If I Were a Tricycle Driver

by Esther Suson

But I am not. I am a brilliant girl with a full merit scholarship – and stipend, and book allowance – at a prestigious university. I am a graduating graduate student, taking a masters in a course that takes more than one line to explain.

Opportunity, that’s what I have. Opportunity and fear. They go hand-in-hand, in my experience. Like a basketball in your hands in the last half-second of the fourth quarter with the scores tied, and all you need to do is to make that shot, that two-pointer, and your team will win the game. But in that split-second, when the ball is in your hand, it comes with two things. And either the opportunity is wasted and your fear realized, or you seize the opportunity, and your fear turns into elation.

Maybe, maybe that should would not have much bearing if it was a friendly neighborhood game on a street court. But imagine the very last game of the PBA season, and the ball in your hands, that last half-second of that last quarter.

Okay, maybe that case is rather extreme, if we would compare it to mine. But it sufficiently illustrates what I mean about opportunity and fear going hand in hand.

If I were a tricycle driver, I could give free rides to young people I see taking the long walk to the subdivision gatehouse.

But I am not. I am a masters student attempting to finish her thesis, and has not yet even defended her proposal. I am a girl with ideas upon ideas that I plague my friends and family with. I am that kid that when she opens her mouth, her friends roll their eyes because of her big words and the fact that she never wades into an issue – she dives headfirst and goes as deep as ever she can – missing the obvious, over-thinking, over-enjoying herself. By the way, I apologize for using the word ‘prestigious’. And ‘apologize’.

If I were a tricycle driver, maybe I would not feel like my ideas had to fall in with everyone else’s.

Of course, I doubt it. No matter what anyone’s job, from cook to driver to student to world leader, having ideas different from any other would be difficult, to say the extreme least. But if I were…well, myself, and a tricycle driver, maybe I would not feel burdened to align my ideas with my superiors’.

I’d probably start a revolution instead.

But enough about that. My point is, I have ideas in my head, and issues close to my heart, and yet I feel a constant, silent-and-not-so-silent pressure to keep them to myself. Given my ‘opportunity’, given all that I could ‘gain’, it would make much more sense for me to do so. If I were a tricycle driver, maybe I would be ‘insignificant enough’ to have my own ideas, and to own them freely. Who would care. No one would care. I would just be a member of the lower social class who does not know what I am talking about because I am not ‘learned enough’ and have not ‘experienced enough’. But the ideas would be freely acknowledged as mine.

If I were a tricycle driver, I could stay in line until twelve midnight because, even though I want to go home, I have a little daughter and I can’t think to let anyone else’s walk home that late at night.

But I am not. And as of the moment I am no earthly use to anyone, simply leeching off my parents’ and my school’s resources. No income, no job, no anything. Future prospects I like to think I have many. But I have to take that shot first.

If I were a tricycle driver, maybe I would have reached the point at which I realized that while the rest of what I see as the Philippines is moving on, our social class is stuck, maybe for good. And maybe I would have reached the point where I realized that I have power, by a smile, by a late night, by a free ride, to bless others. No earthly wealth, but all the earthly use in the world. I can bless others. I can make their lives easier. No ‘opportunity’. No fear, either. A heart to bless and the means to.

Look at me. Opportunity, fear, and absolute helplessness. I could stop here, you know. Accept my bachelor’s degree, find a job, settle for less.

I wasn’t wired that way. If I fail, if the ball fails to enter the hoop, it will not be because I tossed the ball at it thinking that it doesn’t matter, I’ll probably fail anyway.

Translation: I accept the opportunity, acknowledge the fear, and choose to win through without compromising myself. I have a head full of ideas. Fine. I acknowledge the need to refine them, to discipline them, to focus them. Very well, I will devote time and energy to that. There are certain non-mainstream issues very dear to my heart. Some would even call them ‘non-issues’. Non-issues my foot. I acknowledge the need to refine and organize my knowledge on these issues. I also acknowledge my need to restrain myself from blabbing to everyone about them, particularly those who cheerfully tell me they don’t care (thanks R, by the way – I much prefer being told that than being back-stabbed as the Girl Who NEVER Shuts Up About Things No One Else Cares About). Very well, I will devote time and energy to that.

What I will NOT do is betray my nature to seize that opportunity. If I lose this one, I will wait for one that does not require betrayal of myself. If it does not come, I will find what I may do to bless others, where I am and with my means.

Come to think of it, I can do that right now.

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