What School Taught Me About The World And My True Self
In my late twenties, I look back at my schooling years fondly, feeling lucky for the wealth of fun memories I have, most of which, I have to say, have nothing to do with the actual studying. So if you’re a parent looking for an article online that would justify your beliefs about pressuring your kid to study and not have a life out of it, then this isn’t for you.
Otherwise, allow me to indulge you in all the great events that have happened to me from my gingham-uniformed days, to my nun-run high school, and finally, entering college in flip-flops (eeep!) without knowing any better.
So many of the elders say that school is so unlike the real world, but my trip down memory lane has only made me see tidbits of clues as to what the world beyond our classrooms is actually like, and consequently, uncovered so many truths about myself as an individual.
Here are five stories to explain why. Also, I would appreciate it if you pick a favorite and tell me why in the comments section:
SCHOOL INCIDENT #1: I THREW WET TISSUE PAPER ON THE BATHROOM CEILING
In seventh grade I had so much fun exploring and experimenting, not with my gender and identity (yet), but with scrunching up tissue paper, soaking it in water, and throwing it up the ceiling until it stuck. And while I’m so tempted to say “try it!” and that I highly recommend it, I won’t.
It was supposed to be a harmless thing, I mean what can tissue paper on a ceiling do, right? But apparently, one of the teachers used the students’ restroom to brush her teeth, and unfortunately feel victim to one of my weapons. The wet tissue chose that very moment to dry up and fall… on the teacher’s head. Oops.
I was called to the office and asked why I did it. My twelve-year-old self said, “Because it’s fun”, and then I was amazed at how honest I was. Young and not at all jaded with life, I did believe that the truth will set me free. I was asked who else I was with and I simply told the teacher that I don’t plan to name anyone because I’m not the type to betray my friends.
Real-life analysis: That being brutally frank and honest is, contrary to popular belief, an easy way out. Owning up to what you’ve done, good or bad, makes life easier for you and the other party. I could’ve said I was trying to hit a lizard on the ceiling, but decided against it. While the truth can come as a shock or may be difficult to accept at first, it will do you good in the long run.
As for my situation, I appreciate that the teacher accepted my answer and did not press on the issue any further. She respected my reasons and probably even tried throwing wet tissue paper up the ceiling herself.
SCHOOL INCIDENT #2: I IMPERSONATED A LOT
My friends and I were fans of Bubble Gang, did a lot of skits and spoofs, and would even write our own “songs”, which could be about anything, from a lizard to a grandfather. We had a band and called ourselves "The Feelers" because feeling was such a trendy word back then and we used it a lot in our daily conversations.
In school plays, I loved playing the male roles (since we were all girls) because I thought playing a female character was too boring. I had a blast impersonating Cory Aquino, armed with a lively, curly, brunette wig; and thought I well spoofing GMA’s monotonous I Am Sorry.
But in real life I hardly ever speak as much. I don’t really say anything until it’s my turn or when I’m asked. While I find myself enthusiastically sharing my thoughts at times, I’m not exactly one you would call “loud”.
Real-life analysis: That for some of us, we need our art or creativity as a mask to face the world. They say fashion is social armor, and I believe that, too. In the every day that I publish my stories, I feel vulnerable to the world, but I choose to show my art as a way of introducing myself to people and for that to be the starting point of conversations.
SCHOOL INCIDENT #3: I PLAYED PRO PATINTERO
In grade school, I got failing marks in Spanish class and was asked to take remedial classes. As a result, I lost time playing patintero with my friends in the afternoon. And back then, patintero was my life. I went as far as stubbing my toe numb (to the point that my toenail fell off, ew!) and still kept on playing. In short, Kim Bok Joo is to weightlifting as Tita Pacita is to patintero.
Soon my playmates grew up and matured and left the playing field, but I secretly still wanted to play. I moved to a high school where there was an intramural sports event for Filipino games, and patintero was part of it. I was ecstatic beyond belief and, of course, joined the team. We won the championship, and today, I still claim to be an award-winning patintero player. If you're curious, my position is patotot. Thank you for asking.
Real-life analysis: Never give up on your dreams. I am also still hoping for an international patintero-playing leg! Putting that out here so you may message me for leads.
SCHOOL INCIDENT #4: I DREW A TSINELAS AS A SYMBOL OF MYSELF
I will forever be thankful for my elementary years for making pa-uso IW (or individual work), which is basically a manifestation of the school’s advocacy for its students to not take home school work, but enjoy the time to spend with family and other more meaningful endeavor instead. The students, however, would sneak in IW cards to finish at home, and I believe it was only because we had too much creative energy to put in our work and we needed more time.
We had one IW where we were supposed to draw a symbol that represents ourselves and I drew a pair of slippers (the tsinelas type, by the way, not glass slippers, not fur slippers, not hotel slippers) because I wanted to talk about its unassuming, multi-purpose nature. Slippers are for protecting your feet, at home or at the beach, but it can be used to kill cockroaches, too, right? I thought I was the same. People have preconceived notions of me or judgement of what I can do, but they never really know my full potential.
But the teacher probably misinterpreted my intentions. She must have thought I wasn’t taking the task seriously, and asked me to re-do my work. Slightly annoyed, I drew a generic star and put in a generic explanation to match. It was approved.
Real-life analysis: There can be many readings into this situation, but I personally would like to take it as a case with individuals having different perspectives. I cannot expect the teacher to understand me, or "get" me, in the same way that I don’t expect every single person in the world to appreciate my writing or laugh at my jokes.
Another is choosing my battles. I remember back then I was too concerned with other things to care anymore so I just did what I was told and got a good grade for it. In the corporate world, I realized that sometimes it works that way, too. Even when you have shining, bright ideas, sometimes, it’s better to just keep quiet and do as management suggests.
SCHOOL INCIDENT #5: I ALWAYS GOT HIGAD RASH
I hold a record of always being a victim of monsoon caterpillars, from elementary, to high school, and even up to collage. Congratulations to me! The first time, I was just passing by the outdoor path under the trees, and at that very moment the wind (together with higad hair follicles) blew and the higad hair follicle landed on my innocent, then-chubby cheeks.
The second incident was due to playing volleyball on the school lawn. The ball landed on one of the bushes where there was a higad. And the last (so far) was on the outdoor benches, under the huge trees of the school’s zen garden. Again, the wind blew and a higad fell on me. Bless me.
Real-life analysis: That I am sensitive to stimuli. When it’s intensely hot outside, I’m intensely happy. The sudden drop in temperature makes me weak, and sometimes, sick. I go crazy over the smell of anything roasting, whether it's coffee or chicken. I get excited at the sight of an ice-cold glass of Coke. I enjoy human warmth.
Instead of fighting these external stimuli, I have decided to just embrace my sensitivity to it and enjoy every minute of it. Yes, including the higad rashes. I believe it’s all nature’s doing, anyway, and this is how I was created.
Tell me your crazy school stories, too!
Photo by Arvin Bautista, who also happens to be a friend from school.