Life’s sweet revelation came to me in the form of blinding car lights. It was nothing close to cinematic, unfortunately. I was not surrounded by heart-stopping scenery. I wasn’t in any fine-dining restaurant with champagne at my fingertips. I wasn’t anywhere special at all.
It occurred in a humble fast-food joint, with Lady GaGa’s music thumping and the brutal air-conditioner spewing icy air. The smell of a cleaning agent filled the place. It wasn’t a setting worthy of a scene in a movie. But for me, it was nothing short of spectacular.
It was around dinnertime. The streets were filled with vehicles rushing to God knows where, and the cashiers were frantic with waves of people washing in. It was a Third World take on downtown New York, so to speak. The world was in a rush. But there I was, freshly drained by brainstorming over our research paper, with nothing left to do but stare blankly into space. In a world that was rushing to get somewhere and trying hard to accomplish something, I was a solitary soul. Still. Silent. But revived.
That was in my freshman year in college. Four years have passed. Things have changed.
The bright-eyed student who was excited to earn high GPAs and acclaim got burned out, gave himself a break, and found more happiness in living passionately than in living abundantly. The hot-blooded freshman surrounded by different people with different backgrounds and niches got turned down, was forced by life to deal with things—small things—all on his own (like attending a seminar, applying for a summer job, and having a hipster dinner); he weeded out relationships that didn’t work and friends that failed to function like friends. The curious virgin got bored with being good, tried various things, mingled with wrong crowds in wrong places, and failed to find nirvana there.
The “just entering” became “now leaving,” and the once small world enclosed by university gates became a vast horizon with endless possibilities—and huge fears.
At 20, I wish I had the maturity to write about the 2013 elections, poverty in the country, rising crime rates, or even theocracy. Those are good, intelligent topics, of which I wish I could write strongly. But I am writing from the point of view of one who is facing battles—big battles—that being in college unfolded before me, and that real life will unfold some more. I am writing about reality that, though seemingly lacking in sociopolitical depth, is reality nonetheless.
I am writing in behalf of the fearful college freshman who strongly believes that he has left the best years of his life. I am also writing in behalf of the clueless high school senior who has realized that high school can never hold a candle to the wildness that is college, and the lessons of life and love that can be found there.
Much has been written about a topic of this sort. But I will write about it again, anyway. Because college gates all over the country will soon open to spit out thousands upon thousands of graduates and welcome about the same number of newbies. Each group will be facing great years, amazing years. The length of time one spends in college does not matter. Within those years are lessons of a lifetime, and how one learns them is what will soon matter most.
I’m not an expert. But in college, I’ve learned that:
1. It isn’t always wrong to skip classes. Once in a while you have to walk your dog, watch the sun set, and experience afternoons the same way you did back in high school. Sometimes you need to recharge. Go on. Take a break. You deserve it. Most of all, you need it.
2. Making mistakes is essential to the learning process. Some people take pride in not making as many mistakes as others. But they don’t grow as much. You’ll go through a stage of recklessness—that’s normal. Not everyone will go through it, mostly because of choice. But those who decide to take the plunge into deep waters find opportunities to expand their lungs and break through the surface with stronger stamina.
3. Silence is very much essential to being happy. And sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself. You’ll grow weary. The mobile phone will beep endlessly. People will make demands based on their own needs, not yours. In other words, no one will care about what you’re going through. When they want something done, they want it done. Amidst all these, go away for a while. Do something with that mobile phone. When I lost mine, I found relief.
4. There is a hairline distinction between just enough and having too much. For the studious, it’s the amount of time spent on books. For many, it’s the amount of money spent. And for most of us, it’s the fullness of love we give. We are not supposed to enter a relationship waiting to be completed. We should already be complete. But we proceed, anyway.
5. Life is and will not be fair, whether in college or after. Objectivity is but a fantasy, honesty just a motto, fairness but a theory. It’s a sad truth. But take comfort in the fact that you’re not given more than you can handle.
It’s been four years of excess. The accounting degree is just a final “umph!” away. Bidding goodbye to college will be painful. I have enjoyed it far more than I did high school. The little underdog is still an underdog, but now he has a degree. Underestimated, misunderstood, misinterpreted, overspent, stressed, overworked, hard-pressed… but it’s all OK. The greatest lesson I’ve learned in college is to fight. A lion that is bloodstained and scarred is the image of a king.
Don’t ever think that completing your college education will mean a world of difference. It won’t. You’ll be heartbroken regardless of your degree. Despite your GPA, you can’t choose what your child will be like. You can walk away with a beauty title, too, but that doesn’t guarantee fidelity in all relationships you choose. Life happens, and your defense is to bounce back, rise up, conquer.
Traditionally, those who have been through a challenge pass the torch to those who are about to trek it, perhaps to symbolically light their way as they take a piece of the cake. I’d like to think this piece is my way of passing the torch. Whether you are about to enter college or a soon-to-be graduate with a board exam to take, remember these four or so years.
Whether you’re 16 or 21, remember how far you’ve come. Things will keep getting better, and the best is yet to come.
I wrote this piece with you in mind and with a silent prayer that you make it through. The fact that you are reading a Young Blood column speaks so much of you, your capabilities, and your bright future. You will move mountains. Some people will fail to realize that, a lucky few will. You are quite a force. But while others may not seem to be blown away, remember the people that believed and trusted in you, and wrote a piece for you.
This is the Underdog Club, and I am its spokesperson. It’s the club of those who sing ahead of the tune, dance behind closed curtains, write stories in the dark, and defy a standard, an authority, a rule. It was formed on the night I was just describing, with blinding car lights piercing crystal-clear glass. Life showed me that there are many of us who won’t get the fair end of life all the time. If that applies to you, welcome to the club. You, kid, are in good company.
Here’s a pat on the back and here’s hoping we’ll cross paths someday. Go conquer those seas. Go build that empire. We’re all behind you.
Michael Venegas Baylosis, 20, is an accountancy senior at the University of St. La Salle.