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Love. Life.

Dream-hopping, then finally, daring

/ 09:03 PM November 15, 2019
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I have always wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid. Well, I think every kid has at least once dreamt of lounging about in zero gravity, in the vastness of space. Who wouldn’t, right? Hey, I’d still love to be one right now, but I know that’s never going to happen — this fact I realized about a decade ago when I was still in my later years in elementary.

Heck, by the time I was in sixth grade, it was still two years too early for Chino Roque – the first Filipino astronaut – to even enter the program that will eventually launch him into space.

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I instead thought of a new dream: I wanted to be an artist — an architect, specifically. Having artists for sisters, their hobbies rubbed off on me at a pretty young age. They draw, I draw — albeit mine appearing as mere scratches on paper when compared to theirs. Still, I drew and drew until I could somehow form persons that actually look like humans.

One day, in the sixth grade, I was at home getting a little too pumped up for having my first ever clearbook; it was long, blue and filled with lots of empty bond papers just waiting for the touch of my pencil — of course, I obliged. It was time to fill that bad boy up with dinosaurs and warriors and whatever an 11-year-old boy deemed “cool.”

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Still unable to get over the high of seeing samurais fight against guns and mortars from “The Last Samurai”, it was only just that I draw one, fully equipped with a katana and the ever so majestic yet terrifying feudal era armor, with an armored horse as companion. And draw I did.

Happy with my attempted “masterpiece” yet too lazy to fit a long clearbook into my bag, I grabbed my phone and took a picture instead. The next school day, of course, I was excited to show off my drawing to my friends, so I did. During class.

That’s when my teacher, Sir Dulay, caught me holding my phone up the face of my friend. I remember how I froze as he walked towards me after shouting my name. “Biong!” he said. This teacher, probably the most terrifying man in school, grabbed the phone from my still trembling hand.

He looked at it, with the samurai still on-screen, and stared at it for quite a while. After what mere seconds which seemed like eternity to me passed, he returned the phone. I was relieved, as I thought he was going to confiscate it. That relief quickly faded as he told me some of the most haunting words an 11-year-old like me could hear from his teacher: “Bumalik ka mamayang alas dos sa faculty room.”

A fresh transferee and an anxious kid, I spent what seemed like the longest two hours worrying about the kind of punishment I’d get from this terror of a teacher. Then, the time came — I freshened up, trying to look like the best, most-behaved child he’ll ever damn see, and entered the dreaded faculty room. He was alone, and there was an empty chair beside him, and a few pencils and papers resting on the desk.

What I thought was the worst move I’ve ever made in my one year of stay in the school turned out to be one of the most vital moments of my life — journalism, a word I’ve never even heard of prior to my “detention,” was introduced to the child that I was, for the first time.

After spending hours drawing, and learning about editorial cartooning, and that a school paper existed, Sir Dulay made me go home appointed as the school’s new editorial cartoonist.

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I spent the whole year practicing, attending workshops Sir Dulay made me go to, and competing in press conferences I knew nothing about before. Fortunate enough to actually reach regionals after landing second place in the divisions round, I thought to myself: finally, maybe this is actually what I am supposed to be. I then had a new dream, and a firm one, at that.

That dream, however, was immediately crushed just within the year. After the division round, I attended the workshop hosted after competitions. There, my confidence was completely crushed: I saw how my workshop-mates who came from different schools had these fancy pencils with different numbers and sizes. They drew with these fancy things, and man, were they exceptionally talented. Demoralized, I competed in the regionals knowing how these kids are extremely better than me in cartooning. After losing, I was sure I’d have no future in cartooning ever again, and that it was just more a hobby than talent of mine after all.

Lost

Dreamless, I entered high school with cartooning behind me. I was then asked by a few friends in my first year to try out the English school paper, and with no firm dream or passion still, I agreed and chose journalism as an elective. Unmotivated, I quit the paper eventually and switched to the computer class, as my best friends were all there. Back then, I decided that I would not be involved in journalism anymore.

During these times, I discovered a new dream: to be a lawyer! I always looked up to lawyers, seeing them as highly intelligent people who can speak in front of a crowd, debate and save lives, something an introvert like me would be too afraid to do, but I admired it anyway.

However, I felt that there was something always lacking in this dream (and in my previous ones): I saw it as something I would like to be, but I don’t seem to actually possess the passion to pursue it. That’s just how it is, I thought. Maybe I’d always be having half-baked dreams, and maybe my heart will not find anything it’ll gladly pour 100 percent of itself unto.

