(a repost of a sanitized essay that got published three years ago)
i have always dreaded the first day of class for the past three years or so – not because I am concerned with how likeable my classmates will turn out to be, or how horrendous my teacher will be for the entire semester.
my reservation, as a matter of outright concession, actually comes from answering this question during the first day: what is your year, and how old are you?
the first part of the question, I have an easy time answering – as a matter of fact, I have mastered the art of confidently telling people that I am in my senior year, that I am expecting to graduate soon. but the second part of the query, the part where I divulge my age, I get anxious – because as I have managed to do so in past introductions, I often get mixed reactions, from people who try to feign their curiosity and say that I don’t look my age, to those who are less subtle and instantly insinuate that I am a school junkie, a degenerate who has managed to extend his college years unreasonably longer when I should be out in the real world milking big companies dry and, as my good friend RJ put it, doing damage to the world.
i do realize that there is something glaringly odd with the fact that I am aging inelegantly in school while my classmates are getting younger (most of them now were born in the 90s, sheesh, talk about being a dinosaur in college), but if only they ask me why this came to be, I am more than willing to let them in on my life and share snippets of my life story so they will understand, so they will know, and so they will, hopefully, come up with better decisions in their own lives.
fact is, I am not alone – there is a good number of students who have also extended in college, and if only you spare them a moment to ask what their life story is, I guarantee you that there is a story behind the seeming delinquency and the assumption of them being fatalistically destined for mediocrity – for it is never easy to, day by day, face people who have given up on you and are convinced beyond reason that you will never change and that you will inevitably spend the rest of your life wallowing in misery.
but is it not that life and life decisions are enmeshed in a context where there is constant struggle? is it not that college affords you that extra shot, that extra chance, when every dream you have starts to fade into obscurity and you desperately try to guard your sanity from slowly dissipating?
i have not always been like this.
in high school, I was considered as one of those who were destined for greatness, and I was convinced as well that I was meant for greater things – but in retrospect, I was not a child of the universe back then. I was confined within a world that was so comfortable and familiar, the kind that was so hard to let go.
life, back then, was all about getting good grades, adhering to an early evening curfew, and condemning those who did not conform to what was acceptable behavior in society.
now, I can only cringe in shame for being so sheltered and unquestioning back then, for being so fatally submissive and dismissive, for feeling contented over being a mere observer when I can possibly initiate ripples of change to a society that is plagued by hypocrisy and undiscerned exclusivism.
for in the course of my genuine college exposure, I have learned that sometimes, it’s not about sleeping early at night and savoring scrumptious breakfast meals with your doting and uberly-proud parents, but it is about drinking heavily with your friends after the midterm exams and nursing a head-splitting hangover the next day; that it’s not just about memorizing the prophets and reciting all the virtues in your religion class, but it is about joining an outreach program and extending assistance to those who are marginalized in society; that it’s not just about being safe and foolishly submitting to your teacher’s every whim, but it is about asserting for what is rightfully yours and ensuring that those who belong to the upper echelons of power do not remain unchecked nor unmitigated in their propensity for abuse.
college breaks you and thrusts you into the world in the hopes of altering your predispositions and situating you in a world that throbs with life; it introduces a reality that digresses significantly from the lethargic and oftentimes dehumanizing worldview of resumé-whores who perceive it as trivial and easy.
fact is, living is not rosy all the time and loving is not always exhilarating – both can scathe you, sometimes irreparably, and college is where you accept this bitter and disconcerting truth.
and, no matter how some people might take this against me, I am thankful that I have been broken to the world, its intricacies and complications included.
and I am convinced, beyond reason, that no grade can ever quantify my painful acceptance of this gut-wrenching and palpably painful version of what is real – for even if I may have overextended in college, I know that I now have, more or less, what it takes to battle it out in the real world when, hopefully, my formal schooling officially commences this October.
i am clyde – I am twenty-four, and I am proud of being twenty-four.