In the real world | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

In the real world

THE ADULTS are right when they say life is different in the real world. They constantly remind the younger ones about how important it is to invest for the future and be certain of the path that one is going to take.

I was one of those who abided by the written rules. Having learned the art of listening from the experts, I wrote down every catchy quote from books and interviews of Stephen Hawking, Jose W. Diokno, Pope Francis and Patricia Evangelista. I made sure I was on the same track as theirs, making every New Year’s Eve the gunshot marking another winning race for me.


But a bachelor’s degree in psychology, countless bottles of energy drink, and thousands of Facebook friends later, I am afraid I am not making any progress. I have just resigned from my first job and it’s been a month since I started wallowing in the open arms of unemployment. I am not even sure if I am unhappy, discontented, or simply lost. After much self-assessment and quiet sobs, I have adopted “misfit” as a status.

A few weeks after graduation, with no great letters attached to my name, I decided to enter law school. It seemed the most practical option, so off I went on a road frequently traveled, hoping it would provide me with answers to the mysteries that I have created.


Every day, I enter a room filled with people grappling with thick law books and seeking clues on where to find their niche. At least I am not alone. In law school, nobody seems to be sure of anything, not even the accomplished ones—the magnas and summas, the engineers, doctors, priests, or the humble bachelor’s degree holders. Most of us here only wish to be baptized with the holy four letters before our names, while some only hope to find themselves and want to be saved from the horrors of being tagged as unemployed.

Law school is very different from the other places that I have been to in my life. It is the only place where I have not even thought of becoming the best. To settle on being average actually saves time and sanity. Being average is not a bad thing, after all. When one is asked in a quiz how to defend a rapist, a murderer or a jaywalker, being the best in school is usually the last thing to think about. I guess this is how society molds the future defenders of justice: that learning how to fight for the rights of others is more important than being superimposed with the goal of outdoing everyone. Our mentors have taught us how to learn, and not simply earn being a member of the legal profession.

The adults are right when they say life is different in the real world. The real world slaps you hard on the right cheek and then paints a rainbow on the left. It teaches you lessons you have not imagined wanting to learn. For me, it was the lesson of humility.

To not be the best is not a bad thing; it is too unfortunate, though, to have finally arrived at my senses, 19 long years after setting foot in school. Maybe it was the very-good stamps or the star-shaped stickers or the exemption from the final exams that fueled the desire to be on top. Or maybe it was the fear of not making my parents proud and not having a picture with them and the school president on a graduation stage. Or it could be the lack of funds for the education sector, the lack of importance that has been given to values education classes, or the grading system which looks down on 3.0’s and labels a 1.0 as an impossible dream. Or maybe it was all those, or none that I am conscious of, which made me and my peers long for the true meaning of success and satisfaction, even after our college diplomas have been framed and hung. We sought Latin honors and all the while we thought that it was the best thing there is. We tried to make it to the best schools and we felt good about making the cut. We were so busy claiming victory that made some of us long for even larger victories. It never ends, and it is exhausting to see some of us drag their bodies on their way to the top.

At a time when self-help books cost less than a decent mirror, it is not uncommon to be reminded about who really has control of one’s life. Over the years, I have drowned in achievements and have been suffocating in a little cage of competing with myself. The adults are right again. It is true when they say that only when one has failed, and has failed gloriously, will one realize that life is not all about greatness and being No. 1. I must know, for it took me some fallbacks and a number of broken mirrors to say with conviction that it is not hard to matter.

It is not hard to matter if you do not gauge your self-worth with a gold medal. Put too much pressure on yourself and soon enough you will feel that it is getting harder to breathe with your own lungs. I have seen my friends turn from brown to blue every examination week, while working hard to prove their worth. I have known some who have given up their love life for the sake of focusing on a thing that they say is the most important of all, also known as academics.

They are the same people who keep on saying that love can wait, and they have been saying that same thing even after earning their PhDs. Some gave up leisure, while others almost gave up on life. I, too, have given up a few things—sleep, people and experiences—in order to do what I thought the adults mean when they say “invest for the future.” That is why until this day, I still give up some things, but not the essential ones anymore.


I have learned that more than being excellent is being true. Being true means being genuinely happy and not faking a smile whenever people ask you how your life has been, so far. Growing old is not growing up, but growing in. One day, you will look back and see that there are piles of should-have-been’s in your life, and even your shiny medal cannot help you with it. Remember that humility does not fall far behind honor and excellence.

If, after college, you still want to seek success, go ahead, but this time, succeed for others. Be the winner of the millions of our countrymen whose poverty has been measured but has never stopped them from dreaming of a bright future. For them, it does not matter if you are the best, as long as you have done your part in serving the nation.

To the graduates, the unemployed, the future taxpayers, those whose biodata’s work-experience section is still an empty space, know that life is meant to be a humbling experience.

Take it easy and just leave the gold to the sun. Welcome to the real world. Have a good time.

Keysie M. Gomez, 21, is a law sophomore at the University of San Agustin.

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TAGS: career, law, law school
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