Tuesday, August 16, 2005

My Classmates Before I Knew How to Wait

I am a perpetual student. The fact that I have entitled this blog "Lessons in Waiting" shows how I view life as a series of such lessons, at this point. Somewhere along the way though, I have had to figure out who my classmates actually are, for there are no formal classrooms and teachers anymore. This analogy is a rich subject for reflection, but let me focus on classmates for now.

When I was young I used to be so conscious of my age and grade level. Somehow the girls who were even just one grade higher than I seemed superior to me, and naturally those girls in the lower grade leves were inferior to me. With my classmates, however, I have always maintained a strong bond. I made it through much of my student life because of my classmates. I wanted to be around them a lot so we could together figure out our lessons, pour out frustrations, and share our dreams. Our house in Pureza, Sta. Mesa, was open to all my classmates.

It was easiest in grade school. The goals were simpler, in my young eyes - to get good grades, to read as much books as I could that were not on my father's assigned reading list for me, to get into the coolest clubs (dance, journalism, even bible study for a schoolyear), to have my own barkada and to name such barkada. I actually belonged to a group called "Catsup Sisters", after a Punky Brewster episode, if I remember correctly. Then I formed the "Kisses" before I graduated. I had some heartaches at a young age which involved a medal, a presidency, and a crush, but those three formed me early on in life and gave me the values I still hold up to now about priorities in life. Ironically, I lost contact with most of my grade school barkada, but through the years I have developed close friendships with people from grade school who belonged then to different groups. We were the ones who had the same personalities and the friendship was not forced or fabricated, it just happened by natural selection, I guess.

In high school, although I learned to have fun like I never had before (mostly wholesome fun - but this is a past life, so... I digress), I also encountered some complications that were not around in grade school. It was considered cool, at the Manila Science High School, to have the best imported rubber shoes for P.E. class (Tretorn, K-Swiss, Nike Air), to be at the top three sections, to excel in Science and Math (we had two to three math and science subjects each every school year), to have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, to win competitions for the school - and to get first place all the time, and of course to be part of a group. I don't remember owning the rubber shoes of my dreams in high school. Although I was in the top sections, I was not as much of a scientist or a mathematician as my classmates were. I did not have a relationship then, definitely, and I had only one first place to my name (Science Reporting at the journalism competitions) as opposed to dozens for the favorite students. It was my greatest blessing that I formed good friendships at MaSci with women, who used to be called "The Phinx", whom I consider to be my best friends up to this day. I passed Biology, Trigonometry, Linear Algebra, Analytic Geometry (barely!), and World History with these girls.

We were inseparable up until college. MaSci '91 had a tambayan at U.P. Diliman as there were nearly a hundred from our batch of 318 who entered that campus. As a result, most of us refused to join campus organizations, which was a major requirement for freshmen in order to belong. I felt separation anxiety in sophomore year because then we were forced to part ways most of the time, as we had different majors. I was a Business Economics major and had limited common subjects with my barkada. I did make new friends at the School of Economics Student Council, and other college-based and campus-based organizations, however. They made Econ 131 and Econ 199 bearable. I cannot remember the conclusions we made in our undergraduate thesis, for it was my partner who did all the econometrics stuff while I concentrated on the research and writing, but I remember the friendships, some of which I have kept to this day.

Immediately after graduation, I entered law school, where I was part of A '99, the block that made the most number of case digests and subject reviewers. The requirements for a happy law student life were the hardest to meet of all - one has to study 12 hours a day, memorize laws, read all the cases, wear all the latest fashion trends, get invited to parties, and, this was new for me - befriend all the celebrities' and politicians' children who entered Malcolm Hall year after year. There were other "must-haves" like a fraternity for men, a sorority/organization for women, an ability to consume large amounts of caffein, nicotine and alcohol, a semester or more as a member of the prestigious Order of the Purple Feather (the honor society of law school where harry potter's order must have been patterned from, hehe), a slot in the Top Twenty or at least the first two pages of the graduates' list (this is where the top law firms get their associates), etc. I barely survived law school alive. It was through prayer that I managed to graduate. I neither had the discipline nor the interest to study Latin in order to impress my future clients. I preferred to serve in the student government than to study criminal law, much to the chagrin of my professor who chose to humiliate me in front of class as a result. My classmates gave me hope, for they believed in me through and through. They made me edit and layout 90% of our reviewers, because it brought me so much joy and because I was the most obsessive-compulsive and perfectionist when it came to such things. They helped me through recitations, supported my student government projects, taught me the rules of drinking (the how-to's and the what-not-to-do's), and tried to inspire me to want to be the best law student I could be. If not for my classmates, I would probably have had a miserable time at Malcolm Hall. They were God's encouragers for me.

I fell back big time from my law school classmates when most of them passed the 1999 bar and I didn't. I was majorly disoriented because I was having periods of darkness and depression while they were celebrating their entry into the legal profession with one party after another. They felt for me and did what they could to support me through my second take, but I would never know the taste of passing the bar after your first take. That sets me apart from them.

When you're a normal student, it is easy to know who your classmates are, who to get support from, who to ask about the rules and requirements of the school you're in. Now that I have graduated from the university, I no longer have formal classmates. I am still not alone - with friends, family, community and officemates around, but the lessons we take are all different now. There is no one to share the latest "Sweet Dreams" novel regularly with, unlike in grade school. There is no one to copy scientific formulas and Egyptian characters' names from, unlike in high school. There is no one to prepare for me the parts of the thesis that I hated, unlike in college. There is no one to get "radyo" from during recitations, unlike in law school. Life is not as neat, orderly, and predictable.

Yet I know that I am not alone. I have classmates in learning, classmates in hoping, and classmates in discovering. Our classes may not last beyond one hour, for Scripture lessons; one weekend, for retreats; or one week, for conferences, but I do find classmates still. I have teachers up to this day - a father confessor, a spiritual directress, a service leader, a national director, a women's moderator, a family counselor, among other things, but I don't get grades or honors or awards anymore. I don't get conditional "4's", "incompletes" or even red failing marks from them, but how life turns out seems to show me how I did with the lessons they imparted to me.

Most of the time, however, I find that I am physically alone, with a prayer in my head and a song in my heart, and a pen or a computer in my hands. This classroom called earth can be intimidating at times. I long for moments I could spend with my Dumbledores. I wait for glimpses of Aslan to keep me going. I search for hidden treasure, within me and in the world around me. A lot of the time, I find that I am waiting. Perhaps the readers of this blog are my classmates in waiting.

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