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.
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.
Check out Writing Exercises and Adventures:
- A Template Draft
- A Writer’s Manifesto
- How to Write Faster
- Ja’s Physical, Emotional, and Psychological State: As of Right Now
- Ja’s Writing Habits
- My Virtual Notebook: Writing Tips from Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark
- The Light
- To Write with Ease
- What I’d Really Like to Say is
- Writing Exercise: A-Z Sentences
- Writing Exercise: The Morning Pages
- Writing Tip: Break It Down
- Writing Tip: Make a Pact with the Universe
- Writing Tip: Out before In
- Writing Tip: Stay with It and Sit
Check out Fun Stories:
- A Summary of Ja’s Pick Up Lines/Jokes
- Bading Debater
- Bird’s Nest Hairdo
- In Defense of My Terrible Handwriting
- My OMG I’m in the First World Moments
- Remy and Alpahor
- When I Die I Want a Glass Coffin and a Cellphone
- Words that Ja Can’t Spell
Check out High School and Grade School Fun:
- The Cult that is PJAM (Part 1): Ja Doesn’t Befriend the World
- The Cult that is PJAM (Part 2): The Recruitment Stage
Check out Weird Kid Stories:
- A Shy Person’s Top 8 Worries and Fears
- Bike and Bleed
- I Played Mary, He Played Joseph
- Ja the Weird Kid Transfers to a New School
- Ja’s Early Birthday Parties
- Ja’s Weird Childhood Games
- Ja’s Weird Childhood Games (Part 2)
- Ja’s Weird Fears (past and present)
- Little Ja Singing Laklak
- Little Ja Singing with Mama and Lola (audio recording)
- Little Ja’s First Cooking Class
- Maids Always Leave
- My Smile
- My Wound is Bigger than Yours, Belat
- Stop Reading My Diary, Alice!
- Velveteen Teddy
Check out my other blog categories.