It has been known that reading is a form of escapism for many. However, aside from reading, I also found comfort in writing. The two were like those things that didn’t make me feel too bothered about feeling alone. They came at the start of the darkest moments of my life. And, I felt comforted that I can turn to these two hobbies to make me feel even an ounce better.
Turning to reading and writing after my dad’s passing
I started reading when I was twelve, only a few months after my dad passed away. It was usually my dad’s must-do to pick me and my sisters up from school. He mostly works at home and only goes out whenever he has a project to do. But, when he passed away, it became our uncle’s task to do it. At the time, our uncle lives right next door. So, it was convenient for him to do so.
I don’t remember why but I was roaming around the school right after dismissal. My bags were already waiting for me by the gate. But, I didn’t want to go just yet. Going home meant going to a place where my dad and I would joke around and piss each other off. Going home meant going to a place where he was no longer around.
I remember going to the school library – a place where I don’t really spend my time in. But, I just wanted to get away – even just for a little bit. I went to the school library and stayed around the fiction books. Then, I saw one book that made me miss my dad even more – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
I took the book from the shelves, asked the school librarian if I could borrow it, and went home.
Staring at the book in my hands, I suddenly felt as if I was transported back in time. Suddenly, my ninth birthday celebration played beneath my lids. My dad and I were at the cinema and we were watching the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At the time, people were still allowed to stay longer at the cinema.
My dad and I entered the cinema halfway through the movie. I was so enamored by the movie that I asked if we could stay to watch the beginning of the movie until its ending. Then, my mom came and I wanted her to see the movie at the cinema, too, so we stayed even longer. My dad and I literally stayed at the cinema for four hours.
That’s when I started reading.
My mom and dad have always told me how wild my imagination is. So, reading a book felt like watching a movie in my head. It was like I was the main character and I would go through every obstacle. Their bodies were mine, their beliefs were mine, their actions were mine, and even their consequences were mine.
It was amazing. I would look up from the book and realize that I spent so much time alone without feeling too bothered about it. I finished the book only a few hours after starting it. And, I wanted to do it even more. I wanted to let time pass by even more. I remember looking up and seeing our television playing the movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Remembering that the entire Harry Potter series were adapted from books, I decided that I would borrow the first book from the school library the next time I went. The next day, once classes were dismissed, I brought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory back. Then, I borrowed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
And, what do you know? At that very moment, I became a Potterhead.
My mom and dad loved bringing my sisters and me to the cinemas to watch the Harry Potter movies. At the time, I won’t even understand half of what was going on onscreen. But, the moment I started reading the first book, I fell in love. I would go to the school library again and again and again just to borrow more books. And, I wished my dad was still around to see me reading so many books.
He would have praised me for doing so. I would probably ramble on and on about how interested I’ve become in reading. But, of course, I wouldn’t be able to do that because he was no longer around. If he was, I wouldn’t probably be too enamored about being entertained by words on paper. He would be the one entertaining me, making me laugh, and educating me about something I wouldn’t know about.
My dad would have loved seeing me read books.
He always said that he didn’t have that much to give us. So, education is the only inheritance that he was able to give. He would have loved seeing me read books whether they were fictional or not. He would have loved every second of it. My dad would have loved seeing me turn on my flashlight underneath the blankets just to read more. Sure, he would scold me for being up so late and for reading in the dark which could cause my eyes to go bad.
I was learning something from reading. So, he would have loved it either way. But, he was no longer around to tell me how proud he was for even reaching for a book on my own. It wasn’t like he thought I was dumb. He just loved seeing me learn. And, it made me feel so good seeing his face whenever I would tell him something I learned from school. His smile would look so big and his eyes would crinkle at the sides. It was an amazing feeling to see him so proud of me.
That’s when I started writing.
Falling in love with the stories I’ve read and seeing the artistry behind the words being woven together made me want to do the same thing. I wanted to create a world where people could escape to. So, I started conceptualizing a story inside my head. I would take note of it on a piece of paper I tore out from my notebook.
But, I just couldn’t find the words to write a story. Instead, I wrote a poem. I was looking at my mom and thinking about how strong she was being just for me and my sisters. She was working so hard – too hard, in fact – just to provide for us. Sure, my sisters and I lost our dad. But, she lost her best friend. She lost the love of her life.
So, I wrote a poem. Just for her, for my mama. I’ve already forgotten what the poem was about but I just wrote something that I hoped would make my mom feel better. She hugged me and kissed the top of my head. And, the look on her face was enough for me to know that I would do it again and again.
So, I started reading more; writing more.
Reading and writing grew my vocabulary. It gave me an advantage at school. But, it also helped me out when I started writing my very own fictional story. I’m not embarrassed to admit it but this was the time when I discovered Wattpad. At thirteen years old, I started writing about a world where people could go and escape – just like what I did when I started reading.
It became a huge secret of mine – reading and writing on Wattpad. I would admit, the first ever fictional book that I wrote was horrible. It was embarrassingly bad. But, I continued reading and writing. I’ve written quite a lot of books on Wattpad, unpublished a lot of them, and even deleted those terrible ones.
Then, one day, my English teacher said something about auditioning for the school newspaper.
It was in the middle of my Geometry class. I hated my Geometry teacher. I didn’t like the way he speaks to me and my classmates. He made us feel so little about ourselves. So, when my English teacher said something about auditioning for the school newspaper, I grabbed the chance and booked it out of there.
