On the outside, Looking in

For the first time in my whole college life, I watched the annual Awitan, our college’s version of a choir competition, last night. Normally, I don’t participate in our college week, not even to watch. Engineering week is is always organization-centric, despite the college student council’s many attempts to encourage participartion from the unaffiliated students.

I used to be a member of an org myself but I never quite fit in the org. After I got inducted as a member, I joined and helped organize our org events (and was technically and technically alone, an active member). However, working with some of my orgmates was far from what I imagined it to be. I always felt ill at ease whenever I was in the tambayan or at any org event. I made a few friends in the org and more casual acquaintances, but I never found a group where I really felt I belonged. Most of the people I felt somewhat close to weren’t active members, like me. Those who were active in the org were more than a little cliquish so I always felt left out whenever I was with them. It caused me to get disillusioned. I joined an org because I wanted to find a place in my department where I was comfortable. My org wasn’t helping me there. And because orglife always entails a certain amount of work, I found it to be too stressful, and yet, not rewarding. I did try to make orglife work for me, but, ultimately, I lost all reason to stay. I did not reaffirm my membership for two consecutive sems, esentially self-revoking my membership, as per our constitution. It was a decision I embraced the next year, and a decision I regret profoundly, since last night.

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When I was about five years old, my mom accompanied my aunt in her Christmas shopping. My mom chose a toy xylophone for me and a plastic makeup/ glamour set for my cousin who was only a year younger than me. However, when they got home, they decided to let me choose for myself which one I wanted. Dazzled by the plastic faux-sapphire earrings, and the gold-colored combs, I chose the toy glamour set. 

Because my sisters were brimming with EQ then, they let slip that my mom had chosen for me the small xylophone and that they thought my choice was terrible. After that revelation, every “ting!” the xylopohone sounded out was like mocking laughter to me. It took only a few hits from my cousin’s nimble fingers to take away what pleasure I initially had with my toy. At least, for that night. (Children are absolute models of fast recovery.) 

This is my first memory of regret mingled with jealousy.

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Regret is a hated emotion. When coupled with jealousy, it is torture. I wish I could say I’m one of those people who never look back but last night is  proof of the opposite.

It was embarrassing to sit with people who weren’t from my college because most engineering students among the audience were sure to sit with their orgmates. It was painful to be unable to join in my orgmates’ cheers when inwardly, I was loyally yelling my heart out for the org representatives. It was most painful to realize that plenty of the times in the year that I was a member, I was asked to join the chorale but I didn’t because I was too shy and too committed in my other (non-academic/non-college-based) orgs already. I was literally shaking during my orgmates’ performance because I was really nervous for them (although it must also be said that the auditorium was rather cold). I wanted them to win so badly, and when they finished their performance, I really felt so proud. I’m finding it so hard to express my pride because I feel that I had forfeited all rights to feel proud of them when I so stubbornly rejected their offers for me to join them in the past.

For the nth time, I wonder if things would have been different if i joined the chorale. It could have been my niche in the org. I wonder if it would have made more sense for me to be inactive in one of my other orgs. I question my decision to always put my acads before my orgs. Are my passing grades a trade-in for the ties I would have made had I stayed in the org? Could it be that belongingness is too high a price to pay for on-time graduation? I am appalled and exceedingly ashamed to admit that unthinkingly, I might have chosen loneliness over failure.

I don’t really know. These are questions whose answers have been lost when I made the choice to quit over a year ago. Questions that stopped to matter the day it became impossible for me to go back. What I know is that sitting in the dark auditorium among the unaffiliated audience last night, I felt sadness, frustration and disappointment wash over me so intensely. I could have been a peformer that night. I could have been someone who mattered.

Regret chaffs in my already disappointed self; Earlier this sem, I realized that last sem’s average ensured that I wouldn’t be getting an academic medal on my graduation day. For the first time in my college life, I feel that as a ChE student, I have nothing.

