Finally, I am home.

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I saw this photo in facebook when I was in Taiwan. I shared its three-word saddest story counterpart with this caption: Still no data. 

It’s been six month. And while I left a lot of untied ends and I still have to analyze my data, I would still rather be here, where I can’t do anything in case a problem crops up, than over there, with every resource on my fingertips. Research life sure is hard. 

The weather this week has been abysmal. I am drowning in homeworks and class requirements. I am back in the metro, enduring nasty commute everyday. But I am happy. I am home.  For now, that alone is enough. Home is bliss. 

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From the Basketball Court to my Bible Notes II: The Plays and Prayers We Make

27 September 2014

8:38 pm

History repeats itself at our little pad. My sisters and I have collectively found a reason to post a status in our respective all but abandoned facebook walls. Three times this week, I have tweaked the broken antenna on our tv to no avail and endured headache-inducing picture quality to watch the Gilas Pilipinas play in the Asian Games. I don’t mind the headache nor the sore throat; the only one that gets me is the heartbreak.

We have suffered three consecutive losses in the quarter-finals, all of them close fights. Surely three choked games in a row is more than enough reason for me to feel choked up over this. I was honestly fighting tears when South Korea snatched away a win that was ours for more than three quarters. We fell from a sixteen-point lead to a two-point loss. I was shaking in the last five minutes of the game, in this unnatural September heat, when the opposing team was closing the gap in seemingly supersonic speed.

Throughout the second half, my sisters and I were saying “Please, God” over and over again. Every timeout, one of us would fall silent and bow her head in prayer. At some point I actually said aloud, “God, please naman. Third world country naman kami. First world na sila!” My sisters laughed at that. In my mind, I was reasoning out that when the game was over, we would still be poverty-stricken Philippines, with the crappy government and the corrupt idiot of a vice-president and the never-ending typhoons and the high poverty rates and they would still be economic superpower South Korea with their strong leaders and clean cities and great education system and cutting edge technologies. They don’t need this victory; our emotional country does!

In the laughter that followed my irrational desperate plea, I realized just how wrong, in so many different levels, it was to think that way. It is a prayer vaguely reminiscent of the ones I cried to God in bitterness after I got a rejection letter from the only company who responded to my application when I was looking for a summer internship. “GOD,” I had railed two summers ago, “my ChE life has sucked since day 1. It sucks, God, and I suck in ChE. Why would You choose to withhold this internship from me?”

It’s been more than a year and I still haven’t figured out what God’s reasons were. Most of the whys I asked in college were not answered by God the way I wanted Him to. For more times than I want to admit, I have channelled Job and challenged God to give me His reasons for the (often petty) crises I have gone through. I did get answers from God- answers that refused to address my whys, but addressed my nearsightedness and lack of faith, instead.

God let me see the ingratitude I was expressing through those kind of prayers. By focusing on that single plea, I was forgetting the favors He have extended to me over the course of my college life. I was acting as if the internship was a make or break, and I viewed it as the only way God could make my ChE life beautiful. I was looking at it as my source of happiness. It was wrong, idolatrous, even. I had a lot riding on that acceptance email- my sense of worth, my pride, my happiness-and when it didn’t come, it broke not just my heart; it shattered my pride. It wasn’t the best of experiences, but given my history with my pride, it was probably for the best. Scratch that probably. Knowing God, it was definitely for my best.

That’s something I can say when I remember that He is good and almighty. But often I am this self-focused creature who suffers from both memory loss and myopia. I forget the goodness of God. I forget that life does not revolve  around me. Worse, I forget to trust in God. I set my sights on earthly matters and conclude that God doesn’t care. I would rather wallow in my self-pitying tears than lay down my concerns at Jesus’ feet. Because remembering God’s goodness means admitting that He knows better than I do and understands what I cannot in my limited human capacity. It means waving the white flag and confessing that when my version of best conflicts with God’s, then mine is wrong because His is always, always right. It means forgetting my dreams, no matter how beautiful they may be, at least for the present, because they interfere with God’s plan for me.