We were at the school library and we were meant to write about the hostage-taking that happened at the Quirino Grandstand. It had been all over the news but I didn’t know anything about it. All I knew was a disgruntled former police officer hijacked a bus filled with tourists from Hong Kong.
Everybody else wrote news stories and essays. I was the only one who wrote a poem.
I don’t remember how the poem goes but I remember imagining myself as one of the victims on the bus. It became my angle. I put myself inside that bus and narrated the way how a victim pretended to be dead just so she wouldn’t get shot. I remembered using the grief I felt for my dad and turning it into the victim’s emotions for seeing her fellow tourists’ blood against the seats.
Immersing myself, I cried writing that poem. I had to excuse myself after I submitted it to my English teacher. Then, the next day, I found my name plastered as one of the official writers of the school newspaper. I felt proud of myself and hoped that my dad would be, too. I knew I could do something with the pain that I felt.
Making reading and writing my profession.
Reading and writing had become a form of escapism until I graduated high school and had to pick a degree that I would take for college. I was planning on taking Electrical Engineering. That way, I could open my dad’s company back up which closed down when he died. But, all I knew was reading and writing.
I thought of my dad when I picked what degree I was going to take. He would have wanted me to pick whatever made me feel the happiest. He would have wanted to see me succeed in something that I actually wanted to do. So, I went with my top three options – Journalism, Broadcasting, and/or Mass Communication.
I went to college and put Broadcasting as my first choice. But, when the guidance counselor looked at the rest of my choices, she encouraged me to take up Mass Communication. That way, I could still learn everything under that degree.
This, of course, included advertising, public relations, media, film, journalism, and broadcasting among others. In college, Communication was dubbed as the jack of all trades. I thought I was good at writing until I met people who were even better than me. I studied so hard but I was never good enough to be at the same level as them.
That’s when I needed my dad even more.
At this point, I was seventeen and he had been dead for six years. I felt even more alone. But, this time, it bothered me to be alone. I was still reading books. But, I have stopped writing poems or books. I would only write whenever I need to for school. There were just too many people who were better than me and I felt as if I wasn’t good enough.
It was the darkest point of my life. I wanted to give up and I even started thinking about how I was never even able to say goodbye to my dad. My head was jumped with thoughts that didn’t use to be there. Those dark thoughts had pushed me to the edge, almost pushed me too far off the edge.
I prayed to God to help me out of the shithole that my mind had put me in. But, I couldn’t see some kind of light that He had shed for me. I just wanted to end everything. I was about to, to be honest. Until someone who looked like my dad bumped into me.
I went home that day and cried so hard until my throat felt raw. I wished my dad was there for me and someone who looked like him was. Then, I graduated and fell into a slump. I was still reading books but I couldn’t start writing again. It was like my mind had blocked it off from something.
Then, I started working as a writer.
I started writing again. But, not in the way that I hoped. I started writing news about the current gossip about celebrities, the movies they were promoting, and the television shows they were in. There were things that I loved about being an entertainment news writer.
But, gosh, how I hated writing gossip. Then, I became a contributing writer for Village Pipol Magazine. After that, I became an editorial associate. I started writing about things I was actually interested in. I wrote movie and TV reviews, makeup, skincare, and even my interest in fighting for mental health awareness and basic LGBTQIA+ rights.
I was still reading and… I was writing. Although it wasn’t the type of writing I wanted to do, I was still doing it. I felt somewhat okay about it. Until I downloaded Wattpad again and saw my unpublished and unfinished works.
All of a sudden, it was like my dad was there again, nagging me inside my head to finish at least some of it.
It was like the times when he would tell me to finish the food that I put on my own plate. I put it there. So, I have to finish it. I felt like I was disappointing him by leaving those stories behind. So, I sat down one night and started writing an outline of a story that had taken residence in my head for quite a long time.
I’ve created book after book where the main character’s parents were just like mine. They were goofy, sometimes strict, and funny, and they loved each other so much. But, I would always find myself killing off the dad. My dad was dead. How would I know how fathers would react in certain situations?
How would I know how he would react when I got my first boyfriend? I wouldn’t know. How would I know how he would react when my boyfriend proposes to me? I wouldn’t know.
How would I know what he looks like when he would walk me down the aisle or when he would dance with me for a father-and-daughter dance for my wedding? I wouldn’t know. Those were the thoughts that rang in my head… and the thoughts that would ring in my main characters’ heads.
Today is November 19, 2022.
Papa passed away fourteen years ago. My older sister was just thirteen, I was eleven, my younger sister was ten, and my youngest sister was just six. My parents were married for fourteen years before he passed away. Mama spent fourteen years married to him and fourteen years missing him.
Despite the years that passed by, the grief is still there in our hearts. It never really drowned us anymore. Sure, it still makes us sad from time to time. We would cry sometimes. But, we learned how to grow around the grief that has made itself home in our hearts. As for me, I’ve been using the grief I feel and turning it into something more.
I’m still reading and trying my best to continue writing. I’m still trying to create a fictional world for people to get lost in. And, hopefully, when the time comes, I get a book deal out of it.
Angela Grace P. Baltan has been writing professionally since 2017. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. Aside from that, she has an affinity for writing anything under the sun. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, the LGBTQIA+ community, and mental health among others.