes, “Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact.” This is what I sought out all 2020—the undiscovered feeling of having to live out one worst-case scenario after another, while being consumed with grief and anger, while expecting to function like a normal human being. We were all fumbling around in the dark, seeking out the light at the end of the tunnel, and to no avail. 

 

2020 was a trainwreck and a shitshowno offense meant to trains and shit. We’re now part of one historical moment after another, and I am certain that we’re not the same people we were before the pandemic. We may want to burrow ourselves in a hole and live there for a while, disappear until everything gets better, but I know one thing’s for sure—we’re becoming.

 

 

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

About The Author

Visual Storyteller. Explored the entertainment industry in my early 20s, eventually found my voice by telling people’s stories. Finding joy in writing about empathy, beauty and literature. Always a photographer.

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