On Fantines, railroads, and perished dreams

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This essay was published as the runner up of the recently concluded online essay writing contest, Imagining My Future,  hosted by Kendii, in partnership with The Immigrant Entrepreneur.  If you wish, you may check my essay at Kendii’s site, through this link: Imagining My Future.

Every morning, by the time sunlight shines and enters my eyes, I am constantly reminded of how exhausted I was the day before, while struggling over the pain cycling within my arms and my knees, as if I did a lengthy fitness routine for hours. Every time I ride the train leading to the university, thoughts of failing constantly reign over my head, while trying to recall the main points of the political and economic books I read over the past weekend.

But then, while I was contemplating about my academic fate and about my social responsibilities, my mp3 player began transmitting a popular jazz tone through my earphones. It was ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ of Les Miserables musical playing all over again; then I harassed the replay button and sang the famous song despite the noisy, torrid environment inside the train. Even if the other commuters were either merely observing or were already judging me, I did not halt my singing, because, for me, that moment was, but destined to release all my negative feelings.

When I pushed the magnetic ticket towards the tiny hole of the ticket gate and pursued a short, successful exit from a 10-minute worth of hell, I recalled Fantine in that particular scene — alone and depressed, wearing rugged clothes, starving and ailing — delivering powerful stanzas with her lungs out, as if that moment could be her last to decry all the curses the world had cost her.

Moreover, at that very moment, I pitied her fate and began rethinking about mine. I began thinking about what had brought me to acquiring great dreams and taking the railroad that is full of inevitable obstacles. This long road, soon, has led me to higher expectations as I conquer each level of serious challenges and eventually, to more paths of reality and uncertainty.

Years before my high school graduation, I cited a variety of careers I wished to make as effective ways to prosper, beginning from public health research or civil engineering to business administration and accountancy; but changes in the course of time also paved way for my advancement in other areas, such as mathematics and literature. I even wrote in our Class Prophecy, which was published at our school’s commencement exercises souvenir program, that I will be a Bangkok-based landscape photographer someday!

But sadly, annoyingly, and unfortunately, in the end, when I decided to choose UP Manila to be a political science major, my ‘dreams’  dashed away in a cold instant. All my desires to solve math and physics problems all my life abruptly perished; and when my first try for love failed, I gave up capturing photons and stopped turning them to high-quality masterpieces.

My first semester in UP flew by; and my only consolation for not landing over my preferred study track was the strong fact that I am studying in the country’s premier state university. The prestige kept me within the rooms of happiness, but when winds of second semester entered swiftly like a thief, I am not anymore satisfied with whatever I was studying. And as I spent sitting on the same wooden chair day by day, my desire to shift to another degree program —and even to transfer to another campus — bloomed, after which I tried to garner the grades necessary to fulfill my aim.

But little did I realize that my almost two years of stay in the university had been instrumental for me to visualize my future self and that the people around me had been supporting me for whatever I truly desire. My degree program and my university indeed had been my inspiration to spark change in the society I currently live in. I remember that sometimes, my friends ask me, “When will you be transferring to BS Math or BS Biology?” but I most of the time respond with only either a nod or a smile. Whenever I feel the hardships of life, I remember how the farmers of Hacienda Luisita fight for their rights to land ownership, despite the fear that has been haunting them for decades. Whenever I feel oppressed, I remember the Aeta children of Mabalacat, Pampanga, who welcomed our medical mission-team with open arms, without the thought that we might be just another line of oppressors, preparing to take everything that they have, including their identity. Whenever I feel sick due to the sickening environment inside and outside the campus, I remember the dying patients, whose voices are seldom heard, inside the Philippine General Hospital, and the ailing children and elderly, who travel distances to reach health centers or hospitals, residing at the country’s far-flung areas.

Thus, after several series of realizations, I became more determined to finish this undertaking. I began planning to enter medical school, to practice community medicine upon graduation, and to finally serve my fellowmen.

But, what if one day, I would be like Fantine whose dream never came true? What if everything would be just a dream – a dream never fulfilled? What if every challenge I encounter along the road would soon lead to my downfall?

Sometimes, I pray to God that I do not want to suffer the same fate Fantine had experienced. Perhaps, I may sometimes feel ostracized because of the career path I chose, but I know someone out there is willing to help me out whenever I ought to surrender. The tuition and other fees in medical school are probably high, but now, I am studying very hard to maintain the grade necessary to obtain a scholarship. The road towards my graduation and entrance to medical school may be tough, but I am determined to do my very best, because the true of state of our nation serves as a calling for me to serve the under-served and represent those who are often neglected by the government.

Perhaps, people around me may never be proud or contented for my choices that are divergent from theirs, but I hope that in the near or far future, all of our hearts will soon converge, like the railroads of a train terminal, in pursuit of a common, beneficial goal.

