Chasing Dreams: Of Desperation and Determination

This is it. Finally.

After submitting all of my requirements and finally enrolling in my dream law school, that was it. Ok. I’m done. I’m happy. Can I stop now? Hahaha. Kidding. Or am I?

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I decided to transfer. I already knew I was going to be pressured and stressed like I have never been before from different people with different expectations from me, mainly because I am technically repeating first year.

What have I done? Made things harder for myself apparently.

I have been called a masochist at best when I told a friend of my decision to transfer and how I expected the people in my college to treat me i.e. bullying, expecting great things from, pressuring me to be an honor student, no excuse for failing, etc. I already knew that. I prepared myself for that mentally. I was ready to tell people to f*** off when they say things like that, internally of course, because I can never say that to their faces unless they really deserve it. I was already programmed to just smile and nod, and say yes while tuning out their voices and finding out ways to escape them without me being strangled or them being punched to the face.

What have I done? I’m running after an idea.

I chased after my dreams. I consciously chose to ignore the thoughts bouncing inside my head about regretting transferring (because my new motto is #noregrets), about quitting while I still can, about staying low profile because I don’t want to dig my own grave anymore. I just want to do my best. That is all that I really want. I want to do my best and I want to be able to help people.

These past few days I just realized that I am tired and frustrated, and it’s annoying. It’s really annoying and debilitating. I had three months of vacation. Why am I still tired? Is it because I suffered from my situation of not knowing whether I will be able to enroll to my dream school or not, or because I was suffering from my doubts of whether I do deserve to be here, or because I am missing my previous school like how I usually do when I go to different places, or because of the pressure and expectations I know I am facing from a lot of people? I tried to recharge this vacation and I am still tired. It’s like trying to charge your phone and wondering why it doesn’t turn on, only to realize you forgot to plug the charger to the outlet.

It’s a combination, but more than that, I am pressured from own self. God, there I was proudly stating that I do not care what others think of me anymore, that I don’t care what their expectations are, I will just do what I want and be thoroughly selfish for the second time in my life. When I was hesitating to transfer because of the pressure that I know I will receive from being known as the younger sister of my siblings, my friend asked me, and I will never forget it, because it struck me to the core: “Are you really sure that’s your reason why you don’t want to transfer? Your siblings?” Yes. Partly, yes, it is unavoidable. Even my siblings think so, innocently remarking how I could never escape their shadows. But right here, right now, I knew this is a battle against myself. I was never trying to escape their shadows, I was trying to escape my own.

I tried, and I am still trying to study, only to end up frustrated that it almost reduced me to tears. Why can’t I read as fast as I did before? How stupid can you get, you’re supposed to know this already! How the hell did I survive last year?! I feel so stupid and disappointed with myself. My new professor told us to not “wallow in self-pity” and move on. Psh. I do not wallow in self-pity. I only wallow in frustration and self-hatred, but don’t worry I’m trying to move on, hence this post.

Perhaps the reason why I survived last year was because I kept on praying: “God, please don’t let me give up, God please no, please, please no, no, please.” My study habits were nothing but mere desperation to hold on to something, to prove something to myself as I have accidentally and intentionally sabotaged myself in the past and I don’t want to do it anymore. I was in a trial phase. I wanted to change, I wanted to grow. My energy last year was so limited (until now), that I just stopped studying whenever I wanted to stop and studied whenever I wanted. I lived on a day to day basis, and I would often enter class regardless of the fact that I studied or not, with my classmates teasing me that I should get a reward for having perfect attendance (except for that time when I got so sick I couldn’t risk infecting other people and I couldn’t move). My mantra was: “Sugod! Kahit butter knife lang ang dala sa giyera, sugod!” “Charge! Even if my only weapon is a butter knife in this war, charge!”

I can’t do that now. I can’t.

