What do you mean, Obama is coming to town today? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!
You know you’ve lived in Los Angeles long enough when you find this list both scary and funny.
— Mika, Live Your Life
I’m finally graduating!
Even at the risk of sounding too self- absorbed, I want to share this, because this is some kind of a big deal for me. Actually, this means so much more to me than just the degree.
Allow me to be a little bit candid.
Two years back, I gave up my life in Manila to pursue graduate studies and move to this big city where no one really knows me. This was going to be easy, I thought. Anonymity was my friend. It gave me that rare, independent and carefree spirit that wanted to explore and learn no matter what the cost. Nothing and no one can stop me.
I didn’t care that I had less friends and family, no help, no car, little money, and renting a place in a shared apartment. I looked at all the good things going for me and that made me carry on with so much excitement and motivation.
I liked the novelty of living in a new place, meeting new people, learning new things and taking new adventures.
But eventually, like everything, the novelty wears off. Strangers become all too familiar faces. Stars lose its luster in Hollywood, and to my dismay, the sun always sets in the Pacific Coast.
Los Angeles becomes just another big, bad, busy and boring city. Tough.
The longer I stay here, the more I realize it isn’t easy. Heck, living here has proved to be more challenging than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life! Waking up early every day to make ends meet and staying up late to make sure I finish everything I need for class the following day. Not to mention the in between dramas of life. It became a recurring cycle of struggle and exhaustion and telling myself “I can’t take this anymore”, and sometimes, I throw myself the “I want to go back home” pity party.
I can’t even count how many times I FaceTimed or Skyped my friends and family back home to tell them I’ve had enough and that I’ve already done more than what I’m capable of. Somehow, they encourage me to push harder and tell me that I’m stronger than I think. Easier said than done especially when life here keeps throwing me curveballs.
"Finish what you started, love. You can do it. You’re one of the strongest people I know." I’m not sure how much of that is true, but the constant flood of encouragement helped. Along with all their prayers, I somehow wake up everyday trying to prove to myself that I can do more than what I give myself credit for.
So I put my game face on and try to take it one day at a time. Come morning, I say a prayer, look in the mirror, and freshen up the face that was drenched in tears and washed down make up the night before. I bravely put on a smile, and somehow, I feel a little lighter.
I have so much to be thankful for. Gratitude and love keeps me going. Someone once told me that what I have here is nothing short of a miracle and that should count for something.
I am “perfectly” situated in the heart of Los Angeles where I live a street away from where I volunteer work and a few blocks away from school and church. Really, I don’t even need a car, although now I have been blessed with one. I have amazing new best friends all living within the neighborhood and sweet friends who pick me up and take me to wherever I have to be. I have family, a plane or train ride away, that would welcome me with love and home-cooked adobo and sinigang so my holidays are not so lonely. I am blessed enough to have parents that fly over often to visit, cheer me up, and lend me money when I run short. Somehow, I manage to pay for tuition, rent, groceries, bills, and even have extra for shopping and for the occasional stress-relieving cocktail.
When I really think about it, God has blessed me this much and it would have been a huge disservice to give all this up.
So as I graduate and very soon complete my master’s degree, I can’t help but be thankful for everything I was able to accomplish, but even more, for not giving up even when life got pretty rough.
The feeling of accomplishing something like this is pretty amazing! Like what they say, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth it.
I’m not sure what life would bring in the next months after I complete my degree, but I trust that the one who has blessed me with much is in control.
To everybody who pushed me hard and made my student life here in L.A. bearable and fun, thank you.
At last, WE DID IT!
“Between you and every goal that you wish to achieve, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the goal, the bigger the obstacles.Your decision to be, have and do something out of ordinary entails facing difficulties that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else.” - B. Tracy (shared by a mentor)
Finished the test too early and my next class won’t be for another two hours.
Just like that, another semester is halfway done.
I sit alone in an empty student lounge facing unoccupied couches and chairs while others go on with their classes and I patiently wait for my next one.
I don’t mind, really. I haven’t written in awhile.
In the silence of this lounge and with nothing else to do, I gather my thoughts in peace without thinking about laundry or dinner or other trivial concerns that take up most of my supposed free time.
I need to take a breather. I want to go on a long retreat, evaluate things, and reassess my life.
I keep reminding myself to take life one day at a time. Time flies so fast.
In a few weeks time, another school term is over. And before I know it, I will be donning a graduation cap that signifies the achievement of goals I set for myself over two years ago.
Two years went by that fast. Too fast. Two hours, then, is nothing.
So I do my best to cherish the lull, the inertia, the slow transition. No matter how mundane it may seem, I still cherish.
Pretty soon, I’m off to my next class.