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.

Chronicled by FRIENDS: What College Profs Forgot to Say on Graduation Day

Bum life has given me the gift of time. And I chose to spend it on the comforts of my all-time favorites. More than ever, I am finding wisdom in FRIENDS, Naruto, Anne of Green Gables books and Agatha Christie mysteries, among others. So, here commences a new series: Chronicled by my favorites. It’s going to be about (my) life, according to my favorite books, songs, shows and movies. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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In a few more days, I’ll be celebrating the first anniversaries of my plant design presentation and thesis defense. It’s been four months since my board exam. I’m pretty sure I no longer own the privilege to call myself a fresh grad as March nears its end. No doubt, universities all over the country have started sending their seniors to the world of unemployed.

Has it already been eleven months since my own graduation? I try to recall what our guest speaker, Chief Justice Serreno told us in her speech last April. (The only thing I remember now is her promise that her speech won’t to put us to sleep. To give her credit, she kept it.)

Now, I’m still the same neophtyte UP sent out, but a little less idealistic, a little more confused. With all the reminders our professors gave us graduates, they must have forgotten to say one very important thing:

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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. #  

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.