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Disillusioned achiever

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I marched onto the stage, head held high and grinning proudly, thinking of how much nearer I was to achieving my dreams. Like the silver medal I was about to receive, I thought, I’d have the world in my hands, if not at my feet. There was no reason that I wouldn’t. After four challenging years in the state university, everything was going well. I thought that as long as I had the drive and determination, I could do whatever I wanted: Graduate with flying colors from law school, top the bar, and publish my own book before I turn 23.

I was invincible.

Later, as a grade-conscious law freshman, I set daily goals to make sure I was staying on track: Memorize every case, be updated on relevant news, and recite every day without notes. I had to be distinct, impressive, brilliant.

For a few months it worked—until I got my first nerve-wracking, fist-clenching humiliation in class. I knew everyone gets it in law school, and some had become so inured to it they didn’t mind anymore. But not me, grade-conscious, perfectionist, megalomaniac me. So I doubled my efforts, but the situation only got worse. What’s wrong with these professors?! I was getting stressed, depressed, and ill. My doctor told me to take a leave of absence. I ignored the advice at first, but shortly my body gave up.

For two years now I’ve been on leave from school, popping antidepressants, reading self-help books, drinking with random people. Recently I’ve been job-hopping, traveling, programming, learning street art from tambay, getting real tattoos—anything to distract my obsessive mind from this self-inflicted pain of disappointment.

In two years of wandering I’ve learned to rationalize how stressful a lawyer’s life is, how unfair and political the system is, and how my creativity is being stifled by this boring, pretentious, overrated field.

But more important, I’ve learned how much I didn’t know about the real world, what really matters in life more than title or academic achievement, what makes people tick (and it has nothing to do with being smart), and how people who frequently go to clubs are rational.

It took me two years of drinking and mindless, honest talking with all kinds of people (bosses, clients, coworkers, and the coolest  tambay) to learn more about life than what I did in the university.

My family still tells other people I’m currently studying in a premier law school, and keeps asking me when I’ll go back to school.

I don’t know, but I’m sure I’m happier with my life now, working at my own pace, exploring places, meeting new people, and finally pursuing my real passion.

I may not be a lawyer, but I can reach out to out-of-school youth more effectively through animation. I may not have a glamorous title, but I can help organize livelihood projects, transform urban communities, and solve eyesore billboard problems through street art advertising.

It took me two years of wandering to finally get out of our culture’s deep-rooted obsession with academic achievements, titles, and self-importance.

How long will it take you?

Ciara Gallardo Juan, 21, went to the University of the Philippines College of Law. She is now working as an advertiser while studying 3D animation and visual effects. She leads the Street Art Philippines Movement.


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Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=54217

  • just_anotherperson

    Praying will help you. Ask Mama Mary for help. She never fails.

    • Julian de Sota

      .why not papa jesus? or maybe Mama Mary and Papa Jesus…

      • just_anotherperson

        Why so much disrespect for the name of our Lord?

      • Julian de Sota

        ..and your Lord is……..mama mary?

    • quirinomayer

      Where in the Scriptures did Jesus and his disciples gave instructions to pray to Mary? Nowhere. So adoration of Mary is an invention of Rome and never came from the founder of Christianity himself.

      Ciara, don’t pay attention to this cultist.

      The LAE is very tough. Passing it is a clear indication
      that one has a good chance to become a lawyer. My kid passed the written
      part in 2008 but failed the interview. so she went to another law school and was
      one of those who passed the recent bar exams. Meaning if you really want to be a lawyer, UP is not the only place to make it happen.

      • just_anotherperson

        The saints tells us that Mama Mary can only lead us closer to our Lord Jesus.

      • quirinomayer

        And the saints overrule the founder of Christianity himself? If there are personalities to bring us closer to Christ, wouldn’t he have talked about him/her himself and gave instructions on the matter? On the contrary, Christ said it’s only him who could mediate between God and man “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.” And St. Paul also said: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” I Timothy 2:5. Based on these pronouncements of Christ and St. Paul, where does Mary the co-mediatrix come in, Mariolatrist?

      • just_anotherperson

        You do not know what you are talking about.

        If saints “overrule” our Lord. they would not be saints, would they?

      • quirinomayer

        You yourself have said that. Saints overruling Christ are no saints at all. Nowhere in the Scriptures did Christ and his disciples talk about a special person or persons bringing people closer to Christ which means the saint you are referring to and your church authorities who declared Mary as Christ’s co-mediator are no saints and are false teachers, respectively.

        I do not know what I am talking about? Not for you to make that judgement. Ask Ciara. Being a law student, she knows that any law that contradicts the Constitution is null and void and could not be legally implemented. And I am sure that even you during your quiet moments would grudgingly admit that between the teachings of Christ and his disciples as recorded in the Bible and the claims of saints, popes and councils, there is
        no contest as to which is the Constitution of Christianity.

      • quirinomayer

        You read the Scriptures so you could tell Roman inventions from the real teachings of Christ and the disciples. See, you could not even defend this Mama Mary cult. That’s because it’s one of the lies of the devil that Rome has swallowed hook, line and sinker. Same it true with the pope being the vicar of Christ and being infallible, same with prayers for the dead and a lot more teachings that have no support from the words of Christ and the disciples.

        Remember, like I have already told you, the Constitution of Christianity is the Bible. Any teaching that runs counter to it is false and should be rejected by those who truly seek God. As for those bound for the lake of fire, they could not distinguish and do not want to make any distinction between the true teachings of Christ and the false teachings of their cult. Cultist and Mariolatrist, all is not yet late for you. The truth shall set you free.

        When a Christian tenet cannot be defended from Scriptures, most likely it is not Christian but just a dangerous human invention.

      • MediocreGuy

        I don’t understand why you reacted that way?