I can’t because I know how much this slot cost me, more than anybody. I felt the frustration last year of hearing people quit and drop from my dream school. I know I have no right to judge them, because everybody has their own reason and story. Last year, I felt heartbroken when I learned that my dream school which rejected me called the other applicants to ask them if they still want to study there. They did not choose me. Again. I accepted that fact, that I was undeserving back then, and until I graduate from my dream school I would still deem myself to be undeserving of this opportunity. I tried applying, one last time, just to check, because I just had to know. Why? I don’t know, but I knew I had to. So I finally passed, and things happened which almost prevented me from enrolling. The point is, I know, I truly know how much this opportunity is. I have fought for this relentlessly, sometimes halfheartedly because of my fears but still, I have fought and I am still fighting.

I know I can’t just trudge through this without putting in my all. Now I’ve realized that I wasn’t halfhearted in my attempts last year, I was tired, but I did what I could under those circumstances. I am trying my best right now, and I can’t help but beat myself up because what kind of best is this? F***, you call this best? You’re so much slower than before, this should be just a review for you. You haven’t even finished your required readings, and you’re wasting time trying to write this post. You’re an embarrassment to yourself.

I am even forced to omit certain truths when my classmates ask what I did for a year, I would often reply “gap year”. The sleepless nights, heavy workload, breakdowns and mini-heart attacks were reduced to “gap year”. It’s not that I wanted to hide what others would see as an “advantage”. What “advantage”? You mean the knowledge that if you fail a subject you already learned last year, it’s going to hurt badly? I just wanted to avoid the attention, personal questions and their subsequent reactions which I’m sure will piss me off. But I wanted to answer them honestly, and to tell to their faces that yes, I am a transferee and technically retaking first year. Am I crazy? Yes, I kinda am. But more than that, more than trying to explain to them that I don’t have it “easy because I already know these things”, more than trying to explain to them how hard it is to be scared of the thought of being compared to your stellar siblings and the professors not seeing you for who you are but who your family members are, I just want to say to them, please, please don’t waste this opportunity, please don’t be so arrogant, thinking you are great and smart, believing the brainwashing and indoctrination of the professors telling you about being the “cream of the crop”. That is true, being in UP, there is a presumption of being smart and excellent. But that is also bullshit. Presumptions can be overturned by hard and conclusive evidence. Don’t destroy that presumption. And serve the people. Always remember that. I have met wonderful and brilliant people, and they don’t study in UP. Brilliant people can exist elsewhere. Brilliant people who I believe right now deserves to be here more than them. I am allergic to arrogant people and I dislike them with a passion (which includes myself, maybe this is why my allergy never goes away).

I started to judge the people who said they were in that dream law school because they didn’t want to work, but then I reminded myself that I was like that at first. This is just the start, and I am really trying hard, to give them a chance because it really is just the beginning, so I am keeping an open mind about them, even if I find them annoying sometimes.

So why did I write this? Oh just to rant. Hahaha. And just to remind myself, that this is it. This is really it. Why are you wasting time wallowing in frustrations and exhaustion? Take a break. You already know that fear of failure is very debilitating. Stop being scared. Just stop. Just read, read, read, you’ll get somewhere. You’ve already proved that to yourself. Don’t ruin this opportunity because of overthinking and don’t burn yourself right away. Give yourself time to adjust. You have a sickness. It is not an excuse, it never is, and it never will be, but it is a limitation that you have to overcome.

Make mistakes. Don’t be a perfectionist (too much). It is a school. Grab the chance of learning while making mistakes because in real life it is going to be so much harder.

BALANCE. Find balance. And always pray. Pray pray pray. Please don’t be so arrogant as to believe that you got where you are because of your own. You didn’t. You can’t. And you know that.

This is it, I’m chasing my dreams. It’s only now that it is sinking into me. Really. I wasn’t able to savor that fact because I was too busy blocking my thoughts of “You are so gonna regret this. Girl, you crazy. Stop, look for another thing to do, do you actually deserve to be here? etc.” I wanted to roll in the Sunken Garden and bask in the sunlight, but rainy weather and hello readings.

