Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Game Plan: To start again from where you left

The glares of the sun started to crawl from my window, escaping from the blue sheets that tried to partition me from the rest of the world. I was in a deep slumber, but the glares were so furious in entering my eyelids and so I was awaken to something I thought would be a fine morning.   

As a routine, I immediately grabbed my iPad and checked what ‘news’ is in store for me that day. In the social networking realm, ‘news’ are more likely to be in the form of instagram post, tweet or a facebook update. But I tapped the mail icon first thing that morning and eventually led me to a series of unread emails.

Dear Mr. Punzalan,

Please find attached a letter from the counselor, communicating the official and final result of your application for the Scholarship.

I have consciously prepared myself for this day. And a certain rush of blood has started to flow in my face, the rest of my body were shaking. My family and close friends were more excited about this day than I was. Weeks before, they solicited updates from me, but I could give none as it was not due for results release yet… Not until this morning.

I tapped the attached file on that email; the letter looked very surreal, as if it was one of those I have seen in the movies, from Hogwarts perhaps, only that it was online.  It had the logo on the upper left, the date and my name in bold letters above my home address.

Dear Mr. Punzalan,

Thank you for your application for the Scholarship.

The selection process was very competitive due to the high number of applications received and we only have a limited number of awards available. Unfortunately, your application was unsuccessful.

I have always assured myself that I am prepared for whatever the email will contain. Right after I had my interview weeks before, I tamed myself to accept how my application will be judged. I was self-guarded because they say that the lesser you expect, the lesser pain you will feel. But I proved everyone who said that wrong.  No wall could ever be enough to protect us from the emotions that we are hoping to shield ourselves from, and in my case, the frustration. Emotions are hand crafted to be too powerful and we should never under estimate them.

I showed the email to my parents who gave me strength in the midst of I, quitting the application process as it was the most tedious, effortful and costly application I have ever made in my life. My family and friends got my back on this which made everything more manageable. My sister even booked me a 5-star hotel accommodation when I had to take the professional English exam as one checkbox to the lengthy list of requirements. My friends offered their hand and time to gather my academic records from miles away. The learning manager from my work even bid me an hour of her ever busy schedule and enclosed me in a meeting room as she mentored me on how to portray myself in front of my distinguished panel of interviewers. Albeit I tried to keep it a secret, I have received an overwhelming pour of well wishes and prayers. They knew me too well that this was a dream I have always looked upon – gaining a prestigious master’s degree in an international university.

I walked steadily up the stairs, heading back to my room where I was initially poised at; I stared back at the glares from my room window which awoke me that morning. I sat on the edge of my bed and unconsciously, there were drops falling from my eyes though I was feeling and thinking blankly.

I don’t understand where those tears came from; I knew for sure that I have buckled my belt so tight prior to that day.


A few weeks ago, I was in cloud nine when I received an email from the same saying that my application, along with my proposal was shortlisted for the awards across the high competition of applications, and I was due for final interview with a set of interviewers coming from well respected organizations.

I carefully weighted my options on what to wear for that interview. I decided to wear something that would speak of who I was. Young, fun but straightforward. I wore a plaid long sleeved polo in the streaks of blue, red and white, a pair of khaki trousers and wrapped myself up with a black coat.

I was there 20 minutes ahead of my schedule only to find out that the sessions were delayed for not less than an hour. Parallel to me was a guy who waited for almost the same as I do on that couch, he was sharp and I could tell immediately that he must have had years of work experience in contrast to my two years. I was right. He was a manager for nine years in a health care government agency. He was vying for the same award, I was competing with a manager. How else could I not be intimidated? We had short conversations, bits of chat to help us both be at ease while waiting. You see those movies when they have a frame shot on interviewees waiting for their names to be called on the reception area? That was exactly how it was.


When it was my turn to face the panel, I started with a smile and the smile has kept me company all through out. Our conversations were very smooth and I could say that I threw them a good impression of I, being a young boy with big dreams. My mentor, as I mentioned earlier gave me a premiere view of myself, of reaching for the stars instead of the moon, of being young and thirsty for learning. That was how I was planning to sell myself right there. The forty minute exchange of views and opinions was well tucked. It could have been the best interview I have ever experienced, with cherry on top, if it were not for that fatal one last question which I have already thought of but could not find the perfect answer.

I’m not quite sure if that one last hit had me bleeding and if it overpowered the rest of the thirty nine minutes I have been working so hard to raise the bar. Maybe it was that fatal, I assume.

I remain hopeful still though, that with a paper I projected for a noble cause, I can make it through.


The glares from the window pane have started a descent of angle as the sun was starting to go up high. I could do nothing but think of the money we have spent, of everybody’s efforts to pull the strings together, of almost three months of working and writing that application and another two months of waiting, skipping weekend fun with my friends all because I need to focus. Most importantly, how much I have invested myself on a dream I share with everyone who believes in me. But this failure is actually wryly imperative to the universal concept of this dream.  The dream remains constant, of course, but the failure only explains that the ‘how’ part of reaching for the dream might not be the one defined for you. The dream is still there to be caught, but you have to go back to base and think which game plan to use. This is where the cliché line ‘Life is a big battle ground’ comes into sense.

