Infinite Ascent.

by CJ Quineson

already home

basta’t makasama ka / ako’y nakauwi na


Bakit kailangang malungkot at umiyak?
Bumabagal ang ’yong mundo’t bumibigat

the last few weeks have been rough. i’ve been kinda depressed, have had less energy than usual, and aren’t enjoying things as much. there’s been two or thee times in the last week that i’ve gotten close to crying about nothing specific—i’d be alone in my room or at my desk in the office and i’d notice my lungs sucking in more air for a breath, and then another, and i’d feel the edges of my nose crease, and the surface of my eyes moisten, and then i pause, and i arrest my breath from myself, and the urge is gone.

i broke the other night. i was reading sasha chapin’s account of deep okayness and got to the ifs part and then cried, which reminded me of how i cried while reading the ifs chapter of the body keeps the score. there’s still some parts of myself that i don’t think i’ve fully integrated, even after consciously talking to these parts and telling them it’s okay or whatever. did that satisfy the urge to cry? i don’t know… maybe, but part of me thinks that there’s work to be done here.

the solar eclipse was a dull experience. i spent tuesday in rochester getting work done, and i took a train back to new york on wednesday. i started working on my blog post about the eclipse, in the evenings, and during the train ride. writing on the internet has always been, since i was thirteen or so, the main way i process my emotions.

i had a self-imposed deadline of thursday, because i was taking a train to boston thursday morning. i didn’t want to worry about finishing the blog post while cpw was happening. cpw is mit’s campus preview weekend, a weekend where the prefrosh are invited to come on campus and students run events for them. this year’s cpw was the first one in a while where i wasn’t running any events, because it’s the first cpw that happened after i graduated—i was looking forward to coming to mit, meeting up with people, enjoying the energy of campus, and going to a few events. whatever was gonna happen, it was probably gonna be better than the eclipse.

so on wednesday, i write, i do laundry, i get some work done, put out some code, pack some stuff again. so much to do before cpw starts. on thursday i wake up early, head to moynihan train hall, for the third time that week, to take the train, and i keep writing. i keep writing, i finish the blog post, i put it up.


Nakatitig sa wala
Malayo ang tingin
Tuyo na ang luha
Sa lamig ng hangin

i cried for a few solid minutes. it’s getting warmer in new york, with temperatures in the mid-twenties. i turn on the fan in my room, and the wind dries my tears. i wipe the moisture off my face with my shirt, head to the bathroom, check the mirror. if you didn’t know i cried for ten minutes, could you tell from the red lines in my eyes? could you tell from the slightly dark spot on my shirt? could you tell if you listened to the sound of my breath, how shallow it was, how ready it was to collapse?

but the living room is dark, and the tv is playing music, so i head downstairs and i play slay the spire and it’s fine, i’m fine, look at me, i didn’t just cry about anything, especially not because i looked inside and felt some obstructions to being fundamentally okay! i’m not sad about anything, and that’s why i haven’t been writing as much recently. after all, that’s the only thing i write about, things that are sad, and i’m not sad and i’m not writing about it, and these are not threats to my identity that i’m scared about, because i’ve chosen not to define myself like this, right?

i stand up, head to the cafe car, buy some lunch, head back to my seat, look out the train window, stare at nothing.

the blog post i just wrote had over three thousand six hundred words, and i’m happy with it. i’ve still got it, you know? i can still write several thousand words about my feelings and feel good about doing it and make something i think other people will like. not that i write for other people’s approval. (that’s a lie, i do.) not that i have to live up to the person who i was, or who i thought i was, not that i have to be all the things i admired about my past selves, because i’m a different person, and situations change, and it doesn’t mean i’m becoming worse, right?

i tune out of what i’m seeing and tune into what i’m hearing. behind me i hear two people talking about dining halls. probably prefrosh, i thought, prospective first-years, who were probably also going to cpw. i wasn’t going to talk to them, but then i hear one of them talking about maseeh dining, saying things that felt patently wrong, so i looked behind me and tried, as gently as i could, to enter the conversation.

i’m not sure what they thought about me doing that. we had a quick conversation, someone asked if i was cj from the blogs, and then for some reason i felt i was unwelcome, so i said okay cool and turned back to my seat and stared at the window again.

damn, i thought, already making prefrosh feel unwelcome, great job! was i too old for this? was i, less than a year after graduating, already too far removed from mit? maybe i should’ve picked a different time to visit mit, huh?


