Some people say you either live a long and boring life or die young with a smile on your face; however, I like to think that life is more complex than that. While all of us may live through the same institutions and social constructs, real progress in life can only be determined by ourselves and how we view our worth and potential.
We hear stories of “wonderkids”– children who are either intellectually or artistically ahead of their time, or both. Then there are stories of children who perform poorly in elementary and high school but end up collecting awards in college. Moreover, there are the stories of people who have had to stop schooling in order to work and yet become successful nonetheless; and finally, who could forget about the stories of people who excelled in their line of work at age 40. The bottom line here is that all of us grow at our own pace that at the end of it all, we can look back and say: “This is my story.”
I experienced being out-of-school for five years because of a family crisis. During that time I was very active in our parish, as a choir member, evangelist and youth officer. We would go evangelize door to door and have outreach activities. The time I spent outside the academe with the marginalized and less fortunate was an eye-opener for me about life. After such time, I returned to college and found out that the curriculum I took before leaving was nearly completely different; this meant I had to take more subjects even if they credited the earlier ones. It was an unfortunate surprise to start from scratch, but I persevered.
By my third year in college, I was already 25, which according to some people, is typically the age where I should have already clocked in a few years as a professional (college students in my country typically graduate at the age of 20). The environment felt new and I had to re-adjust to my life, not as a professional, but as a student. Most of my classmates were three to five years my junior so for a while I felt old and out of place, but my yearning to graduate and complete my studies gave me a sense of purpose and direction.
I passed. I even pinned my name on the Dean’s List (thrice), made a ton of friends, and rediscovered myself in the process. I am now awaiting my graduation and am looking forward to what next will come my way. I am now 27 years old.
People often ask me if I regret hitting pause on my schooling for five years. I would say that had I not experienced what I went through, I would not have been the person I am today. Life isn’t one big race to the finish line. We all win, lose, and live at our own pace. As cliche’ as it sounds, I believe it truly is the journey of understanding yourself and realizing your potential to recover (and excel) that truly matters.
October 12, 2018
Written by John Chanchico, a volunteer at the WYA Asia Pacific office