Should I stay?


For the past weeks I have been itching to write but I pushed away my notebook, afraid of polluting it with my melancholic musings (just as I did years ago when I was sad teenager). It was my New Year’s Resolution for 2017 to avoid negative thoughts and feelings and I have no intention of breaking it. After all, I deserve to be happy, right?

But I just can’t feel happy right now.

I knew that at some point, the honeymoon stage will end and doubt will come but I never expected it to come this early. I never thought that my students will ever break my heart.

Recently, several students claimed that they have learned nothing from me. It hurt. I am hurting so much that the all the maybes have resurfaced and have now made a monster who nibbles on this passion that I have held on to all my life.

Maybe I really suck at teaching.

Maybe I am not what they need.

Maybe I have been wrong all this time.

Maybe I screwed it all up again.

Maybe mom’s right — maybe, a medical school is where I truly belong.

Or maybe, I should pursue a career in science, just as I was trained to do.

I thought passion and determination was enough. I thought I was enough. But as it turns out, I am not. That hurts when you think you have given all that you can.

Lately, I have been thinking: Should I stay? Do I love them enough to stay? 

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Sleep is for the strong!


A stack of books, several piles of newly printed reviewers, an unsorted pile of returned exams, and multi-colored highlighters cover the table. Mid-sentence through the second paragraph of the ten-page essay due tomorrow, she stops typing and goes to bed.

She tucks herself in, chuckling, “Sleep is for the strong!”

On Flashbacks and Accepting My Teenage Self


Most people would cringe upon seeing their Facebook memories from six years ago for it seems that we all dread who we were as younger men and women. I, for example, was cheesy and oftentimes irrelevant. I used to flirt online and posted the most random things about myself, making my present self ask in disgust, Do people really have to know that? I was such a KSP*. Eww.

But one memory from six years ago made me rethink about the judgment I so proudly formed against my fifteen-year-old self. Here it is:

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There is no such word as “boldlessly.” Who would have thought my former grammar Nazi self could ever make such an unforgivable mistake?

A friend has once joked that the past is past; hence, Facebook has no right to bring back the memories of our embarrassing younger selves. Facebook must let us move on, he said. How I laughed when he told me that. Back then, I shared the same sentiments — I have moved on and my embarrassing past has no space in my life now.  Except, not quite, as I realize now after remembering this particular moment.

I cannot say that I recall moment vividly but I do remember the paralyzing fear that gripped me. It was a weekend and I was preparing my school things — five  sets of school uniform, underwear and nighties, and some extra clothes. But on this particular night, there are some few extra things in my luggage that I would be bringing with me every week for the rest of the year — dark denim trousers, a military belt, and an intimidating pair of combat boots. Yeahp, against everyone’s better judgment, I enlisted for the Cadet/Cadette Officer Leadership Training (COLT), the training program for aspirant CAT officers.

That night, as I pack my things, I kept asking myself, What were you thinking? The training was rumored to be excruciatingly difficult and it seems to all, including myself, that my physical strength is not enough for what the training calls for. Everybody knows that I was not cut out for it. Hence, just as I said in my six-year-old post, I was scared to death. Now, I look back both amused and proud of myself (that seldom happens). Truthfully, the training was as harsh as it can be and was way beyond what I thought I could handle. But I survived it and lived on to serve as a company commander for the next year. Most importantly, the experience developed in me the emotional strength that got me through college. Indeed, the most wonderful experiences we ever have are the difficult ones.

Usually, such memories brought back by Facebook make me criticize my teenage self. I would often say I was stupid and again, irrelevant. Usually, I am ashamed of my younger self. Now I realize that I have no right to do so for that person that I so openly mock now is the one responsible for the person that I am now. The reason that I now have a relatively happier life is the fact that this foolish and cheesy teenager chose to take risks, made mistakes and learned from them, got up, and moved on.  Yes, she did a lot of crazy things that would make this twenty-one-year-old me cringe but I have no right to be ashamed of her because she was brave and strong enough to make this current me possible.

