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!”

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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.

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);

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  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!

 

Celebrating in Bed


This post is in response to the The Daily Prompt’s Celebrate Good Times.

(Click to see source)
(Click to see source)

When I was twelve, my mother asked my sister and me how we would like to celebrate our eighteenth birthdays. My sister asked for a party. I asked for an entire day in bed without anyone telling me to get my lazy ass off it. My mother laughed. She did not think I was serious.

Ironically, on the actual day I turned eighteen, I pulled an all-nighter in preparation for an upcoming exam in Organic Chemistry which I eventually failed dramatically (but that is another story). So much for a celebration. But on the other hand, I would have neither opted for a “real” celebration. I am in love with our culture but I am not quite a fan of the Filipino way of celebrating birthdays, graduations, weddings, baptisms, and the like.

A Filipino celebration is never complete without handaan (feast), inuman (drinking), and the much-loved videoke. It sounds fun and some people actually love organizing such events. But the introvert that I am is definitely not enticed.

First of all, throwing a party is a laborious task. The host or hostess has to prepare for it days or even weeks before. He or she has to wake up early on the actual date in order to make sure that the house is spotlessly clean and to prepare the food that everyone will feast on later. During the party he or she has to go back and forth the sala and the kitchen to make sure that all the guests are comfortable and that there is enough food for everyone. Then, after everyone has said goodbye, he or she is in charge of the mess that is left, including drunken guests who are no longer capable of going home safely by themselves. Going all through these hassles looks stressful and being stressed does not appear celebratory for me.

Secondly, I shun drinking to get drunk. Just recalling past Christmas celebrations with the family makes me shudder. There was always chaos in the house after my uncles had too much beer. They would quarrel among themselves, bringing back their past resentments with one another (sometimes with tears galore), and then they would turn to their wives who would loudly chide them as if they were children. The morning after is not much better with hangover making them irritable. Grouchy uncles on Christmas morning is a clear indication that spirits destroy the Christmas spirit. Again, does not appear celebratory.

Lastly, the singing. By nature, Filipinos are music lovers. That is why almost everyone, even those who cannot carry a tune (like me), loves to sing. Celebrations are always an opportunity to sing before an audience and are, thus, always welcome. But let’s face it: some singing are more of a noise than music. The “singers” might say, walang basagan ng trip, and they may get away with it but in the end, it is the host or the hostess who has to face the trouble next morning when neighbors who were not pleased would definitely complain. Now, there is no fun in that.

I have never been amused by large and noisy parties and on my birthdays, I always prefer the small family feast we have always had. But if I were to be asked, my idea of a perfect celebration is in bed, especially now that I am far from my loved ones who I always share my special days with.

This may sound crazy but you see, my bed is my comfort place. I can do almost everything in it. I study, read, write, think, and dream in it. So where else should I spend my special day if not in my favorite place?

Maybe spending the entire day in bed is not realistic for one has to work or go to school (pre-teen me did not realize that). But it would have been nice to wake up to everyone singing Happy Birthday while I blow out the candles on a birthday cake. Then later in the evening I would throw a pajama party for all my friends. We would gorge ourselves with pizza, French fries, and cakes while we watch cheesy rom-com movies and, of course, the national sleepover and break-up movie, One More Chance. This is how sixteen-year-old me pictured my twentieth birthday celebration. The actual day was a far cry from this silly fantasy.

On my twentieth birthday, I was awakened not by singing but by the alarm that was set to two hours earlier than my usual waking time. It was just like a regular day and I went through my daily routine as if it was not a red-letter day in my calendar. I took a quick bath, put on whatever shirt and shorts are on top of the pile of clothes in my closet, grab a McCafe and hash brown, then drag my feet to school. On that particular day, we had an exam and an oral report so I was almost sleepless the night before. So when the day was over, I rushed back to my dorm room, put on bed clothes, then slept. Birthday cake in bed? I had it in my dreams. Haha.

As a new grown-up, I no longer see birthdays as the special days that I was used to in childhood. Nowadays, I only have personal celebrations. I celebrate every tiny accomplishment I make — submitting a paper on time, surviving a hell week, passing an exam I was sure I would fail. And I always celebrate each accomplishment in the same place — in bed. Sometimes, I prop myself up with pillows while I catch up with my reading. Sometimes, I lie on my belly while I write on my journal. But usually, I catch some extra hours of shuteye. That would make a perfect sem-ender, if you ask me.

