It’s been over a week since my junior year of college officially ended. Third year is crucial in many ways. Not only does it increase the workload and the stress, it also increases the pressure. As early as third year we start making decisions that will affect our fourth year, and fourth year is more often than not our last year. It’s scary, that’s for sure. But like most scary and difficult things, it’s a minefield of silver lessons.
What follows is a list of things I’ve learned from my third year alone, and you will notice that they are simple–they are tiny things-to-do with gigantic impacts, and they are life’s little instructions that I have been ignoring time and time again. Perhaps it’s time I paid attention.
When I first moved to Manila for college, the change shook me and shocked me, so I clung to safe and comfortable places, things, people, feelings. It wasn’t until second year that I realized the fun of trying new things, and third year that I realized the necessity of it. Leaving my comfort zone allowed me to do some pretty spectacular things, such as meeting new people, volunteering for projects alone, and running for president of an org.
It’s a shame I didn’t do things like this sooner, because once I’m into them I realize they’re not so far away from my doorstep. In some ways, the excitement of the newness could be a comfort zone of its own kind. At the end of the day, all of my favorite stories were found outside of my bubble.
One of the things I love most about my school and my teachers is when they encourage us to think critically on our own. That’s why many teachers allocate a considerable portion of the grade to class participation: asking questions and discussing. I don’t participate a lot, because of eternal shyness and fear, but I have always been envious of people who do. Some of my personal favorite learnings in class came from my classmates’ contributions, rather than the teacher’s.
Sometimes I discover a strange amusement when a question comes up that none of us know the answer to, not even the person we expect to know everything. Because I find that the questions we ask (and don’t ask) say a lot about us and what we concern ourselves with.
Philosophy was one of my favorite subjects this year, because it was continually demanding that I look at things differently. Of course, it was pretty confusing for a while because it got me rethinking nearly everything in my life, which was dangerous. But it was also important because the way I looked at the world previously was starting to bring me down little by little.
Sometimes it isn’t about how differently I look at the world, but just the fact that I can look at the world differently that makes me feel better about it all. One of the most valuable things I picked up was that there is always a bigger context to everything. Thus the need to ask questions, to talk about it, and to look again from a different angle until we’ve built an almost complete picture. And then rinse and repeat.
There were some pretty awesome and rewarding things that happened to me this year, and I found out a causal pattern to all of them. Good things happen whenever I put in a little more. My favorite writing assignments were the ones I planned out and prepared for early and properly. My best oral exam was the one I took my time studying for. My funnest encounters with people were the ones when I swallowed my introvert tendencies and stayed a little longer. It’s all about the more, more, more.
O f course, there will always be times when the efforts don’t pay off. When you give so much and get back so little, but that’s a risk that’s always there. Not putting in the effort only turns the ‘possibly’ into a ‘definitely’. Trying again and again, and harder and harder, only raises the odds of happy outcomes.
The curse of holding on is something I struggle with. Not because I cling to everything, but because occasionally the opposite happens: I push things away. I am a bundle of inconsistencies that I myself have trouble understanding, and so I find that I am either holding on to everything or nothing, or both all at once. I am haunted by people I let go of or left behind, mistakes I can’t undo, chances I missed or messed up, a rolling list of errors that I add to every week. There are some things from years ago that I have not forgiven myself for. And maybe that’s a mistake in itself.
Part of growing up is learning when it’s time to let go. Part of loving is understanding that not everything you love is meant to be yours forever, and when your time is up it’s time to let go. Part of learning how to keep certain things is learning how to let other things go. And part of living is really, actually letting go when it’s time to. And I think it’s finally time to.
I have been piling up regrets since first year, and it hurts every time I remember that I can’t do it all over again. You only do college once so you have to do it right, and I think that’s the most bittersweet lesson I’ve learnt so far.