So here is a reminder for everyone: Let us accept our younger selves, no matter how embarrassing they were because whoever we are today, we have them to thank.

* Kulang sa pansin. It literally means, “lacks attention”. It is used to refer to a person who actively seeks attention.

Strictly Mine?


Last month, I started a six-part series telling the story of my uneventful college life and how I managed to survive it. I intended to end the series on my graduation day. Now, it has been more than a month since I posted the third part and the fourth is still a shabby first draft.

I can give a handful excuses as to why I could not write it:

  1. reading
  2. getting as much shut-eye as I could to make up for the sleepless nights
  3. watching T.V. because I have not in months
  4. job applications
  5. some more reading

But to be honest, there is just one reason why I cannot proceed to writing it:

Some stories are painful to tell because they are built by memories that we would rather forget.

My junior year in college was the toughest year of my school life that I used to worry so much for my mental health. I got past through it, alive and whole, but thinking about it now opens up a hodgepodge of distasteful emotions that I fought so hard to keep bottled deeply inside all these years. They are just too intimate that I could just not find the right equations to show you how I came to here. It feels like I should not be sharing it because it is strictly mine. But still, a part of me wants to tell it — to unleash the monster that I managed to tame. A part of me wants to say that it is possible to fix your own brokenness, to make yourself whole again — not necessarily the same but whole and new.

Right now, apart from typing this rambling post, I am trying to write it for the nth time — not exactly writing sentences but rather gathering the courage to share a story that I believe is strictly mine. Wish me luck.

The College Playlist: Freshman Year


This post is 2nd in a six-post series.

This is not the first time I am boarding the bus alone but for goodness’ sake, this is Manila— filthy, anarchic Manila (as I have seen T.V. news programs paint its picture). I could easily get lost! Or worse, robbed. Or mugged. Or abducted. Or, seeing these almost flying vehicles, run over when I get down from the bus.

Who would believe that my mother, the woman who kept her dear children out of bicycles for fear that they might hurt themselves and used to take them with her wherever she went, is actually sending me out here alone? She used to tell me that Manila, even in broad daylight, is never safe. Now she is making me tackle this wilderness on my own. I am scared.

Before leaving the house at five in the morning, I almost asked Mommy if she could take me to school instead and then pick me up when my classes are over. But I am already seventeen — old enough to take the daily commute, they say. After all, I am in college now.

Fat raindrops hit my bus window and I watch the tiny waterfalls they make.

I love the rain. When it rains, both the streets and cars are washed. Flowers usually bloom soon after. The earth is wet, the rice fields are majestically green and gold. And there is that peculiar but relaxing smell produced from the mingling of rainwater and foliage. Rain is a gift.

But looking through my bus window, I see rain here is an annoying, unwelcome guest. Everywhere I see people with sour faces, holding on to their umbrellas. The streets are muddy, not cleaned, and pedestrians have to dodge puddle after puddle of mud. There are no flowers, only wilted plants and misplaced trees. It is a sad sight. Not even the rain can cheer Manila up.

The driver starts cursing. It has started to flood so the traffic is getting worse. I sigh. This is going to be one long ride.

**********

It is now a few minutes before nine in the morning and I am still in the bus. I have missed my 7 A.M. class and given the traffic’s pace, I am lucky if I can still attend even just ten minutes of my second class. Another missed quiz again. I wonder how I will be able to pass History1 if I keep on missing quizzes.

Miraculously, the bus inches forward, its wheels almost useless in this flood. I have seen floods worse than this but I cannot understand how streets can be flooded when the rains were not too heavy. Only in Manila, it seems.

After two Pinoy comedy films (Praybeyt Benjamin and Here Comes the Bride), the bus finally comes to my stop — Padre Faura Street. I have missed my second class but there is still enough time to get to the next. I walk through the flood, dreading manholes and pissed that I forgot to roll up my jeans. The usual five-minute walk to the school gates takes fifteen minutes.

