Lorraine is a queer Catholic Filipina American who graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle, in spring 2020 with a degree in classics and a minor in anthropology. She currently teaches secondary education English and social studies. A fellow writer, she chose to add her own questions for the poem.
Where are you from?
As simple as this sounds, I really think home is where the heart is. Wherever we place all our hopes, dreams, desires, fears, and treasures is where our hearts are. For me, that place is God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It used to be me, myself, and I, but I see now that a good and stable home can only be built on the foundation of God.
In my mind, I imagine Our Lady draping a purple cloak around me in prayer. I really believe we can only see ourselves for everything we are once we see ourselves through Heaven’s eyes. So, my experience is best captured by Our Lady’s embrace, because she (and God!!) sees me for all I’ve been, all I am, and all I’ll be.
What do you love about life?
Warmth is the tender embrace of another, coming home, making dinner, tears in the rain, sitting together in uncertainty, reconciling. Forgiveness. Warmth is the other, another. Each other. Someone besides yourself.
Adventure, of any kind! Whether that’s, “Hey, wanna step out for dinner and drinks?” or “Let’s go on a hike!” or a path I’ve never seen on an evening walk or grad school—anything new, and sometimes old, familiar things, mean adventure to me!
Who are you, really?
The sea. She changes, and its constant all the same. The ancients used to warn against the deceptive nature of water, not understanding how water ruled life, how life first found its origins in water. Relentless or peaceful, depending on circumstances. Dull or shining. Always, always moving, sustaining. Either treacherous or irresistible. I see myself in the way the ocean never stops sending its love to the sands it kisses, how it is ruled by tides. Mysterious.
You are not a mistake. Your life has changed someone’s life and oh, do you matter. Never, ever give in to the despair of this world. Whatever undoing, whatever suffering, always believe in love. Pain is never permanent, no matter what. As you come to learn who you are, you will see how the journey ends not at 22 but later, at death. So, let yourself grow, and remember: always believe in love.
Lorraine: So, for this first section, my question was, “Where are you from?”
That first prompt was, “Where is home?” and, yeah, it sounds stupid, but I really think home is just where the heart is. I think it’s just exactly where you place all your treasures, where you lay all your desires. It’s not always just, like, the stuff that is good and makes you feel happy, because the heart is so multidimensional. So, my answer, specifically for me personally, is that my heart used to only belong to me, myself, and I. But as time has moved forward, I cannot see my heart being anywhere but with God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. I just don’t think that there is anywhere else in this world—person, place, or thing—that could be as good, as stable, as perfect. That’s where I’ve placed my heart.
And then the second prompt was to describe an image, a memory of being Catholic, queer, Filipina. So, it’s an interesting one. In my mind, I imagine Mary, our Lady. This is an image that comes to prayer, pretty consistently. [Mary] coming to me and draping a purple cloak over my shoulders, and the purple cloak is symbolic of two things: me, because I love the color purple—it’s my favorite—but also just this concept of being royal—being a royal daughter of God the Father and Jesus Christ the King. I really just think that we can’t really know ourselves completely ever at any given point in time in our lives, but Heaven sees us for everything that we’ve ever been, everything we are, everything we will ever be. So, it’s just this consistent image of me coming to prayer and accepting this cloak of, “This is your identity, and this is exactly who you are. You are fashioned in His image. You are made to be exactly who you were meant to be,” and I can’t reject that. So that’s how I answered that.
The next two prompts I answered, the question I attached to them was, “What do you love about life?”
And the third prompt was, “Write a metaphor for warmth,” and so I think I can just read this verbatim because I don’t know how to talk about this: [reads the stanza]
And this fourth prompt: “What makes you curious or ‘sparks joy’?” Adventure of any kind. To me, that could be something as simple as, like, “Let’s go on a walk!” or “Let’s take a hike this weekend!” or “Let’s grab drinks!”—when, you know, you could grab drinks out in the world again. Now it’s just kind of looking more like, “Let’s talk on the phone!” or “Hey, we should FaceTime!” or, you know, something of that sort. People, but it’s also the concept of grad school. A path I’ve never taken on my morning walk. The random, crazy idea of me being like, “I should write a book about my queer experiences.” Just adventure, anything new. And sometimes, old, familiar things too. When you rediscover something new about them.