I am determined to see this through. You don’t have a right to quit. You will only quit when the school kicks you out, but no, never again, you are never gonna give up on your own. God please no. Ya Allah please help me do my best. Please. Please. Please. What I have accomplished last year through sheer desperation, I will finish now with determination.

Ora et Labora. Prayer and hard work. Never forget.

So. Yeah.



Chasing Dreams: Of Mixed Feelings and Doubts

School is about start next week. It’s not so much as a “Yey! We’re going back to school” feeling but more of a “Damn I’m going to hell” feeling. It’s only now that the weight of my decision to go to law school is sinking into me.

And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I don’t think nervous is the correct word. Scared witless could be the proper term. Doubts are bouncing inside my head, the fear is eating my heart and the worry is making my stomach feel funny. God, I really am scared. So scared that I feel like running away and I’ve already thought of my exit plans (hangover from my strategic management class). I get so scared that I feel like my heart is going to burst and my eyes are tingling with frustrated tears (and when I say frustrated tears it means the pesky tear drops don’t want to go down).

Countless of times this week I have thought to myself: “Ngrhgh anong nakain ko at naisip kong pasukan ‘to?!” [What the hell was I thinking, entering law school?!] I have beaten myself up, countless of times, berating myself for my thoughtless actions, for my impulsive and desperate self.

I have avoided truthfully answering the dreaded question: why law? People may wonder why I dislike answering the question so much. I really do hate answering because I feel that it is too personal, and I feel like I don’t know the answer myself. Or worse, I feel like my answer isn’t correct. I am scared to answer that question because I don’t like the feeling of vulnerability. I hate it. I would answer my friends honestly, about why I want to enter law, but I would often find myself answering in different ways because there is no single logic or reason behind my decision to go to law. Or at least it looked that way to me.

It was an impulsive decision on my part because I had so many options: look for a job first, think about life, build my own business, etc., but no, I just had to push through with law school.

One of the reasons why I wanted to go to law school is because it gives me direction. And by direction, I mean I have a set of unwritten guidelines stating that: 1) READ 2) STUDY 3) READ 4) UNDERSTAND 5) ANSWER QUESTIONS 6) DEFEND 7) PASS THE SUBJECTS 8) PASS THE BAR EXAMS 9) DO WHAT PROPER AND UPRIGHT LAWYERS DO

All throughout my undergraduate program, I was agonizing over what to do with my life. I was so desperate for a goal, for a direction (still am). My previous dream died a horrible, horrible death, no thanks to me. And countless of times I have wished I could donate life force to somebody else more deserving. But hey I’m still here so I probably shouldn’t turn my nose up at God’s blessing that I’m still alive, so thankfully I’ve gotten rid of that mindset, or at least I’m getting there.

Another one of the reason why I wanted to go to law school is because it only seemed natural. I came from a family of lawyers; my parents, my older siblings and cousins are lawyers. It seemed natural to me that I would follow their foot steps. I was never one for “razing my own path” because I have always believed that I couldn’t and I was scared of burning myself.

The main reason why I chose law is probably because it was my dream, it is my dream ever since I was a child. I was exposed to law books, I would watch news with my dad, I would read books written by John Grisham and I would be inspired by whatever I would read (Street Lawyer inspired me the most, followed by The Client). And with my dream, I wanted to help people. I want to be one of the people who touches the lives of others and helps them achieve their full potential. I want to use the law not as an instrument to impede growth and promote corruption but as an instrument to help develop what a proper human being should be.

People could argue, that I can and may help people in many other ways. There’s medicine, science, journalism and a whole lot more. So I guess it ended up as a matter of preference. For some reason that I couldn’t explain, I chose law. It was like a calling, as cheesy and cliche as it may seem it just called out to me. I really don’t know what I ate to make me think this way. Here I am still agonizing over the issue of whether this is the right path or God wants to place me somewhere else but I was just too stubborn because of my pride and preference.

