Jitters

Every year since I finished high school, around March and April, I get constantly bothered by an uneasy feeling. I usually get fast and hard thumps on my chest and a troubled tummy. I get anxious, nervous, and fearful that something bad is about to happen even when there’s none. It has become so much of a normalcy that I already have a name for it — “End of the School Year or Graduation Season Woes.”

I finished high school in 1995, but I did not graduate. I studied at a non-graded school, from Kindergarten to Senior High, where students learn and master lessons at their own pace, and unlike other schools, students do not receive numerical grades (during our time, at least), but rather checks (if passed) and squares (if failed).

Unfortunately for me and to make a long sad story short, I was not able to finish all my (graduating) requirements on time and graduate with the rest of the batch because of poor choices and priorities. To make things worse, I kept everything from my parents.

I fooled around instead of prioritizing my studies. I lied to my parents even up to the point when I already knew things had gotten worse, and I already needed (their) help. 

I lied to my parents, humiliated them, and broke their hearts and trust in me.

In order not to repeat my graduating year though and still be able to enrol for freshman college on time, my mom had to practically beg teachers to allow me some time to finish all my requirements. I was given only a week and a half to finish a year’s worth of Physics, Trigonometry, and Geometry. A year’s worth in a week and a half. 

I was dang lucky enough to even be given another chance, so finish, I did. And I was able to enrol for college the same time as everyone else.

Every time I’d share this story, people are left in awe at how I was able to accomplish all those in less than two weeks. What they fail to see though is how and why it had come to that. I fooled around and lied. I chose to have fun and defy my parents. Plain and simple — there’s absolutely nothing amazing about that, at all. And if given the chance, I wouldn’t want to go through it again; I would do things differently. I may have learned lessons from it later on, but the difficulties and hurt I had put my parents in, are totally not worth it.

That’s why, after all these years, I still get these bothersome feelings around graduation season. It reminds me of a time when I was at my most foolish self. It reminds me of a time I hurt the two people, who despite the betrayal and lies, still chose not to leave me alone to deal with the mess I have made for myself, and forgive me for it.

And I guess that’s also why, after all these years, I continue to share this story, not just so that others may somehow learn from it, but also, in the hopes that with every re-telling and sharing of the story, I learn to forgive myself as well.

*Photo borrowed from the internet.

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What’s Beneath You

While Lady was having coffee at her desk during lunch break: 

Boss1: Lady, marunong ka mag-photocopy? Hindi kasi ako marunong.
Lady: Ay, opo. Akin na po, tulungan ko kayo. Ilang copies po ba?
Boss1: Fifteen eh.
Lady checked the original copy and realized, it had seven pages. “Fifteen copies of seven pages,” she thought to herself. Huwaw. Keribels. Go.

As Lady was busy making photocopies, Boss2 approached her:
Boss2: Lady, may email ako sa iyo mamaya ah? Paki-final check mo na lang. Ano ginagawa mo dyan?
Lady: Nagfo-photocopy po. Helping Boss1.
Boss2: Eh bakit ikaw? Asan si Clerk1 o si Clerk2?
Lady: Hindi ko po alam eh. Okay lang naman po. Nagpatulong pati si Boss1.

Lady’s story reminds me of the quote, “No job is too big; No task is too small.”

How many times have we refused to do work or a task because ‘it was beneath us’? From answering phones, picking up very visible trash, preparing coffee for a superior, holding a door for someone else, photocopying documents for other people, or other ‘menial’ tasks. How many times have we said, “Hindi ko naman trabaho yan.” (That’s not my responsibility.)

While it is true that our jobs dictate specific tasks and responsibilities, taking on “special tasks”, such as photcopying documents, as in the case of Lady, do not and will never make us any less of a person, in fact, it does the opposite. There is nothing lowly about it, and it is definitely NOT beneath us to help. Be there and do more than what’s expected.