Some people, especially the party-hungry ones, might say my way of celebating is boring. But between getting drunk in a college party and sleeping in, I would definitely choose the solace my bed can offer. Waking up feeling refreshed and energized for another exam or semester is much better than waking up with a hangover, right? Ah, the pleasures of celebrating in bed!

Writing Through Hell


When I started this blog, I resolved to post at least once a week. But these past two weeks, I failed to keep up with my pre-set deadline.

The reason is obviously school. With only two weeks away from the official end of classes, it seems that everyone – both professors and students – are cramming to make up for the remaining lessons which, in my opinion, could use another month or so. With very much little time left, the quality of learning is again at stake. I am getting sick of this way of life (why can’t I just get used to this and go with the flow?).

Starting tomorrow, hell weeks will be ablaze (a hell week is a week’s schedule cramped with exams, reports, and submissions). When we say “hell”, we really mean HELL. This week is peppered with two lab exams, a case study report, two paper submissions, and a lecture exam. Don’t ask me what’s penned on my planner for the week after this.

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Actually, I should not be scribbling in this blog right now. I should be studying the eighty-page chapter on arthropods for tomorrow’s exam. I have been trying to focus on studying since last night but I can’t. The little voice at the back of my head keeps telling me, “Write! You haven’t written for a while. And you have been neglecting your blog for two weeks already. Put down that book now and I start writing.” Sounds like a little devil? Well, no. That is my angel. So I did as it told me. I put down my book and logged in.

I understand the importance of studying. I will always be one person who would encourage students to study more and spend less on other activities. But to tell you honestly, I hate studying. I love learning but I hate sitting down at the library for hours, reading and noting again and again until I fall asleep. I hate memorizing. I hate boring lecture classes. I appreciate hands-on learning better where I can study at my own pace (that is,  without deadlines and exams). Sometimes, I get tired of the system. I think I seriously need a break but I can’t. I just can’t.

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A friend once told me that if you want decent grades, taking study breaks is a crime. In that case, I am a criminal. I am constantly taking breaks even on times when I really have no time for them. Like today. Like I said, I should not be writing this post. I should be studying the Phylum Arthropoda.

Study breaks have always been  reading and writing for me. These are really the only things I do – studying and reading and writing. I do not know why reading and writing have always had a calming effect on me. It seems that after taking a break, I always find myself more receptive to the information provided by my books and lecture notes.

The magic of reading and writing is still a mystery to me. How do reading and writing make me feel refreshed? But still, I am happy to have these options other than studying all day. I am particularly thankful to God for giving me this gift of being able to express what is within me.

So for the coming weeks, I will try to keep on writing to save me from hell. Wish me luck. 🙂

I apologize for the undeniably distracted, random post. I promise to make a more sensible post after this semester is through. 🙂

All-Nighter


It’s four in the morning
You’re still awake.
Class starts at seven,
You’d better not sleep.

You’ve quit studying,
You brain says no.
What is left to do?
You get a mug of coffee.

Coffee is bitter
But so is life.
Just add a little sugar
Then, it’s bittersweet.

You sit by the windowsill
And watch the dawn
Make a canvass
Of the early morning sky.

You sip your coffee.
It is bitter.
It is sweet.
Just like life.

How to Cram for a Biology Exam


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First of all, I want to remind you that it needs time and effort to be able to understand biological concepts. So, if you are aiming to get good marks, do NOT cram. But if you really have a hectic schedule (which is a thing common to biology majors) and cramming is the only choice you have, then the following tips might be able to help you.

