Friday, March 26, 2010

Graduates, Welcome to the Real World

(In which you’ll wish life is like school.)


Aside from being historically (in)famous for being the time of Caesar’s assassination, being a favorite time for accidental fires and possible arsons and an eternal brand for the Philippine scorching heat, the month of March is the most popular time to hear The Pomp and Circumstance Marches resonating around gymnasiums, multi-purpose halls and exclusive complexes as batches of graduates march to receive their hard-earned diplomas.

I remember all my four graduations and they’re seriously nothing fancy – physically and emotionally. I only cried once – in high school – and it’s not because I hate to leave but because everyone else is crying and hugging and crying some more and I wouldn’t want my parents to see that I have been unfriendly and uncaring for others. All the rest ended for me as soon as I got off the stage. I wasn’t filled with longing for the past; only anticipation and worry for the future. I hope my fifth graduation would be more than these.

Looking at my life now, I wondered why I didn’t cry during my graduation from the university. Even when I saw some people did. Not that I have to follow their lead but because I knew this is my most productive experience academic and friendship-wise so leaving was supposed to move me but it didn’t. I didn’t feel sadness but fatigue from walking in high heels and uneasiness because of the heavy bronze medal around my neck. I don’t remember taking the march seriously as though everything related to it won’t really matter after the recessional.

Just now I wished I had cried then – not in public. It would have been a good time to think of all my hardships and the others’ as well as to mourn in advance for the darkness outside school life. That could have been cathartic.

Two weeks after graduation, I got myself a job which I had to quit three months after and I found another job in a different company but my position bears the same job description. After almost two years, I found myself enjoying it. There isn’t too much competition. I can do my job and exist separately from my co-workers when I want to but still be near enough to feel their existence. I can do my thing – blog, draw, sleep, be sarcastic, intentionally miss class, be distant and have the time of my life. Everything’s actually fine if I didn’t have to deal with a stubborn foreigner boss, settle with the not-so-high salary and an impossible career growth. But of course, I may leave – I can leave. But I don’t want to and I won’t. At least not now.

Four years ago I had a chance to spend the longest three months of my life to experience a corporate employment where you’ll have to be trained to receive calls and profanities from Americans. Everything “mature” for an eighteen-year-old is there. You deal with an intimidating, menacing supervisor, blasé manager, inexperienced “veteran” co-workers who never got tired of pulling each other down and irate customers, of course.

That is only one of the many faces of the corporate world. I do not know whether it’s my youth that made me suck in that field. I have been used to hearing that I’m too young to battle in a business where sensitivity and sentimentality aren’t welcome. Maybe now I can do better. I think I’m smarter but I still bear the same sensitivity and vulnerability.

Now I want to establish the point which this post is all about anyway. Life outside school is a totally different dimension. You can’t fully understand the truth about it even after hearing an eyewitness’ or a survivor’s account all day. Comprehension requires experience.

Imagine Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix” in the scene where he briefs the terribly confused Neo regarding what The Matrix is all about. He shows him an image of a dark and eerie place through the flat screen monitor and uttered “Now, this, is the real world.” Got the idea?

In school, all you have to do to is to be a good student to make sure you’ll march at the right time. You only have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of your eccentric classmates and professors for at least a semester; the end of which signifies the end of all your semestral conflicts. In the workplace, you deal with the same things for more than a year if you endured. You subject yourself to difficult and demanding seniors who find pleasure in making your life hell and every day is a challenge to your patience and social skills – and sadly, your faith. If you’ve managed to survive school by being an individualist, you might want to undergo a personality and knowledge in human relations makeover to properly equip yourself for battle.

But if you’re braver than me, I really suggest you venture in a more professional, beneficial and therefore more challenging career but you need to learn to leave your mushy sensitivity at home. And when you think the pressure is too much to bear, the competition too tough to withstand and the people too difficult to ignore, make sure you have your psychiatrist on speed dial.

So, you’re graduating? Congratulations!