As I walk towards a comfort room to dry myself, a professor (I could no longer remember who), seeing my wet jeans, asks, “O, hanggang saan any baha?

Embarrassed, I answer, “Hanggang tuhod, po.” He laughs.

“Well then, welcome to Taft River!”

**********

Thank God, I can be home before dark.

The bus is nearly empty and I have managed to have a window seat. This is a good day.

We are halfway through towards my destination and people starts filing in. A bearded, hefty, old man sits beside me. Every now and then the bus halts to let more passengers in. As there are no more seats, they remain standing, holding on to the back rests of the seats. I could have pitied them but after spending countless bus rides standing up throughout the entire journey, I ignore them. They are fine.

Then, the seat starts trembling. Ugh, I think, why do old men do that? It is bad enough to see them jerking their legs for no reason. It is so much worse to feel its effects. Just ignore him. You’re near your stop, I tell myself. He’ll get bored doing it anyway. They all do.

But he doesn’t. I turn sideways to glare at him, just to show my displeasure and…

… he smirks at me. I cry.

I sob and close my eyes, not knowing what to do, as the old man laughs maniacally, masturbating. The seat keeps trembling. So does my entire body.

I keep crying, muttering a prayer to the Holy Spirit under my breath. What else can a girl of seventeen do?

**********

No one expected that the exam would finish so late in the evening.

“Bye!” My classmates wave at me as they headed out the school gate. I wave back, wondering how they could walk through the eerie, unlit street. Padre Faura looks like a seedy, deserted alley after the sun sets. Why are there no properly functioning lamp posts? My lips quiver. I start praying again.

I drag my feet towards the gate. The sooner you get out of here, the sooner you get home, I tell myself. Once I am out of the school, I hug my backpack in case of a pickpocket lurking somewhere near. My phone vibrates — a text from my mother.

Anak, hintayin mo ‘ko. Sunduin kita.

Thank God! I sigh. Thank you, Mom, and I love you.

 

Shit.

I curse under my breath as the twentieth person says this is his pre-med. That is exactly half the class.

What am I supposed to tell this people? If I say I won’t be going to med school (yes, I’ve made up my mind and no one can convince me now), they will surely ask what I plan to do then after this. Should I be honest then and say that I took this course because

  1. when I was thirteen, I signed a contract that I cannot afford to breach;
  2. my father, the breadwinner of the family, died this summer so I badly needed the scholarship; and
  3. with the new scholarship, it now makes two contracts.

A person from the row in front of mine stands up. It is almost my turn. Should I lie instead? It is either I say this is my pre-med, too (then years later, say I changed my mind) or I say I have always loved biology because… because…

Actually, I don’t love biology. I don’t even like it. So why am I here, majoring in pre-med biology? Let’s see. I guess this all started when I was about five (or four, I cannot remember exactly).

For Christmas, little Wencey asked for a doctor’s set. Mommy and Daddy were thrilled, she can’t understand why. They never liked it whenever she asks for toys, like the red toy motorbike (she got it anyway — she’s got a good grip) or that life-sized dollhouse (“What do you need it for? You wreck all your dolls anyway.”). Anyway, Santa must have judged her to be good enough that year (he always does, she wonders why) and on Christmas morning, there it was under her sock — a brand-new doctor’s set.

Oh, how much she loved that play set! She immediately put up her own hospital with all their stuffed animals — because her sister would no longer lend her dolls — as patients. She wondered aloud why her “tetscope” doesn’t work and Daddy laughed. Mommy stuck her picture on the yellow identification card and wrote her name on it. It now said she’s a pediatrician. Since then, little Wencey had set herself to be a “petrishun”.

That is, until she was ten and decided that the world needs better teachers (yep, tween Wencey wanted to save the world). She told Mommy this and she said that’s great but didn’t she want to be a doctor? She shrugged. “I don’t know, Mommy. I’m not yet sure.”

