I am often haunted with the singular thought that if I knew then what I know now, how would things be different? This mixture of regret and curiosity stems from the month of May. I have gone through five first days and each time brings me back to when all this was still new to me. Fresh off the boat and I was terrified. 

Entering college will always be a frightening experience but in hindsight, I was scared for the wrong reasons. After a few days in, my nerves calmed down. After a few weeks, I stopped being scared. After a few months, I became comfortable. That was my first mistake. 

Introduction to pride

It was in my second term of my first year wherein I took a course called English Research. I, along with my block class, was greeted by a person who some people would refer to as a terror prof. Looking back, I’m still not sure if I should apologize to the professor or my past self because the moment she stepped in that room, I already decided who she was. She was going to be the reason of all my mistakes. 

I never gave her a chance. I didn’t like how she spoke to us or how she treated us. I was so critical on every small thing she did. The worst part is that I genuinely thought that my struggle in the class was her fault. Two years after that class ended and I still blame her for that 0.0 I received. When people would ask why I failed, I would simply reply with her name. 

This anger was something that was consistent in my character back then. I would get so frustrated on courses that were so difficult and my only complaint was that it had nothing to do with the job I wanted. This was a reasoning I carried over from high school. It took me a long while to realize that this was far from the point of it all. 

School builds character and this is not done solely through the lessons that are being taught in each class but through the collective experience. This is done through every interaction with our classmates and authorities. School is not so much about the introductions to everything but about being part of a system. This is a system wherein we are humbled by someone who knows more, we are open to listen to someone who thinks differently, and we realize that there is something we may not know. 

All those lessons sailed over my head and it was because I was so sure about the way I viewed things. I believed that I had everything all figured out and the rest of the world simply had to catch up. I was the smartest 17 year old in the world—at least I was in my mind. 

I wasn’t aware of it but I was just given an introduction to pride and just like my research class, I failed it too.

The scary thing about pride is that for the most part, you are not even aware that it exists. A close friend even christened it as the worst of all sins, something I did not initially agree with when he first mentioned it. Finding about my own pride was shattering glass. It was like a joke that took me way too long to get the punchline while everybody else was laughing it up. It boggles my mind that I was so unaware of my actions. It is because of that I truly believe that one of the first signs of pride is when you are so sure you don’t have it. 

One way or another, we are all introduced to pride. It can be through a terror experience like me or through bad encounters with your block barkada. No matter which road we choose to take, that lesson will always try to be learned. 

Temporary personalities

Lucky for all of us, nobody is ever reduced to the person they were when they were freshmen. This is the unorthodox freedom that comes with our short term selves. We not only have this misguided sense of invincibility but we also carry this notion that we are required to do everything. It is because of this we make mistakes with such ease and frequency during this time. 

Four years removed from my freshman year and it’s hard not to think about the person I ought to have been. I wish I learned how to do things for people that could do nothing in return. I couldn’t because selflessness was a concept that eluded me. I wish I knew that it is not impossible to both learn and get high grades. School does not require me to make a compromise. I wish I knew that terror profs are only as bad as we make them. No teacher is out to get you. Some may have bad days or bad months but it doesn’t mean they want you to fail. Lastly, I wish I only worried about the things I could control and just chalked up the rest to “things out of my reach.”

But all the mistakes I made just showed the beauty of these temporary personalities we find ourselves in during our freshman year.  Experience will always be the greatest teacher available. Your run-in with pride will be inevitable, whether it is yours or someone else’s. It is also through adversity we learn our true character and identity. So a person should never be afraid to make those mistakes as long as the lessons that will soon follow it will not be lost on them. For all the freshmen a few weeks into their college experience, I simply say tread carefully, but tread nonetheless.

Jose Felipe Montinola

By Jose Felipe Montinola

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