And then, prompts five and six. I asked the question, “Who are you, really?”
And this fifth prompt’s really fascinating. I’ve never written a metaphor for me. But I’m obsessed with water. I’m obsessed with the ocean. And, no, I did not grow up as a mermaid child, though I did have friends who definitely did. But it’s true. I was born on an island surrounded by water. I lived right along the beach when I was growing up. I live here in Washington now. Water rules my life and it’s always been present, and specifically the ocean, right, like, the Pacifica. The Pacific Ocean has always been something so important to me. So, I think of who I am as a person, I see myself in that ocean, you know, constantly pulled back and forth with all these different tides that sometimes reveal great things like shells, sometimes even islands in certain places. Sometimes can be super destructive. Sometimes can, through no fault of its own, destroy so much, and yet at the same time this is the place where life first found its origins—and still gives so much life to all the things that reside in it. The deception of peaceful waters, but also the attraction of it and wanting to constantly go out to see it. The mystery of the ocean and how we really don’t know everything that’s down there; we might have an idea, but we don’t. That is what gets me about the ocean, it’s constantly the same thing, and yet it’s always moving, always changing. It’s never still. And it is this mysterious thing. There’s just so much to it we don’t know.
That’s kind of the same way I think about myself. I’m, like, constantly shifting, constantly changing. I do things that aren’t always the best, but I also do a lot of great things that help other people. I’m very imperfect in the way that I live my life, but that’s okay. And it’s just this mystery—mystery gets to reside deep into the heart of the ocean, and I think that that’s true for who I am as well, where I’m like, “I don’t need to know everything.” And in fact, that actually makes my life a lot better, that I don’t need to know every single thing about anything. Myself. God. The world. Otherwise, then you run out of adventures, and that’s never fun.
And then the last prompt. I’ll just read it verbatim because I think this is kind of the best way to say it: [reads the stanza]
It was short and sweet. That’s what I would have told myself when I had entered college.
Veronica Anne: Thank you. Now I’d like you to give a reflection on the exercise itself—how it felt to not only reflect on these questions, but to also talk and sit down and write your answers. Was there anything that surprised you about yourself, about your answers, or something that you’ve thought about before, but are still contemplating?
Lorraine: Yeah, [this interview and exercise] was a really interesting experience. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to open up about my life, but I think there’s something about you. I sense a kindred spirit here, so I’m like, “You know, like, I can tell you a lot about my life.” I’m usually not this talkative, when people would ask me to do stuff like this. So, I did feel very comfortable. I feel happy to talk. I think I actually talked way more than I really was expecting.
And you know, I’ve given my testimony multiple times, like, I’ve said the same narrative over and over and over again. But it’s like I said, I think the way I talk about it changes every time. I liked the way that I talked about it today. We hit so many different parts of my story that I’m like, “Oh, boy.” Part of me that’s just kind of like, “Oh, my god.” It really is a lot to go through, all that intersectionality.
What was the most interesting to me was the fact that there is a writing exercise at all, because as an English teacher I always told my kids, like, “You should write,” right, and they hate that. Like, if I can just talk it out with you, I’ll talk it out with you. That’s fine; colloquial conversation is healthy. But there’s something about the actual outpouring of writing that legitimately captures a semblance of the self, right. Like, no one writes the way that you do. No one is thinking the way that you’re thinking, and then putting it on paper the way that you’re thinking.
So, completely unique, very interesting exercise. I think, just in general—I’m kind of looking at my answers and I’m like, “So the Romanticism Movement of the 19th century has certainly impacted my entire life,” because now I can’t seem to answer anything except for in terms of my religion and, like, metaphors and stuff like that. And it makes me realize, I’m like, “Oh god, Lorraine, you just need to write the frickin’ book you’ve been planning.” [Laughs]
I am surprised by the “write a metaphor of you,” because I’m, like, I’m in love with the sea, but I never, ever, ever would have thought that that could be a metaphor for who I am. So, I thought that that was a really interesting experience.
But otherwise, I had a great time, and this was very healthy. I think it’s always good to kind of talk about this type of stuff with people.