1/15/2018
The undeserving

Most people don't go to college with the express goal of getting Latin honors, but you keep it at the back of your head once you're made aware of just what it takes.

In my case, it's keeping your GPA at a particular level across all your terms as a student. I wasn't really aiming high. When I missed out on the Dean's List in my second term as a freshman, because algebra is such a formidable enemy, I was convinced I was out of the running for any Latin honor. I just did as well as I could, and considering my supposed reputation as a good student, I just, err, coasted along. I did well on some subjects, and did just fine on others. I remember the 2.0 I got for anthropology, despite it being a class I found myself particularly interested in. Same with photography, which, as an essential subject to getting my communications degree, was a class I should have really worked harder on. But then, I felt inferior compared to my classmates who were into photography for far longer than I pretended to be. I only took candid photos for social media, not portraits and landscapes for publication.

Still, I got a Latin honor. I wasn't surprised; one can't help but keep track of his GPA, especially since that statistic stares you in the face whenever you enroll. By the end of the eighth term, I knew I was in a comfortable enough position to graduate cum laude. (By then I already knew that missing out on the Dean's List that one term did nothing to affect my chances. It was a belief I held for two years, I think.) There were eighteen of us communication majors graduating on time. Some of them got honorable mentions, but I was the only one who got a Latin honor. Of course, I'd be giddy.

This was around ten years ago, within the final couple of weeks of what was our final term. We were finding out just where we stood, as always, outside the now former offices of the "comdep", the communication department.

"Ikaw, Niko, ano ka?"

"Cum laude."

"Cum laude ka? Siyempre, hindi ka kasi nag-Groyon o Sibayan."

Yes, I did try, try my best, to avoid the supposedly more difficult professors. It's what most students do. But then, I also knew that at some point I wouldn't be able to escape them. It just happened that I took my writing electives first - unsurprisingly - so I missed Groyon's video production classes, and when I finally took those classes up, he already went on sabbatical. Yes, I did not take Sibayan for photography or society class, although I did regret not being able to be in her classes, for she seemed like an interesting personality. Yes, I did not take Diaz for research class, but it's not like I'd never cross paths with her - she is the department chair, after all. And it's not as if I learned less things when I took INTRORE under Averion, or FOTOCAM under Saulo, or VIDPROD under Suguitan.

Still, that stuck with me. For ten years, almost ten years now, that stuck with me - that because I did not take the difficult teachers, I somehow do not deserve graduating with honors.

Not that it mattered anyway. It's a medal that you can brag about, sure, but right now there is more than enough distance from your graduation to this point for it to even matter. It's not about whether you graduated with honors, but about how you do your work, whether you're of value to people, you get the idea. If I haven't, I wouldn't be here. But sometimes - and more often these days, these past few weeks, months, couple of years - I feel that all this is a fluke, that I don't really deserve anything, because I, more or less, cheated the system and got lucky, the way everybody would, the way a few succeeded to do. Looking at my peers, figuring out how far they've gone in the world, I believe, more often than not, that she is right.

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