The things that hurt me most right now are not the ones I never had the chance to own, nor the ones I had and lost, but the ones I could have had but foolishly chose not to. The first entails no regrets. The second would leave me with memories. The third leaves me only with a myriad of unanswered questions, imagined scenarios and a whole lot of regret. It left me here, on the outside looking in.Image

This is a response to the Daily Prompt: The Outsiders. It is an edited version of a journal entry and I published it because I think it fits in pretty well with the prompt.

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More than Academics

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Finals week is coming fast at our univeristy.  There are only two weeks of classes left which means my teachers are piling on all the work they forgot to give earlier. I have zilch progress on my thesis so I’ve been pestering the chemical suppliers for the quotations for the reagents I need. I’ve also been worrying more over my plant design and how I could reduce its payback period. I have exams, papers, reports, and deliverables galore. I barely have time for sleep so I’ve been missing some of my classes. Most students would call this a hellweek, but most Christians are averse to this term; they say it’s graceweek. The terms might both be right. This is my hellweek, not for the reasons most students have, but because I’ve been skipping my quiet time  and sacrificing mg bible study for more acads time and study. And yet, I still see God’s grace in everything. Despite my various shortcomings, He is quick to help and sustain me and His grace overwhelms me more than my acads could ever do. Which is why this is also my graceweek. I’m horrible, I know. This is why I’m trying to reorganize my prioroties  and check my motives. Below is a note I wrote two years ago, when my acads life was starting to get really, really unbearable. It’s a little reminder for me, and one I need often. It might be useful to other Christian students out there. 

The Christian student is a student for Christ. She is first and foremost, accountable to God for her academics. Her education is her ministry, and she studies to glorify and please God above all.

She attends class on time and at all times because God wants her to honor her commitments.

She does not cheat in any way because cheating is lying and God finds a lying tongue abominable.

She works hard for academic excellence and is not lazy in studying because God honors hard work and detests laziness.

She trusts that God is in control of her academics and exercises faith by not giving up though her subjects seem daunting and by not getting frustrated by lack of results.

She does not sacrifice her quiet time for more study time because God values meaningful intimacy over ministry involvement, and ultimately, acads is just another ministry.

She studies to please God and to honor Him- not because of others and not for selfish ambitions- and so does not consider good grades as the ultimate goal of studying.

She always puts God first over academics and acknowledges that her only source of strength, understanding and intelligence is God.

She is a student now and she will be for the next few months or so but that state is temporary. Thus, she is not defined by the grades she get or the number of bloopers she collects in class recitation over the semester. What she is is a servant of the King of kings, a student of the omiscient Good Teacher, the beloved daughter of the only God.

She is a Christian before she is a student and a Christian she is forever.

Things I’d Rather Do than Code a Matlab Program

Stare

and beam

at the cloudless blue sky,

a rare, enlivening treat

on January’s blustery month

 

Cheer

my team

as they win a match against

this season’s favorite

by a buzzer beater shot

 

Read

and feast

on a borrowed book

which doesn’t make my nose bleed

nor my brain juices run out

 

Weep

and scream

In fantasies, cast myself

as the protagonist

of an adventure plot

 

Meet

And date

my dream guy who only lives,

at present, at least

in an  imagined world

 

Write

a rhyme,

Forget for a while

that due before midnight

is my unwritten lab report

 

Rest

Turn off

My exhausted laptop

And not care in the least

if the WiFi works not

 

Sleep

and dream

of waking up to a day

when schoolwork quits

wanting to be my god

 


***I’m editing this now because I think it ties in well with the Daily Prompt: Nothin’ But A Good Time

Date a UP Dormer

Date an Iska. The reasons are obvious. Date an Iska who lives in a UP dormitory. Let me tell you why.

