Yesterday I attended my very first class for the one and only class that I am enrolled in for this semester in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. This time, I am attending just one undergraduate class, in compliance of a prerequisite for me to study for a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature, Major in Literary Theory. I was admitted to the program just last October, and I have begun attending classes only yesterday, at the start of the second semester.
This would be my second Master's Degree, after my Master in Business Administration from the Ateneo many, many, many years ago.
CL was never my first choice as a major for my second Master's Degree. In 2002, I was admitted to the Master's Degree Program for Creative Writing, and it was an exhilarating journey for me. I was fresh out of the province, living with relatives in Quezon City, and still working for my freelance consultancies, and I was thrilled to finally be learning first-hand from the biggest names in Philippine Literature. These big names actually read the stories that I wrote for class, and told me what they thought about them, and I, in turn, can tell them what I think as well. Finally, they have become real people for me, writers who also struggle with the writing craft on a daily basis, like I do.
Still, that did not help to dissipate the star-struck feeling I always get when I interact with them, either in class, in writers' gatherings, in lectures and symposiums, at book launches, or elsewhere. In keeping with my brown-nosed method of formal study, I enrolled in each and every class being taught by my literary and academic idols, even classes that were not required of me and which I knew will not be credited. And those classes were difficult! And many of them got me only a grade of INC.
Nevertheless, I persevered in flying around aimlessly inside the College of Arts and Letters, only wanting to experience studying at the feet of the masters. Of course it will come as no surprise that the program eventually expired on me, on the tenth year, which was last year.
But of course I have vowed never to leave UP without a degree. So I pleaded with my Graduate School Coordinator, who fought for me as best she could, and I also pleaded with my Vice-Chancellor to grant me an extension, but I understand that they had to put their foot down at some point. They could not just keep students in there, un-graduated, forever. And like my coordinator and two-time professor told me, "It's not that we don't want you here. It's just not good parenting."
And so here I am, starting again. This time, I am on a strict study plan that spans only five very tight years. And I have a ghost theory for it, and I am very excited about it, and so are my enrollment advisers, and my professor for this class that I am taking this semester.
I, of course, am grateful for this second chance, knowing that I shall have to prove myself worthy of the slot this time. I shall have to work harder, submit better papers, have more focus, devote more time, get better grades, and come up with a final work that will surpass everyone's expectations of what a ghost theory is.
And I am grateful not just for this second chance, but for the many other second chances that I have been given in my life. I am not a perfect girl / daughter / employee / mother / wife / student / consultant / editor / writer, but through sheer grit and the conviction that I was born to write, write, write, I have more or less been able to redeem myself by doing the one and only thing I know how to do well: to write.
So I write down a plan, write down a definite schedule, write down tasks and duties, write down deadlines, write down what is expected of me, write down everything I need to do to make myself worthy of this generous second chance. And I write down my ideas, write down what is real and true and important, write down what I want to make true, write down my dreams and my desires and my future.
And in so doing, I also write away my fears, write away my sadness, write away my pain. Because that's the only way I know how to cope, to survive, to become better: by turning everything into words that I can actually hold in my hands and deal with.
I am a writer, and that's what I do. Finally, I have found the gumption to claim the title for myself.
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