this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on April 12, 2016.

AS I write, I feel I should be excited and elated. This is the time I’ve been dreading. After nearly 20 years of going to school, sitting in classrooms, half-listening and half-pretending to teachers and professors, doing quizzes and seatwork, standing in front of classmates for graded recitations, beating deadlines, enduring sleepless nights, ranting with friends, I will be free of all of it. Finally.

Graduation is just around the corner. I’ve paid my school dues, claimed my graduation photos, and attended our graduation primer. My mom treats me like a graduate, my grandparents and other relatives are saying their congratulations, others are anticipating my future plans and actions. Yet the fact that I will soon be an alumnus is bugging me when it should be a happy thought. After all, every student’s aim is to march down the aisle wearing a graduation toga and a bright smile. But as the nights turn to mornings and my remaining days as a student dwindle down, something has been occupying my mind: I am afraid.

Sure, seeing myself facing the world head on, armed with the lessons and learnings in school, is thrilling. Thinking of the challenges I may face brings a surge of eagerness. At last, the application of classroom theories will now be possible. This is the real test I need to pass. All types of exams will now come my way at the same time, and I won’t have much time to think and analyze.

Thus, the adrenaline is dying down and the uncertainty of life sinks in.

Confusion, fear and doubt are just some of the many feelings swarming in me. I’m confused as to what to do next. Should I look for a job right after graduation? Would going to graduate school be feasible? What about taking a break and waiting to see what the tides of life will offer? The choices are vast but the chances of success vary.

Then there’s the fear to fail. Earlier I didn’t care much about underachieving, but now that I’m supposed to be mature in making decisions, disappointing my family is the last thing I’d like to do. The usual number of “what ifs,” from simple to complex, has doubled.

To make things worse, I’m filled with doubt: Did my school prepare me for everything that will be thrown my way? Am I prepared for this world of beauty and misery? Or is the system too corrupt that all textbook theories will be of no help?

Then again, life’s mystery is also embedded in the puzzles to be discovered and solved.

School education is a tool used to present a fraction of reality—one that is harsh and evolving. It is a compilation of events that may or may not occur in real life. The solutions offered are not absolute, but they are feasible answers. The knowledge to be gained may or may not be of help, but they are substantial.

I think the real wisdom behind the need to be schooled exists in the fact that human beings are naturally curious, and such curiosity may be an asset or a liability. Hence, school is where the mind’s curiosity is harnessed to become more of the former than the latter. It is where minds are opened to various events and trained in various approaches.

School is far from perfect, and one wishes there is a learning facility that is free from flaws and inaccuracies. Assuming there is one—and most schools still serve their noble intentions—there will be only better days and years to expect.

As I wait for my final grades to be encoded, for the days to pass, for the excruciating waiting time to reach zero, I’m relishing the memory of first sitting in a classroom and patiently waiting for my teacher. I’m thinking of all the good memories, laughing at my blunders and smiling at my success. I’m cherishing the few more days of wearing a uniform, asking for my allowance, spending time with friends I made, and cementing whatever legacy I will leave.

I’m set to say goodbye to structured classes and eager to unfold a mystery that won’t be danger-free. But then, why live a life comfortably if you can live it excitingly? Problems may slow me down, but won’t stop me in any way. School may be done, but learning will be forever.

At the end of the day, curiosity may kill the cat, but satisfaction will definitely bring it back.

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