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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24 April 105

Upon hearing of my anxiety attack two nights ago, all my friends have advised me to write.  To take up a hobby, to jog. I know they are right. Killing my thoughts with Modern Family marathon and crying endlessly haven’t done much for me. So this is my attempt at verbalizing my messed up thoughts.

 

I am writing. And it’s hard when every line I want to type is a rant against my present circumstances. Every word is etched in despair, every letter a product of all the tears I’ve tried at first to hold in, but failed to. It’s hard because all my words have been drowned in tears I’ve needed to release in the past week. Everything about me right now screams of desperation and stress, in levels unprecedented. Every thought occupying my mind is beginning to sound like a complaint against the God who I still, in my heart of hearts, believe to be a good and almighty God.

 

I’ve done so, so much thinking about my thesis already. It’s been keeping me awake at night, and it’s been keeping me from waking up before noon. It is all I can think about. Sometimes, I have a hard time breathing from all the stress and anxiety. Thesis is literally giving me claustrophobia. Taiwan, right now, feels to me like one big prison I just want to escape. It certainly didn’t start off this way, and I know it shouldn’t end this way, either.

 

I’m not even in the mood to write. I guess thesis really has broken me. I’ll write later.

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. #