Shortly after, she found that tatty, green, hardcover book in Mommy’s old things. It was musty and mildewed and the pages were already brittle. It did not look promising but being extremely bored and having read their entire bookshelf already, she read it. And again when she got bored again. And again. And again until she knew it by heart. It was beginner’s biology.

She aced science that year, all thanks to her old but new friend. She was so happy and she told herself that she loves science, biology in particular. In fact, she considered being a doctor again after Mommy said doctors had to study a great deal about biology. Little did she know then that this was all just but a parallax,  no thanks to the tatty, green, hardcover book.

The person beside me sits down and nudges me. I stand up.

Shit.

**********

“Mag-shift na lang kaya kayo? Baka hindi para sa inyo ang Bio.”

It takes all my strength to keep from crying as I grip my exam paper. On its upper right hand corner is a big 56. Four points short of the passing score. This is supposed to be the easiest exam, being the first. If I have failed this then what more the next ones? Stupid! I curse myself.

I know I am not as smart as most people in here are but I got here because of the strong foundation my mother painstakingly built for me. When I was a kid, she never gave up on me. When I was failing math, she would drill me almost every night until I get it. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning when I cannot grasp the new lesson. When I have a really important or difficult exam coming up, she would quiz me and make me reviewers to make sure I get high scores. She helps in my projects and practices me for my oral reports, thinking up possible questions and coaching me how to answer them. As a grade schooler, I had a pretty easy life. My mother sure of that. She worked so much for me — more than most mothers would.

But I am no longer a child now and my mother knows that. She wants me to grow up, especially now that adulthood is just a few months away. She wants me to stop complaining and just do the best that I can. But I am not sure I can do this. Even from the start, it does not feel right.

The professor continues to glare at us. Shamed, I look down. He knows I failed. He has branded me as an academic delinquent already and this is just the first exam!

Maybe he is right. Maybe biology is not really the right path for me. Maybe I made a mistake.

But my conscience whispers to me: Shifting is not an option. Right, mistake or not I have no other choice.

This may be a mistake I have to make.

 

Bionight: I gave in


Yeahp, I finally went to the party I had been evading in the last three years and it wasn’t a disappointment. Here are the top three reactions:

  1. Oh, they take the theme seriously.

The theme was Olympia so we were supposed to dress up as Greek gods and goddesses. I absolutely love Greek mythology but I was feeling a little rebellious so instead, I showed up in a classic gray and black empire-cut dress.

Well, actually, it was only partly because I was feeling rebellious. It was mostly because I hate white dresses. Being a five-feet tall lady with a baby face, wearing a white frock makes me look like a thirteen-year-old on her Confirmation day.

In my obnoxious dark dress and plum and pink makeup, I certainly looked awkward in a sea of white and gold. Well, at least my shoes were gold (they are flats, by the way). Ha!

  1. Uh, they call that dancing?

Ahh, drunk dancing — that’s what it’s called. It was really amusing to watch your friends in their wildest on the dance floor.

Who’s that already sprawled on the floor? The party’s barely started!

Look at that. I don’t think he can feel his limbs anymore. Haha.

Wait… OH MY G — is that lap dancing? *covers eyes*

It was fun, really, until they drag you in. I wasn’t prepared for that. I know basic chachacha and samba but they wouldn’t work with EDM. Really, I tried. So I just clapped me hands and joined the train (which seems to be a party staple anywhere). After a being a killjoy in the past three years, that’s the least I can do for my friends.

  1. These cocktails are nice.

Especially the mango-flavored one. I would have had more if only my legs did not start feeling like jelly. But I still prefer Shirley Temple though. I miss fishing the cherry at the bottom of the glass — just the best reward for enduring alcohol.

But nobody seemed to mind what they were being served. They just drank and drank until they’re tipsy enough to do drunk dancing (see #2 above). They seemed to have so much fun. I am happy for them.

