Going to and from high school, there is this certain coffee shop that I would always pass by. It has always been there for as long as I can remember. I have always loved peering in from the outside, studying people either conversing with one another, reading a book, or listening to music, among other things. Each day, in passing, I realized that most of them had one common denominator: they were college students. The idea of college appealed to me back then; I could not wait for my turn to come. It seemed so thrilling, seeing glimpses of it from the lives of others. Why is it, then, that as I was nearing that point in my life, it was not what I expected?
More than two years ago, I entered De La Salle University with a mix of emotions. I felt misplaced, mostly because everyone that I knew from high school was out of sight. I sighed and thought out loud that it must have been because we all had different plans in mind for our college lives. Though it was a tad bit reassuring that a handful of my close friends were going to the same university I was going to, I realized that we were all scattered anyway, since we were in different colleges.
Another apprehensive factor was that I lived on the other side of the world – Katipunan Avenue – and, truth be told, it takes me more than an hour to get to school if I’m lucky. At the end of each day, I would find myself crashing into bed and overhearing my parents talk about how exhausted I am. It was frustrating, feeling like you were left in an entirely new environment that so uncomfortably forced you to grow up on your own.
As weeks passed by, I learned that this new, relatively isolated environment was the perfect opportunity to work on myself. It was time to turn a new leaf and write a new chapter in my life, alone, and independently. I summed up all of my courage in trying out for several organizations, and testing my luck, screened for the University Student Government and for this student publication that I now write for. To my surprise, I was accepted in both. However, I later found out that I could only dedicate myself fully to one of these onerous commitments. That was most probably one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Imagine being given the choice to pick a class you know you would excel in perfectly because you are familiar with the subject matter, and another class that you have always found interesting but you were always hesitant to take up for fear of failing in unfamiliar territory. So what do you pick? Do you go for familiarity? Or do you take the risk? After weighing the pros and cons, I followed my heart and chose to hone my skills in writing.
I chose to risk.
Those first few months of first year were a breeze; while my extra-curricular activities and schoolwork kept me busy, I would still make an effort to catch up with my high school friends from time to time. It felt extraordinary, being able to do anything you had pictured in your head back in high school. My first in year in college was turning out perfectly well after all.
However, before I even noticed, it was during the latter part of my frosh year when everything good and bright about the college dream came tumbling down.
I was slowly getting conscious of the fact that schoolwork seemed harder to accomplish as time passed by. Aside from finishing that paper on animal cruelty, I had to learn how to journalize entries for accounting, in addition to memorizing brain-draining concepts from philosophy. As for my extra curricular activities, my assignments did not help me allocate my time for studying, because these included attending many meetings, passing articles on time, and spending residency time in the office.
As a person, my interests were also changing, and no longer the same. Unforeseen obstacles of the spirit kept coming at me blow by blow. Before I knew what was happening, I was having a rough patch with my co-workers in one of my organizations, and I would notice that faces that would normally wave hello from a distance suddenly became cold, and would walk silently walk me by. Not only that, but routines were changing. Suddenly I found myself more easily putting off work, finding excuses to evade my responsibilities, pointing fingers at others for my failures, and in the midst of all this my family and friends would tease me for slowly becoming ‘invisible’. What was happening? Where did all of that come from? And why?
There are times when it comes to the point that you take a step back, evaluate yourself and think of what you’ve done to get stuck in that place. In my case, I thought about what I might have done wrong and might have to improve on, and it was definitely internal conflict with myself. It was during these trying times when I applied what I learned from both my theology class and from similar past experience. However, the results of my application were not what I expected.
And after all my introspection I suddenly saw what might have brought me to that low point of my life. It was most definitely change, and most probably, the fact of the matter was that it was time to grow up.
The more evident, more abrupt changes are the ones that are more difficult to adjust to. I guess I could compare it to the sensation you feel when you’ve burnt your tongue. It hurts, subtly, unseen, and you feel the obvious difference. After a while, though, the pain and the numbing burn goes away.
I think the smaller changes are not as difficult to adjust to, especially those changes that you do not notice because you are just too absorbed in the big important moment to take them into account. Suddenly you just realize, “Hey, I never knew I was like this already. Since when?”
Then your eyes open themselves to the small changes. Like the way you used to hate the smell of smoke and cigarettes. Since there’s a familiarity to it now, whether it is because of the distinct smell of your chain-smoker-friend, or how it somehow goes well with coffee, it’s become a part of your life that you must live with. You would not notice until it hits you later on.
Being aware of all the changes that had been happening around me wore me out. I never thought I would make it out alive after the hurdles that were thrown at me. Those distinct college experiences made me grow painfully, alone as I was, but I was thankful for the opportunity to go through the process of it all in order to grow. I have learned to work on continuously improving myself, and always trying to discover a thing or two more and more each day.
A few days ago, I finally walked into that coffee shop I used to pass by on my way to school. Compared to back then, when I simply peered in from outside with my long wavy hair and my checkered high school uniform, I entered this time with my shoulder length hair and college textbooks: Psychology, Financial Management and Accounting. I picked a seat and settled down. I scanned the room and smiled, realizing I finally look like one of those people I used to peer at from outside looking in.
I’d grown up. It was as simple as that. The detours and roadblocks were part of it. Others used to tell me it is in our mistakes and experiences wherein we learn the most, and you know what? They were right. You would remember just that, and learn, and apply that wisdom later on during the dark times.
A quote goes, “Some things fall apart so other things can fall together.” And all the more, I realize, I was not born perfect.
I was born to be real.