  • Stay away from distractions. I think this is self-explanatory. Turn off the television. Put away your favorite objects of recreation. Log out from Facebook and other social networking sites. Focus your attention to your studying and nothing else.
  • Keep everything you need in your study area. This will save you time and energy from getting up often to find a particular book or to sharpen a broken pencil. Also, keep a water bottle and some food near you in case you get thirsty or hungry.
  • Read the lecture notes first before touching the book. A class lecture is usually a mere summary of what is discussed in the book so it will be best to study your notes first as these will give you an overview of the lessons. Having prior knowledge of the topics will give you a better chance of understanding what the book says.
  • Do not try to read everything. Remember you have little time to spare so reading and understanding everything will almost be impossible. Instead, get the main idea of every section and make sure you understand all the important concepts, especially the basic ones.
  • Take note of the emphasized words. Those words in boldface are boldfaced for a reason. List them down and look up their meanings. These words will be mentioned repeatedly throughout the chapter and sometimes, throughout the book so know them by heart.
  • Pay attention to tables, graphs, and pictures. A single figure is a good summary of what may have been discussed in two to three pages. They will save you time and may be easier to recall than the text.
  • Answer online self-help quizzes. This will help you give an idea of the type of questions that teachers may formulate. You will also be able to evaluate your knowledge and go back to those sections that you have not yet completely understood. Be careful though for you may be tempted to click on other sites that may divert your attention.
  • Get some sleep. Pulling an all-nighter will only make you tired and sleepy on the day of the exam. You will find difficulty in focusing on the questions and you might fall asleep. You do not want to ruin your chances of passing, do you?Image
  • Ditch the coffee. If you really have to stay up late, at least do away with the coffee. Coffee is addictive and you will develop a tolerance for it if you drink it too often. Have a chocolate instead. Chocolate has lesser amounts of caffeine but that will be enough to keep you alert. Besides, who does not want chocolate?                                     Image
  • Listen to your classmates’ discussions before the start of the exam. This is my favorite technique. It will give you a wrap-up and remind you of the things you might have missed. You may also ask your classmates about things you are not sure of. Just hope that they will be willing to help you.                                                    Image

These tips will not guarantee you with a high score. Remember you are just cramming. From the start accept whatever mark you will get. After the exam, start studying for the next. You will need to catch up. And, try your best not to cram again.

Time vs. Learning


Many people would claim that the workload given to college students in school is way too much for their bodies and brains to handle. To this, I disagree. As young adults, we are actually capable of doing heavy school tasks as we are stronger and healthier. Our strongest opponent is actually the clock. We can do so much but we have too little time.

I am a person who hates running after time so I panic when given just a week to master three chapters of a biology book. Biology, unlike chemistry and physics, is a heavily conceptual discipline so therefore, in order to fully understand it, one must take time to read and reread not only the lecture notes but also the books — the more textbooks you read, the better you grasp the concepts. So, needless to say, studying biology requires much time as it requires much effort. Sadly, time is a limited resource for us biology majors for we have only eight semesters to tackle the vast scope of the science of life and nature.

Most of times, when I read my book in preparation for an upcoming exam (likely, three to four days later), I get too engrossed with the things I am learning so I take time to digest the material properly, chewing slowly and savoring every bite. By the time I finish with one chapter, the exam will be in a few hours and I still have two to three chapters left. I often end up just swallowing those chapters, trying to get as much as I can without really having to focus and give much time. When exam results come, disappointment swallows me in return. I always get marks much lower than what I know I can get.

People will say that grades are just numbers and they do not define who you are. Sure, that is true. But for me, grades are important for they are indicators of how much one has learned. Every time I get low final mark, I become disappointed because I know I was not able to maximize learning. I think it is even better to have failed the subject. At least then, I can get a second chance to study it again.

For other biology students, good grades are important because these are one of the factors that may be able to secure them with admission to the best medical schools. I see my friends pulling all-nighters just to get at least an encircled 1.50 in their class cards. They need it for medical school, they say. So they go without sleep for days many times so that they can go to med school where they will be, again, chasing time. So, the vicious cycle repeats.

We are always reminded that the time pressure is necessary for us to achieve academic excellence. I see it oppositely. Time pressure implies cramming on the part of the students and, as we all know, it produces half-cooked work and limits us to little of the great knowledge that is available for us to explore. For me, time pressure jeopardizes our education. How can that achieve academic excellence?

Writing Again


At the start of 2014, I made a promise that I will quit planning and start doing. This blog is a part of fulfilling this promise.

Being a bibliophile since birth, I have always wanted to write. I wanted to create worlds the same as those which has fascinated me and share them with other people who breathe books like I do. But mediocrity became my tragedy. You see, I am not really a gifted writer. So, I gave up writing and decided to major in Biology. Unlike being a writer, being a biologist seemed to have a solid image to me and thus, was a safer choice. I realized lately that I made the wrong choice.

I do not regret choosing to major in Biology. I may have difficulty in my subjects but I truly enjoy learning about science. What I regretted was quitting writing. I realized that writing is not just for those who have a talent for it. Writing is for everyone who has something to express and there is so many things that I want to say. Writing is the only way that I could make them known. It does not really matter that my ideas are not interesting or that my poems are terrible because they are me and I can never be ashamed of who I am. This is the only person I can be.

So, here I am, writing again.