Those humbling moments are plenty, and they are always painful. But those moments are also precious, because they  bring me closer to God. I relearn what it means to trust and how it feels to let go of what I think I want. I have a Proverbs 3:5 moment all over again. It is not easy to relinquish control of my desires but it gets a little easier when I am reminded if how God is always good, loving and faithful to me. He is never perverse and He does what He wants to do, which always ultimately works best for me. No, it is not easy, but it gets easier with every apparent defeat. It is not easy, but it is always right.

One more thing I remember writing in my journal amidst my drama was that God wasn’t one to withhold blessings from one who already has a lot. It was illogical, ignorant and self-centered to reason out that Korea didn’t deserve the victory by virtue of their better government.  It doesn’t work that way because there is no limit to God’s generosity. The life I live is testament to that. If there was, I wouldn’t have the right to ask more from God because I already have a lot. I have Him.

I have since come a long way from that day when I cried and cried to my mom over the phone but I keep the rejection email in my inbox still because I long for that day when I am so secure of my worth in God’s eyes, so over my college failures, so contented with my present life, so close to God, that I could read that impersonal “We regret to inform you that. . . ” and not feel a pang in my heart. And I believe in that day. I also believe that whether the Gilas advances to the semi-finals or not, it will be for the best.

We still have a chance to advance to the semis. It is but the slimmest of chances (Qatar has to lose in their games against Kazakhstan and Korea, and we have to win over Kazakhstan with at least 11 points) so I am amazed by the faith my fellowmen are exhibiting. A lot of people are saying “tiwala lang (just trust)” and “pray for gilas”. I consider this.  If I truly believe that God is good and He can give the gold to the Philippines this year, I must also believe that IF it doesn’t come, then it is God saying “no”, for whatever reason.

And I do believe. I believe in a God who cares for the Philippines. I believe in a God who cares about basketball. I believe in a God who could make us win against all odds. I believe in a God who listens to the prayers of his basketball-loving people. I also believe in a God who knows when to answer with a “yes” or a “no”. And I believe that He knows better than I do what this year’s Asian Games outcome should be and will be. And because I believe, I will accept that. Win or lose, I will remain Gilas Pilipinas’ faithful fan, while God- He will remain a faithful God.

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.

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.

Why I’ll Never be the DChE Poster Girl

If the university ever prints a brochure advertising the Department of Chemical Engineering, I would be the last person you’d find there. You wouldn’t find me on the cover, smiling and maybe talking to some faculty members. Nor would you find me quoted on why a high school senior should pursue the same field of study I am pursuing now. Given my attendance to department activities, you probably wouldn’t even spot a tiny, pixelated version of my face in the photo collage at the back of the brochure. I’d never make it to a DChE publicity material, not only because my eye bags ensure that my face is never camera-friendly or because I don’t have the latest ChE polo shirt to wear to the pictorial. Neither is it because I’ve never represented the department in the annual Engineering Cup or my batch in the Battle of the Batches.  It’s not even about my less than stellar academic performance and the 3.0s which seem to punctuate every subject that begins with ChE in my true copy of grades.  The truest, most honest reason why I’ll never be the poster girl is the culmination of all the reasons I just mentioned: I don’t love my course enough to promote it. I don’t love my course, period. 

To ask why I am even here now is a valid question. There is no one reason, but it might be easiest to share the story of how I met my course. Senior year in high school featured an immature me choosing a course based on prestige and lousy pieces of advice. To be fifteen, I suppose, was to care about what people thought about me, to desire to be admired, to sincerely believe that I could be anyone I wanted to be. Everyone’s first choice was BS Business Administration and Accountancy, so mine had to be something else. I so admired my sister’s “So what kung uno ka . . .” angas shirt so I just had to get in the coolest college in UP. My math and science grades were fairly good so I thought I’d accept the challenge of taking up an engineering course. After crossing out the engineering courses without board exams, and the ones my father told me I was too feminine for, I found myself scrawling BS Chemical Engineering in my fourth and final UPCAT form, the one which I submitted a few days later. Such is the tale of how I became a ChE student, and it is one which makes me inwardly cringe. 

