There are two kinds of people you will most likely meet in college: The ones you see rushing in the hallways to get where they have to be, finish homework, set rigid goals to accomplish in a day, week, even as far as a year, then graduate earlier than everyone else. Or you will meet people who bask in the tailwind of those that have gone ahead, going with the flow and taking things one class at a time. Whoever you decide yourself to become, getting that diploma is the common goal.
Once you do step out once and for all with diploma in hand, the real world can nudge you to change. Your future, unemployed self may not necessarily reward your past college self in ditching to study for an exam to spend a night out with friends you now barely talk to. What are the appropriate words to say when the past, younger self is stubborn? Stuck in its own time, making its own choices? How does one begin to reconcile with the past?
Two roads diverged in a wood
As young as we are now, we begin to set goals we want to accomplish someday. Goals range from the simple short-term ‘No grade below 2.0’ to the quite far-fetched ‘Earn P500,000 a year’. It can be wanting to feel settled in a new place or meeting a good circle of friends.
Mrs. Tanya Sevilla-Simone, a Literature professor and Communication Arts graduate, reminisces, “You know, I was sixteen years old. Sometimes, looking at it now you don’t really know who you are when you’re sixteen and you don’t really know what you want. We only know what our parents or our guidance counselor tells us.” Choosing a LIA-COM course, she adds, “I had images in my head that when I graduate I’ll be wearing that mini pencil skirt, wear corporate attire, maybe work in Makati…”
Most of us start out having visions for ourselves, but we encounter experiences that change us. For her, it was ACCTBA1 and her previous LIA course, AB Humanities, getting dissolved. In her case, it was personal circumstances that forced her to shift to Communication Arts.
How do you know which way to go if you’re going to change courses? For Tin Villanueva, an Organizational Communication graduate and past Vice President for Documentations in Team Communication and now Project Manager and Videographer under wedding videographer Jason Magbanua, it was through experimentation.
“I had three internships kahit di required sa school,” she recalls herself immersing in different fields. “Para pag graduate ko ng college, alam ko na yung field na gusto ko. Dun ko na-figure out.”
Mrs. Tanya, after shifting to another course and promising to get through it one project at a time, one day at a time, enrolled in an ELECLIT class and was under the tutelage of the poet Dr. Marjorie Evasco. After jumping from one vision to another, the waves of indecision settled. “I’m happy she still accommodated me and she pursued and encouraged me to keep writing and that made me realize that I can write well.”
On the other hand, Arielle Poblete, a former The LaSallian writer and Communication Arts graduate, knew even before college what she really wanted, “In undergrad talaga I never wanted to be anything else but work in the creative side of media because that’s all I knew. Anything from working abroad to getting a high salary, from working for a big corporation to buying my first car/house/whatever were beyond me.”
Instead of being prickled by the pressure of wanting the things you know you should want, conscious of creating a personal brand, Arielle shares that it came naturally. “I swam into those things I knew by heart and let myself drown there.”
For some others, it is by being in a course that they find no interest in that stir them; to action—the active pursuit of creating an identity. Maine Manalansan, a Business Management graduate and now the art director of Young Star and the editor of Stache Magazine, opens up by saying, “When I was in DLSU, I wanted to get out as much as possible. Not because I didn’t like the courses but because I wanted to do something more with what I’m learning.”
“It was during a PERSEF2 class that I decided to finally make it [magazine],” Maine recalls. Apparently, classes like PERSEF, those students often brush off as unnecessary, offer a lot of help. A thought for comfort: These small epiphanies about ourselves, sometimes infuriating us for how rarely and late we get them, still come anyway at its own time.
There is no time limit nor any competition to who first gets to piece them together and finally become a whole person. If that were case, we’d all be dependent on the convenience and immediacy of magic balls predicting our fate, trapped in the illusion of the occult.
Adulthood is wrestling with a different reality. Financial and even existential problems begin to surface, such as questioning how you’re going to last until your next paycheck, or if there’s more to life than just doing a 9 to 5 work shift. Looking back, the goals you set in college all seems frivolous now. Life post graduation introduces little worries one probably didn’t factor in while setting goals back in the day. Upon graduation, there is a need to make a name for oneself and sustain oneself in the process, which doesn’t always seem to be an easy task.
Tin shares, “Ngayon graduate na ako and working na ako. Nag-tone down din yung goals ko, kasi sabi ko, wait lang, kailangan ko na rin kumita.” Although she was able to find something she enjoys doing for living, she shares that she shouldn’t be complacent, and that even though she’s done with her formal schooling, reality is still an ongoing learning process.
Zel Estrella, an Entrepreneurship graduate currently in Los Angeles to start school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), exposes the truth in growing up and stepping foot into the real world.
“When you’re young, you’re idealistic. My goals have matured,” she expresses. “Now I don’t shoot as impossibly high as I used to (back when I was in college). Mas realistic na nakikita ko ngayon.”
She aimed to be a consistent Dean’s Lister when she was still an undergraduate student, but it just didn’t work out. Her focus, then, shifted to just graduating on time so she could pursue fashion—which is something she loves—right after.
Mrs. Tanya, after being encouraged by Dr. Evasco to apply and enter the Siliman University National Writers’ Workshop in the summer of 1998, did. After that experience, she decided to get her Master’s degree in Creative Writing.
“I didn’t think I wanted to be a hot shot, multi-awarded novelist. No, I just really wanted to learn. Inisip ko kasi, if I think ‘Ah, after this course dapat magaling na ako mag-sulat.’ Eh, paano kung hindi?” Before that, she had to work for an NGO to show to her parents that she was at least earning money.
Arielle had to go through the same thing: “Pumasok na ang corporate thinking sa life ko not because of choice, but because of convenience.”
There is a certain degree of disillusionment that comes with moving from one phase of life to another. The complete unknowability is terrifying, but that doesn’t mean one should raise their white flag in surrender. In Joan Didion’s words, “There’s a point when you go with what you’ve got. Or you don’t go.”