An Excerpt From An Article I Never Got To Write

Anna Bernice
3 min readFeb 7, 2021

July 7, 2020

This is not the summer after college I had hoped for. I watch my European friends frolic by the lakeside via Instagram stories as I refresh the database of countries opening their borders, hoping they’d soon open to Filipino travelers. I couldn’t help but be jealous of their freedom. I’m sitting on a couch in a dorm room, opposite my best friend sending CVs over cold emails, enduring the Abu Dhabi heat we had not planned to live through. He looks up from his laptop in remembrance: “I was landing in Mexico City this time last year,” he says with a faint smile on the corner of his mouth. We laugh then cry a little, sulking in our summer flashbacks, projecting our past lives into the future realities we hope to create for ourselves.

My time in university abroad empowered me to turn my daydreams into a lived reality. I’ve spent the last three summers in foreign cities I had only visited via TV and movies as a kid, interning for cool theater companies and doing creative projects via scholarships and grants I could’ve only dreamed of otherwise. Fragments of these cities are now etched in my brain; I’m in awe that there are cities aside from Manila that I now know like the back of my hand. I’ve experienced cross-country bus rides through the Baltics; I’ve watched plays in German and sang along to Czech concerts though they are languages I don’t understand; I’ve mastered the routes of intertwined U and S Bahn public transit lines that are more complex than the MRT on EDSA. I had hoped this summer would look similar: getting acquainted to new bus stops and walking routes to work, finding a new favorite thrift shop to visit over the weekend, or perhaps retracing and revisiting old ones in cities I’ve lived in before.

Instead, I am still in my college dorm room in Abu Dhabi, drafting what feels like my 500th cover letter and sending cold application emails I doubt I’d get a reply to. Although I feel fulfilled and inspired by my current remote summer fellowship in arts production, my heart trembles at every rejection email I sift through my inbox, afraid that no opportunity would catch me when this fellowship ends. Instead of planning the new layout of my first adult apartment, I am drafting new Plan As to Zs as I figure out my career in a pandemic-inflicted reality.

Having graduated last May from what felt like the best four years of my life, I live in fear that these places and moments would only be but a memory. As my previous summer cities return to normalcy and Manila COVID-19 cases rise by the day, I feel stuck in-between in an alternate reality as my surroundings remain unchanged since the beginning of the pandemic. While I’m grateful to be housed in a country conscious of containing the virus, I feel my post-graduation life drift stagnant and aimless in a world enduring a health crisis. While visa restrictions have always been at the forefront of my mind as a Philippine passport holder living abroad, pandemic-inflicted border restrictions make it even more difficult for me to plan returning to cities that have liberated my creative, artistic soul. As opportunities feel scarce and slip through my fingers like sand, I feel my early 20s wasted in frustration indoors. Even though it’s been just a few months of unprecedented times I feel the doors shut in front of me. As I try to use my time indoors to exercise my activism, participating in virtual talks and protests, my fears for my future are overlaid with my fears that my freedom of speech would be taken away by my country’s newly signed Anti-Terror Law. Despite wanting to come home, I fear returning in conditions such as this. As I face unemployment after four years of a fully-sponsored undergraduate career, I’m anxious that my aspirations are harder to reach in a COVID-afflicted world.

I wish I can end this article on a positive note; ironically, the word “positive” seems to be the most negative word of the year. It’s hard to feel positive when I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing in a month’s time.

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Anna Bernice

Filipino multidisciplinary creative currently based in the UAE. NYU Abu Dhabi 2020.