That Graduation Feeling

I’ve been seeing lots of Facebook and Twitter updates from Ateneans who just graduated yesterday, March 25, 2011. Those who are about to graduate today have been posting statuses as well. Already a year out of school, I can’t help but look back at that day which not only marked the beginning of the end but also the end of the beginning.

Last 27 March 2009, I along with my blockmates obtained our Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree. While graduation that day meant truly the end of four years’ worth of college torture to most of our batch, it was not really the case for most of us in our block. Having enrolled in double-degree courses (BS Chem/BS MSE and BS Chem/BS ACS), we still have to go back for another year as full-fledged “super seniors.” Then again, it was still a day of celebration. We accomplished our respective theses, passed all core and major subjects, survived terror and legendary professors, and so on. Somehow, college seemed to have reached its culminating point already. Afterwards, the reality of another year being confined inside the four boring walls of a classroom comes to grips. This graduation is just a rehearsal to the real one coming next year. The skies seemed to be with us then, it gave us a downpour of tears. Come summer semester, it’s back to square one once again.

Fifth year crawled after two short weeks of pseudo-celebrations or whatnot. It was first manifested by the absence of our core subjects. Every class we had up to the second semester was all about materials science and nothing else (except actually for me and three other blockmates who took a Minor). Majority of our batchmates from other courses were not found within the confines of the school already, as most of them were already working or simply enjoying a good rest after years of schooling. The feeling of super-senioritis also starts to settle in. It’s a worse version of senioritis where one suddenly gets nostalgic most of the time prior to leaving school. Fifth years can’t just help but feel all left out and stuck at school while the rest are already earning money. Yet the feeling of impending unemployment also haunts. Anyway, it’s complicated. No, I am not referring to my current status haha.

Anyway, I attempted to make my final year as an undergraduate in the Ateneo meaningful, at least by some degree. I befriended most from Batch 2010 and blended well with them. I was active in the council and other activities beyond the scope of academics. I was more serious with waking up in the morning to get UAAP tickets. Not even Ondoy and the deaths of Cory and MJ were able to stop me then. Well, I may have given my academics and my second thesis injustice though. Then again, as Mark Twain puts it, I never let my schooling interfere with my education. There are simply lots of things I learned and unlearned outside the classroom.

Before I knew it, 26 March 2010 already came. This time it was for real. As a graduating super senior, one actually has a bragging right of wearing his fourth year cord (yellow for the hard sciences) under the fifth year one (orange for engineering). Then again as I did this during the Baccalaureate Mass, thoughts suddenly flashed before me.

There I was finally leaving the Ateneo. Two degrees and a minor in my belt, I was ready to go. Then asked myself, was I really ready to go? That time I was still torn between going to work already (I actually had this tempting offer from a big company but it was then not chemistry- nor materials-related) or pursuing grad school. Being a person who admittedly likes titles, I was actually considering working first then going to grad school after a year. Yet, I applied for Masters for first semester. Simply put, my brain was in a total chaos of decisions. I actually wanted to stay more to decide.

There was also this feeling of having a much lesser time with college friends anymore. No more excuses for me to randomly hang out with them after classes, to participate and to organize meetings in the council, and so on. A few months after, everyone will be pretty busy already. While they may say that real friendship will find a way to find everyone a free schedule, that technically does not work in the corporate world. Everyone’s moves are limited by “VLs” (and “SLs) and once they are drained, you’re doomed. Not everyone has the luxury of being already regularized at work, nor having a flexi-time schedule, nor the benefits of “working-from-home.” No more sem breaks. Then again, being stuck at school means I can’t work (unless I decide to be a working student but I never fancied that idea as an undergraduate). I was then 21 and it would be more than shameful for me to ask money from my parents when I must actually be independent.  The fear of a different world however pus me into extreme panic. How will other people “down from the hill” treat me? How will I treat them? Will me extroversion charms work? Simply put, my heart was in a complete rampage of emotions. I actually wanted to stay more to decide.