Freshman year came and I contemplated about shifting out. Despite the fact that I did not love my course then, I thought I’d come to love it once I started with my major subjects. It was also the fact that I really could not decide on which course to shift to that made me stay. My indecisive, stick-in-the-mud side constantly controls me so by the end of my second year, I still hadn’t decided on what field of study to pursue. I then abandoned all hopes of shifting out and made up my mind to earn a degree on BS ChE. Whatever I’ll do to that is a choice which belongs to the future, when I actually have my degree conferred upon me. Perhaps, I’ll try to get a job to better appreciate my field. Maybe my thesis and plant design will even interest me enough to take a masters degree. I can get a second degree just so I can finally know what I missed when I chose ChE. More likely, I’ll take the board exam and bum around at home for a few months, procrastinate some more, and assign the job of decision-making and praying for discernment to the more mature me.

Right up to this point, I’ve been very negative but the truth is I learned a lot in my course. I journeyed from trigonometry to transport phenomena, from balancing chemical equations to mass and energy balances in unsteady-state systems, from titrating carbonated drinks to titrating methyl acetate. I learned how to design pumps and heat exchangers, and perhaps I do them less excellently than my professors expect of me, but I did learn. I am learning how to face the frustration of striving so hard just to stay in the middle of the pack. I am becoming skilled at cheering myself up when failing exam scores begin to mount. I am getting trained to push myself to work when my target grade to pass becomes impossibly high. I unwillingly receive a tutorial on how to get over defensive feelings whenever a new topic in my major subject makes me feel so dumb the same time I receive a piece of chocolate from my ES instructor because I topped a long exam. The urge to declare in my facebook wall that my grades in my general education subjects can attest to my being a non-slacker student comes whenever I fail yet another ChE exam but I’ve never given in to it, thank God. The need to shout to the world that I am much smarter than my collection of embarrassing moments in class recitation leads others to believe almost always overwhelms me but it does eventually leave. I have had my share of unos and tres and I’ve learned that comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges- pointless and frustrating.

I’ve often wondered why I take extra effort understanding ChE principles. I am still puzzled by how math, chemistry and engineering science concepts I grasped so easily before stop making sense when taken in the ChE context but I guess it has something to do with the fact that my brain always has to get around my prejudices against my course first before I finally understand my lessons. I feel prejudiced against ChE because I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole in my home department. I hate that my creative juices can’t find an outlet in my course. I loathe the fact that writing, something I’ve enjoyed since grade school, is reduced to boring formal reports and journal reviews by my major subjects. It doesn’t help that I find no one among my peers who share my frustrations because my batchmates who might once have felt the same way I do have either shifted out or learned to love the discipline.

I guess one of the most important things I’ve been taught in ChE is that a square peg can  grow in a round hole. Maybe, she’ll always grow at a slower pace but with God’s help, she will survive. Perhaps, my best efforts will never quite compensate for my lack of natural affinity and interest in my course, but I’m still here, with no singko so far, by God’s grace. I will graduate, I promise myself that. Whatever I do after graduation, the things ChE taught me will never go to waste. And that’s a good thing because I learned in ChE how difficult it is to treat waste. #  

How to Un-Crush your Crush: Moving on Made Easy

Disclaimer: The author is definitely NOT a love/relationship expert .  She’s naive and innocent and that’s great because you get to read her notes without any pressure. She expects nobody to follow her tips but feel free to prove her expectations wrong. If you do that, please let her know how effective her method is by leaving a comment. 🙂

So, you’ve been crushing on this guy for a long time and it’s going nowhere. You’re tired of stalking his facebook wall, announcing your crush to your friends and daydreaming of a future with him.  You’re not friends- not even in facebook. He knows you enough to smile his greeting when you meet him in the hallway but not enough to remember your name. No, you’re not planning to ask him out. You know you’re too young to commit and it’s way too early to be thinking of dating.* If life had a “get over” key, you’d press it right now. But it hadn’t. What do you do instead? The following is a guide to getting over your crush.

