Wednesday, February 28, 2007

State of the Self Address: Delivered 2/27/07 at 9:20pm

On January 8, 1790 in New York City, the first United States President gave the first State of the Union Address. The deliver, name, and level of eloquence shifts from year to year and it is my pleasure to announce that you are a part of a historic event: the first State of the Self address and the first to be delivered by a woman.

The State of the Self is many things. It is a brief glimpse, a poetic celebration. I pay tribute to all the blessings and tragedies that have smoothed me into the person who stands before you, 28 years young.

Contrary to what I say tonight, this being a very special night, my State, how I am, will change. It will change as surely tomorrow as it did today. And so, my friends, I begin by telling you to not hold on to what I say. Believe it, acknowledge it, and know these words are my truth, but only for a little while. Life, as charismatic as it is unpredictable, will surely continue to smooth me and chisel me even further on February 28th, just as it did today.

I am pleased to report, in a word, in this first State of the Self address: I am strong. I am strong for many reasons. I am strong because I am resilient, because I am a woman. I am strong because I am loved, and because I am me. I am simply myself with a growing knowledge that this is all I am and all I have and thank God for it.

My intention is not to run down a long list of milestones that give personal measurement to my encounters with resilience, fortune, misfortune, or grace. My intention is to stand before the world, on my birthday and say, I am here. I am here still. I am here with more. I expect more from life, more from myself and am ecstatic to let go of past calamities to make room for further lessons and growth. I am here to say I am head over feet in love, so in love that my state of self cannot be honestly given without my heart taking a deep bow to my love, Adonis, with whom building a life has been more profoundly sweet than any dream I could have dreamed.

On February 27, 1979, I was born cesarean to a mother and father who belonged to a country I have still yet to see, a generation I may never fully understand, and unbendable values. On February 27, 2007, I have battled transitions from Republican to something else; pro-life to something else; a little girl to Someone Else. This Someone Else has plans to visit the Philippines in one year and to connect with a history I have only experienced in stories and letters from cousins and family I have yet to meet. In my immediate family, I have learned the painful and loving separation that must occur in order for members to survive. In Filipino culture, family is central. What holds family in place in God. Those values, to this day, to this minute, I still believe and practice, but that definition – the Face of – G*d has changed. My vision of who this G*d is, is wordless, unexplainable, and powerful. I have withstood enough familial earthquakes to understand and accept that I will forever be in struggle with them and also in debt for their love, support, guidance, and forgiveness.

In my lifetime, I have battled tumors found benign, been delivered news of friends in fatal accidents, wept over bitter heartbreak, held dying children in my arms, and have wondered lost in spiritual and mental deserts of confusion and depression. In my lifetime, I’ve also photographed pictures that cannot be adequately captured and laughed so hard my mouth stretched into a new elasticity. In other words, I have lived.

I have a future that I am building for myself, for my life partner, for my future children, and for the world. I dream that I can give something in this lifetime that benefits another soul. As I age, I notice that I am becoming more certain of what I do NOT want than what I do. I know that I do not, cannot have a regular driving commute, work a 40+ hour work week, run errands on a time table with the rest of North America, or sit for hours in front of a plastic flatscreen. I am more postmodern than I want to admit, more irreverent than I’d like to be, and a lot less capable of handling loud children than I thought.

I thought I was called to be a nun, then an actress, then a priest, then a writer, then a political activist, then a psychologist, then an educator, then a professional programmer, then a photographer…. Who would have thought: I am none of those things and all of those things at the same time.

When I lived in Aberdeen, WA, I attended a conference where a woman, whose name I cannot recollect, delivered a speech about her work with sexual assault survivors. She was brilliant. She was funny, real, poignant, and irreverent. The one thing I remember from her speech six years ago was that young adults make the mistake of thinking they got to where they are by their own work alone. She remarked, “I used to think that I got to where I am standing because of my sacrifices, my time, my work. I know better now and that’s what I am telling you, too. If you are here in this room, you didn’t get here alone. If you are sitting before me, healthy, eating, laughing, and enjoying – you didn’t get here alone. So many people have helped you get to this room and your ego needs to acknowledge that.”

I offer the same to you. I didn’t get here (“here” loosely and humbly defined) alone. I am here because of you and because of people like her whose names I cannot remember, but whose words changed me for the good. I am here because I have a thousand handprints on my skin and some of them were passing acquaintances, strangers, and forgotten individuals who shared a portion of their life with me and mine with them. Time has erased their names, but I remember what they said and how they changed me. If you are here, it is because you have changed me, significantly. You have changed me to be 28 and full of life, hope, and expectation. You have smoothed me to be less rough, less angry, and more human. It is because of you I have learned to love and live and I am forever indebted to you in friendship.

Thank you and good evening.

1 comment:

  1. Hey you,

    I'm going to print this out and think about how smart and eloquent you are. I mean, I knew it when I saw you on the 6th floor and thought to myself "I wish to befriend that girl" (probably right after Big Steph talked loudly to you to counter your inability to understand our language)...You still amaze me, raised to the nth power.

    Love you lots - email coming soon to an inbox near you...


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