Friday, March 22, 2013

Time Travel: Graduation Season

Official photo? Every time we talk about graduation, this photo seems to pop up.

Four years ago on this day, we stepped out into the real world, full of hope and excitement for the things to come. We stepped out and away from the portals that have cared for us and equipped us for what we might face. Futures were about to be taken hold of. Lives were about to change. A generation of beginnings was to be born. Four years ago on this day, we transferred the cord of our hats from one side to the other to signify our crossover from who we were to who we will be. Four years ago on this day, we graduated.

For some people, leaving the confines of student life was simple. They had plans. All their dreams were lined up and ready for the taking. Some people had careers waiting for them. Others had a season of leisure and rest. Still, there were those who had no idea what to do next. Where do we go from here? What's next?

I've had friends continue their pursuit of education (and most of them are also graduating this year). I've had friends who decided to jump into the sea of business- and lifestyle-concentrated work forces, gladly sharing their time, talent, and treasure to institutions who may or may not have their own best interest set out for them. I've also had friends who, like me, decided that a little rest could do well. The point is, after graduation, we are on our own.

Decisions were made. Now, four years later, where are we? What has come out of our journey toward self-actualization? What have we gained from life's pursuits? More importantly, have we reaped what we have sowed four years ago?

This is actually the first time I've written about our graduation. I reminisce, yes, but I have never found the time (or effort) to put onto writing what has been floating in my head for a long time. So here goes.

Someone once told me that I must be feeling really sad to finally leave school. It was after our graduation when I had talked with someone who realized what I haven't realized yet. I lived in the university's dormitory for four years. It has practically been my second home. Being that the dormitories were inside the campus, it goes without saying that I lived all those four years literally in school. Every day I would have to wear my ID or bring it with me. Every day, I wake up to find myself already in school. Every day for those past four years, I gradually grew accustomed to the life of school confinement. It wasn't all that bad. I mean, how many people can say "I'm going home early today . . . tada, I'm home" while they were still ten paces out of the classroom? It was fun. The people I got to meet, the adventures that we shared, and the numerous nights of just waiting for the bell to ring, calling us into another day of learning, were all part and parcel of a package we unknowingly bought when we enrolled for college. It was fun.

But when we left . . . when I left, it tore a part of me. *cheesy* It was like leaving home all over again. Imagine, staying four years in the same place with the same people doing practically the same stuff. It wasn't boring, not all the time. It was family. And now they're gone. Off to other places. Off to pursue their dreams. Leaving school was leaving home. And four years later, I realized that the comforts of those four years were luxuries the working life has denied us of.

When I left school, I was lost. Seriously. It was like I had done all that I had planned to do . . . and then what? For some bizarre reason, my personal timeline has only gone up to college. Work had been too far off to think about. Maybe that's why it took me a while to decide what to do. So this is what I have to say to all of you new graduates:

Enjoy life as it comes.

To the graduates

You endured a lot while being in school. You had to go through exams and stress and long sleepless nights and coffee sprees and pancit canton feasts and what-not. You had to listen to countless lectures and make seemingly pointless projects and talk to people who sometimes didn't make any sense. There were times when you might have wanted to quit. (I wanted to quit college when I was in my second year.) There were times when you started the day wrestling with the thought of leaving the loving arms of your own bed. There were times when going to class seemed like the worst thing to spend time on. Those were days when life is so much more meaningful. Cherish those memories. You survived and that's what's important. Retell your story. Savor the adventures. Those times will never come again.