Toys, Books, and Memories

I bought a hula-hoop about a month ago after I had read somewhere that the toy actually helps in keeping the midsection lean and gets rid of ‘bilbil‘. I don’t really know if it actually works. It’s the mere thought of how fun it could be that made me get one, considering how much fun I had with it when I was a kid. Well, it turns out, just because you were awesome at something in your youth does not mean you’re going to be just as awesome at it as an adult. But that’s not the point.

It’s been years since I last visited a children’s toy store. I had forgotten how it has always left me in awe. How lucky kids are nowadays with the countless shelves of Legos, board games — old and new, dolls (!) — who knew Barbie had so many competitions already, bicycles of different sizes and colors, robots — various kinds of toys. The best part is, for specific toys in the store, children are actually allowed to play. It’s a far cry from how toy stores were when I was kid. It’s also a wonder how most kids nowadays would rather spend hours on their tablets and gadgets instead.

I remember those trips to the toy store with my older brother when we were much younger. My brother would instantly run to where the G.I. Joe’s, Transformers, or Legos were, and I, to where the Barbie was. At that time, and considering our family’s situation, those trips were a luxury, and most of the time, it would only be just to window-shop. When it came to toys, we relied on what our Mama (grandmother), aunt, and uncles sent us from the States. Those toys were gems to both my kuya and I, and later on, my younger brother.

Other than the toys and the trips to the toy store though, one childhood memory I am very fond of would be the trips to the bookstore at the old Everlast along Quezon Boulevard, just a little past Banawe Street. Every time my older brother and I accomplished something remarkable in school (or at least passed all our subjects), we were assured, not just a trip to the bookstore to window-shop, but a book of our choice each. My brother and I entered the bookstore with the same amount of enthusiasm, maybe even more, with a toy store — eyes-wide open with joy, with matching extra bounce in every hop. There were times when we would even bargain with mom for a second book, after asking her if we had enough money for it.

I cannot remember exactly how my parents did that – – – making my brothers and I appreciate books over toys at a very early age. That’s how our love for reading, and for me later on, writing, had started. From Bible stories, to all the fairy tales, and later on in our teenage years, Sweet Valley High, Spy vs. Spy, Mad, and Archie Comics — those were what we treasured as kids.

More than the trips to the toy store and the bookstore, or the toys and books we have acquired in our youth, those childhood memories and experiences taught us the value of knowledge, of hard work, of patience, and of giving importance to what we have.

Being taught early on to learn from everything — books, experiences, other people; to realize and work hard for our dreams or what we want; being taught early on that sometimes what we want isn’t always within reach, and that we would have to wait, at times, wait long; and when we finally have what we want, we take care of it.

Toys that can be manipulated, books that can be read and learned from over the years, and memories we keep going back in time for, these are some of the things that have helped shape and mold who we are now. The same things we hope to pass on to our children as well.

*Photo of some of the books of my youth. October, 2016.

Lesson Learned

I just read up on news about other people’s dogs passing on amidst all the chaos, that is, Philippine politics. It got me reflecting on a few things, so here’s my #throwback for this week.

A few years ago, I got into an unfortunate rift with a co-teacher. It started with the death of her dog, and she had to take what started as a day off from work to three days. I called her attention about her absences and basically demanded that she reported back to work, since my main concern then were the substitutions other teachers had to do for her. This obviously did not turn out well, hence, the rift.

I used to not understand the value of having a pet, and how each one is treated as part of the family. I ignored what my co-teacher was going through because I chose to only see what I believed was important  – – – at that time, my duties. I still regret that day, and I am truly sorry for it.

The Lord has a way of teaching us lessons though; Of making us see where we could have done or been better.

As if to teach me a lesson and help me understand, I have my own pet now – – – a rescued AsPin, Marshie. Just like how I am with my loved ones, I go through the same struggles every time Marshie feels or seems different, the fun when she does something silly, and the joy of just having her around. I feel the fear of knowing that she will not be with me forever, and that one day soon, we would have to part ways and say good bye. The same kind of fear you feel for a loved one.