Well I also thought that if this wasn’t the game plan designed for me to reach that dream, then why do I have to go too far only to fail when I could have failed earlier in the game already. The answer is:  because I have to understand what the failure was for and to explain to me why this game plan is the wrong one. Had I failed early in the game, I must have been just bitter with failure itself not clearly understanding the logic behind, but having fought the game until the farthest I could; I saw what the entire game plan was all about and understood why it wasn’t for me.

That last question in that interview got me scared about my application and got me summoning myself, the responsibility was just too enormous to handle, though I was optimistic that I could bear it, I have to make a reality check if that kind of responsibility was something I was up for.


Now I still don’t know which game plan is the one written in the stars for me to reach that dream. But at least I got one in the list crossed out. I’ll probably start from there.

P.S. Dear family and friends who gave me the chance to prove myself, this entire event might not be the most grandeur of them all, it actually is just mundane if you look at it, but I give my warmest thanks for the support you have unconditionally offered no matter how big or small this affair is. Your well wishes are everything I need to know that I still have the best things in life.

Note: The anonymity of the scholarship program is preserved due to the author's will to not cause any misunderstanding of their selection process or promote biased view of the scholarship program. The communication from the organizers are only snippet of the entire letter. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chasing the Dance Steps: Flirting and Emotions

Love is all about gambling and soon enough you will realize how many gambles you have had made. Over a love that didn’t blossom, a love you wish you had made and a love that you are lucky enough to have. It wasn’t after a few weeks back that I assumed being anti-relationships. And let me make an early disclaimer that I do not mean to let you feel that you made the wrong choice in the event that you are currently in a valid relationship (not a pseudo one). As a matter of fact, relationships make us whole.

But you do have to understand that relationships are something that you cannot earn overnight. And people needs to understand that relationships are not a result of a premature attraction, at least it shouldn’t be. It usually starts with that little yet deceiving feeling of being so excited to see that one text message, or trying to prolong the exchange of texts and playing the game of who replies the last as a benchmark of who is the reacher and who is the settler.  This phase usually is important to build the framework of a budding romance. It may be built; it may somehow be destroyed by unforeseen events, such as an earthquake of one’s thoughts and suddenly had a realization for whatever its worth, of being unprepared for the battle. It always is just between the two. 

So you liked someone. And you got exactly the signs you need to assume that you have the right to play the game. You know exactly what I mean. And it keeps running that way, the spark never leaves and this phase is just the most beautiful of them all. Of chasing, of trying to understand what the other thinks but doesn’t want to ask for the fear of being too pushy or appear rushing. And you got yourself the self-acclaimed state of feeling the most wonderful feeling on earth. You got to establish this mutual liking without having to say the exact words to put it formally. And then suddenly, just in the middle of the course you still are trying to take, it stops right there. Sometimes, you are given an advisory note (your consolation). Sometimes not and you have to figure it out for yourself with the bitter feeling of not deserving an explanation for the unsolicited jerk-ness if I may coin. Either way, it doesn’t make a clear sense why that has to happen. It just did. You want to get mad, but now you regress to that stage of assumptions and realizes, you never really had the right to, in the first place.

And you were told to remain friends, perhaps. And to just sit right there and be calm as if nothing that’s too important to mind happened. What an insult to how your brain and heart functions. As if the world mocks you, saying ‘hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles’. 

This is exactly why I understand the people who are too pessimistic about these premature affairs. Others just don’t have one basic sense, sensitivity. When you start playing with feelings, do bear in mind that you are liable for it because it takes two to tango. Just as in the course that it is not even valid to say that you came unprepared and somewhere in the crossroads, you realize you aren’t ready to play the game of cards. What happens to the one you left hanging? Thanks for your time? It was wonderful while it lasted, until…’.

You see, there are no retreats in real life. Once you placed your foot forward, the dance starts. We choose the dance we want to dance and the dance partner we want to dance with. But if you just had a cold feel just as soon as the music has already started and when you already have both poised yourselves in front of each other, then what a coward you are, needless to say, you do not deserve to be on the dance floor.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Slave from a Hideous Society

Have you ever found yourself sitting on top of your bed, staring at the glares that your screen is illuminating towards your cornea? Have you ever tried to be breathing blankly in a quiet room where the silence sounds like a thin monotonous tone which to me is like that of which a brass produces, that annoying tingle that usually signifies you are deaf.

I'm not quite sure if this is normal, although I am certain that this is too early for a mid life crisis. I'm losing track. 

This is just one of those days when you get to be so tired of the things you constantly need to do, neglecting those that you want to. But I am not new to this, I have been trying to live with it for the past couple of years and yet, I haven't gotten myself to be immune with it. 

It's crazy how you tried to make yourself believe that this was a good choice from the start, and all you have to do is to believe in yourself. Nah, such a fool to be too idealistic. They will always just be an idea in the end. And now that you have walked too far from the starting point, you wonder if there's still a chance to turn your back. And if you do, which path will you take? Now that you know that you have done nothing but to persuade yourself! 

Well maybe you were just a victim, well maybe you didn't had a choice.
Well maybe because there were no other roads to take, practically.
 Fair enough.

But what do you do now that you are at the crossroads? Truth is, a choice is not to be made if one shouldn't be considered as an option in the first place. 

Escape from it? I tried. But I soon realized that it escaping a problem doesn't solve it. During exams, you just have to skip the difficult parts for a while, but you have to come back at them eventually.
I had the chance. But I didn't. I endured it no matter how reckless those life changing moments were. 
But a battle is not without an end. 

Your mind may tell you otherwise, but your heart knows when to quit.