Smoking buses and school choices

Smoking Express Bus I was busily drafting a blog post on the bus when traffic ground to a slow crawl not even halfway through my usual sojourn into Manhattan.  When it finally eased up and it looked like we were well on our way again, the driver pulled up to the service road, stopped, and told us to get out of the bus.  The rear portion of the bus was spewing out smoke.. horrors!

We had to wait for another bus to pick us up and as luck would have it, I landed on the other side of town (East side), necessitating another ride to my side of Manhattan — one hour late.  My morning adventure of a commute has caused me to defer the post I had been drafting for another I had thought of writing last night, but I was too tired to sit with the laptop at the end of the day.

We often find ourselves aiming for something we don’t get, a goal we don’t achieve, and we are broken and discouraged as a result of it.  A case in point would be the young hopefuls who are eyeing schools/universities to enter this fall, or in the case of Manila, the opening of classes in June.  The big universities have already announced early acceptance, and in some instances, final results — and while some are victorious, many end up heartbroken.

The son of the executive I support right now had hoped to get early acceptance into a prestigious university in Chicago, but early acceptance had already come and gone and they did not get a notification.  While there is hope for the remaining slots still open, the young man was reportedly crushed.  Picture a teen ager with AP (advanced placement) credits, with no cultural or financial restrictions as to the university he can go to, now faced with a possible other choice which technically isn’t really at the bottom of the list — I’m talking about New York University.  (Dad can afford to send him to any school of choice that accepts him.)

It reminds me of my own experience with the nerves way back when — and how things worked out (or did not work out).  Looking back 30 years laters, it makes me understand the anxiety felt by these young people, and I can totally relate.

I had, of course, taken the entrance exam to the University of the Philippines,  with Diliman as the campus of choice because why would I want to go to UP Manila?  I also took the entrance exams at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) with bff Donna (where she eventually went.  I was kind of worried, though, why each part of the instruction was first read in English and then in Tagalog.)  In addition, I took entrance exams to Ateneo and Miriam, and my school of choice, De La Salle University.  My father had violent objections to De La Salle, being that it was located in Taft Avenue where the Light Rail Transit was then under construction and was to be under construction for a number of years.  (“The driver would get stuck in traffic  trying to get me and not be able to get the siblings who were still both in high school,” “It’s much too far,” etc., etc.,)  Obedient daughter that I was, despite having taken the entrance exam, I did not pursue my application to DLSU.

Miriam College interviewed and accepted me.  Ateneo took me in.  And when the UPCAT results came out, I was unfortunately not one of the lucky ones.  My father moved heaven and earth, though, with the help of a friend to help me appeal for admission to UP Manila — which was but a short jeepney ride away from my school of choice, DLSU.  I endured and survived the traffic and pollution of Taft Avenue through my college years — but my father got his wish.  His daughter went to UP.

Waiting for acceptance to a university is not easy, more so when you are moving from one phase of life (high school) to the next (college or university).  While shifting courses is an option when you don’t get accepted to the program of your choice, you still need to get into the university first to be able to maneuver your way to your dream.

My bigger disappointment was not having been able to go to DLSU — forget that UP said no initially.  But as it turns out, things have a way of working out despite what had appeared to me as my not getting into the dream school I had pictured myself going to.  My years in UP Manila turned out to be some of the best years of my life, both academically and personally.  I found myself liking it so much that I never even tried to transfer to Diliman.  I would visit DLSU, sometimes even trying to get in by flashing an ID which wasn’t mine to visit friends.  It was a world apart.  I felt it was where I belonged, but I wasn’t misplaced in UP.  Sure the facilities were a world apart, too, more so since there were no cracking marble staircases in DLSU and UP Manila’s windows were broken and in disrepair.  But I found many friends who accepted me the way I was and who moved in the same world I did, as well as friends from a totally different life, and to this day, I count them as my dearest friends.

I know things would have turned out differently had I landed in DLSU like I had wished so hard for.  And I know, too, that a lot of who I am today was because I spent my college years in UP Manila. 

When it was finally time to take the law entrance exams, I told myself it was UP, Ateneo or San Beda.  That was that.  I would be happy to go to any of the three.  If none of them took me in, then it wasn’t meant to be.  (I was a few years older and a quite a bit more wiser at this stage, so my expectations were more practical and less emotional.)

I found myself in the old HV De La Costa Campus of the Ateneo School of Law in Makati — and yes, that was that.

I won’t say that it doesn’t matter which school you find yourself in because it does.  (But that’s another blog post.)  But getting into your university of choice is not the be-all and end-all of life.  Life has taught me that it doesn’t hurt to go with the flow, or to be a little OC about it and have a plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D, etc.  There is much in life that we don’t know because it hasn’t happened yet.  There is only so much that we can control, too.  You do have the power to make the most of what you’re given, and that is what is expected of you.

One of my “bestest” bestfriends had landed in Ateneo Law but had left and taken a leave of absence on the verge of being booted out after his first year to concentrate on a job the needed a lot of brown-nosing.  He paid his dues.  He never went back to law school, but he now occupies a position of power and success many envy and covet.  He always wanted to be a lawyer, and I know that he never thought he would enjoy the success and power he now has — it hasn’t been without its challenges, but I take my hat off to him for taking things in stride and adapting to any situation that was thrown his way.  He was assigned to far-flung places in undesirable positions.  He did his best.  He waited it out. He performed.  That’s why he survived and succeeded.

Disappointments are a part of life and life gives us permission to feel the pain and sulk — but then we cannot let it rob us of our faith in ourselves.  We cannot let it take our self-confidence down.  Just as everyone tells us to move on from the heartaches of life — we must learn to overcome our disappointments and keep going.

So what if you didn’t get into your school of choice?  Perhaps it’s in the stars for you to go some place else where there isn’t that inordinate amount of flooding, or where biases are not as strong.  To paraphrase what some people say, God is not saying no to you — He is simply saying “Not yet” — or in this case, “Not there.”

When UP Law didn’t accept me, I didn’t even bother to appeal.  When I passed the Bar exams with a cursory review, I told myself that’s one passer that UP doesn’t have because they gave me to Ateneo. 

There will always be a lot of challenges, there will always be disappointments.  But let us not forget that there are also the joys of life — the blessings that come our way — that if we only bothered to stop and count, we will find we have two of the good for each of the bad. 

This morning, as I alighted from the second bus and finally found my way to the last bus stop that will take me to my side of Manhattan, I looked up. I saw the Chrysler Building, my favorite icon towering above me.  I have been at this spot many times before but was usually in a rush , so I have never taken a picture from this perspective.  I did and it made me smile.  I wouldn’t have been at this spot had things not gone totally awry on the way in.  I can look at it as a morning commute from hell, or a morning commute that didn’t quite go right but which was not a total loss if only because I got to take this shot.

Right below the Chrysler Building

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