To my beloved ones: If I had chosen to stay in law school, I would not be here doing the most important things in the world. Like lying flat on my belly and looking up at the ceiling while dialing the numbers of my friends and lost loves. Or memorizing my Kanji and Hiragana. Or “googling” for scholarships abroad. Wondering what Warren Buffet’s Cherry Coke tastes like. Trying to recount all my significant and memorable days and then feeling sorry for myself after knowing that I only have a few memorable events to recall. Knowing that, at least compared to the others, I am more blessed—never made it easy. Trying to fool myself I am great. Deleting the memories of courtrooms, case digests, case recitations, exams, articles, statutes, and ordinances from my brain and digging deep into my heart for that feeling of integrity and honor I used to have for myself. Playing with my shadow and the shadows of my study lamp, law books piled on top of my study table littered with post-its. Languidly staring at my reflection through the mirror. Wanting to feel remorse for the people I had hurt or hated. Examining the consequences of my choices and finding my way out through literature—I am now, in fact, beginning to read about elves and the geisha. Part of my brain is saying something is missing. There is something I had failed to understand. Is the time to reason all I have now left? Has my time to go back and analyze that missing something passed me by?
Behind shut eyelids, I roam around to visit my past. I say past because although this world and its parts still exist, I am alien to it now. A past does not have to be gone to give me the ability to leave it behind. A past can still exist in the present. Just like an ex-boyfriend who happens to be a neighbor, officemate, or classmate. He is a past person now and he still exists in the present, but his presence is equivalent to that of a historical artifact. It is good to discard or burn archives, as it is good to burn bridges so that moving on will be easy, but I prefer not to totally ditch mine for the sake of wisdom.
Every time I watch myself (as if in a movie) time-warped to my law school years, I see myself visiting the clean and well-lighted library. This is my favorite place in the campus. It has the accurate mixture of the sunlight and smell of freshly delivered newspapers to create an aroma perfect for memorizing, reading, and napping for twenty minutes behind the piled volumes of law books. I pass by the gazebo where most law students stay to chat, compare notes, discreetly smoke, and exchange sighs, nays, and angsts against the grading system, the lawyer-teacher’s method of teaching, and the horrific results of exams. I pass by coffee shops where they sip or gulp their latte or espresso straight to their neurons, enough to keep them up for a dusk-till-dawn session of brain beating, warping, and frying. It is this place where they can smoke with dignified facial expressions and gestures. Smoking paired with coffee and endless debates about the correct interpretation of the constitution are the symbols of the thinking class of the society—the bravado of typical law students. The coffee shop is like an extension, annex or branch of the gazebo for their unfinished pity-party, banters, and blabbers of all sorts of profanity aimed against the “favorite” lawyer-teacher. Secrets are revealed here, the undertones of a teacher’s strict façade, the stories behind the tears and wails in the comfort room, the secret codes for pleasing teachers and passing subjects, the hidden customs and traditions of fraternities and sororities, and the list of teachers to be feared and respected not because they are better compared to those unlisted but because their high-profile, high maintenance personae demand it so. I pass by cafeterias-turned-beer house for male and female law students alike. They linger in that dim-lit place to booze their agonies away. There they spit out their vicious plans of getting back at the teacher who failed them and also vomiting questions about their fate in law school and the law profession. The thought of it all now makes me sob out loud. It happens I got tired of being a law student.
I did not get tired of studying, though. Actually, there are two parts in a law student’s life: the first is the life as a law student in general—which picture I have already painted above, and the second part is the studying hard. The studying hard part did not torture me. I enjoyed every moment of reading and memorizing, making case digests, highlighting with Stabilo Boss some concepts and lexicons, creating acronyms for my memory aid, typing and writing my own reviewers and nervously anticipating and preparing for an upcoming exam, sleeping as I lay my head on the flattened middle page of a book and waking up to continue where I have stopped reading—it is all coming back to me now, waking up in the middle of a dream and realizing my dream was about what I have been reading all day, and watching a movie and feeling guilty afterwards for wasting time ( I should have read and consumed the coverage for the exam next next month if I did not succumb to the lures of cinemaparadiso). I enjoyed my study life and it did not kill me that I had to ignore my barkada’s persuasion to join them in their parties. It was no sacrifice on my part that I had to forget about my best friend’s birthday.
