The Gift of Being Seen

The Gift of Being Seen

The enhanced community quarantine was supposed to be lifted on my birthday. I knew long before that it’s impossible to contain the pandemic within a month, so I have accepted that I’d turn 28 in the midst of the lockdown. I only had two wishes: a cake and a bottle of wine. One out of the two was granted. As of this writing, I am still thirsty for alcohol (damn it, liquor ban).

With most of my birthdays uneventful, this is nothing new to me. For most of my life, I’ve stayed in during my birthday, eating with family and spending the day locked up at home. I don’t like parties (I’m awkward being the center of attention) and my mom is clingy to a point that she gets upset when I go out for my birthday. I think she’s more disappointed than I am at this point. Because honestly, I’m all good here.

The night before my birthday, my boyfriend, Mark, asked me to assist him in using Zoom. I knew he was cooking something because I’ve seen him chat with my friends a few days before, although I didn’t give it much thought to save myself from expecting anything (LOL). I like surprises but it’s hard for me not to get hunches because I’m quite observant (but not nosy!). Once I’ve helped him set up, I saw two of my closest friends pop up on the screen, and I thought that that was it. That’s the surprise– a quick video call with my girls and them singing as I blow my scented candle (the cake didn’t come with one of those sparkly things, unfortunately).

After a quick catch up, jokes, and me awkwardly smiling as they sing happy birthday, Inah mentioned that they are going to play something for me. We tried screen sharing but failed miserably, so I ended up watching it on the laptop while Karen and Inah just watched my (awkward) reactions. I immediately imagined it to be a montage of my silly dances by the beach with some sweet nonsense, but I quickly realized that it’s a compilation of my loved ones greeting me. It was nice and touching and I felt special. I wanted to cry, but with all eyes on me, I had to keep it in like I always do. I laughed and smiled until everything was over– not a hint that I’m emotional AF. Heh.

My actual birthday cake!

Here’s a confession (and a warning for possible pity party): I have always felt like I never truly belonged anywhere. I have a handful of friends that I adore, sure, but in my head, if I went somewhere far, no one would even realize that I was gone. It’s the reason why I always cry over long letters and appreciation messages that makes me feel like I’m important to people. It’s also why I cried so much after I watched Dear Evan Hansen– it was too close to home.

One of the songs from the musical was Waving Through a Window and it perfectly captured how I felt for most of my life:

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

Lady Gaga Thank You GIF by RuPaul's Drag Race - Find & Share on GIPHY

With all my emotional turmoil and long standing issues, seeing my friends and loved ones tell me how much I meant to them felt reassuring. Maybe I just wanted validation from people (haha) but listening to their kind words and seeing the effort that they’ve put to make the video possible truly made me happy. I don’t use the word happy to express my feelings very often, but for the first time in a while, that night before my birthday– I was truly happy. I may be far from family and cooped up in a tiny apartment, but that moment will be something that I’d always cherish.

I know that video messages aren’t new, and most of the time they can be too cheesy, but for someone who has spent most of her life believing that she’s not seen, it’s something that I deeply appreciate.

Happy Be Kind GIF by KOYA - Find & Share on GIPHY

Many of us hold back from telling people how much they mean to us. With the pandemic and the global catastrophe happening, it’s high time to make your loved ones feel appreciated. I know I’m not the only one who feels lonely sometimes, and if you’ve read this far, then I urge you to let other people in and communicate with them. Message them, write a letter, send a random chat. You’ll never know how much your kind words can impact someone’s life.

As for me, there’s no denying that I still feel like waving through a window. But this time, I know for sure, that somebody will eventually wave back at me.

PS: Thank you Inah and Mark for putting the video together! And to all my loved ones who participated and greeted me, if you’re reading this, I’m thankful that I have you in my life.

I’m old! Please send wine! This liquor ban (and my back pain) is killing me!

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