I have definitely been ‘schooled’. Now, I go through each day encountering different people, keeping in mind that I know nothing of their struggles, hence, I should be much kinder and more understanding. I go through each day just enjoying every moment with the people I hold close to my heart, and not waste it on hate and senseless bickering. And as much as I can, I stay away from negativity, for life is just too short to dwell on anything that sucks the life out of you.

Life, indeed, has a way of teaching you lessons, and love has a way of softening your heart.

Did I Offend?

A month ago, an officemate of mine, who probably thinks we’re close enough even when we’re really not, approached me at my desk one morning to rave about her recent trip to the dermatologist.
 
This isn’t the first time she’s tried doing small talk with me about her trip to the derma, and in all those times that she did, I always showed a polite front, allowed her the chance to rave even when it bored me to death. Until that one fateful morning when she said, “No offense pero punta ka kaya sa derma ko. Pwede kita i-refer. Para matanggal yang mga linya at pekas sa mukha mo. Maging flawless ka tulad ko.” [“No offense, but why don’t you go to my derma? I can refer you, so all those lines and imperfections on your face will be removed, and you can be as flawless as I am.”] As soon as she said, “No offense”, I knew she was going to say something offensive. She obviously did not disappoint.
 
I was tempted to bitch slap her and kick her on the chest, Spartan-style. I wanted to throw all the insults I can throw at her, make her see the truth that she’s not even as flawless as she thinks she is. Instead though, with my best plastered-smile and without stammering out of anger, I said, “No, thank you. I appreciate the imperfections on my face – – – zits, lines, and all. And besides, all those medicines and chemicals some people put on their faces, make them look synthetic – – – almost like breakable mannequins.”
 
She left without saying a word, and hasn’t spoken to me since. The bully felt she was bullied. I honestly do not mind at all that she has stopped talking to me.
 
But why do we do that? Why do we completely disregard another person’s feelings with what we say and do? Why do we often use straightforwardness and bluntness as an excuse to be rude to someone else? We often confuse that they are synonymous with each other. They are not. Straightforwardness and bluntness, coupled with respect and politeness, are actually good traits. When did we become so disrespectful of others? Does respect still matter at all?

We tend to underestimate, too, how powerful words can be. We often say “actions speak louder than words”, and totally forget, that even if they are less powerful than actions, doesn’t mean they cannot prick, or they cannot bruise and scar.

It’s sad how we can be this cruel to each other sometimes.

I take away three things from the conversation I had with my officemate:

One, be proud of how you are, and how you look. No one should make you feel otherwise. Love everything about yourself, especially your imperfections for these are what make you unique and perfect – – – a stand out from everyone else.

Two, be respectful and considerate of other people’s feelings, no matter how disrespectful and inconsiderate they are of yours. Respect and kindness are hard to come by nowadays, give as much as you can away.

And three, choose your words carefully. Words may seem petty, but they are very powerful, and hurtful, especially when used incorrectly.

Purpose and Clarity

In one of the personnel discipline cases I was reviewing yesterday, the respondent was complained for, among other things, being hired as a legal editor, one who not only checks on  the grammar usage in draft orders, resolutions, memoranda, etc., but also helps in researching on and reviewing cases. Of all the allegations raised against said respondent, this particular one hit close to home — it’s the same work I am currently doing.

The complaint raised many allegations, some of which I later found out were valid although taking a jab at someone for the task she was hired for, was a bit uncalled for.

For one, the complaint itself was FULL of grammatical errors, something English teachers and grammar nazis would have a field day on. I found it a bit funny how the complainant, who is a legal officer, questioned the need to hire a person, who would do “such a lowly job to correct people’s grammar.” Dear, IT IS  because of legal officers like you, who write and express their thoughts like you do, that people like me get hired, in the first place. Still, I find the need to thank you for your existence though, for without you, I wouldn’t have a job. You see, we work as a team. You draft your ideas, and I help you improve it. Our goal is to speed up the resolution of cases without compromising quality. Unfortunately, you do not see it that way, and that’s what makes it sad. That’s what makes us not accomplish our goals. And even if we do, we do so ineffectively and tediously.

