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Young Blood

Terrified of graduation

I am terrified.

Before I know it I will be among the millions upon millions of graduates of schoolyear 2013-2014. My mother can breathe a sigh of relief, as her youngest child scrambles atop a stage, shakes hands with the college president, and awkwardly walks back down clutching a thin scroll of paper for which she paid roughly P64,000 over the last four years. (That amount doesn’t include my daily allowance, photocopy fees, miscellaneous fees, those random, and rather pointless, “mandatory” tickets that we were required to buy for some movie or musical that we didn’t even like in the first place, and many more expenditures that I can’t even recall.)

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After the taste tests of all the instant coffees out there, all the stimulants that were recommended for the cramming sessions, all the pimples and blemishes that dominated the vast expanse of my face, all the recitations, the hundreds of hours in class, and the multitude of readings that were dumped on our heads, I am finally graduating.

But as each day goes by and the prospect becomes ever bigger, I cannot help but feel this gut-wrenching pang that comes when I see or hear things associated with graduation. I see a toga—wham! There it is. I see a “Now hiring” sign for God knows what position in bright letters—my stomach does another backflip. I see a bank poster with a guy in a toga beaming widely, as though he can conquer the whole world with a single smile—and there’s that small but definite pang yet again.

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Oh, it is terrifying, all right.

While most soon-to-be graduates would rejoice and plan ahead, like a party to celebrate their graduation, I am part of the few who are incessantly worrying. No, not exactly worried. “Terrified” is the much more appropriate word for me. It is like an annoying fly buzzing beside your ear, following you wherever you may go. And it grips me with a numbing paranoia each time.

I am terrified because of the possibility that after three or so months, I will belong to the large “unemployed” bracket of our country’s workforce. I am terrified that maybe I will belong to the 69,114,358 Filipinos who are jobless (the number being a calculation that I arrived at based on actual statistics while I was writing an article for our school paper). Of that number, 21 percent is composed of college graduates—yippee for me!

My college degree is one that inevitably moves people to comment, “Wow! Ang galing mo naman (You’re so good)!” Or “Mahirap yan (That’s so difficult)!” And the next expected question: “So are you studying law next?”

If I were younger, fresh from high school, naive, and still dreamy beyond reality, I would have piped up and gushed about my plans to immediately go to law school, and to conquer injustice after passing the bar exams with flying colors, unicorns and rainbows. But fast-forward a few years later and you have this sardonic colegiala having second thoughts about law school because frankly, her family cannot afford it.

So there goes my high school ambition to become a lawyer, squashed bit by bit by the unnerving reality of expense, necessity, and unfortunate circumstances. Circumstances like my father losing his job, my older sister moving back in with us with her two children, her marriage having disintegrated, and the loans that my mother had to take out in order to pay for all our expenses.

Earlier graduates of my course had been quick to point out how difficult it was to land a job, especially in our province that is still hovering in the cusp of developing into an urbanized, business-centered one. Although a number of them are lawyers now, the majority went off in opposite directions, landing jobs that they did not expect to get when they were still in school.

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I was not scared when I heard all the things they said, but these days, as the looming reality of being in the “real” world continues to deliver small, sharp slaps to my face every now and then, the fear is starting to creep in.

What if I do not land a job immediately? What if I do not manage to go to law school? What if I end up being a burned-out college graduate with no trace of ambition left in me? What if I feel lost, or get actually lost, for that matter?

On a recent trip to Manila, I saw how harsh it can be for a person to be unemployed, homeless… helpless. The uninvited thought of me being in that situation popped into my mind, and stayed there, as our jeep wheeled off toward Baclaran.

It sent weakening shivers down my spine.

Before I know it, I will be graduating from our province’s state university.

I fully realize that graduating from a state university means that the four years of my tertiary education were subsidized by the government. I am, at last, graduating with the help of taxpayer money—the Filipino nation’s money. I owe my education to my countrymen.

This debt of gratitude alone is sufficient pressure to weigh down my shoulders as a graduating student. This debt, and my mother’s expectations, along with those of my two older sisters who are professionals in their respective fields, and that of my dad who, a few weeks ago, asked me what my course was. Bless his soul.

I am terrified. Terrified of facing my demons: Will I proceed to law school, or just study for a master’s degree? Will I work while I study? Will I teach, or not? Will I still write, or not? The sheer number, the variety, of possibilities, whether good or bad, terrifies me. Thankfully, the reassurances of my friends and family help me retain my sanity as the hypothetical fly of uncertainty whizzes by my ear constantly. My dreams of travel, higher education, a better life, and getting lost in the world’s various wonders while I walk, inch by inch, through it, also help.

Dreams, someone once wrote, are not worth pursuing if they do not scare you. I am glad that I am terrified. It means that all of the things going on in my head are really worth pursuing, and even though I am scarred, and I am young, and I am not a graduate of a swanky, top-rated university, it does not mean that I will not strive to get what I want from this life.

I am, after all, graduating.

Katrina G. Lucena, 19, is a student of Palawan State University.

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TAGS: education, graduation, Katrina G. Lucena, opinion, Young Blood
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