For me, the world has been composed mainly of 1) things I’m good at, 2) things I want to do, and 3) things my twin can do therefore I can’t.
Math and science, for example, fell into the third category until I went to university (we went to different universities) and got top marks in most of the math and science subjects. Among the things in the first category are writing and speaking, which also fall into the second.
The second category, however, is special all on its own. When there is something I want to do, there is very little that can knock me off its track except physical impossibility or downright rejection. Swimming, for example, is something I wanted to, want to, and will always want to do, despite the fact that I am more or less average in it. Not to mention the unexpectedly broad shoulders I ended up with. Another thing I wanted to do – and got to do – was to go to the University of Asia and the Pacific. Yet another thing I wanted to do – and got to do – was an internship at the Presidential Management Staff in the Office of the Undersecretary. In all that time, I never asked myself, “Will I be able to do this? Am I capable of doing this? Can I possibly manage this?” I just decided that I wanted it, and went for it. And by some miracle, I often got what I wanted.
In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden, Elisa’s mother states that it is neither healthy for a child to always get his own way nor to be always refused it. (That or it’s in one of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books – I forget). I seriously doubt that I always got my own way, but I seem to have lived as if I would not be refused it.
The thesis program in my university is a five-year program that gets you both a bachelors’ and a masters’ degree in five years. I’m finishing my sixth year – thesis set me back. That turn of events, I did not in the least expect. I fully recognize my own arrogance in thinking so, but it’s the truth. My record in the university speaks for itself: I was a Dean’s Lister for three straight years, and a President’s Lister the year after that. I was in the university on a full scholarship, with stipend and book allowance. By all accounts, I was overly blessed. But, to my thinking, I blew it in fifth and sixth year. I suddenly had to pay a residency fee (obviously not covered by scholarship), and that while my little sister was starting her freshman year – in other words, no extra as long as her tuition is ongoing. And all the while, as I struggled with my thesis (or cried over it, or kicked it, or refused to do it in a sulky fit), I never thought I couldn’t do it. (And there, my arrogance sits up again and waves a hand).
This morning, I withdrew my application for a job that I want but could not yet accept (if ever they offered it, of course). I feel like my family thinks it was a fit of cold feet. Well, to be absolutely frank, at first it definitely was. On 08 January, a day after the first round of interviews, I started panicking in a way that I never ever had before. My stomach was cold inside, my knees were weak, and I was shaking all over so badly that I couldn’t even cry. I felt like the world was falling apart around me, and all I could think was: I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.
Snap out of it, I told myself. So I wrote out my fears and terrors – my main way of expressing myself. I didn’t want to withdraw my application because I was afraid, and at the same time I refused to pursue the job if I was doing it just to fight the fear. Later, after thinking it over and talking it over with my family, I withdrew my application. And walked away from the office building trying not to cry. Not because I felt like a door had closed or anything that overtly romantic. I was crying from the sheer stress of having withdrawn the application, weird as that may sound. And now I am blogging about it to leech off even more of the stress.
It was only while I was planning the blog that I realized: this is the first time that I ever shrank from something – despite working it out later – because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it.