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.