I hope that someday, Fantines can no longer be found on the streets and begging for alms and sympathy of the passers-by. I envision a world that is unified in curing the diseases of our society, in raising the discourse, and in building better relationships for all people, regardless of our countless differences.

 

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5 thoughts on “On Fantines, railroads, and perished dreams

  1. Your essay rings~ Thinking back on the days where I plowed through university, wondering whether the study course I took was really what I want. As days gone by, I realized nobody will give you answers, you just have to search for it yourself.

    Now here I am, studied engineering but now focusing on music. Recently I’ve also discovered my long lost passion of writing and blogging thus I’ve started a brand new blog on WordPress.

    No matter what path I took there’d be no regrets for it was the path I travelled that has shaped me into who I am today. There is always room for passion and chasing your dreams is one of the best things in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Before I formally respond to your comment, Yen, I want to express my deepest attitude for dropping by and having read this post.
      As a student, I can relate to your experiences. For instance, the degree program (or the course) that I decided to take is something that I do not really want or something that is never a field of my excellence (I am a Political Science major, but I am very inclined to life and physical sciences; in fact, I suck at social sciences. I took this course because this course offers scholarship grant[s]). Many people, including my parents and my maths mentor, have questioned me countless times for my decision and my chosen career path. Moreover, to compensate for my ‘failure’ to follow my heart, I decided to consider political science as my pre-med degree, and then after taking it, I will enter medical school (like what I said in my essay).
      Referring back to my essay, I hope that you and me will never be like Fantine, whose dreams were shattered.
      I believe that sometimes not following your heart for a certain reason shall never end your journey in fulfilling your dream. I believe in destiny; I believe that every time we breathe and stumble, we have a chance to rise again and learn from our mistakes.
      Yen, I am glad you found your long lost passion … and finally discovered yourself. 🙂

      Like

      • You are most welcomed!

        Sometimes life takes a detour and perhaps it was meant to be, perhaps you will discover a new passion in medical? There will be doubts, discordant voices along the detour but have faith in the decision you made.

        And yes I agree with you that not following your heart for a certain reason shall never end your journey in fulfilling your dream. That’s the beauty of keeping your dreams alive isn’t it?

        Discovering myself is a life long journey, previously I’ve discovered my love for music, now I’ve discovered my love for writing. I hope I can find a direction to combine all my passion into a uniquely me, thank you very much for inspiring! 🙂

        Like

  2. Brilliantly written. I hope you find what you’re meant to do, and enjoy doing it. Really. I feel like a ‘Really’ is required, as I’m not a fan of sentimental yet impersonal crap: I mean it.

    Once upon a time I did the college thing until it almost killed me, then I stagnated for a few years. Suddenly, everything started happening in my life and it spurred me to reignite my artistic urges. My ultimate dream is to build my geek and game inspired food blog Skill Up Skillet into a sort of career/lifestyle and design games with my better half. I’ve been at it for six months and it’s been a true labor of love.

    Cooking comes relatively easy, ideas almost as easily, but growing my audience has been the hardest thing. For one, I don’t like people. I’m not social, I don’t like going outside, I just. Don’t. Like. It. Writing posts is one thing as I’ve decided it’s easiest to be my usual geeky, sarcastic, foul-mouthed self. It works for me and makes for an enjoyable read. It’s the hardest thing to try to connect with others and gather followers on the other hand. I have to work at it. It’s a struggle. But it’s worth it and I’m trying.

    Part of ‘trying’ is posting and offering my two-cents in the Community Pool. Usually it’s hard. But today I saw your post and you found a way to be engaging. Your writing is fantastic, and hopefully in the next 5 years we’ll both be in a great place. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Leisel! First of all, I thank you for dropping your comment, both in my post and in this pool.
      I totally can relate to you! When I was starting this blog, I felt so hopeless because I thought before that no one would read my work. But I found ‘daily challenges’ everywhere in the Blogosphere, including the Daily Post’s “Daily Prompt”. As time went by, I found other bloggers who are like you — very passionate about food and cooking; and I realized that these bloggers do not only write essays/prose about foods (or upload their pictures and/or recipes), but also they try to incorporate other things as well such as writing poems about foods or communicating everyday with other bloggers for their opinion in a specific post. Yes, engaging with them is somehow tough (because I am indeed an introvert), but I realized that without these group of people, my stay in WordPress would be irrelevant.
      Like what you said, cooking maybe easy, but the passion and the style that you have — that is unique only to you. I do hope you stay that way, regardless of the number of your audience, because, as long as you stay true in your writing, a blogger once said, your audience will come to your site to read your post.
      I know I am not in the right position to say this, but I commend you for not giving up on this dream that you really want to fulfill, especially for yourself. For once, I did stupid things too, that I ended up in depression and in the destruction of my relationship with the people around, but in the end, I struggled to overcome those hindrances, and here I am now, trying to improve myself to become a better individual.
      Leisel, I hope our wishes will come true! I followed your blog, for I found your life story interesting. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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