04 February 2017

The Need to Take Time Off Just to Grow Up


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Joining the school’s football team was definitely not among my plans that freshman year at DLSU. First and foremost, my Mom forbade me. We were by no means rich, she loved to remind me; and the reason she and Dad scrounged to be able to send me to DLSU was so I could get a good education, not waste my time playing football.

Then, there was the other matter of my not being confident enough to try even if my Mom not had categorically stated that I should not. I knew that I had become pretty skillful with the ball and certainly considered myself among the better players of my high school varsity team. But I didn’t know that I was good enough to play at college level nor was I prepared to find out.

That didn’t stop me from watching the varsity team train at lunch break whenever I could. In those days, training time was from twelve noon to two o’clock in the afternoon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If anything, watching convinced me that I was just not good enough. I would not discover until two years later that watching players from outside the field made them look better than they actually were.

Whenever I could and if the Green Archers were playing at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, I made it a point to watch them in the NCAA. They were a joy to watch, hardly surprising because they were in the middle of what would eventually become a seven-year championship streak and just about every player also played for the national team.

At the time, I was resigned to the notion that I would be no more than a fan. I had no clue that circumstance would force me in my junior year to finally decide to try out. It was going to be one of the best decisions of my life, even if trying to get into the football field was the least of my concerns.


The less said about the second semester of my freshman year at DLSU, the better. Algebra was replaced by Business Math, which would be no more interesting to me than the former was. The problem always was for me as far as numbers subjects were concerned was that I had absolutely no interest in learning, which naturally translated into an utter lack of effort on my part and subsequent poor grades.

It was the same story with Financial Accounting. The professor was reasonably better than the one we had for Accounting I in the first semester, which I barely passed. My problem was the same as with the Math subjects. The teaching of lessons was progressive, and because I did not learn the basics well, how could I keep on learning when the lessons were getting more complicated?

The turning point was this one time when I had to be absent from classes for almost an entire week after I came down with a bad case of influenza. I slept for the better part of three days, barely even able to get up to eat. My sister Rowena nursed me whenever she could, but she also had her own classes at the Philippine Women’s University to attend. There would be few moments in my life afterwards when I would be as ill as I was that week.

When I returned to school the following week, I quickly discovered that being away for a week in college was worlds away from the same thing happening in high school. The backlog, especially in Financial Accounting, was unbelievable. Even if a mere week had elapsed, the lessons were already way ahead of the last I attended. Moreover, there were worksheet assignments and practice sets that were given while I was away but which I nevertheless had to submit on top of new assignments that were being given. I felt so lost and didn’t quite know where to start.

In retrospect, I probably would have coped better had I been older. But I was just sixteen, lacking mental toughness and feeling quite overwhelmed by all the work I had to deal with so soon after coming back from illness. I started to miss classes first in Financial Accounting and Business Math and later even in other subjects as well.

I started to discover the movie houses and hang out with friends more instead of attending classes. My young life was starting to spiral out of control. The semester’s final examinations came and went, after which I was too scared to even collect my course cards. I had this heavy feeling in my gut that I had already exceeded the allowable number of units for failures.

When I went back home to Lipa for the summer vacation, I was too scared to tell my parents what had really happened and simply said when they asked about my grades that I had not collected my course cards yet. I did tell them that I was feeling sickly and wanted to take a year’s break from school. Surprisingly, neither of them raised any fuss, although I suspected that my Mom was secretly happy that she would get her farm slave back. In truth, I probably needed the year away from school if just to grow up.

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