To be honest, it was not really one of the greatest times in my life. But it was fun, in a way, and my friends loved that I gave in this time. It was just that I am still not ready to let myself loose. I guess I am really not made to be wild. It’s fine, isn’t it? 🙂

Bionight: To go or not?


I know I have more important things to worry about — final exams, a possible removal exam in swimming class (yes, in my world it is possible to have a conditional grade in P.E. class), how to get rid of the mice in my dorm room (or at least, lure them away from my food basket because come on, what do they need coffee for?), and of course, facing the question, What’s next after college? (that’s assuming I will be graduating this academic year) — but right now there is this one petty dilemma that has been bothering me for some days now:

BIONIGHT: to go or not to go?

Bionight is a year-ender party organized by Bio majors that … well actually, I do not know what it really is supposed to be. But here is what I know: it is a college party which practically equates to booze and staying up all night, having fun (Read: Getting wild).

For seniors, this Bionight is the last one —  a marker that we are almost through our last year as undergraduates. Thus, for many, it is imperative that I at least make an appearance that might as well be a sort of confirmation that I have been here the whole time. But should I?

For the past three years, I have not gathered enough bravado to go to Bionight. Or to any college party, actually. The thing is, I have always hated parties, formal or casual.

First, I hate dressing up. Getting my face and hair done is such a bother and my feet and legs are no longer used to my former best friends — that is, my high-heeled shoes. No one can drag me into any party wearing my lowly flats. What would my mother say?

My ex-best friends.
My ex-best friends.

Second, it is always physically exhausting. Party music is also unhealthy for my delicate ears. It is difficult to pretend you are having fun when there is that painful pounding in your ears that you cannot simply ignore. Plus, with my resting bitch face, parties mean putting on my “friendly face” which requires too much work for my poor facial muscles. Anyone who tells me that aching ears and facial muscles are worth it must be absolutely crazy.

Me in parties. Facial muscles get tired, too.
Me in parties. Facial muscles get tired, too.

Third, the dancing. I love dancing but definitely not the kind that they do in parties (disclaimer: I am judging from what I see in their photos). Instead, I prefer slow dancing. Cheesy, I know. But slow dancing gives one a chance to actually talk with his or her partner. Slow dancing, thus, can help build friendships, solidify existing ones, and provide opportunities for future conversations. On the other hand, shameless grinding and shaking leads to awkward encounters days, weeks, months, or even years later. Trust me on this — some things I did in my high school prom still haunt me to this day.

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Sorry but I do not need any more of these.

Lastly, the drinking. I will be a liar if I say I have never touched alcohol. But I have never been too wasted and I have no plans of trying to be, even for just once. You see, the morning after, people regret the number of shots they had. For the past three years, I have had no regrets.

Okay, I guess I'd rather not drink.
Okay, I guess I’d rather not drink.

People tend to quote Einstein every time they convince me into doing something I have never tried before (really, so many different people has already told me this quote that it’s getting creepy):

“A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Of course, he is right. But I do not think I am ready to make this mistake yet.

So should I or should I not? Enlighten me, please.

Waiting For the Deadline


Did you see my thinking cap? It must be lying here somewhere. I have been looking for it for weeks now but it seems like it is eluding me.

Last Tuesday morning, I made a list of all the things I expected to accomplish during the long APEC Summit Holiday. Now three days have passed and the list remains the same — no entry is yet crossed.

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Instead, here are the things I did for the past three days:

  1. watched Romeo and Juliet three times (once each day, starting Tuesday);

Romeo_and_Juliet_2013_film

  1. recited Juliet’s monologue in the famous balcony scene again and again in the shower (because I can’t sing);

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  1. started reading Anna Karenina (I need to read the book before I watch the film adaptation);

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  1. memorized Pablo Neruda’s The Queen (how I wish I were that queen!);

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  1. played with my hair by putting it up in foam rollers as I watched Britney Spears’ music videos (and I remembered how I fell in love with dancing because of her);

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  1. tried to replicate Britney’s parts in Me Against the Music while in the shower (even the speaking voice gets tired and yes, I take looooong showers);

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  1. and currently, writing this rambling post.