Now that you have escaped academia, you may hear people telling you that life in the real world is way different and n times more difficult. It's true, life is different out here. You may fall for a job that has no relation whatsoever with what you've studied during college. You may end up working for something that you never thought you would. You may not like your job but have to stick to it just so you can survive without the student allowances. There are many factors that the real world will introduce into your life's equation. You will encounter different (and strange) people through it all. Things may not work out the way you planned it. But remember this, everything you've learned in college, and the past twenty or more years of your life for that matter, will make itself useful . . . somehow. Someday, you'll find out that the trigonometry problem you had to solve five times on three sheets of intermediate paper would actually save you and the company you're working for from billions worth of damages. Someday, you'll find out that the annoying voice of your classmate will actually guide you into the speaking business and teach future orators or debaters or random engagement speakers how not to speak. Someday, you'll find out that the ruined group project you had to redo using money from your own pocket and the subsequent teenage squabbles on how things will never turn out good and how we all should just drop out and join the circus will set a spark in you and inspire a best-selling, major-motion-picture-in-the-making, future-classically renowned novel. Who knows really? There's a wide assortment of opportunities waiting on your doorstep, and you get to step out fresh from school only once (unless you keep pursuing further studies, which actually makes you really awesome from my perspective). The trick is to stick to what you're doing until you've made it much better than when you first started holding on to it. Does that make sense?

But never think you're a failure when you start stumbling into "hermithood." Sometimes, being out in the real world can become depressing. We end up thinking, What am I even working for? And sometimes there just isn't any answer other than money. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing for another path, another chance to start again, another life to live. Sometimes we end up living in those past days, years, and lives that we think are so much better than where we are now. Don't lose hope. The real world is just what it is: real. As the Mythbusters say, "Failure is always an option." When you fail, that gives you a sign of what not to do. Then you get back up again and carry on. Keep calm and carry on, the famous line circulating pop culture says. When you find yourself lost and bored and pointless, pause and pay attention. Maybe there's something you're missing. Maybe there's something that's not yet ready for you to take hold of. Maybe God is still preparing what was really for you in the first place. Pause.

Four years later, on this special day, I do still find myself wishing I'd taken different paths. There were things I would have wanted to do, things that I still want to achieve. Four years later, dreams are still dreams. But I tell you one other thing: You're still alive, right? Then there's still hope to achieve great things. We are to achieve great and greater things. I end this semilong discourse on what I partially think of graduation and the past four years of relentless dreaming with a quote from the Grouchy Rabbit:

We are all time traveling into the future . . . at normal speed.

Enjoy the freedom of unemployment, savor the challenge of job hunting, and celebrate the victory of employment. And always remember, four years ago (or however long you stayed in school), you were once young, spirited, lost, free, and loving every moment of life. Stick with it.

Love lots and congratulations,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Signs: No Stopping Any Time

I am no expert at traffic signs, but I'm pretty sure of what this sign means.

So if this sign is pretty clear, then explain this.

From Carlo Montoya's Flickr
For some weird reason, I was drawn to writing about stop signs. Actually, lately I'm drawn to writing about any kind of sign. (Cue background singing: I saw the signs, and it opened up my eyes *Pitch Perfect version.) And to start my series of traffic-sign-inspired posts, let's talk about the No Stopping Any Time sign.

Is it human instinct that we just want to break rules? Is it really that hard not to stop at a No Stopping Any Time sign? Does that sign just make us want to stop, contrary to what it actually means? Is there a program somewhere in us that steps on the brakes and suddenly halts us from whatever we're doing just to stare (mockingly) at the No Stopping Any Time sign? It's like saying to someone, "Hey, don't look now, but that strange person has been staring at you from across the room for a while now." And then what does that someone do? There is a big possibility that instinct will drive that person to turn around and look, oblivious of the first two words that someone's friend just said after hey. We say "Don't look," they look. We say "No talking," they talk. We say "No stopping any time," they . . . don't even listen.

Let's analyze the sign, shall we?

No Stopping Any Time

Isn't it beautiful? The first word of the sign says no. That is probably one of the shortest words in the dictionary (possibly next to I ). It means "not any" as in not at all, not ever, not really ever at all. It simply means no. How hard is it to understand that? When we were kids, they told us "No playing with matches." Admit it, we played with matches and fire behind their back (or wanted to). When we were in school, teachers told us "No talking." We kept talking because that's what kids do. When we got to a higher level in school, they told us "No cheating." We didn't. They also told us "No lying." We did. No jumping on the sofa, no junk food after dinner, no TV after six, no computer games after six, no talking after six, no standing, sitting, sleeping, eating, playing, thinking, breathing, reading, and on and on it goes. No. We've been trained to listen to that word but never really understand it. What does it mean? I mean, what does it really mean? No.

