Recently I had a confrontation with myself.
In this country, studying in and graduating from the University of the Philippines is given such honor and gravity.
I went and looked at me, and aired everything out in the open.
Hasn’t my UP education always been a source of pride for me? Didn’t I bask in my privilege of being part of an academic community that stood out, being one of those who blatantly labeled themselves as non-conformists and free-thinkers, who boasted in our ability to critically think? I would not be like the others, I thought. I am privileged. I am above them. Extremely arrogant? Guilty. Still, though I rarely explicitly express it, I believed it.
When I look back to my college life, do I not pride myself in the fact that I joined and involved in organizations and pursuits I believed were of higher importance?
“I just wanted to improve my speaking abilities,” is what I told people when they asked me about my application to the Debate Society. The truth is, I exulted in being a member of one of the academic elitists in campus.
Didn’t I volunteer myself as a Peer Facilitator (PF), offering my time and efforts for free to “shepherd” or aid those new freshies? At least that’s what I tell people, and that’s what they think. People see the moral and sacrificial side to it, and I exploit this view they have by never correcting it. For indeed, there is also an ulterior and rather base side to this: didn’t I join because I wanted to be known? I wanted influence. And being a PF, I thought, was a good start.
How about joining Program for Indigenous Cultures (PIC)? I prided myself for being involved in a politically-inclined organization that placed its importance on ethnicity. Wasn’t I better than most – supporting a cause obviously more important than the rest of the school orgs, like that org, for instance, who seemed to do nothing but read mangas together and catch attention by dressing up as animes in school.
And then there’s that Choir. Oh, how I fought with my parents for this. They’re the best, I told them. All those late nights, going home at midnight just for the practices… my parents naturally worried. But I held my ground because this Choir was the best in the City, and is affiliated with what is easily the best Choir in the country. “Imagine the connections and opportunities!” I told my parents.
Yes, secretly, in the deepest, darkest, most hidden place of my heart, I harbor these things – and fall back on them and draw my worth from them, and prove to myself that because of these, I matter.
What is it like to be completely humble? Truly, I did not know. Nor do I fully know even now.
Now let me interrupt myself at this point and get one thing across: even before entering UP, I was already a Christian. At least, I called myself one. I sat under the banner of my parents’ long-time and solid affiliation with this religion they called Christianity.
I found my real purpose when I decided to follow Christ.
This is not to say my Christianity was entirely meaningless. There were occasions when I knew for sure that my faith was real, but those instances came too few, and too far apart. I quickly fell into the trap of religious routine, my relationship with God was reduced to the impersonal, and my heart became calloused with pride.
Then it happened.
The Debate Society got disbanded.
The Peer Facilitators student arm was dissolved.
I lost in all my singing competitions (not even placing!).
More painfully, I got kicked out of the Choir. And because a lot of the Choir members are also PIC members, I slowly distanced myself from PIC.
But the biggest and most painful blow was when I realized I was NOT graduating with honors.
I remember when the list of Honor students first came out, and I did not see my name on the list… I was in a daze the entire month since the Honors list came out until the date of graduation.
I think I was the most miserable UP graduate of our batch.
It is pathetic that everything that gave me worth were taken away, so I could finally see that He is my worth.
Well, it had to happen. In retrospect, my entire college life was a process of peeling away all that thick, ugly membrane so wrapped up in my heart, preventing me to see and truly know God.
I thought my purposes back then were noble. With all my heart, I tried to justify everything I did with “honorable” excuses, when in reality I was doing everything for my sake, my influence, myself.
My purpose, I now realize, is far more wonderful, far greater, than to do everything for my own little, selfish self.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Ever felt the same way in college, or when you graduated? If so, how did you handle it?
If not, why do you think your college experience was as it was / is what it is?