To Shift or Not to Shift

Best post-grad Moment:

As I was about to leave Ateneo, I saw Sir Tanchoco, and he said to me

“Ikaw ha, when I met you, I let you in M.E., then you went to Management, and now I found out you graduated Creative Writing!”

Kung alam lang niya, nag-A.B. psy din ako.

An excessive shifting spree was pretty inevitable given how I started my college life. The seemingly harmless college application should strike some kind of dread when you hit the not so simple task of picking the right course. Sadly, fear wasn’t one of my strong points. If you look at my college applications, you’d think that I’m some brave but completely blind idiot who just randomly filled out those forms.

In U.P. Diliman, I had an accrued interest for Business Administration and Accounting, in UST my patient heart was shot with desire when it wanted Pharmacy, and in Ateneo it felt insane not to pick Psychology. What the hell was I thinking? I clearly wasn’t.

I thought I was invested in Business Administration and Accounting because when I was a kid, my cousins and I sold carrot juice outside our house, and it seemed fun (especially since we rabidly chased after passersby if they didn’t buy from us). The prescription for Pharmacy materialized when my mom said, that my lola said, that my tita from the States said, that it really pays well. Unconscious of my own cognitive dissonance, I opted for Psychology because I had a teacher named Ms. Windsor who took up Psychology, and she was smart, and I wanted to be smart.

I was naïve.

I didn’t know what I wanted in life.

I was bound for trouble.

The only thing I knew was that I was ambitious. I liked dreaming, and I only liked dreaming big. Unlike kids who wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a judge, and not just any judge, but the judge of the Supreme Court. I didn’t go through the usual ballet phase; I went through the exceptionally crazed ballet phase where my little heart exploded with dreams of twirling around in the biggest theaters, putting on elegant costumes, and, most of all, becoming prima ballerina—a title given to the best ballerinas in the world. Early on, I knew I wanted the world, and I wanted the world to want me back.

Fast forward to college, I carried my bloated head around the Ateneo halls thinking that my course would gain me a lot of respect and awe. It was in the corridors of Kostka where I first saw my high school classmates. I excitedly went to them, and we chitchatted for a while. The crucial moment came—someone asked me what my course was. I said Psychology, and I waited. Waited for that look, that look that people gave me when I say something great.

Instead, they said, Ah.

Someone asked, A.B. or B.S.?

I said, A.B.

Again, they said, Ah.

It wasn’t long until I discovered the Ateneo royalty, and they were the SOM (School of Management) students. You always knew when you were in the presence of these blue-blooded beings. White, chinky-eyed, and perfect, they would bring out their silver iPhones and pearly MacBooks, and they would console each other knowing how hard it was to account for their millions.

Yet even within the royalty, there was a hierarchy, and the kings and queens were the Management Engineering (M.E.) students. Every time people would ask someone what that person’s course was, if that person says Management Engineering, the crowd’s eyes would instantaneously light up, and mouths would drop open, and they would say Wow. I wanted that Wow, so I shifted to M.E.

I went to the Guidance office, which was located at the Social Science building. The Guidance counselors were kind enough to guide me through the steps of shifting. The first thing they told me was to take a shifting workshop. There were limited slots, so they told me to sign up right away. They stressed that missing the workshop was risky because there was no guarantee that there will be alternative dates.  The guidance office had a strict policy: no workshop, no shifting.

In the workshop, they made me draw “What do you imagine yourself to be in fifty years?” The answer was simple: I drew myself writing on a desk surrounded by published books entitled Daughters of Aphrodite. When the guidance counselor asked what course I wanted to shift to, I said, Management Engineering. She looked confused.

I needed to attend departmental talks, which were seminars about different courses. I attended the SOM talk because I was only interested in SOM courses. I don’t remember much about that talk except that I was impressed. To know more about the shifting requirements of each course, please feel free to visit our department, the speaker said.

The first time I entered the SOM department, I felt so intimidated. In a scared little voice, I asked the secretary Ms. tatanong ko lang po shifting requirements para sa Management Engineering. Like an overly efficient machine, she began to effortlessly spew out the answers: make sure you meet the grade requirement, pass a letter explaining why you want to shift, pass a copy of your grades, pass other documents that the department thinks are necessary, and put it all in a brown envelope. If you’re a scholar, write a letter to the head of the Office of Admission and Aid, so that they’ll be informed about your shifting, and we will contact you to schedule your interview with the chair.

