BATANG MINDANAW: ‘Graduating na kaw?’

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 March) – Graduating na kaw? This seemingly simple question never fails to remind me of how much time has passed and how a tinge of regret runs through my blood. I am supposedly one of the millions of graduates of school year 2022–2023 who will march pretty soon and walk atop a stage with an “abot tenga” (ear to ear) smile—in my dreams. In reality, I am still just in my third year of college in a 4-year course for some reasons; all right, I am an irregular student. And what made me an irregular is that I was a transferee, a shiftee, a failure, I guess.

While most of my batchmates, the “soon-to-be graduates,” are graduating on time in the coming months, here I am saying “sana all.” I cannot help but feel this sharp pang of sadness that comes when I see things or posts related to graduation—the graduation pictorials, the graduation memes, the fees, the promos, the togas, you name it.

When I was a child, I was certain enough that I would make my family, more so my parents, proud of me by graduating college on time, especially since I am the youngest among five siblings, so I felt the motivation, or more likely the pressure, to really strive in my studies. When high school came, I was even more certain, knowing that my siblings were getting their diplomas and degrees as a sign that they had completed college. I vividly remember estimating the age at which I would graduate too: 21 or 22? But alas, I am turning 23 in September and felt like I only disappointed my younger self; how much more my family? And the people around me who think that I am graduating?

During my few years in college, I felt the existential predicament of being a disappointment to my family and possibly left behind as people my age were starting to reach towards a promising career. At certain points, they were nearing thesis writing and on-the-job training, while there I was, wrestling with a minor subject and hoping to pass it with a good grade. What’s more, they were sharing a meme about having one year remaining before they graduate, while there I was, thinking of my remaining two years (if all goes well) before I finally graduate.

Within those times, I began asking myself, “Why me?” Why me, who is a responsible student and has honors from elementary to high school? But I thought to myself that maybe things did not conspire the way I wanted them to, and instead it was just redirecting me to something greater, to something worth pursuing, perhaps. Still, I have to at least be happy that I am enrolled now and have built a new set of connections—friendships, right? Little did I know that my batchmates now, some 5–10 years older than me, some struggling working students, and some even have kids, but are able to manage time over the pressure just to climb the ladder of success to a means of graduating soon. 

These positive thoughts have led me to be internally driven and self-appreciative. Only then did I realize that comparing other people’s journeys to my own, such as those of my siblings and former classmates, was what increased my predicament the most. 

Now, going back to the question, “Graduating na kaw?” I wish it didn’t only remind me of how much time has passed, but most importantly, remind me that there’s nothing wrong with not graduating on time, regardless of the prevailing reasons.

After all, “graduating on time” is not the only basis for a person’s capacity for the so-called fragrant scent of “success,” right?

(Jhon Steven C. Espenido, 22, is from Surigao City. He is an AB English Language student at Surigao del Norte State University.)