I have doubts. A lot of them. If I could sell them, and if somebody buys them, I would probably be rich. But nobody wants to buy doubts of others, they already have their own. I doubt if I have the right to dream again. After failing so badly with my previous dreams, I am scared so much of moving, of making my decisions because I do not want it to happen again. I do not want to do something that I will regret so much. I doubt if I have the right skills or talents to survive law school, or even the law profession. My family would say I have a “pusong mamon” [softhearted] and that I have to be strong and fight.

Yes, I know. I know that. I’m just really scared that I can’t do it. I feel pressured. I am scared. And can I just say that I believe there is something wrong when I find myself being optimistic in the way that: “Oh. I won’t be alone anyway. There will be others suffering with me.” Amidst all these doubts and fears, there is still something whispering in my heart that I can do it, that I’ll weather through it. There is still the feeling of elation and achievement that I took the first step towards my dream. Oh man, I did it. Hahaha. Okay I’m done, the first step is enough let’s stop this foolishness and masochism, I’m done.

I’m just joking. And they say jokes are half meant. See what I mean about mixed feelings? I’m scared that I began thinking that way, that I’m hoping and dreaming of something big when it could all go wrong so badly. My dreams frighten me and make me feel helpless. But at the same time, I think I feel excited that I was given the chance again to pursue something meaningful to me.

I feel nauseous just thinking about it, I’m thinking I want to get this over with but of course I can’t do that. My inner perfectionist wouldn’t let me do that. I have to do my best. Or at least if I go down, I must go down fighting. And I feel excited I was given a chance to have a go at dreaming again even if I have to face terror profs, thousands of cases and books as tall as me, sleepless and tearful nights and a whole lot more. Is it so wrong it’s only now that I feel excited? Talk about dense.

I have my friends who pull me up and believe so much in me that I am overwhelmed. They are part of the reason why I am pushing through with it, even if I was so tempted to say to my parents: “Ma, Pa, I don’t think I can do this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” (Of course I can’t do that, they already paid the tuition and all). My friends who were excited before me, who are happy for me, who made me realize that my regret of not trying would be greater than my regret of trying and failing, who are there just to support me even if they’re physically not there, they believe I can do it and so I can’t help but to believe it too.They nurtured my sense of idealism.

I have my family to pull me down, not in the bad sense but for my own good. They teach reality and point out the things that outsiders and even close friends would hesitate to point out to me. Because as someone said from a favorite anime of mine (Silver Spoon): “In all things, I think having a dream means having  the resolve to struggle with reality.” They instilled in me the sense of reality. Really, I’m having mixed feelings that I don’t really think it’s good my mental and physical health (not that I was that healthy in mental terms anyway).

I’m scared. I’m happy. I’m nervous. I’m excited.

At the end of all these emotions, I’m just pursuing my dreams again. And it shouldn’t matter whether I was influenced into dreaming it, or if I just chose it out of my own volition, should it? It’s still my dream. It’s still my choice. For others, I think they would find it strange if I say that I feel happy that I can finally say “yes” when they say to me if ever I do complain (and I know I will): “Ginusto mo ‘yan eh.” [You chose it.]. I can finally answer wholeheartedly: “Oo, ginusto ko ‘to eh.” [Yeah. I wanted this.] If ever I do feel like running away again (I already started), I just have to remember the words of one of my favorite professor who is currently the Chancellor of my beloved alma mater:

But the UP way is to bite the bullet, take up the challenge” – Chancellor Tan

And we have the infamous line from the very well-known bad-ass Captain Levy from Shingeki no Kyojin [Attack on Titan]

The only thing we’re allowed to do is to believe that we won’t regret the choice that we made

Of course, I also have to remember God and pray:

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” – Surah Al-Baqarah 2:186

And the chase begins.