It can be the cause of heartbreak. No, I will not marry you. It can stop you from going to school. No, the scholarship goes to someone else. It can take away your happiness. No, you can't eat chocolates anymore. It can take away your life. I'm sorry, your jeep stopped where it shouldn't have stopped and now you're in the hospital suffering from a terrible car crash between the truck on the road traveling behind your jeep and the jeep you were riding on that stopped at a No Stopping Any Time sign. You have ten seconds to live.

No Stopping Any Time

Taken from the word stop, stopping is its -ing form. Duh. There are so many songs with that root word like "Stop right now, thank you very much. I need somebody with a . . ." or "Stop in the name of love before you break my heart (is that right?)" or "Stop, look, and listen. Stop, look, and listen. Beep, beep, the small jeep is . . ." Yeah. Stop is a very popular word. And this word people actually believe in. Hmm. Actually, I've just had two realizations while typing this down. One is that maybe drivers only see the Stopping Any Time part. No is such a short word and such a small one that people can so easily miss it. So maybe they thought they were following instructions? I don't know. And my other realization is that maybe they're too smart for the makers of this traffic sign. No and stop are negative words. It's a double negative. To avoid such redundancy, maybe they opted to negate it and just stopped. By removing one element, say, the no, then Stopping Any Time becomes more likely of being obeyed. And if stopping would be removed, No Any Time still doesn't make sense, so they stop to try and understand it. It's actually rather clever.

No Stopping Any Time

Any. Another tiny word in a very important sign. It rings of the possibility of something. Are there any more objections? Any more papers to pass? Would any one like to date him? It reeks of excitement and plausibility. Any. The word bounces off like a name, like a longing for something, anything, that can make life different. Any. Just a bit. Just a moment. Just a tiny slice of whatever it is that you are slicing. Any.

No Stopping Any Time

I probably should have closed anytime since that's what we really usually do at work. I think. Anyway, time. Yeah. Time is a beautiful word. It's long and short and forever and always and never all at the same time. It's what we are all running after but never getting enough. It's what we all have but never really take much notice of. We take it for granted until that very last few seconds of life when we realize all the time we've spent on things we should have not spent so much time on. Too much time. Too little time. Time holds us together and breaks us apart. Time runs out on us. Time is expensive. Time sometimes stays in the newsstands for too long. Add an x after e and you get another very expensive piece of time. Time is precious and it's slipping away (and I've been waiting for you all of my life *cue Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin*). Time.

No Stopping Any Time

Well, I guess this sign basically means "not really ever at all stopping just a moment in the nonspatial continuum that makes up the past, present, and future of humanity." No wonder we still find ourselves sitting in jeeps and staring at those No Stopping Any Time signs while waiting for other passengers to climb aboard. (A post shall follow on how passengers can be more civilized and respectful of traffic-sign makers.) No wonder we still find ourselves turning away from the No Stopping Any Time sign when we see it  looming ahead and as we nonchalantly tap on the handrails to signal to the driver that we want to stop the jeep and get off the vehicle . . . there. Right there. Right in front of the No Stopping Any Time sign.

No Stopping Any Time

On a much different note, No Stopping Any Time is actually an encouragement. It means, go on, keep moving forward. Don't quit. Don't stop. Keep running. You're almost there. It means, keep holding on. The last few miles (or meters) may make the difference you were waiting for in your life. It means keep telling your friends the Good News. It means keep smiling (keep shining, knowing you can always count on me). It means life must go on. It means No Stopping Any Time. Keep moving.

No Stopping Any Time

I'm sorry, but I'm going to break that rule now. Here shall I stop, and here shall I  say farewell, for the dawn is coming and the night has passed. I bid you good-bye and remind you to not stop at all, ever.

Have a blessed keep-moving day!