Choosing To Live: How Writing Saved This Student From Loneliness In The Pandemic

Do not settle for the soil, he writes.

Consumed by a surge of inexplicable emotions, this student turned to writing and poetry to pull him out of a spiral of sadness.


Throughout my final year in high school, I only knew exhaustion. Apart from my finding a way to distract myself from my own experience, I was consumed by the reality of Filipinos losing their jobs, their families, and their sense of normalcy due to the pandemic. With the exhaustion numbing me to my surroundings, I started to become unaware that I was skipping meals and losing hours of sleep to my thoughts. I lived in the darkness of my cold room for so long that I have become all too familiar with the ringing of distorted microphones and the sounds of birds chirping as I succumbed to my fatigue. It all felt like just a cycle of just merely existing—and then one day, I just fell apart.

It was a quiet Friday morning as I recall, the cool wind brushing on my cheeks as I woke to the sun’s light, creeping through the curtains. As I got out of bed to prepare for midterms, I went to social media to get an update on some current events, as one should be responsible for these days. Little did I know that the words behind two taps of a button would scar me. Taking in the news of bullying, violence, and sexual assault, I realized that I did not have the capacity to process this information. When all the rampant injustices somehow settled, I started to doubt my purpose and myself. Even my passion for social change stood no match for my fragility at that moment.

Going Off The Grid

While taking the exams, I remember being engulfed in only self-doubt. With every word typed on the surface of the screen, I only found myself spiraling to questions aimed at crumbling any ounce of self-worth I carried. I knew I was not okay, and the worst part was, I momentarily embraced the thought of knowing I would always feel this way. Just as the world seemed to have hit rock bottom, so did I.

For a person who was always on his feet, I stopped moving. Everything else didn’t make sense.

So, for the sake of my mental health, I deleted all of my social media apps, deactivated my accounts across platforms, stopped responding to floods of messages, and just fled to my bed for days. I did not want to do anything anymore, because I felt as if it would all be so pointless.

The Writing Task

When the announcement of our major performance tasks was released online, I just stood still. As soon as I saw that notification pop up in my screen, I did not even want to bother trying. A part of me accepted that I would only produce mediocre outputs because I was not good enough. However, the student in me still knew his obligations. So, I browsed through all the performance tasks with shared deadlines, and as I read through the instructions of my major performance task for Creative Writing and Creative Non-Fiction, I paused at the sight of our latest requirement. We were tasked to write a poem to our future selves. I had to collect my thoughts because I could only ask myself: “How do I write a poem to a dead man?”

I did not think of the future, let alone think that I would even make it this far. So, to me, this poem would be like having to write about ships that have yet to embark and lands that have yet to know man. My approach to writing this piece was vague, being that I never properly confronted the idea of actually growing old enough to get a job, let alone raise a family. I was caught between this limbo of unspoken life and ordained death. It took me two whole days of just reflecting before I could even select a theme to ponder on. Every time I tried to write something, it all just felt meaningless because I could not make sense of why I was writing for someone who may not even exist.

I went onwards with this state of uncertainty and inner turmoil until I reached an epiphany. In this eureka moment, I realized that crafting a poem that speaks to and for a dead man would be meaningless. However, making a poem that encompasses the choice to live would speak volumes of how life is so precious. So, I wrote my piece entitled, Do Not Settle For The Soil.

Do Not Settle For The Soil

I vividly remember the sentiments I was feeling as I wrote this piece. Dejected, lonely, and feeling worthless, it was a downpour of emotions that I have put away for a long time because I did not want to confront my reality. It felt as if I were on a rooftop, experiencing brisk hail, heavy rainfall, the biting rays of the sun, and violent winds all at once. It was pure chaos—and I was okay with that. In writing this poem, I could finally confront my feelings and find some form of release and closure to what I was feeling. I wrote about my attachments and affinity for death and how alternatively, the thing I sought in it could be found among the living.

As I was writing my poem, I started to realize that I had to give time for myself to slow down and collect my thoughts. It dawned on me that there was clarity between the blurred lines of living, existing, and death. I wrote about the value of the little things and how I had to get a firm grasp on that. This picture of me not existing slowly faded, slowly becoming images of resilience and perseverance. Through this literary exercise, I decided that pondering over my transience was meaningless. I started to realize that I just had to take things slowly, day by day. Throughout the entire process, I felt a comforting sense of peace. It felt as if the clouds broke apart allowing the light in. And at that moment, I was proud of my being.

Writing To Live

As soon as I finished my poem, I retreated to my bed. Oddly enough, I could not sleep, not after what I had just experienced. In my vulnerability, I felt this clash between joy and sadness, because I finally came to terms with a lot of emotions I kept hiding away, and as a defense mechanism, all I could do was shed tears. I cried at how dark my thoughts were and how I have harbored such negative emotions for so long. However, I did not feel despair.

Through writing the poem, I realized that there is still room for me to grow and to heal, I am still young after all. In this act of conscious catharsis, I felt a sense of hope again. That very evening, on the second of March, I did not settle for the soil. Not only did I decide to write, I chose to live.

Francis Obenza is senior year student and an active member of the BlueGold Visions, the official school paper of St. Mary’s School in Cagayan de Oro.