Puwede ka bang puntahan diyan at tabihan?
Kahit walang sinasabi’t tahimik lang

and now i’m in the living room, on the couch, next to people i love, holding hands and locking limbs as we play spire with friends and complain about hard mode being too hard. and then we get tired, and we sit, and we talk about the same things we always do, like work and plans for the weekend and whatnot, and it’s the same conversation, but with interesting people, and it’s still interesting.

people leave, and i go back to my room, and i lie in bed, and i’m alone again. my shoulders, my torso, my arms, my whole body feels like a balloon, like helium rushing in and pushing against my skin from the inside, and it’s not painful, but it feels light and hollow. it’s uncomfortable. it’d be nice if there was someone else in the room, to take me in their arms, hold me, keep me grounded, even talk to, equalize the pressure, breathe with me.

but nobody came.

i sleep. i dream of a cj who has enough love to weigh themselves down.

i take the red line from south station to kendall/mit, step out the station, and spend some time in e33, taking a call, writing some code. i walk across campus to the sipb office. the keys still work. it’s the same office, almost like how i remembered it. random things hanging from the ceiling, a seemingly unchanging bulletin board, and computers. i take a seat, relax, and start coding. it’s a work day for me. perks of working remotely.

vincent visits the office and says hi. we talk, about work, living in sf, about purpose and goals, and the meet the bloggers event that’s happening tomorrow. he leaves. i head downstairs, say hi to some admissions officers i knew. back up. sipb members trickle into the office, with a range of surprised reactions to my presence. i remember pratyush talking about staying in new york for the summer for an internship, and alex talking about chicago and taking a finance job for making bank, and i’m reminded of all those conversations i’d have as an undergrad: classes and summer plans and grad school.

then the python bee starts. pratyush is leading it, still using the code i hacked together when i ran python bees years ago, and i’m glad seeing him continue using it. there’s pizza, and i eat dinner. i head to esg for firehose, an esp event this time. i do some chalking, you know, chalking the verb, one of those mit-isms, meaning drawing on sidewalks with chalk, typically to advertise something. i get some more surprised reactions, i do some more catching up with people.

i head back to et late that night with lumia, and play some tichu, and do some more talking and catching up. it’s warm, and it’s familiar, and all my worries about this trip being a waste of time melt.

i sleep. i dream of a cj strong enough to accept all the love offered to them.


Kahit sandali lang
Basta’t makasama ka
Kahit mamaya-maya lang
Ako’y uuwi na

Kahit walang katapusan
Hindi ka iiwan
Basta’t makasama ka
Ako’y nakauwi na

the question of where home is seems to be perennial. my reasons for yearning a stable home have changed over the years. it used to be a matter of identity, home being the place where you come from. in undergrad it became a matter of community, home being a group of people who lived and did things together.

now it’s a matter of emotion: home being the people i feel at home with. home isn’t about doing things as a group, it’s about feeling secure in a certain space. maybe you too have felt that low-level background anxiety, the radio static, the unpointed sense that something’s wrong or i’m forgetting something. quiet enough that i’m outwardly the same, loud enough that it’s still discomforting. maybe home is the absence of that feeling.

if home is about feeling a certain way, then it can be as small as a single person. it doesn’t even have to involve other people. but i’ve mostly felt it around others, around people i love, and only when they are near and present. i could be in my apartment, in my room, all my roommates footsteps away, and yet i’d still feel the radio static, i’d still crave for home.

the rest of cpw is a cascade of people and events, one after another. dinner at et, sipb project showcase, meet the bloggers, activities midway, guild game, lunch with hahn, c1 class, a meetup of what remains of floorpi, and three days are gone, just like that.

monday comes. it’s a work day, and i work remotely. the afterglow of cpw sticks with me, like i’ve been irradiated with love and i’m leaking it out. monday night, i call some square dancing, and i’m underprepared, but it came out fine, and that’s what matters. on tuesday i work, and that afternoon i take a train back home.

the train takes me back to earth. i absorbed all the energy of cpw, only to pour it out on the tracks of the northeast corridor.


’Di na kailangang malungkot at umiyak
Bumibilis ang ’yong mundo’t gumagaan

in a different world, i’d be secure in my aloneness.

is it bad if i have to be around others to feel fully at ease? it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. in the world where i felt more secure, i’d still be doing the same things, only with a little less internal pain. as the saying goes, before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

why bother with anything spiritual then, if the result’s the same? why chase security, why thirst for home, why seek comfort? gods, maybe i’m only in pain because i want to be in pain. maybe the idea of home terrifies me. the feeling of lightness terrifies me. being truly happy terrifies me.

the last few weeks have been rough. i’ve been kinda depressed, have had less energy than usual, and aren’t enjoying things as much.

this morning i took a train back home to boston.