But I learned that studying hard is not the only key to excel in law school. You have to be keen and alert when taking exams. This was what I lacked—which was why there were times I failed my exams. I so easily got flustered and lost my presence of mind in the middle of a panic-stricken moment. I relied so much on what I had only studied and failed to give practical answers to the legal problem in the exam. Sometimes it helps to use common sense in answering law exams especially when you really have no idea of what the problem is all about—most of my friends who had already passed the bar exam said that. In my case, when I stumble upon a question on a topic I had never studied before, I would squirm inside and lose control. That was my problem. I have now learned my lesson too late, too well. But there are those who have mastered the art of cheating at all cost and in any way. That is a closed book for me. I am resolute not to indulge in that trickery. Of course, there are those who are really that good, which is why most of them are already in the legal practice now.
I really love Law as a subject. I still read a law book or two up to now. Still, I can discuss and give my straight-from-the-law-book opinion about a friend’s or a friend of a friend’s problem on marriage and money claims. I can still recite my favorite articles in the Bill of Rights and Civil Code. I can still enumerate the elements of murder. Indeed, it is obvious I am not yet closing my doors to law school. I might still come back. Who knows? I believe in the “SAY NO TO NO” campaign of Shell. I believe in Possibilities.
But, I have a different goal now. I want to live and breathe. I want to be outside of the box. I want to think wild and free—to close my eyes and open my mind. I read this ad by Shell that says: “Isn’t it high time someone got negative about negativity? Yes, it is. Look around. The world is full of things that, according to nay-sayers, should never have happened. Impossible. Impractical. No. And yet, yes. Yes, continents have been found. Yes, men have played golf on the moon…What does it take to turn no into yes? Curiosity. An open-mind. A willingness to take risks…” A willingness to take risks—this is my passion now.
At twelve, I dreamed to be a lawyer. At fourteen, I dreamed to work for UNICEF. At twenty, I entered law school. At twenty-seven, I quit to pursue creative writing.
My passion for creative writing only came when I met my professors in UP who really inspired me with the way they write. After I decided to love writing, literature, and to immerse myself in poetry, I began to enjoy B.A.English (major in Creative Writing) as my undergraduate course. By the way I just took this course because back then at UP Mindanao there were only a few choices for a student of limited abilities like me to choose from. I also chose B.A.E. because I thought that was the best preparatory course for Law.
Now that I have decided to be a “wannabe” writer, I know I am doomed. I am too ambitious to have this kind of dream and to assuming that this is my calling. I am saying this because writing is more than just a calling or dream or passion. It is a craft. I have to work hard, write every day, read many books, and master the language. I know some writers who are really good. They are witty and smart because they are the modern Rizals of our country—learned and sensitive to the ironies of life. You talk to them and they seem to know everything. But underneath their brilliance is their humility, which shines through because they do not sound too all knowing and arrogant. They still want to learn fresh things even from the humblest balut vendor.
My problem right now is you, my beloved ones, because you think I really quit and I am the greatest quitter you know. It is hard for me to reason out otherwise. For what would you call a person who quit law school when she has only three more subjects left to complete the academic requirements and graduate? Crazy, isn’t it? Maybe, or truly, I am a crazy person. Things will be said about it—“What a waste of time, effort and money!” “Do you know you just gave up your six years of toiling?” “You just scrapped the chance to become one of the most prestigious professionals on this planet!” “You will be more respected if you are a lawyer rather than if you are just a layman!” “You are crazy! Just transfer to another school, somewhere easier, that will allow you to graduate as soon as possible.” Blah-blah-blah.
I may be crazy but I am not a quitter. I did not quit when I failed my subjects for how many times. I still pushed myself to go on with my childhood dream. I only decided not to enroll after I talked to my teacher in Civil Law Review (fourth year) to beg her to make my 74.3 to a 75. I regret that I did that. I did not see honor there. Instead, I saw rats crawling all over my body—that even their stinking odor did not annoy me was the most disturbing of all. My morale was torn into bits and thrown into the bottomless abyss. Begging for my grade damaged me almost irretrievably and downgraded my self-esteem to the level of scoundrels. I was tormented by all forces of compunctions.
Why did I have to compromise? Just so I will be a lawyer and allow myself to live in a cave of untruth for years? I will make-believe I am one of the privileged citizens because I am practicing a noble profession without turning my head to the reality that I bargained my principles for a passing grade. Even transferring to another school is a compromise. It is the same as quitting because I know in my heart I did not finish it strong with my previous law school. I was not able to hurdle the difficulties that was why I transferred. When I know what is real, it is just hard to go on and pretend I am innocent. It is difficult to live in a cave.
So my beloved ones, I am sorry for all the pain I have caused you because of my decision. I am sorry. If there is a pebble in my shoe, it could only be the guilt I feel for disappointing you.