“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
Learning something new unhinges me and shakes me from my life of chosen stupor. I turn on the pressure tap. I push myself to ace everything, get the perfect score, impress the teacher, get the trophy/treat/high marks. I treat everything as one or all of these three things: Is it edible and pleasurable? Will that benefit me? Will that make myself proud?
For approximately eight weeks, I learned a new language as a requirement. Everyday, after work, I would attend class for four hours and 15 minutes. After that, I would reach my place at around 10pm, feed my cats, clean up their mess, cook their food, eat whatever unhealthy was available, do my homework, and talk to my Person. The next day, I would be tired and scared and stressed out. It was strange to feel in my head and see before me English words as part of my proofreading day job then attend a class after and face foreign words, different sentence configurations, new grammar rules.
I was a sponge, ready to absorb everything. I was participative, I made new friends despite my rough attitude, and I was getting good grades. But I was very, very tired, and part of what I prayed for when I say the rosary was for me not to get sick. Because I know, when I get sick, that it would not stop me. I was actually more concerned about being driven away by my classmates and my teacher who might be afraid to catch the flu from me if I had gotten sick.
Weeks leading up to the final exam were crazy. I was distraught, I abandoned my other friends. I dove deeper into my work and into my lessons. I needed to pass. It soon dawned on me that as with other parts of my life, I was seeing the final exam as a battle, a war. Everyday before leaving for work, I would read a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt (that one posted above as an epigraph). I wrote it on a piece of paper and tacked it right beside my main door. I was training myself to be more fearless, and when I want something this bad, I just have to get it.
April 17, 2015 was the exam. It had four parts. After the exam, I attended Cynthia Alexander’s gig at Whitespace. I needed to return to what made me essentially happy, and having Cynthia Alexander back here in the Philippines, in our birthday month, was a good sign. Please make a mental note that my birthday and Cynthia Alexander’s are only a few days apart. Die of envy, suckers.
The waiting time for the release of the results was agonizing. Days before the exam, I had decided to watch Parks and Recreation episodes. Amy Poehler, alongside Ilana Glazer, Patrick Starfish, Little Delirium, and The Joker, was my spirit animal. A warrior needs her animals as her co-warriors. I knew the decision to binge watch Parks and Recreation could prove disastrous. I always get distracted, my attention span is that of a fish’s, and every minute away from studying could be fatal. Yet, this series helped me keep my sanity. I was almost losing it, remembering random foreign words and scrambling inside my head for its gender and meaning. I was crying out loud for no reason, and every time I whooped out of joy (those moments were the following: Googling images of waffles and cakes, reserving VIP tickets for Cynthia Alexander’s Teatrino concert, looking at photos of cats and other animals), my colleague would ask, Is that your exam result? And I would feel deflated and become morose again.
What I wanted was either to get a very high grade or not to pass at all. There was no middle ground. There are no average performances for me.
I got the exam results on April 23, 2015. I was scrambling for the details in order for me to see my results online. I needed the receipt number, and my exam fee receipt was at home. My school administrative head broke the rules when she gave my receipt number over the phone. My classmates were messaging one another that they passed. That was it. The drumming sound in my head was growing louder. My heart was doing its own rituals. The war paint on my face felt heavy.
The results of my exam were awesome. I would have wanted to perfect the exam, but I guess that was not for me. My class was awesome, too, because everyone passed.
And now for my red carpet speech: To all my classmates, thank you for all the crazy and fun moments. Thank you for putting up with my mood swings and OC moments. To my teacher, you are awesome and admirable. To all the Über drivers who knew the way to my school, thank you for letting me take catnaps during the drive. To my office mates, thank you for not letting the ball drop when I passed the ball to you and thank you for saving my wonderful ass. To my siblings and to my mom, thank you for letting me disappear further and for letting me do it at my own pace and time and style. To Isa, Karyn, Sarah, Glenn, Alan, Philline, Jov, Beleny, Bianch, Nina, Gela, Anj, Mea, Sandra, Maan, and Bern, at one point or another, you helped anchor me and did favors that you never knew you were doing for me (mostly, I was leeching your positive energy for good vibes). To my Person, thank you for everything, for remaining patient while you were the target of my rage and stress, for calming me down, for seeing this through with me, for comparing me to a hurricane because hurricanes are powerful and amazeballs. To all musicians whose music became the OST of this experience, you rock as always. To my cats, I wished you were more useful, but oh well, this was asking for too much. To my neighbor who owns a very noisy and whiny dog, you fucking suck because you fucking don’t know how to fucking treat a dog right and if I fucking failed the fucking exam, I would have fucking made your life (not your dog’s) fucking hell because your dog’s barking is now part of my daily routine. And to my stepmom, wherever your soul is finding its peace, thank you for looking after me after all these years.