And you know what’s horrible about all this? It is the fact that I feel not even an ounce of guilt for my indolence. It seems that I truly believe that my excuses are valid reasons.

Not in the mood, not in the right condition, not the right weather, not the right pen, and the list goes on. Mere excuses, all lies.

It is not that I am not trying. On Thursday morning I actually managed to get out of bed at 3 A.M. to start studying for two upcoming exams. But after the ceremonial cup of coffee, I found myself scribbling about random things that seem to pop out of my head endlessly and the next thing I know, it was lunch time.

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I know what is wrong — I am not interested in what is in my to-do list. That is why I always find a way to evade it. Maybe if my to-do list includes more of literature and history instead of studying hefty science books, I would have been halfway through it now. Or I maybe even finished by now. Nature versus nurture must really be the recurring theme of my dear life.

Hoping that Saturday morning will see more light as Monday approaches. As always, my thinking cap magically appears when the deadline looms. Deadlines are my lifeline.

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Wish me luck!

 

Regrets of A Savage Writer


This post is a response to The Daily Post’s Shoulda Woulda Coulda.

I should have said this.
I should have said this.

When rereading my journal entries, I often find myself cringing. My recent entries are, ironically, screaming mediocre when compared to the ones I wrote as a young teenager.

The passages are too clipped and are, therefore, boring. The handwriting looks like it was for a rough first draft. Instead of saying you’re, I wrote your. There are a couple of spelling mistakes. The placements of some punctuation marks are dubious and some even exist when there should be none. Those eyesore run-on sentences that I used to despise are all over the pages. And worst of all, I failed on the subject-verb agreement of several sentences. The writing is in a very sorry state, obviously a product of cluttered thinking and distracted writing. Obviously an indicator that I have become a savage writer. My Grammar Nazi, sixteen-year-old self would have disowned me had she known. Yikes!

At times, when trying to climb out the deep and dark pit called writer’s block, I ask myself, Whatever happened to you? I used to be that girl who could instantly produce a written output on command and could pump out more than a hundred words a day. Now, a great day means having somehow squeezed at least thirty words. It seems that my brain has totally rewired — I can deliberately blurt out plants’ scientific names (something I never thought I would ever do — I thought it was too nerdy) but I can no longer give a name to what I am feeling, much less describe it.

So what happened? Oh, I think I know. It is partly because of one stupid decision I made as a fifteen-year-old — my biggest regret in life.

My biggest regret in life, contrary to what my mother believes, is not Pisay. Pisay is actually one of the best things that ever happened to me. Rather, my biggest regret is choosing not to sign up for journalism class in my third year in high school.

It was the first day of classes and it was a particularly exciting day for us juniors for we were finally allowed to choose an elective class. We could sign up for whatever elective we wanted to take. We were free.

If I remember correctly, there were five electives available for juniors at that time— Electronics (I’m not sure about this for we just used to call it “Electro”), Robotics, Microbiology, Popular Law, and Journalism. Electro and Robo were out of question. Physics and computer programming both require dexterity with numbers which I, a notorious clinging-by-the-fingernails type of math student, obviously lack. Pop Law, I was told, would require a lot of memorizing. Hell, no.

So that left me with Micro and Journ (pronounced as “jern”). It was a no-brainer for me then. The final answer was Journ. It is not that Micro does not seem interesting. It is just that by that time, I had already apprehended that I had plenty of time for it in college while Journ was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I made up my mind to take up Journalism as an elective subject. Until…

Until I caught a glimpse of who my classmates would be. Most of them were already writing for the student paper. All of them known to be good writers. In their presence I was stripped of the air of confidence I wore. Compared to them I felt like a nobody, a mere wannabe. So like a scared kitty surrounded by humans, I scampered off and immediately signed up for Micro.

