This is a much-delayed response to a long e-mail I received from someone who strayed into my blogspace last April. I apologize for the delay but it was not exactly a question I could answer with a “yes” or a “no” and I had totally lost track of which account the e-mail originally was sent to. (Reminder to self on e-mail / contact info widget. And just for everyone else’s info, best e-mail to reach me at is email@example.com)
First of all, I want to thank “Concerned Citizen” (CC) for having taken the time to write the e-mail and share with me his dilemma and ask me for my two cents’ worth on the matter. I am humbled that you found me worthy of asking, and no, I don’t find it nerve-wracking — on the contrary, your asking me the question was a compliment to this blog’s very existence.
CC would have graduated or is about to graduate from a prestigious university in Manila and is asking me what I think his chances of going to law school are, and if it is prudent to give law school a try given that it is something that came to him only in very recent weeks. He gave me a good background on how he landed where he landed, and I must say I found myself “talking back” as if in conversation as I read his e-mail.
CC, for whatever it’s worth, please bear in mind my advice here is just that: MY advice. You have quite a good head on your shoulders, and I take my hat off to your parents for having raised you as they did. Trust your instincts.
We parents always want what’s best for our children, but you will have to pardon our tendency of sometimes making the mistake of living vicariously through you, our children.. They mean well by trying to imbibe in you that goal of becoming a doctor one day. We try to set lofty goals for our children, because we dream of a good life and a good future for them. We seek affirmation of our success as parents in the hope that they will become successful. We always want our children to apply themselves, and be the best of what they can be. You are fortunate that your father seems to have the flexibilty between the two most cherished titles parents wish for their children (Doctor or Attorney), so that means you have retained the prerogative to choose. So setting aside what your family may want for you, let’s focus on what YOU want for yourself now.
The pursuit of higher education is a daunting task. Whichever way you go, it will mean hard work and a different brand of perseverance and persistence that you will need to see you through. Your father’s dream of you having a title and for the two of you to have something to be proud of is neither trivial or selfish even if it appears to be on its face. In a sea of graduates that join the job market year on year, a four year college course is now the norm. Of course having DLSU on your resume gets you more than just a foot in the door, but you need more to get you up the ladder.
I think I can see what your father and the rest of your family sees in you, that is why they keep goading you on to pursue higher studies.
Do not give in to self-doubt. You say you don’t think you are as smart as they think you are — I believe you’re short-selling yourself in this respect. That you lost your fervor for studying in college is not indicative of how intelligent you are.
My choice early on was DLSU. My father, however. wanted his daughter in UP. I have written about this several times that even if he decried the hardships that the (then) construction of the LRT on Taft Avenue would cause, I ended up on the other side of Taft Avenue in UP Manila.
I saw my college years fly by as a time of seeing the world with the eyes of a grown up. While I started out taking copious notes and studying diligently, an English professor was telling me she knows I deserve a 1 but she couldn’t give that to me if I was never in class by my sophomore year. I was still pretty tame compared to most — I never smoked, and while I went out with friends who went drinking on most afternoons, they ordered me a coke for every round of beer. (This same group produced at least 4 lawyers besides myself, by the way.). I could have made the Dean’s list if I really put my heart and soul to it, but it just wasn’t in me. I had other things that kept me busy.
I was also hit by that “I’m not as smart as they think I am” early on when I sat in one of my classes with my freshman “blockmates”. I couldn’t help but wonder if I really belonged in that class with what seemed to be a motley crew of freshmen from different parts of the country — but despite appearances, accents and all that — I felt they were all smarter than me. It took me a while to realize I did belong, and what’s more, I could actually hold my own.
“Passion” and “Motivation” are two things that only you can find. If it is not where you are right now or in what you are doing, then you have to accept that and move on from there. You will only find those two if you continue to search for it. We can only cheer you on, but the motivation must be there in you, or there will be nothing that will move you one way or another.
From this point forward, I hope that you will think only of you. Let’s take the “family” equation out of the way. I kept hearing you go back to “what would make (your) family happy,” and while I think that’s a major part of the equation, I don’t think that’s what should weigh heavily on any decision you make about yourself. You appear to have done them proud and have been a good son up to this point. You will always be — even if you choose to be a rock star. Remember that no matter what you choose to be, and no matter how you end up in the future — whether you become a politician, an activist, a lawyer, a doctor — they will always be your family. Your future, however, is in your hands.
I know only too well the pressure that thinking about one’s future brings. No matter how independent-minded you are or want to be, there are always things that come into the picture, like people who depend on you or whose state of mind is intertwined with your course of action. You always try to do things in the now in preparation for a goal or a dream about tomorrow. But you have to keep in mind that it all devolves around YOU. You can only be good at something that you truly enjoy or love, no matter how you may be able to learn and pick up things in a snap. You can only be truly good at something you like and enjoy doing. That is why you should decide based on what you want. Do not be afraid to think about new ideas — so what if you just thought about pursuing a legal education in recent weeks? What I think you should focus on is, as you wrote: “When I thought of this option, unexpectedly, I felt quite relieved for some reason. I knew that somehow, my heart has found peace in the midst of all the anxieties I’m feeling because of the apprehensions the future bring me.” CC, I would read that aloud and I would listen to my voice.
And here’s another reminder: “.. I decided to shift out, with a conviction that I do not want to be a doctor. I realized that I didn’t want to become a doctor, it’s just my family pushing me to do something they want for me.” I copied that verbatim from your e-mail. I just realized on fourth reading that in one breath, you said it twice – “I do not/didn’t want to become a doctor.”
Okay, so that’s that.
I have always said you will never know until you try — you’ve already seen that the medical option wasn’t for you because you tried. I like that you can actually see that pursuing a law degree is not going to be easy, but you didn’t blink by thinking it was impossible. You actually see it as an easier path to success and stability later on in life.
So what do I think about you pursuing a law degree? I believe you have the smarts, the English (number 1 requirement!) and the proper frame of mind to go for it. You were able to relate your story to me in a very coherent and logical fashion. It was actually well-written, and I would have published it here in full but I felt that too many of the details would make you and your family easily identifiable by those who know you. If I were to base my answer on whether or not you had what it takes academically and intellectually, I’d say yes. But more than seeing that you have the skills and the brains to go for it, I think the fact that you have a very clear picture of what you want to do is yet another reason to give the law entrance exams a try. You’re just being held back by the notion that everyone wants you or expects you to be a doctor, and the thought that you only started thinking of law school recently kind of scares you. Don’t let it.
Dreams have no timeline. You can be a dreamer of many dreams. What does have a timeline is going for that dream. And no one says your dreams cannot change. Let’s say you take the entrance exam, you pass, you go to law school, and you eventually pass the Bar and become a lawyer. Then during your first year of practice, like me, you realize that litigation is not for you. You realize that you want to be a journalist. Or that you want to be a pastry chef.. or you want to be a travel writer. What’s there to stop you? Only you can really put a stop to any dream that crosses your mind.
I’d go for it. And if, after the exams.. or even after a year or two in law school you realize it’s not for you, go and dream another dream. Some people judge those who can’t seem to make up their minds about their pursuits as being whimsical or being irresponsible and living a life without direction, I say that perhaps they just have the guts to go after what hits their fancy at any given time. Not everyone is as brave.
You know what you want. I say go chase that dream and see where it takes you.
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