I cannot imagine how many times I have retold my college graduation story to someone. In fact, not just that fateful time of college merry-making but also those times of struggle I had while studying, every time when the need to retell it arises.
While people may have think it doesn’t need an ounce of nerve to have my story being listened to again and again, deep inside it kills me to recount back what experience, the good and the not-so-good ones I have to muster to get through some of the tougher times of my life. And everytime I came across with someone who whines and grumbles over little things because they seem not to suit his/her pleasure, when in fact they could be the very same thing someone out there may have wished in life to have, the urge to do the solemn task would rise in climactic trend. And so, in the following moments, I had my mental pages perused, dog-eared at the most dramatic parts, scanned for what lesson I could impart to those who listened, and are willing.
The war is over, at last!
Graduation day is a day of victory for students. Victory because after the years of battling over the
professors assignments, projects, theses to pull through despite the financial, emotional, psychological or a mix of these odds one faced, finally the end line has come. No one except yourself can withdraw from the chance of having to walk the red-carpeted isle of the walkway towards the center stage where you’ll get the official nod of the school administrators that you are legible to graduate; unless the school finds a genuine fault like when computing grades that will hold back your momentary spot among the thousands of students vying to leave the school premises after graduation, you, as how your siblings, parents, relatives–near and distant– neighbors and the community expected you: a graduate–fresh, idealistic, with guts tantamount to a hundred political trapos, they say.
The onslaught of the year-end dilemma
However, graduation days sometimes had its flaws. Sometimes the very essence of graduation gets marred by what graduates aspire to be– how they will look like, what dress and shoes to wear on, jewelries to flaunt and what matches which, who will do the make-up, etc. Waste of time. Not to mention, waste of money.
Or perhaps, I was just being cynical about it. Because first, I never had any nor got the chance to be how I would have wanted to appear in my college graduation day. No wonder why I cannot take my graduation picture out of the album where it had been hidden since 2006. It looked totally not the kind I hoped it is but had been. Regrets? Perhaps. But to where shall I put blame to? My parents for not providing me the whims a graduate would want to have in exchange for the diploma I and them can now brag about? My parents, who despite our financial incapability had stubbornly made us pursue schooling? These two people who had to break their backs, turned night into day working, securing for ways on how my siblings and I can still go to school the following day? Then, perhaps it wasn’t them who played Grinch that caused my bittersweet college graduation memories. I believe I caused it myself.
I remember how on the vesperas of my graduation, I strolled the city and Tabunok with only 300 Pesos on my pocket, wishing, hoping I could find something to wear for my graduation day (one for the Baccalaureate Mass in the morning and for the graduation proper in the afternoon) with that considerably tight budget. Sounds almost impossible. And it was.
Hoping from one mall to another, I no longer expected to find a valuable dress since the price of most graduation dresses especially during their peak season, were not even twice the amount I had on hand. Precious hours passed. The search continued. Luckily when I got to a Chinese Mini-Mart in Tabunok, I finally found what I had looked for, my cheap graduation dress. Yes, it was cheap. (It actually just cost P200 or about $5 then). That was all I could afford to have; all that my parents could humbly provide.
Bittersweet, it always has been.
Graduations aren’t always about confettis and garlands.
While everyone was busy figuring out which wardrobe to wear at each occasion on that day, since I only had one option, I spared myself of the dilemma. What I wore during the Baccalaureate Mass in the morning was the same outfit I had in the afternoon during the graduation proper. Moreover, while most female graduates at that time may have hired someone to do their make-up, I did mine… alone (to think I’m the farthest thing from being a woman as I don’t wear make-up at all). The overall outcome? Well, I was just as happy as everyone, at least.
The whole graduation ceremony only produced me two photos (these two I’ve kept in the album). Both from the official school photographer. Since we didn’t have a camera at that time, that two memoirs are the only visual proof that I did attend my college graduation ceremony. At least I have two. In my high school graduation, I never had even one. Sad. Haply.
Caprices and whims by itself aren’t all negative. When you’ve done something great and you want yourself rewarded for it, even if others would think it as a waste of resources, so long as you won’t step on someone’s foot in so doing, then by all means, go for it.
Now, do I wholly feel deprived with what I experienced? Partly, I was deprived but of my whims. Eventually, I realized that those aren’t the most essential factors I will need to start the new chapter of my life, in the real world–the one which is about to begin– the kind of life when dear old me will be tossed, scorched and pounded into the mold to be shaped to who I was destined to become . That is why I feel blessed I was able to graduate. That in itself, shall be a cause of merriment. I’ve even known some well-off friends and acquaintances who in spite of their money and capabilities failed to finish their college education. Perhaps they don’t consider it a threat to be an undergraduate considering the amount of wealth their families have provided for them. This just goes to show that it’s will, not wealth that will take you further and farther. After all, “a person with big dream is more powerful than the one with all the facts”.
The commencement of learning
Yet with or without the fancy things one would aspire to have had, I managed to surmount the odds. It’s the best consolation I got during that fateful graduation day in 2006. And it was the best gift I have given to my parents for painstakingly enduring the hardships of letting me finish my education. They could have chosen to let me stop, but they did what they think was best and will be best for me. I may never had everything in life but what else would I be asking for when I have the most determined parents in the world. If they, the workhorses of my life had nailed their trust that I would make it, then who am I to disappoint them? I am just the fruit of my parent’s labor afterall.
Had I not gone through the kind of life I’ve had or if circumstances had been different, maybe I won’t be scribbling here this slightly tormented journey of mine or even share it to you but for the hope of imparting what learning I could affect, I willingly yield to that intent.
The experiences one goes through are what defines a person. Good or bad, these strength-boosters are there to either make or break you. Thus, your fate, as the free-willed creature that you are, is governed by what choices you make. Either to stop or continue, to lay frustrate or bounce back, to aim for the win and be at par with the greatest or to be content being second. Whichever one chooses to go after, one must not forget that life is fleeting. And while it is best to live life to its fullest sense, it is likewise just as important to note that whatever goal we set ourselves into, no one other than the grass below our soles gets stepped on. Because, life is for me, is a ‘soul’ matter.
Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him. ~Aldous Leonard Huxley