Micro did not disappoint. I actually learned a lot. But just as I expected, everything was tackled again in college. In short, I wasted an opportunity to learn something new. I wasted an opportunity to be formally trained in writing. I wasted the opportunity to be tamed. And this realization is the reason why now, five years later, I am still mentally screaming at my younger self: Why did you chicken out?

Indeed, why?

Because I was afraid to be humiliated in front of all those kids who certainly knew better than I did. Because I did not want them to see right through me — a copycat who merely rewrites in much too pompous ways the things that were already written by published authors. Because I did not want to admit that I was far from flawless and badly needed help. Because I did not want to face the truth that I was not the only one who could do it. All reasons reflecting my younger self’s hamartia: arrogance.

Just because I had been getting compliments, I decided I was invincible. I thought I could do everything on my own. I was like Arachne who thought she could do without the help of the very being who gave her the gift of skill. Look at what this arrogance has brought me into. It eventually killed my art and left me swimming in what-ifs (I am quite surprised I have not turned into a spider — yet).

There is nothing more torturous than thinking about these what-ifs. The what-ifs are a result of the could-haves and are often satisfied by the acknowledgment of the would-haves. But if the would-haves fail and the what-ifs continue to haunt the person, then the could-haves are actually should-haves. Like they are now. Lately I have been repeatedly asking myself these same questions.

What if I chose to fight my fear of humiliation and signed up for Journ? Maybe I would not have been suffering from mediocrity now.

What if I managed to put on a brave face and actually tried out for the school paper? Maybe I would not have been so bitter now.

What if I faced the fact that I needed help? Maybe I would not have been the wild writer that I have become.

Now I know. I should have just signed up.

Pisay’s Pabaon


May nalaman akong chismis,” a classmate announced as soon as I plopped my bag on an empty chair.

Ano?” I asked as I searched for my notebook in the black hole that is my bag.

“Pisay ka pala.

Uh-huh.”

Mahirap ba talaga do’n?”

Preoccupied with reading my notes I unwittingly answered, “It was actually more work than college.”

So there, I finally admitted it — that I actually had more difficulty in high school. Before, I did not dare say it even when it is true because I did not want to offend people. I was afraid of being called arrogant.

Even before releasing us into the real world, our high school teachers kept reminding us that Pisay graduates are often labelled “arrogant” by their colleagues in college. Back then I was still that girl who loved attention and cared about popularity so when I finally entered the university I made sure to blend in with the others — I did not want Pisay attached to my name. Whenever somebody asks where I am from, I always gave vague answers such as “Bicol” or “somewhere near Isarog.”

In a way, I have succeeded. My classmates do not treat me any differently even now that they know where I specifically am from (maybe it’s because of the bad and not-so-good grades I get). However, there are times when I still feel the pressure of people’s expectations and judgment. There was that time when a classmate inconsiderately asked why I was not good in chemistry when I am from Pisay. There was that time a professor gave me the look when I was wearing my Little Miss Pisay shirt (I swear all my school clothes were in the laundry and that was my last resort).

Having been educated in the special science curriculum in high school, people often expect me to excel in the sciences. Sadly, I am a disappointment in that. I only manage to pass, sometimes only barely. Often, I wonder why. Lately, I realized that it is because the best lessons I got from Pisay were not the ones that I learned in the classroom or the lab. Pisay’s pabaon to us, its graduates, is not really the vantage in academics but the life lessons that we painstakingly acquired.

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Pressure makes diamonds.

We were giddy eleven-, twelve-, thirteen-year-olds then. Most of us were achievers in grade school so we thought we could easily conquer high school, too. But from the first day we were already forewarned: Pisay life is going to be difficult. Pressure will come from every source imaginable. Thankfully, our campus director welcomed us by saying that without pressure, pure carbon will never become a diamond.

I know many will react negatively to this but I have learned in high school that pressure is necessary. Yes, sometimes it can be overwhelming for young teenagers for it exposes their weaknesses and makes them vulnerable. But without pressure, people tend to be lax. Thus, they waste the opportunity to maximize their potentials. Carbon remains carbon.