Lost, I again tried different things, hoping I’d eventually find my passion: I joined the robotics club, and actually enjoyed it, up until the adviser asked me to join the team as a programmer that would be competing with other schools. Still traumatized after the many times I lost in the many cartooning, English, or Science competitions the school threw me into, I did the most cowardly thing one could do: I backed down and quit the club. I never thought I was good enough, and I’d rather not represent the school if I’m going to lose anyway.

I also joined the art club. Given my complete lack of talent in coloring, I participated in poster-making contests anyway, just to give it a try. My classmates, who are much better than me, elected me president as if some kind of cruel prank, although they didn’t think it was (they were kind). Still, afraid I’d mess it all up again, and being the coward that I am, I came up with another exceptional move: I somehow neglected my duties, performing them half-assed, as I was afraid that if I gave my best try and still failed, I’d have no excuse. If they ever accuse me of being a bad president, at least I wasn’t trying, right? Top-notch move, high school me.

In my third year, after almost completely forgetting about journalism, the Filipino school paper adviser came up to me with a proposition: she heard that I was a former cartoonist, and she wanted me to at least try taking an exam to get in the paper. After my classmates’ several attempts to persuade me, as I initially didn’t like to, I took the exam.

Ms. Emma, the adviser, made me take the writing exam too, saying there’s nothing to lose if I try it out. I did, and quite ironically, I became editorial writer, not the cartoonist, of the publication.

Many classes and competitions after, I graduated high school with a new passion — writing. With this newfound love and confidence for the craft which Ms. Emma, my family, and friends all helped embed into me, I found a possible career path for me: be a journalist, or even a lawyer-journalist, in the future.

Lost (again)?

However, with all these newfound skills and passion, I still made a somewhat dumb attempt to create a “backup plan” if I realize that again, journalism may not be for me. I put accountancy as my first choice in my college application and had journalism as a second option only. The reason being that accountancy may give me a more lucrative job than journalism, and that with the limited job opportunities journalism will provide, the more skilled writers will get them if I turn out to be bad at it. Or so says the thing I call my brain.

After passing the exams, just when the payment of the enrollment fee was scheduled, I finally made the decision to pursue journalism — this time, wholeheartedly. As I was originally supposed to be an accountancy student, my mother helped me create a letter to let me take journalism instead — my true “first choice.”

As if a reemerging disease, however, I spent my first two years in college afraid that I may not be good enough all over again. What I was afraid of, I wasn’t really sure anymore.

Disappointing my family? My friends? Or maybe myself? Maybe it’s the same reason I wasn’t fond of studying for quizzes and exams, just so I’ll have an excuse if the time comes for me to fail.

Why was I always afraid to try out life?

This toxic spinelessness refrained me from joining school papers, which could have been helping me develop skills in the craft. What if I don’t pass the exams? What if I pass, then find out I can’t handle being a campus journalist in college? It took me two years, and a lot of nagging from friends and classmates, to at least try.

Found

Finally, in a moment of impulsiveness, I joined the local student publication. I started out as a news writer, and to my surprise, I graduated college as an editor. I didn’t think I would make it, let alone be a leader in an organization I was so afraid of joining before.

It was almost a little too late for me to realize that maybe, life isn’t really meant to be lived in the background. If I hadn’t tried campus journalism in college, what would I be now as a fresh graduate? Would I be too scared to even apply for a job? Well, knowing myself, I probably would be.

As a paranoid kid growing up, I’ve had several friends who were like me, while others were more confident and had firm dreams at such a young age. I used to want to be like them: a best friend, who’s a math whiz, set out on his dream to be an engineer; another, set out to be a filmmaker, and actually is one now.

I always thought I was being left behind. How could they have such firm dreams? Why was I always second-guessing myself? Then, I realized: we weren’t actually meant to go through life at the same pace. It was never meant to be a competition. It shouldn’t matter if I achieve my dreams first, fourth or even last. It took me a lot of failures and mistakes before even figuring out what I really wanted to do, and I’m glad I did.

Like in finding a partner, figuring out your passion in life — your “true love” — may or may not be a case of love at first sight. Hey, it may even take several dreams to find “the one.” Realizing our dreams may take lots of trials and errors, but we’ll get there. There’s nothing wrong with losing, after all. If I wasn’t such a loser before, I may not have discovered my passion in writing – and I wouldn’t be submitting this to my editor.

_

Ali Ian Marcelino V. Biong earned his BA in Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas. He likes playing the guitar and playing video games, swimming and surfing, traveling, and Marvel. He regards himself as “somehow still the boy I mentioned in the essay: still afraid of a lot of things. But now, I’m more ready to try and learn a thing or two from the many challenges life is going to throw at me.” His editors at INQUIRER.net are taking him up on that, and will make sure the choice he made to write (and to serve people through writing) will be worth it.

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Posted by INQUIRER.net on Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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