Floating down the river

“So this is the feeling when you love what you’re studying.” – tweeted over @gelalicious, 21 hours ago

Fear is the mind killer, a quote from Frank Herberts’ Dune reads. For the longest time, fear was my teenage years’ main enemy: upon choosing a degree, I opted against my gut, listened to my dad’s insistence on practicality, caved into my self-inflicted insecurity as my sister was the star student, and followed her path with a science degree. I was into films (apparently, supposedly, but not totally) back then, coupled with daily diary passages since childhood. And although the professional writer in me says journal writing isn’t a formal or well-versed form, it was a clue into what my heart really wanted, along with my preference for stories, even when they were delivered artistically on-screen.

A part of me does love science; I do appreciate its razor cut precision. There’s no room for bullshit when it comes to a solution that takes me 30 minutes to an hour to finish (with intervention from my mother in between); there are points for “showing for your solution,” but that doesn’t even make it to the dean’s list. There is always one specific right answer; logic and no form of bola can let you win. I wish life’s successes were more determined with the specificity of science.

But it isn’t my first love–it has, will, and always will insist on being stories, whether truth or fiction. I did not play with mini-lab sets; I killed time making my Barbies act in prolonged episodes of a drama, which ended with Ken coming out. My favorite Christmas morning was when I woke up to a box of Roald Dahl novels. In college, I returned to words with the school paper, and in effect, in not only acted as a form of escape but also determined what I would do for the rest of my life.

In the last two months, I have officially returned to the study of language–of writing in particular–after two years of self-learning as a paid writer. You know how some success stories say what they learn from experience is worlds apart from their college education? It’s the opposite effect for my case. In the last two years of having by-lines or none despite the text posted, I never really had an actual mentor and a form of discipline to guide me through the writing notions. There have been three who have made comments and taught me things I’ve engraved in my mind for life, but it’s different when you’re constantly being fed and guided. I had to scramble, “make kapa” (excuse my conyo), and make sense out of bad writing according to what I knew and what I needed to know; I was an editor that knew and did adequate writing, but didn’t quite know what quality writing was actually based on, save for a few references. I read good writing and hoped to one day be just as impressive, yet there was no full consciousness of what my words and ideas’ authenticity were based on. In effect, I made a few mistakes I could have avoided along the way.

The academe has set my path straight, making me more conscious of how bad and how much more I have to work on. I never said I was a good writer in the first place, but in order to be legit about what I call myself, there are several mindsets, frameworks, theories, etc. to keep in mind as I practice. Studying has concretized what I practice and know, and is constantly feeding that long overdue knowledge. This much needed consciousness is refreshing and has fueled me to catch up on school work in spite of the exhaustion after a commute, a long day at the office, and that long journey from school to home.

Having interviewed several personalities who have found and established their passion, I once wondered how to acquire some of that on my own. I was partially envious, but mostly inspired to one day be brimming with the same fervent desire to keep on going and babbling about what I do. Then I applied for grad school, and now slowly but surely, that passion is building up. That passion flows me down a river headed to a daring leap to the waterfall; and as scary and daunting that jump sounds, it will eventually lead to a cool pool of calm. I’m still flowing on the stream, but I’m comforted by the steady feeling of direction. Back then, even in college, I was stranded in the middle of an ocean, wondering which island would show up to provide shelter. But the destiny of each land still carried uncertainty, as I did not know or even want what lay beyond a job at a laboratory, teaching high school chemistry, an online writing position, or having to hurdle through passing a board exam whose prestige I didn’t want need in the future.

I’ll probably have doubts about this journey I’m on in the future. A storm will come, flooding the river, setting me off my course. But a sense of purpose will hold on, because the stream can only go one way. And I hope to carry on no matter what comes.

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