In an alternate dimension somewhere, where everything goes as it’s supposed to, I am a college alumna. I have trivial yuppie problems, a decent place in the rat race, accomplishments to brag about and a pocketful of cash to spare. But sadly, this is the real word. I am a college sophomore, and I’ve been so for three years now.
They say experience is the best teacher. I take comfort in that. I may not know much about quadratic equations and the chemical breakdown of shit, (there’s always google), but I can always give a friend sober advice when he needs it (even when I’m not). See, if life was an exam, it would be practical, not theoretical. We have a whole lifetime of trial-and-error to learn from our mistakes.
Before you get the impression that I am a good-for-absolutely-nothing student who doesn’t know shit, out to spread an apocalypse of scholastic delinquency to the world, let me get one thing straight. I value education. I need a degree because I dream big. Well, come to think of it, I never would have dreamt big, if it wasn’t for education in the first place. I am waging no war against the academe. I am writing this piece for people like me—who stumble often, but get up and brush themselves off just as much.
My attention span has never been good to me. I know that from watching foreign indie films. I doze off halfway and wake up just in time for applause during credits. I know that from listening to drunken sob stories. Sometimes the only sensible thing I can say is ‘I feel for you’, with a matching pat on the shoulder. But most of all, I know that from hours of lecture and pages and pages of doodles. I leave our classroom with bed marks and drool stains on my face. Why our campus decided to convert to a large lecture class scheme, I will never understand. However, I take full responsibility for all my failures in the past. During the time I was supposed to master the process of mitotic cell division, I was too busy mastering the art of Karaoke. I never attended to my lessons, never submitted any requirement on time (if I actually did find it in myself to submit a requirement), and never took the time to consult with my professors. My to-do list which happened to be longer than Paris Hilton’s shopping list, was tick-less for so long I could’ve easily confused it with my bucket list.
I wanted so bad to have a taste of life, I let go of the only real thing I had to begin with — my studies. Last summer, most of my high school and college peers graduated. And whenever they’d ask me to write yearbook testimonials for them, I couldn’t help but feel left out (as if the grad photos on my facebook newsfeed weren’t enough). Studying was never my strong suit. Count the stars. That’s how many times I’ve asked myself if pursuing a degree would be worth it. Don’t get me wrong. I love finding out new things. Hell, I’d read an entire library of books if I found it interesting, at the least. But I couldn’t bear to stare at a page of symbols or numbers that I know won’t be of any use to me. I hate ‘burning the midnight oil’; practically memorizing your lecture notes verbatim just to forget everything after the exam. It wasn’t always like this. I took pleasure in reading my colorful notes, with a differently-colored highlight for every term. I felt like the classroom set-up, with all its stringent policies and required readings, killed my passion for learning.
I had a friend tutor me in Biology once, she would often say, “You’re not even trying.” At first, I reasoned out with her, relentlessly. It’s not my fault I’m stupid. I’m never gonna get this, even if I die trying. I might as well try dying. Everything about Biology is sooo hard–too much for my puny brain. That semester forged a great bond between me and a borrowed Campbell book. I would sleep with it beside me, read it when I get up and take it everywhere I would go. Mind you, it was very thick–a blow from that book could have been fatal. Much as I loved my Campbell, it never loved me back.
So, yeah. I’m never going to be a biologist. When it comes to my future, that is the only thing I can be sure of. Well, actually, maybe I’m not sure of that either. But I’ll let you in on a secret. My college contemporaries, the ones who graduated with shiny things tied around their necks with colorful ribbons, they’re not sure of their future either. When it all comes down to it, no one is. And I know that no matter how pathetically mediocre I can be sometimes, I can do great things, too. No matter how many numbers are written in red ink on my transcript, I know that I am not a derelict.
I am not trying to rationalize my failures. It’s just that there’s more than one way to success. In fact, there’s a whole spectrum of successes. To others, success is wealth—security. To some, it may be fame, or living old enough to play with your grandkids, or finding your soulmate and spending the rest of your life with her. Success is fulfillment. Some take the long road to success in brief strides to get there faster. Some like to skip and kick pebbles along the way. Others, like me, stop every so often, just to take everything in. I may get lost in the path sometimes, but I will always find my way back.
I am a fifth-year sophomore. And I have my whole life ahead of me. I will graduate, but there’s no rush. Someone once told me that when people get old, they regret the things they didn’t get to do, more than the things they actually did.