Leaving school would also mean no more plain and simple “good times.” I began reminiscing those times we laughed about this totally boring professor and we just ignored all his lectures by sleeping in class. There were also times when we would go on a drinking spree instead of doing a group project whose deadline is already nearing. And of course, the simple joys of just eating lunch with friends, going to org activities, and so on. Then again, I realized that life is not just about that. Life has its own share of ups and downs — the good times and the bad. Besides, if I won’t take my second diploma, I would’ve had an incomplete experience, my credentials would be lacking and no one would hire me. (Though since we already graduated BS Chemistry, this may have spelled a little differently. But nonetheless.) Yet I also began to think —what if actually do not want to get it for the meantime? Well of course, I would be facing my parents’ and relatives’ wrath. What I realized more is the reality of independence and the impending responsibilities of adulthood. How do I even start? With all those simple days already part of my memories, how do I move on? While I want more of them, I know I can’t stay more. Unless I move up, which I chose not to yet. Simply put, my soul was in a entire state of disbelief. I actually wanted to stay more to decide.

But 26 March 2010 ended. I got my second diploma and my Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering, Minor in Japanese Studies degree. A few months after I worked on a summer internship then proceeded on with reviewing for ChemBoards. I decided not to pursue graduate studies first to focus on my licensure and to increase my research experience as a chemist. I was employed as a researcher last July. In between the second half of May to the whole of June where I was in bum mode, I hanged out a lot with friends. I reconnected with people I haven’t been in touch with during those five busy years of undergraduate college. I became more serious with lining up for UAAP tickets. And this time, I was able to give gifts to my godchildren, which I can proudly say came from my own wallet.

I met lots of people along the way, learned new skills through my journey. And before I knew it, exactly a year has already passed.

That graduation feeling. Not really to be elaborated as some people will say, as one just spends most of the time seated for the entirety of the ceremonies. I beg to differ.

Graduation marks the beginning of the end where finally one opens a new chapter in life while another is closing. It commences all those four or five years’ worth of preparations for real life. Tapos na ang maliligayang araw […] Oras na para magsimula, as National artist Bencab Cabrera puts it. Likewise, graduation marks the end of the beginning where one begins to embrace the fearful reality of a more mature life. Moving on is actually the hardest part of commencement activities, as everyone has to deal with a new set of people and community right after. As one’s hopes begins to rise, it actually begins to die out. “I am officially unemployed!” actually is the best evidence for this — this has been the most frequently used FB status update last night.

Dati salot ka ng paaralan, ngayon salot ka na ng lipunan. Haha.

Graduation for me is a big-deal day. One of the highlights of a person’s life, same level as the day of his birth and the day of his marriage. It’s a sacrament — a commitment to live out life to the fullest and to continue chasing one’s dreams.

After exactly a year of my second graduation, I already have the answers of what I see myself in the remaining years of the decade. Come next semester, after at last getting a year’s worth of industry experience, I am ready to go back to the Ateneo to take MS Chemistry units. After another year more, I hope to fly to foreign lands to pursue for a doctorate. By thirty, I pray I have three letters attached to my name already.

Yeah, I see myself graduating again. Soon. 🙂

Moving on, one of the hardest things to do. But in realizing this impossibility (10% of me still hasn’t haha), one matures into a better person. The beginning of the end and the end of the beginning. For me, all I just want to say is for every graduate to follow his dreams. Run, bike, swim, fly — do anything and everything to chase them. Elusive as they may be at start, you’ll see that the journey along the way will be worth it. Don’t forget every lesson you learned at school as well. Keep all your new values and ideologies (Ateneans, Jesuit education is simply priceless). And in everything you do, always remember to call to God in times where you think you are heavily burdened. Lastly, don’t do anything stupid. Haha.

I would like to share this video I made for my STC Board 0910 as for out final meeting during our Transition-Evaluation seminar. Be it your habit to keep and treasure the memories you had at school. Those will fuel you up in the days to come.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150124177515372

Once again, congratulations, Batch 2011. Go on, take a leap, the world is yours for the taking.

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