———–

Then we see something like this signage from a school in Cagayan de Oro, which reads: “LOVE AFFAIR WILL SURELY DESTROY THE LIFE OF A YOUNG LADY STUDENT THEREFORE THIS INSTITUTION PROHIBIT INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A MALE AND FEMALE STUDENTS.”

Oh, where do I even begin? I understand the concern and the need to address such a pressing matter among the youth (pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancies), but based on the signage, I have doubts if this was a well-thought out policy to begin with.

More than the grammatical errors though, it is the underlying message that gets to me. What kind of message are you trying to send teenagers with “love affair will surely destroy the life of a young lady student.” I understand how poor choices can and may lead to failure, but destroy? How sure are you? And what right do you have to assume such consequence?

“This institution prohibit(s) intimate relationship(s) between (a) male and female students,” — does this mean students may engage in same sex relationships? I see no problem with that, in promoting equality, but please, re-think the wording of your school policy.

What’s most striking, for me though, is the last sentence of a news article that reads, “Last school year, six students were expelled from the school for violating the prohibition.” Again, I see the need to address such concern, but why must we stop these teenagers from finishing their studies despite and because of what has happened to them? If our role is to educate, nurture, and be the source of knowledge for the youth, then why are we suppressing them of their right to learn, grow, and make something of their lives? If the student, despite the ‘unfortunate’ circumstance of getting pregnant, or violating such prohibition, expresses the desire and willingness to finish his/her studies, why deny them of a chance or an opportunity to ‘correct a wrong’ or have a second try at life? Do we, as adults, actually have a right to deny them of such?

If we intend for the youth, or everyone for that matter, to appreciate the value of responsibility, then as policy makers, we should be the first to embody such trait. Clearly, even with well-meaning policies such as this, when constructed poorly and irresponsibly, it loses its purpose and significance.

Struggles

I’ve spent the last three weeks tolerating an unusually intolerable migraine and abnormally painful abdominal cramps.

For my migraine, I have four culprits: 1) I’ve been bitching about politics way too much — so, stress; 2) the extreme heat and lack of  proper ventilation at our office; 3) my eyes, considering it’s been a while since I’ve had them checked; and 4) my lovelife.

Okay, maybe just two culprits.

So yesterday, after weeks of pushing from my mom, I finally gave in and took a day off to visit first, our opthalmologist.

To make a long story short, I need new glasses, and I need to ‘clean’ my eyes with drops twice a day (and as needed) because my eyes, according to my doc, are too vein-y and get strained easily. I was told to read a little less, or at least, have breaks (A LOT) when reading. (Sidenote: I read and write for a living, so you can just imagine how ugly this would turn out.) Also, I have to observe my condition because if it doesn’t get better, then I would have to see a neurologist. ‘Need’ — that’s a lot of needs.

I’m kind of bummed about this since we’re already coping with something else — my parents’ conditions (heart/eye ailments and cancer), so I have to psyche myself and bravely declare, “I can’t be bothered of my own condition now.” 

To help cope with my (yet again) migraine, this afternoon I had my new glasses measured and made, bought the drops I need to clean my eyes, and got myself a mini-electric fan. I would like to believe that my recurring migraine is just caused by poor eyesight, the unbearable heat, and the lack of proper ventilation at our office. So far, so good — I have migraine, but at least, unlike in the previous weeks, I’m a bit more comfortable.

And that’s how we are, right? We cope; We fight — no matter the circumstance, we keep at it — and we keep smiling. We cope, fight, and smile until it hurts, and we fall.

Then we keep at it again.