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,

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