  • josh_alexei

    There are too many “lawyers” in the market anyways and many of its Practitioners are not very nice individuals to the eyes of many of their peers (or is it just me?) but graphic arts and advertising and visual effects are quite new and interesting fields…I was taken back when my favourite niece told me she was planning to take up University programs in Graphic Arts as I was expecting Medicine just like her auntie and uncle…but she got accepted at Cal Poly, the premier US university in these type of Field and graduated last year with the BS degree… and I don’t even know what kind of job’s she doing but her long term goal is to put up some of those Big Billboard up in the Street of New York or major US cities…for now she enjoys designing labels and arts for some company in CA…and that beats asking patients, how do you feel today?

  • angie1875

    Go back to school and finish it.You may not need your law degree now,but later,when you have your own kids, your academic achievements and titles will come in handy in giving them a better future.

  • Fulpol

    there is nothing wrong in setting your goals.. in building your dreams..

    the question is: is that what you love to do, to achieve, to be your legacy?

    in achieving your goals, what is your attitude? a quitter? or being patient and resilient like if there are temporary setbacks, you won’t give up..??

    I think, you are not disillusioned,.. you simply lacked the attitude in achieving more in life.. you listed the goals.. you built your dreams.. I emphasize the word, “you”.. it was “you”, not your parents, relatives or friends who listed those goals and dreams..

    you are a quitter, rather than an achiever..

    you had the brain, the passion, the heart for people… if you take law, passed the Bar.. practice your profession.. enter in politics.. and become future Philippine President.. that would be great.. and simply, you are not underachiever.. and never a disillusioned one..

  • coladu

    I am a lawyer. My mom did not step into Grade 1 while my dad only finished Grade 6. I am not a big shot and one of the reasons for that is because I want to enjoy life while living only comfortably and sending my children to the schools they want to go to without any wavering. Law was not my first choice of a course but I ended up being a lawyer. My main secret was when I started my study of law, I told myself that I should finish. The other secret was, while studying law, I must enjoy my time with my classmates, friends, my girlfriend then who eventually became my wife, and of course, my brothers and sisters who gave their all out support. These people around me during my study of law were also among the reasons why I did not stop because they continually encouraged and supported me in my pursuit of the profession.

    So, my advice, in everything you do define your objectives and focus, but do not forget to enjoy life and listen to friends, relatives, classmates, etc. Go back when you have time and become one. But change a little before going back.

  • siJuanDalandan

    Life in law school can really be stressful. You have to learn to pace yourself. Realize too that once you practice law, it becomes even more stressful. So if you feel that you cannot handle the pressure and you are happier with what you are doing now, then there is no point in continuing with law studies.

  • agaylaya

    There are many who loved schooling and its trappings (grades, diplomas, degrees, honors) but end up with little or no real education or completely misguided by what it means to live. If drug addicts need to be detoxified, many schooled individuals have to be deschooled in order to live a happy and fulfilling life.

  • Anthony J Bennett

    Oh Ciara!

    There are so many lessons here both for you and others.

    Our emotions, both welcome and unwelcome are fueled by chemicals which we produce ourselves. An example of that would be the the wonderful feeling you describe in your opening paragraph.

    The natural body chemistry you produced to feel that way was dopamine and the feeling that gives you is success/ achievement.

    You tell us that you are very competitive – you say ” as a grade-conscious law freshman, I set daily goals to make sure I was staying on track: Memorize every case, be updated on relevant news, and recite every day without notes. I had to be distinct, impressive, brilliant.” In effect you are are a dopamine junkie, hooked on your own need to produce a dopamine ‘hit’.

    You are right of course, your professors were just seeking to prepare you for the emotional roller coaster that a law career can impose but there are better ways of doing it than subjecting you to “nerve-wracking, fist-clenching humiliation in class” . However they a law professors not psychologists and they did their best as they saw it.

    Doctors drugs, drink or social drugs cannot help, they only mask your real chemestry There are two happy chemicals, Dopamine is one and Serotonin is the other. I can detect that you are enjoying the benefits of serotonin now when you report that you are “happier with my life now, working at my own pace, exploring places, meeting new people, and finally pursuing my real passion”

    The trick to enjoying your future life will be to ‘Relax into your passion’ Enjoy the twin delights of Serotonin (comfort) AND Doparmine (sucess) by taking action to achieve goals without being attached to the outcome. Think to yourself ‘ I will achieve that goal or something better’ and the something better may be entirely unexpected.

    You seem to have some control now and you ask how long it will take others?

    It need not take more than a second, only two things are needed, the understanding that it is not others actions that matter it is our own reactions. Just switching a thought from one that generates an excess of stress chemicals (adrenaline and cortesol) to one that that gives you the right dose of the happy chemicals will change you mood and may even change your life and that power is yours..

    There is nothing wrong with dopamine, the naturally produced chemical which you were hooked on but like all chemicals the danger is in the dose.

  • clanwolf

    You couldn’t hack it and now sour graphing in the guise of reflection.

  • Susan8888

    Dear, you definitely are still naive and uninformed if you think the law profession has the distinction of having a monopoly on what you call stressful, political, stifling, boring, pretentious, and overrated vocation. Any profession can fit the bill; this is really a
    matter of personal perception. I can also assure you that there are lawyers who, aside from finding personal fulfilment in their dedication to the legal profession, have also contributed generously to the improvement of our society. Conversely, there are other professions reputed to be liberal and creative that has stressed, or worse, maimed their practitioners. There are protagonist and villains in all vocations. So whatever career you choose for yourself, or you fancy as not worth your while, remember that success is achieved not only by good grades, perseverance, and hard work. Success is achieved also when we have accepted and embraced “failures” as an essential process in becoming great.



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