One day an orgmate (who was two batches above me) told me that she wanted to talk to me in private. She heard that I wanted to shift to M.E., and since it was her course, she personally knew how difficult it was. She was genuinely worried that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. She said that the demanding academic schedule might affect my ability to participate in our org. She suggested that I shift to Management instead because it was a SOM course, but it wasn’t as demanding as M.E. Everything she said made sense to me. Just yesterday, it seemed like shifting to M.E. was the right decision, but after she talked to me, I knew I was on the wrong path.  I felt so embarrassed when at the end of it all I said, Thank you, Chars, but I already shifted.

I regretted it all. I regretted filling out that load revision form that I got from Xavier hall. Why did I rush to have that form signed by different offices that were stipulated at the bottom of the sheet? Sometimes it took days for the offices to sign, but I kept following it up because I was afraid that I wouldn’t meet the department’s and the registrar’s deadlines for shifting. Why didn’t I procrastinate? When I obtained all the signatures, I even painstakingly followed the instructions on sheet distribution. The sheets were in different colors, and each office was assigned a color. Why didn’t I give the office the wrong colored sheet, so that they’ll text me and tell me that they haven’t processed my shifting because I gave them the wrong sheet? Why didn’t I mix up the sheets, then forget which office got which color, so I’d have to go to every office to figure out which office got which sheet, until all those inconveniences derailed me from shifting at all? Why did I shift at all? Why?

After a summer in M.E., I heeded my friend’s suggestion and shifted to Management. Since I shifted twice, there was a danger that I would extend for a year. I couldn’t extend because my scholarship covers only four years. I decided to overload, which is to take more classes in a semester, and I also took summer classes. I didn’t get to take fun classes as electives because I credited my old subjects in my previous course as electives. I was told that I had to pick the subjects where I got the highest grade, so that it would look good in my transcript, and it wouldn’t pull down my qpi. I picked two subjects where I got A’s. In effect, my electives were Ma 19 (Applied Calculus for Business) and QMT 11 (Business Statistics). Kinda sad, I know, but I needed to do it, so that I could catch up.

I thought I made the right decision when I shifted to Management, but I got restless. I was in my second year, and all the write-a-story-about-blank assignments and other equally creative tasks ceased to exist in my English class. I felt increasingly miserable. Every time I studied my accounting book, I felt terrible because I thought I was wasting my time slaving over some knowledge that I knew I’d never use in real life. Every time I abandoned that accounting book to read fiction or write my stories or songs, I’d feel guilty because I was being an “irresponsible student” who was wasting her time on “frivolities.”

All that misery hit me when I had to write a fifty-page paper on the socks industry. My experience with the socks topic pretty much sucked. I did not care that there was a difference between high knee socks and thigh-high socks. I was bored out of my wits as I researched about the cotton, the wool, the yarn, and other materials needed to make socks. Who the hell cares about how many people think which brand of socks sucks or not? It sucked so bad that I realized that Management wasn’t the right course for me. I missed writing. Real writing. Writing about socks just doesn’t cut it for real writing.

But I was afraid. I remembered all the times I shifted, and I remembered how every time I thought to myself, I’m really sure of this one, and then I ended up hating the course. I didn’t want that to happen to writing, for it was the only thing that I truly loved. I asked my mom, What if it’s another mistake? She looked at me, and she said, Ja, it’s better to make another mistake than be stuck with your current mistake.

Mistakes aren’t the ones that we should fear. Never coming out of our mistakes is worse than adding to the pile. If there was someone who knew a lot about mistakes it would be Thomas Edison. He once said about failure, “I will not say I failed 1,000 times, I will say that I discovered 1,000 ways that can cause failure.” In the discovery of new mistakes, there are lessons learned, learning that this wasn’t the path that you should take, leading you to narrow down your choices, and eventually culminating toward the discovery of the right path.

