Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.
— Michael Corleone, from The Godfather III
After a two-year respite, I’m back as the [co-]Moderator of the Ateneo Literary Association (ALA). I took some time thinking about it, reflecting on my missteps & misguided expectations, on remedies for possible improvements, and on gaps which have yet to be covered. I thought it was all over, but something pulled me right back in. Was it the camaraderie? Love for books and creative writing? The frontier of Bikol literature for the current generation (too ambitious!)? The promise of younger writers/critics (ditto!)? I really don’t know. It just felt right.
A member from the first generation narrated an early memory of ALA. She talked about the first meeting. She quoted me — almost verbatim — and I cringed. There’s no doubt that what she said was true, but to listen to your younger self from another person’s account is like listening to your own voice from an old, old record player.
Speaking of old, my girlfriend noted that 2015 is ALA’s fifth year as an official organization. Well, holy frak, has it been that long? Time flies, I guess. Did we have fun? Most of the time — but we also went through a lot of growing pains as an organization.
We had some miscalculations in playing the planning game. Personalities clash as creative perspectives imploded in the foreground. We felt the inner pangs whenever we lose new members. We got totally unpredictable at some point. The cause: hubris, misunderstanding/miscommunication, the usual creative differences (which is admittedly hard to manage). Even I had my own share of flaws. But there were moments when the organization also shined — when our intentions were able to cohere and not collide, when collaborations went smoothly like a cool breeze, when other offices tapped our org for assistance & we were able to deliver, and when one or two members have displayed the gift of writing or critical analysis. These were the moments which have somehow given us hope, reminding us of our purpose.
Everything feels new and old. We now have ‘traditions’ (such as the Papercup Sessions) but we also adapt to the changing times, the ever evolving generational landscapes. One time I was speaking with an old member about ALA. I observed that the org has developed a life of its own — it went beyond what was expected, and somehow it steered itself towards its own direction. Where? I really don’t know, but instinct tells us to continue. Something awaits.
The member population usually declines as the semester goes by. It’s very much true to all organizations (even the co-curricular ones). I’ve been thinking about this fact. Worried even. But just recently — as if the universe has given me this kind wisdom — I heard two people (from different circumstances) share this important adage: The ones who are present, those who decide to stay, are the ones who matter. This statement has given me not only much consolation, but also a different (and better) perspective.
I would like to thank my girlfriend, Ahj, for helping the members and the Core Group. I may be the [co-]moderator, but Ahj is actually the one who can weave this fine web which keeps everyone connected. It’s really difficult when members are undergoing the usual complexities of growing up, but Ahj has this gift of helping people unravel themselves, slowly & kinder. The complexity is still there, but it has become more intricate, more beautiful, more organized — like a dreamcatcher. I would usually ask for her advice, especially when it comes to member interaction. Thanks, Ahj!
Of course, I would also like to congratulate and thank the Core Group for doing a splendid job this semester. Yes, yes, we’ve experienced some tricky setbacks. But the accomplishments (from reaching the desired number of activities to the successful orgs’ fest) simply outweigh the difficulties. Always remember: let’s just do our best, let’s remember our purpose, and let’s have fun along the way.