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Off to college

/ 01:05 AM June 07, 2011

I HAVE been thinking lately about what I want to be called in college. I am usually referred to as “Pia” or “Pia Po.” The “Po” was a relatively recent addition to my name in high school so as to differentiate me from the other Pias in the batch, especially since I spent a lot of time with a good friend who was also named Pia. If you saw one of the Pias walking down the hallway, chances were you would see the other Pia, too, because we were in the same class, the same committees, the same club, the same barkada. (Were—how strange it is to refer to high school in the past tense.)

However, now that I am going to college in a matter of days, I will be getting a fresh start. Even though I occasionally tell people I hate how it makes me sound like the main character in Kung Fu Panda, I have actually become quite attached to my nickname. Who knew what a difference two letters could make? Whenever the other Pia and I meet new people, it’s always amusing to see how teaching them to tell us apart can be such a conversation starter. Dropping that last syllable highlights the fact that I won’t be spending as much time with her as I did in high school. We will try to get together, of course, and I know we won’t be growing apart any time soon. Still, while we will be going to the same school, we are going to be in different classes and different blocks with separate schedules. Dropping that last syllable truly means I am in college. I will be starting with a clean slate, which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

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Going into senior year, I had a vivid picture in my head as to how my perfect year should go. I thought that as a senior, I was entitled to tower over the freshmen and laugh as they parted in the hallways for me. I thought that as a senior, I stood a very good a chance of having a successful love life to the envy of all and to be magically crowned ball queen. But much to my amusement, none of these things happened—at least not to me.

Even my fourth year retreat, a week spent in Baguio with our class and considered by all to be a very important milestone, wasn’t as perfect as I had dreamed it would be. I had gotten very sick the week before so instead of talking endlessly with my friends into the wee hours of the morning, I spent my nights sleeping in my aunt’s house because my doctor insisted that I needed the rest.

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I am not saying that my last year in high school was horrible because, to be honest, it was the best year I ever had. It was the most exhausting year, that is for certain, but I would like to think everything my batchmates and my teachers did paid off in the end. Every day was an adventure as we all learned, studied, practiced, ate, sang, danced, laughed, prayed, cried, slept and crammed together.

Then in the blink of an eye, graduation was upon us. March 31, I jokingly told myself, this is the day the universe will reveal its mysteries to me and I will finally discover the meaning of life! But after the ceremony was over, the pictures taken and the tears shed, I felt like nothing had changed. I was still the same person, but now equipped with a high school diploma, an alumna card and the satisfaction of knowing I had survived high school.

When I visited my alma mater (another word I find difficult to associate with myself) over the summer to submit some final requirements, it felt strange. It had been my home for the past 13 years and suddenly it was not. I went to my old classroom and just stood inside for a few moments. I was being melodramatic and I didn’t care. I truly missed my class. If I had been on a TV show, sad music would have been playing in the background and I would have been besieged by flashbacks of all the times I had spent in that room. (Of course, this being reality, mostly I had an eerie feeling that something was going to jump at me from behind the blackboard.) I realized that while I would always miss my high school days, I was ready to leave and embark on a new journey.

Now that college life looms in the near horizon, I have a whole new set of expectations. Maybe my classes will be more challenging and more interesting. Maybe I will meet all sorts of crazy new people and go on all sorts of crazy new adventures with them. Maybe I will be more daring and more outgoing. Maybe I won’t have any regrets. But more than anything else, I would like to discover what my true purpose in life is, what my Ithaca is. Some things may meet my expectations (just maybe), but this time reality will be a lot more exciting than what I have imagined in my head.

Pia Posadas, 17, is an incoming freshman at Ateneo de Manila University.

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