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  1. Crush on him. Of course you have to have a crush to un-crush first. You meet him somewhere- in a class, in an org event, in a prayer meeting, etc. In that brief meeting, you develop a crush on him. You find his leadership admirable, his smile attractive, his conversation interesting, and his jokes non-stop-LOL-funny.
  2. Know him. You ask your common friends about his interests and surprise, surprise: they match yours! You like the same singer and the same books.  You hear anecdotes about him and they only intensify your feelings. One of your common friends try to disillusion you by talking about his flaws but you think they give him character, make him a bit more reachable. You stalk his wall and get blown away by how expressively he writes, or how well he plays the guitar, or how beautifully he paints, or maybe how he does all of the mentioned. You stalk his wall some more  and discover his feelings for another girl.
  3. Crush on him hard. Crush on him hard enough it hurts. It hurts when you see a  romantic tweet obviously meant for another girl. It hurts even when you see him because chances are, you’re seeing him for the last time. You get suspicious of every girl who posts on his wall. You cry because the realistic you believes you’ll never get to see him again.  You dream about him day and night. You imagine scenarios involving the two of you. You cook up unrealistic schemes of how to get to know him to notice you. You build him up on your mind so much the line between reality and fantasy blurs.  You crush on him hard enough to call him your ideal guy.
  4. Know more about him. Somehow or another, you find a way to do so. You consequently know him well enough to see his flaws. You acknowledge inwardly all his deviations from your imagined version of him. You recognize that he was never your ideal guy. You realize that daydreaming about him was a stupid pastime. He’s a great guy, but he’s just another guy and half the world are guys who are just like him. He may belong to the top 1% of the planet’s male population, but ultimately, he’s not all that awesome. This becomes a blinding flash of obvious to you. You repeatedly come to terms with the fact that he’s no one special until one day- pop! You have un-crushed him. Congratulations! 🙂

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I’ve been dying to try out my methodology but I got stuck at #3. All I want is the chance to prove my theory right (or wrong), so why do I never see him lately? 😦

*Lest anyone think that the author is being too old-fashioned or anti-feminist or whatever, it should be made clear that in the Philippines, dating is usually only done during courtship. Casual dating is not the norm among university students. And yes, here, strict parents do not belong to an endangered species.

I shouldn’t be on WordPress

I shouldn’t be on wordpress.

At least, not right now.

I shouldn’t be wrting my first wordpress post. I should be writing my paper on nanofluids and how it enhances mass transfer.

I shouldn’t be color-coordinating the theme of my first blog. I should be color-coordinating the text in my (non-existent, as of the moment) powerpoint presentation to make sure it would show against the pictures in the background.

I shouldn’t be reading freshly pressed posts. I should be reading journals on nanofluids and their applications for my report and paper due in 90 minutes.

This shouldn’t be my first post. My first post should have been something sunny, light, and overflowing with joy, but here I am, with a whiny post reeking of haggardness and academics-related stress.

I didn’t want it to start this way. While I’d like nothing better than to develop this blog, tweak its theme, and bring a smile to everyone out there with my attempts to fake literary talents, all I can spare is a few minutes to officially welcome myself to the WordPress world.

After months of checking the freshly pressed pages regularly, bookmarking wordpress sites which interest me, and announcing to my roommates that I would be publishing my first post, only to later blame the moody dorm WiFi for not doing so, I’m finally, finally on wordpress. I picked a lousy time to open my site. It’s the last week of classes in my university and I’m between exams, reports, papers, sleepless nights. I didn’t want to tire anyone out there with a description of my acads-swamped week and and give the impression that I’m too self-absorbed with only academic problems to occupy me, but this was the only thing my overworked brain could think of which could improve my mood. So, please forgive me. And don’t judge me.

I’d love to stay here and write and read and write some more but my report and paper on nanofluids is beckoning me (guilt-tripping me, actually) so, later! If you feel like cheering up this whiny version of a usually-sunny college student, please do leave a comment!