Date a girl who buys her meals inside UP. Date a girl who can live on less than a hundred pesos per day. Date her because she can still get excited over eating a 30-peso meal bought from the aristocart, whose owners may or may not be scrupulous inadhering to food safety standards. That is a moot point after a week or so of cart food breakfasts, anyway, because by then, her stomach has probably developed immunity against harmful bacteria. When she has tired of the cart’s unchanging menu, she has the contact numbers of all on-campus culinary establishments who boast of specializing in deliveries but somehow take morethan an hour to deliver orders to a dorm a mere fifteen minutes away from them. Still, she chooses to endure pangs of hunger and postpone meals because fastfoods, though decidedly more prompt in their deliveries, charge exorbitant delivery fees and give measly servings. On the few times she succumbs to herMcChicken and hot fudge sundae cravings, she rallies her friends to order along with her so they can split the 40-peso delivery fee. She can even live on cup noodles, oats, and instant coffee, especially during finals week. Her frugality is further seen in her jumbo-sized toothpaste and bath soap 3pid-packs, which cost far less than sachets in the long run. She won’t turn her nose up in anywhere you’ll choose to bring her to- of that you can be sure.

Date a girl who has spent the darker half of her college life in a residence hall. (The lighter half, the daytime hours, she has most probably spent in classrooms or tambayans.)Date her because she has long been practicing patience. Between the long check-in queues that compete for her time and energy against subject enlistment semester after semester to the towel-lined cubicle doors that greet her every morning, she has long since learned that patience is a virtue. Draining as UP enrolment is, she reserves enough time and energy to spend in dorm lines so shecould spend the night wearing herself out by covering her new closet and unpacking her things. There are times she exercises her wits instead ofpatience and hangs her towel in the cubicle door even before she sleeps so she can take a bath as soon as she wakes up. However, because the resident pilfering princess takes everything from laptops and celphones from dormrooms, to Toblerone bars and fresh milk  from the communal fridge, to freshly laundered underwear and sachets of fabric conditioner from the laundry room, to Pond’s facial cleanser and pails from the comfort room, a dormer runs the risk of becoming a robbery victim by hanging her towel before the morning rush. Threats of poison, biblical curses, and mambabarang are all no match for kleptomania so in the end, she prudently chooses to wakeup early to ensure her towel’s safety. If the simultaneous ringing of alarm clocks in her corridor don’t wake her up early enough, she waits patiently for her turn in the cubicle. If you still doubt her patience, try the dorm WiFi at night.

Date a girl who daily shares her bathroom with a hundred other girls. She knows how to dress quickly because much of her time is consumed with waiting and fervently wishing that those before her would skip conditioner today so they would take less time to rinse their hair. When the need arises, she can take five-minute showers and four-minute breakfasts and she can take less than thirty minutes total to transform herself from a groggy zombie in PJs to a beautifully-groomed lady ready to take on the world. On her more desperate moments, she had tried shampooing her hair in the sink so she needed only to wash her body inside the cubicle. She is as economical in the minutes of her morning as in her money.

Date a girl who has lived away from her parents for months at a time. She values her independence and considers resourcefulness as one of her assets. She has lugged large bags and boxes containing all her things to her room alone during check in. She has reassembled her electric fan in the middle of the night after she accidentally kicked it in her sleep. She has tried (probably unsuccessfully) to fix a loose bathroom faucet. She has broken a padlock after locking her key inside the closet. She has summoned herculean strength to pack a year’s worth of stuff before the 12noon deadline for checking out. She has learned to do the things she used to ask her father to do at home and  yes, she’s proud of her accomplishments.