Keep on taking the next path. Don’t grin and bear it. If you’re lost, keep looking. If you settle, people might think you’re on the right path, they might even approve of your way of life, but that won’t change the fact that you are lost, and you know you are lost. Keep on being lost even if it’s humiliating. Humiliation is a temporary misery. Being stuck with something you don’t love is eternal. You won’t learn to love it; you’ll just learn to deny happiness.

It was the summer after my second year in college when I realized this. Wasting no time, my mom and I went to the fine arts department, and we talked to the person in charge. Xander, the department’s secretary, listened intently to what I had to say, but then he told me I’m really sorry, but it’s already past the deadline for accepting shiftees.

Aghast, I said but it’s just summer pa lang.

We have an early deadline, Xander responded.

Okay, I’ll shift sa second semester.

Creative writing only accepts shiftees at the start of the year, which means, you can only shift during your fourth year. You’d have to extend for a year to finish the course.

It was over, I thought, I’m stuck with socks.

I must have looked really devastated because he said, I’ll try to appeal to the department chair if we can still accept you, but if you are not allowed to shift, try to apply for a minor, and then shift the next year.

Getting a minor wasn’t so bad, I told myself, but I really wanted to shift. It was already enrollment for the first semester when I was told that my shifting application was approved.

As in hindi lang minor? I asked Xander in disbelief.

As in.

I was incredibly happy for weeks. I was so happy; crazy things started to happen. Whenever I come out of the shower, my hair is usually Medusa-like, but weeks after that day, it was magically tame. I was so happy that my mind became extremely clear. When I went to the library to research, I didn’t have to write down the Dewey decimal codes because with one glance I could easily memorize all of them. I’d look at the code on the computer, and I’d go straight to the right bookshelf. It was that awesome. Normal people eat dinner at the table, but I couldn’t. I was too busy doing pirouettes and grand jetés. I’ve never taken drugs, but I had an inkling that I was high.

It was perfect. It was happiness. It was freedom.

Some people ask me: Do you regret it? with it meaning all the courses that I took. I shrug and say Well at least ako lang ang creative writing student na marunong mag-derivatives and anti-derivatives. But seriously, I don’t regret it because now that I have experienced the taste of misery, I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to stop myself from following my dreams.

The most ironic part of this whole experience was that even if I shifted three times, had a total of four courses from different schools in Ateneo (my friends often joke, kulang nalang mag-SOSE ka at nasulit mo na talaga Ateneo education mo), I still managed to graduate on time, and I even graduated with two medals: Cum Laude and Program Award for Creative Writing.

It all turned out right in the end. My dreams loved me as much as I loved them. That is why I know that you should never accept misery. Misery is the alarm bell telling you that something is wrong. You can change things. You can shift. Always opt to shift to the dream.

More Happiness and Inspiration:

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50 thoughts on “To Shift or Not to Shift

  1. Hello! Thank you so much for posting this! I am going through the same thing. I cried a little. Haha! Would you happen to know the difference if whether we should shift because it’s not for us or if we are just not trying hard enough?

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    1. Hello Monica! Thank you for saying all the nice things you said about my post. I can’t believe that what I wrote moved you that much. Regarding your question, would you be willing to share more details about your situation so I can answer your question better?

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  2. THIS FEELS LIKE MY LIFE STORY. But the thing is, I’m still on the way to my dreams. From Accountancy to Business Economics and now to Ateneo’s BS Psych program. Can you give me an insight on how is it like there?

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    1. Hello Mari! Glad that you can relate to the post. I didn’t study BS Psych. I was in AB Psych, and I was only there in my first year. I was bored with Psych, and this is why I left. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be bored with it. If it’s really your passion, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time there.

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  3. So it’s possible to shift courses without losing– wait, what type of scholarship did you have? I’m sorry, I just had to ask kasi I’m also a scholar and I always thought shifting was going to hurt my scholarship. Baka kasi it depends rin on what scholarship you’ve been granted.

    Your post has enlightened me even if it was written 4 years ago. And for that, thank you!

