When I was a kid I’ve always kind of dreaded answering the question “what do you want t be when you grow up?” Every time a teacher asks me that question, I have to quickly think of a convincing answer. I remember telling them that I wanted to become an astronaut, a geologist, a lawyer, and some other grand careers that a child could think of. Looking back, I know there wasn’t a wrong answer to that question. You were just a child. You were not expected to give an excellent justification for your choice. The problem was I was not convinced by my own answer.
When I reached secondary school, not a thing was changed. I still didn’t know what I wanted. Quite ironically, I was on top of my class then, and I’ve always had a balanced brain. Yes, there I was, your typical A student with a lot of potential but didn’t know where he was going; something Tyra Banks would say in an episode of America’s Next Top Model; a good material for a reality show. But hey it was indeed reality! It was my reality. While I could practically qualify for any grade (or possibly talent) requirement of every course in every list, I really had no particular career in mind. My classmates would never know how much I admired them for giving their best in Mathematics because they wanted to become engineers, or English because they dream of jobs that have high requirements on communication skills, or even Art because that’s what they love and they would surely pursue Fine Arts.
My realization came a little late. No, one could actually argue that it came right on time but I just didn’t have the balls to follow it.
I wanted to write. I want to write.
I could really do a lot of things. My exam papers could quickly turn into answer keys once the teachers get to check them. My artworks were some of the bests in the batch. Why writing? Writers are not very marketable these days, especially in the Philippines!
I realized, that’s what I’ve always loved.
I started writing when I was eight. I used to write crude short stories on the remaining blank pages of used notebooks. I remember struggling a lot with my English since it’s not my first language; but I found the vernacular rather stiffly formal and should be reserved for Filipino classes. When I turned nine my teachers started to notice my talent in creative writing and expressing my opinion. When I reached fourth grade (I was ten) I became aware of what they loosely call a “press conference” which is actually a competition on student journalism. I was trained to become a sports writer; something I didn’t really enjoy for the trainer wanted our reports to be something really sensational like we were doing court side comments only in paper. Then on fifth grade they finally nominated me for editorial writing. Giving out opinion requires balls but I didn’t have to worry about it that much. I could say that you were bravest when you were young. Besides that was a lot better ’cause I got to express myself. But then a Science competition came and I was the best candidate. They pulled me out and had someone take over the editorial writing. It kind of hurt me but I shrugged it off. That was also the year I officially became the script writer for every classroom play. At sixth grade I was returned to sports writing. I was not surprised at all of only winning the district level. I was indifferent of any recognition I might get from it.
I left public primary school and attended a private secondary school where I joined the school paper. I didn’t write news. I wrote poems. The following school year I moved to another school where the Filipino teacher noticed my talent in essay writing even before we got to it in class. I remember her introducing the topic and mentioning my name when it was totally not called for. She trusted my work and I loved her for that. I won the only essay writing competition in Filipino week that school year. On my third year I moved again to another school. The school had a lot more competent students and I was at the point when I couldn’t care less about any title. But I guess I began getting a name when I won another time pressured Filipino essay writing competition beating all other contestants who were mostly senior students.
On my fourth year in secondary school, I already knew that I want to write and my Filipino teacher was very supportive. I remember getting the application form for admission to University of the Philippines and the first thing I did was browse the list for a course that has something to do with writing. There was journalism but it’s just not what I wanted. Then at the bottom of the list I saw “Sertipiko sa Malikhaing Pagsulat” (that’s Certificate in Creative Writing in Filipino) and I knew I could settle for it. But reality kicked in. Being poor and the only child who had a shot on getting the best education, needless to say the hope of the family, I had to choose wisely and forego the opportunity. Until now, nobody knew I almost cried about it. And right now I still want to cry about it.
When I took up Computer Science I was really borderline computer illiterate. The schools I’ve gone to didn’t offer a lot when it came to computers. But I was just a good student I guess. Come to think of it, I actually even aced quite a number of exams and requirements in Calculus, Humanities, and yes even Programming. But we know that college life was never easy for everybody. On my fourth year when I was losing my hope on graduating on time, I actually pondered turning my back on Computer Science and shifting to my one true love, writing. Imagine giving up on your possibly last year of college for your love of writing. That’s some inspirational story. That is if you turn up successful. I couldn’t risk it.
I still got to write things though and even earned recognition. I wrote two movie scripts. One of them which I wrote overnight was made into a film for the Science week. I was not pleased. There were a lot of deviations. But I got the award and for some that was all that mattered. The other one got better feedback from readers but was declined. As students we were not capable of filming something like it. Not that it required CGI and all but we just couldn’t do it.
I still write up to now. I somehow know my works will never get published but they give me satisfaction and sometimes it’s all that matters to me. Quite surprisingly, my mom who has always dreamt of grand careers for me now encourages me to write. Maybe she finally realized that my love for books and writing down my thoughts was not for a show. It is just me, her youngest most socially awkward child whom a lot of people jokingly regard as a misanthropist.
I once inquired about the demands of getting a certificate in Creative Writing in UP. I believe I still got a lot to improve on and I could really use formal training. But they don’t think it could work well with me working full time on weekdays. I also thought of writing for a second job but it requires experience. To add to that, I don’t think there are a lot of editors out there who will be willing to take you for your love of writing alone and train you to become a good writer. It’s your job, not your school.
Nevertheless I still write. And if someone’s still interested in asking me what I want to do when I grow older, I would say that I would love to write. There are things you just never grow out of. -aB