One of Two Speeches That Didn’t Reach The Podium: From the Sidelines, the Final Draft
This was first written as a locked Facebook note on March 28, 2015, around the tail end of my first year as a teacher. I submitted a cleared-up version of it for The Philippine Star’s Campus Section’s ‘My Graduation Speech’ edition in 2017, where it was published on March 28 without a byline.
I finally marched for a post-graduate certificate on September 29, 2018. This is the latest and likely the last iteration of this unsaid speech.
You won’t find me in my batch’s yearbook, I didn’t march because while I passed all my subjects — it wasn’t enough to get the diploma to hang on my wall. It’s a weird technicality that probably comes with most private schools: you get a certificate of completion, but not the glory of having a place in the yearbook, donning on the robe, and getting up onstage to be recognized by everyone and their grandmothers that I finished at a top three school.
I often quip about how I spent more time with my school’s theater org or getting lost and bruised by life in college, but that’s the facebook-friendly part of it. To those who lived with and knew me in college, they knew that the last leg of my student life was far from easy. My Mom had come back nearly broke from Indonesia, she struggled with the bills, and I had to start working to ease the load off her. That plus my goldfish attention span and slacker tendencies… I am so not the poster child of my alma mater. I’m just thankful that Mom was never the type to go for ceremony, though I admit I played down my lack of diploma until I found employment with my first job (sorry Ma).
But it hardly means that those 4.5 years in school went to waste. I got to know a number of others who didn’t get to march, but went on to do good work, earn well, get their MAs and PHDs…some even become CEOs of huge corporations. Not all of us are Mark Zuckerberg, but in a developing country where life could be better for so many people out there, a decent well-earned life stands for SOMETHING.
But what I just said is the “facebook-friendly” part of why I didn’t march. What I left out are why I chose to make the most of it while I could. My Mom, my only parent, had returned from nearly several years of working abroad nearly penniless and depressed. She didn’t have even the energy to scold me for half the things I said I did earlier. At some point, I started to work when I could. I was Creative Writing major so I did an event script here, hosting there, or played random cartoon mascot for an event on a weekend.
These earned me a few thousand pesos that could keep me afloat, going to school, or cover for expenses here and there. It came to a point where I finally asked Mom, just a sem away from graduating, if I could drop out and start working.
That made my Mom snap. No, you had to finish, she told me. You HAVE to.
I did finish but by then, it wasn’t enough. I was some .50 grade points short of the required average to march. That was when the regret of those crazy first few years in college kicked in.
I ended up crying to the officer in charge of the Academic Affairs office at the time. Sir took a deep sigh and went, “It’s not the end of the world. I have seen teachers here who never marched, but they still made it as a faculty. They still published, they got work, they have families. You will be fine.”
I dried my eyes and left. I only had his word to go on when I finally started working — not just gigs, but actual 9–5 jobs.
I very soon found out that every one of us, whether we graduated or not, step into that “rat race”: finding a job, keeping a job, changing jobs, and so on. Those who marched and graduated may have their foot in the door first, especially with a top 10 company, but at the end of the day we work the same hours and put out the same energy to keep any job that comes our way.
After graduation is the time for real work. It’s time to work, work hard, and hopefully make dreams come true without stepping over people to get there.
The Academic Affairs Officer was right, by the way. In an ironic twist, I ended up taking up post-graduate studies in education after realizing that I wasn’t a great fit for the corporate life (but that’s another story).
I was called back to teach at my alma mater in 2015, and marched on September 29, 2018 for a post-graduate certificate degree in Language and Literacy Education.
To be continued.