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    1. My scholarship was the OAA (office of admission and aid) one from Ateneo. I think you should ask first the department that handles your scholarships in your school so that you’re sure about their policies on shifting. Good luck! Hope everything turns out ok 🙂 Thank you for reading my blog and I am glad you like this post!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to mention that I was also talking about the scholarships that Ateneo grants. Like, will the type of scholarship granted to you make shifting more difficult? For instance, if you’re a grant in aid scholar, will it be harder to shift? Will it be easier for academic scholars/AFMS/etc. to shift?

        And what was that ‘interview with the chair’ all about? Do you always have to undergo an interview before you can shift? I’m so sorry to be asking so many questions. I know I can just ask the OAA about this but I’d still like to hear from you. I’m an incoming freshman and a grant-in-aid scholar but I think I’m going to have to shift before sophomore year, and my concern is that maybe they might not be willing to offer my scholarship anymore because of my inability to decide what I really want and that maybe they might think they’re wasting the scholarship on me.

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        1. Hahaha ok chill. It’s ok that you don’t know what you want right now. Also, I think it will be unhealthy for you to think that people will be “wasting their scholarship” on you because you want to shift. I shifted several times, and every time I had to shift, I had to inform the OAA about it, and they never gave me a hard time about it. So in terms of my experience, shifting did not affect my scholarship grant. Also, I think your time at school will be more of a waste if you never figure out what course is best for you.

          I am not familiar though with grant in aid scholar and I can’t say if it will be harder to shift with other kinds of scholarship grants. I only know that for my scholarship, the OAA scholarship grant given based on financial need, did not have restrictions on shifting. I am guessing that most scholarships do not have restrictions on shifting, unless they are tied to a specific course like you have a scholarship if you take a science course. But it is better to double check and ask. You don’t have to tell them that you don’t know what you want yet and you might shift several times. Instead, just ask “What is your policy on shifting? Are there restrictions on scholars?” So it will just be like you just want to get basic information about the scholarship, no big deal.

          Regarding the interview with the chair, yes, everytime you shift to a new course, you have to set up an interview with the chair of that course you are shifting to. Don’t worry about it. It is not scary. They will just ask you why you want to shift. They will not grill you or ask you difficult questions. It is just part of the procedure. If you have other questions, I’m more than willing to answer all of them. 🙂

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        2. Okay, I’ll chill na hahaha (because you’ve been very helpful). But really, thank you so much for the response. I really appreciate it. Now I just have to find the right course for me. 🙂

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  4. Man, I feel you. Minus the part where you actually knew that to do. I still don’t. :)) I decided to double-major into ID on the week before graduation because somehow, I felt things in my being were missing. I’m glad you managed to work your way out of your confusion though!

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  5. Could’ve said a lot without the stereotypes on SOM students, there are a handful of us SOM scholars whose parents are trying to make ends meet and can only stare at our Macbook-toting classmates. I’m sure they have iPhones in SOH, too. Otherwise impressive.

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    1. Hello! Thank you for your comment. You are right, not everyone in SOM are rich people with MacBooks, but the reason why I wrote that was because I was deliberately depicting the perspective of an outsider looking into this world, and of course she was only aware of the stereotypical kind of SOM student. So, yes, I am depicting the stereotype, but that was an honest depiction of what I thought SOM students were before I shifted to a SOM course. There is an obvious hint of exaggeration and humor to the descriptions, so that is a sign of the observer’s “unrealistic” notions about these people. I didn’t anymore include the depiction of the diversity of SOM students because that wasn’t anymore relevant to the main point of the piece. But thank you again for your comment. I highly appreciate it.

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  6. This reads a lot like the complaint of a child who doesn’t get what she wants. Though confusion about your course is understandable and your insights useful to those who need guidance, refrain from the whiny tone and imperfect English. It’s surprising that you graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, let alone with a cum laude because your grammar is often incorrect and your transitions awkward.

    College is not about ‘write-a-story-about-blank assignments’, you should have known that by your second year. Your focus isn’t the fault here, though it meanders thoroughly. Perhaps some revision and proof-reading is necessary, as it’s extremely obvious that you’ve put little thought and less effort into this.

    Blogging is a personal activity that is submitted for criticism to a public audience. With work, you could be excellent. As of right now, you need practice.

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