“Magna-Nine Years”: 4 Things I Learned From Graduating “In Time”

Six years ago, in 2010, I entered the University of the Philippines — the country’s national university, arguably the most prestigious educational institution in the country. I had gotten accepted, and at a triple-quota course, no less. I was an honor student from the province, made my mark in my pre-college years as a writer: I competed and won in national competitions, and I was editor-in-chief of my campus publication, among other writing-related activities I was pursuing.

It was terrifying, and a bit thrilling. I was also admitted into a program with the health sciences.

Don’t get me wrong, it broke my heart terribly of not being able to pursue my dream of pursuing a degree that had to do with communication or writing and possibly changing the world with the written word — but I just turned 16 at the time, and the sensible thing to do was to listen to my parents who were convinced that writing was not a sensible, let alone a sustainable career choice, and I — a Potter-loving teen who devoured the likes of Harper Lee and Jane Austen — was better off doing something that wasn’t well, part of the plan, to say the least.

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It was one heck of a learning experience, to say the least. It was during this turbulent time that I encountered my first failing grade (the first of more to come), and for the next two years I would teeter between the precarity of my academic standing in my various math and chemistry classes, and secret meetings with the on-campus psychologist once a week for “stress issues” after I had done not-so spectacularly at a mandatory psychological exam. It wasn’t until I was about to go into my third year of college that I finally got the courage to switch courses — never mind if it meant starting all over again. Never mind if it meant seeing my old friends move forward with their lives as they took on jobs or went on to medical school while I was still a “college girl”. Never mind if I felt the age gap widen with every class I took as the semesters went by.

Long story short — that was then, and this is now. I have learned so much in the past six years, and with the tassel (or in our case, the sablay) now on the left, here are some of the things I learned in school:

4. It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey.

There’s this old saying by Confucius that goes, “It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Staying longer in school does not make you less of a person, the same way that finishing earlier than others does not necessarily make you better. It is what it is — you either finished on time, or it took you a bit longer to graduate. While there are numerous advantages to graduating on time, including getting a headstart in “the real world”, it’s also important to consider the actual time spent while in college.

3. It builds your character, and makes you learn more about yourself.

Understandably, the feeling of success such as graduation can be fulfilling for anyone, but trust us when we say it’s much sweeter for someone who’s taken longer to get there. I know of some nineteen to twenty-year-olds who, after graduating, who still have no idea what they want to do, diploma in hand and all. The extra “down time” spent in school while others are figuring out how to “adult” makes you think harder about what you really want to do, as you feel that you can’t waste any more time still thinking about it after you graduate. There’s a certain feeling of restlessness us “late bloomers” experience at the moment of graduation, we just can’t wait to get started.

2. Failure does not define you.

In relation to character building, you learn to tune out more what other people are saying about you and know more about yourself, including knowing that one failure (or more) does not define who you are. As Nelson Mandela once said, “The greatest glory in living is never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

1. It’s about how you make use of your time.

LOOK Man Graduates College at 70!

There’s this line that Emily Ratajkowski’s character told Zac Efron in the movie “We Are Your Friends”: “It [school] can be [a waste of time]… if you’re doing something better with your time.” While I’m not suggesting that school is a waste of time, but staying longer in school doesn’t have to feel like a waste of your youth… it’s simply what you do with it and how you keep yourself motivated to learn, not just within the classroom. Join an org. Get a part-time job. Go out of your way to do what you really love to do. And that will make the wait worthwhile.

To those graduating this year, with awards or none, on time or not, I salute you. Go on and conquer the world.

Thoughts on this? Tag someone who you think can relate!

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