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Obedient son

04:17 AM September 20, 2016

BY THE time you read this, Tay, I’m already pursuing a degree in fine arts. Hopefully you haven’t yet thrown me out of the house. I always pray that I can go home again, perhaps someday. Right now, I’m equally scared and mortified in following a dream of which you have never approved. But, Tay, it’s my only dream. I had wanted to ask for your blessing, but I knew it would only result in a vicious argument, which you always win. You’re a person who always stands by his decisions and principles. I don’t have the ability to convince you otherwise. Hearing you say no one last time will destroy me.

Forgive me for this act of betrayal. It’s not every day that I get to disobey your decisions, especially in matters regarding my life, my career. My siblings and I have always believed that you and Nanay only want the best for us. However, your decision to make me a finance guy simply doesn’t work. But trust that I have tried my best for the past 11 years. I know you’re angry and very disappointed in me for not telling you about my decision to study fine arts. I have to go away.

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But please know that you didn’t lose a son today. I only lost my path. Now I have to find it.

Tay, I no longer have a choice but to pursue this creative path. I badly need it because I don’t want to face a future of regret and sadness, of never actualizing my full potentials. My batch is the very last generation of students under the 10-year basic education eligible to take up a college course. The next freshmen will only be senior high school graduates under the K-to-12 basic education curriculum. If I delay even more, I can’t possibly go back to high school again. That’s idiotic.

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Our community must be thinking I’m crazy and stupid for giving up a permanent career in the government. They’ll say I’m throwing away my life, my social status, and, I guess, everything else. Let him starve, they’ll say. I can’t make them understand my desires and aspirations in life. All I can do now is to learn my craft and someday I will prove my worth to them—and to you.

I want to become a good artist. Like you. You will always be my hero, and I will always look up to you. It’s really strange why I never had the courage to ask you all these years why you don’t want me to pursue our passion, and hone the talents I inherited from you. I can only speculate on your reasons.

I guess the No. 1 reason is the financial difficulties by the time I entered college. I remember there was my sister’s medical school, and the loans and bills to pay. Since art school is expensive, it was probably never an option. No. 2 is the belief that there’s no money in being an artist. You did not even want me to take up architecture. But I believe the main reason was simply that you had set your sights on accountancy for me. Sure, the course can offer a bright future and lots of job opportunities. And there was a cheap program offered nearby.  “Pag-accountancy na lang, dong, ha?” And I blindly obeyed.

What does a 17-year-old know?

But I truly wish you had considered for a second how terrible at math I was. It was so difficult for me to learn the principles in accounting. Imagine what kind of moves I had to make to survive those exams and grade cutoffs. What I lacked in the brain I had to exert twice as much effort for. I had to burn thrice as many midnight candles as my peers.

I stayed away from drinking, smoking, fraternities and late-night parties in college. Not because they could distract me but because you said so. For five years I studied so hard, to the point of exhaustion and beyond. I was willing to do those not-so horrible-but-extremely-hard things I never thought I could do. I even managed to pass the CPA board exam. But I did them all because I wanted to obey you and make my parents proud.

I really thought I could bury my yearning to draw and paint beautiful things. I was so wrong!

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When I worked for years in the real world, my life slowly started to crumble on a downward spiral. I am about to reveal something I’m terrified of even writing about, but I have to do this in order to make peace with my inner demons:

I just could not find my identity and purpose in my profession. Look, I really love my professors, classmates, review friends and workmates, but I have never truly belonged with them. I don’t feel I deserve to hold this license. I’m glad to hold a job and earn a steady salary, but, embarrassing though it is to say, I’m stuck in a dead-end job and feeling rotten deep inside.

I have stopped learning. I have ceased doing the things I love, like running, writing blogs, and traveling (all of which you implicitly don’t approve). Somehow I have successfully imprisoned myself, with nowhere to go. And I have struggled with quarter-life crisis and suffered vicious cycles of depression for years. You know what depression is? It’s loneliness. It’s waking up feeling you’re the most useless creature on Earth. It makes people believe that it’s really okay to jump from a tall building. Some people have a cruel name for it: kaartehan.

How was I supposed to tell anyone about all this? So I kept it to myself.

It’s a miracle that I’ve held on to my creative side all these years. The hope of entering art school someday kind of saved me from madness and loneliness. I look for time to draw and paint after office work. I wish I could share how happy I am to hold a pencil against a sketchpad. I had been doing that before I even learned how to read and write. I wish I could tell you about the amazing artists I follow in social media. I’m always amazed at beautiful paintings in exhibits. Do you know that I’ve been trying to learn painting in watercolors for years already? Trust me, I still suck at it.

Tay, that is why I’m here in art school. I’m not doing this to run away from you and from that life you engineered for me. I came here to come home–to be in a place where my passion is appreciated and embraced. Here I can learn the art lessons I have craved for so long. Now I have time to practice my craft, to discover my aesthetics, and to accept my weaknesses. I wish I had found this place earlier.

I hope this letter finds you. I hope you’ll eventually forgive me. Please tell Nanay and my siblings that I’m okay (I hope they continue to send my allowance while I’m still looking for a part-time job). I pray that I can go home; hopefully by that time I have achieved my dreams. Even here, I still want to make you proud.

Your obedient son.

Lester Glenn Tabada, 28, from Southern Leyte, is a fine arts freshman at the University of the Philippines Cebu.

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