Sunset and sunrise are both daily events. As the sun sets, the light fades; and as the dawn ends, the sun rises again – indeed, a great way to remind us that every day is an opportunity for us to create an unstoppable force to reveal what we are truly capable of.
Have you ever felt so eager to be in that moment when you can finally breathe in and out deeply and say, “I am right where I’m supposed to be”? Growing up, I didn’t take dreams lightly. I knew that working towards my goals would take courage and persistence; and that it is about making “now or never” choices. Achieving our goals will not be paved with gold but one must expect a rocky terrain along the way. But the best part is, I have learned that you have to make an outright refusal to some opportunities to get what’s really for you.
“Why didn’t you go to law school?” is a typical question I encounter which I usually just answer with a smile or come up with a simple reply such as, “I have other plans.” I took a major in Asian Studies as my undergrad in the pursuit of becoming a diplomat or contribute to a kind of work which impacts the society (such as policy and advocacy-making, both in my country and in the international setting). I then had my internship in the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines – Legal Division. Surrounded by lawyers who usually handle high profile cases, the call to become a lawyer intensely arisen. Often times, I reconsidered pursuing law school.
After graduation, I eventually became a public servant in my work as a Paralegal in the same field (human rights). People around me were very vocal in expressing their expectation for me to achieve that “Atty.” before my name. It was a tough time, I must say. In my heart, I knew attaining that four-letter title is not just about spending four years on the walls of a classroom but about my entire life after that. I felt like it will not direct me to where I really wanted to be. Although I was trying hard not to disappoint others, I stayed focused on what I’m passionate about.
This struggle was best captured by St. Thomas Aquinas’ idea of freedom for excellence: freedom is a matter of gradually acquiring the capacity to choose the good and to do what we choose with perfection. We all experience a situation wherein we are reminded of how powerful the concept of human freedom is. At the same time, this encourages us to uphold the truth, for the goodness and for the fulfillment of happiness. Being a lawyer is a stable career and if I just hold on to that idea, I would have pursued law school without hesitation. However, I believe choosing the path we take requires seeing beyond the comforts it portrays; and it is maximizing our capacity to choose what we believe will direct us to our continuous self-development. This leads me to just one question: “Is it worth it to live based on others’ dream for you?”
Well, definitely not. So here I am, saying “No” to law school with no possibility of revisiting the chance anymore. But this choice directed me to be with World Youth Alliance, coping up with the fast-paced life in New York, and surrounded with people from different cultures around the world who are committed as we work to impact policies that best represent the value of the human person through different avenues like the United Nations. I’m still a work in progress but choosing to be here – learning more about international relations, policy and advocacy making, while meeting many people with various nationalities – makes me maximize my potentials while being genuinely happy. Humans are indeed incredible beings, able to know what is good for them and once a decision has been made, we strive to do it with perfection.
If you would ask me, it was not easy and I felt terrified at first. But it actually gave me this sense of urgency to commit myself to what I really believe in. Looking back at all the big decisions that led me up to today, I realize that saying “No” does not always mean fear and lack of trust in oneself. It is recognizing that you have to be focused. We must be brave but also wise enough to choose our battles and accept that not all open doors we encounter are meant for us. And guess what, that makes our dream more special and rewarding to achieve. After all, decision-making goes hand in hand with virtue. If you believe you will find growth and meaning in something, look on the other side of fear. Pursue it and give yourself a wonderful pat on the shoulder.
Written by Graciela Ann Awkit, a current WYA Headquarters’ intern from the Philippines.