Date a girl who has a collection of dorm life anecdotes that rivals Ted Mosby’s New York City stories. She has participated in silly dating games she had no intention of winning and revealed her embarrassingly sharp memories of G-Mik, Esperanza, Doraemon and Asian Treasure in a jologs quiz while in her classy mini-dress and heels during dorm formal dinners. She has relived her childhood by representing her corridor in games like chinese garter and agawan base , or pulled on a towel in an improvised game of tug-of-war, and maybe, even took a ball full on the face from an athletically-challenged teammate on a dodgeball skirmish- all of these during Sportsfest week. She has narrowly lost the December Door Design contest by cutting out chichirya wrapper stars to hang in her doorjamb or by pasting Christmas figures on her door, including a sheep the myopic judges intelligently took for mounds of snow. She has belted outKampana ng Simbahan  or faked dancing talents to the tune of Tuloy na Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko or got nominated for the Annual Kalabasa Awards  whose categories included Payatas Award, Alpha Kapal Muks, Ms.Acadmode and Banyo Queen on the dorm Christmas party. She has abandoned a calculus problem or a position paper to go down to the lobby and listen to frat men serenade her and her dormmates on Valentine’s Day. She has shared her academic woes to a group of newly-met people during a bible study on the lawn. She has watched Disney movies, Hollywood action films, Star Cinema romantic comedies and Japanese horror in the TV area during dorm movie nights. She has borrowed Jane Austen classics, Sophie Kinsella chicklit and Dan Brown mysteries from the House Council Library and maybe, even had her name published in the “Overdue Books” list for a Precious Hearts Romance novel (Stallion Series: Jigger Samaniego) she had been so careful to return on time. She has even shown her solidarity in the fight for greater state subsidy by joining in candle-lighting ceremonies and dormers’ camp out. She has collected bloopers and enjoyed it. She has suffered public humiliation and lived to retell (and exaggerate) it. She has lived through the dorm’s constant bustle of activity so she’ll also appreciate a quiet evening with you. She understands the efforts involved in preparing for an activity so she’ll appreciate yours in planning for your date. She is able to find fun in practically any activity so you can take her out in any kind of date and she won’t complain.

Date a girl who has interacted with all kinds of people for an extended period of time. Friends come and friends go but a roommate is a roommate for at least a sem- that is a dormer’s motto. She has come to accept that not everyone is easy to live with and even the best roommates have bad days. Diversity has obtained a whole new meaning for her because of all the people she has met in the dorm. Just trying to get along with strangers have taught her responsibility, respect, and pakikisama. She has befriended the ultra-shy roommate who spends half her life in front of her laptop. She has successfully claimed tutoring sessions from the resident GC. She has charmed the dour janitress to say “hi” back to her. She has spent entire nights fantasizing about her future love life and discussing current events with her friends. She has sharpened her conversational abilities and can now carry out discussions on a wide range of topics because of all her dormfriends, which include the varsity player, the activist, the nerd, the Christian, the TV addict, the only child brat . She has played Florence Nightingale to a roommate sick with fever. She has obeyed orders and listened to lectures on cleanliness from an obsessive-compulsive friend. She has given orders and lectures on cleanliness to a pack-rat and slob friend. She has sung second voice to a concert diva in the shower so she won’t upstage anyone. She has discovered that enjoyment is the secret to endurance, and endurance to enjoyment. She has earned a place in her roommate’s thesis’ acknowledgment page. She will earn a place in your heart.

Date a girl who posts an FB status on homesickness every start of sem.  Date her for she values family time. Because she only gets to spend a small fraction of the year at home, she has long realized how precious family bonding time is. She misses her family often and she may even succumb to tears of homesickness at times, but that only goes to show what a loving daughter and sister she is. She knows that Facebook pokes and text messages are poor substitutes for a hug and a face-to-face conversation with the people she loves. She appreciates the simple comforts of home such as homemade meals and good TV relay. She tells “I love you” to her parents whenever they call her. She devotes a chunk of herallowance to prepaid cards so she could listen to her parents’ voice, hear her younger siblings’ “I miss you, ate” and check on her aging dog. She is sweet, caring and not stingy in her affections because she has realized that life is not always generous with time with the people she loves most.

Date a UP dormer- on second thought, don’t. At least, not now. She is having a wonderful time discovering herself, making a niche forherself in college, building relationships, learning independence and interdependence that she might think she’s not yet ready for a relationship right now. She is busy balancing academics and dorm life that she might think there’s not enough time for her to spend with a boyfriend. Date her, but wait. Pursue her because a more datable girl you’ll never meet. Sweep her off her feet and date her when she’s ready. Date any UP dormer, but watch out for the kleptomaniac.