Puppet | Opinion of the applicant
My Facebook feed is again saturated with photos of gowns, medals and diplomas. But, alas, it’s graduation season again – the season that never fails to remind me how much time has passed and how little has happened since I graduated there. three years old.
I still remember, with a clarity that makes me shake my head in regret, that I was filled with childlike enthusiasm after walking on stage at PICC. The sweet release of graduation and the momentary euphoria I felt from all the applause and congratulations I received that day sparked great excitement in me; I was excited for the next chapter of my life because, for the first time, I was finally free to do whatever I wanted. I had no idea that life after graduation would be more constraining than life in college, because freedom – the freedom to choose the path you want or the life you want to live, that is to say – turns out to be a privilege that only a few can enjoy.
After enduring four grueling years in college and nearly two decades of schooling, what I wanted to do after graduation was rest, nothing more, nothing less. I wanted to rest for a year, savor life on the job, and do nothing but a few leisure activities that had been on my to-do list for a long time. But fate was not with me, nor could I play God to bend it in my favor. My rest was supposed to end earlier than expected, because difficulties in the form of financial instabilities forced me to find a job two months after graduation.
Although I was able to rest, my short respite was not enough to prepare me for the storm of adulthood. Having financial responsibilities and a barely livable salary, while carving out a niche at work to achieve job security, is nothing short of an uphill battle for people like me in my early twenties. But since I have neither generational wealth nor divine ability to make it exist, I have no choice but to continue doing so indefinitely, whether I like it or not. So my coveted rest will have to wait.
The things I’ve learned after a year of pursuing career advancements while keeping my head above water are: 1) a graduate degree is the new undergraduate degree in the professional world, and 2) Having a minimum wage job is no longer enough for middle and lower class people to survive in this country.
To incorporate these learnings into my life, I decided to enroll in graduate school and juggle two jobs in order to keep up and survive in this difficult and unfair world we live in.
In addition to balancing my college studies and my two jobs, I also pay for my studies and continue to help lighten our financial burdens at home. With everything I’m doing now, I can say with great certainty that I’m tired, exhausted and barely holding on at this point. Every day is a battle, and I fight by dragging one foot in front of the other, languishing, never stopping. But like I said, I have no choice but to keep doing it.
I can’t help laughing now at the excitement I felt after walking on stage at the PICC three years ago, because my life today is nothing like what I envisioned when I graduated. The theme song “Friends” was right after all: no one told me life was going to be like this.
My innocent undergraduate self thought I would be free and in control of my own life now, but I never had control from the start. Instead, it’s been the other way around for a very long time: life has been controlling me. I’m just a simple puppet, with strings stuck to my limbs, constantly manipulated by the puppeteer that is life – and I can’t help it. Nothing.
Raissa Vincena B. Juada, 23, is a graduate student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a project assistant in an NGO and a research assistant in a department of UP Diliman.
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