Pisay has helped us learn to respond to pressure effectively and made us see that we can be diamonds. We were taught to acknowledge our weaknesses and overcome them. We were taught to recognize our strengths and use them to our advantage. We were taught to be tough in order to withstand pressure. Pressure from Pisay education has made us strong.

2. Do not expect others to adjust for you.

I was pampered as a kid so I used to be self-centered. I made myself the standard and I did not hesitate to show my disapproval to anyone who chose to deviate from the standard I had set. In grade school, people tolerated that selfish behavior of mine so in high school, I initially found it hard to adapt. I expected people to adjust for me so unsurprisingly, the other kids eventually learned to dislike me. It took a year before I realized what was wrong but when I did, I became more sensitive to other people’s feelings. I learned to compromise and respected each one’s individuality.

Now, even when the university houses an even more diverse community, I am no longer shocked. High school has prepared me to be open-minded. I am not yet entirely unbiased (is that possible?) but I always remind myself to be careful to avoid offending others’ religious beliefs or gender preferences (I fail sometimes, though).

And when, on the other hand, I believe I am judged unfairly (e.g.”She’s from Pisay so she’s arrogant”), I always remember not to react violently. High school has taught me that being too defensive only breeds enmity and will never make the person change his or her mind. Instead of striving to prove them wrong, I have learned to consider if there might be truth in what others say about me and I try to change myself for the better.

3. Respect and trust your elders.

As teenagers, my friends and I used to make fun of our teachers’ mannerisms. Behind their backs, one of us will impersonate them and we used to have a good laugh about that. We would also disregard their advices and proceeded to doing what we want.

I regret doing so. I wish I had listened.

Teachers have been through high school before so they know what they are talking about. They know better than us. And best of all, teachers treat their students like their own children. That’s why we should trust them. Everything that they made us do, no matter how difficult it was, was for our own good. They only wanted us to succeed.

4. There is no shortcut to learning.

High school was not about the final output but we were made to take tests, do lab work, and make projects because we learn in the process. Thus, taking shortcuts defeats the purpose of being in school.

In my freshman year in Pisay, I had difficulty understanding Drafting and I struggled to finish my plates. Once I had been tempted to ask my mom to do the plates for me. It could have been a sure 1.0 for Mommy used to be an engineering major. But I decided against it and did my job. Sure enough, I got depressing marks on my first plates. But I managed to learn from my mistakes and eventually, my scores improved. Since then, I resolved to do things the long way even when there is an easy way out. I may have low grades in my transcript but the important thing is, I worked hard for those grades and I have learned in the process.

5. Life is not always fair.

These were the exact parting words that our campus director gave us, the graduating class of 2012, on our last Recognition Day in the school. It was just the perfect way to initiate us into the world of adults.

As young people, we tend to be idealistic and we want the world to instantly conform to what we think is rightful. But in Pisay we were told again and again that we cannot always get what we want and we have to learn to accept that. Whatever happens, life goes on.

It may be unfair that a certain person always gets higher marks even when he or she does not give as much effort as you did but there is no point in sulking. Some people are just naturally smart and we could not change that. I have learned that if I, too, wanted high grades, then I need to exert extra effort in order to compensate for my lack of intelligence.

It may be unfair that some girls unreasonably hate you and talk behind your back but you cannot force them to believe you when you defend yourself. People believe what they want to believe. I have learned that I cannot change people’s opinions about me but I should not let them change my opinions about myself.

It may be unfair that the boy I liked instead liked another girl who did not like him back but you cannot force another to love you and choose you instead. Everyone has the right to choose who to love. I have learned to be patient and wait for who is for me.

 

Right now, I am still a construction-in-progress and I am not yet the diamond that Pisay has intended me to be. But Pisay has done a lot to build the person I am today and I will be forever grateful. 🙂