Running in circles
I will always remember summer 2006 and the very heated discussion over dinner. I wanted to take up sociology and education while my mother wanted me to be an accountant.
Before graduating from high school, I was the president of the book society, associate editor of the school paper, and the vice president of the student council.
I considered reading, writing and speaking as integral parts of my student life.
Naturally, I wanted to take up a bachelor’s degree where all of these fields were emphasized, such as education or sociology.
I also had the impression that college was meant to prepare you for the rest of your adult life in a very linear fashion. My favorite high school teacher used to tell me that all great men were teachers.
Naturally, I wanted to be a “great” person, so I wanted to become a teacher.
Maybe, my teacher saw something in me that my mother did not. My mother wanted me to be more practical. She argued that job opportunities for accountants are limitless and rewarding.
Some of my closest friends even agreed with my mom’s arguments.
As the dutiful son, I followed my mother’s bidding. After all, it was hard not to be “dutiful” with her threat of not paying for my school fees should I end up taking sociology and education.
In hindsight, I think my mother just wanted the best for me, or what she thought was best for me.
When I entered the “pressure cooker” we call the college of accountancy, I told myself there was no other dream, no other program for me but this one.
I will graduate “summa cum laude,” I kept telling myself.
During my first two terms in the program, I was the top of the cohort.
Those terms were filled with liberal arts and general education courses. Again, I enjoyed reading, writing and speaking in those courses.
I remember that, in one of my classes, I chose to write a paper on Aeschylus’ “The Eumenides.”
My professor told me my work was particularly excellent for an accounting major. These courses provided the breadth of intellectual space in my undergraduate studies.
After all, the foundation of a good university education is really the liberal arts.
However, my ranking in the cohort slid down after taking up accounting (major) courses.
From reading, writing and speaking, my academic life started to revolve around problem-solving and reading financial reporting standards.
I particularly loved reading financial reporting standards.
Looking back, I may have spent more time reading the standards than solving problem sets, which is quite uncommon for accounting students.
Overall, I did not have as much drive as my peers when it came to studying accounting. I would rather read creative nonfiction (memoirs in particular) than spend more time solving accounting problems.
From first, I ended up graduating fourth in my class. Had it not been for the general education courses, I would have missed graduating with honors.
I eventually passed the licensure examination for accountants and started working as an audit associate. Audit is a very fast-paced and cutthroat industry.
My competitive nature helped my career progress faster than usual. In less than two years, I was promoted to senior associate for audit.
We started 10 in the batch, and ended up only two after the first promotion cycle.
During those months of sleep deprivation and caffeine “megadosing,” I started thinking if I wanted to become an auditor for the rest of my life.
My logical side kept telling me yes, this was something I was good at. But something else told me that a part of me would die if I remained an auditor for the rest of my life.
Truthfully, that was the part that gave me joy and life, and a part that was slowly dying in those days.
So what will I become if my life-giving center died?
I did not want to know the answer. So I quickly left and never looked back.
To be honest, I have been running in circles since then. After leaving audit, I applied for an adjunct position in a university.
The next logical step, as the dean put it, was to finish a graduate program.
I started a graduate program in business administration for the sake of compliance.
Also, I started getting top marks in most of my classes.
For me, the life of study is never daunting. I would rather be a perpetual student than anything else in this life.
In the middle of the program, I was awarded a graduate scholarship in professional accounting by my employer. Halfway through, I had to discontinue my existing program so I could start the new one.
Let us just say that this is one more circle half-run.
My new graduate program enriched my existing model of teaching and learning in higher education. I have met professors who are not afraid to run in different circles. One of my favorite professors, in fact, has an accountant’s license and a doctorate in literature.
Hearing my professor’s story, I cannot help but wonder, is it too late to finish a degree in education and sociology? I guess not. Maybe I just have to gather all my strength and run another circle, a totally unfamiliar one at that.
If life is a grand and colorful tapestry, I guess it would have more circles than lines. Our experiences would not be as linear as we want them to be.
There may be no definitive starts and finishes, just circles that we run in. Some circles we will finish running, some circles we will not. But every time we run a different circle, the circle gets deeper, and the tapestry we call life gets richer.
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Fermin Antonio del Rosario Yabut, 28, is the deputy director of an academic publishing house. He used to be a senior associate in an auditing firm in the Philippines. He is finishing his master’s degree in professional accounting at Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business.
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