The long run

It’s been three weeks since I had to reset my dreams.

2017 was a much, much easier time for me, at least in terms of my aspirations. Wide-eyed as ever, I walked into my university having the simplest of wants — which at the time, weren’t as simple. First, being a kid whose grades in Math and Science were always the reason he didn’t make the honor roll, I had my eyes firmly set on graduating with Latin Honors. It was such an arbitrary feat but, after nine years of almost earning graduation honors, I had to make it. I mean, it was my last shot at academic accolades, so I might as well. Aside from that, becoming an OrSem host was something 17-year old me really wanted. OrSem (Orientation Seminar) is a beloved event (for some), where 4000 freshmen every year get assimilated into the colorful world of an Atenean. I was in the school for quite some time prior to my own OrSem, so I didn’t expect much from it; but those two days totally shifted my perspective of Ateneo. It really made me feel in love with the school all over again. I told myself that if I can make any other freshie feel the same way, year in and year out, then I best do it. Being a host would be the perfect way for me to marry my love for the event and my yearning to get on the mic.

Glad to say that I got to do both. I look back and see how much work I’ve put into everything, and I’m proud to say that nothing was handed to me. I owe a great debt to all the people who have helped me, and to myself for persevering through all the hurdles that could’ve stopped me. I deserve getting to say I made 17-year old Em’s dreams come true.

I guess my dilemma now is that there’s this looming cloud above my head, raining down droplets that whisper “what now?” when they hit the ground. Three weeks later, and I still don’t have a definite answer or way to resolve that question. So, what now?

I admittedly am a little hard on myself about this. I even extended the “what now” question to a much meaner “so, what?” There’s this pressure I feel to keep achieving the next big dream; if I don’t, I would be wasting my degree, my academic distinction and all the other awards and recognitions I’ve gotten throughout college. I feel all eyes locked on me to keep doing amazing things because of how I’ve built myself up in college. The curse of greatness is that you feel compelled to not drop the ball and to continue being great. When I look around though, the only person staring me down is myself. I acknowledge that having this mindset dangerously self-invalidates all the stuff I did, some of which we’re accomplished under less than ideal circumstances.

I look back and realize that what made wanting to be Cum Laude and an OrSem Host “easy” was that I had a four-year deadline for them. It was either I bag them by 2021, or I never will. If you think about it, these four years don’t take up as much space in your life’s timeline, if you get to at least live to 40 years old. It’s a very short period of time, which in some angles could be pressuring — but alternatively, they provide some comfort and security. You have to tailor your aspirations to fit a four year course, so in a way, there’s a limit to what you can want to achieve. What’s so unwieldy and overwhelming now is the pressure to dream without a deadline. It’s a daunting thing I, and many other people, have to face at this point in our lives. How do we make it when the entire world is our playing field now?

This entire notion of “making it” has plagued me ever since I was a kid. How do you know you’ve made it, and what happens after you do? Usually in films, once the main character wins the football game or gets married to their one true love, the credits start rolling. Then it becomes pitch black. It’s over. This has created an idea that “making it” is the end all, be all of life and that the only worthy endeavor is to pursue “it” — what if you don’t know what “it” is anyway? Succeeding in college is easy, everything’s laid out for you and you can carve out a path to take on for the next four years of life. Only three weeks into “adulthood” and I can already say that it’s not the same at all. My heart wants to go for so many things, and it’s overwhelming to see how no matter what road I choose to embark on, it’s not going to be as easy as what I’ve done before. It’s a long run. And that’s what’s scary about it all.

Since we were incapable of stringing together sentences, we were always told to dream big. It was so much easier when all I wanted as a kid was to be a chef or a Pokemon trainer. Reality slaps you hard and you become exposed to all the nuances of life, and how it’s difficult to attach yourself to dreams you’re not sure you can attain in this lifetime. But what can you do? All a person can do is to keep dreaming, and to keep doing, and to hope that in that doing, you’re inching closer to that dream. I’ve always been an avid daydreamer, and I’m happy that some manifested into reality, and that I got to realize how some others aren’t meant for me to actualize. Now that I feel like I’m tasked to shoot for the moon, I only wish that I have enough gumption to make it all the way there, no matter how scary it is. When you look at the sky, you can see where the moon is, but you don’t see how far it actually is from us — and even if that’s the case, you still point to it, you still try to make your way to it somehow.

So, what now, you may ask yourself, self? Keep dreaming. That’s all you’ve got to do for now.

You’re on no one’s clock. There is no race to be ran against anyone else but yourself. Take your time fantasizing about where you want to be. Proclaim what “it” is you want to be, and make conscious decisions to “make it.” Remember, you didn’t get this far just to get this far.

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EM ENRIQUEZ (he/she/they)

A kid navigating their way through the 20-somethings, trying to document it through words along the way.